15 Things I learned in 2017

Wow, that was a rather quick year.

I still remember doing this end of year review last year (seems like just a few months ago though).

Anyways, it was a quick year meaning there’s so much left to do. I honestly can’t wait to start running.

But before we hit the tracks, I decided to jot down my learnings this past year.

  1. You don’t have to like people to work well with them

Throughout my relatively short career, I’ve worked with truly amazing people who remain friends till this day. This year, I started out on a fresh adventure when I switched jobs. For the first time, I’m working with people… let’s just say I’m not so fond of. There’s just something about their personality that rubs me wrong.

I always assumed this would be a problem for me but the reverse has been the case. It became an opportunity to slow down and practice tolerance, as well as keeping an eye on the bigger picture which is the task at hand.

So, while working with colleagues who are like friends and family will make your work experience infinitely enjoyable, working with “colleagues” has no negative effect on the final output. At the end of the day, you’re at work not to make friends but to work.

  1. Liking your colleagues however, makes work feel amazing

On the other hand, this year I blessed with another amazing boss (warning, gushing sentences ahead). My boss is like a coach, a cheerleader and Albert Einstein rolled up in one. She’s so brilliant, industrious, always bursting with ideas and versatile. I see her tackle new subjects with a mental agility people only dream about.

But intelligence does not a decent human being make. Luckily for me, my boss is fiercely supportive. She’s like a mom and a favorite aunt rolled up into one. We joke, we laugh, we fight and we kick ass together.

  1. When managing conflict, it’s okay NOT to be cynical

Have you ever been in those situations where you get into a not-so-friendly exchange with someone from which you eventually walk away? Then after several hours you come up with the perfect comeback, but the opportunity is gone. Painful, right?

In the bid not to be outdone, we now have the clapback culture – people sit behind the safety of their keyboard screens, and tear down other human beings.

It’s ugly.

We tend to celebrate it on twitter and laugh it off but truth is, it’s a zero sum game.

Towards, the ending of 2017, I realised managing conflict is a handy skill to have. Unfortunately, over time, my go-to social skill for managing conflict is usually sarcasm. And sarcasm has a twin brother called cynicism. Together, both siblings had grown significantly in my speech and attitude.

I had to consciously avoid using them. The real shocker was the fact that, this was frigging difficult! I kept stifling myself several times a day, just to keep from sarcastic retorts and cynical comments.

But stifle we shall.

  1. Be generous with praise and stingy with criticism

When you’re right, stifle the need to tell people – “I told you so”. They already feel bad enough.

  1. Become a cheerleader to others, especially your family and friends.

It’s easy to overlook those closest to us, I honestly don’t know why. This year, I tried to fix that, popping in regularly to let them know I believed in them and want them to succeed.

  1. Stay away from lazy people

Laziness is contagious. So is an industrious spirit. I learned this the hard way. If you want to improve in anything, first unclutter your life. Lazy people are everywhere – we are friends with them, we chat with them, we make plans with them on how to kill valuable time. There are also really diligent + focused people around. We know them so why not speak with them often, chat with them, learn from them? Let them inspire you to be better.

  1. Stay away from toxic people in general

Toxicity includes people who complain but refuse to do anything to fix the problem. This year, I noticed a lot of people kept seeing problems everywhere around them but they rarely if ever do anything to fix it. I’m not talking about big, national problems. I’m referring to personal everyday issues they face. They simply complain and that’s it. They go on with their daily routine or douse themselves with TV.

Another side of toxicity is numbness. A lot of people are passionless. They’ve lost their sense of wonder. They live for themselves alone, having nothing bigger to live for.

Newsflash: That’s called selfishness.

Been weeding out these people from my life all through 2017.

  1. There’s no such thing as a boring subject

My new job involves a lot of research around financial services, national development and policy. The past 6 months saw me reading, writing and interviewing major financial services ecosystem players in Nigeria and delving into the core of the dynamics of the sector.  On the last day of 2017, my dad asked me to tell him about my new job. And for the next 15 minutes, I talked about the Nigerian financial services sector and my work at the SIDFS initiative of Lagos Business School. You could see the light coming on in his eyes. He asked questions, smiled and nodded several times. Judging by the fact that there was a premiership match going on when we were talking, I think I did a good enough job keeping his attention (dad is a huge soccer fan!).

  1. Be more vocal with what you want

“I want a day off.”

“I want a raise.”

“I want to work from home twice a week.”

As long as you think it is valid, go ahead and ask. The worst that will happen is a no. And then you’ll be right back where you were just two seconds ago before you asked. So what exactly are you scared of again?

  1. People will always try to exploit you if you allow them to

I love helping people. And some people caught on to the fact that, Ibukun likes helping out. So they exploited it. This bothered me until I realised something – I do this shit cos I like doing this shit!

I’m doing it cos I care but I’m also doing it cos it feels good to help!

Most times, helping out is its own reward. After all, what else would you do? Watch them suffer? That’s worse.

  1. For writers, complement your writing with speaking

Learn how to talk. As someone who makes a living constructing words, I spend a lot of time in my own head. Social media has kind of exacerbated the situation cos I get to bypass speaking and just directly imprint my thoughts on a page.

Until it’s time to speak at a team meeting and I found myself stuttering and “ehmig and i-ing”. It’s really frustrating cos it makes you seem less competent than you really are. As a writer, speaking well can do wonders for your career. It’s a worthy investment.

  1. Love is worth the pain

In the search for love, you’ll go through a lot of disappointments. People will break your heart, take you for granted and mostly further their agendas. Yes, some will treat you right but the heartbreaks usually overshadow the good memories.

Underlying those horrible experiences is change. You’ll learn, you’ll grow, you’ll change. You’ll cry, yes. But you’ll also have some laughs along the way. You’ll learn to recognise and discern crushes. And side step them when cupid wants to shoot you that silly arrow. When love comes eventually, it will be worth it.

  1. Love is worth the wait

While waiting for the “one”, I’ve met loads of people. In the process of meeting and getting to know people, they’ve exposed my weak points. I’m glad these weaknesses are coming to light now and I’m getting to deal with them early. The wait means I get more time to grow. I get to be more patient, wiser, kinder, stronger and more disciplined.

Sometimes I look at the man I’m becoming. And I smile cos I’m growing.

Future wifey is in for a treat.

P.S. I hope you’re growing too!

  1. A lot of what happens on social media is posturing

People are aspirational. And that aspiration translates to social media. We are usually trying to portray an image of what we are, or what we think we are or what we hope to be. Hence, you can’t judge people based on their social media feed/timeline.

While this is understandable, I also believe we need to have integrity. As we age, we should be consolidating not fragmenting. Same life in church, at work, at home and ultimately online.

Tall order? Maybe, but I’m working towards a unified presentation of my life to all. Adopting this mentality has enabled me to re-examine what I share online. Even the discussions I join.

It’s not every conversation you need to join.

  1. Stop putting people on a pedestal, everyone is still figuring things out

Nobody has it all figured out. Even though some folks will not admit, we’re mostly just winging it through life. Unfortunately, it’s hard not to idealise them. And when we idealise them, we set the up to inadvertently disappoint us, big time.

Rather, the right attitude is to give people a large margin of error even though they will rarely ask for it. People are human so they will be selfish, forgetful, opportunistic and entitled.

No surprise. So are you.

So am I.

The important thing is: Are you changing?

Thanks for reading. Happy 2018.

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About Pain and Heartbreak

Heartbreak sucks.

Anyone who’s ever heard the love of their life say, “We’re done!” will understand how it feels to have your chest caved in with a bludgeon.

It’s not just the rejection that crushes you.

You’ll fight memories and old habits, many of which you formed together.

You will wear out your soul while reliving the moment he/she rejected you, a thousand times each day.

It’ll hurt so much you will sometimes wish for death on yourself, and later on, you’ll wish it on the leaving party who is causing you so much pain.

The pain is intense and it has no remorse.

While dealing with the pains of heartbreak, people repress feelings. In a bid to escape the pain, they stifle themselves and shut the emotions in and out.

True, some people feel things deeply, much deeper than others. And negative, painful feelings have a way of weighing us down, even dangerously so. But something I learned from watching Inside Out, Pixar’s incredibly moving animation, was that sorrow is as much a part of life as joy. (If you’re yet to see Inside Out, you should fix that right away).

You can’t wish or pray sorrow away. Recite all the motivational quotes from now till Aristotle’s grave turns over, sorrow will continue to be a part of our human existence.

Knowing that sorrow is part of our journey will stop you from panicking when it shows up. You’ll take it in stride.

I used to hate sorrow. It sapped my energy and made me unable to think straight. I’d shut down, convince myself it wasn’t such a big deal and that was the end of it. I’d struggle with the pain for about three days, and each time the thoughts showed up, I’d nix them right in the bud.

It worked.

I felt better. At least, I thought I did. I went back to getting work done.

But these things found other ways of expressing themselves.  More painful and devastating ways.

Perhaps more importantly, repression changes you in ways you didn’t bargain for. You lose a part of you.

You become hard. You lose your wonder, your quest for adventure and love.

Love eventually becomes transactional – nothing goes for nothing. It seems wiser and safer to be economical with love. You don’t realize you just settled on an even more twisted version of Machiavelli’s theory – the end justifying the means.

But is this the end you wanted? Deprived of love, the selfless, rapturous kind that storytellers and musicians have spun tales and ballads about. You become the centre of your own universe, your focus is you, your feelings, your wants, your plans, you you you.

You’re bankrupt.

Love has left you. And it didn’t leave a forwarding address.

So yeah, repression works, granting you short term benefits but in the long run, it leaves you worse off.

So instead of repression, try embracing the pain.

Sit down and have a good cry. Stress eat. Load up your playlist and play all the love songs, imagining how right or wrong the singers were. Look at the stars and yell at God. Reach towards your friends’ shoulder and soak it with tears.

Let pain find expression. The heart knows how to heal itself and will tell you when it’s ready.

It’s hard, I know. It hurts, I know that too.

But I also know that it’s all part of what makes love worth it eventually.

 

Photo Credit: MaleCodependence

Dealing with Insecurities

Insecurities.

We all have them.

From the day Adam discovered his ass was bare and ran into the bush to become an emergency tailor, we’ve all relentlessly tried to cover up our inadequacies.

Whether it is a superiority/inferiority complex, impostor syndrome, outsider syndrome, fear (in all its spectrums) or a cocktail of all of them, we all carry our unique brand of insecurity.

Some of us are privileged to know the insecurities ailing us.

We know it, but we’re helpless to fix it. There’s something broken inside us, and we’ll be damned if anyone finds out about it. So we’ll try hard to overcompensate.

For others, they’re oblivious of the inadequacy plaguing them.

Ignorance may be bliss for these folks but not for the rest of us who are their friends and family – we see their insecurities, and we’re left trying to manoeuvre our way around them on eggshells. This gets exhausting pretty quick (mainly because we have our own insecurities to manage, dammit!).

At the root of all our insecurity problems is the question, what will people think when they find out this about me? The answers we give to ourselves informs our actions.

This is why we hide. This is why we put on a show. This is why we wear masks.

So yeah, I have insecurities.

It seems I’ve acquired even more in adulthood than I did in my prior years.

I won’t say I’m an expert on dealing with them (even though there’s a case to be made concerning the fact that you’re probably the best expert on your personal brand of insecurity).

They say you bear these insecurities till you’re old and grey. If you’re lucky, you’ll start figuring it out when you’re closer to the grave. I’ve met a lot of elderly people who obviously don’t care what people think about them anymore. I guess there’s something about imminent death that makes people say, “Screw it! No time for bullshit.”

We all have to figure out what will make us say, “Screw it! No time for bullshit” before we’re old and grey.

That would be a great lifehack.

How I Crushed My Biggest Writing Project to Date


So I began this ghostwriting project for a client early January this year. It was a real growing experience for me. For one, it was the first time I would handle a book of that magnitude, both in terms of subject matter as well as calibre of client.

The client was a part of the previous political regime and the book focused on policy, youth development and the African narrative. It was a big picture book, with a lot of new terms and concepts, a lot of history, a lot of case studies.

I began talks with his team in early January. A week or so after I had taken the job and contracts had been signed, the man dropped a big bomb on me:

He told me he’s been trying to write this book since 2012. And somehow the project always falls apart.

Yeah, that did wonders for my self confidence. 

Anyways, I prayed asking God to make me a solution to this man’s problem. Rather than become another statistic, another failed attempt to write this book, let me be the one to take the project across the finish line.

It wasn’t easy. Sometimes I’d glance at the interview logs I had done, the notes I had taken (enough to fill 2 notepads), and then the blank pages in front of me waiting to be filled.

It often felt like I had bitten off more than I could chew.

After several false starts and four sleepless months, several back and forths with the editors, FINALLY, the book launched on October 2, 2017!

It was a really emotional experience for me seeing the book in my client’s hand.

I felt like a surrogate mom and a midwife at the same time.

I guess ghostwriting is a bit of both.

I’m still reeling from the euphoria! And I’m eager for even bigger challenges .

The last thing I’ll say is, my writing tutors were right – there’s no project that can’t be crushed. It may take time, but Goliaths will fall if you keep lobbing stones at them.

I guess I’m writing this as a reminder to myself, and to all of us who face frequent episodes of self doubt – Keep going.

Dealing With My Messiah complex, and a Farewell to a Friend

Messiah Complex – (also known as the Savior Complex) is a state of mind in which an individual holds a belief that he or she is destined to become a savior.

For a long time, I’ve had a fascination with broken people.

Addicts, sick people, the depressed, the confused, the abused, the oppressed, the depressed, the alienated, those who struggle with a sense of self worth, those who struggle with thoughts of condemnation. If you check my browsing history, you would think I have suffered from every considerable mental illness and addiction you can imagine.

In case you’re wondering why, here’s the science behind it (yeah I also Googled extensively what it means to suffer from a messiah complex. See the pattern?):

The messiah complex is a psychological construct which makes a person feel the need to save other people. This person has a strong tendency to seek people who desperately need help and to assist them, often sacrificing their own needs for these people.

On the surface, it looks and sounds noble.

The do-gooder with a heart of gold, saving the world one person at a time, one problem at a time. A modern day superhero, saving folks for no reward whatsoever, many times not even a thank you.

The problem with this habit is:

1. You will get taken for granted, alot.
I dont even want to go into this too much. I’ve had people call me, ask for a favour, and practically yell at me about an hour later just because I was running a little late delivering on the favour.
Shame and pain will not allow me to dig up some more extreme situations I’ve experienced.

2. Secondly, its not really noble.
It’s not. You’re not really doing it because you are that altruistic (at least I wasn’t). I just wanted to be a nice person. I wanted to be useful. So, I end up giving and giving until it hurts, and if it doesn’t hurt it feels like I’m not doing enough.

Today, I can say that people with this Messiah complex are also broken people.

We really are.

Nobody is created to solve the problem of every single person they run into. Even worse, nobody can handle the guilt that comes from not being able to solve everyone’s problems.

I have realised this for a while now. And I have been gradually working up the courage to turn down requests. Man, you don’t know how much of an addict you are till you start trying to break a habit.

It has been uncomfortable saying no. Sometimes, the strongest urge to overcome is calling the person back afterwards to apologise and render the help requested.

I know, I know

But mentally, I have burned that bridge.

I am not the solution to anyone’s problem.

And I am not a messiah.

The world has had one already.

It doesn’t need another

[Curtain call]

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Warning: Sad news (and feels) ahead

People react differently to the news of a celebrity passing. Personally, I’ve only been emotional twice.

First time, it was Michael Jackson. And I was with the second biggest MJ fan I know – my dad.

I remember that Thursday afternoon in 2009 like it was yesterday. I was visiting my dad in the hospital where he was admitted. I remember the news coming in on the TV and we both sat silently for almost 20 minutes afterwards. There were no words, just the occasional sighing and shuffling of feet.

The second time was on Friday when I heard about Chester’s death.

The news of Chester Bennington’s passing hit me hard.

I was surprised at how emotional the news made me. I haven’t listened to Linkin Park in years and I wouldn’t call myself their biggest fan.

Maybe it was the fact that depression claimed another one. Maybe it was my “fanboyism” seeping out after many years. But I fell silent for a while and the guy occupied my thoughts.

Linkin Park got me through my undergrad days. As a kid growing up feeling like an alien everyday – misunderstood, ignored, occasionally depressed, angry, wanting to fight, wanting to break something – Chester’s voice always brought me relatable words. Soothing words.

Anyone who loved/s Linkin Park will always have a soft spot for that voice (just as fans of Evanescence will always have a soft spot for Amy Lee).

I still remember the long walks I took with my trusty old Discman (remember those?) and I would load it with my songs from all their albums – My December, In the End, Krwlng, Breaking the Habit, Somewhere I Belong.

But my favorite was always P5hng me Awy.

This song.

THIS SONG!

There are too many things that rock about this song, Chester’s voice tops the list. Also, the fact that the jam starts with a very simple tune/beat and then a new intrument/sound is added every 18 seconds all the way till the end….

This was/is my jam.

Thanks for the memories Chester!

 

Photo Credit: Film Jackets