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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5 Things I’m Grateful for at 32

This will probably be one of those long ass articles I’m prone to write once in 5 months. So you know the drill

Introvert. I spend a lot of time thinking, reflecting, having conversations with myself and replaying conversations with others. During my trips down memory lane, I rarely venture beyond a few weeks out.

It’s my birthday in a few hours though. And so, the “reflect on the past 5-10 years of your life” elves have been visiting.

This year, I looked back and saw so many reasons to be grateful. I crossed the big 3-0 a while ago and since I’m not in the “Have I achieved all I set out to achieve by 30?” camp because let’s face it, all I thought about before age 30 were comic books, videogames, Jesus and girls. Come to think of it, not much has changed. Anyways…

So this week, I made a few trips back in time. I recalled a lot of conversations I had with myself that were inspired by articles I had read. These were the years before I became a writer.

Let me give that some context.

It was 2011, and yours truly was studying web design and AutoCAD at NIIT in Ikeja. I was pretty enamored with the writing life as at then and would stalk my favorite authors online – reading not just their books but their op-eds, their blogs, their interviews, everything. I guess I was looking for the secret to the successful writing life (there’s none, stop believing those bullshit articles cos many of us worked hard and got lucky).

Anyways, so I spend an inordinate amount of time, especially on my trips to and from NIIT, reading tons of materials online. Then I came across an article by Stephen King, a particular statement in it would touch my heart till today.

Talent is getting published and getting paid. Did you write something for someone? Did they send you a check? If you cashed the check and it didn’t bounce, and if you then paid the light bill with the money, I consider you talented.

I wrote that quote straight from memory (I think it’s 90% accurate). The statement meant the world to me back then. It still does. Here’s the most recent version of the article I could find, if you’re interested.

I’m grateful today that, despite being told repeatedly by a former boss to abandon my desire to be a writer cos I’d starve, despite several false starts, after years of doing pro bono work for NGOs, today, I’m a writer who pays the light bill.

Second thing I’m grateful for. I recently discovered a truth about myself. A sad one.

Somehow I’d come under the illusion that everyone else’s happiness supercedes mine.  I’m grateful for my good friend, Chi, who confronted me and helped me realise this.I don’t know how it got there but there it was, staring me in the face.

Some symptoms were: When people are horrible to me, I rarely confront them. I’d prefer to just withdraw and simmer in pain. Pain passes, wounds heal, better not to cause a fuss over hurt feelings or bruised egos. On the off-chance I do confront the perpetrator, I end up feeling guilty when they apologise. I feel bad I’ve made someone feel bad for something they did so I end up making an excuse right there for them and telling them it was all my fault. Toxic, I know.

I dont share my personal issues with the important people in my life. I can write an epistle about sweet nothings but when it comes to sharing the important stuffs – struggles, fears, hopes, desires, pains – nah, lock up! This has been a problem in many of my relationships and friendships. The reason is the same, guilt follows talking about that kind of stuff. In my head somehow, to rant is to be weak. And to be weak is to be a crappy partner or friend.

I could go on, but I’ll stop here.

So, I’m grateful for the opportunity to be finally self aware about these things and to begin the journey to recovery. Having been stuck in the horrible loop for three decades, it’s not going to be easy to fix but it will be done.

Which brings me to my next point. It’s 2-in-1.

I haven’t talked or written about my depression for a long time, either on the blog or in real life. For good reason, I’ve been doing really well, especially with avoiding triggers and embracing routines that curb the loop. But late last year, something happened that nearly dragged me back under.

Prior to this, my last bout of depression was in 2014. Since then, life’s been pretty awesome, (cos let’s face it, a day without depressive clouds is an awesome day, for those who know). But last year, a shitty boss and a broken heart nearly brought the clouds back in my life. I’m glad to say they never fully formed. I, Ibukun, looked the dragon in the face, flipped it the finger and walked away.

No more depression!

And so, I’m grateful for my support system. My amazing family – supportive, patient, my number one cheerleading squad, every win for me is celebrated with dancing and prayers and lots of food. They’re the best support system every writer should have (seriously fam, I’m considering packaging you and putting you up on Amazon :)).

Also grateful for my friends  – Gosh! I have the weirdest, nerdiest, craziest, funniest and loving collection of friends ever. They call, they visit, some actually write letters (imagine that!), they send memes, tweet random silly things at me, or even randomly plan mini vacations with me.

Honestly, God blessed me with friends and I know it.

Finally, I’m grateful to be punching in another year on the calendar tomorrow. There might be no party, but there will definitely be dancing and cake. Loads of it.

Here’s a random picture of me looking (and being) happy. That’s Olumo Rock in the background

Before you go, remember to send cake.

Thanks for reading!

Why It’s So Impossible to Pick a Favorite Movie

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When I’m asked, What is your favorite movie? I feel like this:

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It’s darn near impossible to settle on one.

Some people say, it’s the first one that pops into your mind. But then they’ve never been in my mind

Which is usually like this

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Can’t breathe; can’t breathe!

I’ve wrestled with this thought for years. Sometimes, it keeps me up at night.

What is my favorite movie?

Yeah, I know, some people spend sleepless nights thinking about how to cure hunger and I’m here, languishing over pixels.

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I’m evil, I know

Anyways, I had a breakthrough some weeks ago. I didn’t want to latch onto the idea because, well, because I was too busy to write.

But whatdoyouknow? Three weeks later, the thought’s still jamming in my head. So here I go:

Good movies are like good books. They’re works of art that evoke emotions in us, help us understand the human condition and give us – the audience – a good time.

The ones we remember fondly are the ones that took us on a worthwhile ride. That’s why we watch them over and over. It’s why we are so eager when we defend the director or scriptwriter’s genius.

For this reason, it’s silly trying to pick one favorite movie.

Movies are not about favorites. They’re about experiences.

When the directors, writers, actors, costume people, set designers (and everybody else that works on a movie) get together, it’s to achieve one thing – give the audience a memorable experience.

When we try to remember our favorite movies, we usually look back to the way they made us feel. How happy, sad, afraid or excited we were.

The experience we had with the movie. That’s what stays with us.

Memory is rather fluid. This is why anything coated in nostalgia always looks better to us. It’s about the feels fam.

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This is why, it doesn’t matter how many times they reboot the movie. The original will always have that special place in our hearts.

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Paul Verhoeven’s Robocop will always be bae, 2014’s better storyline be damned

It’s why the critics can pan the movie all they want; the Blu Ray stays on your shelf year on year, and gets played during weekends. We watch them over and over again, reliving the experience. Perhaps trying to recapture the initial feels.

And herein lies the problem.

It’s so hard to pick a favorite one because there are so many experiences to pick from.

How do you pick a tragic drama that had you bawling for days, over an amazing thriller that you kept ruminating over the plot?

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I don’t think we should be trying to pick one over the other. All memories are valid. All experiences are valid.

After all, that’s the essence of art. To feel and experience something.

So, the next time you’re asked, what’s your favorite movie, pull out a pen and paper and start listing them off. 12 movies; 20 movies; Heck, make it a hundred if you like.

After all, it’s YOUR favorite movie. Not theirs.