It is my sincere desire that young people will heed the call of excellence in spite of the prevailing mediocrity around them today. Regardless of the culture of underperformance that is being celebrated and dignified today, they must make a personal commitment to stretch the limits of their commitment, the quality of life they live and work they produce.
Excellence is not an attitude that can be turned on and off. Aristotle said “we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is therefore an habit, not an act.” If we reason along this line, is it not true by the long history of mediocrity in Nigeria that we have an ingrained habit?
A lackluster approach to life, politics, work and business has prevailed long enough that excellence though unconsciously desired, is likely to come across as shocking. Because mediocrity flourishes, we are accustomed to making little demands of ourselves and of others and we roll out drums for underachievers.
In Nigeria, Politics is characterized by half-hearted commitment to development and at best, cosmetic projects and policies. At work, competence and quality crumbles under the weight of nepotism, superficiality and cheap office politics.
Our educational system is such that students can get by with superficial knowledge and their lecturers cannot challenge them to excellence because most are themselves gold standards of mediocrity. Businesses treat innovation and excellent Customer Service as burdens because they have been able to reap huge profits over the years while doing just the minimum requirement.
Let us face this truth – WE CAN CHANGE. In the absence of institutional frameworks that foster excellence or leadership that exemplifies it, we must demand excellence of ourselves and carry out a personal crusade against mediocrity. And this we must do. This is because even though we are potentially equal, life is designed to separate people and nations over time along the divide of excellence or mediocrity.
Our global competitiveness as young people lies in our response to excellence. Our best must regularly prevail in all that we do. You can be good in a Nigerian system that allows for mediocrity but you can never be great in the context of a global economy and social system where meritocracy is the determinant of relevance. The implication of my thought here is that those who scorn excellence will always live to regret it.
Another way to arrest this culture is a lifelong dedication to growth and learning, whether we are out of school or not. Failure in our attempt at the school system should not define our efforts in other critical avenues of learning in life. Young people must be trained in the fundamental field of knowledge acquisition and application. They must embrace the strength of mind and character needed for this undertaking. They must learn to embrace mental exertion. The brain must get into the habit of sweating through rigorous use, for that is how it will grow to heights of productivity and depths of insight.
This is your personal responsibility! Our survival as young people and as a nation is in a paradigm of EXCESS, a bold and countercurrent swim against the tides of mediocrity. We need excellent students, doctors, business men, teachers, lawyers, engineers, consultants and artisans.
Excellence will start when we begin to ask ourselves these questions – Am I performing at the highest level possible? Is this the best I can give?
There was a time in my life where I was living my greatest potential totally unfulfilled simply by letting others define what success meant for me. Back then, when I looked around at my peers, I saw brilliant people who were doing amazing things and making tons of money, bankers, lawyers, blossoming corporate champions, entrepreneurs…people doing what society expects and getting all the honour and respect. Starting school all over again from year one after losing it earlier in my final year was challenging and intimidating. Even my younger ones were ahead of me academically. Friends and class mates who didn’t have any issues in their academics had moved on to get some of the best jobs, and some had started thriving businesses. I began to make efforts to quickly succeed; and before I knew it, I had allowed it become a measure of my worth. All of a sudden, I began to feel the urgency to do well instead of the need to do well. They are different. The urgency to do well is always unhealthy and negative because it always comes from envy, jealousy or low self-esteem. It always come from a self-comparison with others that ignores our own peculiar circumstance and instead focuses on that of others. The need to do well comes from a personal recognition of one’s unique purpose, with a clear understanding of the value we will add to the world when that purpose is served and lived out.
So, for a very long time, I tried to define my own success by comparing myself to others. I tried to define my own success by trying to conform to society’s expectations and standards. It was a terrible time for my mind but I didn’t even know. Those standards were telling me the kind of person to marry, the kind of business to start and the kind of office to have, the kind of place to stay, the kind of certifications to have, the kind of career to build, the kind of fashion to maintain, the kind of car to drive, the kind of places to go, and many more. Before I knew it, all of these became a measure of my worth. These were self-imposed tests and standards that I wasn’t even aware of while they were happening. These things happen in your sub-conscious. They go on right in there in your mind and your head, and there’s already a kind of hypnotism that prevents most people from having honest self-evaluations. This creates an unhealthy mental posture that helps people easily live in denial.
I always make bold to say that I went through years of experimentation and self-doubt in order to cultivate the resolve, conviction and assurance of purpose that I now have about my journey. And honestly, while I find immense value in different perspectives about the unique journeys of others, I also know that I have my own unique journey, and it is my duty to always put it in perspective, and fight to protect it from any wrong influence or adulteration of any kind. The most important step for me was finally becoming aware that I was making comparisons. In itself, that is a great victory. Most people will live out their existence without coming to that level of awareness. As soon as that awareness came, every moment from then on till date is about the creation and defence of my own unique measure of success.
Let’s start with you now. If you say you are not doing well, how do you know? By what standards would you measure that? In your life are you making these damaging and unnecessary comparisons? It may be something as unnoticeable as a subconscious compulsion, urge and drive to get promoted, to get another degree, to travel abroad for summer or to have a collection of artificial hair and be able to wear different ones daily. It could just be this driving force that pushes you to be more, in some way, than you are now. Whatever your striving for validation looks like, first be comforted by the fact that most of the people you know, and most of the people you compare yourself to are also suffering from the same thing, seeking to meet some kind of standard someone else set for them without the knowledge and consent of both the setter and the person it was set for. The way to get out of this rut is hidden in one simple question: How Do You Define Success? Ask yourself, “What does success mean to me?” Have you ever honestly asked yourself this question? Or have you simply adopted your priorities from everyone around you? Most people have done just that and are not crystal clear on what success means to them? Are you crystal clear on what success means to you? The way to begin is to know what success is about. What has happened is that our history and negative experiences as Africans, has wrongly defined success as the pursuit of personal comfort.
There’s popular success and there is true success. They are different. Popular success is material strength and prosperity for its owners. Popular success teaches that comfort and convenience are victory signs for yourself over those who observe you. It is actually the weakest expression of self. True success is first of all, the ability of the human life to gain superior control over his or her spirit, soul and body; and to use that control to bring deep love, joy, peace and fulfillment to the world he or she can influence. Popular success is achievement by the standard of others, especially that of society. But truer success is living the kind of life society can be grateful for. True success happens in the heart. For example, is your success helping young girls or sleeping with them? With this definition, you understand straight away that success is not an event, it is not a destination either, but it is a lifestyle. It is what you do every day of your life regardless of your circumstances. Whatever your measure of success is, can society be grateful for it? Can your area of influence be grateful that you are successful? The point is that you get to understand what success is, and choose how you engage it for yourself but in a way the world can be better for. You have to define it. Live by it. Sustain it. Protect it and Share it. Your comment is important here. GO!
Somehow, MOST PEOPLE FORGET that the HUMAN MIND can FEEL so SURE, and be so WRONG. DISCERNING MINDS resist the TEMPTATION to ALLOW their CONVICTIONS to DRIVE their VIEWS and POSITIONS…Instead, their CONVICTIONS employ the kind of OPENNESS and HUMILITY that ACCEPTS CAUTION and FACT-FINDING. It’s called HONEST SELF-EVALUATION. This is the SECRET of LIVING FREE above PREJUDICE…and it is the critical DIFFERENCE between SUCCESS and GREATNESS. PK
You and I are very familiar with the reflection, enthusiasm, planning, goal setting and resolutions that attend a new year. And this is necessary. Even philosophers and scientist agree that we have the opportunity to set a trajectory for our entire year by how we navigate the beginning.
The interesting thing about Beginnings is that they come laden with potential. It offers just that opportunity to close the chapter on our past failures and to proceed to rewrite our history on a new slate. Beginnings afford us the opportunity to stand on the foundation of past successes and to build something better. Beginning is an opportunity to start again. In it, we can disallow the past, its successes or failure, from creating impediments in the future.
You know the best way to begin again? Start by letting go of what was so that you can focus on what you would like to experience instead. Release yourself from resentments, past mistakes, fear, hurt, sadness, guilt and disappointment. This will help you cultivate the renewed awareness and expansive feelings needed for a fresh start.
The essence of today’s post is that these heightened feeling of enthusiasm, optimism, vision, and resolution that we begin a new year with need not die in the first few weeks. It must be cultivated and sustained anew every single day of the year. We must begin again daily, all through the year like it’s the start of the New Year.
Why do I say this? I have come to understand as a fact of life that there will be series of events, starting from the first few weeks that will seek to deflate your optimism by running contrary to your aspirations. Things will not always go as we planned. The difference maker then will be how we harness the power of new beginnings and deploy it all year round. The present is all you have and where real life happens. The present creates a new path and defines the content of the future.
Since every new day is steeped in the opportunities and power of beginnings, how then can we harness the power of daily beginnings?
1. Make a radical commitment to wonder
No matter what you have been through or currently going through, try to Imagine the world through the eyes of a child. Joseph pears says it succinctly “The more we can live in constant astonishment, the more we can harness a new dawn in every moment.” Choose to pause, observe and marvel. This makes life more satisfying and connected. It will help you remember that the minor sparks and hiccups, the things we all encounter everyday and often defined as stressors, are totally trivial after all.
2. Keep track of your perceptions
The power of beginnings hinges on the power of own perception. A chaplain once spoke with a soldier in a hospital bed, “You have lost an arm in a great cause.” “No”, said the Soldier. “I didn’t lose it, I gave it.” Profound! Between your choice and your perception lies your reality. We must keep track of the inner workings of our minds in harnessing our new beginnings.
3. Keep a journal
One great way to keep track of the inner workings of our mind is journalling. Get a small diary, jot down a few notes at the end of the day. What was the mood, tone, texture of the day? You can include a few details of the outward circumstances that made an impression on you. Focus on what happened inwards and record it. This will offer you a retrospective guide as you go through the rest of the year. You just mind find clues to understand yourself more as other impressions come along through the year.
All great things have come because of one initial decision to honour that single moment and to make it a new beginning. The beginning of anything has within it the seeds of the totality of that thing. So, begin the year on a great note. BEGIN EACH YEAR EVERYDAY