The first mind-set I will address today is the one that drives you to spontaneously and automatedly hold tight to worries and fears. Someday when you look back over your life you’ll realize that nearly all of your worries and anxieties never came to fruition – they were completely unfounded. Most of the things we are afraid of never happen. But sustaining them in our minds is strong enough to hinder us from the best experiences nature has for us. Some people are so afraid of failing or losing that they will resist any investment in anything with a risky potential to lead to failure or loss. What they don’t know is that that mind-set in itself is a terrible loss and great failure. What most don’t know is that the feeling of fear or worry is even more dangerous than what they are afraid of or what they worry about.
When you look back over the last few years, how many opportunities for joy did you destroy with needless worry and negativity? Although there’s nothing you can do about these lost joys, there’s plenty you can do about the ones that are still to come. You will find that it’s necessary to let some things go simply for the reason that they’re heavy on your heart and soul. Talk to someone that can help you right now and clear your heart. Carrying too much worry and fear is like an athlete who wants to win 100meters gold medal at the Olympics and carries two travel bags filled with load on his neck for the race. He will run no doubt, but never fast enough to win the race. Let go of them. Don’t clamp shackles to your own ankles. It’s incredibly easy to enjoy more of your life right now, no matter the situation. It’s just a matter of letting go of the layers of nonsense that are weighing you down. Let go of your worries and fears, of your rage and jealousy, of your need to always be right and control others. Let go of your pretentiousness and your need to have everything your way. Underneath all these layers of nonsense, there is a happy, productive person. When you start peeling them off and simply appreciating everything for what it is, life can be wonderfully fulfilling.
The next mindset to work away from is the one that drives you to unnecessarily and overtly focus on difficulties. A bad day is just a bad day. Choose not to make it anything more. For most people in Africa, when they begin to have a bad day, they begin to wonder what type of power is against them diabolically…they want to know if it’s a witch or one conspiracy from their village. Meanwhile, their counterpart from the West or America is sitting down immediately to ask himself if something new is on the horizon or if he is done with a phase or season of life; are there new people he needs to meet, new projects to accept or new places to see or some personal rules or principles are outdated and unaligned with the demands of a possible next level? It’s all in our interpretations. But we live in an environment that uses spirituality as a consolation in defining helplessness. We live in an environment with a terrible culture that engages the feeling of helplessness as a therapy and interprets adversity as an attack from some source that cannot be resisted by human intervention or self-discipline.
Times of adversity will inevitably affect the conditions in which you live and work; yet you don’t have to let it affect who you are and where you’re headed. Trust me, each day brings new lessons and new possibilities; and they come through your positive as well as negative experiences. There is always a way to take the next step forward on the path you’ve chosen. Events may be terrible and inescapable at times, but you always have a choice about when and how you may endure and go forward. The best way to fight this is to focus on your prevailing value as well as the one you are capable of creating in the future. Enduring contentment in the present is the best way to manage this. The key is to focus on the gradual growth of your mind. Gradual growth of the mind sustains itself through learning; and critically, learning takes place through life’s ups and downs, because through them, you train your mind to remain confident and at peace.
I have accepted that only through challenges can our true opportunities emerge. People who lack the awareness of these automatically allow adversity to ruffle their mind into frenzy. There’s something in man that drives him to seek instant gratification. He wants the best things in life now, and cannot define its contentment without some form of material comfort, and as fast as possible. This is where most of the battle is lost. It’s a small game that hinders most people. The bigger game is to have the kind of inner tranquility and strength that helps you have the things you need through time, patience, energy deployment in the right direction and growth. When you jump up, you reach a particular height instantly, but no sooner that you get to that height, you come down immediately. Nature pulls you down through gravity. If you jump up, you come down. But when you grow up, you stay up. Let’s take it further from here! Your comments will be highly appreciated. Go!
I write today to that young person out there and the adults who interact with them; and the critical idea is not to talk about all that the government has failed to deliver, but to instead focus on the wrong thinking well seated in the heads of young people and denying them the mental and inner balance required for them to participate in the complex work of nation-building as critical stakeholders. I see many things young people sincerely but stupidly do and sustain on a daily basis that steal their focus, drive and happiness. These things need to be known and understood; and I will describe three common but vital ones with the hope that once you know what they are and how they operate, you can easily spot them in your own life or in the life of those you help or mentor within your area of influence.
The very first one is focusing on everyone’s story except your own. Some people are name droppers, and they never have a name. Some are just achievement singers, and they never personally achieve anything. I appreciate it when people come to me to say how much of impact I make in their lives and how much inspiration I am to them. But I am one quick to remind them not to be so satisfied with the success stories of others and how things have gone for them that they forget to write their own stories. Everyone has a story. It is the free blessing of life through existence.
Each of us must accept the idea that if you live this life well, face the challenges inherent in it with courage, humility, knowledge and wisdom, the world will very soon invite you to share your story, particularly if you are optimistic that such days are a part of your destiny. You owe it to your existence and to your world to make the choice and the commitment to unfold your own tale and bring it to life. You have everything you need to become what you are capable of becoming. Incredible change happens when you decide to take control.
The responsibility today is a simple commitment to refusing to let others do your thinking, talking, and deciding for you. It means submitting to critical guidance through mentorship with a singular commitment to creating a platform for learning to respect and use your own ideas and instincts to write your passage. Keep your best wishes and your biggest goals close only to your heart and to the heart and heads of the mentors and counselors of your life. Dedicate time to your focus and the stories it generates every day. Start running. Package your story; it’s news. Talk about the stories of others only to the extent that it inspires you to run towards your own or it inspires others to run towards theirs. If you tell stories only because they make sense and your tales aren’t driving change, then that’s gossip. Gossip is information you cannot use. You can gossip alone by that definition. Anytime you associate with or peddle information you cannot use to drive positive change and progress, you are in an act of gossip. And that can happen if you read materials that are driving you to materialism and remind you of all the things you haven’t done and sucking your focus energy and feeding your distraction. The movies you see, the songs you listen to, the people you listen to—once the information you are receiving or the one you are giving is not creating positive momentum, it is an act of gossip. Even if no one knows, and you are the one-eyed king in your grossly ignorant domain, you will soon arrive at a discerning community of strong minds with empires in their brains, who will expose the smallness of your character.
The next thought is the mindset that empowers you to keep waiting for the perfect moments in your endeavours. Most young people allow their journey of life to be pressed down with the idea that a perfect moment exist. Moments are not perfect; they’re what you make them—the perfect moment, the perfect opportunity, the perfect state of being, etc. Wake up! These states of perfection are myths. They do not exist. Your ability to grow to your highest potential is directly related to your willingness to act in the face of imperfections. You will come to succeed not by finding a perfect moment, but by learning to see and use life’s imperfections perfectly.
The third one is priceless. You owe it to yourself to refuse to allow a salary or business profit defines your inner and outer roles. The work that defines monetary reward as its greatest inspiration is nothing but imprisonment. Even if you aren’t super-passionate about your work, you’ve got to at least be interested in it. When you design a lifestyle in which your work is something you suffer through daily, strictly to pay your bills, you end up spending your entire life wishing you had someone else’s job. Think about it. This is your life; your work will fill a large percentage of it. It’s about you.
Do you know you spend close to 18hrs daily between night sleep, waking up, getting ready for work, going to work, and returning? 18hrs? Do the maths! 18 out of 24 is a full life. If you hate your work and you hate your bedroom, you have a miserable life right there. And please ignore the wisdom that says, “Don’t let your work define you.” It’s pure and confident ignorance, that’s all. “I will do work that defines me.” Your daily work should define you. When the essence of who you are defines at least some slice of the work you do for a living, that work generates fulfillment. The idea is that interest in your work puts quality in your output and happiness in your mind. Only time defends the veracity of this kind of thoughts.
Your comment is highly appreciated here! Go!
It no longer takes uncanny insight to see the weak and popular variables that define most young people. This includes sexual prowess, parties, clubbing, money, clothes, cars, fame, acceptance, approval just to name a few. It is in the midst of this errant crowd of competing values that destinies are lost and lives utterly destroyed. They are quick to forget that the choices of today are the creators of the happiness, pain and regrets of the years ahead.
Young people, get this straight – It is impossible to live recklessly today and then hope tomorrow will turn in your favour. We must invest a significant amount of positive reasoning and meaningful sacrifice in today if we are to reap prosperity, joy and lasting peace tomorrow.
Some ladies who fail in their attempts to find a good husband have forgotten the days of rebellious living and selling their bodies to men. Some men wonder why they have still not yet achieved their dreams but don’t acknowledge their clearly refusal to harness their youthful energy to produce productivity, efficiency and relevance at mid-life. Some are now recluse as their generation left them behind because they refused to do the needful when it matters the most.
My own life story has shown me that regardless of the depth of error, yesterday’s fool possess within him or her the power to embrace the requirement for today’s wisdom, to lead a fresh and new life of hope and transformation. I must not forget that providence has been gracious to me in restoring my lost years and using my failures as my stepping stones to relevance. I say this because I have friends in jail, psychiatric homes, and some dead who ignorantly abused their youth and have not risen from that quicksand. If they knew the end of their youthful folly, they would have made a better choice. But like I said, providence shielded me.
I wish young people will be cured from a destructive mindset focused on the present alone, heaping up pains and misery as years persist without a change of mind. Some of them refuse to take responsibility for their future but instead, ignorantly, they work hard to hurt their future. They refuse to be held accountable and will rebel authorities that try to curb their destruction. It is their way or no way.
I wish they would stop faulting everybody but themselves. I wish they would stop cooking up excuses for misbehaviour. I wish they can see the making of an unfruitful life best described as children in adult bodies. I grieve when I see these attitudes because another failed life, another weak future, and another crashed destiny are in the making. My greatest desire is that young people will see the impact of their today’s behaviour on their tomorrow.
Let me say this to you, young man or lady – truth is higher than your opinions or views. While opinion is a creation of man, truth is a creation of time and has been existing before life began. I say this to you because if we will be someone the world will reckon with even in death, our everyday must be seen as an opportunity to change our personal lives and be better.
Never forget that you are responsible for the outcome of your life; that today counts and must be maximized to arrive at the future you desire. This is the Life!
Young people have some lessons to learn about youth and responsibility especially in an age that considers immorality, frivolity and recklessness as hip or trendy. Young people of today are synonymous with light hearted frenzy and a gross incapacity to rise up to the demands and responsibility of their generation. We seek not to promote the exceptions but to recommend a rule for all.
This brings us to the question of how Nelson Mandela engaged his youth. Mandela was just 26 years of age when he became a member of the executive council of the ANC youth league. He and other like-minded young men rose up to confront the critical situation of segregation and marginalization of black people in South Africa. And in doing this, they upheld one of the virtues of youth – a capacity to take responsibility beyond self, to engage society, to look at the problem surrounding you and resist the temptation to think someone else will solve them.
However, the society of today is raising late starters, slow to take responsibility for their own lives let alone for others. Especially in this part of the world, youth are engulfed in the fanfare of sports, fashion, and entertainment and the fame, wealth and glamour that attend them. They are still struggling to get a hold of what life is really about and are barely prepared to play larger roles within society.
I’m afraid young people here are being raised to be victims in light of the nature of challenges confronting them. They are endangered species. What I find appalling is that young people have mastered an incredible but strange art of watching everything go against them and talking against it without doing something constructive about it.
Unlike today’s youth, Mandela would not allow his background or age define the limits of his responsibility or circumstances. He applied for a job as a night watchman while he pursued a degree in law at the University of Withwatersrand. He took study loans to make this possible. Yet, against the backdrop of a system that discouraged the education of young black people, Mandela emerged determined to be educated, not allowing himself be daunted by the apartheid regime nor borrowing the weakness of governance to excuse the creation of a great future. He maintained the belief that the creation of his future was in his own labour and not in circumstances.
A culture of entitlement and dependency on government has robbed many young people off a primary sense of responsibility for the success of their lives. They must take responsibility like Mandela for a thorough education. He persisted through unsuccessful attempts until he got his law degree. This sense of perseverance would come to serve him in pursuit of the worthy cause for which he is now known.
As a younger generation replaces another, we must ask the question of what kind of men or women will they be? The answer lies in the commitments they embrace today. We can’t expect them to give what they don’t have if they make wrong or superficial choices. Young people must maintain a religious and life-long dedication to self improvement and cultivation of virtue like those found in Mandela if they ever hope to come near the corridors of greatness. There are no shortcuts and the price of rigour and perseverance must be paid.
They must labour to improve themselves within and embrace without a commitment to a common good even at the expense of themselves. By the way, they won’t be needing grand Mandela-like platforms. They must begin at their homes, schools, workplace, businesses, friendships and relationships. GO!
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?
Now, because we may not always be clear at any given time what our best is, it is safe to listen to Oscar Wilde’s challenge – “Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.”