Older, Wiser, Lighter.

Remember the issues that kept you awake 10 years ago? What happened to them?

Time and nature have a way of combining to resolve the imbalances in our lives. Which is why the older I grow, the more I try to adjust to the patience required to see through tough times, with a smile on my face. Life, on its own and without your help, would complicate matters for you. Sadly, a number of times, we find ourselves helping life down its destructive path; either intentionally or otherwise. I want to share with you, the 3 factors in the way of your fulfillment and happiness in life. Older, wiser, lighter; beyond these, you take what is thrown at you and move on. And then, you know you have reached that ever-elusive “good place”.


GROWING OLDER

It’s not like we really have a choice with growing older. What matters is how we adjust to life beyond each birthday celebration. Age automatically comes with experience. No matter how inattentive you are, you cannot avoid naturally absorbing life’s lessons along your way. The learning may not always be active, but your inherent sense of self-preservation and desire for progress, will plant a passive lesson or two in your heart and mind. Embrace your new ages. It’s a stripe of honour. And never feel like you are leaving your best years behind. The concept of “best years” is subjective. I loved my 20s because; I discovered myself, spent time abroad, got my first job and became financially independent. Exciting, wasn’t it? But then I entered my 30s, became a family man, a busier professional, got less sleep and generally became more socially connected at a more serious level. Add that to my trimming down of close friends, and one might assume I must be missing my 20s. But there has never been a single day in my 30s that I have looked back on my 20s with longing. These are the best years of my life, until better ones come along, of course. It’s all subjective, entirely how you choose to see your life.


BECOMING WISER

Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?” – Job 12:12 (NIV)

It does, and it is unavoidable. The choice of accepting wisdom and gaining understanding, rests entirely with you. Wisdom comes to you everyday. If only you will think deeper about your experiences, you will find the wisdom in them quite noteworthy for your future. One of the more prominent barriers to gaining wisdom, is our desire not to move on from the past, and the childish things therein. It’s painful, I know. It’s painful because the bosom of immaturity is very comfortable, very safe, a hide-out from the realities of advancing years. For some, they are left with little choice. At least, until fate and discomfort bring wisdom and forced maturity their way. But there are those who unfortunately, have never been under pressure to grow up, or even if they have been, have never felt pressure to make it happen. For those ones, we can only pray for. But the fundamental point is that, age and longer life bring wisdom and understanding one’s way. It is unavoidable. Deciding to use it, however, is optional.


MAKING YOURSELF LIGHTER

This should come easy, but it always doesn’t work out like that. Why do I say so? As you add on burdens in life, there comes the point of the natural weigh-down, where it becomes too much, and you can barely carry it all. The trick in a truly happy and fulfilled life, is learning how to let go. Every experience – whether negative or positive – is an extra burden on your life. We must shed the load from time to time. That is the only way we can maintain long term sanity in the face of adversity. But unfortunately, not all of us get this. We would rather carry all our burdens by ourselves, and brood into depression. Look at the lives we live:

The friends we no longer speak to; the ex-lovers we now hate; the family members we avoid; the playground grudges we still bear; the colleagues we rat-race with for promotions; the schoolmates we envy; all these are burdens, we need to shed. We are overweight. Overweight with negative energy. The effort required to shed your burdens have to be conscious. You have to purpose in your heart to find true happiness today, by confronting your past one last time, before finally dropping and burying it. Make yourself agile again. For the sake of your own progress; in your faith, your career, your family life. Only you can start the process of making yourself lighter. Learn to let go. Forgive yourself and forgive the people that made life the way it is. After all, stone is heavy and sand a burden, but a fool’s provocation is heavier than both (Proverbs 27:3).

Only then, can we say you have truly grown.

The Indomitable Lions: An Underdog Football Story

I follow sports, not only for the thrill it delivers when the side you support wins a competition. I also follow sports for the great stories. Behind all the huffing and puffing, it is always great to pick lessons from the how. Stories of heroes, villains, underdogs and friends. Lessons we must immortalised in folklore, for the benefit of future generations.

In the middle of the first half of the AFCON 2017 final, I posted on my Facebook that regardless of who emerged winner after 90 minutes, we were guaranteed a great story. The Indomitable Lions of Cameroon made a great comeback to win their nation’s 5th AFCON trophy. On their surprise journey to continental football glory, the young Cameroonian team had written their names in football folklore, with a story that will be part of team pep talks for generations to come.

It was the week before Christmas, and Cameroon coach Hugo Broos was in trouble. His top stars were turning down his call to play for their nation. Liverpool’s Matip, West Brom’s Nyom, Ajax’s Onana, etc. It was not looking like a Merry Christmas for the ex-Belgian international. The AFCON is a tough tournament, and a lack of experience and depth will always expose you. It was also not the best time to be assembling core players for a tournament. That should have happened several months before, at least on paper.

With nowhere to turn, Broos looked to his fringe players. These were players who will at best, sit on the bench of his ideal team. This included a certain Christian Bassogog, who was voted Player of the Tournament at AFCON 2017. Prior to September 2016, Broos had not heard of Christian Bassogog. In his time of need, he had found Bassogog on the Internet, and only invited him because his friends from his days coaching in Denmark, convinced him to do so after watching him play! Not to talk of Fabrice Ondoa, Barcelona academy graduate goalkeeper, trying to find his feet in the Team ‘B’ of Sevilla. Broos was forced to use Ondoa only because his cousin, Andre Onana of Ajax, refused the call up to play at the tournament. Three weeks ago, no one was giving this relatively inexperienced Cameroonian team a chance at the trophy. They did not look like champions on paper. I doubt Cameroonians themselves gave their team a chance at this tournament. It is also interesting to note, that the two players with the most international football experience in the team, were content to contribute from the bench. Similar situation has created ego problems in other teams in the past. However, when the Indomitable Lions needed them most, these two (Nicolas Nkoulou and Vincent Aboubakar) came on and scored a goal each to bring glory to their nation.

Cameroon’s victory is a story of service. Service to one’s nation. A story of how a group of misfits, low on experience, high on patriotism, and bonded by a desire to make history; can do great things. “A group of 23 friends”, as Broos calls his team. It is also a story of fearless change made for the greater good. Congratulations to the Indomitable Lions!

lions
Photo Credit: AFP/ Goal.com

2016: The Ugly Process

Today is the last day of 2016. It is a general perception that 2016 screwed the world over. A string of shocking anti-establishment and abnormal happenings had the planet sitting on edge all year. But there is a school of thought which says that 2016 was a good jolt for a planet that was finding too much comfort in the success of its liberalisation efforts. Now that we are all awake – liberals and all – what happens with this new experience? Time will reveal everything, wouldn’t it?

2016 was a tumultuous year for many. I wasn’t spared the chaos. I can confidently say that I faced the most difficult time of my career in 2016. It also happens that I had the fewest hours of sleep in 2016, than any other year I have been alive. I am very sure of that fact. In the midst of this super stress, I needed to put in even more family time, which was the most critical of all. A few days ago, I was lying in bed counting the costs and effects of 2016, and how my life is looking like as we close the year. I came to one conclusion: I won! But why is it so hard to celebrate? The answer lies in the scars and memories of battle. In war, the victorious side may celebrate in the open, but weep in private when they count their costs. The costs taint the joy. The costs cloud your inner desire to skip about like a kid in the park.

Should I lose all memory of everything that happened from 2nd January 2016 to 30th December 2016, this would easily have been one of the most exciting and progressive years of my adult life. The tough memories that exist from 2nd January 2016 to 30th December 2016, are what I refer to as “the ugly process”. We stand, we fight, we win. But the scars and stripes stay in mind and body for so long, that we fail to fully appreciate the enormity of what we have just overcome. The ugly process, is the necessary process, for ensuring we face the future like the battle-hardened warriors we have become.

As we step into 2017, it is important for each of us to let go the ugly process of surviving and growing in 2016, and embrace the ugly process of winning in 2017. It doesn’t have to get easier. Ease is an enemy of the truly remarkable achievements ahead of us in life. Instead of ease, we can choose to become tougher, harder, fiercer, wiser, faster. Embrace the scars and stripes. God is on our side.

long-walk

The Restless Generation?

Perhaps. I have not been around long enough. But I can compare today to a decade or two ago, and the mindset shift of young people over that period. Usually, I will talk about what I observed when my parents worked. But that may be spreading too wide, considering they enjoyed careers spanning over three decades in banking and healthcare. My first experience with the professional cultural shift came from my dad at the end of 2011. At the start of the previous year, I had returned from graduate school in the UK and settled into my first “real” job. Less than two years later, here I was telling him I was moving to another company. Huh? Just two years? Boy please. But dad, he understands change. When he first joined the banking industry, they had ledgers the size of desks. Everything had to be manually searched for and recorded, in these humongous pieces of paperwork. He transitioned from that to basic MS DOS based software, and then finally to proper banking applications. He remained relevant to his industry through these technological changes, and he clearly understood the joys of mobility enjoyed by my generation of professionals.

So what is it with professionals in their 20s and 30s? There are a number of influencing factors for their career decisions. First of all, they understand the differences in career/job security. They grew up with relatives who worked for the same organization their entire working life. Those were the days when paper qualifications could guarantee a slow but steady rise, if one stayed in their seat long enough. Fast-forward to 2016, where all it takes is a couple of months struggle with sales and revenue, and a lay-off appears down the road. Whiles this has created an equal sense of ruthless disloyalty in young professionals, it has also generated a new wave of “side-entrepreneurs”, as people seek the financial security of an alternative income source. It is actually unfashionable not to juggle your busy bank job with a side business these days. From time to time, a number of people have made the feared trip to be fully available on the other side by dumping their day jobs. I will be highlighting a number of such stories on this blog.

The other factor is our desire to see more of the world. In simpler language, we want to have more fun than our parents did. Apart from this leading us to multiply income opportunities or hunting for better-paying jobs more frequently, we have become more adventurous with seeking out expatriation opportunities, especially on the African continent. I will be discussing some of the amazing things this growing Pan-African “brain share” has created on the continent. The speed of progressive adventure is soaring. In a 2007 TED Talk, Economics Professor George Ayittey called this new wave the “Cheetah Generation”. For me, I think their world view of things have made them simply restless for a better life. So, out with the old I say!