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.


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!