August 22, 2018

Life is difficult. For everybody.

 
 
 
 
In a world where people shouldn't have problems, life shouldn't be difficult and mistakes aren't supposed to happen, our expectations become the obstacles to facing the truth. The biggest scam of all is that we keep looking for the reasons people we see, know, love and hear about have problems, make mistakes and face difficulties because we think that in doing so we can avoid their misfortunes. But isn't it really to keep ourselves from accepting reality- that life is difficult by its nature, that humanity is flawed and problems are a normal and regular part of life? Isn't it so we can remain comfortable but blind to the inevitable and the very things that make us human- mistakes, even death?
 


"Life is difficult" reads the first line of one of my favourite books, The road less travelled by M. Scott Peck. When I hit huge bumps in the road a few years ago, I knew I needed more than the tools I'd been given to navigate the journey ahead. I started to search for information outside the things I'd grown up hearing because the frames for problem solving I'd learned up to that point didn't work in this new place I was in.

Now when I hear "You should be happy" or "You deserve to be happy", I understand that it comes from a good place but I know that not only will I not always be happy as this is unrealistic, happiness isn’t all I need. All the facets of human emotion and experience- loss, death, disappointment- have something to teach. Happiness alone isn’t enough.

Now when I hear a pastor say ‘As you step into the week, this and that will happen’, I don’t jump in that air to claim it. Not to say there is something wrong with the saying or the claiming but I just know life is not always like that. And I can't go back to being naïve as I was before I realised I needed new ways to cope when things didn’t go my way not a sense of entitlement that only good things should happen and when they didn’t it was my fault because I didn’t pray enough to ward them off or I wasn’t wise or experienced enough to avert them.
A favourite saying between my mum and I is that the person with the problem is considered stupid by everyone else. By that we refer to people's tendency to offer unsolicited criticism and theoretical advice, burdening a person who's already down. It's the "If to say na me" syndrome which means a person believes what happened to you couldn't happen to them because they'd have done things differently. In theory.  

We like to believe simplistic conclusions that say someone died, lost their marriage, job, home, money, or children because they were careless or made a mistake. And this is not to say people's actions sometimes have no role to play in their problems but to disabuse the harsh notion that a person is solely responsible for causing the difficulties life hands them as if, if the person had any idea that their actions would lead to loss, they'd still take them.

The reality is calamity happens to us all and the reason people die is because people die. The reason people suffer loss is because it's just what people do! We need to not only be kinder to ourselves as human beings but accepting of our common reality so we can show kindness not judgement to ourselves and others when befallen by calamity.

This week I got reconnected to a group of girls I haven't seen in over a decade. It's been such a heart warming thing to happen- finding old friends who've been long loved and lost. A conversation I had with one of them, showed me how much I have shifted from an entitled mind set that things should work my way, people should like, respect or agree with me or my life should not only look great to people, but should feel great for me. All. The. Time. 
She'd asked after my children (unbelievable I have those, lol!). I shared photos. She didn't know I'd been living abroad. I shared that I'd been for a few years. "I'm glad you're doing awesome", she said. And I was.

Except something was niggling in my head as I read the screen. Quickly, before pausing to consider if she would misunderstand, if I would look bad, if she'd think I wasn't doing as well as she imagined, I typed in response- "I'm doing life. Sometimes it's awesome and sometimes its not."

Was is it that I didn't want her to fall for the hype that two bright eyed children and living outside Nigeria meant my life was awesome? No, not only would she not fall for it if it were untrue but there was no hype to fall for. Just this golden truth I'd picked up since she'd been gone. This salvation that life isn't always awesome and that's not a bad thing. Certainly not a thing to leave out of the conversations and the pictures. At least not with her.

In fact, problems are good. There is nothing else like the confidence boost you get from solving your own problems and creating space for yourself to be seen, heard and respected because your opinions, your preferences and the space you occupy in a team, family, group and in the world matters regardless of age, background, ability and gender.

You matter! Don't wait for us to validate or agree or respond as if you do. Make us because you believe it for yourself! Or better still ignore us completely and make space for yourself whether we let you, support you, shift for you or not.

And if all else fails, face those difficulties of life knowing you are not one but legion and you're coming against those problems on the shoulders of everyone you've known- the classmate, the co-worker, the fellow chorister, the old friend, the father, the mother, the brother, the sister, the gone but not forgotten, the Creator of life- and take courage!

March 01, 2018

Launch in 30 days!


I started writing this post as soon as the narrative started to dictate itself in my head. Not a day after or several weeks later when I could make it “perfect” and not in the morning when I’d have had my beauty sleep and gotten seated at my desk with my preferred tool of choice- my laptop.

How many things do we think of doing then post date because we think we’ll need more time than the moment to plan and execute “ properly”? And is our delay really in the interest of perfection or for the sake of convenience?

For instance, a few minutes ago I was going to jot down the title for this post in the notes folder on my phone to develop into a blog post “later” so I could get back to reading 72 pages of annual letters written by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos to shareholders. I estimated it would take too much time to log into my blog’s back-end, construct my thoughts into words and go through the process of polishing it into a satisfactory version I could publish. I even imagined I could struggle to conceptualise my delivery and the thought of finding, plugging in and powering up my laptop was enough to demotivate me. While making this split second decision, I was largely unaware of this permutation taking place in my mind and had it not been for the counter thought to eat my own dog food and launch sooner rather than later as the title of this post suggests, this much needed blog update might not have happened.

How many times I have engaged in this thoughtless assessment of how long it will take to do something and how difficult it would be, I don't know. And how often I have let a formulaic approach to a task that could be done in different ways and in non- linear steps deter me from starting, I can’t tell but I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in miscalculating how much it will cost to have something or how difficult or complicated it will be to attain something based on untested assumptions.

I’ll give a good example of how my own miscalculation frequently led to procrastination and consequently under performance. I used to be intimidated by the volume of reading material I had to digest for my MBA modules until I realised the number of pages do not equate to reading speed or time needed to complete the reading. I discovered I could consume a large portion of material fairly quickly if the content sufficiently captured my interest and was easy to digest and could retain from quickly scheming through material that was more difficult, sufficient information to help me ask informed questions, search easier sources or decide if it was not relevant to my objectives for reading. Essentially, I didn’t need to know everything to pass or understand everything in detail to function in my academic environment.  But setting the perfectionist goal to do so would not only have  been self limiting but could set me on a vicious cycle of discouragement from doing the very thing I was trying to do- learn. More to the point, I was often wrong about how long this learning would take and almost always found that an hour and half could get me really far.

Like the message of my end of year post last year, some things you think you’d need a year to do can be done in 8 weeks, others you think you’d need years worth of savings to accomplish can be done in months worth of instalments and things you think you’ll only be able to complete when your skills are at expert level or when you have more experience, education or resources may well be satisfactorily executed at the level you are right now.

But you won’t know until you subject your assumptions to questioning and instead of concluding based on them, find out the facts by asking someone who’s done it before, going to that place where they are doing it and making enquiries or actually engaging in the activity to assess your performance, speed or potential in real time. And where there is a real skill gap, you won’t know if it can be covered pretty quickly if you don’t take a step. It’s surprisingly easy to learn new skills in this era of knowledge sharing and with detailed how- to videos, books, courses and articles available for free online. Many self service platforms have unbundled the mysterious world of complex industries like music and book publishing, making what was not available to us before today’s possibilities. The answer may not still be ‘No’. While we might need to let go of our traditional ways of doing things (e.g blogging on a phone rather than a laptop) or push ourselves outside our comfort zones, there is definitely a way out there to do, have and be what we want.

I started this article by writing it as soon as that writer in my head started narrating it to me. Not a day after or several weeks later. Not after the inspiration had waned and long before I would have ruminated over it, regurgitating and chewing till it lost its taste. And no, it didn’t take more than a minute to log into my back end as I skipped powering my laptop, and I didn’t struggle with articulating my thoughts but rather enjoyed polishing sentences and organising paragraphs so hardly noticed the passage of time. While its possible that a later version of this post would have been more perfect, I doubt that my level of satisfaction with it at this moment will differ significantly, more so because it is no longer an idea sitting in my notes folder like several ideas yet to be executed, but it is now a completed piece of work- launched!

So I’m throwing out the challenge. Over the next thirty days, whatever your mind thinks to do, be it as little as sending an email you’ve decided needs sending or executing an idea you have clarity about, it might not take as long, be as hard or cost as much as you think- launch with speed!

January 28, 2018

I don't know how to write a book!


There I've admitted it.

If you're new to this blog or haven't visited in a while, I've been writing trying to write a book for a while now and I've nursed the ambition to write one long before I recognised I wanted to. So to discover after all this years of pent up passion and repeated attempts that I don't know anything about writing books is rather disheartening.

In fact, once I started out trying to learn how a book is written, I realised I preferred wanting to write one to actually writing one. There is sufficient satisfaction to get a high from talking about writing a book, writing about how I am trying to write a book, researching about the writing process (of which my favourite part is finding experiences of newbie authors that mirror my own experience of frustration), getting angry each time another person has written a book and I haven't (you know how you are sure you can do something better than someone except you haven't done a thing despite your "being better" and they have results to show for actually putting in the work and going through the process) and playing with story lines and characters in my head that I don't need the lows of staring at a blank page struggling with the thought that this isn't something I can do.

But again, I always feel that way when faced with writing a paper for one of my many MBA modules. In fact, I am always sure that I not only don't know what I am doing but that I can't do what is being required of me. This has happened so often now that I have started to recollect and recognise more incidents of debilitating self doubt each time I have attempted something new, past and present.

Luckily, I've been around that block enough times to understand that if I can stick out the discomfort of the learning curve and get to the other side, I will start to see the patterns, recognise the formula and find what works.

So writing a book (for me) has been a humbling process- one that is easier said than done. 

I don't get to be good at it right away or on my first try not even because I've written a blog for ten years, maintained several journals of various shapes and colours through the years or contributed great content to a handful of magazines- online and print.

November 23, 2017

The year has not ended.




I've realised it's learned behaviour to make the focus of the end of the year, an assessment of what we have (not) achieved and goals we have not met. It's almost automatic how my mind will dig up all evidence to suggest it was a wasted year with nothing to show for it. But that's a scam. I know it now. My mind knows I know it too. So we have this understanding. But that's a topic for another day.

If we take a hard look at our goals for the year though, we'll see that some of those goals we sprinkled generously on paper at the beginning of the year just to fill the page can be distilled to 1, 2 or 3 major things that are really critical. We'll also see that some that we gave ourselves a whole year to turn in, can get done during a short period of leave, a weekend, a day off, three months of that extra hour working at night or the slow next couple of weeks into the new year. 

Most of the things we think will take a year to get done, can probably take a block of 3 weeks, one month or one quarter if we give it the intensity of focus it needs. Under pressure, I have seen myself cram into 6weeks, 6 months worth of work from my MBA and still come out with good grades. I have also noticed I can't keep  up that laser focused intensity on certain projects for too long and some of my most remarkable output have been that one day I wrote my eBook from working at it from am to pm, that week I fleshed out a novel (seating unpublished among others in my laptop), that 3,000 word paper I wrote in two days- one for research and the other for a first draft. So imagine if I expect to complete a project like that over a year, I would likely run out of steam.

There will be those goals on the list that we don't get done because we don't know what to do. It's amazing how much work you can get done in thirty minutes of clarity than several months of misdirected passion. It's amazing how much you can get done when you are not under the pressure to make it perfect. It's amazing how much permitting yourself to put what you have down even if its a rough draft, a raw idea, a body of work that is imperfect but captures the meat of the matter or meets the basic requirements can do for you. It's amazing how much progress you can make in the face of real odds just by doing the one you can do, then the next one you find to do after that and the next and the next until viola, you are done!

There will also be goals we don't get done because we are intimidated by the sheer effort required. I've had those types of exams where they tell you it's 8 questions answer 3, and I remind myself that the ask isn't to read all 10 lessons but to be an expert on 5 so I can answer 3 questions lol. Assignments where I remind myself that the ask isn't to master all the theories and concepts but to demonstrate my mastery of a few relevant ones for my paper. Work deliverables where I have to strip the mountain in the project into molehills by simply meeting the basic requirements not reinventing the wheel.

As I began to say, the end of the year has a bad rep but we can treat it as a beginning- a way to start ahead of the new year to find those 1 or 2 critical goals, break them into size and execute with clarity.

So forget the time of year. You're right on time to make epic things happen!



August 22, 2017

Writing the book- My Process


So I have wanted to write a book for a long time. It's been one of many goals I start off the year thinking 'this is an important milestone I really want to beat'. There are several of such goals that are still waiting for me to get down to executing but I won't think of those now, from experience that's a short cut to discouragement. All I have to do is think of what I haven't done and my head swaps the image of the 'Nike the achiever who can do anything' for the 'lazy Nike who hasn't done 1, 2, 3 & 10' and the more I see myself like that the more I don't think I can based on my mind's selective evidence to the contrary. (In the three decades since I've known my mind, I recognise its tricks a little better now and I don't fall for its selective memory but take into account the gazillion other goals I have accomplished- I am Nike- the- achiever after all!)

But I digress... yes, the book!

It's been lots of false starts and restarts.

Two months ago I achieved a goal with my exams (doing a masters- another goal that lay dormant for 9 years or for what I prefer to call 'the appointed time'. I tell you more about that later). I prepared for three exams in thirty days and met my goals, even exceeded them on one of the modules. (Ah, I have a lot to tell you about goal setting as well- why aim for an impossible 100% and scare yourself out of the game when you can make an achievable 50 and live to fight another day? Remind me in the comments to gist you if you want to hear).

What I tapped into about myself during the exam prep period was that I don't have the attention span to focus on something for a long period of time and sustain the same intensity. Forget the stereotype of what being an unserious student or lazy student is, I have always been a last minute, back- end loader. So cramming my entire semester into a month rather than reading over six and forgetting what I read by exam time kind of worked better for me.

Anyway, I decided to adopt the same approach to my book.

I gave myself thirty days and watched. Work and life played a role and I only succeeded in some 10-20 hours of work over  a total of 5-7 days in that month. The result was a bunch of post- it notes stuck on a few pages. And 2,232 not-so-great words in chapter 1.

The disease of perfectionism is to say, at the end of thirty days I didn't do it so it's not done while overlooking that something did in fact get done- the foundation was laid.


Progress!

I accomplished the important part of planning the book. Putting down all the ideas about it out of my head and onto paper, tapping into my 'why' for the project and coming up with a title for the book and a framework for the content.

I did good! And I am adopting a more observe-as- you-work approach to see how I am working best within the constraints in my life rather than a strict schedule that says I must complete 50,000 words in 30 days. Based on that I am expecting another 10-20 hours from myself in another 30 days. If that then becomes the realistic pace of work for this project, it becomes the goal rather than me setting unrealistic timelines for myself that leave me feeling like 'lazy Nike who hasn't done 1, 2, 3 & 10'! Again why aim for an impossible 100% and scare yourself out of the game when you can make an achievable 50 and live to fight another day?

Writing a book is not an easy process, it's like two people engaged in the same old, recurring  and difficult conversation they've disagreed over for a long time. It takes several of those hair- raising stand offs to understand what each side has been trying to say to the other for years. It will take several drafts to get to what I really want to say, so yes there will be several tries. I will get it one day, then not know what I am talking about the next. I will spend one hour in drudgery here and then find ten hours of pure inspiration there. I will write for days then have nothing to add for weeks after but slowly it will all come together. So I better fail fast, stumble a lot earlier and churn out not- so- great drafts now so I can get to the great stuff like I always do.

So on that note, I'm still in the game. If anyone asks, I am still writing- even when I am not!

August 04, 2017

What I've been up to.


I've been writing.

I've been writing a book.

I have learnt so much in the last few years that I feel I need to document, for me, for someone coming behind to read.

I also want to talk about the horrid culture of mean comments that has taken over us. The way we under the veil of anonymous can be mean beings to each other, stabbing others in the back with words we can't utter to their faces not least because we do not actually know them but social media creates that familiarity- that contempt!

And that  invisible and contagious contempt is the social illness of our generation, so if you don't read from me on here, I'm being about it.

More to come soon!

April 22, 2017

When you feel forgotten by God

Isaiah 40:26-31The Message (MSG)

25-26 “So—who is like me?
    Who holds a candle to me?” says The Holy.
Look at the night skies:
    Who do you think made all this?
Who marches this army of stars out each night,
    counts them off, calls each by name
—so magnificent! so powerful!—
    and never overlooks a single one?
 
27-31 Why would you ever complain, O Jacob,
    or, whine, Israel, saying,
God has lost track of me.
    He doesn’t care what happens to me”?
Don’t you know anything? Haven’t you been listening?
God doesn’t come and go. God lasts.
    He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine.
He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath.
    And he knows everything, inside and out.

He energizes those who get tired,
    gives fresh strength to dropouts.
For even young people tire and drop out,
    young folk in their prime stumble and fall.
But those who wait upon God get fresh strength.
    They spread their wings and soar like eagles,
They run and don’t get tired,
    they walk and don’t lag behind.

March 01, 2017

Feeling stuck trying to loose the baby weight?

 
Get started shedding weight with these gym free, gadget free, diet free & slimming tea free tips.
 

First of all, I never had a problem with weight so I took it for granted that my body would change after having a baby. I actually thought I had escaped the common body- altering side effects of carrying a child because I was lucky not to have swollen feet, discolored skinned or a broken voice while pregnant. I however experienced post partum shedding months after with two big patches around my edges on opposite sides. Lol. Generally, I was slimmer during (the picture above was taken around my due date) and just after I delivered compared to a few months later when I really gained weight (breastfeeding didn't help).

For a long time, getting back in shape was synonymous with going to the gym. That entailed finding one nearby that was affordable and baby friendly. Just thinking about how impossible my requirements were considering my circumstances was enough to give it up.

This post is for people that feel stuck here.

The truth is you already know how to loose weight. Think about it. Between those times you unintentionally lost weight and what is common knowledge about weight loss, you have enough tips to get you started. So whatever I or anyone tell you about shedding the baby weight, your response will likely be "I already knew that".

But I felt this post was worth sharing because sometimes you know what to do but are not ready to do it. You know you are in that category when you complain but don't do anything about it. I've been there and if that is where you are, take your time. Where your body and belly is now is temporary. It is not your destination. 


And if you know what to do but are trying to figure out how to make what you know workable for you, keep reading.

I started by making a list of everything I could think of about loosing weight. I titled it-"Loosing weight using what I know".
My list had things like cutting out biscuits (I used to eat as many as 6 packs a week! Don't look so shocked lol! Find what you are over- consuming and cut it). It had things like counting in fruits and salads (I was eating this but I was also eating everything on top of it, lol. Like my husband would come and find the snacks bought for the whole house had disappeared). I also had my very laudable but unrealistic goal of conquering Immabeast's choreography of Beyoncé's Formation as exercise.

Didn't happen. Instead I discovered free work out videos on YouTube and that became the turning point for me. It eliminated finding a gym and membership fees, getting hawt (read "pricey") gym clothes that would have made the bulges even more apparent come to think of it, buying gym gear like a mat, trainers, and head/wrist bands (you know you have to look the part naa) and finally I could be as sweaty in whatever I want to wear or not wear while exercising.

Tip: When looking for a work out video, know there are several trainers online to pick from so if a guy with muscles like a body builder isn't working for you, find a female trainer or dance aerobics instructor. I preferred a female that coached and explained as she went along. Also find a workout with a duration and intensity that is sustainable for you. You don't want to put in all the effort required to loose all the weight in one work out. A half hour work out, 3-5 times a week is more doable. You don't want to over do it then get so sore the thought of working out scares you.

I also discovered fitness watches thanks to Sisiyemmie. There was one lying around at home so I started using it to motivate myself to take long walks. Because it counts my steps, I always look forward to clocking that 10,000 step mark.  So I typically work out and get about 3000+ steps, take the stairs and add to that, then walk to the shops or through the park park behind my house with a walking trail to get my 10,000 steps in. It helps me keep active.

Tip: You don't need a fitness watch to do this. Walking for over an hour depending on your pace should give you similar results.

Then I cut down portion sizes. While pregnant hunger would hit me so suddenly, I would feel like if I didn't eat I wouldn't have energy. After I had the baby my portion sizes continued to rival and at times beat my husband's. I didn't realize it then but there were times I got so bloated and uncomfortable trying to finish the food on the plate as if, if it was on my plate, my assignment was to clear it. So I started listening to my body and stopped short of being full, retraining myself to leave food on the plate if I was getting full. I still eat whatever, just less.

Tip: Because I'd been at home, I didn't realize I was eating as much as 5/6 times a day. So trying to maintain three good meals a day is a good way to control eating. These days I follow the routing outlined for feeding baby- 3 meals a day, fruit and veg (salads) in between, a multivitamin and water. I am learning to love my health as I love hers lol.

Also, I started the lemon in warm/hot water with honey thing. I recently added ginger which gives that peppery taste as well as cucumber which just adds a great flavor. I use it as an alternative to slimming teas. At least with this one, you can see what you are taking in and still get the benefit of easy bowel movements and no bloating.

The rest of my list were things like actually using the girdles I bought to waist train, using an anti- stretch mark cream, not eating after 7pm and a reminder to keep staying away from fizzy drinks.

My results are not yet in but just getting my heart rate up and respecting my body, is such a boost already. The point really is that you don't need anything extraordinary to kick start your weight loss, you can do it with what you already know using what you have right now, where you are. For me I found doing it in my space, at my pace not just pocket friendly but more sustainable.

Hope this helps.

February 02, 2017

Bad dreams: I demand to re-dream!

 
In the words of the author of Loving What is, Bryon Katie, reality is often kinder than the bad dreams (both the kind we see in our sleep or the ones we conjure in our heads) we allow terrify us. In reality, we are usually just lying on a bed or seating on a chair- doing fine! Patricia Omoqui summarizes it well when she said in her comment on Twitter- we can wake up any moment we choose!




I awoke in reality.

Everything looked all right in my surroundings. 

I knew it was cold outside but I was snug underneath an insulated duvet, kept warm by a well functioning heater that was kindly regulating the temperature whether I was aware of it or not.

My body was well supported on a comfortable bed yet I was collapsing inside.

There was nothing in the room to terrify me yet I was acting as if I was still trapped in the bad dream- asleep.

I didn't want to be alone or go back to bed. By force of habit, I turned to prayer. The words I was feverishly saying didn't feel right, then I noticed I was actually annoyed!

I had had a full day. I had done everything as expected of me. I was tired and I deserved to close my eyes on my bed and sleep peacefully. Whish kain nonsense dream was that?

Any dream that wasn't serving me wasn't for me. Besides, I never felt God spoke to me through dreams. I was so pissed by now that I said aloud, "I demand a redream!" Away with this apparition- this False Evidence Appearing to be Real. In the words of my friend, Adunni, no apprentice devil was going to play with my head.

I still didn't want to go back to sleep but found something positive to  keep my mind set on. I still prayed but this time I prayed not to be deceived by fear. And I did wake up the other adult in the house and let him hold me like a baby while I held myself together on the inside. 

And I continued to shake like a leaf but I waited it out patiently because I knew my heart needed time to catch up with what I knew in my head- that just because it felt real didn't make it so and just because it was in my mind didn't mean I had to believe it. 

Nothing bad had happened. I had only had a bad dream... and woken up.


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