Making It made Easy? Foul…Red Card!
Recently, I read an article by one of my big brother friends (I have loads of friends I have massive respect for, hence big) titled “You Have No Excuse”. In this piece, he was talking about youths and the need to build opportunity-ceasing skills rather than creating excuses for failure. For instance, you’ve written this university entry exam for 5 consecutive times and failed for diverse perhaps even justified reasons (e.g the whole centre was cancelled for exam malpractice even though you personally did nothing). While I admire your perseverance and endless reserve of energy to “keep trying”, it’s not an adequate excuse to stay on the same spot.
Moving on, the article spurred me into thinking about how people arrive at where they are now, career-wise. Did Steve Jobs always know he was going to breakthrough this way? Did Obama always know that one day he would lead the United States? If yes, when did they know, how did they know?
One thing is for sure, no one accomplishes anything overnight or by accident. Even when you seem to be followed by a string of good luck, you still have to have taken some particular steps to get to where you are.
Then I’ll like to ask: what steps do you take? What decisions did you make? What kind of challenges did you face on your journey and how did you overcome them?
Motivational speakers (at least the few i have come across) have done justice to these questions. Just by listening to them and their stories you literally feel the fire seeping up your bones and you just want to scream YES I CAN!
However, the story is always different for everyone. In my short experience in life so far, I have learnt that our stories are almost as different as DNAs – there is no one road to Making It.
That said, I have also learnt a few principles that cut across most experiences. Some I picked from my parents (best career counsellors ever) and others from reading biographies, speaking to people and personal experiences too.
Principle 1: Know your strengths from your passion
I had been vaguely aware of this, but an interview with Debbie Ogunjobi, owner of EveryWoman, Nigeria, hit the nail on the head for me.
Here I was, a fresh graduate working with a newspaper house and opportune to speak with a big business woman – I was ready to sap every nugget of wisdom I could find.
Debbie told me how she had a passion for writing. She even had a column dedicated to just her in one of the national dailies then. However, she told me that her passion was not going to be sufficient in putting food on the table and paying the bills – so she decided to pursue her strength, being an acute sense for business and profit-making.
True to form, her women’s suit store was the one-stop shop for our graduation outfits in school back then. I remember combing the streets of Allen for a nice suit after the thorough disappointment that I carried last in visiting EveryWoman. Size 16 and above were the sizes available for styles that caught my fancy…moving on
Now, people have followed passion and made a huge success out of it (think TY Bello, music and photography). However, I think it is important for one to internally distinguish between the two and not mix up one for the other. Your passion also needs to be matched up with ability. You have a passion to sing, but a frog has a better understanding of alto and treble than you do…errrr.
Success is relative. To achieve what you want to achieve, if passion or strength will take you there, it helps to know which you are going with. Sometimes its possible to combine both, and at other times, your passion may grow into your strength.
Principle 2: Keep your options open!
When pops used to stress on this, to be honest I always said in my head “but I already know what I want to do!” He would probably be reading this for the first time.
Keeping your options open does not mean becoming a jack of all trades and master of none. It is about making choices that give you the flexibility to bend a little here and there while still staying in the running. When you keep your options open, your hardly ever hit dead ends (like failing an exam 5 times and giving up).
An example of when I kept my options open was in my selection of subjects to major in after Junior Secondary 3 where I discarded “Introduction to Technology” subject and my drawing boards and the horrible Tee-Square as if my life depended on it.
More importantly, this principle came to play in my choice of subjects to take at WASSCE – West African Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination. While I was obviously an art student who wanted to study journalism, my pops encouraged me to add ACCOUNTING to the list. With good grades in Economics as well, I was flexible to apply to universities for journalism or Economics or Accounting if I so wished. I was not going to be boxed into a corner.
Interestingly, on my first job as a journalist guess where I found myself, the Finance Desk!
Other ways to keep your options open is to take certification courses, perhaps outside but not too far off your interested area. Build new skills, technical skills and soft skills.
Currently as an academic, I am actively seeking ways to keep my options open through embracing interdisciplinary research. It’s not always easy sometimes, Accounting and figures were a thorn in my intellectual flesh, but it was conquered. You can do it.
I’ll take a pause here and I very much want to see your comments. Do you have any more principles to share?
Remember, making it is never a destination, we just keep striving.
PS I wrote this post on my phone yay! I’m a certified blogger on the go!