Be good to people. Be good to people. Be good to people. Be good to people regardless of their religion, their gender, their race, their belief. Just be good. It’s not about them. It’s about you. What do I mean? I mean you should do good, not because of the people you are doing it to but because you are a good person.
Think international. Whatever it is that you are doing, do not ever see it as local. Do not limit yourself to your state, region or country. The world is yours for the taking. There is no reason why you should think your business should be limited to Nigeria. There is no reason why you should think only Nigerians will appreciate your art. If thousands of teenage girls can stay glued to their phone screens every night watching some Korean characters speak a strange language and try to act love, why then should your own art be different? Remember that Chimamanda started in Nsukka. About a month ago, she was in Korea and China and guess what, she has fans there. You would ask, how can these people understand Papa and Kambili, Ugwu and Eberechi? Well, how can they not?
Have friends. Have people who care about you. People you can trust. People who share the same beliefs and values with you. People whose history you know. People who do not keep secrets from you and people who you do not keep secrets from. They are hard to find but they are out there. I have about five of them here. You should have them too. People who won’t delete your number in the future when you need them; people who won’t flatter you when you blow. Have these people. They are God’s gift to you. Trust me, I am talking from experience.
Have people around you. These people are not friends, they are just people. There is no way everybody in the world will agree with your beliefs and opinions. So what then? Do you then shut out everyone who doesn’t agree with you? No, that’s not wise. That is being foolish, really. Keep people around you. They may not be useful now but they will be useful later. Here’s a story. I once had a client who wanted to pay for my service. But then, he could not pay enough so we had to go our separate ways. But we kept each other’s contacts and we viewed each other’s WhatsApp status updates. For long, there was no mutual benefit. Until this fellow was organizing an event and they needed some expert writer. This was no more business. This was work. He contacted me and linked me to the lead organizer of the event. The rest is history. We were not beneficial to each other initially but in the long run, it paid off. Have people around you. They are what people on LinkedIn call your network. They don’t have to be super close but they should be around you. Just make sure they are not toxic to your existence.
— E. M. Foster, Howard’s End
Believe in something. do not go about life sitting on the fence like a hungry lizard. That is not what you are made for. You are a human with the ability to decide for yourself what you want or don’t want. You get to choose and hey, it does not have to be a common belief. But please, pick a side. When two elephants fight, guess who suffers? Believe in something. When you are asked, what do you think about education in Nigeria? Do not say, the Lord is in control. Guess what, He is not. Are you happy with our educational system, if yes, say so boldly. If no, say so boldly. Pick a side. Believe something. Don’t go about dining with lizards, they are a bunch of ignorant beings who nod at everything.
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
― Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
Be known for something. This does not mean you cannot do anything else. It only means you have a niche you have carved for yourself so that you can become an authority in that matter. Chimamanda is a feminist. The whole world knows that. That is what she is known for. She is also a writer, a poet, a lecturer and a bunch of other things. But then, she is known for something. Chigozie Obioma is a writer. He has been on the shortlist of the Man Booker Prize twice now. He is known for writing. But then, do you know he is also a professor who lectures? Lasisi Elenu is a comedian. But then, he also does advertising. Be known for something.
Whatever you lay your hands on has to prosper. It must prosper. You have no choice. If you won’t do it, don’t do it. If you will, then you have to be successful at it. Aim to be the best wherever you are. In you class, in your church, in your association, at the workplace; aim to be the best. It is not pride, it is having a drive for excellence. God did not put you on planet earth so you can be a mediocre. We have enough of those in this world and the population as of October 2019 is 7.7 billion. Do you really think we need more?
Surround yourself with beautiful people. Surround yourself with beautiful people. Do not be fooled. Not everyone is meant for you. Surround yourself with people. More importantly, surround yourself with beautiful people
Read books. Do not read the bible and close your eyes. Do not read religious or spiritual books and keep quiet. You won’t be very relevant that way (unless you want to become a cleric). Read all kinds of books. Read books you don’t like. Read books you like. Read strange books. Read books outside your field. When I finished secondary school, I started reading books on technology and science. My dad had a bunch of them in the house so I just picked them up and started reading. I did not regret. Just last month I read a book I did not like at all. I just had to read it. I am better off with the knowledge I got from that book in my head. Do not read the bible alone. Read other books too. Fiction especially.
Be patient with yourself. Nobody is chasing you. Only your village people. And they can never catch you. Trust me, I am talking from experience.
“Get busy living or get busy dying.”
— Stephen King, The Shawshank Redemption
You are not getting any younger. Be smart. Time waits for no man. Or woman.
Watch movies. Do not be deceived by those who say only unserious people watch movies. They are pure liars. Do not be deceived. Watch movies. However, know the kind of movies you watch. There are movies that are nothing but entertainment and they are toxic to your intellect. Stay away from such. Watch educative and entertaining movies. Watch these movies with an open mind so you can learn new things and pick up new words. There are certain movies you should watch because of your line of work. There are certain movies I watched because of my line of work. I am a historian and I am a writer. I watched Game of Thrones, Marco Polo, Medici, and some other series because they are historical series and they help my learning. They may not be good for you but they were for me. So be careful; these are not recommendations. While I was in my third year at the university, I watched at least one Black-ish episode per day. That same year, I took a course on Black history. I had a distinction in course. I did not expect less.
Listen to music. Keep your soul sane. Listen to music. And be careful of the kind of music you listen to. There is no point listening to a song where the bulk of what the singer says are curse words and dirty stuff. Your mind is the only garden you have within it. Do not allow some shameless musician plant thorns in there. Guard your heart.
Take risks. Good things are not handed down. You will have to strive for them and striving for them means putting yourself out there to be ridiculed and embarrassed and to fail. You won’t win all your battles but make sure you win the great was. And in doing that, you have to make sure you are bold enough to take risks. Apply for that job. Apply for that internship. Apply for that scholarship. The worst that can happen is you get a NO in your inbox. Nothing more.
“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
There is no biggest mistake of your life. Do not sit by sulking at some silly mistake you made twenty years back thinking that’s the reason you are not making progress. Do not think that. You are already here. Whatever mistake you make or have made is just that: a mistake. Not a great mistake or any such thing. So knock it off and start again.
Keep records of your goods. Keep records of your commendations. Keep records of those moments that made you browse. The time will come when you will be engulfed by darkness and there will be no light in sight. Then, you will need your former successes to know that you can do it, just like before.
“Memories warm you up from the inside. But they also tear you apart.”
― Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore
Spend wisely. Money does not come easily. Spend wisely. If you don’t use a phone with AI Triple camera, you will not die.
It is ok to rest. It is ok to take time off. It is ok to be tired and confused and take a pause. But it is never ok to quit. It is ok to rest. Do not let any village people put pressure on you, it is very ok to rest. But then, a little sleep…a little slumber…
“And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.”
—John Steinbeck, East of Eden
“Still, there are times I am bewildered by each mile I have traveled, each meal I have eaten, each person I have known, each room in which I have slept. As ordinary as it all appears, there are times when it is beyond my imagination.”
― Jhumpa Lahiri, Interpreter of Maladies
Learn to take compliments. Do not deflect. Blush. Smile. Raise some shoulder. Somebody is appreciating you for your sleepless nights and hard work. You deserve the accolades. Receive them with swags.
Your dreams are always valid.
“It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.”
― Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
Add yours, and let us keep the ball rolling.
And yes, I am officially twenty-one years old. I suddenly feel old.