This 4th December, 2017, I turn 29. As I countdown the minutes, I reflect on a few lessons I’ve learnt. These are the 29 that came to mind this cool evening. I’m still learning, still growing, getting wiser and stronger. A happy birthday to me. Have a great read.
- Keep God at the center. I must keep my focus on Him, His character and who I am in Him, keeping grounded and rooted in His faithfulness, peace and abundance. All else follows this.
- Family is prime and friends are a special kind of family. It is true what they say – blood is thicker than water. I really thank God for my family. They have shown me what it means to be family. It is a special kind of unconditional setting where one can find acceptance and support in every kind of circumstance. We aren’t perfect but we are family and that’s what truly matters. And then there are friends – the people who don’t have to love you but they do anyway and go above and beyond to be there for you. Friends are a special kind of family and I should always treat them specially for they have chosen to love me.
- Self matters. This is a lesson that I am still learning. It is so easy to get caught up in work and errands and leave little to no time for myself. I need to schedule time for dates with me where I treat myself or just relax.
- Rejection is not a confirmation of failure. You simply need to get back up and try again elsewhere or at a different time. Most people who have had some level of success have also tasted some level of rejection. I’ve applied for a number of programs I haven’t been accepted for and yet I have also applied for a number of programs that I have been accepted for. So, move on or try again later. Try and try some more. The only sure failure is when you haven’t tried at all.
- Great things are rarely achieved in isolation. Build valuable networks. You know how they say your network is your net-worth, there is truth to this. The solutions one seeks will more often than not come from within ones already built network.
- Hard work never killed anyone. My mum keeps telling me this and I can testify that no matter how many nights I have stayed up working or how much effort I have had to apply to certain things, I am still alive, still growing, still learning and getting better everyday. Some say work smart, not hard. I think smart work does not eliminate the need for hard work but it simply makes it better and more efficient. So, work hard and smart!
- Use what you have. No matter how much or how little you have in terms of resources, you’ll probably still feel you need more. I’ve learnt to look at my present circumstances and create solutions around my available resources. If I do this, I learn that I actually have more than I thought I did.
- Discipline is key in order to get things done. I’ve learnt that it’s important to free myself from clutter and focus on what I have set out to do. Commitment is a word that goes very well with discipline. One has to be committed to their family, friends, plans and goals. Without discipline, you won’t finish much in life. Excuses stink. My friend just told me this, this evening when I didn’t post my article on time for the third time. When he said it, “ouch!” was my first reaction but there is so much truth to this. If something or someone is important to you, you’ll find ways to meet your commitments. Period!
- Be sensitive to changing seasons. It is crucial for me to be sensitive to seasons as they come and go so that I am never pining for something outside its season. I have wasted a lot of time “crying” for things that are to be fulfilled in future such as marriage. In contrast, I have also spent too much time crying over the spilt milk of a season past such as a failed relationship. However, I have found that when I simply focus on the season I am in and do my best to get the best out of that season, I am more fulfilled and happier.
- “When someone shows you who they are, believe them”. This is a quote by the late Dr. Maya Angelou. I have learnt to stop waiting for people to change or expecting them to. If they change, they will find me wherever I am and we will pick it up from there. However, I will not wait on people on the basis of their latent potential alone. If someone shows me who they are, I will believe them. This does not mean I don’t have faith in people. I do. I will simply not have certain expectations of others when they don’t have those expectations of themselves to begin with.
- Wait it out. When faced with a tough decision and I am in doubt, more often than not, the right decision is to wait to out until I have clarity over which direction to take. I need to avoid making decisions in haste or panic.
- Perception can change yellow to black and viceversa. How we perceive things has the power to change a rainy day into a sunny day and viceversa. My ability to keep the right perspective determines how I make use of any situation. Last week I had a bad experience with a client. I could have easily given up but instead, I chose to view the experience as a lesson that could help me propel forward. I did my best and came out victorious. The end product was a happy client and a wiser me.
- I am unique and that is a potential, not a disadvantage. In the past, I struggled with the aspects that make me unique, wanting instead to fit in and perhaps be more acceptable communally. I learnt though that stifling my various unique abilities prevents me from truly living in abundance of all I can be. I owe no one an explanation of my uniqueness. However I owe my God and myself an explanation and accountability for all my unique qualities, how they’ve grown and impacted others.
- People matter more than what they can or can’t do. Treat all people well and with respect. Human beings are flawed and prone to err. People have disappointed me but they still matter. When one disappoints me, I can choose to look at that act they did in isolation for eternity or I can choose to have a well-rounded perspective and endeavor to still maintain peace between us. Maintaining peace does not mean I have to make them my best friend. It simply means I need to forgive and give grace still. Sometimes, in the case of the ones close to me, getting past a wrongdoing can even stand to bring us closer.
- Ask for forgiveness. This is one of the most basic and yet most powerful lessons I have learnt. Saying sorry when I’ve wronged someone is priceless and acts like a pain balm on a wounded area. It provides a conducive environment for emotional wounds to heal.
- Knowing myself is paramount for me to choose the right direction and path for my life. In addition, knowing myself is not a one-time activity but rather a life-long process. There are things I will love and do for a season and others for lifetime. Self-discovery is a journey I have grown to love and be an active participant of.
- Depression is real but it can be actively overcome. I’ve been depressed a number of times for different reasons. The first step in getting over it is simply admitting the depression and then actively finding a positive solution that works in that season and time. I don’t think there is a one-size-fits-all solution but being cognizant of a depressed state helps one choose to step out of it. It’s like wearing a dirty cloth and acknowledging it is dirty so that you can change. Some will deny that it’s dirty, others will accept the dirty cloth as their fate but one has to choose to change and I chose to not be depressed.
- Negative feedback can be good. Being in design fields, my work is constantly subject to critique. I have learnt that the people who out-rightly tell me the things that they do not like are the ones that have pushed me outside my comfort zone to grow and perfect my craft(s).
- Someone who has to lose you in order to appreciate you, may never truly value you. This needs a longer post for elaboration but in short, someone who truly knows your value in their life, will not need to lose you first and if they do, they’ll run back quickly to apologize instead of sauntering back with laxity. I have learnt this the hard way.
- Be authentic. With all the pressure that this world holds, one must still stay true to oneself and share their true selves with others. Being real and authentic about my thoughts and experiences makes me more relatable. I have found that there is less pressure when I am simply being me and sharing different facets of my life in the most genuine way I can. I let people know that I have struggles but I also let them know that I have great victories. Every human being is dynamic and multi-dimensional. It is therefore pretentious to project only one side or a false image altogether.
- I am my own brand. Wherever I go, I am my own brand. I have learnt that every detail counts, right from the words that come out of my mouth to the hairstyle I wear. The way I look and speak says something about me and it is foolishness to think that it doesn’t matter. We live in a world where the way a person perceives you starts on the outside. It is therefore my job to project the right image and give people a good “brand experience” of myself.
- All the talent in the world is irrelevant if it doesn’t meet an actual need. I have learnt to find ways to use my talent to serve someone in some way. I believe God did not give unique abilities to people for self-gratification only. The bigger purpose for talent, in my opinion, is that we would have something uniquely special to offer our communities.
- Be proactive. The best gift we have as humans is the gift of choice and I think the worst crime a person can do is to deprive others of their right to choice. Being proactive means you understand that you are ultimately in control of your life. You are responsible for the way your life turns out so instead of being passive and reactive only, be proactive. Go out and seek the opportunities you need. Seek ways to change your circumstances if you are not pleased with them. In the times I have been proactive, I have gained a sense of control and power over my circumstances.
- Opportunities follow purpose. Great opportunities usually follow people who are walking in their purpose and excelling. I have made it my mission to ensure that I am always walking in what I believe is my purpose whether I am writing an article or designing a building etc. Purpose, to me, is not an element that exists in isolation on some utopian level. It is a down-to-earth reality that can create a positive difference in everything I do.
- It’s not all about money. It’s important to give back to people and to do favours for people with no monetary expectation just like others do the same for me. Not all of life can be counted in monetary terms and non-monetary value is even more important ultimately.
- It takes time. Success rarely comes instantly, Big dreamers like me want to “conquer the world” metaphorically speaking. However these big dreams take time to mature. A lot of work and perseverance has to go in to them.
- Gratitude is the right attitude. Being grateful for what I have gives me positive energy and surprisingly attracts more blessings into my life. Gratitude attracts a higher altitude!
- I have to have faith in me. Self-doubt is one of the things I have to overcome in order to move forward and move beyond my self-imposed limitations. Having faith in me has set my sight beyond my present circumstances for I have faith in what I can do and where these abilities will take me. Therefore when I encounter a temporary setback like I often do, I simply remind myself of that faith and I am then able to pick up the pieces and move forward.
- Be present and enjoy the journey because life is real art. It is said that art is an imitation of life. That tells me that life, itself, is actually the most authentic art. I am responsible for making a great art piece out of my life! This is an on-going lesson and I will end with this poem I wrote a while back that says it quite aptly.
If you must live, live purposefully.
Don’t waste your days in the unknown tomorrow.
If you do, someone else, your days, might borrow.
Live in the now.
Live in the how.
If you must breathe, breathe happily.
Life is not meant to be lived grumpily.
I am speaking to myself too, you see,
I have been living in my tomorrows
And dwelling on my yesterdays
So I was seldom in the moment
Letting today’s joy pass me by
Letting yesterday’s pain cripple me
I have lived in the now too
But what if I always did?
What if you and I were to pause
Not project or postpone but right this second repose
Find rest, find refreshment in simple words transferred
From my mind to yours
In a heartbeat, you, feel what I feel
Drawing from anything these words instill
In this instant you and I can live together
For once this instant is gone
It is gone forever.
And in the coming minutes, breathe on, live on.
For if you must breathe, breathe gladly
If you must live, live delightedly.
Not waiting for the accomplishment of your dreams
Not waiting for the end of the storm
But right here, right now
Stop and smile
Breathe in, breathe out
Live in the how of now.
Keziah Elaine Ayikoru