I turned thirty-something on 29th November and in the weeks and days leading up to it, I spent time reflecting on my life and journey thus far. There are some lessons I have learnt about life, growing up, career, relationships, family, and adulting.
Don’t do life without God
I have been fortunate enough to celebrate three decades on earth and from my experiences, I can’t stress this enough – don’t do life without God. We cannot underestimate the power of God.
Adulting is hard
As a child, I longed for the time I would grow up and enjoy the perks of being an adult. Now, I realise that it is not all rosy as it seemed then. Honestly, adulting is hard and you will agree with me that we owe our parents an apology for all the times we sulked when they said they didn’t have the money to buy the things we wanted and all the wahala we put them through.
In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take
This is a quote by Lewis Carroll and is one of my favourite quotes. It talks about the chances and opportunities we fail to take because of fear and uncertainty. Most times, taking risks and chances are clouded by what-ifs. What if it fails? What if it goes wrong? What if people don’t support me? What if I am rejected? These are all valid questions, however, ask yourself what if it works? Life is all about taking risks and taking chances. Whether it goes well or not, there are lessons to be learnt. That’s how we grow. As Gifty Bingley puts it, “If you want more, go get it!”
Life will not give you what you want
Life will not just hand you things because you wish for them. It would be best if you put in the work. You are responsible for how life turns out. It is your sole responsibility to make choices and decisions to achieve the things you want.
It’s ok to make mistakes
Albert Einstein said, “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” But what lessons are you learning from them? Our failures are as important as our successes. Many of the success stories we witness today were preceded by many failures and several NOs. Some will strike gold at their first attempt but would take several attempts for others. “Our greatest glory is not in never falling; but in rising every time we fall,” said Confucius.
It’s ok to say No
It’s good to say yes to certain things, opportunities, taking chances etc. Sometimes too, it is also okay to say no.
Try not to burn bridges
Build strong relationships and invest in relationships. Don’t burn bridges. You never know when you might need to rely on a relationship built today. As Jackson Brown, Jr. said, “In the journey of life, try not to burn bridges. You will never know how many times you will have to cross them.” Every person you meet is a potential door to a new opportunity to learn, grow and develop personally or professionally.
Don’t despise humble beginnings
As you work towards building a successful career, don’t decline or belittle certain job offers because you think it’s not good enough. It may be entirely different from what you envisioned but taking that job can go a long way to provide you with huge learning opportunities and serve as building blocks on your career journey. It might not seem like your “spec” today but it might just be the one to set the tone for the next phase of your career. Give it your best. Work hard, learn, develop your skills and keep your ears on the ground. As Gifty Bingley puts it, “It’s ok to start small and uncertain. Good things are won the hard way.” Smaller doors often lead to bigger opportunities.
Heartbreaks are part of life
As a child, I experienced my earliest heartbreak when I couldn’t get admission to a school where my best friend got in. The reason for my rejection was that I couldn’t pronounce the word “aircraft” in English. I was only able to say it in another language. It was a painful experience for me, but I learned that heartbreaks are a part of life, and we must learn to live with them. Rejection is also inevitable in life, whether it’s from family, friends, or job applications. Some days, we may win, while on other days, we may face rejection. But it’s important not to beat ourselves up for it. Every new day is a chance to try again, and we must learn to move on from our failures and setbacks.
There is a time and season for everything
“Woyaya” is a song by the renowned Ghanaian band Osibisa that brings up so many emotions every time I listen to it. The song talks about the journey of life, with all its ups and downs, and how each person’s path is unique. We often feel like we are lagging behind everyone else, always finishing last in every stage. But we must understand that our stories are different, and the paths that lead us to our purpose are distinct from others. It might take weeks, months, years, or even “overnight successes” that took years to build for each of us. The world is governed by seasons and times, and someone may be reaping their harvest today because of the seeds they sowed ten years ago. The Chinese bamboo tree takes five years to break through the ground, but once it does, it grows about 80 feet in six weeks! We shouldn’t compare our watering season to someone else’s season of bloom. Others may go before us, and others may come after us, but that’s the beauty of life. The wait may be exhausting, and it will be tough, but as long as we work towards our goals and have faith, we will get there, when we get there.
Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there
Share your talents and skills with the world. It is always important to put your best foot forward and not sell yourself short.
Don’t stop learning
It is often said that there is nothing new under the sun, but every day presents an opportunity for us to learn something new, explore, and stretch our curiosity about life, our purpose, our career, and much more. An African proverb says that what an “old man” can see sitting down, a “young man” cannot see even if he climbs the highest iroko tree. It’s essential to learn from those who have gone ahead of you, including young people, peers, colleagues, bosses, industry leaders, and everyone else. There’s a lesson to be learned from everyone. By availing yourself to learn, mentorship, coaching, and critiquing, you can gain direction, unlock lessons and build mastery to do more. It takes an open mind to learn, unlearn, and admit what you don’t know. That’s how you grow, that’s how you evolve.
Nobody ever got better overnight
Stop telling yourself you are not qualified or experienced enough for certain opportunities. It is in doing things that challenge us that we experience growth. Every expert was once an amateur. You don’t need to have everything figured out before you start but by starting now you can build capacity and get better. Give it time but put in the work. Timi Dakolo said, “Nobody started really good. We learned on the job. Your beginnings shouldn’t be compared to someone’s 10 years of experience. That’s so unfair to what you are building. Give yourself time to grow.”
Find your tribe
Whether it’s an audience of 5 or just 1, no man is an island and we all need people on this journey of life. People who will push us beyond our comfort zones, remind us of our awesomeness, reproach us when needed and who will help us through the tough times. Sometimes, these people will come from places we least expect them.
Sometimes all you need is for someone to take a chance on you
Sometimes all it takes is for someone to mention your name in a room of opportunities. Joseph was appointed as Prime Minister of Egypt based on the recommendation of the butler. Sometimes, it takes someone to guide you, mention your name in conversations and introduce you to new opportunities. One small door or opportunity can change your life forever. David asked, “Is there anyone left from the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” May we encounter the person who can be to our career what Jonathan was to David. And when we do meet them, may we not be hindered by procrastination, self-doubt, impostor syndrome, lack of discipline or over-familiarity.