Categories
Product launch

I started a thing – I launched a creative and community platform

I started a thing. Again.

On 10th June, I did a soft launch of my new creatives and community website. Creatives Around Us is a community, a platform for creatives and community managers who have unique stories to tell. In a world filled with distrust and doubt, I want these stories to inspire a world of change, positivity and hope.

Creatives Around Us and The Community Managers have been around since 2018. I started sharing stories of creatives and community managers on Instagram, but I wasn’t sure of the direction I wanted them to take. I felt like the social platforms were moving me, so I decided to pause until I understood where I wanted them to go. 

Social media can get suffocating. I know this because I’ve logged out of my socials and even deactivated my Twitter on many occasions. These stories feature on social timelines, but they can get lost and exhausting with the numbers of updates, terrifying news, and promoted posts you have to deal with on the timeline. 

I want to create a space that inspires people to be, to love, and to feel good things. 

A community manager is a leader of a tribe who inspires changes within their community. In this context, a community does not have to be a large gathering of people. It can be inspiring change within two or more people or consistently doing good work wherever one finds oneself. I had fun chatting with Sheila, who is doing amazing things in her community. Sheila is amazing. I know this because she is my friend. I think that this is also what endears her to her tribe, the knowing that she would never desert them. Sheila would rather have you call her an ordinary leader of tribes, and that, I believe, is the whole point of what I want people to see. The stories I feature are of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Sheila didn’t think she deserved the title of ‘sophisticated, intelligent,’ but I said to her, ‘Sheila, this is my intro, this is where I write what I know about you. You get to say your part, and I’ve included those. Allow me to write mine.’

Sheila Adufutse’s tribe

It’s amazing. This whole process is exciting for me. I also got to tell the story of Tunde Onakoya, who is inspiring his community by teaching vulnerable kids to play chess. One thing that stood out to me in Tunde’s story is that he is not just teaching his kids chess, but he is also proudly telling their individual stories. The way he told the story of Ferdinand inspired me. They had a recent tournament where Tunde and his team made suits for the kids who took part in the competition. He wrote that the reason he made the outfits for them was ‘to tell a new narrative of children in the slums that is not just one of poverty, but an image of what is possible if they are given equal opportunities to excel.’

Tunde Onakoya with Ferdinand beside him and one of the participants of the tournament holding the trophy they won.

Sheila said, ‘Life is possible with communities: intentional communities that have a common goal to explore life genuinely.’ When you read their stories, you feel so inspired; in reading these stories, you can tell that they have a genuine intention to care for these communities. 

Creatives Around Us celebrates creativity. I shared the story of Hanan, a student of Architecture who makes notebook covers, bookmarks, keyholders, and sketchpads from a place of prayers and dreams. I think Hanan is incredibly talented. Her designs are brilliant, and she has a story to tell. She said to me, ‘I started with notebooks to make my audience understand the value of writing things down, it really goes a long way. I want to let people know it starts with a book filled with dreams.’

Hanan, designing the cover of her notebook

Segun Akano uses screws to make art. One thing about Segun is that he studied Analytical Chemistry at university. I wonder if he ever knew he would make art while at school. I forgot to ask him this. 

Segun Akano makes art from screws

Asides from being an artist who makes art from mixed media, Dare Adenuga is also a storyteller who tells the stories of his craft with each creation. You can see them here on his Instagram.

Dare Adenuga Makes Art With Threads, Ropes, Fabrics, Newsprints and Acrylic

Our stories define who we are. Brené Brown wrote, ‘Maybe stories are just data with a soul.’ We read these stories, and we see struggles, imperfection, passion, determination. I feel so honoured to share these beautiful stories. The story is in the journey; may we own it.

Categories
vulnerability

What pain is teaching me about time

Pain.

I had never really thought about this until I came through from my unconsciousness with blinding pain. ‘Where is my stomach?’, my boyfriend said I’d mumbled to nobody in particular in the mumbo jumbo slurred speech of someone who was still under the influence of anaesthesia.

Where was my stomach indeed?

Shalvah had read out every nonsense I’d said in the post-op room to me, and we’d laughed about it, but the more I think about it, the more I realize something new from that experience – my experience. 

I was getting to know more of myself through my wounds, through my scars, through my pain.

Before this operation, right before I had the excruciating pain from my hernia – when my outie was still really big, I think. I’d thought of my belly button as a scar. A scar that I thought came from the carelessness of the nurses who helped deliver me.

My belly button gave me my nickname in secondary school – ‘big dodo’, which translates to ‘big navel.’ I hated that nickname and felt embarrassed that I’d cover it up by wearing oversized T-Shirts, skirts up until my navel, and girdles that held my belly button in place and made it less obvious that I had a ‘scar.’

It wasn’t until late 2019 that I decided not to give a care about people’s thoughts regarding my outie. I was going to embrace my scar and see it as a part of me. I was going to show it off. And yes, I did show it off on my Instagram stories, photos of me in my workout suit, flanking my outie belly button until I felt the worst pain shoot through the insides of my stomach. No, this should be fine, I’d thought. It wasn’t the first time I was having abdominal pain.

But this was a different kind of pain. This pain did not stop. It choked me, and at a point, I thought I could not breathe. Was this an aftermath of covid? I booked a Bolt ride to the hospital, and one look at my belly button, the doctor confirmed my fears. ‘It’s an umbilical hernia. We need to take it out.’

Lying in the hospital bed, I’d wondered about pain, about scars, about time. This year has dealt me some numbers. 

Right from the call I got on January 4th, 2021 that I tested positive to Covid-19, to moving to the isolation ward to spending 14+ days with other covid positive patients, to losing my sense of smell and regaining it shortly after, and coming home to having the worst fever and losing my sense of smell again and wondering if this was it. 

There were a lot of questions. 

Was I ever going to get better? 

Was I ever going to see the outside world again?

Was I going to die? I mean, I’m not different from others who lost their lives to this deadly virus. What was going to happen to me, I thought as I downed the drugs recommended for me. 

When I think about pain, I think about my trips to the toilet at the isolation centre with my perfume, spraying it close to my nostrils, and willing myself to smell again. 

When I think about pain, I think about the pills I took during covid and the side effects I got from taking them. I think about the muscle aches I endured and the numbness that took hold of the left part of my body for over a week.

I think about the constant pressure on my left chest, the palpitations, and the nights that I stayed awake wondering if I was about to have a stroke, a heart attack, if my heart was failing, or if I was having a pulmonary embolism. Yes, I Googled my symptoms. 

I think about my early morning trips to UCH Ibadan, scared about the long queue and screaming at a doctor that I found strolling that I had an emergency and needed medical attention fast! I was having a heart attack, I said to him. I walked into the emergency quarters and had a chest x-ray and an ECG. Everything looked normal on paper, but what was this pain? What was wrong with me? 

I think about how shortly after I’d tested negative to Covid-19, I’d developed another cough, the worst, and wondered if this was it again. I think about the number of antibiotics I had taken before the sputum test results that showed I had streptococcus pyogenes and, I wonder if I’d somehow cursed this year and brought this entire ordeal upon myself.

I had thought so much about time and death. I used to be a part of a group that comes together every last Sunday of the month to discuss death, and you would think that this would have made me ready to be unafraid of death.

But, I have anxiety just by thinking about the thought of dying. I lost my mum when I was fifteen, and I am not entirely sure if I’d completely gotten over her death. My grandmother and great grandmother died around the same time last year, and my dad’s elder brother died last December.

I am not unafraid of death. I fear pain the same way I fear the thought of getting sick.

I am scared. 

My stomach hurts so bad I think it’s about to split into two, and my right arm is swollen and painful that I wonder if I’m having a DVT. 

My thoughts about time have shifted a bit from ‘with all the time we have,’ to never existent. Please, hear me out. I spent almost 18 days at the isolation centre, and those days didn’t feel any different to me. It felt like I was living the same day over and over again. 

Mike Quigley wrote, ‘Once you’ve stared death in the face, every day is a good day.’ These days, I am intrigued by time, and I think a lot about the question, ‘What is the time?’

Does time matter when we can’t do those things we used to do because of ill health, or God forbid when we are staring death right in the face? 

Then, the question, ‘What time is it?’ wouldn’t matter again, because, then, time becomes one long string of never-ending nows. 

I’m still trying to figure out time and why we say we don’t have enough of it. In my theory, time doesn’t exist, and yesterday is the mind as it remembers, and tomorrow is the mind as it anticipates – I’m not sure whose philosophy this is again. 

If this is true, I wonder if the mind ever survives time.

Categories
Becoming Mindfulness

Six Tips and Tricks to get started on your fitness journey

The body that moves

I started this article to write a good workout tip for a friend and not a blog post, but as the words kept coming, and I continued writing, I decided to publish it on my blog.

The idea behind this blog post started with a single tweet I wrote on 31st, of December 2020 – A tweet, which, I deleted, sadly, with the bulk of my other Twitter posts on 1st of January 2021 with tweetdelete.net.

I had shared a photo with the caption: ‘Once upon a time, I was very thick.‘ I also shared similar photographs of me, and my Twitter friends were surprised because they didn’t know a bigger Ifunanya.

November 6th, 2019

One of my friends, Biodun, asked ‘why, Nanya. What happened?’, and why again when my answer was that I started working out.

June 28th, 2020.

Why did I start working out, or why was my goal to lose weight?

Now that I think of it, I started with the intention of losing weight because I felt out of control with my body. I explained a little here in A failing well series #1: Running.

I wanted to get my body to move and to bend without friction.   

Losing weight was the intention until I started noticing other changes – My body became taut, and my face cleared, and my skin started glowing, and I started dancing easy. 

What apps and tools did I use on my weight loss/ fitness journey?

The apps and tools I use and recommend are:

  1. 8fit: (Pro helps with customized workout sessions, coaches, and meal plans. I started with the free plan and tried out the pro for free until I unsubscribed, then they provided a discount)
  2. Noom: (Noom lets you log your weight and track the meals you eat in a day. It is more than just a food tracker as it also gives behavioural insight on diet and weight loss. The pro plan provides an educational approach that helps to understand why some food is recommended more than others with the labelling from green to yellow to red).
  3. Nike Training Club: (NTC is a free app for customized workout sessions, but it can be busy, and the workout plans can get pretty intensive, which is why I paid for 8fit.)
  4. Nike Running Club: (NRC is a running app)
  5. Lose it Nigerian meal plan
  6. Bathroom weight scale: (I check my weight every morning naked before I go to the bathroom to take a leak. I think it’s best to be consistent with the way you weigh yourself. Here’s what Healthline has to say about how to measure yourself.
  7. Kitchen scale: (I’m not consistent with this, but I use it to weigh the food I prepare).

How I lost 15kg Within Two Months

First, Have a Plan – Do you want to lose weight or get fit?

The first thing is to note what you plan this journey to be. Do you want to lose weight, and or do you want to get fit? Do you also want to practice mindfulness while you’re at it?

When I started, I began with the intention of losing weight, because that was the only thing I could see – my weight getting in the way, so I started with 8fit and Noom and Naija Foodie meal plan on loseItNigerian.

It’s best to start with a less intensive plan and then build towards the more intensive ones.

If your goal is to lose weight, it would be counterproductive to keep your old eating habits. What I mean is creating a calorie deficit meal plan is best when trying to lose weight, and you can do this by either eating fewer calories or increasing your physical activity.

I didn’t continue for long with LoseitNigerian, because I have an ulcer, and, I couldn’t take some of the stuff that they recommend, like more habanero pepper (which is healthy, of course, and contains lots of vitamins and capsaicin), lemons, lime, etc.

I also figured out that their method involved eating fewer calories by tricking the body by eating more leafy vegetables, oatmeal, reducing oily, fried, and processed foods.

One of the many things I love about LoseitNigerian is that they don’t tell you to starve your body. They also don’t ask you to eat liquid meals. They encourage our Nigerian meals by recommending you follow a routine of eating less starchy meals, filling it up with greens, and taking nutritious home-made juices.

For example, if you wanted to eat Jollof rice for lunch, preparing a healthy meal plan would start with your first thought of the meal. Understanding that every ingredient you cook with adds to the collective calories of the serving of the meal you eat. After cooking, Lose it Nigerian would recommend going for one serving of the Jollof rice, a protein, and more leafy vegetables to fill you up.

Another thing I did was to cut out sugar by drinking non-calorie beverages like water. I stopped drinking tea and eating ice cream at a point, even though I indulge sometimes. But what I think is finding a routine that works for you and sticking to it.

Also, in my journey, I realized that, while fruits are very healthy, they can also have high calories. Dried fruits like dates and raisins or dried strawberries are nutritious but high in calories and sugar. Removing water from the fruits concentrates all the sugar and calories in a much smaller form. A practical way to think about this is to look at 109 grams of sliced apple which contains 57 calories and 1 cup (86g) of Dried apple that contains 209 calories.

Eating one medium banana is great, and eating a full bunch of banana is equally good if you’ll fit it into your meal plan and make sure you don’t go above your intended calorie for the day. This understanding is why taking smoothies can be counterproductive as mixing more than two fruits can have over 1000 calories, which might be more than half of your daily goal if you intend to lose weight.

While eating fewer calories might seem like a great plan and help you lose fat, it can also lead to muscle loss, and wouldn’t be such a great plan when you look at it in the long run if you don’t add HIIT (High Intensive Workout) to it. Just sticking to long-term calorie restriction can significantly reduce your metabolism, but spicing it up with workout sessions can increase your metabolism and tighten those loose skin. (An aside and a joke: This is why Lose It Nigerian spice up their meal plans with Habanero pepper as it contains capsaicin which can boost metabolism).

Incorporating Mindfulness into your Fitness Routine

Mindful practices can help us understand how to have a healthy relationship with food and to appreciate our body and love it for all that it is. It also helps us see our body as a machine that can flex and move as much as we want it to go.

At my core, I practice yoga in the morning for 10 to 15 minutes, and then I end it with a 5-minute meditation. Just closing my eyes and sitting still can set my day for me. 

Mindfulness teaches you to pay attention to your breath and body, and sometimes as an observer to see how reality is in the moment. 

Incorporating mindfulness in your fitness routine allows you to just be. 

It helps you to pay attention to the food you eat and to your body. It also gives you purpose for how you want each workout routine to go. For example, I started my fitness journey wanting to lose weight, and then I lost weight, then, I told myself I wanted to stay healthy, and then, I started working towards staying fit.

Mindfulness also helps you slow down and remind yourself why you’ve chosen to go on your fitness journey. It also helps with remembering that the journey is yours alone and that sometimes, you might not perform as much as you want, and that’s also a good thing, and to remember to turn up and end each exercise on a good note.

Categories
Becoming Failing well

Becoming Brave – Will you bring back the child in you?

“Vulnerability is the core of shame and fear and our struggle for worthiness and also the birthplace of joy, creativity, belonging, and love.” – I stumbled upon Brené Brown’s work on vulnerability the other day, and I haven’t stopped thinking about the adult who was once a brave child.

We all started somewhere – the child grows to become an adult. I remember what it feels like as a kid who was never afraid to try out new things and who never thought to engage the idea that she might not get what she wants.

I wonder, sometimes, what happened to that kid.

I think we have to agree that children are the bravest of us all, because, do children not get to do new stuff that we introduce them to every time? Of course, they throw a little tantrum, but these are things that adults would not normally do. Children say ‘yes’ even though they aren’t ready.

Children aren’t a little bit worried about people judging them. They don’t hesitate to act, which I think can be a good thing, sometimes. Because in hesitating, we remind ourselves of all the things that can go wrong without remembering that things can also go right.

As a child, I owned a little provision store, and I participated in a lot of school challenges. I was the kid who entered offices asking for an interview and when they asked if she was not too young to work, replied ‘No.’

At what point does the fearless child become scared to perform in the society? Where did it go wrong? Maybe if we can point to a particular cause, then we can find the strength to move on to become the brave person that we can be?

Sometimes, I think my fear started when I entered university. Nigerian colleges have a way of instilling fear in you and making you believe that you are undeserving of where you are and should be grateful that you even have a score in your name.

But, this is not the time to point fingers. This is where we acknowledge our calling to reclaim our true selves.

Many of us are afraid of failing, and it shows in the way we give ourselves to our cause. We are scared that we may not be successful with our mission. We are afraid of the shame that comes with trying, we are terrified of the name-calling, of the guilt, of the tongue-lashing, of the fall.

We ask ourselves questions like – What if we fail? What if it is not worth it? What if we risk it all and we lose it all?

But what if we risk it all and win some?

What if we win it all?

What if, by delaying to take action on our call, we extend our suffering by going off the wrong path?

I think we cling to certain kinds of people because we seek something outside us – something foreign, kind, and possibly dangerous.

We want what we do not have – we don’t know what this thing is, yet we are terrified to think about it.

So, we follow the train and let it lead us to anywhere.

Sometimes we may not find what we seek until we’ve allowed ourselves to be pushed to the extremes.

Then we realize that perhaps what we’ve been looking for is what we’ve always had.

We recognize that we’ve not learnt to love ourselves, and in this understanding, we begin to find ourselves.

In defining vulnerability, Brené Brown said, “We cannot selectively numb some emotion. You cannot say, ‘Here’s the bad stuff, here’s vulnerability, here’s grief, here’s shame, here’s fear, here’s disappointment. I don’t want to feel these. I’m going to have a couple of beers and a banana nut muffin. You can’t numb those hard feelings without numbing the other affects, our emotions

And I think this is one thing that separates the child from the adult – the ability to give themselves wholly. Even though sometimes, we forget that children have feelings too, they aren’t afraid to embrace their vulnerability. Untainted, they love with all of their heart. You scold them, and after crying, they come back to you. They fight with their peers one instant and are ready to make up and play the next minute. Kids are the most vulnerable – they meet new faces every day at school, and most times adults act like they are too young to understand, therefore making them feel as though their feelings won’t matter until they get to a certain age.

Kids are braver than we think and are always acting, but how do you, as a grown adult, in a constant state of navigating through stress and depression, work yourself towards taking action on your goals?

Brené Brown answered:

“and this is what I’ve found. To let ourselves be seen, deeply seen, VULNERABLY seen. To love with our whole hearts, even though there’s no guarantee, and that’s hard. To practice gratitude and joy in those moments of terror, when we are wondering ‘Can I love you this much? Can I believe in this, this passionately? Can I be this fierce about this?’ Just to be able to stop, instead of catastrophizing what might happen, to say, “I’m just so grateful,” because to feel this vulnerable means I’m alive.

Categories
Money Ramblings

Beware of the sunk cost fallacy

Question: Have you ever sat through a bad meal because you’d already paid for it and leaving would seem wasteful to you? 

Once, I had held onto a skirt that made me look bloated because I wanted to get my money’s worth. 

You may have heard the phrase, ‘cut your losses, ‘ it means to withdraw from a situation that is no longer serving you. Are you holding on to your job because you’re scared of the time and effort you’ve invested in it? Have you ever kept walking despite having the option to order an Uber because you’d covered a long distance and the oncoming vehicle might be your ride? 

Cut your losses if you’d paid a crazy sum for an item. Instead of crying over money spent, it’s more helpful to learn from your experience and make a note to watch out for next time.

If you’ve encountered something like this, then you have experienced a psychological phenomenon known as a ‘sunk cost bias.’

A sunk cost is a cost that has already been incurred and cannot be recovered.

Wikipedia

Sunk cost fallacy explains the inclination to continue to invest time, effort, and money into an endeavour because of the costs we’d already incurred. 

My Experience at Dodo Pizza 😱

Last weekend, I hung out with my friend, B, at Dodo Pizza. The Pizza restaurant is known for providing Pizza by the slice and whole Pizza, in Ikeja City Mall, Lagos, which is one of the things I loved about them — the freedom to buy a pizza slice instead of having to purchase a full box. Their vast food menu is something to drool over. This restaurant provides not just Pizza, but other meal options like Sausage rolls, Chicken wings, Cinnamon rolls, different flavours of Ice Cream, and the bone of contention – Dodster. I had always wanted to have a taste of their Dodster — A dish that boasted of fine dining and chunky delights. It looked like a Sharwama, but one that went to Grad school. However, on this day, they messed up my order, switching my Classic Dodster with B’s Beef Suya Dodster. 

I did not have an idea of what the Classic Dodster tasted like, but as I bit into the hot baked wrap, I knew that this was a case of a sweet dream gone stale. Walking over to the counter, I asked if what I had gotten was the Classic Dodster, and they admitted they had mistakenly switched it up. I asked that they fix it, but they did not. The pizzaiolo who had prepared the Dodster came back to me with a message from the manager – he couldn’t care less. Their poor customer service oozed as they bade me farewell while I left their restaurant abandoning the hot baked wrap I’d purchased.

One thing about my Dodo experience is that I was able to call it quits when I could, although I felt sad that I didn’t get to eat the Classic Dodster, and peeved that the Dodo team didn’t consider me customer enough to treat me well. 

It’s okay to call it quits when you can

Here’s the deal. It’s okay to acknowledge that we’ve made a mistake and move on. Calling it quits is better than holding on to that career that you loathe. It’s better to leave a toxic relationship regardless of how much time you’ve invested. If you feel like ordering an Uber, do it right away as the bus you keep waiting for isn’t coming. It’s okay to lose $1000 instead of putting more money into that investment with the hopes that this time would yield a better result.

It’s okay to know when to abort mission, sailor.

Concluding my Dodo Pizza Story

The chef had asked how I was sure I’d have liked the Classic Dodster if they’d prepared it. In answering his question, I wouldn’t know if I’d have preferred the Suya Dodster, but it would have been nice if I’d gotten what I ordered. Taking a second look at the menu, I also might have hated the Dodster because I don’t eat ketchup. If I’d ordered a second time, it might have turned to a case of the Sharwama that went to Grad school but couldn’t finish because it flunked classes. Either way, I might not get to try out Dodo Pizza’s Dodster again. 

Lessons from Sunk Cost Bias

  1. Think of a sunk cost as money you’ve spent and cannot recover. This way, you do not depend on it to make decisions that will affect your future.
  2. Stop, once you realize that it’s time to move on to something else.
  3. Past mistakes are irrelevant. Accept what’s happened, understand that there’s nothing you can do about it, and move on.
  4. If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging. The point of no return only exists in our head.
  5. Invest in something new.
  6. Track your expenses and future opportunity costs.
Categories
Mindfulness Ramblings Work

When do we make out time to pause?

There are some posts you read on the internet that make you pause. One of them is from 8fit’s Coach Emily McLaughlin. Emily shared this on her Instagram page, and I have been thinking a lot about it.

“We aren’t here just to go through the motions or simply get physical. We are here to feel.”

Emily, Head Coach at 8fit

It made me wonder what the next step would be when we finally get what we want. What follows then? Do we stop chasing after sunsets or money or love or whatever it is that we have built our purpose around? Or do we find something else to chase then? 

T. S Elliot once said, “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started, and know the place for the first time.”

In this same regard, Lee Ann wrote: “We will never reach a point in life where we will have everything we have ever desired. The whole point of life is the launching of new desires and then aligning with those desires.”

Following from the two thinkers I quoted, If we do not get to a time when we would have it all, then, I hope we remember to make time to pause?

Pause –  the act of suspending activity temporarily.

thefreedictionary.com

Emily’s post made me reflect on the act of pausing. We do too much in the pursuit of our purpose. To make sense of this world, we are nurses, teachers, project managers, digital marketers, CEOs, venture capitalists, engineers, writers, etc. We have many interests, but sometimes our passions might not be our job, yet we need money, and in search of how to make ends meet, we dabble in many things and forget to make out time to stop momentarily.

Do you ever feel like you are living a monotonous life? You wake up with your alarm, rush to the bath, eat breakfast, go to work, get stuck in traffic, eat dinner, open social media, go to bed, repeat.

If you are anything like me, you do.

I will rephrase for those who work from home. Your alarm startles you, and you remember you have a meeting for 9:10 am. You rush to the bath, brush your teeth, run to the kitchen to fix coffee, open your laptop and join your call. You might not get to leave your house for the whole day, so you order in lunch and eat it at your desk. Work is over, you close your laptop, check-in on social media, watch Netflix, go to bed, and repeat.

When do we make time to pause?

Are we going through the motions, simply because? Do we go on and on even when getting on might not make much sense?

Life is difficult. We want what we do not have, and we go to work for it. Then, we have what we had been searching for, and we still keep the chase. It can be hectic to just get by the day, so when it gets to moments like this, remember to pause. 

When you are feeling very overwhelmed, and you feel the need to drag through to complete your day, stop everything you are doing and do something different.

This week, I woke up twice in a row without feeling like doing my morning exercises.

Monday passed by, and I tried to work out, but I could not bring myself to. 

Tuesday came, yet I was still too weak to do anything. Going to work in such state would have sucked, so I left everything I was doing and pulled my body outside, with my headphones, I went for a ride on my bicycle, and I rode the most challenging ride ever on a path I had never ridden before. It was tiring, but I felt sore and better after cycling. I was ready to work when I came back.

Sometimes, all we need to break the monotony is a change of events. If you feel like you are doing the same thing over again, try to do something different. If you are used to sitting in a particular place at a restaurant, sit somewhere else. Go on a different pathway if you have a specific path you love to take. Modify your routine, take a break, and most importantly, do not forget to breathe.

Categories
Becoming Failing well Mindfulness

A failing well series #1: Running

I will start by telling the story of how I started running – a sport I detested with all my might, how I have come to see myself as an athlete, and how I have grown to enjoy and see running as a beautiful sport. I will start with a running story because Abi Booth’s running story was what inspired me to start this series.

The Fear

When it came to exercise, I was a scaredy-cat. I thought exercise was for a particular set of people – that some people came with an innate desire to want to stretch, while some were not.

I had this mindset in secondary school during Physical education (PE) classes. PE was compulsory, and it also served as a punishment for latecomers and delinquents. Instructors asked offenders to run around the school field many times — an activity that left one breathless and gasping for air. I knew many people who fainted on the playground, and I knew people who came out tops — this further implanted the idea in my mind that exercise was for a selected few. My school chose the ones who did well to represent the school, but I did not come close to coming first, and I did not even come last. I was part of those who stumbled on the way. I did not understand why they made you do PE in school. What was I going to do with it?

The beginning — A little story about my grandmother and how her death moved me to run

My grandmother’s illness started in 2015. I remember coming home from my final exams in school to meet her sick. I remember the scary feeling that things were not going to remain the same. Grandma was present, but oblivious to what was happening around her. She did not know when I came in until someone told her, ‘Look, mama, It’s Ify. She’s here.’ And she smiled. A smile she has always reserved for me, her first grandchild. I asked what was wrong, but she could not make a clear sentence. It did not make any sense to me how someone’s body could, all at once, start failing them. 

From there, it led to many trips to the hospital, to her not being able to make coherent sentences, and to us having to feed her. She stopped walking, and we got her a wheelchair.

I don’t know what happened to my grandmother, but I remember a strong woman who instilled values and discipline in her grandchildren. I remember a hardworking woman who started taking care of my siblings and me when my mother died in 2008. My grandmother resumed parenting again when she was supposed to be retiring, and this meant she started worrying over what we were going to eat, how we were going to go to school. It was hard work 201. She went from a hale and hearty person to an invalid. She could not walk to the toilet or bathe herself, and she could not feed herself. If the grandmother that I knew could see herself in that state, she would have thrown a fit.

The last time I saw my grandma was in December 2020, when I visited her in a hospital in Ogun state. She had become a complete ghost of herself. She’d developed a brain stroke two nights before, and was plugged to a support machine. She could not tell it was me. 

On March 2, on my way to the grocery store, I received an SMS from my little cousin that announced my grandmama’s death.

I had many questions – How could someone suffer this much for so long? What was the purpose of the human body? Where did things go wrong? Would I suddenly fall ill too?

How I started working out

“Our bodies were made to move.”

“Globally, around 31% of adults aged 15 and over were insufficiently active in 2008 (men 28% and women 34%). Approximately 3.2 million deaths each year are attributable to insufficient physical activity.”

WHO – Physical Inactivity: A Global Public Health Problem

I started exercising out of fear of what would happen to my body if it ever breaks down. I had a scare once when I tried reaching for something underneath a couch in my grandparents’ house, and I felt a cramp build up in my upper back. However, my grandmother’s death was what incited the fear in me and spurred me into action. 

The fact that I did not understand what happened to her made things worse. She did not live a sedentary lifestyle because she was the most hardworking person that I knew. She always had lots of stuff to do – If she was not going to the market, she was on the farm, and if you did not find her on the farm, she was attending her peer meeting. I have also wondered if she died as a result of extreme stress. Whatever it was, I decided to become more mindful of the things I did. I started meditating, and I started running.

An attempt at running: The first try, my next run, and the lessons

I did not make it up to 3 yards on my first run before I started panting.

There were days when I would get tired and could not make it to the distance that I wanted, and there were days when I would end up in my running gear without going for a run. I’d love to get to a point where I can comfortably run three times a week. The last time I ran was yesterday, and before that, was my run on Friday. However, I believe I am making good progress.

I love going on the guided runs on Nike Run Club (NRC) with Coach Bennett.

One thing I have learnt from running with Coach Bennett is understanding that it is okay to run at a feel-good pace. He says, ‘Every run has a purpose.’ It is better to run for a shorter distance than aim for a higher one and end up feeling disappointed. ‘End the run wanting to run more,’ he says. The first run is all about wanting to do the next run.’ It does not matter how many times you go on the first run or the next run as long as you run at a comfortable pace.

Another thing I have learnt from Coach B is that it is crucial to always listen to our body. Our bodies are always telling us something, and we have to pay attention to be able to hear it. Running is fun as long as we make it fun. If your body wants a 1-minute run, take it for a minute run. If it wants to rest, let it rest. I always run solo because it helps me focus on my training and what I want out of the run. I am not sure I can run with other people, but I am willing to give it a try. 

The road to orange level

As a new runner, I would recommend Nike Run Club, as it is what has helped to build my confidence and get comfortable running. I am not sure I would be writing this if I had not given NRC a try. 

When I run, I feel the need to move. Sometimes, I don’t understand if I am running from something or towards something, but I feel my adrenaline pumping and pushing my body forward, and this beautiful feeling is what inspires me to keep running – understanding that I can get my body to move. 

Every time I go for a run, I keep learning new things about this sport, and I am always amazed at the things my body can do. There is so much to learn about my body, and I am here for all of it. I am glad I took the initiative to start running, and I am also happy that I overcame my fear.

Categories
Becoming Failing well Mindfulness

A failing well series: Intro.

The best of us is not trying to be perfect but to know that it is okay to accept the lessons as they come to us, especially when they do not come on our terms.

Alexei Orlov on Failing Well

I am joining Abi Booth in his ‘failing well’ series, a series he started, to expose himself to what it means to fail. I will be sharing stories of how I intentionally participated in stuff that I wasn’t good at, my experiences, and my lessons from failing. This exercise would help me get to know me better, and also help me understand my reactions to ‘failing.’

What does failing well mean?

Failing well means intentionally using every stumble you encounter on your path as a component towards learning. In failing well, you celebrate your mistakes, and you look into your struggles, pick up understanding and knowledge, and you come out a better person. 

I remember how I had cried my eyes out when things had not gone according to plan at work. This experience, among many others, has taught me how very intense and passionate I can be with what I do, and how having anything less than perfection had seemed like failing to me. 

I keep teaching myself that I don’t have to be perfect here, hence, with this exercise, I want to mindfully throw myself into the deep end and explore things that I am not comfortable with doing. I will go to places that I haven’t let myself go to, and I will learn how well I can handle mistakes and how I’d react to letdowns and stumbles down the road. This will be very intentional as I am going to be writing all about my experiences doing these things in my part of the ‘failing well’ series. You can join in and tag me when you do!

Here’s to having fears and conquering them. Here’s to failing well. 🍷

Categories
Ramblings

Oh, but if you never try, you’ll never know

I moved into my new house at the beginning of July, and I’m still settling in. It’s a new city, a beautiful space with new challenges that I didn’t think to expect. I had been planning this move since December 2019, but it had not been successful – what, with the enormous demands from property owners in Lagos who prefer to have an empty space over letting their property to a single career woman? But this is a story for another day.

I’m not sure what mental space I was in when I shared that tweet, but I could make guesses. The items on my todo list? – Projects that leave me sleepless on many occasions at night, or the thought of having to start writing all over again? I let these thoughts consume me, not because I felt I couldn’t take them on, but because sometimes, I felt the weight too big to manage. Where could I possibly start?

1. Don’t let your fear drive you to the point of exhaustion.

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt about fear, it is that fear should be the fuel that drives us to do the things that we’ve always wanted to do. I think it is okay to be afraid. Our dreams can get too big that they frighten us, and yes, they should scare us – They should scare us into doing. I remember Shalv’s words to me on one of those days when we’d talk about fears. He said, ‘be careful not to let your fear drive you to the point of exhaustion, babe.’

Sometimes, we get too afraid that we end up not doing anything. I know this because I’ve been there. Thanks, Youper!

Since fear is not something we can control, we can decide how we want to use our fears to define our next course of action.

2. Vision boards are really helpful!

When I have an idea, I get so excited about it that I start talking all about it at once to my friends, and then the thought of how to execute it finally dawns on me, and that’s when it becomes frightening. Will this end up like other half-woven ideas?

One of the perks of working with creatives is you get to explore different ways of putting together your scattered thoughts. I learnt about using vision boards from working with Jana and Sarah.

Vision boards help you put together your thoughts using pictures and words. They really do work! First, you think about what you want – Your goals about the project, and you put them down. However it is, just put them down. I can hear Jana’s voice in my head – ‘Nanya, you don’t have to make it pretty. It doesn’t have to make sense right now. We’ll just go ahead to put them all down.’ And yes we did.

Visualisation is essential, and it helps you reduce all the fears and anxiety you had built up while your thoughts were still forming. Once you can visualise it, you can bring your dream to life. In this regards, I use Miro for brainstorming. 

3. Check if it’s on the list ☑️

Jana, my colleague, said during our hangout one morning, ‘checklists save lives,’ and I couldn’t have said it better.

I started writing again. First, I registered a domain name, then I created an account on WordPress, and wrote everything I wanted to write about in a checklist. All of these didn’t happen in a day.

If your dream frightens you, put them in a checklist and try to focus so hard on working on one item that you eventually get to check it off your list.

4. Do it.

Yagazie Emezi said ’The only way you can do it on your own is to do it on your own.’ I will borrow from her words to say, the only way you can do it is to do it.

I know many dream weavers. One of them is Shalv, who is the most consistent person that I know. I’ll tell you one. This amazing person sent me songs of the day, every day, for ten straight months without flinching. Or maybe he did, but the songs didn’t ‘flinch.’ He’s also the person whom I share my many ideas with, and he’d ask if I’d noted them down. With many projects of his own, which he’s done a great deal of work on, I can’t say that I’m not inspired.

Another dream weaver that I know is my colleague, Biodun. He wanted a unique couch and a bed he saw on Pinterest. He would make a bed for himself and one for Alexa, his dog. And off he went to the market, scared of the uncertainty of how the finished work would be, but with heart thumping with excitement, he made a bed all by himself, for himself, and Alexa. I must admit that I’d doubted that it would come out okay, but the intensity with which he made these pieces of furniture inspired me. Alexa must have been proud when she saw her beautifully designed bed with bright led lights underneath and the inscribed letters of her name boldly written at the top of her bed.

To doing things afraid

Joyce Meyer said to do it afraid.

Fear! Has it ever been a problem for you, holding you back from moving into areas that could enrich your own life and the lives of others? 

Joyce Meyer, Do It Afraid.

Oh, but if you never try, you will never know. You will never know if you’ll do better as a writer if you never give writing a try. You will never know if you’ll make it to the interview stage if you do not submit your resume. If you don’t ask for that raise, how would you ever know that you won’t get it?

Because “everything we’ve always wanted is on the other side of fear”. We have to cross over, utilize it, channel it towards our passion, and then, we can have a great story to tell.

Categories
Ramblings Work

You don’t have to be perfect here

I recently came upon this quote by John Steinbeck, and it got me thinking about a lot of things.

‘And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.’

John Steinbeck, East of Eden

If I were to tell a younger me or a newly hired junior colleague one thing, it would be: ‘You don’t have to be perfect here, you just have to be. We want you to be.’

And why not? The way I see it, we let perfect get in the way of being consistent, which is one thing I wish I knew before entering the working space. We fall into the trap of thinking that the way to do good work is by having to be perfect for the job. Sometimes we feel we are not qualified for a job because we did not tick all the requirements, so we stall in sending out our resumes but then, are companies really after perfect people?

What does perfect mean?

At various points in my career, I have sat with HR to go over the qualities we want our next candidate to possess. I have gone through a good number of applicants feedback from our engineering team and I’ve done my fair share of performance appraisals, but not once was the criteria for success being perfect. 

For me, perfect is a myth and every time we use the word, what we mean is ‘good work.’ Being on the right track means doing well at what we are assigned to do. We can’t do good work without committing positive performance over and over again until it becomes a thing – until it becomes who we are. 

When we say that someone has the perfect experience on their resume, what we mean is that they tick yes to most, if not all of the requirements listed on the job posting, they can be found wanting in some areas, but the key thing is how much of a learner they are and if they have shown exceptional promise in their field.

Who would you work with?

We want to work with someone consistent in doing the things they know how to do. We want someone open to learning and not afraid to communicate what they want. We want someone that people can vouch for, someone we trust to get the job done. Someone who has shown resilience and knowledge in how they handled their previous projects because consistency is what gets the job done. Consistency breeds progress; progress brings results and sets you up for success.

And what does positive performance mean? Showing up on time, being trustworthy and reliable, being a great team player, being consistent – This is what comes up in performance appraisals, not how perfect we were on the job.

Here’s a question – Have you ever delayed sending out a project you’re working on because you felt it had to be good enough before turning it in? Did you ever get to turn it in?

Perfect does not come up in performance appraisals. 

In the entrepreneur.com, Neil Patel wrote, ‘Trying to make something perfect can prevent us from making it just good.’ He goes further to write, ‘The perfect is the enemy of the good.’ 

Progress is what matters. Are you consistent in what you signed up willingly for? Why do we aim for perfect? Is good bad? Why can’t we aim for good work and take it from there?

Look at it this way – You finished watching a cooking show and you are fascinated by how Ronke of 9jaFoodie prepared her Afang soup, so you decide you are going to make yours exactly the way she described the steps in her video. It is going well, as you keep following the steps until you get to ‘Add a tbsp of oil which is equivalent to 15 ml,’ but you don’t have the measuring spoons. Yes, you have a regular spoon, but there is no way you can know for sure if what you have is equivalent to 15ml as described in the video. Does this spoil the chances of the food coming out good? You have two options – stop and throw the food out or continue with the process.

When we wait for perfect, it never comes. If you’d waited for when you buy a measuring spoon, you might never come around to cooking your Afang soup. 

When we remove perfect from the equation, what’s left? 

“The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.”

Steve Jobs
Read: ‘A beautiful reminder about the power of showing up consistently…’

When we remove perfect from the equation, all that is left is good. Go on, be kind to yourself, and do good work. You are in the good place, and everything is fine.

Continue to be consistent and keep showing up. You don’t have to be perfect here. You just have to be.