Hey yo, hey yo! Whaddup my peeps? How‘s it going? Been a long minute, yeah? ( hope the inner Amerciana I am trying to channel is coming through? Lol)
It’s always a pleasure to be able to come hang with you guys here and share my musings, lessons and adventures. Can you believe it’s been a whole year since I started the blog??? It’s just amazing how time flies (especially when you’ve taken a loan, lol).
On a serious note though, I cannot say THANK YOU enough to everyone who has been a part of this journey. It has truly been an amazing journey for me because this is the first time in my adult life that I have deliberately put myself out there. I am usually very discreet and coded with my personal life on social media but the journey so far has been extremely rewarding. (maybe it’s time to start making money from this o). I don’t want to repeat the same shout-out I gave on IG the day after the actual ‘blog-o-versary’ (I was so caught up in work on the actual day that I completely forgot. It was my sister-girl “Adrenaline” who reminded me – thank God for fantastic encouragers 🙂 ) but to everyone who has been involved in this blog matter in one way or another – THANK YOU! ESE PUPO! DAALU! NAGODE! UWESE! MEDASI! ASANTE SANA! MERCI BEAUCOUP! OBRIGADO! DANKE!
p.s. I am writing this post on a super bumpy train ride from New York to Washington D.C (the story of the adventures on this train ride will come in the next blogpost). The ‘shaky shaky’ vibrations of this train are worse than when driving on 3rd Mainland Bridge after the road has been scraped! I am so tempted to just sleep instead (I must have told you how I am one of those people who can sleep in/on a moving automobile – including motorcycles, lol) but September must not pass without a post. Amen somebody?
(Editor’s note (yes now, I am an editor, lol)- apologies that this post is coming a few days later than planned – blame it on holiday behavior.)
Okay, back to the matter! As I reflected on what I was going to share this month, one of my personal consultants reminded me of the various ‘growth’ journeys I have been on over the last few months. When it seems like you are on a roll and something comes along to burst your bubble, there are generally 2 ways to react – get defensive and blame everyone/everything else or accept the challenge and grow from it. I am sure you all know what the default response is for most of us.
In May, I got some very tough feedback at work and I was crushed! I mean, I was supposed to be a high-performing manager leading teams to victory on all our projects, coaching and apprenticing my team members and being generally awesome.
Err, not quite 100%! My team members had given some feedback that initially did not make sense to me. The shock I experienced was similar to the shock you get when you’re blowing a balloon and someone sneaks up on you with a needle and boom, your balloon bursts in your face.
I secretly blamed the system, blamed the universe, blamed my village people, blamed everything and everybody ‘blame-able’ and after that, I cried a river or two (with Justin Timberlake singing his hit single in my head, lol). Mehn, the thing pained me o! After my initial denial and attempts to justify, I finally asked myself, “what if they are right? What would it take to turn this around?” It was then and only then I began one of my growth journeys to becoming a more inspiring leader/manager. It felt like I had to bake and eat my humble pie at the same time.
As if God wanted to even stretch me further, He got me assigned to a new project in South Africa 2 weeks after I got the feedback. I had not done any work in South Africa before that and I remember thinking ‘this is surely a setup for failure’. It was difficult enough that I had to work on the feedback, then I got transferred to work with a team of people I had never worked with, on a topic I had never worked on, in a country I had never worked in, and to make it even ‘more worst’, right in the middle of the South African winter!
I had such a rocky start on that project. Jesus! I definitely contemplated giving up a few times. But I stuck to it and opened my heart to receive the feedback and make the adjustments that were required. It was HARD!!!! There were times I thought (and knew) I was right and folks were just being unnecessarily difficult but I would still pipe low and ask them ‘so what can I do differently to improve this situation?’ and then call on Jesus to take the wheel while I tried to listen as calmly as possible, lol. In the wise words of MI Abaga, ‘me sef I be human being too!’
Over the months we spent together as a team, I grew, oh I grew! I learnt how to listen without preempting. I learnt how to really dig deep and understand the underlying beliefs/values of each person on my team. I learnt how to engage with each person as an individual and adapt to their styles (I wonder how people with plenty children do this successfully!) I learnt how to be super observant and perceptive to the mood/temperature in the team room. I learnt how to accept when I am wrong and resist the temptation to explain it away. I learnt how to facilitate difficult conversations. I learnt just how big the room for improvement is and how we must never stop growing and seeking improvement, even in our personalities and behaviors. I met a new me – a better me.
Moral of the story: You are not a tree so you can change – even trees still grow. Even though it is easy to make excuses and say ‘this is just how I am’ or ‘this is my style – take it or leave it’, how about challenging yourself to find new ways to do things? Even Jesus calls us to be transformed with the renewing of our minds. Embrace your growth challenge, the rewards are outstanding. Switch from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset.
I was not the only one that grew, the entire team grew and our performance & team dynamics improved significantly. We had risen above the initial fiction and had truly become an exceptional team. To celebrate the awesomeness of our team, we all decided to take a weekend trip to Durban and instead of staying in separate hotel rooms, we agreed to stay together in holiday homes instead and actually live as a family. Instead of going clubbing, we decided to have a house party where we cooked, played games and just chilled together. It was beautiful! One of our holiday homes had an indoor pond with some exotic looking catfish. If that pond was in Nigeria, it would have been the hottest ‘point-and-kill’ spot ever liveth! Hehehehehe.
Side note – the holiday homes in Durban (especially in Zimbali resort) are worth fasting/praying/working hard for (not to die for o! If I die, how will I enjoy it?). They are great for large groups, destination celebrations and just unplugging from the hustle and bustle of big cities. I’d love to go back there soon.
Johannesburg was not only work, work work, work, work, work. Once the weather got warmer, I started going out more. I know I need to work on overcoming my winter blues but that is a growth journey for another year, lol. I hung out with my INSEAD peeps, met/re-met some fabulous people (the incredible Westcliff girls i.e Aissata & Amanda, Madam Dorcas who is one of my travel blogging role models and Modupe from my CU days, just to mention a few), participated in my first charity walk (and got a medal for finishing in good time, yaaaay!), attended some events and shows (Kakadu the Musical, King Kong the Musical, the Voice Nigeria live shows, etc), kicked off my East African invasion to Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda and so much more.
Moral of the story: Don’t pause your life because you are ‘growing’ or going through a challenging period. Live! Enjoy the happy moments – they will give you energy/renewal for the hard work of growth you need to do.
During this difficult period, I also ensured that I stayed connected to my core circle of support. I did not completely isolate myself because I was ‘going through’. I remember one late night I could not sleep and decided to watch a movie to pass time. I got to an emotional scene in the movie and started crying along with the lead actress (as per standard procedure, lol). However, when the scene ended, I could not stop crying. In fact, I started sobbing. I knew these tears were not about the movie anymore but about all the things I was going through. After sobbing for almost 2 hours, I took a bathroom break (yeah, bodily functions don’t stop for sadness o, lol) and then looked at my phone and saw a message from a dear friend of mine.
I replied and he could sense something was wrong from my tone. He called me and I just continued my crying. He listened to me as I went on and on and on and just allowed me vent. When I was done, he encouraged me and persuaded me to go to bed. He kept checking up on me and reassuring me that I would be fine. My bestie also caught me during one of my crying conventions and stayed on the phone with me until I had calmed down (opelope* whatsapp calls, lol). It was very comforting to have my close friends be strong for me when I was a hot mess. They also reminded me of all the other challenges I had overcome and that I would get over this period too. It’s amazing how we forget all our previous victories when we are in the heat of the battle.
Morals of the story: Find and keep your circle of support- you are going to need them to get through the tough times. You should also be available to them when they need you to be strong for them.
Also, crying can be truly therapeutic. Big boys and girls cry too. No shame in tears – it is part of the recovery process.
So yeah, it has been an incredible past couple of months learning and growing and trying to become a better version of myself. It has not been the most comfortable ride but growing pains are not supposed to be comfortable. I am thankful that I got the feedback and the chance to grow – imagine thinking you are superstar and then finding out too late in the game that you did not quite make the cut. Feedback is painful but it is the only way we can truly be challenged to make changes and grow.
As I gradually approach the last days of my 20s, I look back with truckloads of gratitude for everything – failures, successes, the challenges, the tough times, the sweet times, the happy and not-so-happy moments and I am most thankful to be alive to even be able to reflect. My life has not all been a song and a dance but I love my journey and where God has brought me to. If it had not been for the Lord, chai!!! That said, I think I am arriving at my next decade stronger, wiser and better.
What is the most difficult piece of feedback you have ever gotten? How did you react? Is there some work you need to be doing to become a better version of yourself? Feel free to share with me and the rest of this fabulous community (working on making this a reality o!) in the comments section below.
p.s – I know I said my next trip was supposed to be to a place with lots of water. I got my visa to Zimbabwe to see the magnificent Victoria Falls but the weekend I planned to go ended up being the same weekend my team and I went to Durban. But I still have my Zimbabwe visa and will definitely make my way there soon. For now, it’s wedding season and I have a couple lined up across the world over the next few weeks. There is also my New York JJC experience currently happening as well! Exciting times are here! Hehehehehehe.
p.p.s – should I even bother releasing a birthday wish list? Will you people allow God use you to bless me? Lol.
p.p.p.s – Opelope means ‘courtesy of’.