Once people hear any mention of weight, their minds go to that extra roll of stubborn fat in their belly region which they have been trying to get rid of for a while or they think of people struggling with some extra pounds on their bodies. It is good to keep the fats off, especially this summertime when people tend to take vacations and generally get adventurous with food and drinks. Moderation is the key and exercising is your healthy option. However, the weight I refer to here is the weight of worries and self-condemnation for failing to meet some self-imposed goals or societal expectation. I refer to the feelings of inadequacy that you have authorized other people to foist on you just because you have allowed their voices to drown yours out. Those are the weights you must shed.

Some people put themselves through so much hardship and internal distress just to carve an image they think people expect. If you can’t afford a certain luxury item yet, please put it on your wish list and plan towards it. Don’t pull off your hair in misery just worrying about how to present a facade to others. Some people even get into relationships because they want to strike a certain cord on social media. Why would anyone willingly carry such weights? Is it worth it to jeopardise your mental health and personal wellbeing just for false societal applause and validation?

Life is a process; you keep advancing, getting better, wiser and richer. We learn every day, whether it is about our jobs, environment, businesses or even our partners; you keep discovering new layers and better ways to accomplish goals. It is healthy to be open to new knowledge and in fact to seek it; in fact, the human brain becomes unresponsive when it is no longer learning new things, it starts dying slowly. Learning is not just useful, it is important. It is healthy to see someone who has achieved the kind of result that you desire and try to copy the person’s style and strategies; to submit to being mentored. It is equally healthy to decide, plan and take steps to do life with a partner. All these are quite natural, normal and expected.

It becomes a heavy burdensome weight when the actions are taken just to be like the Joneses or to please a community. So, Malik travelled to Malaysia and in two years, he has bought a house in Asokoro, Abuja and you are fretting and putting undue pressure on yourself. The question is: ‘Are you Malik?’ Do you know his history … or his story? Everyman has his own path in life. There are some people that know where they are headed long before they hit 21 years of age. There are others that would still be figuring things out when they are 35 years old. The latter are called late bloomers and some of them still end up becoming industry leaders. The third group are those who carry their lives around like empty canvasses, waiting for people to notice them, define them and validate them.

I once had a mentee that desperately wanted to be a company secretary. She was a lawyer by training but struggled with all aspects of the profession, yet she would not give up. Her parents wanted her to be an attorney and she liked the idea of being addressed as a Barrister so she kept struggling unsuccessfully to meet up with the challenges in the office whereas she had the very enviable skill to close up a sale in record time; she could sell charcoal as gold to a goldsmith. I advised her to develop the skill she had but she was stuck on being a corporate lawyer. It took her four other jobs and 17 professionally unsuccessful years to give up and try something else. She went into the real estate business. In less than five years, in terms of financial stability and possession of market share, she had surpassed most of the company lawyers that she used to look up to.

The first thing to do in the journey of shedding excess weight is to understand yourself and where you are going to? If your destination is not clear to you, don’t start the ride because any port will look like your terminus. Distraction only manifests when focus is wobbly. A person who has taken time to understand what he wants out of life and the values he has to offer would be more focussed on building himself and his skills than in playing to anyone’s gallery.  Once you define your goal, commit to becoming the best at what you do, the best version of yourself. When you are at the helm, navigating with clear purpose, it is difficult for anyone else to wrench the control from you unless you willingly surrender it.

Last year, I was chatting with a young graduate Tari, who wanted me to recommend him for a job. He’d studied Fine and Applied Arts so I felt he must have some skills in that area. I asked what his career goals were and straight away he told me that he wanted to make money. We all do but that’s not a career goal, I told him and rephrased my question. He said that his major ambition was to ‘make it big and live the life,’ and that his choice of industry was based on the organisations that paid their staff the most.

“It was either banking or the oil company but because of the long hours that bankers work, I have chosen the oil industry.” He said gleefully, oblivious of my disappointment in him. I’ve heard of the ‘GenZ’ mindset and attitude but Tari sure took it to a whole new level. I knew that given his mindset, he would not stick to any career long enough to develop himself and make a mark. He was interested in the end result but totally unwilling to put energy into the process. I feared he might even get into trouble in his quest for the ‘big bucks’ because if he hears that there is more money on the left, he would immediately gravitate there until he hears that the money is raining down somewhere else. That surely is a recipe for disaster.

Unfortunately, there are many people like Tari who want to make money in any manner possible so that the society would feel they are doing well. They just want to marry so that they can post couple’s pictures online. They want to wear designer items so that they would seem successful while living in perpetual debt. They are more interested in being seen with celebrities than in developing their inert skills and actually becoming celebrated in their fields.

Now is a good time for self re-examination. Where are you headed? Is that the destination of your desire or are you living out someone else’s fantasy? Are you where you should be or are you shrinking so that some other person will not be intimidated? Are you well-positioned to get to the top of your desired career? Would your training and associations help you to get there? What else do you need to do? Whose experience can you leverage on?

Get on that assignment now and make sure you are doing exactly what you want to do in the best way possible. Own your successes and refuse vehemently to carry other people’s weights.

So long!


Fatherhood with Ibe


Apart from sharing my fatherhood encounters and opinion in this column, I try to keep my ideas on parenting to myself mainly because I am no expert on that subject and secondly, most parents can be very touchy about anything that seems to question their parenting style or the behaviour of their children. I have heard of age-long friends that became bitter enemies because one dared to criticise the way the other one was bringing up her children. The truth is that most people have an idea of how they want to raise their children and they do not welcome anyone handing out unsolicited advice, no matter how well-meaning it might be. It was the case with a nice Nigerian Professor who got a backlash for attempting to advice a couple to change their parenting style.

Prof and I first met about four years ago at a seminar in Abuja and he’d seemed excited to meet me and greeted me familiarly, saying he used to read the Fatherhood column in the early days when my older children were still kids in primary and secondary schools.

“I used to enjoy your Fatherhood column a lot.” He’d said and asked me about my children one after the other, recalling incidents that I must have written about but which I only vaguely recollected.

“I also had three kids and I tried to pattern my parenting style after yours; I wanted to achieve the level of closeness you had with your kids and I thought I succeeded.”  He’d said.

Prof had quite a story about his parenting journey and he was in a hurry to share.

He said that early 2016, he visited his son’s home in the United States of America because he hadn’t seen him and his young family for over five years.

“My grandchildren, twins, a boy and a girl, were about 10 years old then and they were swearing worse than old sailors.” Prof said. “I was shocked.”

He said that later, that night, he called his son and daughter-in-law aside and asked them to try and stop the children from using such vulgar words.

“I told them that I was embarrassed to hear such words from little children, especially children of enlightened parents such as them. My son did not even allow me to finish talking before he jumped in, telling me that the children were in America, not Nigeria and that swearing was no big deal in America.”

Prof said he was appalled to hear his well-brought up son carelessly dismissing such vulgarity.

“I told them that even in America, such gutter language was only popular in the ghettos. My daughter-in-law told me that it is human beings that live in the ghettos and that most of the big names in the entertainment industry globally were people from the ghettos.”

“I asked them if they would act so casual if their children started doing drugs. Would they say it’s okay to be a drug addict because doing drugs is not a big deal in America and some celebrities are actually messing with drugs?”

I could see then that Prof was very emotional about the incident so I just allowed him to talk. He said that he told his son and daughter-in-law the dangers of speaking like an uncultured person.

“I told them that gutter language is seen as going hand in hand with drug abuse and stealing in America. It attracts police brutality because once the law enforcement agents hear someone speaking in a certain way, they judge him guilty without trial.”

“It’s very unfortunate and that is what every well-meaning individual is trying to stop by calling attention to such brutality.” I recall that I jumped in at this point.

“Well, my son and his wife did not take kindly to my interference. The woman all but told me to leave their house. She was very rude, and this is a girl whose wedding I sponsored totally, in fact, I stood as father and father-in-law for her. She and my son had been dating for a while but when he was about to travel out of the country, this girl came crying to my late wife. She was sure that my son would forget her once he left Nigeria. We had to convince my son to marry her before travelling out. I bent backward to finance her relocation to America to join my son.”

Prof was really getting so emotional that day that I crossed the usual boundary I keep with mere acquaintances.  I took sides with him and condemned the reaction of his son and wife to what I was sure was a good advice. I think my support did help. He calmed down and told the rest of the story.

“I was suddenly trying to defend myself and my advice. I tried to tell my daughter-in-law that I was only talking out of love but she was too angry to listen to me. For the next few days, mother and children avoided me completely. I had to cut short my visit. Instead of the three weeks that I’d planned to stay with them, I was in their house for only four days.” He took a very deep breath and exhaled noisily as if he had shed the burden by sharing the problem.

“I am sorry to be uploading all these on you, Ibe. It’s just that Charles is my first son and he was such a promising young man but the gulf that exists between us now worries me so much.”

“Parenting never ends, not even when the children become parents themselves.” I said, trying to comfort him. “Keep reaching out to your son and his wife and let them know that you love them and want only the best for them. I think they will come around; young parents can be very touchy when they feel their parenting style is being criticised.”

We parted on a very good note that day but we didn’t keep in touch.

I met him again two weeks ago in circumstances so similar to our first meeting, it seemed like a déjà vu. We greeted more enthusiastically this time and asked about each other’s children. It appeared Prof had a part 2 of the saga with his children. He drew me to a seat and started another tale.

Read Prof’s story in the next post.

So long!