Sunday, May 28, 2023

Dependability versus flexibility

What does it take to be both dependable and flexible? 

I did not think that the two qualities could exist in the same entity. But my mind on this has shifted. 

Both qualities have positive and negative ends. 

On the positive end of dependability, you can be counted on. On the negative end, dependability can manifest as rigidity. Can be unbending. 

The positive side of flexibility is the ability to change. And according to the Oxford dictionary, willingness to compromise. The negative end of this quality is to be flaky; you say you will do something and then don't. 

Wouldn't it be amazing to nurture the positive ends of both qualities and minimise the negatives? 

What might that look like?  A person who can be depended on because they don't compromise on the big things but who is willing to bend to accommodate others. 

This sounds like Jesus. I tell you no lie! Willing to bend so much as to die for us. Yet not willing to bend even a little toward sin. Same person. Flexibility is what?! Dependability on steroids! 

Practically, how do we do this?  

One of the things that I suspect can help is a belief that all people are equally important. And all things are worth our time, and worth doing well. A teacher who believes in and only invests in the "smart kids" loses out on impacting majority of the brains and characters of the rest. A parent who only invests in the children s/he believes will succeed loses out on the joy of nurturing a child from low performance to high performance and the bonds that are formed during that transformation. 

It would also help to actively organise our lives to be able to give our relationships the time they need and also do our work in ways that free up resources to be committed to even more activities and relationships. This might mean keeping the key things fixed on a calendar but setting things up in such a way that the rest can be moved around.

Another thing that I'm going to try is to have flow within my relationships and activities. 

One idea to achieve this kind of flow within relationships is open, honest, inquiring, and non-judgemental communication. Because the more shared understanding we all have, the easier it is to cooperate. 

One idea to achieve flow in activities is look for, and seize opportunities to give/share what is on my mind.  Not necessarily to give people what I think they need, but simply share what is on my mind, and then let the conversation go where it will without necessarily having an agenda. This post is a step in that direction.

Friday, May 19, 2023

Three life lessons from a race track in Kakumdo

Dear Reader,

Last week, when I wrote about why you need to write down your goals, I promised to share what I do after I’ve written down my goals. And I will do that. But in a later post.

Today, I thought I'd share an experience and its hard-won lessons that have carried me a long way indeed. I actually have several such lessons tucked away in my system that kick in to help me when the need arises.

Where the lesson was learnt

Today's lesson comes from my days of competing against others in athletics. 

I still think of myself as an athlete. The difference is that I compete against myself these days. It's always a competition against ourselves even when it appears there are other competitors. They too are competing against themselves.

In middle school (University Primary School, Legon), I run the 4 x 400 m race, 800 m, and 1500 m races. Those were the longest races at that level. Therefore I was considered a long-distance athlete. The year I finished high school, I won first place in my individual races and contributed significantly to the team that won the 4x400 m race. Therefore I was adjudged best female athlete, along with the lady who dominated the sprints.

I went on to Wesley Girls High School, where I discovered that there was an even longer race. The 3000 m race. I won that too. And went on to compete at the Inter-colleges level. More stories from there too, which I will share later.

I've shared the highlights of my athletic history to establish credibility as someone who knows a thing or two about becoming a champion.

One of my favourite life lessons is something I learned on the race tracks. What did I learn? And why should you care?

Why should you care?

Well, life may be likened to a long-distance race. And I find that my hard-won lessons on the race-tracks have made me stout-hearted. This is important because one needs courage to do difficult things. My difficult thing is to achieve good success as an entrepreneur. My dream is to enable ordinary Africans to experience the fullness of life through products made for their everyday lives. It's a difficult task. Similar to a long-distance race. And I find that what keeps me on my course, is my God, this software that I have in my brain. And the few fans that I've been blessed to find along my journey.

What did I learn?

Well, I learned many things. I hope to share all of them over time. In the hopes that it will help you as you run your own race.

Lesson 1 - the winners don't always look like the winners

I learnt that the winners don't always look like the winners. This always always happened in the long-distance races. As soon as the race starts, some people would run with all their might. They would be looking like the winners. When they do this, everyone in the race is tempted to match their pace. And some athletes yield to the temptation. Once some athletes try to take the lead at this point, the competition actually escalates. They fight among each other and burn up all their fuel to appear to be winning. Meanwhile little old me is behind. Running slow and steady. Little old me might as well be singing along to John Legend - "Even when I lose I'm winning". "Even when I lose I'm winning" is as true in love as in life. I'm not watching them. I just know that I know that I know that the winner of a 3000 m race is not determined at the 500 m mark. One by one the initial winners fall aside and I win the race.

You must not follow others blindly.

Lesson 2 - don't be afraid to look bad

I also learnt how to look bad without giving up. I find that a lot of people will do anything to look good. Now learning to look bad is a superpower. Many people will die before they look bad. What I have found is that it is the looking bad that forces you to get good. If you're not willing to look bad, you won't get good.

Lesson 3 - learn to love what others consider boring and monotonous

I also learnt how to run without encouragement from others except my own assessment of my place in the race. And my understanding of how much fuel I still had in the tank, compared with the distance I'd covered already and how much more lay ahead. The thing with long-distance races is that because of their length, most people don't follow the race from beginning to end. Supporters don't have attention spans that long. Therefore, as a runner, it's you and your God, and whatever software you're running with. No fans. No gyama. No cheering. Nada. What this builds in you is the emotional resources to do hard things for the right reasons. The gold does come. But the gold tends to come only at the end. So you need to enjoy the process of covering laps. The field at Wesley Girls High School was a mere 200 m track so I needed to run thirteen laps around it. And after running those laps in daily training, one just gets to enjoy the sheer process of covering your laps. In the end, that is what the race is really about. To get you to find meaning in something that others would consider boring and monotonous. To quote Steven Covey, it is there that "you win the personal victories that precede the public victories".

Kakumdo is the suburb of Cape-Coast where Wesley Girls High School can be found.

Friday, May 12, 2023

On your marks! Get set! Go! - Why you need to write down your goals

Last week, we covered the core beliefs that underlie my goal-setting process.

What the core beliefs do for you is they kindle your willingness to start your race, and after your race has begun, they also help you persevere. By helping you to not give up, they help you reach the finish line. 

With the willingness to start your race in place, the next step is to write down your goals. And the action of writing down your goals is not optional. 

Why? Why isn’t it optional to write down your goals? 

Well think of yourself as someone running a race. Imagine you're Usain Bolt. Your goal is to reach the finish line by running your best time. It's not about the other people in the race. It's about you and running your best time. To run your best time, many things impact your race. You often cannot control the external circumstances. Like the weather. And where the officials decide the race will be held. What you can control is yourself. As the athlete, you need four items to help you. But these four items aren't just handed to you. You have to earn them. The key to running your best time is something called a record. And what exactly is this record? When you write something down, you give yourself a record of your intentions. And that record unlocks for you the following four items for running your best time or achieving your goals.

As the athlete, here is how the record helps you:

Item 1: A record makes your goals clear

We can only achieve goals that are clear. And writing is a powerful technique to make clear to ourselves what is usually fuzzy in our minds. When we write down our goals, we clarify what exactly we want. And having this clarity is seeing clearly in our minds what we want to manifest physically - the first key to actually having it.

Imagine again that you're Usain Bolt. If you say your goal is to finish the race, that's one reality.

If you say your goal is to finish first place, that's another reality.

If you say your goal is to break the world record, that's yet another reality.

If you say your goal is to become one of the best athletes of all time, that's yet another reality.

So what desires will your written goals express?

Item 2: A record helps you remember your goals

A record helps you remember. If you don’t write it down, you may forget. If you think you won’t forget, ask the Chinese who say: the palest ink is sharper than the sharpest memory. None of us have memories as good as a record. And if you forget your goals, you won’t act on them. And if you don’t act on them, your life will not improve. So remembering is critical, and a record helps you do that.

Imagine if Usain Bolt forgot once he got on the tracks that his goal was to win the race and got so distracted by supporters that he left the tracks in the middle of the race to hug a supporter. That would be pretty epic. A record helps you not get distracted from what you have purposed to do.

Item 3: A record keeps you honest

We only achieve goals if we’re honest. And a record keeps you honest. 

If you write that your goal is to win first place, but you finish the race in third place, without a record, you might tell yourself that your performance was decent. After all you were not last.  

By telling yourself this lie, your life remains the same. That's how people remain average. All progress rests on truths, and a record is a tool that helps you to tell the truth to yourself.

Item 4: A record helps you stretch to achieve your goals

Because a record helps you to notice when you’re failing to achieve your goals, it nudges you to think of what else can be done to achieve it. Often the actions you need to reach your goals lie outside your comfort zone. And a record that is telling you the truth about where you are, encourages you to do things you would normally not do. By helping you stretch, the record helps you to achieve your goals. 

Usain Bolt always checks in the middle of the race to assess where he is in relation to his opponents. But really it's where he is in relation to his potential. You need to do the same. Your record helps you see when you're underperforming and by so doing pushes you to do better.

Next week we’ll cover what to do after you’ve written down your goals. Until then, enjoy your weekend. Please leave comments if you have questions. Nyame nka wo ho!