The top three lessons I learned this year were as follows:
- Feed your curiosity
- Build and maintain relationships
- Game of Inches
Let me take this opportunity to elaborate on each as they are by no means new or extraordinary insights but deeply important lessons that I felt were worth sharing.
Feed Your Curiosity
A year ago I wrote an article about The Fringe Benefits of Growing Up in Tottenham. The truth is, a lot of what I went through growing up makes so much sense now looking back in retrospect. Growing up in the bubble of my local community, poverty and lack of income aside there were super powers I felt I developed from this environment. Outlasting pain, confidence in my ability, adaptability and a tenacious will to never give up.
However the turning point for me was when I got my first break working at a professional firm. I remember working on placement at ICAP feeling like “I’ve made it”. My family were proud, everyday I gave my all but I was pissed off at one thing I repeatedly heard over and over. At the age of 19 I had only travelled to my country of origin Ghana, which I loved and found humbling but everyone I encountered on the job were telling me tales about experiences in far away lands that sounded almost enchanted and mythical.
I then made one of the best decisions of my life to feed my curiosity. I ventured to the edge of my comfort zone and went backpacking for 3 months to South America.
I remember landing in Lima, Peru and saying to myself, “what the f*#? have I done”. It was pitch black, I had no ride and my phone’s battery life was flirting with death. This was during the pre-Uber days too, and my Spanish was poquito.
I somehow found my way to a hostel (the first hostel I had ever stepped in), and I remember sleeping with one eye open to make sure no one stole my belongings. The following three months were awe-inspiring and a life changing experience. I returned to London more self aware, selfless and culturally enriched.
This year I was curious to learn how I could help others to grow and so I challenged myself to publish at least one blog post a month. Such a vanity metric but the intent was pure and I’ve published over 30 articles this year and started a newsletter.
There are three emerging trends I am deeply curious at the moment:
1: Global culture is shaped by American culture which is influenced by black culture (food, music, dance, sport and entertainment etc.)
2: Location independent workforces are increasing in popularity (WeWork, companies like Basecamp, Influencer Marketers etc.)
3: 70% of entrepreneurs had their successful idea whilst still in employment according to Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic from HBR
Let’s see what chasing my curiosity brings me in 2017!
Build and Maintain Relationships
During my early years in management consulting I remember feeling like I got the short straw. All my fellow graduates got put on projects with teams to work at client offices. Whilst I was paired with a Director on the path to becoming Partner. Remember I was fresh out of university, I had no relatives who worked in the city let alone at Consultancies and culturally this was a whole new world to me.
By month 2, I seriously considered quitting. It is a terrible feeling when you wake up each morning during the week hoping either you don’t have to go to work or if you do, your boss won’t. It was a baptism of fire and I distinctly remember the day she analytically reviewed a short powerpoint presentation and switched it into greyscale and spotted a box that would otherwise remain invisible when the slides were in colour.
The turning point in this relationship was when we went to Italy together to present to the Global Leadership Team and her family came along. From that point on I understood her hunger, drive and motivation. She really wanted to become Partner and cared deeply about providing for her family. The relationship changed from this point. The work was more pleasurable from this point as I understood her paradigm and my learning on the job was exponential.
Her final words to me before I left her to join another team was, “regardless what career you pursue or business to create…..you are always in the relationship building business.”
Those words have echoed true since I first heard them years ago. This year I consciously made a list of everyone I have met during the year with a reminder of who they are and what I had in common. By reviewing this regularly you notice opportunities to connect more with the people you meet. It could be something small like sending an article or spending time together to watch a football game and catch up.
Meeting someone and building the initial relationship is easy, making effort to maintain it is hard but totally worth it.
Game of Inches
This is probably the most quoted term that I have used this year because it is so applicable to the journeys so many are pursuing in life whether in specific careers or entrepreneurial opportunities. At its core it is founded upon habit forming. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steve Covey revealed this to me first. At a high level it describes in life how we go through three distinct stages.
First, a stage of dependence where as babies we depend on our mothers for survival, whether it is for food or shelter. We then grow into a stage of independence as a teen whereby we seek freedom and the opportunity to make mistakes and learn things first hand ourselves. Then finally we enter a stage of inter-dependence where we live ultimately with others and for others. This is the more selfless stage of life where I am now, where enabling others to grow and discover self-awareness is at the core of the content I create. Similarly in my family life the parallel holds true, making decisions involve my partner and are not done in silo.
Growth over a year is the cumulative value of incremental wins you gain on a daily basis.
What would you need to see to change your view?
Sometimes it is the littlest things that gets your attention and stimulates change. At the start of the year this question above was asked by my friend. I hope after reading this article you can ask yourself what change you would like to see in 2017 and just do it.
“If you chase two rabbits you will not catch either one.”
— Russian Proverb
QUICK PLUG: My inspiration is my mother, she became an entrepreneur at age 60, but she needs our help. She is raising funds to buy a shuttle bus to support low income families in picking up their children for Nursery. Check it out here: https://www.gofundme.com/juliets-nursery-mini-bus-campaign
Thanks for hitting the 💙 if you enjoyed this article. This will tell me to write more of it!