One of the central themes to most of my writing is the value of people. We live in a relational world defined by our proximity to people who are in one way or another strategic to helping us get to where we need to be. So it should go without saying that our relationships are essential. People are important.
My son once asked me, on our way home after I’d picked him up from school, “Daddy, How do I make friends?” distracted by a few other road users who were impeding my journey home, I gave a very lukewarm answer “You make friends by being friendly!” But he was having none of it, “So,” after taking a moment to think about the answer I had just given “How do I make friends If I am already friendly but still don’t have friends?”
The truth: at that point, I hadn’ the faintest clue on how to answer that question. I strategically engaged him in a discussion as we explored why He thought he didn’t have any friends, what was his criteria for friendship and most importantly, why it was necessary to have friends. By the end of our little discussion (which seemed more like a debate with a child schooling an adult on human relationships), I was convinced that I needed to revisit many aspects on my view on life.
Over the next few weeks and possibly months, I embarked on a deep introspection working through the relationships I had, past and present, and even future. I looked at what had cost some of these relationships to break down and what had built others. I remember my best friend throughout my high school, our relationship started with a physical confrontation (on that occasion, he taught me the value of how to land a few good ones), after the altercation we became the best of friends, and this carried on until I left the country at the end of my senior year — we are still in touch. Nonetheless, we both know the dynamics of our relationship changed.
I looked at my relationship with my Father also, if any relationship matters at all, it would be this one. We went from parent-child into Dad-son-friend an evolution that now sees my Dad consulting with me on serious family matters previously shrouded behind the curtains of Maturity. He asks me questions, genuinely seeking my opinion on a raft of things — our relationship is not necessarily the typical Nigerian Father-Son one, and we both love it.
Of course, I can’t talk about my Father without speaking about the relationship I had with my Mother. Stoic and caring all combined, in my early years she was the mediator or rather the mouth-piece for the children to whisper in my Father’s ears. She is a peacemaker as well as a pacesetter, and our relationship grew from mother-son to best friends quite early on. During the economic struggles of the late ’80s and the ’90s in Nigeria, we as a family agreed for my Father to seek stability in another country especially during the over nine-month Academic Union strikes which forever changed the landscape of the Nigerian education system (in my humble opinion!).
My Father migrated to Trinidad and Tobago ( I will later join him a few years after), and while He was over there, I would become my Mother’s right hand many and on many occasions stand-in for my Father. More than any point in my life, this was when I saw the value of people and the true nature of human relationships, both good and bad.
As I’ve grown in years, I have seen friends become more than friends, and others fall into the category of the forgotten. I remember reaching out to one such long time “friend” when I found them on Facebook, and their answer was “Who is this? I don’t remember you!” after narrating how we met and how we “fought in the trenches” of life together, I soon realised that If someone could forget some of the fondest memories shared with someone that quickly, maybe it was right that we remained “distant”.
So what’s the point of this conversation today? You might be tempted to ask. and I will oblige. Life is about building relationships with people and not tearing them down. It’s about seeing the real value of the conversations you have with people and not just treating them as an accessory to your success.
My wife and my best friend forever(BFF), is a fundamental and integral part of my success story. She is a person that came into my life and gave so much more of herself to enable me to pursue our shared vision. She is the start of a very long line of people who have and continue to lend their voices to the shared narrative of success.
A lot of the knowledge and wisdom I share today, I do so having received from many of these people. Yes, people are essential and play a key role in getting you to where you need to be.
So, I was hoping you could take a new look at your life and truly appreciate the people you are walking and working with daily. Don’t just see them as accessories to your life’s story but rather as partners in a life-long narrative. Even the ones who let you down, are still playing an important role even if it is the role of helping you build your resilience.
Here are three rules I practice to ensure my relationships remain fruitful:
- Come with clean hands: never engage people who are critical to your journey from a place of deception or the unknown. You will get more out of someone if they know where you are going as opposed to functioning in the realms of assumptions.
- Be realistic: ties in with rule 1. Don’t expect people to be something they aren’t, see them for who they are and always in a positive light (this is easier typed than done!)
- Be a giver, not a taker: people will give as much as you give (in my experience) but will give less if you appear as one who always syphons value.
I hope you have a wonderful day
SUCCESS IS A CHOICE!