Sunday, April 12, 2020

Thoughts From Lockdown: On Pandemics, Slighted Gods, and Public Policy

Deaths from the 1918 flu pandemic in colonial Nigeria

I recently finished Laura Spinney’s Pale Rider, a book about the 1918 flu pandemic and its impact on the world. I have been thinking about the current pandemic and I wanted to share some of my thoughts. Let’s dive in.


There will be more pandemics. There are many viruses lurking in reservoirs such as bats, waiting for an opportunity to cross to humans. As more people eat exotic animals and come into closer contact with wildlife, there will be more interactions that open the door to zoonosis.

A zoonosis is a human illness caused by a pathogen that has crossed from nonhuman animals. Ebola is a zoonosis, having crossed over from bats. Lassa fever, the Zika virus, and all influenzas are zoonoses. AIDS has zoonotic origins, crossing from chimps to humans before mutating into a human-only disease.

Monday, March 16, 2020

How to thrive at life and work in the age of COVID-19

You can hardly look anywhere these days without being inundated with news about COVID-19. I wrote one more article related to the virus, but not to spread fear or tell you “what my business is doing to ‘keep you safe’”. I wanted to share a few tips for keeping your head up in the age of COVID-19.

1. Manage your headspace. Do you really need to know right away that one more person in South Africa has been diagnosed with COVID-19 within the past hour? Except you work in Infectious Diseases or were planning to holiday in South Africa, the answer is likely no. So why are you glued to Twitter or CNN gorging on the latest updates? If you find that you’re constantly stressed as a result of all the news, consider taking a step back. Mute certain keywords and accounts on Twitter, snooze people for 30 days on Facebook, and limit your ‘COVID-19 news’ consumption to key programs and reputable sources for a limited time everyday. Do other fun things that are good for your mind: watch your favorite TV show, read a good book, or play some games!

Friday, January 03, 2020

What is more important than your goals for 2020?

I was recently reading my annual goals going back to 2013 and I began spotting a pattern. The goals I achieved had something in common, same as the goals I did not achieve. Over the past seven years, I was far more likely to have achieved goals that were backed by systems. I was also far less likely to have achieved goals that were not.

For example, my goal to weigh 80kg first showed up in September 2014. It was specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timebound. I stuck it on my wall. It was in the list I sent to my accountability partner. But nothing happened. Actually – something happened: I added more weight! That goal showed up again in 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018. I did not achieve it until October 2019.

So, what changed in 2019? Why did I finally achieve this goal after five years? I put a system behind it. I turned exercise into a habit and started counting calories. I achieved the goal within five months of implementing a system!

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

List: My books of 2019 / Reading Recommendations for 2020

Some of my hard-copy books from this year and my iPad (iBooks and Kindle)
This was a good year for my reading. I read thirty books this year and memorized two poems! Here’s some commentary on my ten favorite books. The full list is available at the end.

10. Dollars and Sense, Dan Ariely. This helped me understand how our psychology leads us to engage poorly with money. It also includes practical advice on spending better. The Richest Man in Babylon (TRMB) is very popular (I even read it again this year), but this book goes many steps deeper and makes it more likely that you can follow George Clason’s advice in TRMB.

9. Hello World: How to be Human in the Age of Machines, Hannah Fry. This book is well-written and I could not stop till I was done! It describes the algorithms that are shaping our age in a manner that is accessible to everyone. Dr. Fry describes applications ranging from predicting which customers are pregnant to neural networks for machine vision. It provides a toolkit for staying informed as AI becomes more integrated into daily life. I believe we’ll ultimately end up with algorithms and humans that work together in partnership, exploiting each other’s strengths and embracing each other’s flaws. In her words, “in the age of the algorithm, humans have never been more important”.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

The scourge of delayed payments in Nigeria

I wrote a quick LinkedIn article about the scourge of delayed payments in Nigeria.

A friend who runs a SME in Nigeria recently told me about their struggle to get paid for work they did for a large corporation. While the service was confirmed satisfactory and invoices were accepted nine months ago, payment has not been made. Understandably, they are reluctant to involve lawyers or otherwise escalate the situation.

I tweeted about it, and an outpouring of comments indicates this is more common in Nigeria than it should be. Many people work for a SME that has had trouble getting paid or know someone who does. If this is indeed that common, it is bad for our economy.

The rest of the article is available on LinkedIn here.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Conversations: an email newsletter with career tips for young Nigerian professionals

Seven years and ~12 kg ago. I can't believe friends from university thought I had put on weight in this picture!

It is now 7+ years since I moved to Lagos to start my first job at P&G. Fresh out of university, I did not know what to expect. I was armed with a few shirts, a fierce determination to succeed, and two gifts from my mum: a pen holder and Richard Templar’s The Rules of Work.

There have been many ups and downs since then. Tough assignments, unexpected promotions, a downsizing, getting married, business school… The list could go on for a while. Through it all, I have learnt a lot about being a successful young professional in (and outside of) Nigeria.

I have always been drawn to sharing what I learn. I spend a lot of time reflecting (I have been told I spend too much time reflecting), reading, and talking to my role-models and mentors about life and career. I enjoy taking all that thinking and advice and condensing it for people who don’t invest as much time or don’t have access to such relationships.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

On Seun Onigbinde; Nigeria's Idealistic Idealism

You have argued for government transparency and judicious spending for years. You believe in these principles so much that you quit your job eight years ago to start a company dedicated to these ideals. You care strongly about your country and have criticized the government for its ineptitude. Then a development agency underwrites a position where you can apply your skills in service of your country. You will not change the entire system – of course, but you believe you might make a small difference.

Would you take the position?

Many Nigerians on Twitter seem to think you shouldn’t. Seun Onigbinde has been criticized strongly for accepting a position as Technical Adviser to the Minister of State for Budget and National Planning. Among other things, he is being criticized because he is critical of the current government and has previously said he would not accept an advisory position if he didn’t believe in the President.

I would make the same choice as Seun if I were in his shoes, so I wanted to spend some time thinking through it.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Happy Birthday, Koye

Wishes from my last birthday. Thank you, INSEAD fam
It’s my birthday!

I was just thinking about my birthday last year. I was in the penultimate period of the academic year at business school and I was anxious about recruiting. It turned out I was worrying about the wrong thing. The real trouble in the past year turned out to be the kind that blindsided me on a Wednesday morning deep in the middle of autumn. After I got off the phone, I remember thinking stupidly it was weird that the many dead leaves of autumn looked so beautiful.

The past year has been one heck of a ride. September to December went by in a blur as I interviewed ‘furiously’ and wrapped up the academic year. I’m glad my mum was there as I finished the MBA, and although my dad could not make that one – I’m sure he’ll be beaming in the audience when I earn the next degree (Yes you read that right). I had a three month break after the rollercoaster of the INSEAD year, which was great for reflecting, spending time with friends and family, and falling in love with Lagos again. We then moved to an exciting new city not too far from home (Home-home is Ibadan, home is Lagos).

Thursday, August 22, 2019

RE: Massive International Fraud and Money Laundering Conspiracy

I am very angry tonight.

I have just read the recent press release by the United States Department of Justice detailing how 80 defendants participated in a massive conspiracy to steal millions of dollars through various fraud schemes. I condemn theft and welcome efforts to apprehend and prosecute thieves, so that is not what angers me. I am angry because “most of these 80 defendants are Nigerians”.

I am angry because these people seek to normalize a world where it is okay to steal the hard-earned money of other people and companies. It will never be right to cause other people pain by stealing things that belong to them!

I am angry because these people and others like them make it harder for upstanding Nigerians to do business globally, travel the world easily, and access goods and services citizens of other countries take for granted.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

My Skin Is Black: On Africans and Black People from the US, Britain, and Elsewhere

Jay Z lyrics are from The Story of OJ (4:44, July 2017). The background picture is from Beyoncé and Jay Z's On The Run II tour in Paris.
A few weeks ago, someone came to our flat to fix a toilet leak. While kneeling by the toilet to diagnose the leak, he looked up at me and asked twice "are you sure nobody has been standing on the toilet seat?". I thought it was funny and laughed it off both times. "Of course nobody has been standing on the toilet seat".

Shortly after he left, I started to think that was a weird question. Then I realized it may have been racist. After all, he likely wouldn't ask a white family if they had been standing on their toilet seat. I told Busola about it later that evening and we discussed how slow I had been to recognize his racism. I also told a few friends who had moved to Europe over the past few years, and they were like "oh that was racist. Mschew*. Next time respond like this..."

Then I told a Black British acquaintance, and he was livid! He got so pissed and went on about how it was really bad behavior. I was intrigued by his response, so I told another Black British acquaintance. The second response was even more volatile. He took his annoyance one step further by getting upset with me for not detecting the racism and calling it out.