Sunday, March 07, 2021

Life Lately: "I can increase your happiness"

When I took this picture of Zajecarski, Serbia, I did not know I would be fast-walking (running) away from a dog on this street within the hour.

I don’t want a huge pimple on my nose; I don’t have one. In fact, given how much trouble I had with pimples as a teenager, it’s fair to expect my children to get a free pass. I don’t want to lie in bed unable to sleep because of the cacophony of generators; I don’t have to - for now. I am afraid of all dogs and don’t want to live in a house that has one; I don’t.

When we think about the things that make us happy, the things we are grateful for, we tend to focus on the things we want and have. Good memories of departed family members. Family and friends that are still here. Our jobs or businesses. Holidays – past and future. Money in the bank. PlayStation consoles.

We don’t often think about the things we don’t want and don’t have, things that contribute to our happiness by their continued absence in our lives. I haven’t made a list, but I strongly suspect the list of things I don’t want and don’t have is longer than the list of things I want and have.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Life Lately: Redeeming the time, habit stacking, and a gift for you

There were some really, really, beautiful days this week

Four weeks ago, at the end of January, I started that post by saying January felt like it zoomed by. I could say the same thing about February. In fact, when I woke up this morning, I thought to myself “how is it another Sunday already?”.

In St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he asks them to make the very most of their time on earth, recognizing and taking advantage of each opportunity and using it with wisdom and diligence. Whenever I feel like time is flying by, like I do today, I stop for a moment and ask if I am making the most of every day that passes.

The answer is never yes. Like most other people, I have good days and bad ones. Sometimes I bring my A-game and power through the day, other times I’m low on energy and slow waltz through the hours. I now think of St. Paul’s exhortation as an ideal, something to strive for on the journey to being better with each day that passes.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Life Lately: My first snowman and rediscovering a sense of play

My first snowman. I promise subsequent ones will be cuter.

I have been trying to play more lately. My natural tendency is to take things seriously and that is no fun, so I’ve been looking for opportunities to rediscover the sense of play I lost as I transitioned into an early adolescence. So, when it snowed recently and it occurred to me to make a snowman, I shut down my first reaction – which was “but I should continue reading this book about Index Funds”.

The idea of making a snowman and the reality of making a snowman turned out to be different. First, we didn’t have a lot of snow so I needed to shovel the snow on our balcony with a dustpan. Second, I didn’t realize I couldn’t just wear any gloves. I couldn’t compact the snow no matter how hard I tried in gloves and my fingers got wet very quickly. So I took them off and went with my bare hands.

It’s definitely not a handsome snowman but that doesn’t matter to me. What matters is that for those five to ten minutes when I scurried around looking for buttons for the eyes, a Sharpie to draw on the smile, and a bamboo skewer for the arms, I felt like the happy child I remember from the 90s.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Life Lately + Book Summary - Decisive: How to make better choices in life and work

"Two roads diverged in a wood and I - I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference." - Robert Frost

While scrolling through LinkedIn during the past week, I saw an update from someone who had made me a fantastic offer for a role in Product Management at an American Industrial Goods company towards the end of my year in business school. For a brief moment, I let my mind wander and explore what could have been if I had taken that offer, or any one of the other offers I received towards the end of that year.

This doesn’t happen often, but from time to time something will trigger retrospection and I’ll wonder for a few moments what those paths may have held. I always come away from these moments thinking the same thing – I followed an exhaustive process to make my decision and I made the best decision I could have made. As icing on the cake, detailed essays spell out the process I followed, the factors I considered, and the conclusions I reached. 

I think it is powerful to be able to move forward knowing I made the best choice I could have made. It means there is no lurking regret, no wishing I had done things differently. When I went through challenging patches in consulting such as a lengthy period on the bench or a poorly-defined project, I could think back to how I had chosen that position and trust the process.

Sunday, February 07, 2021

Life Lately: A life on our planet

Unblocking gutters that had been clogged for years as part of the Sanitation Corps. Picture taken by a friend during my National Youth Service in Lagos.

When I was 13, I tried to invent a process for recycling plastic. There was a stream in our area that I had crossed on my way to school since I was about 4, and I had seen the stream go from clear water with lovely little fishes and tadpoles to filthy water packed full of plastic waste. Being slightly nerdy, I started scouring the library for relevant material and attempting to melt and reform plastic at home. I did not succeed and I ultimately gave up after a month or so to do more ‘fun’ things – like text Westlife lyrics to girls at school.

I have since learnt this was playing out across the world, and in fact had started decades before I observed it. I have also learnt the problem transcended the amount of waste we were creating and how we were discarding it. It extended to hunting animals to extinction on land and in the sea, cutting down swathes of forest, and burning huge volumes of fossil fuels. The earth had become ours, run by humankind for humankind, with little left for the rest of the living world.

I have just finished A Life on Our Planet, a brilliant book by David Attenborough. I had seen the Netflix documentary, but it was picked by my book club at work so I bought a copy and read through it over the past week. In this brilliant book, Sir Attenborough describes how the world has changed in his lifetime (he’s 94) and lays out a vision for rewilding the world and restoring its biodiversity.

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Life Lately: On using my phone more mindfully

January feels like it zoomed by. I can’t believe it’s already a month since I sat on the sofa, coffee in hand, and reflected on which habits I wanted to continue prioritizing this month. At the end of the exercise, this list included things like: using my phone more mindfully, meditating every day, eating and snacking healthy, being more mindful and present…

Using my phone mindfully is something I have wanted to do for very long but didn’t crack until recently. For many years, I would reach for my phone first thing in the morning, respond to instant messages throughout the day, use it to escape once things got boring, and stay up late catching up on the latest news. I would sometimes make drastic cutbacks to accommodate busy periods at work or school but otherwise continued on that trajectory.

While all that time passed, my case for change grew stronger. First, my mood and energy levels would vary unpredictably and in ways I couldn’t control. I might randomly see a tweet about a stabbing and descend into a negative spiral for hours. (I’m introverted and I become overstimulated pretty easily). Second, interrupting myself frequently meant I wasn’t producing my best work. Third, keeping up with my new workload required me to be extremely productive during the day or work late every night. Fourth, all that phone use was resulting in a lot of connection but not enough conversation*.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Life Lately: On COVID, work, and my word for the year

Victoria park on a sunny winter day. My first walk after recovering from COVID in December. I didn't leave our flat for ~14 days so I was very glad for this beautiful day.

This year has started really positively. I’ve heard a lot of good news from friends and family, ranging from new boyfriends to new jobs and babies, and it is so exciting that good things continue to happen for people despite the pandemic. I hope that there continues to be more good news than bad news as we go through the year.

I’ve had a pretty strong start to the year myself. After getting quite sick with COVID over Christmas and being very frustrated that I could not travel to Nigeria or the UAE, I’ve again come to terms with the world we now live in. I say again, because it seems to be a cycle. I come to terms with it, then I’m tired of it, then I remind myself I can’t change the situation but can change my attitude to it and so I come to terms with it, and then the cycle repeats.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

List: My books of 2020 / Reading Recommendations for 2021

2020 was a challenging year. Previously, I spent a lot of my leisure time at home because I enjoyed my own company. This year, I spent nearly all my leisure time at home because I was forbidden to go out. As I reflect on the things I did to keep my spirits up this year, I realize one of the most effective was reading Laura Spinney’s Pale Rider. Her excellent description of the 1918 flu pandemic helped me realize what was coming and prepare for the long haul.

Books do that for you: transfer you across space and time to other worlds and grant you access to people you might otherwise never meet. For this reason, reading continues to be very important to me and I wrote this to share some commentary on my favorite books from this year.

Friday, October 23, 2020

#EndSARS: Rest and recover your energy, for the journey ahead of us is long

I have seen posts today indicating many young Nigerians feel tired and defeated. I wanted to remind us all that building a country that works for us and our children is a marathon, not a sprint.

Let us not diminish what we achieved over the past few weeks. SARS was disbanded, again, and hopefully for good. Many state governments have set up panels of inquiry into police brutality and some have started “showing their workings”. We have shown the political class that it will not always be business as usual. And there’s more.

I am deeply sorry for the lives that were taken by agents of the state during the protests and by hoodlums during the unrest that erupted afterwards. I am also very sorry for the people who were injured. These ultimate sacrifices must not be in vain.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

On #EndSARS (Again)

I am overwhelmed by the reports of police brutality that have surfaced over the past week*. From the mid-90s (and likely before) to the past week, too many Nigerian lives have been cut short or had their trajectory altered significantly by policemen whose job it was to protect those people.

There have been reports of torture and extrajudicial killings. We have heard from relatives who have not seen their loved ones in years after they were arrested by the police. What is missing in all these reports is justice. A SARS officer notorious for extrajudicial killings in Awkuzu was appointed an adviser to a governor**. Another was promoted to become the head of the now defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad. Many other trigger-happy policemen remain nameless and faceless, living their lives without paying for their crimes against humanity.

This is not right and things have to change. I am proud of the young people who risk their lives everyday to keep this issue on the first page of the agenda. While we cannot bring back the lives that have been lost, we can continue to demand justice for them and to apply pressure until the government takes meaningful action to address police brutality once and for all.

Aluta continua, victoria ascerta.

* These stories are frankly overwhelming and some of the pictures are very graphic. If you’d like to see them, search #EndSARS on Twitter or visit

** He has now been fired and the governor has promised he will be charged for his crimes, but he should never have been appointed an adviser in the first place as there have been allegations against him in the public domain for many years now.