Sunday, October 10, 2021

Life Lately: On Black Taxes

I was recently speaking to someone who is indebted to the tune of 7x their monthly income. Now, not all debt is bad debt. This wouldn’t be noteworthy if they had taken out all those loans to invest in their future: say to buy a house, move to Canada, or pay for a well-chosen master’s program. But in this case, they were concerned – and I was concerned, because they had borrowed the money over many months to meet family obligations.

My last Twitter thread about black tax, financial support young black people are expected to provide their families and extended families, elicited a deluge of comments. People argued about its definition, whether young people should “pay” it, and how it perpetuates poverty. I’m not getting into matters of definition or propriety. I’m instead focusing on how to manage financial support to one’s family so that it does not result in debt or create lasting resentment.

Sunday, October 03, 2021

Life Lately: Virtual bible study and three tips for working more deeply

With part of the crew. Some of my favourite people in the world

One of the things I miss the most about living in Lagos is the spontaneous discussions my group of friends, affectionately known as The Crew, often have. I met the first members of The Crew when I started at OAU and joined the Student Christian Movement in 2006. I took an instant liking to Joseph, Kemi, and Wale. I met Ope through Wale in 2007, and then Detola, Bunmi, and Busola in 2008. A lot has happened in those 15 years, and we’ve stayed together for most of it, so everyone has a lot of context on everyone else. We’re often able to build on that constructively in our conversations and I missed that so intensely this past week.

So, when the idea came to me to suggest a virtual Bible Study plan, I leapt at it. Thankfully, they were up for it and we’re now on Day 6 of this lovely 7-day plan: Wisdom for Right Living. We all read the same devotional and bible passages, and then comment on WhatsApp or using the discussion space in the Bible app. It’s not the same as getting together in someone’s living room to discuss passionately, but it’s close enough, and I’m thankful we can use technology to bridge the gaps in geography.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Life Lately: The CBN goes after AbokiFx; One way to be more creative

Last week, Nigeria’s Central Bank (CBN) went after AbokiFx for publishing parallel market exchange rates. That is ridiculous – to put it mildly. It’s like going after Live Scores for reporting that Bayern Munich is trashing Barcelona 8-2 or banning Google Maps for showing there’s traffic on the Third Mainland Bridge.

Let’s start with a simplistic recap. The Naira has been in free fall for years. Nigeria’s main foreign exchange (FX) earner is crude oil, which gives us about 90% of FX earnings. The instability in the price of crude causes fluctuations in the amount of FX we have. Given we need to import raw and finished goods, both for consumption and as manufacturing inputs, Nigerians need FX. When you have lots of Naira chasing scarce FX, FX costs more Naira.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

On Turning Thirty...

It was a bright and beautiful Sunday ten years ago when I turned 20. It was the last day of Missions, a week-long event organized by OAU’s umbrella association for Christian fellowships, and it was my last Sunday as Secretary of the association. Shortly before noon, the pastor told thousands of gathered worshippers that it was my birthday and asked them to please sing for me. And they sang. I covered my face with my hands and turned as red as my dark skin would allow.

Missions is held early in the second semester. After handing over the office that Sunday, I had three months of university left. Except for a strong desire to not be broke, I was not really clear what I wanted from my life. At an event to mark my birthday that evening, someone asked what I thought I’d be doing in ten years. I thought about it for a while and told them I had no clue.

Sunday, September 05, 2021

Life Lately: Tuition scholarships for five OAU final-year students; Show me Your Work

After much hemming and hawing and obsessing over minutiae, I am delighted to share with the world. While the site has been ready for months, I’ve had one reason (read excuse) or the other for postponing its launch. Between gentle reminders from Wale Osideinde and taking my own medicine (see Working on A Dream), we’re finally live!

It is most certainly a drop in the ocean, but there’s a real problem that needs addressing. Despite the subsidized and therefore relatively low tuition fees at Nigerian federal universities, many students struggle to pay tuition every year and some drop out or don't go at all because they can't afford it. There is abundant proof that education changes lives, and I believe all students who want a university education should be able to get one. But this is us starting “where we are and with what we have”.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Life Lately: The World as it is

I’m going to be 30 in two Saturdays. I’m very excited about this milestone and I’m looking forward to that week (yes – it’s an entire birthday week away from work). But what’s a milestone where Koye doesn’t reflect? So I’ve also been reading my old journals and thinking about my journey. I found this entry from 2009 about a simple but political decision I had to make, and thought it was a good example of how my thinking has evolved over the past decade.

In our third year as Mechanical Engineering undergrads at OAU, we needed to run practical exercises in a wind tunnel. A wind tunnel is a tube with air blowing inside that is used to observe the interaction between air and objects moving through air. For example you might use a wind tunnel to observe how a streamlined sports car cuts through the air more easily than a boxy truck. The lab at OAU used kerosene to add smoke to the air so we could see the interaction between the air and our scale models. We were all excited about the practical, but a small challenge had arisen. The lab expected us to buy the kerosene.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Life Lately: Working on a Dream

Hanging out with my guy, Shakespeare, on the grounds of the lovely Southwark Cathedral

I know someone who has been planning to apply to business school for just over six years now. These days, I smile and change the topic when our conversations turn to that dream. I have worked with them over the past few years to identify and address a series of blockers, and we’ve reached the conclusion that inertia is the ultimate blocker.

Chances are you too know someone who has dreamt of doing something for a while but has not gotten around to doing it. Maybe they want to start a business, adopt a healthy lifestyle, or volunteer at a non-profit. Heck, maybe you’re that someone. I too have many dreams I have not done anything about. I recently wrote in my journal that I could live a full life working on the dreams I already have without ever having another one.

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Life Lately: Are you getting the learning you need?

Taking in the grandeur of the Cathedral of Barcelona

I was discussing this post (Life Lately: Learn & Be Curious from April 25) with someone recently, and they told me how they were struggling to make the time for learning. It got me thinking about yet another post I shared with my Conversations newsletter group but never posted to this blog. I've reproduced it below and edited it to bring it up to date.


When last did you learn something new? It could have been a new Excel function or how to take better pictures. Think about it. Did you do any learning last week?

Sunday, August 08, 2021

Life Lately: What does PIE have to do with Career Success?

Which of these counts the most towards career success?

Performance? Image? Exposure?

If you think it is performance, like I too once did, the research does not agree.

I focused on performance when I started my career, expecting my work to speak for itself. I paid little attention to how colleagues perceived me or how much visibility I was getting. I would deliver complex projects and just move on to the next one without making a fuss.

Sunday, August 01, 2021

Life Lately: Self Assessments and How to Read More

Reading Decisive by the Heath brothers a few Saturdays ago at a nearby cafe

Happy new month people!

There are two quick thoughts in this week’s note.


I struggled to prioritize mindfulness in July. I felt that I had to make up for the gap that opened up when I was away from work in June, so I started skipping my morning meditations and diving straight in. I also went well over my budget, often excused with a muttered YOLO to myself. Lastly, I felt like I spent much of my time at work sorting out small housekeeping-type-stuff; you know – the type of stuff that keeps the business ticking along but is not necessarily transformational.

Why am I sharing this? To illustrate the practice I’ve had for a few years of asking myself “What worked? And what didn’t work?” at the end of every month. The answers to both questions help me double-down on the positives and address the opportunity areas before too much time passes.