Sunday, January 09, 2022

Life Lately: Two things I'm doing differently in 2022

Finisher’s medal from a Vicky Park run in 2020

When I first started running the 5K, I did not understand pacing. After the warmup, I would start running as quickly as possible – I used to run the 100m in secondary school after all. This inevitably meant I would be out of breath after a few short minutes. I would be so exhausted that I would have to slow down to a walk or stop to catch my breath.

As time passed, I learnt the importance of pacing myself. I learnt that running slower allowed me to keep going for longer, which meant I could finish the race without stopping and still have energy left at the end. It seems obvious in retrospect, but it was a powerful lesson that helped me become a better runner.

Sunday, January 02, 2022

What is more important than your 2022 goals?

A picture from my NY walk in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

Happy New Year 2022!

I hope you enjoyed the holidays and found some time to reflect on the past year. I also hope you found things to be grateful for. I took my own advice and spent some time on the 31st listing highs and lows from 2021. I then read the entire list out loud in gratitude.

As we head into 2022, I wanted to share a simple concept that I rely on to help achieve my goals. Whether you’re applying this to a personal or professional goal, you’ll find it significantly increases the chances that you can achieve your goals.

Friday, December 31, 2021

Life Lately: Some gratitude to end the year

The author of Luke tells a fascinating story about gratitude. While traveling to Jerusalem, Jesus encounters ten lepers and asks them to present themselves to the priests, healing them as they go. Upon realizing they have been healed, only one of them returns to thank Jesus. Jesus then remarks, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?”

When I first encountered this story as a child, I thought the nine were strange people. Think about it. Someone heals them of a devastating condition that has excluded them from society for years, and they can’t be bothered to say thanks. I was confident that could never be me. As I’ve grown older though, I have realized it is easy for good people to be ungrateful. And very often, I think that happens when we’re very focused on the things that haven’t gone as we expected.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Life Lately: What a car accident taught me about living

Seven years ago, I had one of those turning point moments. One minute, I was singing Jaywon’s “we making money, we making money, we making money this year” while driving from Lagos to Ibadan to spend Christmas at home. The next, I was dazed, grabbing the steering for dear life as the car plunged into a ditch, and thinking how sad my family would be if I died.

Thankfully, I didn’t die. The car rammed into a big tree and came to a stop. The seatbelt and all airbags worked as they should, saving my life in the process. Dozens of travellers stopped and scrambled down the ditch to help me get out of the car and stop the engine from smoking. The Federal Road Safety Corps arrived on time and made sure I was well. My friends, Mofe and Loro, who were also on the expressway, drove to the scene to pick me up.

The car was insured for more than it had cost. I had no obvious injuries. I made it home for Christmas with my family. Not much had changed externally, but a lot had changed on the inside.

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Life Lately: Omicron

I am not surprised that there’s a new coronavirus variant sending everyone into a panic. The virus is doing what viruses do, mutate, and there will be many more variants before the pandemic is over. (As written before, I still believe COVID will then become endemic). Given how recently Omicron was detected, we don’t know yet if it is more infectious, virulent, or vaccine-resistant.

However, we already know many of the Omicron mutations are in its spike protein, which is what the vaccines target. If the spike protein has been changed significantly by these mutations, current vaccines may be less effective. Again, we don’t know anything for sure yet and it will be a few weeks until we do, so governments can’t do much for now other than try to contain its spread.

I’m tired of reading, thinking, and writing about COVID – but I wanted to say two quick things about Omicron. First is we should all be grateful to South Africa for their advanced sequencing capabilities. A key weapon in the global defence against COVID is our ability to quickly identify aggressive mutations and then act as needed to modify vaccines or therapeutics. South Africa was first to publicly report Omicron, not only because of significant investments in sequencing, but also because of a culture of scientific honesty. Unfortunately (although I can understand the case for it), quick action also includes limiting travel from South Africa to contain the spread. The world needs to strike a balance in responding to new variants, otherwise politicians may become incentivized to gag their scientists when new variants are found.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Life Lately: The Matthew Effect

Contemplating my future atop the Sacre-Coeur Basilica in November 2018

On this day three years ago, I was cash-strapped. I was approaching the end of my year in business school with an empty bank account. While I could look forward to a nice signing bonus, that was still many months away. In the interim, we needed to fly back to Nigeria, wait out a few months of funemployment, and spend money on our visas which I could then claim back after starting my new job. I had money – the problem was that it existed in an employment contract, not as cash we could spend.

So, I needed to raise cash. I agonized about it for days as I’ve always found it difficult to borrow money. I negotiated again with my recruiter for my signing bonus to be paid immediately. It didn’t work. My last option was to go to my friends. Three conversations and fifteen minutes later, I had all the cash we needed to cover the next few months until my first paycheck came in.

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Life Lately: The Psychology of Money

Chilling with my first personal finance coach

If I close my eyes and think hard enough, I can still conjure up vivid images of my mom’s budget sheets from my childhood. While I prefer to think of her as a miracle worker, I know those sheets played a huge role in stretching the family finances as far as possible. After I started my first job, my dad sent me notes from a teaching he did on personal finance in the early 90s. These all formed the basics of my approach to managing money: budget and spend less than you earn, invest your savings wisely, block lifestyle inflation, know what journey you’re on and don’t be swayed by people on a different journey...

I’ve just finished what I think is the second-best personal finance book I’ve ever read – and I’ve read quite a few. The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel is a great book and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it over the past few days.

A core thesis of the book is that doing well with money is more about how you behave than it is about what you know. There are ordinary people who have built million-dollar fortunes (e.g. Grace Groner) and there are highly educated finance professionals (e.g. Richard Fuscone) who end up bankrupt. The book contains 20 short points about how we think about money and how we can behave differently. It was originally a blog post, which is free to read here, and there’s a good video summary here. I’m also going to share some of my favourite takeaways below.

Sunday, October 31, 2021

Life Lately: One Year an Amazonian

November 1, 2020
“I was trying to apply to a position at Amazon today. While updating my CV with post-MBA information, the paucity of new experience gained at xxx struck me. I need to do better, and be more selective of what I do, every week going forward, starting tomorrow. I need to own my experience at xxx going forward”. - Journal entry, November 2019

I went ahead with that application to Amazon in November 2019, but I never even heard back. It was like my CV disappeared into a blackhole. I really wanted to work at Amazon, so I was disappointed, but I was not too surprised. I knew there were a few ‘boxes’ I didn’t check yet – Leadership Principles (LPs) for which I didn’t have enough experience. Starting that month, I began going after projects that would help me fill those gaps.

Eight months later, in June 2020, I was ready to apply again. So that my updated CV would not disappear into the void, I reached out to my network. Kate, my classmate from INSEAD, sent my CV to the Hiring Managers for the positions I had shortlisted and let me know who wanted to meet me. That helped me past the gatekeepers and ensured I got a response. Other classmates chimed in with tips on interview prep and descriptions of their day-to-days. When the famously intense interview process rolled around, I was ready.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Life Lately: Winter Blues, Finding & Working with a Mentor

Today is a great day for football. At 15.15 BST, there’s El Clásico, the first of the post-Messi era. Then at 16.30 BST there’s Liverpool vs. Manchester United. Both will be great games for neutral fans, but I am rooting for Real Madrid and Manchester United (for Ronaldo). Fingers crossed at least one of the two carry the day.


Lovely blue skies at the Victoria Park

The past week was tough on my energy levels. It was grey and wet from Monday through Thursday, and I missed the sun very badly. I am a child of Ibadan, where the sun never misses its daily rendezvous with the earth. Four autumns down the line, I still find it difficult to go days without seeing the sun. By Thursday I had taken to praying for some blue in the sky, and when I saw that it would be sunny on Friday – I knew I had to take the day off and get outside. I hope that sustains me through the next few weeks.

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.