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Sunday, September 11, 2022

Happy Birthday, Koye

Slowing down, in Berlin

I have both dreaded and anticipated this day for several weeks. By “this day”, I don’t mean Sunday the 11th – my birthday. I mean Friday the 9th, when I have finally begun writing this post. Except for journal entries and reams of business writing, I have not written much else since April.

Writing again after a long pause always feels daunting. But I’m here now and I’m doing it. One word after the next.

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A friend recently asked what my biggest lesson from the last three years was. There was no contest in my mind what the biggest lesson was. My biggest lesson from the last three years is one I only learnt properly since my last birthday: slowing down.

I have always been a hurrier. I was always in a rush to finish whatever was at hand and get on to the next thing. I wrote last year about this constant focus on the next thing and how it sometimes caused me to lose sight of what I had done or was doing.

Over the past twelve months, I have learnt that slowing down is an active verb and in fact requires effort - sometimes more effort than hurrying. It took lots of work to build a daily meditation habit, to learn to enjoy long disconnected walks, and to truly appreciate the present moment.

Slowing down has really improved my experience of daily life. It’s incredible how much beauty there is everywhere if we would only stop to take a closer look.

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I had to make an important decision over the past few months. I agonized over it for weeks, spoke to my personal board of directors several times, and wrote endless decision essays. It was one of those choices between two great options with no obvious winner.

It all reminded me of another important lesson from a few years ago at business school. With these close calls, the process is more important than the outcome. After a rigorous process, I came to a decision that was close, but that I was comfortable moving forward with.

Whatever the future holds down the path I chose, I’ll always know I made the best decision I could given the facts I had. There’s no point going all out for the several minor decisions we make as part of everyday life, but every once in a while, we’re faced with these turning points where our choices could meaningfully change our lives.

We’ll never be able to predict the future, but we’ll always be able to tell ourselves we made the best decision we could have.

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Every birthday for about a decade, I have written a pager outlining what I would like to be true of my life by the next birthday. As I sit here and read last year’s pager, it is truly incredible how much has happened since that lovely Saturday last year. It feels like it has been more than twelve months. I am truly grateful for the many ways in which my life is changing for the better.

It hasn’t all been smooth sailing. Only two weeks ago, my darlingest friend and brother lost his mum. She was an absolute legend of a woman who welcomed me into her home for many months and gave me a launchpad into my life in Lagos. She raised a fine gentleman who has had an outsized impact on my life. Even now, ten years after she admonished us sternly for allowing a bus driver to get off lightly after hitting our car, I remember her every time I am considering backing down from someone who is trying to get the better of me. These are some of the hard parts of living so far away from home. Our friends in Lagos got together and supported themselves through this period of intense grief. Me? I’ve gone on long walks and made lots of WhatsApp calls.

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The things I am most looking forward to over the next twelve months aren’t things I can write about on the blog. But there’s a lot of change coming, and I am very excited for what the future holds.

As is always the case on my birthday, my thoughts are with the good people who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and the wars that followed. May their families be comforted.

I’m ultimately still trying to keep the same promise to myself: to live, to execute the ambitious plans I make, to help others rise above their limitations and achieve their potential, and to step out in faith.

Happy birthday, Koye.

5 comments:

  1. Slowing down sounds near impossible but well done for trying and happy birthday 🎂

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  2. Happy birthday Koye!

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  3. Belated Happy Birthday to you Mr Koye. Glad to read from you again after some months.

    On slowing down, I was discussing this with a friend of mine sometimes last year and he told me to "Live in the now and never lose gaze on the future"

    And sorry for the death of your friend's mum. May God console you and keep all those she left behind

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