Sunday, January 25, 2015

Get out of your own way !

When it comes to school, I have always been among the top students. However, when it comes to public speaking or engaging a conversation with strangers, I am not that enthusiastic. I love talking but only with the people I am familiar with. And this has never been an issue until I came to the United States of America where networking is one of the success’s keys. I can’t write about the importance of taking risk and trying something new while I am myself confined in my comfort zone. I created this blog to see new horizons and share it with others. Therefore today I would like to share what I am using now to overcome some of the barriers we create for ourselves.

My accent had always been a limitation for me because I thought “what if people laugh at me?” What if they don’t understand what I am saying and they end up ignoring me? This is exactly what happens when we are facing new challenges. We care so much about the way others are going to react that we start creating our own barriers. We do not allow ourselves to get out of our comfort zone because we fear what’s on the other side of the wall. When I took the personal decision of not letting my accent be an obstacle to my blossoming, I started to open myself to new experiences. Here are two important things that I think about when I see reluctance coming on my way.

1-     You only live once

This one has to be taken with precautions. The fact that we have only one life should not allow us to do crazy things that we may end up regretting. I am only saying that when you really want to do something, then why stopping yourself from acting? It’s not like you will have a chance to do it again in another life. Your life is in your hands and you have to use it efficiently to get the best of it. Stop thinking about the possibility of failing and maximize your positive thoughts. Muhammad Ali once said that “The only limitations one has are the ones they place on themselves.” So why don’t we free ourselves from these limitations and enjoy (reasonably) our one and only life?  

2-     What is the worst thing that can happen if you try?

I really appreciated my class of philosophy 1010 at the International University of Grand Bassam. The professor was not lecturing us about boring theories of life. He was rather engaging us in conversations that could captivate our attention. Dr King said for example that in order to get over a heartbreak we should ask ourselves what is the worst thing that can happen to us if the boyfriend or the girlfriend does not come back. Are we going to die for that? By trying to answer this question, we should normally understand that we can overcome the pain. This, is the reasoning I use to try new things. - And for me new things include the smallest stuff like greeting a stranger in the elevator… –

I also remember one of my friend I appreciate because she will rarely tell me what I want to hear but what I need to. One day before a class presentation, I told her on Facebook how stressed I was about doing it. She asked me “Are they going to eat you?” Of course the answer was no so she asked me “so what?” It was so simple to demolish all these bad thoughts I had because I instantly realized that I did not have to be scared of my classmates’ reactions. The stress, the fear is normal as long as it does not paralyze us and therefore prevent us from doing what we need to do.  I am using this example to actually show you that no matter what we want to achieve we will never know the ending unless we try. What is the worst thing that can happen then? Every experience is valuable because we may reach our objective or get a lesson to improve our skills.

On the contrary of what I thought, no one ever mocked me because of my accent. They just ask me to repeat when they don’t understand what I am saying and that’s just what I do. If you end up not doing something because you worried about failure then you have already failed by resignation. “The world is full of people who are really smart but they hold themselves back.” You only live once so get out of your own way and allow yourself to live your dreams. Please enjoy this illustration of optimism by Jason Njoku the founder of IrokoTv.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Lessons from Aleph

As I recently said to one of my friend, depending on the moment of your life you are reading a book, you can be led to different appreciations. In facts, what you have experienced and/or are currently experiencing can affect the way you read, like and understand a book. This is what I discovered when I read for the second time Aleph by Paulo Coelho. The first time I read this novel, I was quickly annoyed by the story and could not end it. Although I would not classify it as one of my favorite books, after reading it twice, I have learned great lessons that I would like to share with you.

1-     We are what we wish to be

For me, the best illustration for this context is the example of the relationship between children and parents. Some kids are willing to foregone or even abandon their dreams to choose the career their parents want them to pursue.  As a result, a lot of people end up doing a job they hate and make them feel sad. Finally they will always complain about the choice their parents “forced” them to make. Paulo Coelho said “we are not the person other people wish we were. We are who we decide to be. It’s always easy to blame others. You can spend your entire life blaming the world but your successes or failures are entirely your own responsibility“.

2-     Take risk and do what you desire

People are always going to carp whatever you do. Even the greatest messengers, Muhammad, Jesus, and Moises (Peace be upon them) did not make unanimity so it’s clear that you won’t please to everyone. You are a human and it’s obvious that you may fail in your experiences but you need to learn this advice of Coelho. “Don’t be intimidated by other people’s opinions. Only mediocrity is sure of itself, so take risks and do what you really want to do. Seek out people who aren’t afraid of making mistakes and who, therefore, do make mistakes. Because of that, their work often isn’t recognized, but they are precisely the kind of people who change the world and, after many mistakes do something that will transform their own community completely.”

3-     Visit your soul instead of visiting your past

For many people it is difficult to go beyond the errors of the past. We tend to be stuck in what we should or could have done to change our present. We need to know that we can’t go in the past to change what happened. This is actually what I always say when a friend of mine is moping because of bad grades. The most important is what you can do now to improve your situation. The writer said “it takes a huge effort to free yourself from memory, but when you succeed, you start to realize that you’re capable of far more than you imagined. Visit your soul, don’t visit your past.”

4-     To live is to experience things

In Aleph which by the way is defined by the point where everything, the whole universe in contained, the narrator has spent years learning his environment, theories about life, spirituality. At a specific point of his life, he felt like he was engaged in a routine and started having doubt about the path he was following. His master J. convinced him to experience something new. Aleph is therefore a trip for Paulo Coelho to discover himself. This journey led him to travel with the Trans-Siberian from the first station to the end of the railway. Like the first time I read it, many people will find this book annoying or difficult to understand especially in the beginning. But if there is only one thing that must be grabbed from this reading, it is that “to live is to experience things, not sit around pondering the meaning of life.