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My Definition of Success

I’ve started, and discarded many posts over the last week. Laziness, ennui, hormones, sleeplessness, blasted writers’ block (thank God for whoever coined this term) took over and had me all sorts of cranky. This week, however, sanity prevails. Maybe it’s the prospect of Lent (starts tomorrow for Catholics). Maybe it’s the realization that the end of March marks the end of the first quarter of 2011 and my resolutions are on a downward slope. Need to tighten that belt, let’s go.

One of the things I wanted to blog about was the definition of success. I’ve always balked at the automatic association some people make between success and wealth: to be successful is to be rich and if you’re not rich, or if you’re poor, then you’re unsuccessful. I can’t quite put my finger on what exactly doesn’t ring true about this definition. Maybe it’s the fact that it makes success too mercenary. I mean, if I’m a thieving senator, am I successful? (Don’t tell me I’m a successful thief!) If I inherit a billion dollars when some distant, childless relative dies, do I automatically become successful?

I think about this question a lot because I want to be “successful”, whatever that means. And even though I fancy I might like it, I don’t necessarily want to have an annual income that has me “smiling next to Oprah and the Queen”. Is there a point where a person can say “I’m successful enough”? Come to think about it, should a person identify herself as successful? Wouldn’t that be tantamount to “liking” your own status update? To help clarify, I came up with a list of my top ten role models. I figured, hey, if I can find what it is about these people I like, then I’d have some idea what success looks like. Right? So here goes.

1. My Dad. I admire his dedication to his kids and hope to be half as dedicated to my own children someday.

2. My mentor, Dolapo. Amazingly focused, intelligent and dedicated. She’s a teacher, administrator and director of a centre for young girls. She’s my role model for dedication to duty, cheerfulness no matter what and almost 100% efficiency. And she’s stubborn in a good way. 🙂

3. My cousins, AK and Aletor. Business role models for how to do business in Nigeria against all odds, and enjoy it with no apologies to anyone.

4. My cousin, Yemyem. Role model for her dress sense, her simplicity, and her dedication to family.

5. Chimamanda Adichie. For writing beautiful fiction. ‘Nuff said.

6. My friend, Bodunrin. She will have a heart attack if she ever sees this! Role model on how to be unapologetically Christian and how to love God with all my heart, soul and might.

7. My brother, Okha. For how to get back up when life deals you hard knocks.

8. Auntie Data and Uncle Jeye. For making marriage look like paradise.

The result? I decided success is about doing something, achieving something that people can/would applaud if they knew about it. Something you can be proud of. Stuff like taking a stand on issues that matter, like being true to your conscience, like doing your best whatever you do, wherever you find yourself. Basically, about doing stuff and living your life such that if it were to get into the local newspaper, you’d be more likely to blush with pride than with shame.
It’s a tall order, but hey, there are tons of ordinary people doing extraordinary stuff. Have you seen the maiden edition of the digital magazine, Klorofyl? Now that’s extraordinary. Art. Pure art. Tolu and his team may just have invented a new genre. Urban. African. Christian. And whether they know it or not, they’ve successfully awakened dormant talents in and shaken up the mentalities of a lot of young people.

Yours truly included.

p.s. if it’s not too much trouble, please list your top ten role models (living) and why. You can do it anonymously 🙂


    • there are actually ten people. AK and Aletor share one spot, Jeye and Data share another… Thanks! 🙂

  1. Nnaemeka says

    Spot on – the identifying your mentors thing. Its like recalling where you’re coming from…so helps with where you want to go. Good for you.

    PS is Lent only for Catholics?

    • Right? It took awhile but I realised I unconsciously model myself after these people!

      You know, I’m not sure about Lent. I think the Catholics are the only ones who have rules/guidelines on practices for Lent. I really should confirm that; do other denominations have lenten practices?

  2. Lisa says

    This is right on target…
    Its a wakeup call to reality….
    Well done girl.

  3. on point…pushing the boundary of society’s “definition” of success… All the best Osemhen 🙂

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