Clash of the Tolus this week 🙂 Dr. Oloruntoba shares with three other young men the dubious honour of outwitting me. Twice. It was the Zain Africa Challenge; and his team eventually lifted the cup. If you know me personally, you know that I don’t swallow defeat easily. And so it’s a testament to Tolu’s character that, within a year, I went from bearing a king-sized grudge to numbering him among my most treasured friends. He’s the Chief Editor/Publisher of Klorofyl, the digital mag I’m always raving about. Follow him on Twitter @toluoloruntoba.
A Special Edition of the Newsweek Magazine early this year had the very compelling theme: ‘It’s a mad, mad, mad, mad world.’ Of course it is. And if you live in the developing world, it is mad, sometimes, to the fourth degree (or madt, in #NigerianTwitter-ese).
It was a potent cocktail of inspiring stories we grew up on – of fairy-tales or folk tales, and Hollywood, adventure and possibility. We wanted to believe we COULD… we wanted, (needed?) to transcend our limitations and circumstances, to apprehend elusive magic, and deploy it … to be Cinderella, or Pan… then we woke up smack in the centre of the madt world.
We were taught, early on, the ‘rules’ of this world: the nail that sticks out gets hammered; do as little as you can get away with; take it easy- and don’t cause trouble; streets don’t smile; ‘Sneak past, don’t be jangling any bells around here, son!’- We were taught to be good mice: to cower, scamper and creep around the edges of the room, and what we want. A little cheese is okay and if you can corner larger crumbs, when no one scary wants, or is fighting for it, good for you!
This is what they taught us.
And you have brilliant friends with Masters degrees. And quite unemployed. You’ve seen those caught outside in the cold of self-employment-gone-awry. Love is scoffed at – marriage before it’s too late is more functional, see? Everyone just wants to get ahead with their own families. Who wants to be stuck in the cold having tried, and failed, at the lofty? Risk and uncertainty have been punished, around you, long as you remember. ‘E fit be you’, you find, so you duck for your life in those dark alleys, where you just want to be safe. And dreams of adventure, and possibility, shiver and pale before the giant snicker that is madtness.
Gimme that low hanging fruit
The impulse is to grab for the basic stuff: ‘good’ course in University, ‘good’ 9 to 5 job, connections to those ‘that matter’, daily three-square meals, affordable rent… Read medicine, or engineering, or law. Produce grandkids. Or enter the back-scratch-and-rub exchanges of contract corruption, or self-perpetuating politics .
‘No, sir, don’t rock the boat.’
‘Entrepreneurship? Government work is good!’
‘Non-profit? Have you fed even yourself?’
‘Ideas? Why don’t you just find a real job (and quit dreaming)?’
You understand that those who tell you this may mean well. They, after all, just want you safely far from the maw of the beast. And so begin, the “lives of quiet desperation”, Thoreau said, “that the mass of men lead”. If I’ve learned anything in my few years, a key one would be the veracity of this statement.
Maslow Was Right
What safety in this madt world really demands is the pursuit, simply of the security of our physiological needs: breathing, food, shelter, sex; or security of health, family and means of livelihood. All to be found at the bottom of that most apt of descriptions of what makes us tick, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Desperation comes from our thirst, and quest for the sublime- we need esteem, and more importantly, self-actualisation and some meaning in this world, true true. I, for instance, am a Medical Doctor, but a publisher at heart.
I posit that the low hanging fruit cannot satisfy that craving we have for meaning in our lives and work… for significance, adventure and fulfilment, for that vim and joie du vivre. We were made for more. You know this.
I’m not one to scoff at normalcy, or responsibility, but what about that little extra? What about those themes you’ve exchanged for safety? Will you forgive yourself for those abandoned dreams of enterprise? What would you do to improve yourself, if you had no fear of failure? How far will you inch on the road to what could be? (What? Has this become a motivational piece? :o)
Call of the wild
We all know we’d like to make more of our lives, in the final analysis. We want to enjoy it, help others along, and leave a legacy. We want to inspire, and achieve more of the worthwhile. So we can’t be good mice all our lives. We want to be epic. But will we?
Well, if it’s a madt world, we’ll just have to give it a little of our own, won’t we? A brand all our own. A Bulldog tenacity with what we’re really here for. We can’t, and shan’t, back down, so how much can we do now, and where can we begin?
Er, this isn’t a Ted-post about what I’ve done, but what I should, what we must do. Let’s go. And please remind me I said all this, in 10 years! 🙂