YOU have the POWER! It is INSIDE

State Of Mind
We may not completely control our careers, but we are in full control over
  • Which skills we choose to acquire, refine and master.
  • Which talents we nurture and refine into our Perfexcellence toolbox.
  • Which passions we pursue and what problems we deploy our skills and talents at.
  • What impressions we make on the people we meet.
  • Whether we respond, or react to the curveballs that our careers throw us.
These are the things that largely determine our career success. The rest is mostly luck and as someone once said “Good luck is opportunity meets preparation”. So how are we preparing?
We may not have full control over every aspect of our health, but we do largely have control over
  • Those little habits that make up our personal hygiene.
  • What we eat, how much of it and how often.
  • How physical exercise we put in regularly.
  • How long we let each feeling and emotion (good or bad) live in our hearts.
  • How we choose to perceive the ‘injustices’ in the world.
And these largely determine how healthy we are – physically, emotionally and spiritually. There are no sustainably fulfilling careers in unhealthy bodies. So how are we ensuring that our health won’t sabotage our careers and dreams?
We cannot dictate people’s actions but we can chose and do control
  • How we perceive people and consequently treat them.
  • How we serve, help and appreciate those whose paths we cross.
  • Whether by our deeds and words, we leave people better off than we met them.
  • Whether our actions paint a consistent picture of our character.
  • Whether we leave each encounter better in some way than we got into it.
  • How well and often we make and keep our promises.
And these things touch people’s hearts and minds and is the stuff of influence.  When that influence makes their minds dance to that song we put in their heart, they reward us by letting us lead them.
Ultimately, we all create our futures and destinies, by the very thoughts we choose to dwell on,  the acts we choose to do in the present and what stories we choose to tell ourselves when things don’t go as planned.
The dirty office politics, the dubious colleagues, the bad boss, the unfair compensation schemes are only part of the story but they can also be tests and launchpads to true greatness, if only we can find the power within to overcome them, as often as they rear their head up in different forms.
Yes, there is tremendous power within us but we must be willing to pay the price to wield it.
  • Can we muster the strength to sacrifice the mundane for the significant … or vice versa if the mundane is what enriches another life?
  • Will we have the courage to deny our senses pleasure now that in order to gratify our spiritual yearnings?
  • Will we be able to say no to eating the fruit today and rather plant a tree of whose fruit neither we nor ours may eat but that will feed a small nation tomorrow?
The path to perfexcellence is riddled with such choices and we must find that courage, that willpower, that love and that vision to make the right calls and do it consistently no matter how many times we fail.

Ultimately … even to GOD …it comes down to EXECUTION

I woke up this morning to get my random inspiration from the Bible. And as I opened it, my eyes fell upon these words from Romans 2: 5 – 15 [emphasis mine]

” … But according to your hardness and unrepentant heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath, revelation, and of the righteous judgment of God;
who will pay back to everyone according to their works:

to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and incorruptibility, eternal life;
but to those who are self-seeking, and don’t obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, will be wrath and indignation,
oppression and anguish, on every soul of man who works evil, on the Jew first, and also on the Greek.
But glory and honor and peace to every man who works good, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
……

For it isn’t the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law will be justified
(for when Gentiles who don’t have the law do by nature the things of the law, these, not having the law, are a law to themselves,
in that they show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience testifying with them, and their thoughts among themselves accusing or else excusing them)

While the path to excellence and perfection [any way you choose to define it] begins with and is shaped by thoughts, wisdom and belief/knowing, the manifestation of excellence and perfection ultimately lies in the things we DO … ie our behaviour. So many of us Christians seem to want to emphasize faith to the detriment of works but I think this passage tells us that is not the case. I haven’t found the passage in the Bible that says God will pay us back according to our faith. Yes … faith [and knowledge and theory etc] is important, in fact indispensable but the evidence of our faith lies in the works that we do [by their fruits they shall be known].

May God grant us the strength to continually put our faith/knowledge/principles into action in ways that elevate our spirit and conscience over our egos and selves.

Move It!!! — Leave the Past Behind!!

One of my favorite quotes is from the character Vahla in the TV series Stargate SG-1. It goes thus:

“There is nothing to be gained in second-guessing yourself.
You can’t remake the past
So look to the future
Or risk being left behind”

What I take from this is that we should never let our past, no matter how sordid hold our future to ransom. Some of those habits that keep us captives of the past are regret and rumination.

So leave the past behind and also let the future be … your domain is here and now – the only domain you can DO anything about anything. Look people, between ruminating about the past and worrying about the future both of which are ultimate acts of futility, there is another way … savour the present. Stop and bask in the glory of that flower, the magnetic innocence of a child or the wonder of God’s work.

Humility – the Foundation of Self Mastery

I used to be a very arrogant person and I actually loved it and took glory in my arrogance (if you can imagine such stupidity). But as I have delved outside my traditional professional interests in to leadership and management education, the more I learn, the more I realize how little I know and right now, even though I am not as humble as I would like to be (like my brother Nanga Tata TAMON or my classmate Nzube Okechukwu for example), I no longer think it is cool to be arrogant and proud and I just wonder – what was it I was, had or knew that made me so arrogant? Essentially, I believe arrogance is the belief that you are better than other people, a side effect (I call it intellectual arrogance) is that you think what you don’t know isn’t important.

 
It is easy to see how the ego is the source of arrogance and pride because anytime you come across someone who is better (by whatever metric you used to judge yourself better) than you, your ego is bruised – you feel inferior to that person and those feelings can spawn anything from envy, jealousy and resentment to outright hatred. Humility is a characteristic of those that have achieved personal mastery because as intelligent (in a whole sense) as they are, they realize how little they know of what abounds. With the realization that I am not the centre of the universe (egocentrism) but a node in its mesh comes the understanding that other nodes (people) in the mesh have a unique perspective of our common reality that is uniquely theirs and that the totality of our perspectives is more accurate than each individual perspective on its own.

 
Much of the pain I have suffered in my life – especially as an employee resulted from pride and arrogance (‘who is he to order me around?’, ‘how dare he ask me to make him tea?!’, ‘hey, I am better at this than Mr X, so why hasn’t this project been assigned to me?’, etc etc). But it is in being humble that one can transcend such pettiness and learn the lessons that every situation in life has to offer. I remember right after university, I worked for this company where I had a big title with very little substance associated with it. For starters, for almost six months, my office was a public corridor where everyone passed on his way to see the CEO – in fact if you came in there and had to describe who I was, ‘Secretary’ or ‘Personal Assistant’ [professions I considered an insult for someone of my intelligence and education, especially personal assistant to some … I’ll spare you the description] was a more apt description. Initially, I resented it but soon lost myself in learning other things that it didn’t matter eventually. I would enter whatever I was doing at that time and thus transcend my immediate environment into a world of beauty, of wisdom, of understanding and insight, free from the vice and pettiness that mar my current reality as perceived through my ego – this world could be in a book I was reading, a presentation I was creating, or even a proposal I was developing. Another slight that I experienced was professional – as an electrical engineer who is very proficient in information technology, I considered it a slight when the management saw my function essentially as that of cloning and repairing computers. To understand why I found this disgusting, you need to understand that I was an expert at these things four years before and I had advanced to wireless network design and Internetworking – thus I found the current jobs at best mundane and something to be done by less competent people (- please note here that the managerial problem of matching the person to the job did exist and I am not making an apology for such a failure, just saying that with enough humility, I could have seen it differently and thus would have borne it more gracefully). Had I not checked my ego, I wouldn’t have lasted in that job and I would have missed the chance to learn all the amazing things I later learned there.

 
In humility, I found the most potent weapon in dealing with megalomaniacs in positions of authority – that has proven to be a lifesaver because I believe we have too many megalomaniacs running institutions from university classrooms (lecturers), departments (HoDs), faculties (Deans) and organizations (CEOs and other managers) and God help us in our homes (parents stuck in ‘during our days’ syndrome)! A truly humble person focuses on the effects of his actions on a system and in terms of his long term goals and not how he is treated in a given moment. I recall once I lectured for about twelve hours in one week for which I knew I wasn’t going to be paid – but I saw it as a service, a sacrifice, a contribution to an organization that needed it then. I remained completely detached from any rewards from the organization and despite working under terrible work conditions; I had fun and presented a wonderful image and delivered immense value to our clients.

 

It is no doubt that humility is a core requirement of both emotional and spiritual intelligence. I can say that learning to be humble increased my knowledge and understanding ten-fold because it enabled me to listen within the speaker’s frame of reference – that way; I gained a better understanding of a common situation by seeing it from a different perspective. Needless to say, I made more friends and even some ‘enemies’ became my friends – genuine humility speaks for itself – people can see it in you and most people just can’t resist it.

 
Being humble means not thinking that we are superior to anyone, when humility drives self mastery, then we get the other part – not feeling inferior to anyone either. Without humility, we can’t practice detachment, we can’t give others the freedom to be themselves (required for good relationships), and we can’t serve, love selflessly or even do charity. Without humility, we can’t respect those less fortunate that we are (by whatever metric we are using) for as someone said (sorry I can’t remember who) “LOVE focuses on giving to others, RESPECT shows a willingness to receive from them. It acknowledges another person’s potential and ability to contribute” – Now you see why so much of charity is not wholesome, it takes humility to accept a gift from a poorer person, from a refugee, or to sit at the feet of someone who isn’t as intelligent as you are to learn – that is the path that leads to self mastery, to excellence and to practical perfection.

 
I remember once after telling some people about how learning to be humble had transformed my life and a director at a former employer told me ‘But Tamon, I think you are still arrogant!’ to which I looked her in the eye, calmly and confidently replied ‘You see ma’am, humility to me is not some goal or target to achieve, it is an endless journey’. And that journey is at the heart and soul of personal mastery, the journey is an end in itself and when you choose to walk it, every step you take, every choice you make, every thought you think, every word you say like every breath you draw is wholesome with live, with love, with understanding, with joy and peace despite failings, disappointments, guilt and other lessons that we misconstrue as failure. Welcome to the path, you don’t need to know where it leads, if it were to end here, your journey would have been worthwhile – because in the final analysis the end (perfection, excellence) and the means (self mastery) are one.

Self Mastery-What it Means to Me


In my personal mission statement, my first priority in life is self mastery which I briefly define as ‘an endless journey in completely refining my character‘. Almost everyone I come close to comes to know that I have a huge desire to achieve self mastery even more than the desire for professional mastery. Of recent, due to interactions with some people very close to my heart, it has become necessary to define expansively for myself what self mastery is. This necessity stems from the fact that these dear ones think it is selfish to desire and seek self mastery the way I do. It really hurt me to hear that but it could mean one of two things – they either don’t understand what self mastery is – from my perspective, which means that maybe I haven’t taken the time to communicate clearly to them (and perhaps to myself?) what it is and what it entails or it could be that from the way they see me living my life in pursuit of self mastery – the means are wrong so they question the end.
First, what is self mastery? Self mastery for me is the ability to live a full, wholesome life in every single moment. When my responses are spontaneous but not reckless, when I make the right decisions effortlessly, when I can love unconditionally and when my decisions are guided by a well developed and continuously developing conscience instead of my ego, I consider that ‘living in the moment’ or as is better rendered in French ‘la vie dans chaque soufle’ i.e. ‘life in every breath’. Self mastery means that I have learnt to be driven by my emotions under the guidance of my conscience and this happens transparently through my intellectual/rational mind.

Why self mastery?
Right now, I believe that my purpose in life is to live the full potential of all the unique characteristics that God gave me and in doing so, contribute to the realization of a world governed by virtue. I want to know the Truth and I want to know God because these two are one to me, I desire to be excellent in everything I choose to do and achieve such excellence naturally and effortlessly. The problem is this –

  1. What are those unique characteristics that God has given me?

  2. What are my talents? How many of them have I identified?

  3. What is the vision or visions that align with this purpose? What does wanting to live ‘the full potential of all unique characteristics given to me by God …’ translate to from day to day, from relationship to relationship, from home to work?

  4. How can I be sure that I have chosen the right professional track to follow and I am not being driven within by greed or some version of the social mirror?
These issues essentially stand in my way to living the life I desire – the life of effortless perfection, of selfless service to other human beings, of loving unconditionally – one woman romantically or on an unromantic level, the people I come in contact with. I have come to accept that as long as I am driven by my ego, I will always be too selfish to give myself to anyone else – either in love or in service to humanity, I will never know Truth and God because my ego will keep me focused on ME – not even the divinity within me but on the pettiness, on satisfying the short term needs of my body, on my vanity etc. In a nutshell, to the extent that all my resources have been freed from under the grip of my ego and its petty wants and desires, to that extent can I give of myself to serve selflessly, to love unconditionally and to seek Truth. To that extent can I see myself not as THE centre of reality but as A centre or node in the mesh of reality, to that extent will I not fear uncertainty and to that extent will I really succeed as a being created in the image of God. I believe that the little of myself I can give now is that part that I have torn off from the grip of my ego. So self mastery is that journey – never a goal or objective that will liberate more and more of ME from the vicious grip of my ego and its petty needs so I can focus on listening to the voice of my conscience, of empathizing and listening to others within their own frame of reference, of seeing myself as a player on a team and in so doing be more accessible to SEEING reality [that part of truth that I can and have experienced or am experiencing] – that which is a fusion of my perspective and other people’s perspectives.

What does self mastery entail?
In practice it starts with continuously refining my vision and defining my reality – the disparity between these two offers creative tension which I must overcome in making the vision my reality and as I approach that vision, to refine and set another one according to the feedback that I get on my quest. First, I want to take full responsibility for my life, my actions, I want to choose and refine my own value system, one that I can live with but that as much as I can understand is aligned with right principles. This value system will be the framework by which I deal with the world and reality, in essence the code that can be said to some extent to dictate what I will do in every single circumstance. Self mastery entails unravelling layer upon layer of my ego and replacing those layers with my conscience. It entails learning to be humble, to respect other people and give them the right to be – to accept them as they are now in this moment. Self mastery also entails mastery of whatever it is I love to do in life – teaching executives in Kaduna Business School, developing new modules for executive education programmes, analysing and designing computer networks, cultivating a garden or even making love. I dream of making every act I do a creative one that gives me utmost satisfaction and in which I can lose myself.

To ensure that my quest for self mastery does not become some vain pursuit of a mere dream that is ultimately doomed because of its narrow perspective, I maintain self-awareness – being here in this moment at all times, I also proactively seek feedback by really listening to other people, to the circumstances around me and trying to put them in perspective with what I already know. Humility guarantees that when I come across Truth, I will bow to it and abandon all the values I used to have a strong conviction of.

Now the big question:

What will I sacrifice on this quest for self mastery?
well at a personal level, I have and continue to sacrifice my ego and right now, I have no regrets about my quest. I will sacrifice everything and everyone in this quest because it is the only thing I know now that I must do. I won’t be so arrogant as to say this quest, this journey is THE right quest/journey – I can’t say that because of how little I can know or understand but I can say here and now with total confidence that given what I do know and understand, it is what I must do. Even if it is wrong, I believe that it is a lesson I am meant to learn and learn it I will. Perhaps those dear ones, those values that I will sacrifice along the way – the pain that will result when I do may well bring a new perspective of life that will make me change the journey but until then – I am happy to make this journey. I must make this journey because I and the journey, like the dream or goal are one. To dream is an expression of my divinity – it means I can create in my mind the world I want – without the dream, there’s no journey from my reality towards it. I chose my journey after a deep reflection and I keep refining it every moment I get new understanding – my journey reflects my values, my principles and in essence my journey is more an authentic representation of me than what I do which is a snapshot in time and space. I and my journey are one and so without a dream, without a journey leading to that dream, there’s no functional me. Right here, right now, I believe this with all my heart, mind, body and spirit – that is why I am willing to sacrifice everything for it. May God’s grace be upon me.

Teaching/Imparting Knowledge Effortlessly

Sunday, 21 May 2006

I teach part time at Kaduna Business School (www.kbs-edu.net) and since November 2005, I usually have this experience while I am teaching that can best be described as the experience known in emotional intelligence circles as FLOW. I can practically walk into a class and loose myself in it, have lots of fun and by the time I leave, have the class enjoying themselves. Yesterday, I had this lecture on Creativity & Innovation that lasted for 6 hours! and I had fun all the way – I know the class also had fun. This experience is what I call teaching effortlessly; the objective is to help my class learn effortlessly.

It is a well known fact from the field of neuro-linguistic programming that the more effort you put in memorising something, the harder it is to memorise. Well how do I do it? First and foremost, at some point in the past, I have paid the price to know my stuff (read different books, articles and listened to some blogs), I have reflected deeply on my own moments of creativity (what went through my mind, the environment, the role of my current emotional state etc) so in one word – I have earned the right to stand in front of them and talk on the subject at hand (I’ve done so with emotional intelligence, personal effectiveness, managerial psychology and leadership). Next, I anticipate eagerly to meet the class and share my own perspective – this last bit is very important: I don’t consider my lecture THE perspective. Thirdly, I make the class a discussion rather than a lecture – this way I engage other knowledgeable people within the class and align them to my objectives. I also keep an open mind about the interrelatedness of knowledge – I see my main role in the class as ensuring that whatever branch of knowledge my class delves into, I can extract the lesson that is relevant to our current objectives and also make the whole class see this. Now, even if as a participant you doubt by competence, you are almost always infected by my passion and my intellectual humility (am not so sure about the last one – but I am working on it). By respecting the right of everyone in the class to contribute to the subject matter, I stifle emotional resistance to me.

In my classes, I always try to use many metaphors and games – these send the message to the right brain where it really sticks. It is more active learning because when I finally explain the concept behind the metaphor or game, the immediately grasp it. From beginning to end, I always remain detached from the results of the class – I don’t worry if they will praise or criticize me. I believe this is the only way to teach for six hours straight (2pm to 8 pm) and not die of physical exhaustion at the end. In a class of about twenty people who have already spent the entire morning (8 am to 1 pm) in lectures, I think it was amazing that only two people dozed for a few minutes during my stint – It really takes two to have fun teaching! Shalom!

Tamon