30 Lessons Life Has Taught me at Thirty: Dolapo Adepoju
- Dolapo A.
- Nov. 9, 2020
As I sat quietly in the comfort of my student apartment in Uppsala, back from the frenzy and excitement of birthday celebration, I took a moment to reflect on my life experience as a writer, entrepreneur, freelancer, and life-long student of learning. To be honest, I have had my fair share of both failure and success, from business to a relationship, scholarship hunt to career. However, one thing that remains constant is that I am grateful for every money lost in business, every rejection mail, every failed relationship, and every disappointment I encounter.
Ready to have a quick glimpse of my life at thirty? Let’s dive in!
#1. Don’t play the blame game
I grew up in a polygamous home, and I can boldly tell you that it’s not close to the definition of a perfect home. Compared to many polygamous homes in Africa, there’s no denying that ours was not too bad. My parents strived to provide us with our physical and spiritual needs to a reasonable extent. However, that emotional bond was empty. From a father that was always shuffling from one West Africa country to another to make end meets, to a mum that leaves for work at 9:00 and sometimes wouldn’t return till 9:00pm, my emotional tank was miserably low.
Consequently, that impacted my self-esteem and shaped me into a very conservative and reserved guy until I left high school. When I secured admission into a university, I vowed to change. I invested in reading books, and one that impacted my life so much was ‘How to Make Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. Slow but steady, I began to make friends and left my shell. My confidence grew though not totally, but the change was noticeable. If you are like me with a not too good background, I will implore you to outgrow the blame game. Stop pointing accusing fingers, start taking responsibility for your actions and inactions!
#2. Your circle matters
“Show me your friends, and I will tell you who you are” has gradually transmogrified to “show me your friend and I will tell you where you are going.” As we journey through life, we will always have people to share the moment with. Getting your circle right can make or mar your success in life. And guess what, no matter how big you are, you can never be bigger than your circle because you will always attract the kind of people like you.
Let’s do some little exercise:
List your 5 closest friends, consider what they are into and where they are. Are you so much different from them? Are your behaviors massively different? If the gap between you is enormous, there is a chance that they have either left you behind or you have subconsciously changed your circle.
#3. Embrace your failure
Our society misleads us a lot. Now, we attribute failure to something ridiculous and demonic from a spiritual standpoint. The truth is, irrespective of your level of preparation and effort invested in a task, sometimes failure is inevitable. I missed out on more than ten scholarship opportunities before I eventually won. While it can hurt your emotion and affect you psychologically, your response to failure is often more important than the failure itself. Next time you fail, follow the 3 R’s approach I adopted; reflect, re-strategize and redo.
#4. It’s Okay NOT to Know
Through every stage of my writing career, I have always had people around me. I would disturb them with questions; from navigating my way as a newbie freelance writer to becoming a Top-rated Seller. In life, what you know is a tiny fragment of what you don’t. Despite the millions of dollars invested in it, even Google doesn’t have all the answers. So, why pretend to know? Why give a wrong impression about knowing when deep down, you don’t? Question marks exist because there will be a need to ask questions at every stage of our lives. Don’t be ashamed to seek clarification on what you don’t know. The price for pretense is often higher than the cost of asking.
#5. Acknowledge your fears
“False. Evidence. Appearing. Real” is one of the highly acceptable acronyms for fear. However, the truth is, fear is real. A large proportion of us have something they dread so much. For me, it was fear of failure and fear of public speaking. Initially, I was pretending they are not real, and yet they kept stinging me. Until I started to normalize failure and accept the fear that I am scared of speaking in the public, I began to build confidence to seek the needed help. Don’t pretend like your fears do not exist, acknowledge them, and seek help!
#6. Embrace your Imperfection
I have always been a perfectionist for a very long time. Nothing someone does really impressed me. I knew it could always be better. However, while it’s good to strive for perfection, I have come to realize that perfection is a state no one can reach. We all wish it could be a little better. For some guys, it’s always about getting taller while some ladies are desperate to have bigger boobs. For me, I have always wished I could fix my open bite. While I will still do anything humanly possible to get it done, I am well prepared to live with it for the rest of my life provided there is no long-term solution. I took solace in serenity prayer, which says:
“God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
#7. Being single is NOT a crime
I ended my relationship three months after my last birthday, and I can boldly say it was the best decision I took in a long time. Often, social pressure makes us stay in a toxic relationship with no chance of growth. Sometimes, we feel entitled due to the number of years we have invested in pushing a relationship heading for nowhere. Don’t get me wrong, having a partner comes with several benefits as you have someone to confide in. The problem arises when a relationship starts to be a burden to you. Don’t be afraid to let go if you are sure it’s heading for destruction. It’s better to be single and happy than to be in a relationship and be miserable.
#8. Talent is overrated
Have you heard a remark such as, “that guy is so talented!” We always rave so much about talents that we forget to put in the hard work. I have never considered myself to be talented at anything. Everything I do has been years of hard work and continuous learning. Without a doubt, talent can always give you an extra edge. However, relying on talent alone can breed mediocrity. Talent may take you to the top of the ladder; your tenacity and hard work are required to stay there for long. Remember, hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard!
#9. Growth is intentional
Has anybody looked at you and told you how much you have grown? I am not talking about an increase in height, weight, or body mass. I mean, when people interact with you and marvel at the level of transformation in your psychological, emotional state? One thing about the growth of any form is that it’s intentional. You must be intentional about leaving your current status before you can grow. We may leave everything to time and chance, but the reality is nothing really moves until you make the right move.
#10. Motivation does NOT last
Many people have a personal vendetta against motivational speakers. People see them as con artists preying on their listeners’ vulnerabilities to sell them unrealistic ideas rooted in baseless philosophies. However, some of us have a differing opinion about motivation, speeches, and writings. The fundamental truth many people ignore about motivation is that it doesn’t last. I decided to study abroad when I heard the renowned speaker, Fela Durotoye talk at a church program in 2017. Although he didn’t come as a typical motivational speaker, his stories inspired me to decide right there. One of the books I will recommend to everyone struggling to stay motivated after a session with motivational speakers is “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey. The book is not a quick fix to get results. It tackles issues from the root and proffers the long-term solution.
#11. Commit to a bigger goal
One lesson I learned that has prevented me from giving up is setting a bigger goal. For instance, I have always hated being broke. Poverty can kill the best of ideas and truncate the most intensive effort. However, while my goal was limited to “not to be broke,” I still struggled to keep my head afloat. Significant changes began to happen when I shifted my attention to achieving goals that will outlive me and transcend beyond the radar of just my family. For me, my bigger goal is to help my country achieve sustainability in food production. For you, it might be putting an end to social injustice or inequality. What bigger goal are you willing to commit yourself to?
#12. Ignore the naysayer
Although I never had the chance to read The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Mason, it’s title alone is enough motivation for me to ignore the naysayer. There are some people, they never see possibility. If there are 99 chances that a project will succeed, they would instead hold on to that one reason why it will fail. Naysayers are present everywhere; work, school, church, and even family. The moment I realized that both failure and success is left to me, I started to pay little attention to the voice of negativity. It’s perfectly okay for people to doubt you as long as you stay focused on the cause.
#13. Learn to say NO and mean it
As human beings, our brain is wired to say more of yes and less of no. We are so conscious of hurting others that we subject ourselves to avoidable problems. When I interned in my penultimate year in school, I lived in a hostel where alcohol was free-flowing. My hostel mates would buy loads of alcohol alongside juice and malt to mix with. They would insist we either take both or have none. I know taking a bottle of alcohol might not necessarily turn me into a drunkard overnight. Still, I was willing to put my own discipline into a test. All through, I said no, and it was a moment to remember now and smile. Many youths have landed into serious trouble just because they want to play nice when no would have sufficed. Until you learn to say no to many things, you will fall victim to everything.
#14. You only need a single YES
When undergoing challenges, at first, they seem insurmountable. Rejection does not really hurt as much as the pangs it left behind anytime you recall it. One thing that kept me going was the fact that a single yes will cancel years of nos. It doesn’t matter how long you have been getting a “no,” stay persistent until you get a YES!
#15. Nobody owes you in life
When I left university five years ago, I etched it into my brain that nobody owes me any longer at this stage of my life. I came from a very humble background, and I learned to support myself at a tender age. I had my first job just a few months after I clocked 16. I would go ahead to many others, with some of them too awkward. Knowing that no one owes you prepares you to be independent and also makes you appreciative of whatever support you get from others, no matter how small it might look. Just because you once helped someone when they were in need doesn’t mean they have to pay back. It’s better to put your money as a fixed deposit if that’s the sole reason you do good.
#16. You can’t be bigger than your thought
My first time putting my thought into the test was when I read “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne. It was during my mandatory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) in the far east. A month never passed without me being broke. When I got the book, I wrote a certain amount in mind, just like the author directed. While I don’t believe in “the Universe,” saying yes to one’s wishes, I understood the psychology behind that practice. Often, when you have your mind fixated on a goal, it compels your brain, body, and spirit to work assiduously towards achieving it. No wonder the Bible said, as a man thinks in his heart, so is he! Since that moment, I have made it a responsibility to be mindful of what I allow into my mind. I see myself living in abundance, having a good home, becoming relevant globally, and I can’t be less grateful for where I am today.
#17. Value before money
“Money answers to all things,” says Ecclesiastes. But did you know? Money is never the answer to all things! Yes, I love money, and I hate poverty. However, I have learned to always put value before money. When you invest genuinely into yourself, you will be better positioned to add values to others. This might be in terms of your skills, talent, business prowess and many others. Pursuing money on its own will only leave you frustrated and empty. Prioritize value before money!
#18. Family first
My family is far from perfect, but I can confidently say they are the best asset in my arsenal. When I said family, I mean my maternal and immediate family. I see a lot of youths in my generation publicly ridicule their parents and family.
Outsiders are always there to keep you company when things are good. When life changes for the worse, often you will be left alone with your family and some friends that are equally considered as family. My family is everything to me, and I have learned to do everything humanly possible to support it.
#19. No amount is too much to invest in yourself
My first time having a paid course was just a little over a year ago. Surprisingly, that marked my breakthrough as a freelance writer. Although some free courses deliver more values than some of the exorbitant ones. However, what I have noticed is that it’s easier to commit to whatever you pay for than what you get for free.
Don’t be deterred when people question your decision to spend so much on courses, seminars, conferences, tutorials, and many more. No amount is too much to invest in yourself!
#20. You can be active but not productive
There were times I used to equate activity with productivity. I derive pleasure in being busy. That feeling that I have been working for quite a long massaged my ego even when I failed miserably to account for my accomplishment at the end of the day. Stop confusing activity with productivity. The goal is to measure your objective per day and see how many you were able to achieve. It doesn’t matter how long it takes; the result is always the difference. Are your activities geared towards a target result? If your answer is no, you might not be productive.
#21. Criticism is sometimes better than praise
The first time I submitted my scholarship application, most of my friends raved about how awesome it was. However, when I showed it to someone I consider a mentor, he gave an honest remark. While he took a single line to appreciate my effort in writing a scholarship application, all the remaining parts of his one-page response were filled with criticism. At first, I got annoyed, but when I realized that it’s for my own good, I accepted it in good faith. Be wary of people that always endorse whatever you do, good or bad. Most times, they are enemies in disguise.
#22. Celebrate your wins
As humans, we are so much engrossed with our failures that we neglect our accomplishments. We consider success as normal but blow failure out of proportion. I was in this shoe before I learned to celebrate my own win no matter how little. Next time you record any progress at any aspect of your life, don’t underrate it. Celebrating your win in the right way is an act of gratitude.
#23. Incorporate rest into your schedule
I think I fit in into a perfect definition of a workaholic. Often, I got so immersed in work that I forgot to take a break. I learned to rest in a hard way when I developed severe back pain from long hours of sitting with a computer. To some, it’s an irreversible eye problem. Work is inexhaustible; no matter how many tasks you have completed, there will always be more to do. Consider adequate resting as your schedule. Not only will it make you wealthy, but it will also enhance your productivity.
#24. Take care of your spiritual well-being
Every human is a spiritual being, whether he acknowledges it or not. For most parts, I over-focused on my own effort that I forgot about divine help. I am a believer, and now I understand that no one can receive anything here on earth unless given to him from above. Remember, Paul can plant and Apollo waters, but without the blessing of God, it’s an effort in futility.
#25. No suitable replacement for books
In as much as I have developed a preference for video tutorials and online courses, to date, I am yet to find a perfect substitute for books. As a writer, I understand that people pour out more of their lives in books than courses. It’s easier to share helpful personal experiences in books than in tutorials. It seems our brain is wired to remember what we read, understand, and reflect on than what we just heard. Moreover, often people that read sound more intelligent than people that don’t. Do you need book recommendations? Feel free to send me a message.
#26. Everybody should write
Reading without writing is like a dam receiving water without letting it flow out. Eventually, it will end up stinking. Writing might be the profession of some us, however, no matter how basic, I share the sentiment that everybody can write, and everybody should write. You don’t have to be William Shakespeare or J.K. Rowling to document your thoughts or share your ideas. It can be as little as writing whatever comes into your mind down and sharing it with others when it’s fully developed to a logical writeup.
#27. Your network is your net worth
Humans are a social being, and most times, who you know are worth more than what you know. You always need people at every facet of your life. Be intentional about growing your network. It can be academically, career-wise, business, or even something trivial as casual friends. Nobody is an island, and it’s easier to achieve tremendously when you have the backing and support of others.
#28. Don’t burn the bridge
Sometimes, it’s inevitable that a relationship ends. Your boyfriend can dump you; your girlfriend can call it to quit, your boss can fire you, and even your family can ignore you. Until you are 100% certain of not going back, don’t attempt to burn bridges. That it doesn’t work out as planned doesn’t mean you should turn people to sworn enemies. This life is so vast that it’s so little. The people you have considered enemies may end up being your future helper.
#29. Mind your business
Our generation is so concerned about having a say that they want to be involved in anything and everything, from celebrity gist to A, B, C, and D challenges. I am not saying there is something wrong with being social, but when you are so engrossed in dabbling into every topic, it will be hard for you to reach the top. Focus on your own life first, mind your business. Trends never end, and social media challenges are never exhausted.
#30. Show Gratitude
How many times have you counted your blessings, name them one by one and see what God has done for you? Instead, we focus on having notes that we ignore what we have. No matter how miserable you think your life is, there is always something to be grateful for.
The fact that you’re reading this means you have a phone, internet connection, and good health. Not everyone gets to enjoy this luxury. I have learned to give thanks in everything, whether perfect or imperfect. Remember, whatever you celebrate appreciates and what you don’t depreciate. Be grateful!