36. 3 Pills and A Glass of Water

I take it as a blessing that I delayed this birthday note by a day. I did not find clarity on what to write until I sat with my wife at a dinner last night - we haven’t had one in years - and she popped the question, “36? So what’s next?” I had to admit that I was happy with the state of things after a huge storm last year and to God’s glory, all the pieces are on the deck, I just put in the work to arrange them.

Okendo Lewis-Gayle, the founder of Harambeans always talks about “ a dream on a piece of paper”. Nothing can be so fulfilling to celebrate 10 years of a dream and keep it standing. I am always grateful for the gift of BudgIT and our work over the years. What’s next has been on my mind for the last two years and I have tried a few things - a government job that I had to resign, starting Kwerty that has gone through several product iterations and being part of an emerging financial institution. I am still pressing on but there are lessons that I imbibed in recent times. These are three daily pills prescribed by the Ezekwesili twins - my own brothers.

Slow down: Well, everything seemed to be moving forward and fast and I sometimes feel left out - a funding raise, another unicorn in sight and a huge fund to create new opportunities, the crypto surge, stocks on the rise - of opportunities. I have chosen to take it all in and accept to slow down. In the world governed by overstimulated social media that breeds covetousness, it is so important to slow the wheels and accept that in all of these, “You are doing well, Oin”. The plot of life is not in straight causes, it meanders, crafted in peaks, plateaus and valleys. If we are honest with ourselves, we overestimate what we can do in a year but underrate our progress that compounds with time. When comparison tries to steal one’s joy, it’s better to take in the first pill - slow down.

Take Gratitude: To slow down, reflect and draw memories from a long period of time is to burst into reams of laughter and accept that one has found fortune and grace of our Lord. I often notice that I dwell more in disappointments than taking in joy when good things happen. We could sign off on great funding and it only took ten minutes for me to be thankful and grin wildly but such was not how I handled a lost opportunity. I dwelt so long on a lost chance, that my assistant, Iyanu Bolarinwa, had to be gently emphatic, “Mr Seun, let it go”. I want to be thankful more and be grateful for opportunities of breath, health, work, family, faith, fame, friends, country and wealth. It takes a bit of slowing down to take gratitude because in a world of speed, a lot can be taken for granted.

Accept Responsibility: To slow down does not mean that one does not accept responsibility or wallow in self-pity. We are in a time where people shy away from accountability and easily wrap that around self-love and other confusing terminologies that shrink the ability to face the world with courage and resilience. One must still know that there is a long way to go and fully accept what needs to be done to live a more fulfilled life. Responsibility to those we love and around us is what we are called to do. I am glad to fulfil this continually. As my last pill, I have found myself drawing up an Excel sheet with goals on a monthly basis, deciding if I miss the mark and what I need to do. Accepting to do better without ill will or any form of complacency is the power to go in courage and seek new answers.

I need to take a cup of water and I will drink from what my wife told me yesterday - build relationships deliberately. I came off a little bit defensive but I could not really hide. I take responsibility. I have still not done well enough. Self-absorption in reaching our goals might mean I only tend those relationships for those that keep the dream on. I am learning to slow down and value people who truly demand nothing else from me than quality conversations and valued time. That’s also even to my own family - evidently seen in the sparse fine dining that I have had with my wife.

I am hopeful for what’s coming and I take it in as God’s awesome plan that never denies us of his mercy and abundant grace. It feels good to be three dozen and I smell renewed strength that comes from building an institution in an organization that I suffered for. I marvel at the effortless way the team delivered the 10th anniversary. It is time to take it all in with gratitude, amass courage to go again with everyone who mean so much to me.

God's Unfinished Sketch. Policy & Data Wonk. BudgIT Lead. Ashoka, Aspen Voices & Knight Innovation Fellow