A few weeks ago, I attended the 2nd year reunion of my Executive MBA Class with whom I had spent two very intense and exciting years at Rice University between 2009 and 2011. It was great to see several people again and to catch up to what people had been up to since I had been unable to attend the previous year, when I was stuck somewhere else on the other side of the Atlantic between Oxford and Swaziland.
In the midst of conversation, I had mentioned to one of my much older ex-classmates (Unlike Oxford, where I was older than most of my classmates, I had been one of the youngest in my MBA class) about my plans to run the half-marathon in January next year. He had then asked half-jokingly; ‘ Idris, at 33 , isn’t it too early to be experiencing mid-life crisis?’ Over 50 himself, he had recently completed the 180-mile MS-150 bike ride from Houston to Austin, a feat which one of his sons had blamed on mid-life crisis.
Well, mid-life crisis or not, I have my sights set on the half-marathon next year, and as difficult as it was to make that decision, the tougher part as with setting any goal, was deciding where to start. Until March this year, I had never run more than a mile in the last ten years, and was definitely out of shape. No thanks to Google, there were a thousand articles on how to prepare for a 13-mile race, and a million more pieces of advice, which all left me befuddled.
Its been almost three months now since I made that decision,and one of the best resources which I have come across,and which applies even beyond running a marathon, or achieving any personal goal is this story of a Lion Tamer by James Clear
Allow me to quote copiously from the article;
” Clyde Beatty was born in Bainbridge, Ohio in 1903. When he was a teenager, he left home to join the circus and landed a job as a cage cleaner. In the years that followed, Beatty quickly progressed from a lowly cage boy to a popular entertainer. Beatty became famous for his “fighting act” in which he would tame fierce wild animals. At one point, Beatty’s act included a segment where he brought lions, tigers, cougars, and hyenas into the circus ring all at once and tamed the entire group.
But here’s the most impressive feat of all…
In an era when the majority of lion tamers died in the ring, Beatty lived into his 60s. In the end, it was cancer that took his life, not a lion. How did he manage to survive? Thanks to a simple idea.
Clyde Beatty was one of the first lion tamers to bring a chair into the circus ring. Here’s what happened. The classic image of a lion tamer is one of the entertainer holding a whip and a chair. The whip gets all of the attention, but it’s mostly for show. In reality, it’s the chair that does the important work.
When a lion tamer holds a chair in front of the lion’s face, the lion tries to focus on all four legs of the chair at the same time. With its focus divided, the lion becomes confused and is unsure about what to do next. When faced with so many options, the lion chooses to freeze and wait instead of attacking the man holding the chair.”
And this is what happens to most of us when we decide on big, audacious, scary goals. We get so fixated on the size of the undertaking that we are then at a loss on where to start. How often do we come away from a conference with soaring emotions of all the great things we would like to achieve only to get confused by where to start,and a year later, we are still at the same point?
So like James advises; ” Anytime you find the world waving a chair in your face, remember this: All you need to do is commit to one thing. In the beginning, you don’t even have to succeed. You just need to get started. Starting before you feel ready is one of the habits of successful people. Most of the time, the ability to get started and commit to a task is the only thing you need to do to focus better. Most people don’t have trouble with focusing. They have trouble with deciding.”
So quoting James again ” Want to lose 40 pounds? Awesome. Eat real food (anything that doesn’t come in a package or a box is a good start) and exercise more. You don’t need more information. You don’t need to learn how to focus on the right things. You just need to commit to the fundamentals. Build good habits first, there will be plenty of time to figure the details out later.
Want to perform like an elite athlete? Great. Quit dreaming and start living like one. Get to sleep earlier. Organize your day around your training. If you have to miss other commitments, then you have to miss them. If it’s important to you, then stop gazing at the other distractions and commit to it.
Want to start a business? You can! Sure, you’ll be uncomfortable. Every entrepreneur is uncertain. You don’t need to learn a new strategy or figure out how to focus better. You just need to commit to making it happen. Take the first step and trust that you’ll figure out how to take the second step when you need to do so.”
So the key is to get started today on just one thing, and stop gazing at the chair. Running a 13-mile half-marathon might seem like a huge challenge to someone who has never run a mile, and I don’t know if I am going to get to the finish line, but the trick as I am learning, is to take it a step at a time.
I have since registered in a 3-times a week fitness boot camp and lost twenty pounds in less than three months, while pushing up my endurance limits. In July I plan to sign up for a 29-week marathon training program.
I still remember one of the best pieces of advice my class was given in 2009 at the beginning of the 2-year MBA; ’2 years looks like a long time. However, the trick is to take it 2 weeks at a time,and before you know it, its all over.’ I guess that is what is meant by the quote; “Life is hard by the yard, but inch by inch, life’s a cinch”.
Allow me to leave you with James’s concluding words,
” Life isn’t a dress rehearsal. Whether you know it or not, you’re already in the ring. We all are. Most of the time, we sit quietly, gazing at the chair in front of us, silently debating about which leg is the most important. It doesn’t have to be that way. If you have somewhere you want to go, something you want to accomplish, someone you want to become… then make a decision. If you’re clear about where you want to go, the rest of the world will either help you get there or get out of the way. Both of those are useful.
You don’t have to do it all at once, but there is something that you need to do now. Something that’s calling you, something that’s important to you, something that you’re destined to do. I don’t know what it is, but you do. Swipe the chair out of the way and choose it.”
See you across the finish line! Hopefully.
Its been a while since I blogged last. Since I left Oxford about 9 months ago, I have been busy. So busy I keep putting off updating this blog. I have gotten several emails from folks out there asking what I have been up to.
Hence I plan to blog more frequently. However, I am going to trying keeping my posts short, and most times it will be some quick reflections on article/books I have recently read, or new ideas I have recently come across. Comments are welcome as always.
For the most part these days, my time is divided between Houston (with family and working on a software project for the energy industry) , Nigeria (where I still oversee the work at Wennovation Hub of creating more afropreneurs) and airports (where I relax in between flights ).
Not had time to blog for some time, and I hope to make up for that soon. But I could not help putting this post up to support an initiative by my youth corper (NYSC) medical doctor baby sister to bring attention to the issue of breast cancer in Nigeria. Below is verbatim from her….
Breast cancer is a major killer of women worldwide. It is the commonest cancer affecting women and the fifth commonest cause of cancer death worldwide. Here in Nigeria, it is the commonest malignancy and is estimated to kill 25,000 women annually, making it the commonest cause of cancer death in them.
A diagnosis of breast cancer puts overwhelming stress on the patient, family members and close friends. It disrupts family relationships causing considerable physical, psychological and occupational vulnerability, which persists even long after treatment. However, these consequences can be significantly lessened when it is diagnosed and treated in its early stages.
The most common sign of breast cancer is a new lump or mass in the breast. Other possible signs are dimpling, nipple changes or abnormal nipple discharge. All of these signs can many times be picked early either by mammography or, in low resource circumstances like ours, by regular breast examination.
Breast lumps are detected often by the hands, either those of the woman herself or a health personnel. Breast Self Examination (BSE) is a simple effective way of picking breast changes which may be early pointers to the disease. It is sad though, that BSE is not done (many times not done at all or is done inappropriately) by most women.
As part of my Community Development Service, I have planned a programme tagged 2000 BREASTS TM – a breast cancer awareness and screening programme for a thousand women. The first episode of this programme scheduled for January 21 and 22, 2013 is targeted at women in the Adekunle Fajuyi Army Cantonment, Ibadan and environs.
The goal of the programme is to educate the women about breast cancer, and aid early detection of breast cancer and other breast pathologies.
The activities of the programme, would include:
• A health talk on Breast Cancer -the disease, burden, clinical features, diagnosis and management.
• Demonstration of Breast Self Examination (BSE) and encouragement of regular/ monthly BSE.
• Clinical breast examination(CBE) of the women by trained health personnels (including Clinical oncologists from the University College Hospital, Ibadan).
• Distribution of Information, Education and Communication (IEC) materials.
• Referral/ensuring mammography/histology and further management of identified cases.
This project is supported by the Breast Cancer Association of Nigeria(BRECAN). AfyaZima is also proud to be a partner to this effort.
The program is still a few days away, yet I received this note yesterday from Saidat; “Thank you for supporting my project. I just picked a 50-year old woman with advanced breast cancer. She had been nursing the ailment @ home/ traditional clinics/ chemists, until her neighbour saw my poster, and dialled my number.@
2000 breasts…perhaps a lump you pick will save someone’s life.
For more details email me at email@example.com or get in touch with Dr Saidat Bello at 08053381531
So busy I have not had time to keep this blog updated.
I was here to work on an m-Health project with the Clinton Health Access Initiative and the Ministry of Health in Swaziland aimed at improving appointment attendance (and ultimately retention) among pre-ART and ART patients through the deployment of what we refer to in-house as the AP Reminder System.
But I have been doing more than mHealth in the small but beautiful country of Swaziland as you will discover from this CNN iReport . Its been a different clinic each day, a different mountain each weekend. I have gone hiking, rock climbing (including Sibebe Rock-the world’s largest exposed granite dome and second biggest rock after Uluru (Ayers Rock) in Australia), and on a safari trip. I even managed to experience an earthquake
In June, I took some time off from Swaziland to make a 2-day trip to London. I had been named as one of the “10 Most Outstanding Black Students in the UK for 2012″ by a panel consisting of Rt. Hon. David Lammy MP, Trevor Phillips OBE, Chair of the Commission for Equality and Human Rights, and Jean Tomlin, HR Director for London 2012.
Organized annually by Rare Rising Stars, I was deeply humbled to be so chosen and attended the Awards Ceremony on June 7 at the House of Commons, Palace of Westminster, London.
From London, I was off to Texas, where my team, AfyaZima Africa had just been announced as the 2012 Winner of the $10,000 Best Innovation Leveraging Technology Award presented by Dell, Inc
This is what Dell had to say:
At Dell, we believe that innovation and entrepreneurship are not “born” but can be “bred” through the right community, support, tools and inspiration. And we’re especially delighted to announce the winner of the Dell Technology Award: AfyaZima Blood Pressure mCuff, a low-cost device that eases blood pressure measurement and transmission via a mobile in hopes of early hypertension diagnosis, especially in areas with low resources.
The trip to Austin was amazing as prior to the awards ceremony, I got to visit the Dell Headquarters, where I met one-on-one with Michael Dell, CEO and Founder of Dell and the rest of the amazing Dell Team.
I was also impressed at how Dell uses Social Media, as evidenced by the amazing tools at the Social Media Center which I had the opportunity to visit. I even found one of my Dell-related tweets on the screen.
I also had the opportunity to share my personal inspiration and thoughts about innovation in a changing world with Dell employees by speaking on a Dell Innovation panel moderated by the young but very impressive Nnamdi Orakwue (Harvard & Wharton alum), Dell’s Director of Strategy, who also doubles as Executive Assistant to Michael Dell.
Then it was time for the award ceremony at the Austin City Limits Theatre followed by a sumptous dinner afterwards.
With my time in the US up, I thus returned to the Kingdom of Swaziland but not before a short tour of Frankfurt!
Until my next blogpost, I invite you to join me in dreaming bigger, scarier dreams, because if your dream does not scare you, it’s probably not big enough!
Remember that people who dream in their sleep are dreamers, but those who dare to dream while they are awake are the people that change the world.