PhD Chronicles: Part V

One of my best authors is Robert Greene. His debut book, The 48 Laws of Power, published in 1998, was described as ‘the psychopaths Bible’. Although these laws seem somewhat evil and narcissistic tools to manipulate others, however, if you actually take a critical look at these laws you would notice that some of them are things we do, consciously and unconsciously, on a daily basis.

Here are some of the laws in the Book:

Law 3: Conceal your intentions

Law 4: Always say less than necessary

Law 5: So much depends on your reputation; guard it with your life

Law 9: Win through actions; never through arguments

Law 10: Avoid the unhappy or unlucky

Law 12: Use selective honesty or generosity to disarm your ‘victim’

Law 16: Use absence to increase strength and honour

Law 17: Cultivate an air of unpredictability

Law 34: Be royal in your own fashion

Law 36: Disdain anything you can’t have; ignoring them is the best revenge

Law 40: Despise the free lunch

Take a look at the aforementioned laws. Have you ever practised or still practise any of the laws on the list? If I am to guess, I would say that the most likely answer is YES. This is because power is a natural phenomenon. Every human yearns for power and influence knowingly and unknowingly. Whether one accepts it or not is an entirely different story altogether.

Many believe that power corrupts but I beg to differ. I sincerely believe that power is liberating and allows you to freely express your authentic self that you may have been hiding for any reason. Unfortunately, power does not always result in positive circumstance. For so many people, their authentic self is tainted with an insatiable thirst to control, manipulate, abuse or get back at others.

Sirach 30:10-11 Has anyone ever known that he could get away with cheating someone, and not taken advantage of it. If so, he deserves his wealth, and everyone will praise him for his generosity.

This is why there’s a general misconception that power holders are inconsiderate dimwits who do not care about others but that isn’t true. And I say it all depends on the individual that yields the power.

I have previously written about my struggles with the impostor syndrome during the early stages of this journey. At the time, I felt powerless and as a consequence, most of the people I resorted to for help looked down on me. And I sincerely understand. Power and powerlessness affect our perception of others.

Power is a great mechanism in changing of behaviour. Power comes along with confidence, assertiveness, courage, quick decision making and increased hormonal levels (high testosterone level and low cortisol (stress hormone) level). However, being powerless makes you second-guess yourself, seek external validation from others and instils fear that stops you from going after what you really want and need.

The fact that power can bring about a change in one’s behaviour is the reason why I encourage everyone to seek power via knowledge for knowledge is power. You don’t have to be a bookworm but you MUST love knowledge in order to acquire it. And the simplest way to do this is by mere observation of things and people around you, and experimentation as Alex Ferguson said in his book, Leading, “there’s a reason God gave us two ears, two eyes and one mouth.”

Ecclesiastes 9:16 Wisdom is better than strength. But the poor man’s wisdom is despised, and his words are no longer heeded.

Ignorance and curiosity drive scientific research but the at the end of the day, we acquire knowledge that can transform the world. However, how this knowledge is framed to the public is important. If it is presented in a negative, aggressive or condescending manner, knowledge loses its power. As a result, scientists have to allow the public to mirror scientific information against their personal beliefs by showing them how science belongs to them and how they belong to science. That way knowledge becomes powerful and can be worth its weight in gold.

PhD Chronicles: Part IV

Growing up, I had this mindset that I didn’t have to toot my own horn for anyone to appreciate and understand my worth. It is either you see it or you don’t – your loss anyway. I was conditioned to believe that it is bragging and no one likes a braggart hence I talked less and did more.

However as I grow older, I have come to understand that I need to unlearn that. Self-aggrandisement is really key and crucial to your future achievements. You may be very special but you have to sell yourself to be recognised.

Sales is something we do everyday – be it a product, person, service or even an idea. We are always trying to sell ourselves to others to accept us. And this ability to sell and persuade others is linked to our innate understanding and definition of ourselves.

Selling yourself short is one of the reasons why your special attributes are not recognised by your potential employers and/or clients. Have you noticed that people who can talk or sell themselves very well whether they bullshit their way through a conversation or interview often land the best deals? He or she may be less talented or smarter than you but she understands something about social intelligence, which is selling yourself the right way.

This is where most intelligent people fall short. They often lack the courage and boldness that less intelligent people do. They often focus so much on themselves and forget that you have to be able to get the attention of your audience or prospective employers by selling yourself the right way.

You have to sell yourself the right way to open and get in the door first before anyone can be able to recognise and appreciate your worth. When you say ‘no’ to new opportunities or ideas that seem daunting, play down your own accomplishments, steer the conversation away from yourself or refuse to put yourself out there for whatever reason, you are inadvertently selling yourself short.

What this translates to whomever is listening to you is that you lack confidence, undervalue yourself and overvalue others, put up with things you shouldn’t and don’t demand respect. As a result, you’d end up in toxic relationships and have minimal experiences because experience is what separates the chaff from the wheat.

No one likes that person that goes on a monologue about their achievements. However, you’ve worked extremely hard to be where you are today so own your story and tell it with zest. Find a balance and design your life the way you really want it to be. Be self aware to identify your weaknesses but focus on challenging and mastering yourself so that you can project yourself to a whole new level.

PhD Chronicles: Part III

“Hello there! The angel from my nightmare”

It’s been a while since my last post. One has been busy with science and life – I sincerely apologise for this sojourn. Although, I am happy to say that whilst away, I made huge steps in my PhD program with interesting data.

I have also been opportune to present these data at a number of conferences as well however my first presentation is the one that sticks out for me. It was last year, to the MSc Biomedical Science cohort. One of the students asked me afterwards, Why did you decide to do a PhD? and what are your plans after the program?

These questions got me thinking about different things at the same time. Although I have always had a concrete plan about my life goals since I was 20, it took the preaching of a lecturer to convince me PhD was worth my time when I was at their stage as I’ve never seen myself going down the Professor route (but hey! never say never).

So when I was asked these questions, I was filled with some doubts about the whole process and I had to break my reverie to remind myself the reason(s) why I decided to plough this spiked road. These reasons are myriad that I can’t put them in words here.

However, if your aim of wanting a PhD is for family pride/honour, societal respect and gratification, and status symbol, I am here to tell you that it isn’t worth it. I must admit that in the “third world” like Africa, a PhD degree can propel you to greater heights and open doors for you especially if your aim is to be a powerhouse in politics or your chosen field. However, I believe that you can achieve great things without it.

This is not me trying to discourage anyone from getting a doctorate but letting you know that it will test you in different ways. For example, I am (naturally) an impatient person. I dream about things, plan them and hope everything goes according to any of the plans I’ve set in motion. However, things rarely go according to plan in the lab and life in general, and this can lead to frustration and depression.

As a result, this journey is not necessarily about intelligence nor hard work but patience, persistence and flexibility. It teaches you that patience is a virtue and impatience is not a vice but can be harnessed in the right way.

PhD equips you with a lot of transferable skills that can help you in any sector you decide to go into. A colleague once said, “the good thing about science is that a scientist can work in any field.” I am getting to that stage where I have to repeatedly ask myself what I want to do next – politics, business, academia, industry, research?

Whatever I decide to do next, this phd journey has tremendously helped me to learn, re-learn and unlearn a lot of things about myself and life in general. Prior to now, I liked to tell people negative stories about myself than positive stories and this was for a reason. Sometimes, I even act dumb and naive.

The reason why I do these things is because being a naturally observant person, I found out at a young age that we are all narcissistic to some extent. People feel better when they think they are better than you so I found it easier to read and understand them this way. However, doing this phd exposed me to a lot of experiences that made me realise this was more detrimental to my mental health and sense of self.

Our minds are our gateway to success, happiness and sense of accomplishment. The way you see yourself regardless of external opinions, perceptions about problems or undesirable circumstances and reactions to things beyond your control have an ample effect on our end products.

Life is All About Relationships


Last year was a huge lesson for me both personally and professionally. In my bid to create a better future for my unborn kids, I had to make a lot of round trips to different cities. Luckily, I was never lonely even for a day despite all these trips. I always had a friend whose family was willing to take me in and make me feel right at home. I also had to make phone calls to people in different time zones to get things done for me and they all delivered.

Then it hit me, life is all about relationships. Infact, relationship is the only important thing in life. Normally, whenever relationship is mentioned, many think about the partnership between two lovers but relationships is larger than that. It encompasses your relationship with your God (if you believe in any), lover/s (I heard some are inclined to polygamy so I had to factor that in), family, friends, customers, readership, co-workers, teachers etc. 

Think about it, would you go into business with someone you don’t have a relationship with? Would you refer someone for a job if you haven’t built a relationship with the said person to vouch for his or her capabilities? 

Naturally, human beings are tribal; we try to form a tribe with the people we like and are comfortable with. This is because biologically and psychologically, from childhood, we depend on others from survival and growth. According to psychologist Daniel Goleman, our brains are wired to connect whenever we engage with others. 

As a result, relationships are an essential source of learning. Everyone has something to teach you; everyone has a lot to learn from you as well. It is through relationships that we get to understand our true self. Through series of interactions, ideas and connections, we develop into who we really are. 

The quality of our relationships has a great influence on our perception of the world – bursting with curiosity, openness to new experience and ability to see the inter-relatedness of things around us. Without others pushing us to the limit or providing assistance in one way or another, our creative muscle atrophy and we lose our critical thinking hats.

Therefore, it is safe to say that a lot depends on how we handle our relationships with others. It determines how far we’d go in life. Nearly everything in life is made possible because of someone else, from the tools to the skills that make them useful.  

The connections we form with others create options and opportunities that are hard to come by. If you take a trip down memory lane, you’d notice that some of the best opportunities you’ve had in life were somewhat created by those you had formed a relationship with. 

No wonder Keith Ferrazzi described success in his book, Never Eat Alone, as the sum of the people you meet and what you create together. Ferrazzi believes success has nothing to do with class but about access, which some gain through birth or money. 

I couldn’t agree more. Every career you can think of is about managing relationships. How well we manage these relationships determine how far we would go. A reference is only as good as the referee’s word and is dependent on the relationship between the refereee and the ‘refered’. We project and deal with people we know and trust hence every business deal or transaction is a human enterprise. 

However to achieve this, one must be willing to give something in return. You can’t separate giving from a relationship. You can’t be a leech who has three daughters, all named “Give Me” and expect your relationships to be genuine. There must be some of form giving interms of time, attention, money, advice, a smile, a handshake or any other form of help. This way we make a lasting impact on others. 

When you are consistently reliable, offer some reflective feedbacks, have an interesting conversations with others, genuinely help others or connect them with ideas or people that can help them achieve their goals, you are making a huge deposit into your social account. This is because people tend to help those who help them.

 In the long run, social capital is the most valuable currency. It is worth more than money, education and/or credentials. Have you ever seen anyone who’s faced with death that thinks about money, success, career achievement or titles? 

Make deposits into your social account everyday by building, maintaining and valuing the relationships you have with your God (if you believe in any), family, friends and others because at the end of the day, that’s all you have.

P.S. I am sincerely grateful for all the reliable people in my life and also hope that they find me reliable.

How Sports Prepares You For Entrepreneurship Part 2/2

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…continued from last post

Focus
In my short life, I am yet to see anyone who has achieved massive success without zoning out people, forgoing pastimes and focusing inwardly. This helps one to understand his/her strengths as well as weaknesses and find a way to use them effectively and efficiently to neutralise the tactics of those he/she is up against. Sports teaches you how to “be in the zone” and close yourself off from distractions. If an athlete/player, whether amateur or professional, can maintain his focus, he has attained a certain level of maturity. As an enterpreneur, focus is important when starting a business. For one to be successful in business, one must stay focused on his/her vision/goal no matter how distracting things might get. And when success is achieved, a focused enterpreneur will have enough in his arsenal to fight laziness and complacency.

Teamwork
For every sports team to excel, the coaches and players need each other. Even athletes that participate in individual sports like tennis, athletics, golf etc need the help of their trainers, coaches and nutrionists to excel. Babe Ruth, the American Baseball legend, once said, “the way a team plays as a whole determines its sucess. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world but if you don’t play together the club won’t be worth a dime.” The same goes for enterpreneurship. You may have to do things alone to build your business from the scratch (start-up) but you need people to take it to the next level. Delegating some work to team members, who are hungry for success and take pride in their performance, affords you the time to focus on other things.

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Leadership
Participating in team sports gives one the chance to develop some leadership skills by captaining/coaching a group of players. As a result, an individual can acquire social and emotional intelligence, which are prerequisites in leadership. Hear Eddie Robinson, “Leadership, like coaching, is fighting for the hearts and souls of men and getting them to believe in you.” It is important for an enterprenuer to be able to understand his social and emotional make up as well as that of people who are under his payroll. A good enterpreneur must have a healthy open line of communication with his workers. And also maintain eye contact whilst talking with them as this gives an impression of sincerity, honesty and confidence. It is easy to forget about the troubles of others but if one takes time to remember and ask, it goes a long way. People perform best when they know they’ve earned the trust of the leader.
 
Mentorship
There are so many talented individuals out there who have lost their way because they had no mentor/coach to guide them properly. One may be naturally skilled and talented but if the opportunities aren’t there or there’s no one to offer guidance, attaining success will be an illusion. Jamaican Sprinter, Usain Bolt spent his time playing cricket and football at a tender age but his cricket coach noticed his speed on the cricket pitch and encouraged him to try track and field events. Under the tutelage of Pablo McNeil, a former Olympic sprint athlete, Bolt was encouraged to focus his energy on improving his athletic abilities and the rest they say is history. The same happens in business, every rookie enterprenueur needs a mentor to guide and direct him inorder to achieve great success.

Attitude towards failure
Failure happens to us all in one way or another. Even the best falls down sometimes but what really matters is how you recover when you are down. It must be said that failure can be painful and hard to take; it demoralises some and makes them wallow in self-pity. However, it can also spur others to greater things. Former cyclist, Lance Armstrong, once said, “Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever.” For an enterprenuer, failure can be a wonderful management tool as long as it doesn’t become a habit. When faced with failure, the entrepreneur tries to keep his head above the water and find ways to be successful. Bill Gates co-founded a failed startup called Traf-O-Data with Paul Allen when he was 17. Their failure later became a springboard to success; their next start-up, Microsoft, is currently the world’s largest PC software company.

The entrepreneurial race, just like life, is a marathon (sports) with hurdles here and there. Many startups fail – even those backed by a huge amount of venture funding – at the first hurdle. So participating in sports can equip an entrepreneur with indelible capabilities and skills required to motivate oneself and weather the storm until he/she crosses the finish line.