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.

The Godfather: Lessons

image

I watched the classic movie adaptation of Mario Puzo’s novel The Godfather for the umpteenth time last week. Twenty-five years after the last of the triology was released, the movie is still interesting and captivating. So let’s look at the lessons one can pick up from the movie.

1. Anger truly rests in the bosom of fools.
“Never get angry. Never make a threat. Reason with people.” – Don Vito Corleone

Don Vito Corleone’s first child Santino (Sonny) was hot-headed and that was his undoing. He smashed cameras, yelled at the Don’s consigliere Tom Hagen and publicly beat the sister’s husband, Carlo to a pulp. In the end, he became predictable, manipulable and was massacred.

2. Money is always an issue even amongst friends.
“Friendship and money. Oil and water” – Michael Corleone

How often have we heard people say “don’t mix friendship with business”? Friendship tends to take a back seat in business because everybody is out to make profits. It is all about personal interests and this can put a strain on a friendship.

3. Wisdom is better than strength.
“The sicker you get, the wiser you get” – Kay Corleone
“Women and children can afford to be careless, but not men.” – Don Vito Corleone

Initially, Sonny was perceived to be stronger thn Michael but in the long run, Michael proved to be a better don with his wisdom. Sonny was temperamental and acted on impulse whilst Michael was wise, intelligent and calculative.

4. Power intoxicates like wine.
“Power corrupts those who do not have it.” – Calo

Vito Corleone built the Don Corleone empire on friendship, humility, loyalty and family. This earned him respect, love and power. He was never power drunk or money conscious; all he asked in return was friendship and loyalty. However, Micheal was the complete opposite. He focused so much on power and money, and succeeded in legitimising the family business but lost all the friends and family around him. He drove his wife, Kay, away, murdered his brother Fredo and his sister Connie’s husband, and questioned Tom’s loyalty – the only person that was ever present for him. He ended up alone and abandoned in contrast to Vito who died at an old age in the midst of family and friends.

image

image

5. Violence is the last resort.
“Once war erupts, lives are lost, business close down or completely halts. I don’t like violence Tom. I am a business man. Blood is a big expense.” – Don Sollozo
“I hoped we could come here and reason together. And, as a reasonable man, I’m willing to do whatever’s necessary to find a peaceful solution to these problems.” – Don Vito Corleone

Despite being a movie centred on the Italian mafia, it is interesting to note that diplomacy was chosen over violence throughout the movie. Don Vito Corleone was always diplomatic and always made an offer you can’t refuse.

6. Family is everything.
“A man who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man. The only wealth in this world is children, more than all the money,  power and wealth” – Don Vito Corleone

The movie depicts Vito Corleone as a family man who gave everything for his family. He adopted Tom Hagen as his son just like the Abbandando family adopted him after he fled Sicily. He repaid the Abbandandos, by making Genco Abbandando the first consigliere of the Corleone family.

7. Keep your business private.
“Never tell anyone outside the family what you are thinking again.” – Don Vito Corleone

Every family has secrets that are exclusive to them. It’s best to keep your business private. Don’t discuss your personal or family issues/business to outsiders. Someone may use the information in their favour or for their own personal gain.

8. Afford people some level of privacy; don’t meddle in their affairs.
“Sonny don’t get involved.” – Carmela Corleone to Sonny after he tried to break the fight between the sister Connie and husband Carlo at the dinner table.
“It don’t make any difference to me what a man does for a living, you understand.” – Don Vito Corleone

Everybody wants a little privacy. Try to mind your own business. Don’t take aspirin for other people’s headache. Giving personal advice on personal matters is a no-no unless your opinion is sought for.

9. Emotions cloud your judgments.
“Never hate your enemies. It clouds your judgment.” – Michael Corleone

People often get emotional and take sides in every situation and become biased. The emotions cloud what they think they see. Don’t make decisions when you are angry and don’t make promises when you are happy.

10. Don’t mix business with pleasure.
“I’m here on business I leave tomorrow now get rid of them. Come on, I’m tired. Get rid of the band, too.” – Michael Corleone to his brother Fredo after the latter offered him some girls.

We all struggle to maintain focus in our daily lives. Mixing business with pleasure can derail your focus and make you lose the big picture. Michael was a very focused business man, which helped him to come up with a solution to problems at a quicker speed.

11. Respect is earned not given.
“Now you come and say “Don Corleone, give me justice.” But you don’t ask with respect. You don’t offer friendship. You don’t even think to call me “Godfather.” – Don Vito Corleone

We often delude ourselves that we are owed respect because of our talent, money, fame, beauty, intelligence etc. The naked truth is that no matter how awesome you may think you are, no one owes you shit..you have to earn it. Don Vito Corleone earned the respect of people in his neighbourhood by making sure he addressed the concerns of the people unlike Don Fanucci who terrorised the neighbourhood and let them weak his beak a little.

12. Health is wealth.
Good health is the most important thing. More  than success, more than money, more than power – Hyman Roth

This is just to reiterate what we already know. A healthy man is a wealthy man. Just because you are trying to make ends meet doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay attention to your health and take care of yourself. Exercise often and watch what you consume.

13. Don’t cry wolf too often lest people will doubt your sincerity.
“He’s been dying from the same heart attack for the last twenty years.” – Michael Corleone

Regurgitating your words will make it hard for people to believe whatever that comes out of your mouth overtime. Hyman Roth kept complaining about his deteriorating health to a point that no one believed him anymore. Michael eventually got tired of his complaints and made him sleep with the fishes.

14 First cut is the deepest.
We all carry emotional and physical scars from life battles but first cut is the deepest. And it will always be. Our past will always determine the way we act in the present and see the future. Don Cicci massacred young Vito Corleone’s family and made him an orphan. He only escaped because the mum held a knife to Don Cicci’s throat and let him abscond. He never forgot that and returned to Sicily years later to kill Don Cicci.

15. Jealousy is for the weak.
Movie star, Arnold Schwarzenegger once said ‘Everybody pities the weak; jealousy you have to earn .’ We only feel jealous towards others when we think we are in direct competition with them. Fredo Corleone was annoyed by his father’s decision to make Michael the next Don following the death of Sonny. Hyman Roth played on Fredo’s weakness, naivety and jealousy for his younger brother, Michael and used him as a pawn in an unsuccessful attempt to eliminate the Don.

What did you learn from the movie that I omitted? Please do tell.

Slow and Steady

image

I was going through my records recently and came across an essay I wrote in my teen years. Back then, I wasn’t a fan of writing so you can imagine how good or bad the essay was.

Although I loved scribbling things on anything that was close to me whenever I found myself holding a pen or pencil, I hated writing essays. I never paid attention in class; I found the stories & novels boring when they were read out in class. I prefered to watch a movie adaptation of the novels.

This continued until a friend
of mine who I usually depended on during assessments ridiculed me and this made me angry. I channeled my anger towards learning literature on my own. I would spend time correcting and correcting my essays till I was satisfied.

The first time I actually wrote an article was back in 2008 on a hospital bed and since then, I’ve come ease to myself into it – slowly but steady. I am still learning though and do have writer’s block once in a while.

The mordern world depends on technology and thence built on speed and immediate results. As a result, we are often in a hurry to get things done. Even when it isn’t necessary, we act and feel something is on our heels.

However, the process of learning is a very slow one. Any business, skill, vocation or situation worth learning or mastering, requires time, effort and focus. Philip Stanhope once said “Whoever is in a hurry shows that thing he is about is too big for him.”

It is important for one to have a sense of urgency for whatever s/he is doing however we often mistake hurry sickness for sense of urgency. Sense of urgency is the ability to identify things that require urgent attention and acting upon them ASAP but when one is in a hurry, s/he feels there’s need to rush everything even when there’s no reason to.

Assuming you have been given a deadline to submit a coursework/project/proposal. A person with a sense of urgency will start working as soon as possible, giving himself ample time to finish and go through his work over and over again before the deadline. In contrast, someone who is in a hurry will rush the work and give little or no room to cross-check his/her work.

You can’t get much done if you lack sense of urgency but by doing things hurriedly, we reduce our effectiveness, lower quality of our work and possibly make avoidable mistakes. Take heed to the words of Earl Monroe, “Just be patient. Let the game come to you. Don’t rush. Be quick, but don’t hurry.”

There’s no need to be in a hurry. Be quick but agbana speed. Speed kills. Slow and steady wins the race.

Self-Respect, Yes; Self-Obsession, Nay

image

I had an epiphany recently; I have come to accept that everyone (whether male or female, young or old) in this world of ours is in sales business. We are all trying to sell something; whether it is oneself, a product or service.

Irrespective of your age or occupation, you have to sell yourself to move ahead in life. You have to overwhelm the opposite sex to win their love/affection, impress your teachers during assessments to pass, convince your potential employer that you are the next best thing after party Jollof rice during a job interview or market your product/service to attract customers.

image

Sales business is all about the buyers and sellers who are emotional beings. Buyers need to be convinced of you as a person, your product or service to be interested in what you have to offer. Hence, a seller requires emotional intelligence (empathy) as well as self-respect, self-awareness, self-motivation, ability to listen, integrity and honesty to successfully deliver his/her pitch and make a sale.

The Igbos often say “Otu isi kposa ka aga esi goru” which simply means what/how you sell is what/how people will buy. Buyers don’t care or want to know how great you are until they understand how great you think they are. Infact, there is a myth that boastful and loquacious sellers have little or nothing to offer. Hear Frank Underwood (a fictional character in the TV series House of Cards), “Pay more attention to the print it is far more important than the selling price.”

image

A seller that can control his/her words exudes confidence and self-respect. A strong sense of self-respect helps one fulfill his/her potential, develop healthy relationships with buyers and make them see you as a person worthy of respect. Absurdum est ut alios regat, qui seipsum regere nescit. Robert Greene once wrote, “A person that cannot control his words shows he cannot control himself, and is unworthy of respect.”

Nevertheless, there is a thin line between self-respect and self-obsession. In a desperate attempt to raise our self-respect, many cross this line and succumb to narcissism or self-obsession. While there is little or no doubt that people with low self-respect are often depressed, jealous and lack motivation, self-obsession can also be a conundrum. Richard Boyatiz, a Professor of Organizational Behavior, Psychology, and Cognitive Science at Case Western Reserve University, once said in a lecture, “To large extent, our strengths and weaknesses are like a yin yang. They are in the context of each other. Any strength taken to extreme can become a weakness.”

image

image

Self-obsessed individuals or narcissists are overconfident and have an unquenchable thirst to be perceived as the most important person in the room even if it means saying ill things or putting others down to feel good (a trait they share with individuals with low self-respect). It makes them feel significant hence they derive their sense of self from being good at something.

Self-obsession has more in common with low self-respect than we perceive; just with a different expression. Just like individuals with low self-respect, narcissists tend to get angry and aggressive towards those who make innocuous comments that irk their ego and make them feel bad about themselves.

Furthermore, they are often killjoys, flaunt and strut their accomplishments, compare a lot and hang out with people they feel are on their level. Human beings rarely accept their own feedbacks and narcissists are no different. However, facts are stubborn things and paying close attention to your own feedback (the most important information in this our sales world) will help you become a healthier, smarter and happier sales professional.

image

image

Having a healthy respect for others is crucial and cannot be overemphasised. Strive Masiyiwa, one of Africa’s richest business men and most generous humanitarians, wrote on his Facebook page, “Being business minded requires you to approach things with humility and respect.” These two leadership traits will help you interact with your buyer(s) in a way that makes them feel valued and appreciated. Consequently, building longlasting partnership/relationship with your buyer(s). Always remember, a seller is nothing without his/her buyer(s) and individuals don’t need to be  important to be a potential buyer. Hear Bishop T.D. Jakes, “Take your time to enjoy your relationships. Nature teaches us, there’s no fruit without relationships..you need people. Surround yourself with good ones.”

The need for self-respect in sales (life) have led many to turn a blind eye to their shortcomings and flaws thereby developing a quasi-understanding of themselves. If you are in pursuit of self-respect, then you must have to accept yourself (including your limitations) and work everyday on becoming better. Investing in yourself is the best investment you can/will ever make. A good sales professional invests in his/her education, development and personal motivation; these are prerequisite tools.

Are you a good salesman?