When I was a kid, Nigerian folks would ask me “Chibuzor, what do you want to be when you grow up?”
It’s a question we’re all asked at some point in our lives.
Left to my own devices, I imagined myself doing all sorts of things.
I aspired to be an astronaut, race car driver, ninja, superhero.
Things an 11 or 12 year old kid could envision.
Being raised by two no-nonsense Nigerians, though, I always had a scripted answer to the old “whaddaya wanna be” query.
The response rolled off my tongue so genuinely and effortlessly, that it always elicited knowing nods of approval.
“That Chibuzor is such a good boy!”
I mean, what else would the son of a PhD and holder of two Masters’ degrees be, but an engineer?
My siblings and I each had our own pat response: “A doctor.” “An engineer.” “A banker.” “A scientist.”
Noble professions that would make any Nigerian parent proud.
And it’s not like we were talking shit.
Our parents went hard with the brainwashing.
If we hadn’t fully projected our future selves in our developing adolescent brains, it was up to Uneze and Nnenna to implant the seeds of our inevitable success themselves.
The fruits of their insidious psychological labor?
My sister went to Harvard and became a doctor. My brother went to Harvard and became a banker. My other brother went to Notre Dame and got his PhD in Economics. And the youngest brother recently graduated from Yale, is probably going to Harvard for his MBA, and will likely be another banker.
But that was them.
There was no Harvard for the kid.
I didn’t need no stinkin’ Ivy League degree to be successful.
If my future were based on things I liked to do at the time, I’d have been a professional masturbator, comic book collector or kung fu movie sound effects creator.
When I was growing up, it was enough just to have a response.
There was no follow-up. No “What kind of engineer?” “Where do you want to get your degree?” “Do you know who you want to work for?”
Nowadays, there’s so much pressure for kids to figure out exactly what they want to do with their lives.
This pressure starts early, with parents projecting upon children their unfulfilled dreams and desires.
“Ya gotta do better than your old man!”
Then society takes over, telling them they’ve got to go to school, get a degree and find a good job or profession.
“You’ll never get a good job if you don’t have a degree!”
Throughout life, there’s the mad dash up the corporate ladder, everyone vying for the elusive brass ring.
“If you ever want to make partner, you’ve got to put in overtime!”
So where did this leave me?
I never really bought into my father’s desire for me to become an engineer.
I didn’t even know what an engineer was, what an engineer did or who engineers worked for.
Weren’t engineers the guys who wore overalls and drove trains?
Who wants to drive a friggin’ train?
Although I did own
several a pair of overalls…
Aside from pleasing my dad and relatives, I was just regurgitating party propaganda.
But true to form though, when I graduated high school and got to college, what was my major?
No one tells me what to do!
For two years, I took the required math and science classes and towed the engineer party line.
But my heart was never in it.
And two years later I transferred college, changed majors and graduated with a degree in economics – agricultural economics to be exact.
What the fuck is agricultural economics, you ask?
Agri-ecom (as I like to call it) deals with the production, consumption, environmental and resource problems of the agricultural sector.
What does one do with a degree in agricultural economics?
Go to law school of course!
Now did I want to be a lawyer?
Hell fucking no!
But what else was I going to do with an agri-ecom degree?
And when you tell a Nigerian you’re going to law school, they’re impressed.
Graduated. Passed the bar. Practiced law for a bunch of years.
You know what I learned?
I hated practicing law.
Was good at it. But hated it with a passion.
I’m not going to go into it in any great depth.
Suffice it to say that most laws are written to keep the ignorant masses in their place. As long as you have enough money and influence, laws are almost irrelevant. And when you hear about avarice, corruption and graft in the halls of justice, believe it.
I shall now step off my soap box and continue.
After trying my hand at things I did just to be doing shit, I decided to just do me.
What, pray tell, does that mean?
It means that I accepted that my greatest gift, my raison d’etre, was to guide other people.
Help folks get out of their own way and realize their untapped potential.
I’m great at
telling other people what to do giving advice.
I have an analytical mind, think well on my feet and can quickly assess any situation from multiple angles.
Combined with an awesome bedside manner, charm, wit and an wicked sense of humor, I make an excellent consigliere.
Don’t be mistaken, I am not a “yes” man.
Far from it.
I’m the guy that’ll tell you the truth, not what you want to hear.
Over the years, I’ve helped many a budding entrepreneur realize his or her dreams.
I’ve also disabused quite a few of their pipe dreams.
Why am I blathering on like this?
Simple, if you’re struggling to figure out what you should be doing with yourself – your life, seek counsel.
Don’t ask your mom or dad, unless they’re titans of industry – and even then take their advice with a grain of salt.
Hellooooo? They’re the ones that got you into this mess in the first place!
Seek out folks in the industries that interest you, who are doing things you find intriguing, or have achieved some level of success that you could see yourself emulating.
If you can’t find someone like that or gain audience with them, get a career coach.
Someone professional and detached, who can assess you, your skills and aspirations objectively.
I went to one, several years ago, and it really helped to focus me on my mission – to conquer the world MWAHAHAHA!
I’m sorry, did I say that out loud?
My point is, don’t paint yourself into a corner trying to live up to other people’s expectations of you.
That’s a recipe for disaster.
Rather, focus on things that you enjoy and find challenging.
And if you don’t know what that is yet, that’s oaky, you’ve got a lifetime to figure it out.
If you get stuck, ask me.
Above all else, do you.