Thursday, January 21, 2010

What keeps you up at night?

I love the question posed in my title.


I really don't know.

It's one that I started hearing with regularity when I started working for Petro-Canada (now re-christened Suncor after our merger with the "old" Suncor). The head of Petro-Canada's downstream business was fond of talking about opportunity development areas as items that "kept him up at night". I thought that was such a great way to explain what others might term "pains in the a*s" or "who is bringing us down so we can fire them?". It made issues seem not quite trivial, but certainly worthy of being resolved through brainstorming and perhaps a good night's sleep!

So what keeps me up at night?

I think the fear of not being relevant when my life's work is done is what does it for me. This isn't to say that I'm so caught up in my own importance - or lack thereof - that I will ignore any other success I'm part of (if not entirely responsible for), nor does it mean that I won't be happy until I'm as famous as Barack or William However, I have set out certain targets that I would love to accomplish between now and the time I'm 35 and others yet that culminate in my 40th year on this earth. None of the goals are necessarily earth-shattering, but I believe they are relevat, not only to my ego, but also to ultimate good of this world - in particular the African continent and peoples of African descent. I realize this does appear to defeat my ego-less pretentions, but rest assured, my intentions are purely altruistic/nationalistic.

By the time I'm 35, I would like to:
 - work for myself
 - be considered materially successful
 - achieve my dream of social entrepreneurship in Africa and perhaps the Caribbean as well
 - be able to point to concrete, life-saving (or improving) projects that I've been part of

By the time I'm 40, I would like to:
 - work because I want to, i.e. financial independence
 - do some missionary work every year, if I'm so led
 - expand from where I was at 35, vis-a-vis infrastructure development in developing nations

Of course, there are other personal goals which I won't necessarily elaborate on now :-)

I realize that as time goes on, other things - family, kids, health, mortality and the other realities of life are more likely to keep me up at night, I recognize that a time will come when the small pleasures - walking, talking, eating, sleeping - will matter as much as the big dreams...but I'm happy that I'm still at the stage where big dreams are possible, and I look forward to working to make mine come true. In the meantime, I'll keep working on dreaming up the breakthrough :-)

What keeps you up at night?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Change is a good thing

I was assigned to a new role at work yesterday - it's a role I've always wanted, so I can't complain - in addition, it's a clear sign that the company values my skills and abilities. I'm excited about this opportunity. Even if weren't, there's nothing better than a fresh slate, new opportunities and the ability to close the chapter on a productive, but "getting close to stale" segment of one's work life.

I really believe change is a good thing. Folks often counteract that by pointing to firings, divorces and all manner of "within our control" human incidents to prove that the reverse is just as true. But my questions would be:

 - Is your being fired a bad thing because you lost your source of income or is it because you've lost the chance to do something you truly enjoy, desire and cherish? My guess is that the former - more often than not - is the real reason why people are despondent when they are laid off. Generally speaking, the more passionate you are about what you do, the less likely you are to be in a position where those skills aren't being recognized to the extent that you are fired. In this case, I would opine that you are better off being fired so that you can discover your true passions and while, yes, it may be painful for a short while...if marshalled properly, you could end up celebrating a new lease on life.

 - Is getting divorced necessarily a bad thing? I think so...BUT, does that mean that staying in a bad or abusive marriage is better? NO. Sometimes, you come to the realization that far from trying to wonder if the genie can ever go back into the bottle...the genie was never in (or out) of the bottle. The bible talks about not divorcing, but I'm convinced that a wife as a punching bag on a daily basis isn't worthy of that woman's love, not to mention her presence. As such, I'm sure the Good Lord Himself will understand if that lady decides to give herself a few more years on this earth and get out of Dodge. In that case - as in the case where a man's wife verbally or mentally abuses him (it goes both ways, you see...) - while that option is not ideal, it is better than the status quo...and really, isn't it all about putting ourselves in situations where we can improve our collective lot in life?

So what motivated my soliloquy? Nothing really...but I remember the times when I preferred to go home after a long day at work and just be myself - work on some personal projects, visit with friends for a meal occasionally, sleep early, etc. Then over the holidays, I met some fun and interesting individuals - some in person during my trip to Nigeria and at home here in Toronto, some I connected with online, and others just wandered in somehow. All are energetic, purposeful (mostly) and brimming with new thoughts and ideas that inspire discourse and discovery. Now I find myself looking forward to leaving work and actually socializing and extending my evening hours to soak up the possibilities - in person, online, on the phone (gasp!)'s been phenomenal and it's a good change.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Haiti...can't they catch a break?

One of the motivations for me resuming my blog (other than the aforementioned renewal in clarity) was the recent catastrophe that befell Haiti, otherwise known as the first independent black nation in the world. I didn't shed tears because of the disaster because I was too numb to do so. I didn't get annoyed at the condescending tones used to describe the country by the media and the fat cats in Western capitals because really, what else is new? I haven't even really jumped on the constant tweeting bandwagon to show my support (unless you count my miserly 3 or 4 tweets a day) because let's be honest, only 38 people follow me on Twitter - and half of them aren't active users!

The impact this situation had on me was in form of the question in my title...can't Haiti catch a break?

This is a country with no known industry, with a high rate of HIV/AIDs, a legacy of both bad and corrupt government, a pariah to most nations in the world (even their not-so-great neighbors) and now this? Potentially a quarter of a million lives lost, whatever existing infrastructure destroyed...

Where does Haiti go from here?

After all the aid has been collected, disbursed and spent (and by the way, the aid collected will NOT come anywhere close to meeting even the minimum need of this devastated country), where will this country be left?

Who will help the fatherless and motherless children and ensure they don't slip into a life of crime?

Who will rebuild schools and hospitals - and not just take them back to their pathetic pre-earthquake state, but actually make them functional?

Who will ensure that clean water is available AFTER the international media loses interest in this story (as surely they will) so that disease doesn't spread to epidemic proportions?

As we scramble to help this nation - and the outpouring has been admirable - let us remember that the real impact of this disaster isn't the human tragedy we see unfolding now, but that which will undoubtedly arise in a year...and certainly in ten. Let us volunteer our time, effort and skills to make sure that the people of Haiti have a plan in place for the future, not just for today. As much as food, clothing and shelter are necessary for the short-term healing of Haiti, infrastructure development is what will be their long-term salvation.

Thursday, January 14, 2010's been a while

Okay, I'm going to stop pontificating on my blog-writing laziness. It'll happen when it happens. Actually, I've done a few writeups in places like Facebook and on countless web portals and "communities". I'll just dredge them up!

In the past I mentioned looking for a specific train to hitch my blog to...I wanted to focus on a few things rather than spray my considerable powers of thought (ok, that was a bit much) over many.

Over the holidays - spent in the humid and chaotic climes of Lagos, Nigeria (more on that later) - I've formalized some of those. The developing world (in particular subsaharan Africa) is in dire need of stable, effective leadership AND infrastructure development. My passions lie in these areas and so will this blog.

Welcome back.