Thursday Talk Series | Augustine Ojeh Seeks Clarity of Purpose

Rigozo

Let’s play a game. Not Squid Game guys (I haven’t watched the movie but a lot of you are very loud about it). This game is simple and nonfatal, please. I want you to read the sentence below, and as you do so count the number of Fs that you find.

Awesome. How many Fs did you find? 3, 4, 5, or 6? Click here to see the answer and find out whether you are smart or not. Did you get the right answer? 😁😏

Moving on. Today, I’ll be introducing Augustine Ojeh. Let me confess. I have reason to believe that he gets high from giving expression and meaning to the world around him with words. Having recently made his acquaintance, I have no informed impression of his person. However, I can tell you that I deduced he’s a craftsman who has a sizzling relationship with words by stalking his Instagram page. Yes, that’s right! I did that. I was curious you see, and best believe that now I want to know even more about him.😂 I’m aware that he’s an earnest coach – ready to teach and also learn. He’s a book-lover, has no pet that I know of, is a certified night owl, and is an amazing writer and editor.


Q. Can you introduce yourself and what you do?

A. Augustine Ojeh here. Somewhere deep down, I reaffirm myself to be a genius but, in reality, I’m just another nobody, scratching his way upwards and seeking clarity of purpose. In my quest for clarity, I read books. I wouldn’t say it’s been a lot of books but enough to heighten my curiosity and desire to teach. What better way to learn than to teach? So, I’m a writer, editor, and writing coach. I write about business growth, global and workplace sustainability, diversity (gender, racial, and cultural), economics, and a pinch of psychology (for the love of it). However, I’m a questioner of illogical religious doctrines and the credulity of its believers. Some (including clergymen) have called me an Atheist but I’ll excuse their assertions to their purportedly ill understandings of Atheism.

Augustine Ojeh at his favorite space that he calls Saturn
Augustine Ojeh

Q. Why do you do your job, and would you rather do something else?

A. I wouldn’t say that I have a job. Just as footballers never called playing soccer a job, writing has never been a job to me. At least, I’ve never seen it that way and probably never will. I’d do something else if it has a negative opportunity cost, like starting and building a business which I’m already doing (won’t say more than that). However, I doubt if any of that would stop me from writing.

Q. What’s your idea of real success and how can it be achieved?

A. The “real” seems weird. Success is never faked. And, in my opinion, there’s no rigid formula to achieving it. I have several ideas of success, depending on what area of my life is under the magnifying lenses. In marriage, parenting, career, mental development, and all others, the ideas of success change. The methods to achieving each also vary. In marriage and mental development, for instance, stern principles are important while in parenting and career, flexibility and amenability to change are virtues.

Q. What is your morning routine like?

A. a. Wake up by 9:00 AM. That alarm is annoying and the funny thing is that the 9 am alarm description reads, “OJEH, YOU’VE GOT 1,440 MINUTES TODAY. NOW, GET IN THE TOILET, YOU PISS OF SHIT!”

b. Sit on the toilet seat for 30 minutes (maybe drop some poops if there’s any coming. Eewww! But it does feel good.)

c. Bath right after.

d. Brew some coffee in the kitchen.

e. Read three important newsletters [from the New York Times (US), The Economist (UK), and Punch (NG)] while I wait for coffee.

f. Read and respond to emails.

g. Update my to-dos for the day.

Q. What two things do you think of the most each day and why?

A. I’m not sure there are any two particular things that I think about each day. However, my mind has been occupied by the book project that I’m working on recently. And why does that occupy my mind? Of course, you know. I think the second thing that fills my head is the business that I’m creating (but I won’t say more). It’s on my mind often because it should be. Nevertheless, I’ve got my family sitting pretty at the corner of my mind. They never leave there.

Q. How do you manage to deal with stress as you work?

A. I use the gym when the spirit leads but mostly in the evenings. I take long walks to clear my head also. And I play snooker as often as I can. It’s an opportunity to meet new faces and share a good laugh. It does help deal with the stress, no doubt. Chess also comes in handy when I’m a bit unhappy or frustrated.

Q. What do you feel is the difference between living and existing?

A. The difference is our perception of time. For those existing, time travels through them. So, they often sit pretty as time rides along. Living puts you in a race against time. It gives essence to time. It’s the reason 24 hours is too short for one day. If only it could be 28. Pfffft! But a jolly race against time without prizes to pick at random stops is a spokeless wheel.

Augustine Ojeh

Q. What was the last book you read and what can you say about it?

A. Perfectly Confident by Don A. Moore (Ph.D.). I think Professor Moore does have a lot to say about the dangers of blind optimism and unbacked confidence. I’d say the book is excellently written and laced with relatable research, accurate accounts of events, and exciting exercises to help you stay on track.

Q. Do you think we have a greater purpose or are we just waiting for our turn to die?

A. I think we are on a lap to create our heaven or hell. When this lap is over, we would return to the life that we created, clueless about how and when we created them. So, yes, we do have a purpose albeit its greatness is relative.

I wouldn’t say that I have a job. Just as footballers never called playing soccer a job, writing has never been a job to me. At least, I’ve never seen it that way and probably never will. I’d do something else if it has a negative opportunity cost, like starting and building a business which I’m already doing (won’t say more than that). However, I doubt if any of that would stop me from writing.

Augustine Ojeh on Thursday Talk Series

Q. What is that thing that you see as an obstacle that can stop you from having success?

A. Death.


Thank you very much for the interview, Augustine. I’m really glad to have met you and I look forward to all the amazing things you are set to do. For everyone still reading, thank you for being here. Wish you a spectacular Thursday.

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I Lose | You Lose

Rigozo

“You lose!”

There’s no easy way to hear this. Even though it isn’t really a competition, or it’s only a game, it remains a fact that the other person did a better job than I did. Standing on the sidelines, I wear a false smile. I can’t fully comprehend the emotions that slither in my chest and I’m loathe to acknowledge them. I have long waited anxiously for the results. Only now that I know I lost, I wish I could feign ignorance, or go back in time. There’s a part of me that wants to howl my frustration, argue that it is unfair, and tell them that it’s their loss for not choosing me. But how can I say that when the results clearly placed me as inferior? When I am the one that is not good enough.

“We like your work. It was impressive, and outstanding, but we decided…”

Tell me how not to feel wronged when my current predicament is as a result of the choices that people made for me? I’m conflicted. You see, I know my worth. If given a chance I can step up, take the lead, and become the superior person. Yet, here I am cast aside like a broken toy, ego bruised because my competence was in doubt.

“Sorry, but we have to let you go due to the current situation. We cannot afford…”

Why do they apologize? Are they really sorry for what they’ve done? I have half the mind to ask if they say sorry because they feel guilty for ruining me or if it is to make me consider that they’d want me if things were not dire. Why do I have to go, and those other people have to stay?

When failure rears its ugly head, the first thoughts that settle in my mind are, “I’m not good enough” and “What if it’s always going to be like this?” These thoughts take root and germinate into self doubt. It cripples my confidence. To never get to be exceptional and to stay mediocre for the rest of my life, is like getting a brand on my forehead with a red-hot knife. The smell of burnt flesh won’t register as much as the pain, which would later be inconsequential, when I’m faced with the reality of the scar that would remain.

There’s a part of me that wants to howl my frustration, argue that it is unfair, and tell them that it’s their loss for not choosing me.

The scar; it stays as a constant reminder of my mistakes. The scar will hold court in every conversation, it will stare back at me through my reflection, it will plague all of my waking hours and haunt my dreams.

But it doesn’t always have to be this way. Sometimes a ‘No’ is what we need. There are barriers, and perceived limitations that we do not confront until we have our backs against the wall. Until the only options are, fight or flight and our survival instincts kick in. Maybe when we lose, it is so that we can gain something better. By seeing our losses from a different perspective, we can channel it to fuel our drive to achieve success regardless. We would have done for ourselves a great service when we finally win.

Cheers to losing!


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Who Am I

Rigozo

When a man was reborn, the first question he asked was not, ‘Where am I?’ It was, ‘Who am I?’

We did not know who he was or how he happened to be. Therefore, we could not give him an answer.

Well, here is a man with his slate cleaned. He suffers a loss of identity, feels displaced and confused. ‘I used to be somebody, but I do not know who I am anymore.’ He asked, ‘Why did I do the things I did, who did I love, and who did I hate? Who am I? He continues to ask with the hopes of getting answers someday.

Who can say that they know another, when they do not even know themselves? If your secrets are locked in the darkest corner of your heart, who else can unlock them except you?

When a baby is born, he is without identity. Untethered and unbound to people and institutions. He is without a knowledge of the world.

What then makes a man? Is it his name or his family; his relationships or his country? Is he defined by the job he performs or by his religion? Does his time in jail reflect on his true character? Or could it be that the things he said when he was full of anger, were the same as his feelings?

When stripped of everything, and as a child, the world appears new and exciting. What pray tell, will you become?

When a man was reborn, the first question he asked was not, ‘Where am I?’ It was, ‘Who am I?’

Photo credit: Rigozo

Hey lovelies! Remember to like and comment. I hope we all find the answers that we seek and become the best versions of ourselves.

Photo credit: Rigozo

To Be Perfect

Rigozo

“Hurry up! We are going to be late.” My father shouted.

My father is a war veteran and he hates slothfulness of any kind. As his daughter, he expects nothing less than perfection from me.

My lips curl in a lopsided grin as I view the mess of makeup and lotions that’s the top of my dressing table. The oval-shaped mirror in its antique frame shows the rest of my bedroom which looks like a beast did a thorough job ransacking most of it. I mean look at my bed, my wardrobe – what’s left of it is everywhere. I spy a shoe hanging off the lamp.

“How did that happen?” I wonder.

My books are resting on every available surface, and my walls are papered with pictures, post-it notes, and album arts. The only space untouched by this madness is my desk which I like to leave uncluttered.

I’m petrified at the thought of cleaning up the place for fear of what I’ll find in my graveyard of festering laundry. It’s funny that I draw a line at littering trash; I cannot stand it. My friends think I’m weird.

My father will pop a vein if he comes into my room, although I find it unlikely. I stopped everyone from entering without permission after my sixteenth birthday, even the cleaners. When you have things to hide it’s better to take measures to not get caught. I’ll get to cleaning as soon as I’m back from this trip; if I come back.

I hear my parents talking.

“What is she still doing?

O bu gini? What is it?

My dad yells, “Young lady you better not make me come up there. The flight is for 8:00 am you know this.”

“Stop shouting my love, remember you have to watch your blood pressure!” I hear my mother say.

Their voices float up easily to my room at the top of the stairs.

“Obim! My heart! This your daughter will be the death of me. How much more time will she spend grooming herself when the entire town can bear witness that it makes no difference. She’s the most beautiful girl as far as the eyes can see, this makeup of a thing is all nonsense, and if she doesn’t get her act together…”

I can’t stop myself from snorting as I listen. The conversation reeks like moldy cheese. It’s the same thing over and over again, although not so far from the truth.

I do spend an inordinate amount of time dressing up; talking to myself once again to join the society and act the part of a young socialite that has everything going for her – the envy of her peers; trying to convince myself that my pain is the anchor from which I derive strength.

I’m beautiful – I say this with the conviction of one who has spent her entire life hearing it everywhere she goes. I know the bit about God creating us all beautiful and ‘in his own image’, but that ship doesn’t sail in my house. My parents believe that they played the most important part, concluding that there is a combination of their genes and a bit of oomph did the job.

You should see how they show me off in public, after which they pat their back for having the wisdom to make me a lovely little thing. A story for another day.

I quickly cram my essentials – phone, notepad, current book, powder, lipstick, keychain, and wallet into my purse, and peer into the mirror for the last time. Long, thick lashes adorn brown round eyes, hooded from years of trying to hide; if the eyes are the windows to the soul, I have a ‘no peeking’ policy. My nose reclines with an arrogant air like a peer of the realm, so I’ve heard. The lips are prone to frowns than smiles and I practice smiling for a few seconds; it is less like a sneer if I throw my head back. I run my fingers through my black hair but they get stuck in my tight kinky curls that contrast my clear fair skin. I look closer hoping to see what everybody else sees and more importantly what they fail to see.

My parents wanted a male child for a long time in their childless marriage; instead, my sweet behind popped out the first time my mother carried a child to term. Notwithstanding they named me Nkiruka – tomorrow is greater than today. Ha! How obvious can they be that I wasn’t enough? Unfortunately, I am the only child my mother was able to carry to term.

It’s a testament to my father’s love for my mother that he didn’t take another wife. I breathe deeply and leave the room, it will be a while before I come back here again. I take my time going down the stairs. There’s this song playing in my head; it’s Louis Armstrong’s/ When you are smiling. I focus on it, let it wash over me and that elusive smile finally emerges. My friend Dele sent it to me a while back; he shares my love for jazz. What would become of me without music?

“I’m here” I announce as I enter the sitting room. My mother shoots lasers out of her eyes and snaps at me. When she’s really upset but trying not to show it she gets formal like a flight attendant.

“You are advised to put an end to this childish behavior of yours. Must you always upset your father and me at every given opportunity? You were given a two weeks’ notice for a reason. This is a joint family vacation with your father’s business partners, do I have to remind you how important it is that you do not embarrass us in any way?” She says in her best air hostess voice.

“I’m your bloody daughter and not some vermin you have to tolerate, ” I yell in my head.

Outside I stare blankly at them; two peas in a pod, always to be found draped on each other’s arms. Well, whenever I’m found in the picture, it’s always as an afterthought or a strategic move to show off my family’s wealth and beauty. As I look at their drawn faces I acknowledge that they too are not without flaws, even as I admit that imperfections are not excuses to cling to.

When I do irrational things or refuse change even as it crosses my path, I like to think it’s on me. I may move past my flaws or they may never go away, so what? Where does it leave me? I observe the two people that gave me life until I hold their gazes.

“I’m sorry. I’ve been going through a lot lately” I apologize.

I see that they expect more but I wait for them to say something.

“If that is all let us get going,” my father’s irritation was obvious.

My hands shake, but I continue “I won’t be coming with you; I need to take time to figure things out on my own. I’m not sure for how long I’ll be gone; I’ll keep an eye in touch. Don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine.”

I turn to leave. Mother moves to stop me and I let her.

“Nkiruka, don’t do anything stupid,” she says sharply.

I was ten when we went to a party in the neighboring town with quite a several people from our town coming along. Our town council arranged buses to convey us but my parents and I went along in our car. The party was choked full with kids high on sugar, teenagers mingling and getting into mischiefs, adults juggling trying to have a good time with trying to stop the kids from trampling everything in sight. The music was loud, the food was plenty and I spent the entire day with everyone but my parents which sucked.

After trying but failing to get their attention, I ran off to sulk in one of the rides set to entertain the kids. I was always doing things like that when I was little – attention deprived as I was – me as my only companion.

After playing for some time I found a secluded spot and fell asleep from exhaustion; by the time I woke up the party was over and the place was shut down for the day. My throat turned raw crying and screaming for my parents to come to take me back home, “I’ll be good, I promise.” I thought they had left me behind on purpose. I found out later that they only noticed my absence the next morning; they had assumed I hitched a ride back with the rest of the town folks and slept over at a friend’s place the previous night. Did I mention I was ten? When nobody brought me home by noon my mother started to panic.

After a futile search all over town, someone suggested that they head back to the place where the party was held. I was dehydrated and scared to an inch of my life when they finally came back to pick me up. Because the authorities and press were involved my parents were furious at me for a long time. Till today I’m deathly afraid of being alone in the dark.

Always I’ve struggled to be the perfect daughter, the poster child for the perfect family. It started with churning out good grades and conducting myself with grace and poise. I was quite popular. When that wasn’t enough I became the poster child for a dysfunctional home; burning down my car in a drunken fit is my worst yet. I’ve despised the imperfections that come naturally to me, written on the tapestry of my being. It has taken me years to get to where I am right now; a place of acceptance.

Maybe things do not need to have structure, maybe chaos is order and broken does not necessarily equal useless, maybe nothing makes sense, maybe deep down I’m still a little kid craving attention. I think she realizes something in the way I lean away from her touch and her eyes shines as she steps aside. I have so much I want to say, so much to ask. What was I expecting? An apology? Do they care if I go or stay? Is there a way for us to work things out? Do they love me? Do I love them? I don’t know if now is the right time to go over everything.

I watch as my father turns to tattoo her, how they both reach for each other at the same time and I’ve never felt more alone than as I did at this moment. If I find love like theirs will this cycle repeat itself? I force my legs to move. I’m outside. My bags are already in the car. I’m leaving. The sadness still stays but already I feel a rightness swirling and replacing the hurt. I know a few things about myself but I want to learn more; to grow; to become. The time has come to change my perspective of my name – Nkiruka, tomorrow is greater than today – no more will I let my past define me. I’ll chase this truth like the day chases the night until at last, I live it always and forever.

I’m okay with not being perfect
‘Cause that’s perfect to me
– Anne Marie

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