We all admire someone, or at least want be like them or do the things they have done. Maybe we read books about them or follow them on Twitter, in the best of circumstances we meet them. I have been trying to list all the great things I have done so far. Not the winning award kind of things, like I-am-truly-proud-of-myself in a private way kind of things. I met one of the five people I look up to most and got the guts to tell them how they shaped my life. Let’s call him Captain K.
If you are my father’s daughter then you know that being mediocre could be more scary than cancer. By default you thought about career a lot as a tween. I wanted to be a poet or journalist, unacceptable in my father’s eyes.So he encouraged, nudged or whatever but my thirteen year old self came to know of the existence of this captain of industry as part of getting me to get real dreams.I was hooked but opted for the next easiest but acceptable path, I decided on law school.
I was content for two seconds then I started wondering if I could still achieve things of similar magnitude as Captain K. He seemed like a rockstar, as much of a rockstar as corporate person can appear to be on news and in the papers. Then someone in a Strathmore accounting class talked about him the way you would talk about that one time you went fishing with Obama and he listened to you like you were the most powerful person on earth. It made me realize what I wanted to be said about me. Had you asked me before that I would not have known the difference between authentic leadership and position.
Did I want to go to the financial sector like him? I would definitely have said no. So when years later I ignored everyone’s advice about audit being a terrible fit for a lawyer with my personality, I partly wanted to get to do most of the things that he had done. Very few things in life have caused me so much boredom, pain, depression, disillusionment and sleepless nights. Still, as a result of that decision I ended up meeting Captain K, in person.
I told him what I thought he wanted to hear. Then I was so sure that I had to reach out in a real, genuine and wholesome kind of way. I was tempted to tell him that whenever I would get bored in a Physics class I would wonder if he was ever a science inclined student and hope that he hated Physics. Did he find Abraham Lincoln and Mahatma Gandhi interesting in high school? Are there moments when he thought that he was better than everyone and others when he felt like an imposter when people told him he was greatness in a human form? Then I wrote four pages saying all I should have said the first time. Reading that many years I realized that writing from the heart opens my eyes to who I truly am. It is also then that I got clarity of what I really wanted to do. So I reread his book every year and I am still filled with the same wonder as when my father first told me about him.
Do I want to be in the financial sector or hold a public office? Not really but time will tell. What I know is that I want to be authentic and leave a solid legacy. Maybe someday I’ll create an African news platform. Then maybe I will also reach out to Chimamanda in person or Pete Cashmore or Shonda Rhimes. I also know that if someone sends me that kind of email or tweet I will make their efforts worthwhile as Captain K did for me.
What’s my point? Reach out to that one public figure, tweet, send an email or walk up to them and tell them that their existence made a difference in your life. If that is a lie then look for a person for whom those words will be more than mere flattery.It is as much for your own affirmation as it is for them.