AKINYEMI: Leaders don’t conform, but renew their minds

Thursday July 15 2021
Being different

The very first challenge a lot of people have to deal with is the challenge of being different. PHOTO | FILE | NMG


I started a podcast called the Rebel Network — Challenging Stereotypes and Myths. Why? Because unless we have leaders thinking anew, the future will be no different from the past. Too many people have been limited by the stereotypes and the thinking that they grew up with.

The ability to challenge thought is one of the keys to excelling in whatever we do and even the bible tells us not to conform but to be transformed by renewing our minds. So, as the mind goes, life goes.

My mother bought me my first wrist watch when I was about five. I instinctively put it on my right wrist. My mother asked me to take it off and put it on my left wrist. I asked her why and she gave an answer that just did not cut it for me at five years old and still does not cut it for me today— about half a century later.

She said, “Because that is how it has always been done." I placed the watch on my right wrist and there have been no consequences for putting my watch on my right wrist instead of on my left. She then went on to tell me that I was stubborn.

This was something that I would hear so many times and indeed I first thought it was a negative thing but as I grew older, I realised that this would be one of the things that will mark my life and that will shape the Wale that would be.

The very first challenge a lot of people have to deal with is the challenge of being different. Your greatness is not in how similar you are to others. It lies in how unique you are. Your difference is your power. People who do not get this early spend the rest of their lives trying to fit in. They spend the rest of their lives feeling ashamed and insecure because of how different they are.


I have a problem with some stereotypes and some statements we have all just come to accept because some important people said them. My podcast is dedicated to rebels; to those who refuse to accept things just because the majority accept them; to those who will redefine the rules of the game.

For example, the statement that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

The same people who will tell us not to do the same thing over and over again lest we be considered insane, are the ones who also tell us about the 10,000-hour rule which apparently is the rule that leads to excellence at anything - the fact that we do it over and over again.

I wonder if the people that coined that insanity definition studied truly insane people who do not have the presence of mind to do the same thing over and over again. They do not even do one thing for long enough. So, just as I challenged the status quo when it came to my watch, I am still challenging the status quo today and I am not going to embrace anything because it sounds nicely poetic and wise. I will challenge it boldly because I have made a practice of challenging my own assumptions.

The ability to challenge your own assumptions and beliefs opens you up to a world of constant learning and being a career learner always puts you ahead of the pack.

The world belongs to the rebellious. Human advancement owes its thanks to those who rebelled against the status quo and who challenged their own assumptions.

These giant steps were made by people who were ready to admit that their long-held beliefs were wrong and who were ready to become vulnerable in order to become truly powerful.

If you are not changing your mind about anything, then you have not learned anything new.

Wale Akinyemi is the convenor of the Street University ( and chief transformation officer, PowerTalks. [email protected]