A time comes when a leader must pause to evaluate life and ask pertinent questions, such as, Why am I here? What is important to me? What will my legacy be? What are the limiting habits that I have? What new habits do I need to take up? Who is really important in my life? Who are my true friends? Who are the joy riders? Where am I going? What do I need to get there? Who do I need to get there? Who do I need to drop to get there?
Two things have inspired this thinking. First, in my one-on-one sessions with leaders, I am concerned about how little self-awareness exists among them. Many of my students, who are C-Suite officers in some of the largest corporations on Earth, are never able to complete an assignment to answer questions about themselves in one week!
If you do not know the truth about yourself, then you are on shaky ground as a leader because it means you are hiding behind the brand identity of your employer. Interestingly, founders display a higher level of self-awareness than non-founders.
So, you need to take time out to really think about yourself as a leader because it will keep you relevant for long. As you become more aware of yourself, then you will begin to see the areas in which changes are needed, and it becomes easier for you to adapt. As we all know, it is not the strongest or the wisest that survive, but those who are adaptable to changing circumstances. If you do not know the current circumstances, how will you know if they change?
Second, something happened to me on August 11 at 3pm. It was like any other day in my life. Leaving Kilifi County early, I got to the airport in Mombasa in good time to catch my flight to Nairobi. I landed in Nairobi at around noon.
My colleague Susan picked me up, and we decided to lunch before going for my meeting. After lunch at 2:30pm I felt tired and chose a nap before my 4pm appointment. As I got into bed, I had a strong urge not to sleep, even though I was tired, so I got up.
I also had a strong urge to open the door and leave it slightly ajar. What happened next was like a movie, except it was not. It felt like millions of people were punching my chest from the inside.
Next thing I knew I was clutching my chest and fell to the floor. I speed-dialled my wife who called for help. Thankfully, I had left the door slightly ajar and I was rushed to hospital because I had suffered a massive heart attack. The question many of those who attended to me were asking was how I was still alive.
Now, at the moment I was drifting off, and it looked like the end had come, I did not think of work. I did not think of any deals. All I thought of was my family and the unfinished service to humanity. In that moment, I discovered what really mattered. The question is, “Did it have to take a near-death experience to jolt me to the realisation of what is important?”
My mind was flooded with so many “what ifs” after that day, and in truth, my life has been altered forever. Never leave the important at the expense of the ordinary. Never leave the strategic at the mercy of the important. Always pause to ask yourself at different stages in your life – “Why am I here? What is important to me? What will my legacy be? What are the limiting habits that I have? What new habits do I need to take up? Who is really important in my life? Who are my true friends? Who are the joy riders? Where am I going? What do I need to get there? Who do I need to get there? Who do I need to drop to get there?”
Once you identify the answers to these questions, then be deliberate and pour your heart into making it happen.
Wale Akinyemi is the founder of The Street University. Email is [email protected]