Children are The Leaders of Tomorrow; Youths are The Leaders of Today

“I think self-awareness is probably the most important thing toward being a champion.” 

-Billie Jean King

The weekend of August 12th was quite interesting as I listened to an amazing set of individuals invited as speakers at the TedxMaitama event that held in Abuja. It was the second Tedx event I attended. The first was the maiden edition of TedxStrathmore in Nairobi, back in 2014 I think. TedxMaitama wasn’t dull at all. It staged speakers from almost all sectors, entrepreneurs, public sector, creatives, international organizations and civil society, etc.

One of the most interesting things I learned was Nasir Yammama’s plan to send Jollof Rice to Space via a helium powered balloon (follow the hashtag #JollofRise next week to keep up with the success). For those of us who do not know Jollof Rice, it’s simply like cooking rice and stew together and it should come out as orangish redish or rather, tomato colour. It’s what Kenyans call Pilau. It’s all part of Nasir’s company plan of empowering smallholder farmers in rural communities.

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Another speaker Sadiq Abdulkadir, an architect presented something new in the architectural practice of Nigeria and quite interesting that amused the whole crowd. He was using virtual reality for demonstration of architectural designs. It was marvelous the first time I saw him and tried his solution 4 months ago at an exhibition of Nigerian Institute of Architects  in Abuja. With my interest in built environment, his solution would be something that I could use or see more of hopefully in the future.

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A TedxMaitama attendee trying out architect Sadiq’s new dimension in visualizing building architectural designs

Anyway, what compelled me to write this post is what the digital media entrepreneur, Japheth Omujuwa mentioned in his talk about children being the leaders of tomorrow. The speaker narrated how when he was in primary school, his teachers mentioned to him that they (children then) are going to be leaders of tomorrow. Moving to the next level, secondary school, he was told the same thing at Kings College. Another step forward at the university, a student union leader stood in front of a lecture hall which Japhet was present and addressed them as the leaders of tomorrow. Cut the story short, he rejected the leader’s notion that they (Japhet them, already grown as young adults) are the leaders of tomorrow.

Omjouwa didn’t believe that that‘tomorrow’ hasn’t arrived yet. Something must be wrong. Awareness and self-awareness are absent in us. That is what’s missing in the mind of many of us (youths) today. We are simply not aware that we are the leaders of today. Instead, we have narrowed our thinking to assuming that the leaders our teachers and elders always refer to is the political leadership; being president, governor, a senator or the likes.

Japhet asked a simple question to the crowd, referencing some of the young entrepreneurs/innovators invited as speakers who are already making giant strides in their endeavours, especially Nasir Yammama who was recently listed as one of the Forbes 30 under 30 entrepreneurs in Africa. “Can you say Nasir is not a leader today in agritech?” Omojuwa posited. You simply cannot. His social enterprise, Verdant Group, has impacted more than 25, 000 small holder farmers in Nigeria and the number will rise in the coming years.

Being a leader doesn’t necessarily mean being a political leader. In fact, the Merriam Webster’s dictionary defined a leader as someone who influences people. so how many of us, through different roles and avenues have influenced one or two other people. How many of us have made strides in sports, in civil society, in entrepreneurship, in research or whatever else you are doing. Being a leader shouldn’t be taught as when no one stands before you, in fact you are a leader when everybody is ahead of you and you guide them from the rear. It’s simply the awareness we should possess. A very interesting article from Harvard Business Review says that “you can’t be a good leader without self-awareness. It lies at the root of strong character, giving us the ability to lead with a sense of purpose, authenticity, openness, and trust it.”

I couldn’t agree more with what Billie Jean Kings says as well, “I think self-awareness is probably the most important thing toward being a champion.”  If we are a little more self-aware of what is going on, then we will take control of a lot of things going on. We will stop the wrong assumption that the tomorrow they told us while growing up hasn’t arrived. We will take more charge of what we do and feel confident and positive.

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Japheth Omojuwa making his point about awareness

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How Do We Become More Self-aware?

Don’t giggle at me when you read the next sentence. Start meditating. I know I know. Many people think of mediation as a foreign thing. I remember when I visited a resort owner and pitched him the idea that I would love to have people come to their cool green park and meditate. He concluded that it was an oyimbo (how white people are called in Nigeria) idea. It was my idea. I am not oyimbo.

Meditation simply allows you to be in the moment. To have yourself simply immersed in thinking of one thing. And thereafter, have reflections of what has transpired in your life. It’s what the Savages of Sirvana recommended to Julian, the successful Harvard Lawyer who sold his Ferrari, abandoned all what he had and travelled to India on a journey of self-discovery, as narrated in Robin Shirma’s book, “the monk who sold his Ferrari”.

Anyway, you and I do not own a Ferrari, but what am simply saying is you should endeavour to have more self-awareness in whatever you do and meditation yoga, is one heck of a great idea to. Writing down your plans and priorities, asking trust friends, taking psychometric tests and getting regular feedback at work are among the 5 things this article from Harvard Business Review recommends.

The tomorrow our teachers informed us while growing up has arrived. It is today. If you cannot agree that you are a leader in what you do, it is simply because you have refused to take action.  So actually, children are the leaders of tomorrow, and youths taking action are the leaders of today.

“The only difference between the people off stage and the people on stage was that the people on stage had taken action and moved forward despite their fears.”

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Reviewing Your 2017 To-Be List; 6 Months To Go

“People overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can in ten”. Culled from www.kathleensiminyu.com

At the end of last year, I blogged on how to set your goals to achieve in a day, month or a year. Click here to reread it. By June 28 2017, half of the year is remaining for you to do whatever you want in 2017. So if you have set yourself some of those annual goals, it is time to review how much you have come and how much is left.

Last week, I received a notification email from my friend’s blog, Kathleen when she posted. Kathleen narrates to us a discussion she had with a techie at a tech-business-y event held in Nairobi. It was about how much one, as a person thinks he can achieve in one year and in ten. He stated, “we overestimate what we can do in one year and underestimate what we can do in ten” (want to read the whole post from Kathleen’s blog, click here). Can you just reread it and take a moment to allow that to sink in? Is it true for you?

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In a good example, Kathleen is a wanna-be polyglot. She is taking Spanish and French Languages lessons weekly. Every day, she tries to practice her language skills by watching some film series recorded in either of the two languages she intends to be fluent in. Day after day, the work became overbearing for her as she thinks she tries to achieve a lot in 24 hours. And somehow, she neglects or rather fails to see the big picture if she does a little over an entire year. Kathleen primarily focused the achievements of her goals in one day, trying to do a lot and thinking it is only the day she has while neglecting to stretch her ambitions over some months, a year or even a decade.

It is what I always aim to preach, focus on your to-be list instead of a to-do list. To-be list is a big picture list. It is the end goal. It is what you become when you do those little tasks on your daily to-do lists. Having the big picture perspective is always important.

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As such, that’s half the year is a good time to pause and review those goals you wrote down at the beginning of the year. How far have you come? Is the steam you started sufficient enough to sustain and enable you reach your goal or you have to pump it up? The time is just right to evaluate your daily, weekly and monthly targets while keeping an eye at the big picture.

For me, I tried to be committed to my set goals but flexible in my approach of achieving them. So my to-do lists has changed over time in a manner I can still arrive at where I want to be, albeit not in a good time. Many of the projects I set out to-do are lagging behind their expected time of achievement. But I guess it is natural for so many projects. It is just reality, challenges and issues causing it.

As I take the next few days to reflect what I need to do ensure I reach where I want to be by 31 December 2017, I would be considering taking more pragmatic steps. Because I have already started the journey of achieving them and experienced some challenges, it would be wise enough to factor such experiences as I set out to the second half of the year.

I invite you to take the next few days as well in reviewing your to-do and to-be lists. If you haven’t set any, there is no better time than now. For those who have already reviewed their lists, how far have you gone? Is the steam just enough or you need to pump it up? Please comment below.

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Deliberations of the Panel Discussion on Sustainability in Architecture in Nigeria

The built environment is responsible for the largest consumption of energy produced in the world. They have a corresponding largest global greenhouse gas emission by sector, 40% according to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). How does this all affect us and the environment? Negative impacts of climate change have positioned many people in danger. It has destroyed lives and properties. Worse, it places a dark cloud for future generations. As such, there is need to reduce the impact of our built environment on the carbon footprint.

The French Institute of Nigeria and Green Habitat Initiative, on 31st of May in Abuja, brought together professionals in the built environment industry to debate the right sustainability principles and materials for Nigeria’s built environment. Four panelists drawn from different disciplines and professions that cut across sustainability in architecture were brought together to lead the discussion. After introductory speeches by the panelists, a panel discussion held between the panelists, moderated by the Director of Green Habitat Initiative Sadiq Gulma.

A summary of the viewpoints of the four panelists is highlighted below.

Nmadili Okwumabua is Nigerian and promotes modernizing African architecture in Nigeria’s cities, through her organization Community Planning and Design Initiative. Through her presentation and contributions to the discussion, she stressed the need to reclaim our heritage by not being embarrassed about using red earth for our buildings in Abuja. Through her organization, Nmadili receives entries of architectural plans modernized with African values from everyone around the globe. She has received many great entries reflecting numerous African culture and values in their design. The panelist revealed she is currently building a prototype of such sustainable houses. The model would be instrumental in advancing the movement.

Having expressed her pessimism at the beginning of her presentation, Armelle Choplin our second panelist has been following cement, what she calls ‘the grey gold’ from Nigeria through Benin, Togo to Ghana. She is concerned that Nigeria may not stop using cement in building because it is becoming cheaper and Dangote Industries is providing all the cement Nigeria needs. Through her research, she has discovered there is a social symbol and even political to the use of cement in our buildings. People who use other materials, such as red earth maybe seen as less privileged. There is a challenge of finding skilled local builders to teach foremen how to use red mud in constructing strong buildings that can go as high as 10 story building. For a paradigm shift to take place, she asserts that notable and prominent people and organizations like Dangote would play an influential role if they take the lead.

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Having understood the local issues with the building materials in question, Mr. Stephanne Pouffary was on the panel to provide the macro vision of sustainability in cities. Through his NGO, ENERGIES 2050 he has worked with up to 30 cities all over the world including those in West Africa to help them advance their energy efficiency and sustainability goals. His contribution clarified that different cities have different priorities and motivation to go green. Our ability to personalize the codes that will drive everyone to cleaner cities. For that to work, he highlighted 3 things that needs to be done; increase professionals’ capacity in sustainability, form regional coalitions to promote goals and work out the cost benefit analysis for sustainability to go mainstream. At the end, cost drives everything.

All the talk would be in vain if there are no institutionalized policies to control and regulate the built environment. The fourth panelist, Dr. Sherif Y. Razak who is from the Department of Development Control (authority in charge of approving all building plans and development in Abuja) was on the panel to describe what the government is doing and needs to do. Currently, the Department has instituted a green building committee to vet all building submissions against certain green building concepts. However, a lot needs to be done before a bigger impact can be made. He stressed the need to increase capacity amongst professionals, including government staff. A prototype of buildings with such sustainability standards would be pivotal in influencing building policy and regulations. Therefore, what Ms Nmadili is building should serve as a good reference point for policy makers to use in changing the regulations.

After debating amongst each other, the panelists engaged with the teeming audience. Many shared their views and supported the fact that capacity needs to increase, especially amongst architects who are the chief drivers of the built environment. Many others questioned the officer from the Department of Development Control and their need to enforce the principles.

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The event concluded with more discussions amongst participants during the cocktail.

Saving the Environment, Tracking the Solutions

The need to preserve the environment in Nigeria cannot be overemphasized. Failure to do that invites conflicts, depletion of ecosystems, migrations etc. The country is already experiencing various forms of environmental degradations1.

The northern part of the country is facing extreme conditions of deforestation, drought, desertification and erosion2. The vast arable lands are lost due to overgrazing, unsustainable farming methods, deforestation and Sahara Desert enncroahment3. Other parts of the country witness soil and water pollution from oil spillage and industrial processes, deforestation, extreme weather conditions, flooding and loss of biodiversity2. The causes are largely anthropogenic which are now being exacerbated by climate change.

Keeping up with all the environmental degradations and marking them for protection would be an arduous task. However, achieving the feat, especially digitally, would mean all environmental issues are brought to the fore and attention of all. Hence, invigorating people and organizations to take actions.

The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) has in recent time developed a national tracking programme of public health issues4.  It is called the National Environmental Public Health Tracking Programme (NEPHTP). Up to 26 states in the United States developed local tracking platforms that are embedded in the CDC NEPHTP.  The state of Lousianna’s Tracking Programme mapped the health effects and reach of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon BP oil spillage as well as to inform other relevant authorities how to help5.

In the absence of any environmental tracking platform in Nigeria, I propose a Nigeria Environmental Tracking Platform (NET-P). A community-led initiative to identify, map and records the environmental problems their land is experiencing and also tracks and identifies the players trying to solve them would be an effective way of preserving the environment in Nigeria. It also mentions and educates users the consequences of not protecting the environment.

It is a regional innovation project that motivates people to solve the environmental challenges their locality is facing. Thereafter, any solution implemented by the people is indexed and properly elaborated in a manner to allow for replication and implementation elsewhere. It’s like an encyclopedia of regional environmental problems, the solutions needed and taken by others.

This initiative builds on the state of Louisiana Tracking Programme. The latter lacks functions of suggested solutions and does not catalogue solutions taken for easier reference. It also doesn’t rank the problems requiring urgent interventions. NET-P would be quite diverse, taking into consideration the environmental priorities of different regions. Different regions require different environment solutions; afforestation, land reclamation, water conservation efforts etc. The greater the need for the solution in the community, the more recognition it gets.

It would rank solutions based on social, economic and environmental benefits of in that location. Availability would be in different languages and easily accessible, with limited or no internet connection. An economic tree such as the baobab planted in dry Sahel region of north western Nigeria to combat desertification and improve livelihood cannot be ranked on the same level if it is planted in the oil polluted south-south Nigeria requiring remediation and land reclamation efforts.

It can also be used as an environmental reporting platform. One can report unsafe dumping in an area or burning of items that cause air pollution. Thus, organizations tackling such problems would become aware of it and choose the best action to take.

According to a study of over 3,425 environmental projects implemented in the UK under the ‘Green Spaces and Sustainable Communities’, grassroots community-led initiatives have been more successful than projects with top-down approaches led by local authorities. Grassroots projects reveal how the community is committed to solving their problems. The solutions were needs-based; known and identified by the community themselves. They were also more successful because they enjoyed participation of experts from different fields6.

Such a community initiative can spur different people into being responsible for the well-being of the environment they live in. It would promote efforts taken by other people, encourage and allow for replication of solution elsewhere. It would strengthen unity and cohesion in and between communities, enhance teamwork, bring synergy, foster peace between citizens and above all, help Nigerians, environmental organizations and the government in preserving Nigeria’s environment.

 

References:

  1. United Nations Department for Economic and Social Affairs. Institutional aspects of sustainable development in Nigeria. http://www.un.org/esa/agenda21/natlinfo/countr/nigeria/inst.htm accessed on 20th May 17
  1. United Nations Department for Economic and Social Affairs. National Environmental Problems, National Implementation of Agenda 21, Nigeria Country Profile, November 1997 <http://www.un.org/esa/earthsummit/nigeriac.htm&gt; accessed on 20th May 17
  2. Sunday Gabriel. Tackling the Effect of Desertification. Daily Trust. June 21, 2009 <https://www.dailytrust.com.ng/sunday/index.php/feature/3346-tackling-the-effect-of-desertification&gt; accessed on 20th May 17
  3. Centre for Disease Control, National Environmental Public Health Tracking Programme <https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/tracking/&gt; accessed on 20th May 17
  4. Centre for Disease Control, Louisiana Tracking Platform, Sharing Our Stories: NCEH’s Impact on Public Health <https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/stories/trackingla.html&gt; accessed on 20th May 17
  5. Community Development Foundation, How do community groups make life better. Paper 5, improving the physical environment, October 2014, Page 2. <http://www.cdf.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/physical-environment.pdf&gt; accessed on 20th May 17

 

Minimalism or Packratism; It is Up to You

“The more the merrier”. Author, English Man

The popular saying, ‘the more the merrier’ is an utterly wrong statement to use as an objective in many facets of life. I may be wrong.

My religion tells me one should be in this world like a traveler. That one is on a journey to another destination where what you possess here does not mean much there. One is encouraged to aim for less worldly things and garner more spiritual attainment. A belief that only augurs well for those who deeply believe or have a core belief.

But what does it mean to be a traveler? A number of things. One, you are transiting from one place to another for an objective. You have left home in search of something. And when you assume the status of a traveler, something is bound to adhere to; packing. What do you bring on your journey and what do you not?

I was a terrible packer years then. In fact, right from High School days, I remember how I always try to bring everything and fill my bags to capacity. Fast-forward to my adult life, I still fail, not miserably though. At one time when I traveled to Tokyo, I had brought a number of clothing, for every weather (despite it was summer then). To be fair to myself, I was going to be away from my place of domicile for about 3 months. Therefore, I thought I should just bring enough clothes.

It was a terrible idea. I had simply brought more than enough. Now let me ask you, how many clothes do you bring for a journey lasting for about 3 months? Clothing for one month, so you can wash and reuse or for 3 weeks or two weeks or one week? The math isn’t so easy to come by after all.

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When you are going away for a year! 😀

My observant roommate in Japan, Alex noticed the need to improve my packing (over filled bag) and tells me how he packs. ‘Bring together all the things you need for a journey, then just halve it by two.’ He said in a genuinely British accent that resonates in me anytime I am packing to travel. “Halve it by two’. If I am going away for two weeks and thought to bring a pair of cloth for every day, that will be at least 14 pieces of shirts/t-shirts, trousers,  underwear (singlet and boxers), stockings. At least.

Wrong! Halve it by two Alex says. And you will be okay.

Packratism on a short trip is just a little tip of the ice-berg. What about in everyday life? What do you need every day? How much should you keep and how much shouldn’t? How many cars and clothing and shoes do you need in your garage and closet?

The word for such a less material possessive life is called minimalism; having less of everything. Minimalism is a tool for finding freedom, living more consciously and more deliberately.

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It’s what Buddhists monks and many people. They call it viagyra-the intentional giving away of your possessions. Sayyidna Abu Bakr, r.a., the first leader of the Islamic Caliphate after the demise of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) practiced viagyra too in his life time, by giving away all his wealth. Read about the beautiful story here.

Practicing viagyra leaves you to enjoy moksha-the moment after giving away everything. Having this kind of moment-the moksha moment- can reduce your mental stress. It leaves you with much more time for other stuff instead of battling to create time to enjoy/use/admire/caress/display/…(fill in the blank) your gadgets, farmlands, automobiles, houses, and whatever you may have purchased. Hence the thinking that you have all these and you need to guard and use them frequently creates thinking and decision fatigue.

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Buddhist Monk

Minimalism is a line of thought to always serve in what you do. From making purchases to traveling and collecting collectibles. It’s the opposite of being a packrat. Possessing a lot of stuffs that you have to carter for might become a mental stress.

I remember how last year, I used the elementary but powerful economic principle of opportunity cost and scale of preference to decide on what to spend my money on. Things or experience. See my blog post about it here.

I shrink in my chair and reminisce walking the streets of Amsterdam. From one street to another, turning at river canals and crossing over the old bridge. I found a very good restaurant; a Suriname cuisine. I heard the name of the country once before, but never knew they were colonized by the Dutch. So it was easy to have such a restaurateur from Suriname serving food cooked in his native seasoning in the middle of Amsterdam.

Those are the kinds of thoughts that come into my head often. Then occasionally, I get interrupted by what I could have possessed if I hadn’t spent my money on different cuisines and traveling to different places. That new phone, an expensive leather wrist watch or a designer couture bought from Champs’ Elysees.

The could-haves are just numerous to wonder in. but they didn’t matter then. And they cannot now.

To conclude my post, here is a challenge.

Look at all your possessions. Which ones haven’t you use used in the last 3 (or even) 2 months or so? Shoes, clothing or what? Now is the time to bring them all out and giveaway.

Want to go deeper in minimalism, read the Chicago Tribune post here.

Less is more! Less is more!!

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Sustainable Abuja: Pedestrian Friendly or Car Friendly?

Why does it matter if a city is sustainable or not? Why does it matter if a city is walkable or not? Why it does it matter if a city is inclusive or not? It matters because when every person who lives in a city is considered in building it, it ensures their collective participation and recognition. It empowers them and increases their mental strengths which automatically can increase their contribution in making the city a better place.

I am constantly asking this question in the city I live, Abuja. I have been around far too long to witness its evolution from a small city of a million people to more than 4 million people now. I have lived long enough to see big wide dual carriage ways being built without pedestrian bridges. Long enough to witness its rapid urbanization without a corresponding provision of social and affordable housing for its youth and many of the people who work inside it. Long enough to witness failing urban transportation to carter for everyone.

But what about regulations that affect how sustainable a city is? Such as ensuring a city is walkable. A sustainable city should discourage emissions of greenhouse gases, especially from transportation that is shown to be the 4th highest emitter of GHG by economic sector. Therefore, less car usage should be a watchword. A more walking population can mean healthier and more productive workforce.

Constantly connecting districts with roads doesn’t mean it’s bad, but what’s bad is laying out a road without a corresponding provision for where pedestrians can safely walk or access public transportation.

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Recently, I have been witnessing how safe bus stops are created on different road ways in Abuja. So for the past years when the roads were existing, pedestrians have to legally run across 8 lane roads in crossing over to the other side. Legal because when the roads were built, ped. crossings were not provided, even though they were built around popular road crossings and bus stops for the public. The developers never felt the need to consider the pedestrians. Despite the sudden interventions of building ped bridges, there are many major bus stops without these.

Because the custom of running across roads (jaywalking), even when the pedestrian bridges are built, people ditch them and prefer to run across. Another reason is carelessness. There are instances where people are hit by speeding cars. Jaywalking is a crime in many countries. But Abuja is a place where zebra crossings are only for real Zebras; found only in the zoo. In some places, animals use pedestrian bridges, while humans prefer to run across (have you seen such photos). Only a minute fraction of car drivers respect the pedestrian crossings.

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If you want someone to stop for you or a loved one at zebra crossing, you should start stopping for people if you are behind the wheel

Another reason for ditching pedestrian bridges is because they are built a little faraway from where people normally run or bus stops are located. Although at times, it is the only feasible engineering and planning option.

I wonder when people will become more watchful of their safety and start obeying simple rules to prolong their lives.

But simply putting pedestrian footpaths and bridges doesn’t make a city walkable. What about other regulations to promote walking. Often times, commercial buildings in Abuja who due to their strategic locations can have two accesses to their building. One faces a collector road (busier road) and the other access road (less busier than the collector). Government Development Control Department orders such building owners to shutdown pedestrian gates overlooking busier roads. Road users who come to such places are made to travel round and a longer distance to access the other gate, thus aiding more car emissions while inconveniencing pedestrians.

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An image of the numerous order signs painted on many commercial buildings in Abuja by the Development Control Development

The most walkable cities in Nigeria are not the developed the cities. Basic social amenities are more than 5 minute walk from homes. The thinking here is, development means more space for cars and less for pedestrians. Unequitable and uninclusive development.

It will be a welcome and sustainable development if Nigerian cities are designed around the people living in it.

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Decision Making; Spending Money on Things or Experience

A thought crept into my mind while sitting at my desk at the office last week. I had to take a decision about an expenditure I was about to make. I have been indecisive about it simply because I was taking my time in conceiving how much change or impact my final option would have on my life.

In trying to be decisive, I had a retrospection of last year’s event. The retrospection should aid in taking me out of my current indecisiveness. I went over some of the decisions I took last year, the strategy I used in taking them should help me in deciding what I have at stake. Some of the results of those decisions I took last year stare at me daily in the office.

Standing conspicuously on my office desk are 3 memorabilia; replicas of Eiffel Tower, Pyramid of Giza and wind turbine of the Netherlands. As you will guess, all acquired when I traveled to Paris, Giza in Egypt and the Netherlands.

Occasionally, I did hold these precious items in my hands to glance closer or play with them as I get deep in thinking about office work or whatever that comes to mind. On some instances, I remember the trips to their originating cities. It refreshes my memory and invigorates me.

Back to my indecisiveness, my final decision boiled down to one thing; use my money for a material thing or spend it on an experience I can reminisce on. I thought about all the not needed things but good to have things I could buy with the money; upgrading my car, getting a cozy apartment, new shoes, a new laptop, a new phone, new wrist watches, sunglasses, etc. The consumer culture thing you know.

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The thing is I can manage without those new things. I learned to resist impulse expenditure about 3 years ago from Brian Tracy. Sometimes, it is more about ranking expected expenditure according to needs. Economists call this scale of preference. The idea that you rank a number of things you want to expend time and money on, in order of desperate need. And when you forego one item for the other, it becomes the opportunity cost of the foregone item. Last year, I had a European trip, culminating to be the opportunity cost to many material possessions I could have. Did you miss the story? Read it here again.

And that’s why I often don’t do well to the expectation of people I meet after returning from a trip, when they ask ‘what did you buy from …(insert name of a foreign city I visited)? I did not purchase something worth their 100% attention or societies 200%. Instead, I invested much of my little cash in paying for an experience such as snorkeling, go-karting, new dishes at restaurants, transportation, desert safari etc. and invest the tiniest fraction on a memorabilia such as the ones quoted above or good to have things.

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Go-karting in Dubai 2014
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My fun friends after the go-kart race in Dubai

I looked up some hard facts online about whether my decision on spending money on experience instead of on things is congruous to many people. Yes it is. Huffington Post reports about a 20 year research carried out by a Cornell University professor Dr. Gilovich on spending money on experiences instead of things  makes you happier.  Here are the three things that helped him arrive at his conclusion.

One. Getting accustomed to new possessions. At the instant you acquire something new, it’s your high point of excitement. However, this thrill fades away as the earth orbits around the sun. True?

Two. Raising the bar always. When you buy a $100 dollar sunglasses today, an expected value of what cost of sunglasses you will buy next will be higher than $100. Once we get something, we want a better one next time. True?

Three. Keeping up with the Joneses. By nature, Dr. Gilovich says, possessions foster comparison. Very true. The instant you see a friend’s car, it’s about comparing which is better. Truth is, there will always be someone with a better car.

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It is called the paradox of possessions says Dr. Gilovich. The wrongful assumption that buying things will make you happy as long as the item exists is wrong. It defies common sense I know at times. Buying something that will be there for a very long time should sustain the happiness you got earlier. Reality is, no. It won’t and will never.

However, foregoing such material expenditure for experiences such as travels, dining out with friends, donating to fundraisers, signing up for gym or yoga classes, trying out new cafes or restaurants should leave a more lasting happiness for you.

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This will give you some well lasting memories. Take your friends with you.
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Or go kite-surfing

Often times, it is not easy to always think of the opportunity cost while about to spend your money, especially when you have enough of it. But it should be. Often when I hear and see people complain of little or no money to spend on experiences such as a vacation, I am bewildered by their considerations as I observe their material possessions that could cover their dreams.

Why have an expensive car, while suffering from ADD (adventure deficit disorder) and not sell it to buy a cheaper car and get cured.

“Our experiences are a bigger part of ourselves than our material goods. You can really like your material stuff. You can even think that part of your identity is connected to those things, but nonetheless they remain separate from you. In contrast, your experiences really are part of you. We are the sum total of our experiences.” says Gilovich.

It is easier to bond more with people you hiked Mount Kenya with or traveled to Rome with than with someone who has the same car or phone as you. Even if you did not take the trip together, knowing you all had similar experiences will bring you closer. And that’s more reason to ditch retail therapy (material items) for experience soaked expenditure.

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When I went hiking to Mount Kenya with friends in 2015

What limits you from foregoing spending on things for experiences? What frequently ranks high on scale of preference, purchase of material possessions or expenditure on experiences? Do you always think of the opportunity cost when you come to spending? I would love to hear what is more important to you, things or experiences and why?

Please drop your comments below.

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