My college roommate and I shared a lot of things in common; faith, interest in debate and a disdain for anything that purports to be inspirational. Books with titles such as 7 Ways to Achieve your Dreams irked us a lot. When we were in our third year, a freshman came selling a book that claimed to have the secret to success. We scoffed at it and ridiculed it when we were alone and wondered why someone that young and still living with his parents thought he had a Get Successful Quick scheme.
Someway somehow, I find myself voraciously consuming such books these days. I am still very skeptical of reading from persons who talk about success in certain fields they themselves have not conquered. I will not read a book on how to be a great writer from someone who has not written a book with critical acclaim neither will I read about parenting from someone who is not yet a parent. I do not mind reading from someone whose children did not “turn out well”. But I certainly will not read from someone who has never been burdened with the purchase of diapers every day.
Why then did I start reading such books? What happened and what changed along the way? Putting my finger on a watershed moment to explain this would be hard to do but if there is anything that comes close to answering this, then it is my transitioning into adulthood.
Adulting, as I choose to call the phase in your life that comes with buying your own waakye and making a conscious decision on what time to sleep just so you can wake yourself up in the morning, comes with a lot of struggles and stressful moments. Adulting forces you to reconsider what direction you want your life to take, it throws several disappointments at you and leads you to think the failure you experience invalidate your personal worth. Adulting comes with seeing your high school mates go ahead in life and yours stagnate like rain water gathered in a pothole ridden asphalt road. Adulting will drive you to madness if you do not feed your mind with the right material. Fictitious reads are great but they will not necessarily push you to get up once you fall down.
Your holy scriptures can do the work of getting you up. My Quran does that a lot. The melodic way it is read is soothing and the messages in there are reassuring. I am sure Christians feel the same way about their Bible. But none of these books prevents you from looking for inspiration from other places.
I started reading and watching Motivational literatures when my “We reviewed your application but unfortunately….” emails started appearing in my inboxes. When you get these messages, you feel crushed and dejected. You go through the grieving stages and if care is not taken, you might get stuck at the part that gets you blaming others and not yourself; ANGER. That was where motivational books and films came into my life.
The value in these literatures is that, it presents the men and women in the limelight who we have celebrated for so long, as fallible. It reminds you of the hundreds of failed experiments leading to the one eventual successful flick of the switch that gave us a lighted bulb by Thomas Edison. It shows you that Michael Jordan who we have all been led to believe is inhuman is actually just like the rest of us. He failed to make his high school team the first time he tried and on several occasions, missed game winners.
Motivational literatures remind you that failure is normal. Everyone fails at some point in time. If you do not fail, then you are not trying to be great. You are only stuck in your comfort zone. That how you respond to that failure is all that matters. So if you failed to land a job or pass a class, what you do is to work at being better the next time you sit for that class or apply for another job.
I was reading one of such motivational books when a friend asked why I read them when the lives of characters are totally different from mine. Yes that much is true but what is truer is the fact that the principles are applicable everywhere you go. Although Denzel Washington got a 1.8 GPA one semester and still went on to be this great actor we have all come know, he might have been spoilt for choice given where he found himself. The principle you can glean from this is that, one failure does not define you. Ignore the fact that Denzel found himself in a country different from yours and zone in on the fact that his attitude to that failure is all that matters. I mean, there are several others who most probably had the same scenario Denzel found himself in but with the wrong mindset, were unable to turn out the way Denzel did.
The truth will always be that some people do not need to read a motivational book or watch a motivational speech to turn on the self-drive switch. But all fingers are not equal. If you find it hard getting enough reasons to wake up after Adulthood smack you in the head with a Muhammad Ali uppercut blow, then pray to God, read your Quran (or any other religious book you take inspiration from) and jump on to YouTube to watch JK Rowling’s commencement speech at Harvard or the Stay Hungry Stay Foolish speech Steve Jobs delivered at Stanford!