Gratitude Challenge Life

7 Things I Learned in 2016

The focus for the 50th week (December 11 – December 17) of the 52 Weeks of Gratitude Challenge was:

Lessons Learned This Year

I think the year 2016 was a learning year for me. The lessons learned from different experiences were humbling and sobering. I painstakingly had to learn some lessons, while some were a bitter pill to swallow. But as the year comes to an end and I look back at all that I learned, I can confidently say that it was a good year.

Next year I will be talking about lessons learned from friends in the year 2016. But right now, these are general lessons that the year 2016 taught me about a few different aspects of life. I picked these lessons from experiences (personal and that of others), conversations and from movies. These are all valuable lessons to learn, and that is why I am sharing them with you. Learn and apply with wisdom.



1. Conclusions Based on Assumptions

For a while I have asked the question about what it actually meant to “judge” others. My quest for this understanding lead me right to the answer. The first answer I came across has a lesson to teach, but it was not my final understanding on the subject matter. This was what I got initially…

Concluding based on assumptions, is a form of judging because you conclude based on assumption you create, to understand people’s actions.

As a scientist, I know that conclusions must be made based on facts. Otherwise, they are just speculations and assumptions. The problem with we human beings is that assuming is just easier. It is far easier to assume, than to pursue the truth (or facts).

Now while making assumptions is not bad in itself, the problem is when we draw conclusions based on those assumptions. And a friend made me understand that this too, was judging, in one form. Why? Because without any fact or evidence, you draw up a conclusion by yourself, as a reason to explain someone’s behavior.

When things happen that we cannot explain, we always find answers. We desire closure. We want to close the lose ends and cliffhangers. We want to know “why”. But unfortunately, we cannot always have the answers that we desire, and most people would rather just assume, and conclude.

But I always say…

Never assume anything, even if it is obvious.

The facts are always better than any assumptions we could ever make. We are allowed to assume, as humans. We are inquisitive and we always want to know why. But in order to be more considerate humans, we should refrain from making conclusions based only on assumptions. It is just not fair to the next person, and my friend thinks this is one form of judging.



2. Talking About People

I learned this lesson while visiting India in March/April of 2016.

I came across a Nigerian who had complains about the Indian people. Their complain was that sometimes when they took public transportation into town (usually a rickshaw), men would make comments about them, and laugh among themselves.

Now I lived in Northern Cyprus for 9 years, and it was a country who’s official language was Turkish. So I have had different experiences with regards to communication and expressions, between people who speak different languages. And one thing I know is that people assume too much (refer to lesson one above).

I have seen different situations where people expect the worst from others, and assume the worst in situations that they cannot immediately explain. It was pretty much like the Nigerian who complained about being laughed at on their way to town.

But for all I care, they were not even talking about the Nigerian in their presence. However, someone with a negative preconception, could take it personal and read wrong meanings to things. However, the way I learned this lesson was different.

I was on a rickshaw to town on another day when this same Nigerian was taking me somewhere to do some shopping. Soon after we got in, the Nigerian started to make comments about some of the men with us on the ride. It was about something I do not remember right now, but after commenting, the Nigerian started to laugh!

Knowing what was said, and that the men did not understand what was said about them, it made me feel bad. So bad, that I could not laugh along. But the Indians had no idea what was said about them, so it probably meant nothing to them.

Was this not the same behavior that the Nigerian had complained about earlier? They probably did not realize what they were doing, but I was mindful about it and I thought that it was rude! So that was when it hit me!

It is rude to talk about people who do no speak the same language as you, while in front of them.

Especially when they do not understand what you are saying. It is even cowardly to do so, if you ask me, because if they understood what you were saying, you probably would not say those things. Or at least, not in front of them.

The respectable things to do then, is keep quiet! If at all you want to make a comment about something, respect them enough to at least do so in their absence. Do not be rude or disrespectful.



3. About Letting Go

I believe the lesson to be learned here is delayed gratification.

Sometimes in life, we have to let things go in order to get what we need. To be more specific, we sometimes have to let go of things we want, in order to make room for the things we need.

Many people may not be able to differentiate their wants from their needs (Wisdom is knowing the difference). And I know that we cannot always pursue the things we need. Sometimes, we go after the things we want, rather than the things we need.

Needs mean more and have more value than wants. Needs take care of your happiness on the long run, while wants usually tend to make you happy for a short while.

For instance, we all need shelter from the elements (rain, sun, the night, etc.) and a simple accommodation will do. Sometimes though, we just want more. We want a fully automated house, with 3 master bedrooms and a large parking lot.

While this is just a vague example, I believe you get what I am getting at here. I know of people who would forgo the basic accommodation, just so that they could have the automated house. And the result is that they end up with neither.

Sometimes, you have to let things go, to get what you need

Sometimes you have to delay gratification by sacrificing what you want for what you need. And it takes wisdom, foresight and discipline to accomplish this.

You could be hurting, and what you want to do at the moment is revenge. But you have to think ahead, and envision the future. How might getting what you want right now (vengeance) prevent you from something you could need later (a valuable relationship)? Sometimes, you would just have to let go of what you want, in order to get what you would need later on. And guess what? Your future self will thank you!



4. Celebrate Your Victories

Always celebrate wins and victories; make it a culture

It was Naskhanym who first taught me about the concept of celebrating, especially one’s own accomplishments. It was a new concept to me. But it was not until I heard Tony Robbins talk about the same thing, that the idea stuck! The first thing I did though, was to thank Nas for first planting the idea for Tony to later water… Nas gets the credit, not Tony 🙂

Since then, I made it a lifestyle to celebrate. I celebrate breakthroughs, and victories. I celebrate myself, I celebrate my friends and family, and I have been doing so for a while now.

Celebrating (even the little victories) stimulates the reward center of our brains and this causes us to want to do more. It makes us want to be more! Plus, it is good habit.

One thing I picked from the television series “Mad Men” was their celebratory culture. They always had a drink or something, to celebrate each win, each case, each client. I loved their culture because it resonated well with me. And apparently, I had a similar culture of my own.

Today in my family, a bottle of red win and something to go with it (usually barbecue beef or fish) is our symbol of celebration. Occasionally, there would be cakes and other drinks, but red wine has become our celebratory culture. And apparently, I was the one who started this in the family (who knew lol).

So let me tell you what Nas would tell me… celebrate yourself for a job well done! Do not forget to give yourself a path on the back for accomplishing a goal or a major task. Why? Because you very well deserve it!



5. Be Yourself: Be Original, Be Authentic

2016 was the year that I had to cut off from a really close friend of mine. Or at least, it felt like we were close at one time (friendship is overrated). Even so, it was a very toxic relationship for me!

As close as we were, I often felt bad about doing “good” for them. Plus, they always had a way of making me feel like a horrible person, whenever I did something that they were not expecting.

Crazy as I am, I can be spontaneous. And being that I see life from a different (and usually neutral) perspective, I can understand why normal people do not get me. I guess what I am trying to say is that I am a freak! I am weird and I know it, and it takes another weirdo to get me. Not many people can deal with me.

So sometimes, I do things that I consider “normal” whereas the next person would consider it abnormal. But in that toxic relationship, the things I did out of love were seen as freaky. It was not because they were actually freaky, but because my friend was a different kind of weird! Yea, I know! As weird as I actually am, their own weirdness had a category of its own. Go figure!

To be sure I was not doing anything abnormal, I had to speak with a few people about some of these “gestures” of mine. And guess what? I am not that freaky after all! So what I came to understand was that…

There are abnormal people in life, but that should not stop us from doing what is normal

Personally, I think that if you do not talk to yourself… something is wrong with you, and you are not normal. It does not matter whether you do it when you are alone or in the company of others. If you do not talk to yourself, you are not normal. And you can quote me on that lol.

The lesson for you to learn here is… be yourself! Be original, and be authentic. Do not let abnormal people stop you from being normal. Stand out, and do not try to fit in. You were meant to be you, and not like the others.

But do not go around freaking people out! I know we all have our inner freaks. Okay let me speak for myself alone lol. Sometimes, I fear how freaky I can become without self control, but that is outside the scope of this article. I am sure you get the lesson here.



6. Looking Good is Not Always Expensive

2016 was the year I decided to start looking good. And by looking good, I mean dressing well.

Today when I look at some old photographs of myself, I laugh really hard! I never cared what I looked like in clothes, provided I was not naked. I remember my first girlfriend literally begging me, to change the way I dressed.

“I know you do not care how you look, but I am your girlfriend, and I care!”

I still ignored all that, because it was about me and how I felt. But at the beginning of 2016, I decided that I will up my dressing game, and start to look good as often as I can. And then I saw episode eight of the first season of Mad Men. That was where I heard this quote…

You do not need money to dress better than you already do

I had already started taking lessons from both of my younger sisters. I also offered a free website to a Kenyan woman in Malaysia, in return for her being my fashion adviser. All these three women did well in helping me dress as good as I do these days, and I did not have to spend a fortune.

All of my investments on my wardrobe in the year 2016 did not exceed $200. I got a few shirts, ties and trousers. I also bought sunglasses, shoes and wristwatches. I knew that I did not have a fortune to spend, but I developed a system to change my wardrobe over time.

Thank God for the law of attraction, I started to see opportunities and ways to change my dressing. Overall, my fashion sense or dress sense has improved by over a hundred percent (even though I cannot actually measure it). I dress so well these days (compared to previous years) that my father saw me one afternoon after work, and he made a remarkable statement.

“The way you dress these days, I hope you are not looking for something?”

I took that as a complement! And yes sir, I am looking to look good.

They say that looking good is good business, and is good manners too. The way I dress these days, people who consider surface values would think that I have a lot of money. Or at least, their comments seem to indicate so. The comments people make about my dressing these days, are not like before. I get more complements more often, from different people. It shows that something is different. More importantly, it shows that you do not need money to dress better than you already do. At least, not necessarily a lot of it. You just need a new fashion sense.



7. About Your Competence

Be affirmative in reminding your clients why they’re paying you

Especially when they reject your idea, offer or work, to continue doing what they did before that produced no results. At that point feel free to walk out, or walk them out (respectfully, of course).

Personally I work with a professional code, and during my university studies, I realized that engineers have a similar code of ethics too.

Section one, sub-section two states: Perform services only in areas of their competence.

And for the entire duration of my professional work life, I never believe in charging for services that I knew I was not competent in. But why am I saying this?

Assuming this code is true for you, then you are competent in your field, and that is why you are the professional. That is why clients come to you solutions to their problems.

But if a client is seeking results based on your competence, they have to be wiling to blindly follow what you tell them. If they want the results of your competence, then they have no choice but to listen. It does not matter how much they are paying; it is either they want your help or they do not. There are no gray areas there, and you have the be affirmative in letting them know why they came to you in the first place.

If not, they are going to waste your time. And if you should decide to bend to their will, you can rest assured that they will not get the results they paid for, and that will affect your reputation. Your reputation is too much to put on the line for a client who does not know what they must do to get what they need.


That is all I have. These were the lessons I learned in the year 2016.

I hope you learned something valuable and gained some new insights from this write up. Above all, I hope you found answers to some questions you had not yet asked. So if you found this useful, I would appreciate your feedback the subject. Thanks


And what about you? What lessons did you learn this year that you can share with us?

Please share in the comments below. Thanks.

7 things I was grateful for during the 50th week of this 52 weeks of gratitude challenge:

  1. I just confirmed that I don’t have to remit value added tax on exported services, because I didn’t collect VAT on such services. Woohoo!
  2. Understanding my sexuality has been a journey for me. I’m just grateful for all that I know and understand about sex and my sexuality
  3. I’m glad to have made it to day 350 of writing one thing I’m grateful for each day! I can’t wait to finish off at the end of the year
  4. Maintaining a car in Nigeria, is stressful and expensive. However, I’m grateful to God that I’ve been able to afford maintaining Kito for 15 months!
  5. Yesterday made it exactly a year since my younger sister got married. I’m grateful to God for this
  6. As must as you wanna help others and be nice, there are things that you really don’t have to do, and choosing not to do them does not make you a bad person. I am grateful for learning this lesson
  7. I’m grateful that I finally got to eat the AJ bread that Princessa talked so much about, and the bread was nice!

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