Faith Abiodun

Mindset is Everything

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It is the start of the new year. This means many things for many people – new resolutions, endless plans, firm decisions. We are all caught in the rat race of perceiving the end of December and the beginning of January to be superior periods to the rest of the year; we perceive that if we can get it right in that resolution-making period, then we will be successful with the succeeding 12 months. Thankfully, we are wise enough to know that there is only partial sense in that, but we haven’t all quite figured out the actual keys to success in a new year.

imagesMany people in different corners of the world will be waking up this morning dreading the thought of resuming work, school or personal endeavours that took a break over the yuletide season; for those people, the year is already half miserable. Approaching tasks with a deflated mindset is one of the quickest drainers of success and motivation. Not many people in the world are privileged to do things which they really love, and for those people, making resolutions and drafting plans are only additions to their intrinsic motivation for success. On the other hand, millions of people drag themselves through life in the hope that they will stumble on something that ‘works for them’ – those are the ones who make endless resolutions year-in year-out with paltry success.

Can it be then that everything begins and ends in the mind? Are we underestimating the power of a right mindset? Can we wake up with enthusiasm about the things which we are privileged to do, whether or not we find ultimate satisfaction with those things? Can we count ourselves favoured to be able to afford an education (any kind of education) when millions of others have no such privileges? Can we be thankful for the opportunity to work and earn incomes (regardless of quality), when the global unemployment rate seems to grow faster than most national GDPs? Can we look on our abilities, gifts, talents and skills and count ourselves among the few who are as endowed as we are? Can we change our mindsets about the things we do, and speak positively in 2015?mindset

Success is not too far from the person who sees the right things even when things aren’t right. Cultivate the right perspective – focus on the things that are, and work towards the things that can be. 2015 could be your best year yet, but much of that lies in your mindset. Let’s get to work! I wish you all that you wish yourself in this blessed year!

2015: Finding My Feet

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Every single day is a gift, but it is not very often that such a humbling thought stays front and centre of a person’s consciousness. I am tremendously blessed to be able to spend most of my days doing things that bring me the utmost pleasure and satisfaction. I am also immensely privileged to have a truly global community of friends and mentors who look out for me and help steer me in profitable paths. Above all, I have God who is my source and my sustenance and whose providence alone is the reason I exist to do the many things that I do.

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The year 2014 went by like a breeze; it began and ended almost in the snap of a finger. So much happened in 2014 that I can barely enumerate, but I am deeply aware of the blessings of the year. I am exceedingly thankful for the opportunities that came my way in the year – the opportunity to work and earn a living, the opportunity to interact with inspiring persons from all over the world, the opportunity to break new grounds in travel and achievement, the opportunity to see new lands and climes, the opportunity to inspire and encourage hundreds (maybe thousands) of young and old people in multiple countries, the opportunity to connect and reconnect with family, the opportunity to live in good health and conduct my activities in perfect sanity.

Looking back on 2014, I feel a deep-seated sense of satisfaction for the amazing results recorded, yet I feel a sense of anxiousness about the next steps. I have always perceived the year 2015 to be a pivotal year for me – a year in which I will love to have many things figured out. I believe 2015 is the year in which I need to find my feet and have clarity about many things about the future. I do not feel much pressure to be any particular thing to any particular set of people, yet I know that I will love to have answers to many things. In all these, I am happy to patiently wait for inspiration and guidance before moving.

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I am highly privileged to be able to make contributions to the task of developing the next generation of African leaders through my work at African Leadership Academy (ALA) in Johannesburg, South Africa, particularly through the ALA Model African Union conference which I pioneered two years ago to educate young global leaders about the intricacies of diplomacy and development on our continent. I am really excited about my upcoming work with the Global Youth Innovation Network (GYIN) headquartered in Washington, DC where I have just been appointed to the International Advisory Board. I am delighted about the progress made on Passion to Profession (P2P), an innovative career development platform which I am developing with some colleagues. I am tremendously excited about sharing ideas with the world through written articles, speeches delivered at conferences and private meetings in 2015; I am excited about meeting many new people, seeing many new lands and generating revolutionary new ideas.

DSC_0879With so much excitement and so much gratitude, I can’t shake the feeling that there is something incredibly mind-blowing just ahead of me. I can’t hide my joy at the realization that I don’t know all that lies ahead of me in 2015. I sense that 2015 will prove to be as pivotal a year as I believe it will be, and I look forward to heartily sharing as much detail of these developments as I possibly can as the days roll by.

I sincerely pray that this year will usher in an era of peace, prosperity and development for everyone around the world and that all peoples will learn to evolve gracefully and with as little rancour as possible. Be blessed in 2015! It will be a great year!

Community of the Skies

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It’s 10:25pm in New York from where I took off; it’s 7:25am in Dubai, my next stop; and 5:25am in Johannesburg, my final destination. Ten hours and 45 minutes ago, I took off just as I have taken off every other week over the last couple of weeks, and almost every month over the last two years. Today I’m perched at seat 74k on this massive beast called the Airbus A380. The screen in front of me says we’re cruising steady at an altitude of 39,008 ft and at a speed of 569 miles per hour. This airplane seats no less than 500 people, and with a few empty seats, there’s a little negotiable space for weary bodies. And for the first time, my childhood imagery of staircases in an airplane has been matched by the creativity of the designers of this Emirates aircraft. No, I’m clearly not up the stairs; I might not be a regular first class passenger yet, but I’m no less a valid member of the community of the skies.

Lounging at London Heathrow
Lounging at London Heathrow

Over the last three years, I have found myself taking trips to and from airports almost more frequently than I have called my dear mum. Now, that could paint me as an inconsiderate son but that’s my least intent here. I cherish the moments I get to speak with my mum and to update her on my progress, but since seeing her last almost two years ago, I’ve hopped on and off several planes, at several airports, made several friendships and witnessed some tremendous occurrences. Leaning back in my seat, I can clearly remember the first flight I took, only a few years ago aboard Turkish Airways to Istanbul. I didn’t act like the novice that I was. Of course, it wasn’t my first international travel (I’d been on road across West Africa previously), but I was as new to the take-off experience as I was to the excruciating pain in my ears after about two hours in the air. A few painkilling pills and ten hours of discomfort after, I was able to soak in the city of Istanbul (best viewed from the air, honestly).

Istanbul from the air
Istanbul from the air

I’m not much of a social or holiday traveler  I travel more frequently on business and educational purposes. I must confess though that my holiday trips have been the most enjoyable. My trip from New York to Florida for Thanksgiving 2011 and my trip from Johannesburg to Amsterdam and then New York for Christmas 2012 were extremely pleasant. They both came after several months of tireless work and I knew that I could use a holiday desperately. I have also traveled for work purposes on several occasions: on a few occasions in 2011 and early 2012 I made a number of trips to keep up with speaking engagements across the United States, and then in September 2012, I embarked on the longest trip of my life – 17 long hours across several oceans from Atlanta to Johannesburg. Needless to say, I visited the bathroom about ten times over the course of the flight, but that wasn’t the surprise; I was shocked to observe that the two gentlemen who flanked me on both sides sat through the entire trip as alert as dead logs of wood.

A few other experiences have stood out in my flying memory, most beautiful of which was the send-off party for the captain of my KLM flight last December. I had taken off from Johannesburg for Amsterdam, and after about three hours in the air, the hostess announced that our captain was embarking on his final flight after 26 years with KLM and that he had handpicked every single member of his crew for his last trip. Instantly, the hostess who was handing out napkins two rows ahead of me burst into tears. “He’s a very good man”, she said. “I’ll miss him”. The captain himself shortly walked through the aisle to a prolonged round of applause and shook hands with several passengers. When we touched down at Schiphol airport, the applause was even louder. We were all excited to send him off as though we had been in the air with him all 26 years.

Christmas send-off for our KLM Captain
Christmas send-off for our KLM Captain

Definitely, not all experiences have been as enjoyable as that one to Amsterdam: there have been the halitosis experiences, the deeply-distressing air turbulences, the drunken seat partner dripping saliva all over, the neighbouring gay partners kissing repeatedly and the passenger who had an asthma attack and passed out completely. On a recent flight into New York, I had the misfortune of sitting next to an Arab man, who might have been pleasant were he awake, but chose to keep his oral cavity completely agape as he snored silently. I needed no warning before draping the blindfolds over my nostrils instead. It wasn’t a comfortable couple of hours.

The other day on my way from Istanbul into Lagos, we encountered some serious turbulence as we passed through North Africa, and while everyone was taking bracing positions, the dude next to me, high on two bottles of red wine, slowly dripped saliva all over my clothes from the corner of his mouth. I wished I could give him a piece of my mind, but he wasn’t sane enough to receive it. And while I’m definitely not homophobic, I clearly don’t approve of two gay guys (fashion designers apparently) making their voices heard all over the aircraft, especially when they were sitting right behind me; neither do I approve of two grown women, in their 50s perhaps, sitting next to me, groping each other and kissing for the entire three-hour duration of the flight from Charlotte, North Carolina to JFK, New York. However, I was genuinely concerned when a 71-year old man passed out on my most recent flight from Dubai to New York apparently from an asthma attack; kudos to the Emirates crew for resuscitating him and keeping him on a gas mask for at least seven hours.

I’ve traveled on several airlines and through various airports but the award for most impressive airline goes to Emirates, while the award for most impressive airport goes to Hartford-Jackson Airport, Atlanta. Delta was a close runner-up to Emirates with their amazing in-flight package, but having had my luggage hacked through twice, the beautiful experiences have been clouded by those shadows. Turkish Airlines was my first and I’ll fly with them again, but British Airways, KLM, US Airways and United are all regular in my estimation. I’m constantly amazed by the crowds that travel through Atlanta, but the airport always remains decent and well-managed. I also loved Sherementyevo airport in Moscow, London Heathrow, the Dubai International airport (except that the wi-fi was dead), Charlotte, North Carolina, Istanbul, Schiphol, Amsterdam and OR Tambo, Johannesburg, but JFK, New York and Lagos, Nigeria get no props from me. JFK gets low marks for poor clearance procedures and poor aesthetics, and Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos gets low marks for everything ranging from power outages, to pilfering customs officials, and bathroom sinks without water.

Bathroom picture en route Moscow
Bathroom picture en route Moscow

I am by no means an elitist; I’m just a young dude who occasionally needs to get from point A to point B, and those points are often separated by thousands of miles. Looking around me and seeing hundreds of fatigued bodies eager for the plane to touch down sometime soon, receiving trays of food from the crew, fastening their seat belts at the captain’s request, queuing to use the bathroom, watching movies and listening to music, while hoping that nothing wrong occurs somewhere in the middle of nowhere, I’m impressed with this growing community of the skies. We’re all conscious of the fact that air crashes are most frequently fatal, but we place our absolute trust in those two beings whose faces we never see and whose voices are all we hear at the beginning and end of our journeys. We hope that they know what they’re doing and that while we’re permitted to snooze, they’re not; while we’re permitted to use our gadgets, they can’t be fooling around in the cockpit; and while we can take bathroom breaks, we wish they’ll just stay right up there driving us higher and higher into space.

One of the beauties of modern air travel is the ability to use electronic gadgets and even connect to the internet from 39,000 feet above sea level, which means work never stops. Several hours have passed since I started typing; I’ve passed through Dubai International Airport, changed planes and seats, slept twice and eaten three meals. I’m now reclined at seat 42K on a Boeing 777-300, looking forward to touching down in Johannesburg in two and a half hours. I’ll be hopping on a plane in another two weeks, this time to Doha, Qatar, and I’ll practically spend several accumulated months in the air over the coming years, but I’ll never forget my humble beginnings. Every time I get on a plane, I remember that first ride, and how I said a prayer and wrote into my journal: “We took off at 10:04pm from Murtala Muhammed Airport for Istanbul, Turkey”.

We’re now flying over Dar-es-Salam, Tanzania; a quick snooze is in order. I’m a full-blooded member of this community and I’ve got my massively stamped passport to prove it.

Faith Abiodun presently coordinates his multiple activities from Johannesburg, South Africa