A few days ago I had a somewhat random conversation that has remained on the periphery of my mind. I was speaking to an expatriate who recently returned to Nigeria on a work assignment for his company. He had worked within the Nigerian business previously and was on what we could refer to as his second missionary journey and conversing with him left me with a few lessons.
The power of living and working deliberately:
Sometimes, work feels like just work, but for him, it felt like a part of his journey, as though he determined that his work was his contribution to humanity. As I listened to him, I realized that, that simple definition impacted his attitude to whatever assignment. Beyond his immediate tasks, he kept looking to do more. This was because he had redefined work beyond career success alone.
The power of long range vision:
Sometimes, opportunities arise and we get blindsided by the short term. As we spoke about the benefits of living and being in Nigeria and his experience on previous engagements in other countries, he shared with me the fact that he kept his eyes on the end of the period rather than the highs of the current assignment. That kept him hungry and eager to succeed. The fact that he was looking into the 2 years and towards the end of the assignment from Day 1 meant that he had a finished picture to work towards, not expecting the future to create itself. Thus, he could have the 2 year term renewed or he could earn another posting based on the present. That also meant there was no time to waste so he hit the ground running. He also spoke about how, rather than thinking of the assignment as a two year term, he thought about it as a daily assignment. That way, he showed up on the first day ready and each subsequent day built on the successes or lessons of the previous day. Speaking with him made me realize that being new at a role/ task or settling in did not excuse the attitude of eagerness and collaboration which would indirectly enable one act in a beneficial stead to the new team rather than perceived aloofness.
The power of relationships:
He helped me affirm that no matter how skilled one was, the ability to manage and work with others, rather than relying on mere technical skills became key. He was highly skilled no doubt, but he would never have had this opportunity to return to Nigeria at a higher level of responsibility and in a different area of the business too had he burned his bridges. He had clearly managed the stakeholder relationships well enough not to thwart this good opportunity to return.
Beyond work however, the conversation helped me focus on life especially because of the ever present danger of unconsciously assuming there is some more time. We think hopefully about second and third chances however, there is a call to live deliberately. It’s the place of realization that one always has to make the choice to show up, to do great things, to live purposefully, to be humane, to maintain great relationships. For me, that was a key take away.
A big part of living deliberately which our conversation reaffirmed is continuing to grow and move forward and this comes from pursuing new experiences and learning from them. He inspired me to think about fresh things and always have something new on the horizon. I know that new experiences require planning, but deliberate living requires some deliberate effort and consistence too I left that conversation inspired to make active decisions and actually do what I’ve decided to do rather than falling victim to habit. I’m more convinced than ever after that conversation, that if we brought awareness to our days and acted with purpose, we can craft lives that leave us satisfied, fulfilled, and content.
‘Teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.’