When Joseph Benson-Aruna asked to have a conversation with me, I didn’t realize I’d have to introspect so deeply. We spent three hours chatting about life and work, and he asked so many good questions I decided to write about them. The post title is a twist on his name, 😬.
It’s starting to dawn on me that a few people respect me as someone who has his shit figured out; someone who can put them on. Gotta say, I’m flattered guys — swear down. For the sake of clarity, I don’t think I have arrived. I want to be a lot more than this, earn a lot more too. But if talking about myself helps maybe one person, then I’ll brave the awkwardness I feel giving life advice.
So, what did Joseph and I discuss?
The silver spoon I never had
This was a fun realization. Apparently it’s easy to conclude that I’m from a wealthy home and that my privilege is the reason why I manage an admirable amount of productivity in the midst of all my frivolity. Good to know I have debunked that theory in my writing.
Even if I was born with a silver spoon, does that take away from what I’ve done for myself? Topic for another day, because even I tend to dismiss the achievements of well-to-do kids too easily. If I’ve had any advantage though, it’ll be this interesting mix of grit, curiosity and sheer luck.
I get curious about things — I obsess over doing them well — I share what I’m learning— I get lucky with good opportunities — I outperform.
How do I manage to make ends meet yet do so much?
Time management, this one. I work fast, and I keep striving to work faster. I realize I need time to do other things, so I’m constantly improving work turnover time. So many experiences to experience, and personal development to develop. I keep my code modular, I make starter templates, I do side projects every now and again. All of this I realize is me subconsciously learning to produce good work in a fraction of the time.
I also do bandwidth management. I don’t take on more jobs than I can handle at a time. The side projects I agree to do range from the most expensive ones to the most fulfilling ones. Nothing in-between. I’ve learned the painful way that the best way to achieve balance is to have a healthy mind and a workload that doesn’t break man.
There’s also a chance I don’t have a lot of life troubles, so it’s easy for me to say this. But my work/life management skill is simple: working faster and making sure I create time for a healthy mind and just about anything else.
I love Lagos mostly because of the randomness. One minute, I’m downing a fake bottle of whiskey with a friend, eating Lagos’ famous Glover suya, and the next we’re having a soiree with strangers from the bar at their Ikoyi house, smoking cheap weed and cuban cigars. True story.
When people ask what my day will be like, I’m always excited to say I don’t know. Such is the city living that enthralls me so much, and I wish everyone has the luxury to experience Lagos like this — brownian.
(I should do a collection of short, wild Lagos stories and call it Brownian City by Not Teju Cole... never mind).
How did I start earning so much?
I’ve been lucky with opportunity and being able to progressively earn more for my craft. In my first year of designing websites (2013), I moved from earning 35k in January to 135k in December. Same formula from the first question; I wasn’t even trying to earn more then.
It’s easy to exaggerate my pockets, so I should mention that I probably don’t earn as much as you think, and I’ve been broke a lot. In fact, I only recently learned to manage money better, and without an income bump. I have so much belief in my ability to recoup money that I don’t deny myself luxuries for fear of going broke. So yes, I’m doing cool shit a lot, but many times, that’s about all the money I have.
In summary, I get better with work so I can get lucky with opportunities to earn more. Also, my big spender persona might make it seem I earn way more than I do.
How does one work on side projects with a 9–5?
I’ve never had to work a 9–5. Before you say I’m lucky, you should know that I’m usually awake most nights working, for the past three or so years. 9–5s don’t put in more hours than I do, walahi. The advantage of not having regular working hours though is that it there’s no urgency to my daily life, and I can achieve my daily goals at my own pace.
If you ask me, I think it’s the same thing for all of us — efficiency and time management. Practice to get work done faster, create time for your loved ones to put yourself in a healthy state of mind. Suddenly, putting in two extra hours of personal development a day won’t be such a mirage.
If I’m wrong, forgive my arrogance of ignorance.
How do I manage real life baggage, and stay productive?
Sometimes, I hope people don’t read me and conclude my life is all about adventuring and looking for sex. There’s family and friend stuff I deal with too 🙃.
I have to admit I’m a lot more emotionally detached than most people. Sure I’m social and a responsible son, but I have zero dependents, emotionally or financially. My real life baggage is a joke compared to other people, so I might be out of my league on this one. But, I’ll still share my trick anyway.
For me, staying productive is largely a state of mind thing. I need to feel good, be happy. The way I achieve this is by being an emotional trampoline. I proactively react to things that can ruin my mood by being kinder, or quieter, or even spinning up some surface happiness.
If something bad happens to me, I force smiles and nonchalance while dealing with it, open to the idea that more bad shit will follow. I don’t yell at people in traffic because I can’t let a stranger ruin my day. I protect my state of mind a lot, and I think it’s important.
I write a lot, share a lot, and talk to my friends a lot too. I do these things because they make me lighter, and so I carry little or no emotional baggage.
That’s about it on today’s episode of Sharing Life Issues with Father Merry. Next time on the show, I will try to write about something that’s not my life for a change. Until then, cheers.