Photo by Joel Muniz / Unsplash

What Really Matters

Notebook šŸ“ Feb 22, 2022

My whole life I've been discovering the pain of things that matter and things that don't.

I was never at any single school for more than 3 consecutive years. For the most part, these changes were largely innocuous. I moved from Lagos to London, danced around South London for a while before settling across the river in North London. Only one of my school moves was less than voluntary.

This was where I learned what matters and what doesn't.

Early in my schooling, I had been placed two classes ahead of my age group. When I moved to North London my new headteacher kicked up a fuss about how separation from my age-mates might impair my development. As a result, I had to sit out the rest of the yea and rejoin a class studying things I had already learned.

Obsession with something that ultimately didn't matter effectively put a bar on any interest I had in education. I became disruptive. I was on report for the rest of my time in that school.

On my first day of secondary school, I was in a fight before my very first class. I was in detention on the first day of school and almost every day after that. By the time I was forced to switch schools two and a half years later, I had racked up 386 incident slips.

But ultimately, a streak as a problem child was something obsessed over that didn't really matter. A year later I was in a gifted program at a new school, Iā€™d won several best orator awards on a touring debate team and had been invited to attend the Model United Nations in the Hague.

The most powerful course correction was a tiny one. At a parents evening, my parents and I sat before a physics teacher whose classes I knew I frequently disrupted. I was gripping my chair waiting for him to rip into me. He didn't mention a word of it. He gushed about my abilities and potential, and two weeks later I scored 100% on a physics test. In retrospect, I have never seen a more powerful Jedi mind trick.

Many of the things we obsess over ultimately have little long-term impact. The energy we expend interrupting evolving behaviour patterns just makes things worse. Sometimes all you need is a change of narrative. Once you reframe the problem, results become effortless.

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