3: It’s Deeper Than the Check

As kids we go through a phase of dreaming; our imagination is unencumbered and monetary considerations are rarely any of our concerns. As we go through formal education and employment, instead of expanding this imagination, we shrink it. We think of ourselves as only capable of doing one thing really well, which on closer inspection is quite silly. A monthly salary, which Nassim Taleb, the author of Black Swan contends to be as addictive and harmful as heroin and carbohydrates, ensnares our ambitions. We work for the check, the payday, the mullah baby. There’s plenty to be said about the fact that traffic in Nairobi more than doubles at the end of the month.

But when I read accounts of successful people, I never meet a soul that says they did it for the money. Oh yeah, I really wanted to outball my homies so I busted my ass inventing the fucking light bulb. Bruh, dat cheese tho, dat cheese. Okay fine, there’s Mr Wonderful in The Shark Tank but he’s from a different planet and no one really likes him so he doesn’t count. There’s a chance that a lot of these folks just wanna sound wise and shit talking about purpose and shit. But from my experience, they’re onto something.

That day we hang out with my homie Obama down in Kingston (yeah, that day he said wagwan Jamaica… you know I had to humble brag), my friend Steph was less starstruck than me to ask him for career advice. He echoed the age-old “follow your passion” line — at least that’s what Steph told me. I know there’s a whole counterargument against this about how it’s better to seek something you remotely enjoy and then obsessively build your skills and knowledge in it, especially when you don’t know what your freaking passion is. I actually think both ideas, while contradictory, are solid pieces of advice. Because both emphasize defining and pursuing a purpose, naturally inclined or not.

My purpose is to tell dope ass stories that shift perspectives (especially about Africa and Africans) and create cool and engaging learning experiences that expand imagination. Now, I didn’t wake up this morning and come up with this, nor did I have a single light bulb moment about it. This is decades in the making and it might change. I’m extremely skeptical of teens who confidently declare to have it all figured out. Please. Defining your purpose is difficult but meaningful; it’s a lifelong process. It gives you something grander than yourself or money to live for. It allows you to define and seek opportunities, skills and people who can help you pursue your purpose. It fills cavities in your heart. It motivates you when you do the mundane things that any job requires; it pushes you to pursue excellence and knowledge for their own sake (and the money follows). Money can be advertised to do all this, but that, as far as research and I are concerned, is false advertising.

Previously: On Inner Cavities                ***                                  Next: Easy Come, Easy Go

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