In our world currently saturated with motivational speakers, life coaches, and prosperity preachers, becoming successful seems as hot an accessory as owning multiple shades of red lipstick or using your Aso-Ebi to sew a peplum blouse. Who are we kidding the ‘How to become successful’ mantra is as timeless as the little black dress, yes the fabric and cut might have seen some alterations in recent years, but the rhetoric is still the same.
As exciting and compelling as the message of ‘success’ may be, I cant help but wonder if we aren’t losing out on real connections and friendships in the name of packaging, fitting into certain social circles or mastering the elevator pitch. As much as I have an understanding of the whole idea of dressing to be addressed, being seen at the ‘right’ places, hanging out with the ‘right’ kinds of people, and having the ‘right’ kinds of conversation, I tend to feel as though relationships are becoming a lot more clinical these days, obsolete even.
I’m not that naïve not to know the clear differences between real friends, acquaintances, business colleagues, industry pals, or whatever category we choose to place people in. I’m also aware that I cannot ping all 357 contacts on my Black Berry if I was dying and needed help. But who is to say that I can’t make genuine and real connections with most of those people or that an industry pal couldn’t cross over to become a friend.
I’m big on friendships and real relationships. I always say that after God, it’s my family, friends and my work and a lot of my close friends have become more like family to me. I have also been very lucky to have people embrace me enough to share with me their brightest and darkest hours. This I find the most rewarding as it’s never easy letting a person you’ve known in such short periods into very intimate spaces.
I discovered that my biggest opportunities and my most poignant lessons have come out of genuine connections with people. I may be wrong but I find that real connections allow people reveal themselves a little more, it also allows you study peoples character, understand their values, seeing what is important to them and what isn’t, where they are coming from and the experiences that push them and drive their decisions, and it gives you the opportunity to decide whether it is a relationship you wish to build or not. Such analysis also helps break down barriers, creates acceptance for diversity and promotes inclusion. But these are big words, why be inclusive when all you really want to do is succeed on your own
I think to really connect with people requires effort, The kind that goes beyond accumulating a rolodex of business cards or consistently trying to ‘sell market’ in every conversation. It requires a great degree of remembering that it isn’t all about you, what you can get or what the person can do for you. People remember the little things, the random conversations, the shared experiences, the laughs, the ease, the unease, the phoniness, the humility, the authenticity, the passion, the secret desires.
No one is saying we need to build a network of ‘besties’, but building those life long relationships, friendships and even collaborations definitely go beyond the ‘this is how to become successful strategy’. But at the end of the day who am I to speak really. I don’t drive a massive Beemer, live in a mansion nor have my photograph on the cover of magazines with that cheesy grin that says ‘I have finally arrived’, as most times that is the perceived image of what it is to be successful.
I was told that ‘culture trumps strategy’ and to build a culture requires sharing and exchanging values and it is those shared values that make these connections sustainable. I know for sure that our world has become increasingly global and interconnected and those we strive to create relationships with see beneath the shenanigans and search for deeper meaning.
Wana Udobang is a broadcaster and writer who lives in Lagos. You can catch her on www.wanawana.net or @MissWanaWana on Twitter.