“Be Blind To Be Focused”
That was the concluding remark made by Cobhams Asuquo in the speech he gave at the TEDxEuston Conference. To better appreciate this bog post I strongly recommend that you watch this video of Cobhams giving the speech at the event.
The sense of sight is one of the five most important senses for humans and many other creatures. The human senses are fed by stimuli from the surrounding environment, transmitted via sensory organs of the body. Arguably most of our perceptions about people, places and things are formed largely from the data our brain processes from information received from sensory organs. I could go on about sensory organs and messages but the focus of this piece is on the sense of sight.
While listening to Cobhams speak I could see his visionless eyes roll around in their sockets as his finger stroked the paper with Braille inscriptions placed before him. In that moment the saying “you never know the value of what you have until you lose it” flashed in my mind. As a person with all my sensory organs in relatively good working condition, it dawned on me how easy it is to become jaded about the importance of sight. As he went on with his speech I began to think to myself how different my life would be if I were blind. Would I have graduated? Let alone get a job? Or even be able to write this blog post. It is true that modern technology has done its very best, and still is, in including people of various handicaps into the rest of the society. These days we have blind poets and writers, lame drivers etc. That notwithstanding, I could not help but ponder the implications of what he said. BE BLIND TO BE FOCUSED. Throughout his speech I kept looking out for something, something I am a bit embarrassed to admit. What I was seeking to seeing in him was discontent/jealousy, stemming from the fact that he was in a room with non-blind people, but he spoke with such confidence and vigor that I began to wonder if I was indeed better off with sight.
Back in school we were told things like “keep your eyes on the ball” and many other motivational sentences. But on further inspection of that saying, coupled with the words from Cobhams it’s easy to see that it’s our “Mind” and not our “Eyes” that needs to be on the ball. Every day we walk out of our house, we are pulverized by a slew of stimuli from the outdoors. Various things to see, hear, feel, etc. it is very easy to get distracted. The struggle to stay focused is even harder if you live in a cosmopolitan city like New York, London or even Lagos. A couple of times I have missed my bus stop because I was engrossed in admiring a building or typing away on my iPad or blackberry. Sometimes when I go shopping for just one item, I would emerge from the store with three items, none of which is the one original item I initially went in for or even remotely close. It happens to best of us all the time. So Cobhams might be right after all, you need to be blind to every other thing around you in order that you archive your set goal. Another example is one from a story my dad once told me. One of his senior brothers was on the greedy side and was constantly looking for ways to outmaneuver his friends and siblings to get some of their own things. One day a visitor was on his way out of the house and decided to show generosity towards the kids. The man gave my dad a big sized coin (I can’t remember the denominations, but shillings and penny were involved) and then gave my uncle a smaller sized coin. I was told that, my uncle, on realizing the difference in sizes began to fight and cry, demanding that he be given a bigger sized coin as well. This was done promptly. But it is important to note that the small sized coin was said to have been worth two times the value of the big coin. Had he been “blind” to the size he would have had gotten more money.
After much consideration and thought, I cannot help but concur with Mr. Cobhams on this one. There are many more examples I can give here, but I would just end up with a really long post and nobody wants that. Sometimes we need to “blind” ourselves in order that we get a clearer visual of what our goal ought to be.
STAY BLIND, STAY FOCUSED.
To everyone who just wrote a paper or two in the just concluded ACCA (Association Of Chartered Certified Accountants) December examination session, I wish you guys all the best and hope that all those months of studying and attending long boring lectures pays-off good. The ACCA syllabus is usually so broad that studying for an examination ensures that your social life and even your personal life are crushed to the barest minimum during the time being. ACCA is like a jealous girlfriend that consumes all your attention with no recourse, she makes sure you don’t have time for your friends let alone other girls. Which is why during this brief period while she is back at her parents’ house (Aka…while papers are being graded) you should do yourself a world of good by tearing things up. Go clubbing, catch up on the TV shows you missed, essentially everything you would normally not have time for while studying.
As tough as the ACCA examination can be to deal with, one thing or should I say one set of people that are even tougher to deal with are those people who always want to compare notes immediately after the examination. Usually when the invigilator gives the instruction for everyone to leave the hall, you will spot them as the ones who are quicker than most to make their way through the rows. They are the ones who seem like they are almost running towards the door, you would think they are rushing for another paper or something, unfortunately they aren’t. Why are they rushing? They want to go out early enough to trap people and cajole them into talking about the paper. One time I saw a guy waiting anxiously at the door, he looked like an artiste at the Grammys waiting to be called up the stage for an award. Immediately he saw these two guys, apparently he must have known them previously; he yanked them off the crowd to the corner, and the first question was “guys…how did you solve the number 4 section B question?” when I go further out of the hall, I encounter further small and large groups of people all doing the same thing, talking about an examination that already ended. And I wonder to myself, are these people masochists?
At this point I am sure you would be wondering what exactly my point is. My point is that I believe it to be the most foolish act of self-inflicted deprecation to linger around the examination hall discussing about something to which you no longer have the power to impact any change on. Think about this way, you leave the examination hall and immediately join a group of people who are discussing the examination and then you find out from all these talking that you have missed eight of the ten questions you had to answer. How depressing is that? Why not leave the examination, go home have fun for about a month and a half (ACCA timing) without thinking about if the balance sheet you prepared balanced or not? When it comes to examination result, I like to apply the “delayed gratification” psychology in reverse. Delayed gratification involves depriving one’s own self of small immediate gains in hope of greater gains in the future by being patient.
A research done by American psychologist, Walter Mischel, buttresses this point. In an experiment by Walter and his colleagues at Stanford University, they presented four-year-olds with a marshmallow and told the children that they had two options: (A.) ring a bell at any point to summon the experimenter and eat the marshmallow, or (B) wait until the experimenter returned about 15 minutes later, and earn two marshmallows. The results were quite revealing and educative. Mischel found that children were able to wait longer if they used certain “cool” distraction techniques (covering their eyes, hiding under the desk, singing songs, or imagining pretzels instead of the marshmallow in front of them), or if they changed the way they thought about the marshmallow (focusing on its similarity to a cotton ball, rather than on its gooey, delectable taste). The children, who waited longer, when re-evaluated as teenagers and adults, demonstrated a striking array of advantages over their peers. As teenagers, they had higher SAT scores, social competence, self-assuredness and self-worth, and were rated as their parents as more mature, better able to cope with stress, more likely to plan ahead, and more likely to use reason. They were less likely to have conduct disorders or high levels of impulsivity, aggressiveness and hyperactivity. As adults, the high delayers were less likely to have drug problems or other addictive behaviors, get divorced, or get overweight. Each minute that a preschooler was able to delay gratification translated to a .2% reduction in Body Mass Index 30 years later.
Applying “delayed gratification” in reverse to the examination context; it would be more like “delayed mortification”. It’s very simple, going ahead to discuss an already completed examination and finding out that you have failed woefully will make your grief period start earlier than it should, and thus last longer. Because when the results do come out, and now you have factual evidence of your failure, the sadness, depression, anger etc will stretch out further. My advice is, if you finish an examination you should just leave immediately no matter how well or bad you think you have performed. If you are in fact dragged into one of those potentially self-deprecating conversations, try and limit the length of your responses and never give definite ones. Just say things like “it was ok”, “I am hopeful” things like that. This is because if you don’t it can go two ways. The first way is that, you did in fact do very well on the examination and by talking about your answers you make a couple of people sad about their own performance, you might even draw upon yourself some level of hatred for this. The second way is that you did not perform well and by talking with those who have done quite well you feel quite sad and filled with despair. Your self-confidence is majorly battered. So why not delay this impending period of gloom and just have fun for the time being, do the things that make you the most happy, who knows by so doing you might actually be preparing yourself better for the fall. Plus its Christmas, who wants to spoil the holiday spirit by thinking about failure all thru, that’s just insane.
Again I wish everyone around the world who wrote examinations of any kind, not just ACCA, success, and if you do not pass, well the world goes on. After all Abraham Lincoln lost Eight!!!! elections before becoming President of USA. Perseverance is Key.
HAPPY HOLIDAYS PEOPLE.
Simple Advice: If you encounter those overtly insistent one just say to them “Shhhh….Quiet Please, It’s Over Already.”