This week, the LR guest feature pendulum swings back to the world of Science. We have an amazon from the world of science, who specialises in “small things” that make the big difference.
Lessons in Excellence – because what we do not know hurts us all the time.
‘When you were born, you cried and the world smiled. Live your life in such a way that when you leave, the world will cry while you smile’.
My name is Amarachukwu and everyday my goal is to fulfil my personal mission of making a positive impact on individuals, communities and organisations with my knowledge, skills and abilities. I truly believe that our most powerful learning encounters come from dialogue so I would love to share the lessons I am learning as I journey towards excellence.
‘Failure is an event, a lesson, a stepping stone, it only becomes a person if you allow it. Fail forward’ – If there is one life lesson I would like to share with you, it would be this. What does it mean to fail forward? It means to use rejection and failure as tools for your personal development and not as a coffin to bury your dream. It means to never give up on your purpose, to acknowledge your mistakes and learn from them. My first memory about learning is my mother telling me how long it took me to learn how to write the number one. After achieving this herculean effort, we progressed to number the number two, after which I promptly forgot how to write one…lol! Someone remarked about my lack of ‘intelligence.’ We all have a ‘someone’ in our life, who proffers unsolicited advice but not solutions! Thankful for my mother’s prompt response ‘Not my child, she is very bright.’ I am my mother’s daughter. She taught me how to be strong and not give up. How it was ok to cry but after wiping your tears, to take your pen, paper, idea, business plan and start again.
Over the years I have developed my portfolio of failed events – failing to get into Medical school in Nigeria, failing to get a job I so desperately needed that I cried for days! Failed business ideas…Yet next to every failure, there is a pillar of achievement. A first class degree in Microbiology, a PhD (yes, just a different type of doctor), a job that makes me glad to get out of bed most mornings (just being real), creating the Aspiring Professionals Hub.
‘Be yourself, everyone else is taken.’ – I will gladly borrow this quote from Oscar Wilde because in today’s world of social media likes vs. faves; friends vs followers, it is often easy to think there is a right or wrong way to look, speak, dress, act. There is an appropriate way to do things but when you have to change who you are at your core – your values – to fit into any crowd then you begin to lose a sense of who you are. Your identity is tied to your destiny, don’t lose it.
This has been such an important lesson for me. I am a scientist and an academic, I am also an ethnic minority and female, meaning I am underrepresented in two important categories in my field. This has not been without its challenges. Discrimination, bullying rejection, insults! I remember being told by a female colleague how lucky I was that I did not wash my hair for months. In her opinion, this was something black women should be grateful for! However her behaviour was her choice and a reflection of her ignorance.
In being true to yourself, remember never to empower anyone to control your behaviour. You will meet a lot of ‘ignorant’ people on your way to excellence, teach those who want to be taught – ignore the rest. People see me and expect me to fulfil their stereotype but I show up and fulfil my goal.
There is always pressure to conform to what other people think success should be like – avoid it. I have learnt over the years to be happy ‘in my skin’ and with my unique mix of strengths and weaknesses. I aim to be true to my values. This has sometimes meant walking away from people and opportunities but I am happier for it.
‘Be mindful of the little things.’ – I do quite a bit of public engagement work, going into schools, churches, Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) organised events to talk to people about science and particularly to encourage young people to take up careers in science. I usually get asked ‘Why is Microbiology important?’ and I answer with a paraphrase of the great French scientist, Louis Pasteur’s words that ‘The role of the very small is indeed very great.’ A microorganism is so minute you need to magnify it thousands of times to be able to see it but our tiny bugs have such a great effect on our lives. Making your food (all you fufu lovers out there), digesting your food, making you ill, preventing you from falling ill etc. Small things matter. There is a success lesson here. What are the little things you overlook that are having a big effect on your life right now? How do you show courtesy to people you think are ‘below’ you? Do you pay attention to detail? Get to places on time?
‘There is no success without service. The most successful people provide the most value.’ – I love reading biographies. It can be so easy to get caught up in the present Instagram shot of someone’s life and forget that there is always a back story. I and my friend Emmanuel created the Aspiring Professionals Hub because we want to build and support a network of professionals in developing successful careers. Our mission in APH is ‘developing and supporting successful professionals.’ We want to serve, provide value to our readers and mentees. We aim to ensure that the people who attend our seminars and training events leave feeling empowered to create excellence in not just their careers but their lives.
The lesson here is not to focus on just achieving titles, money or fame. Focus on service. The fastest way to true leadership is solving the problems of people around you i.e. providing value in your environment. Who are you serving right now? Read about the most successful people in the world today and you’ll find they are providing a service you may even be using right now.
People matter – There is no lone excellence. No ‘I am where I am and it is all down to me.’ I am where I am today, who I am today because of a great number of people. My parents who raised me to think independently, introduced me to faith, taught me the importance of education and sacrificed their best for it. My family always encouraging me to take bold steps. My PhD supervisors who saw a very shy, quiet but hardworking girl in their final year undergraduate class and not only made me believe I had what it took to do a PhD but opened doors and provided mentorship. Colleagues, bosses, mentees, students etc.
Some people will stay the distance, some a short time but do not underestimate the power of mentorship, friendship and relationship as you progress to success. I am grateful for the wonderful people as well as the not so wonderful that I have had the opportunity to come across. I learn from every relationship.
Developing a legacy – I am an educator. Nothing makes me happier than shining the light of knowledge with everyone I meet. I love to take complex ideas and make them simple. This is what I would like to be remembered for. I love to believe that I give something to my students that they can hold onto for the rest of their lives. Believing in themselves and their abilities.
There is nothing morbid about thinking about your legacy. It is about ‘beginning with the end in mind.’ When I think of legacy, I remember the recently deceased Mohammed Ali, how many of us met him in person? However, we all remember his words. We all know to ‘float like a butterfly, sting like a bee; the hands can’t hit what the eyes can’t see.’ What are you building that will outlast you? Legacy is not about notoriety. In your current ‘space’ – home, work, and business – what is the excellence that you bring to the table that ensures that your loss is significant.
One of my PhD supervisors passed away in the first few months of my PhD, he never got to see me graduate but the seeds he sowed in me are being spread all over the world. Not many people know his name but his lessons are being learnt – you’ve read some of them here today. This is legacy.
I will end with the words of Paul because this remains my driver as I pursue excellence.
“I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”
Life is one long learning journey. Enjoy it. Keep pressing and pursue excellence in all you do.
Hmmmmm. There is serious food for thought here. The LR Team cannot help but express our gratitude to the very eloquent Dr. Amara Anyogu for stimulating our minds and helping us all realise how “ small things matter”. Erhyo Obodo, the editor from the LR Team who worked on Amara’s feature article, simply describes her as an “interior of strength with an exterior of butter”. Amara Anyogu (@amaratweets) – Amara is the Co-Founder and Editor of the Aspiring Professionals Hub – an information portal and academic & career skills training provider. APH is building a network of successful professionals. After completing a PhD in Microbiology and Food Science, Amara is building her career in academia and is a Lecturer in Applied Biological Sciences at London Metropolitan University where she teaches students undertaking a range of Life Sciences courses as well as conducting research in Food Microbiology.
Since we have been reminded how ‘small things matter’, kindly take out that ‘small’ time, to drop that ‘small line’, on how what you have read from Amara can help us make that ‘small’ difference we all so wish to see.