The Messy Middle

The middle of the road is not the obvious destination for most people. Figuratively it conjures up an image of being neither here nor there. We live in an increasingly polarised world where we are often asked to “pick a side”.

In a lot of circumstances I actually think “picking a side” or being fully convicted of one’s beliefs is an admirable trait. An individual’s values represent their basic convictions of what is right, good or desirable. These values often form an enduring conviction and form the moral foundation for how that individual lives or interacts with the society they live in.

It is a blessed thing that in every age some one has had the individuality enough and courage enough to stand by his own convictions.

Robert Green Ingersoll

I am all for having convictions. It can be an anchor in a continually evolving world where it is becoming increasingly difficult to discern between what is fact or truth. And we all have a basis for how we arrive at the value systems that govern how we see the world. We determine the values we live by through inculcating beliefs,cultural assimilations and social conditioning passed down from parents, schools, peers, religious institutions, the media, society etc.

As much as we like to believe that we “choose” our values or beliefs, they are never totally formed in a vacuum. It’s the reason why in certain societies an economically successful woman would consider not being married a huge personal failure. This example is not to highlight the correctness(or not) of this belief but to highlight that while values can be individual there are elements of them that we arrived at based on social conditioning.

Most people would agree with the core idea that hurting another human by murdering or stealing from them is wrong .This is because values are at the core of most of our decision making. And for straightforward scenarios like murder or theft, we can (ok not all but most people)can decide not to hurt others in that way.

Unfortunately, not all decisions that we have to make are as straightforward as the above. Which is why I think it at some point or for some issues it is important that we resist binary thinking .

We increasingly faced with making or taking decisions that are so complex which means we cannot afford to view ALL issues from a versus/either or lens or perspective.

One thing that is largely missing in most of our public discourse today is the ability to think about issues in a nuanced way. Don’t even get me started on how this plays in out in the dumpster fire world that is social media .It appears that we are at a point where we struggle with the ability to wrestle with two conflicting ideas and come to a “middle of the road” viewpoint that doesn’t totally dismiss or demonise the other side of the debate.

Picture credit – Pinterest

It’s either everyone who works in a 9 to 5 job is an idiot without any ambition or every wealthy person in business is a greedy capitalist overlord. It’s either you voted for Brexit because you are patriotic/racist or voted leave because you are a liberal softie who loves giving away your rights. You can’t be pro vaccination without questioning vaccine mandates or believe in protecting others or the vulnerable around you by wearing a mask without being a sheep who is being misled by the mainstream media or Bill gates (I went there).

You can’t believe in women’s rights without being a man hating feminist or believe that men are not the enemy in every discussion that pertains to gender equality. You can’t believe that certain elements of capitalism unduly privileges certain parts of the society while also believing in innovation/industry. You can’t be ambitious without thinking all poor people are lazy and deserve to be poor. You can’t believe in living a healthy lifestyle without fat shaming others. It’s always either/or!

There is no middle ground!

Nuanced thinking can be defined as resisting binary stances on important, complex topics. I named this post “the messy middle” because it takes effort to operate or think in this sphere. And that effort can be messy. Our brains, too often see things in binary terms. It’s much easier for it to simplify the world into true or false, good or bad, is or is not. This dichotomizing tendency works well for simpler decisions like I outlined earlier.

It takes alot of mental effort to choose to sometimes dwell in the uncertainty of considering the merits or demerits of the other viewpoint. It’s much easier to dismiss those other views and exist within our own echo chambers with people who agree with and think like us. To take a conscious effort to at least consider what the other side is saying can be difficult. And it is why it is the road less travelled.

I am not advocating taking permanent residence in the middle of the road. That in itself can be dangerous because no one truly likes lukewarm tea or people (I find it hard to believe anyone does). Be passionate about your beliefs and convictions. Your views might not always be considered acceptable by others and that is ok.

What I am advocating is the ability to sometimes consider the other viewpoint.

Even if you don’t understand it.

Even if you don’t agree with it.

Photo credit -Pinterest

And you might never agree or understand that viewpoint or belief. What the middle ground does especially if you take the time to listen to the other person is that it humanises their position. And it opens you up to the fact that not everyone sees the world through your lenses. Sometimes they are wrong. Sometimes they aren’t. And that’s ok too!

This is something that we can all do better at and I am hoping that I can do too.

As usual thank you so much for reading and have a lovely day

Oyindamola

Oyindamola’s Most Impactful Reads in 2021

My Good Reads 2021 Tally

It’s that time of the year when I write a piece on how the year has gone from me on the reading front. This was something I started in 2019 which was the year I started writing in long form on this blog. That piece in 2019 was titled Read More in 2020. In it I shared tips on how I rekindled and sustained my reading habit. If you want to “read more in 2022” I think it’s one would find very useful.

In 2020, I wrote a more reflective piece titled, My 2020 in reading I reflected on how my year had gone on the reading front and also shared my plan for 2021 which was to read less books but make my reading more topical. I read 41 books in total in 2020 but decided that it was more valuable to immerse myself in certain topics which meant my reading would go deeper rather than wider.

So how has that gone,you might ask? On reflection,very well. I started the year not really concerned about a number but also knowing that what doesn’t get measured doesn’t get managed. So I set myself a goal to read at least 2 new books every month. This would translate to 24 books by the end of the year. I was specific about new books as I knew I would be re-reading some books I had read in previous years. At the time of writing this (13 days to go) I have read 37 new books. I also re-read 4 books which more or less takes me to my 2020 number of 41.It certainly was not my intention to “smash a target” but reading has become an activity that is enjoyable. And what happens when you enjoy an activity? You do it for the sake of it and not necessarily to score a point or get validation. The value becomes intrinsic and the process matters much more than the outcome.

Tweet by David Perell on Twitter

So as I was thinking of what to share as my end of the year reading reflection, I settled on sharing which books had the most impact on me. And when I say impact, I mean the books that left something with me.As the quote above states the books you read will change your life even though you will never remember all you read.It was really hard to narrow down my choices as I truly believe l learn something from every book I read(including fiction).

The books I will be sharing either spurred to me action in varying ways or fundamentally changed the way I thought about certain subjects. Some of them also gave me words that I didn’t realise I needed. Words and stories are how I process the world and these books gave me both an inroad and an outlet for my thoughts and ideas.

So here they go in no particular order:

Learn more about the book – GoodReads

The first book on my list is Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela . It was a book I read with Chapters Bookclub community early on in the year. It is his autobiography that charted his life from early childhood to the years he spent in prison and subsequent release into post apartheid South Africa. My central learning from this book was that the struggle for the actualisation of a principle, idea or a struggle is often underpinned by long term endeavour. Long term change rarely happen overnight and it takes a certain ethos to believe in something so deeply that you are prepared to wait years for it to be manifested. Consistency and effort are needed in equal measure.It was a really chunky book but one I would recommend to anyone who loves biographies or learning about the lives of influential figures. You can buy the book here.

Learn more about the book – GoodReads

Of this our country is an essay collection written by several acclaimed authors of Nigerian descent. It was the book that I never knew I needed to describe my very complicated feelings and relationship with my beloved Nigeria. I read this on Kindle and at some point I thought Kindle would stop me highlighting. The use of words and imagery transported me back to the sights, smells, customs, idiosyncrasies and all things that I both love and hate about being Nigerian.It made me reassess a lot of things I held true and is a book that I will definitely be reading again. Highly recommended for any lover of Nigeria and particularly Nigerian literature. You can buy the book here.

Learn more about the book – GoodReads

Every good endeavour by Tim Keller was such a pivotal read for me. I have always wanted to read a book that gave me some insights on how my faith practically plays out in how I work.It gave me a much needed balance on my view of work and the accord God places on all types of work. My biggest lesson or mindset change from it is that work for a Christian is not a curse to be endured. It was in Gods origins plan for the world and was actually Gods first assignment to Man.It also finally shattered the myth that the only work God cares about is “work in the vineyard/church building”. It was such a great read with lots of really great lessons and quotes. It is one I would highly recommend for any Christian who wants to live out their faith in the marketplace. You can buy the book here.

Learn more about the book- Good Reads

This one touched me in way that I can’t even begin to describe. It’s a book written by Chinamanda Ngozi Adichie about the impact the loss of her father had on her. She gave the words to describe the feelings I felt 13 years ago and every day since then about losing my father. She describes the feelings, emotions and contradictions of loss and grief. The mix of sadness and crying interspersed with smiles and laughter of fond memories. Chinamanda really does have a way with words and this book gave me an inroad to reflect on what it means to lose a parent. I almost felt bad for enjoying it too much. Some people might find it hard to read because of the theme but I found it really comforting and is one I would highly recommend for anyone searching for a language for grief. You can buy the book here.

Learn more about the book –GoodReads

Leadership books can be a bit hit and miss for me.Frankly,I find some of them really un-relatable as they do not talk about leaders that sound,look or think like me. I would have thought the same about this book as it talks about leading a submarine warship. But it is truly one of the most relatable leadership books I have ever read. My key lesson from this book was the leader-leader model that the author goes into alot of detail to illustrate. A good leader empowers those they lead by giving them the ability to lead themselves by fostering a culture of learning, accountability and the willingness to learn from mistakes. I learnt a lot from this book and it is one I would recommend to anyone who aspires to lead others in some form or the other. You can buy the book here.

Learn more about the book –GoodReads

One of the things that confounded me the most when I became a Christian was the blanket good natured advice of “just read your Bible”. It’s advise I have also given but one I realise could be better tailored as “reading the Bible” can be a daunting prospect. With time I have made into a habit that has endured but reading this book gave a me a framework and context that I think a lot of Christians struggle with when it comes to studying scripture. The author shares really useful tips on what she calls the 5Ps of studying the Bible ( Purpose,Perspective,Patience, Process and Prayer). This book makes me the cut as this framework is part of how I now study scripture. The book is called Woman of the word and was written with women in mind. That said it is a book I would highly recommend to anyone looking for a very practical guide on studying the Bible. You can buy the book here.

Learn more about the book – GoodReads

The amount of change that we have had to navigate in the last two years has been astronomical. It’s one of the reasons most people have found these times challenging as humans only have so much capacity when it comes to change. This book provides simple,straightforward and practical approaches to managing change in organisations. Like I always say though, I think a lot of organisational change frameworks can be applied broadly in other walks of life. It made the list as I have actually applied some of the frameworks and approaches professionally. Apart from working in change/transformation, change is a topic that I am always reading about.This year has also been a year of massive changes and transitions for me and the lessons from this book proved so valuable in navigating those transitions. It’s a book I would highly recommend to anyone who considers themselves a Change agent in whatever capacity. You can buy the book here.

About the book – GoodReads

This book makes the list as it made me re- evaluate what matters. It made me question where and what my validation comes from. It shattered beliefs and made me realise that my worth or significance was not something I had to perform or earn from God. Most importantly it pointed me to scripture which is always a winner for me when I read Christian literature. It gave insights through scripture that point to the fact that the basis of my faith is acceptance through Jesus Christ and that I do not need to perform or “earn” my stripes. Good works are as a result of the grace I have been given and not a way to earn grace. It was another one that I read with the Chapters book club and the feedback from everyone was phenomenal. It impacted me so much that I took a whole month off social media.This is not saying social media is bad but I had to reassess why and what I used it for. This book is one I would recommend to any Christian. You can buy the book here.

As noted earlier these books made the cut but there are so many other books that were absolutely phenomenal. There are some others not listed here that i have reviewed on this blog or on my YouTube channel. See the full list of the books I read(and reading as I have a few to get through before the 31st) – Oyinda’s 2021 reads.You can also check out the book reviews on my YouTube channel Book Reviews by Oyindamola.

As we round off the year, I look back with a lot of gratitude. Mixed in with the gratitude is also some exhaustion and I am really looking forward to a time of solitude, rest and recharging. This will probably be my last piece of long form writing for the year so using this medium to thank you for engaging and reading my thoughts. Thank you very much for your support and I truly do not take it for granted.

Here’s wishing you a very merry Christmas and a healthy,prosperous,peaceful 2022.

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Book Review- How to Own the Room by Viv Groskop

Book Review

It’s been a minute.. But I am back with one of my favourite activities;reading and writing about reading. “How to Own the room: Women and the art of public speaking” by Viv Groskop has been on my bookshelf for a couple of months and decided to add it to November reading list as it’s not too bulky.

It was a book filled with really practical tips on how to be present and carry an audience along when speaking. I really liked the relatability of the scenarios presented.

The author highlights that public speaking is not just about giving once in a lifetime speeches or TED talks and tries to help readers see that public speaking is not something meant for “just a few talented ones”.

She acknowledges that we are not all going to be in front of the biggest stages but shares ideas that anyone can adapt to whatever ‘stage’ they have to speak on. From presenting in a work meeting,facilitating a panel, giving a vote of thanks at a wedding,the book contains really actionable tips to help conquer the irrational fear most people have about speaking in front of other people.

It is a book written for women but the practical tips and exercises at the end of each chapter would really benefit anyone.The book is divided into 11 chapters with 8 of them highlighting the very different public speaking styles of women like Michelle Obama,Chinamanda Ngozi Adichie,Oprah Winfrey Susan Cain, Angela Merkel,Joan Rivers, Christine Lagarde, Emma Watson ,Virginia Woolf etc . The author gives an analysis of their speaking styles and how we can all adapt or refine our speaking styles based on personality, context or ideas we are presenting. The author illlustrates with her character study that there are powerful speakers out there in every personality type. She successfully shows that introversion is not a good enough reason to avoid public speaking.

I particularly loved the conversational style of writing and reading it felt like listening to a good friend or coach giving you advice and sometimes telling you off for not believing in yourself.

Back page of the book

Some of my favourite quotes and ideas that really resonated were the headers of the sections that the chapters were divided into. These are just a few of them;

“Your imperfect presence is enough”- To own the room does not mean you need to blow everyone away with your charisma and greatness. It means that, instead of being overwhelmed by the speech and trying to mould yourself into something you are not, you find ways of being yourself and making the speech fit around you even if you are a quiet modest person.

“The more complex your ideas,the slower your speech”- As a rule, going more slowly than you think you need to is a good idea. Those who pause naturally 3.5 times per minute,are the most successful at influencing their audience.

“Take an attitude towards criticism:either embrace it or ignore it”

“You don’t have to be a great speaker to give an amazing speech”

“It’s ok to speak from notes”

“Show us what we have in common with you”

“Holding back can be just as powerful as holding forth”

“Be prepared to get it wrong”

Buy the book **affiliate link**

It is not really a book geared to the content or “what” makes a great speech but more geared to the “how” to make a great speech.
As the author herself states “It is a book about how to be powerful in your speaking”.

It was a really great read and is one I would recommend to anyone (women especially)who is uncomfortable with the idea of public speaking and is looking for helpful tips on how to become confident in speaking to an audience of any size.

As usual thank you so much for reading.

Oyindamola

Book Review- Every Good Endeavour by Timothy Keller

Book Review

My Christian faith is a vital part of who I am and hope to be. It is the anchor of my convictions and values. Which is why ‘Every Good Endeavour’ by Timothy Keller was such an amazing read for me.We are often faced with varying thoughts when it comes to work with one of the biggest questions being “How can I find fulfilment in my work?”

The author tries to tackle this and a lot of other issues from the perspective of the Christian faith. He explores the contradictions and emotions that work brings up in most christains.The book gives helpful ideas from the Bible on the mindset a christian should have towards their work.The author takes a very balanced approach on how we should approach work and even how we should relate to non-christians in the marketplace.

Please see below some of my favourite quotes from the book;

Work is not all there is to life. You will not have a meaningful life without work, but you cannot say that your work is the meaning of your life.

Work is an important part of life and the author addresses and gives biblical perspective on why we would want to work. He draws on the book of Genesis, where’s Gods creative design of the earth can be seen as a form of work. This is what God set up as an ideal for people to aspire to. Work was therefore not something done out of necessity, but something to contributing to the world and the good of others.At the same time, he notes that it is important that work is not seen as the only meaning of life but a means to glorify God and serve others.

There may be no better way to love your neighbor, whether you are writing parking tickets, software, or books, than to simply do your work. But only skillful, competent work will do.

Dorothy Sayers writes, The church’s approach to an intelligent carpenter is usually confined to exhorting him to not be drunk and disorderly in his leisure hours and to come to church on Sundays. What the church should be telling him is this: that the very first demand that his religion makes upon him is that he should make good tables.

The two quotes above highlight a point which author emphasises in the book. Faith should influence how a Christian works which means the pursuit of excellence is paramount. The author highlights that the original design of God for work was for it to be a calling.He states that the way we approach our work can be a form of worship regardless of the kind of work we do. If we view through this lens it makes it easier to put in our best and serve others to the best of our ability.

It means that all jobs—not merely so-called “helping professions”—are fundamentally ways of loving your neighbor. Christians do not have to do direct ministry or nonprofit charitable work in order to love others through their jobs

Your daily work is ultimately an act of worship to the God who called and equipped you to do it—no matter what kind of work it is. In the liner notes to his masterpiece A Love Supreme, John Coltrane says it beautifully: This album is a humble offering to Him. An attempt to say “THANK YOU GOD” through our work, even as we do in our hearts and with our tongues. May He help and strengthen all men in every good endeavour.

There seems to be an assumption by most Christians that ‘ministry’ or certain types of altruistic work are the only ones that matter to God.He goes into a lot of historical context into why and how this mindset became pervasive in the church. The author gives us a different framework to allowing the Christian worldview shape how and why we do our work regardless of what sort of work we do.

These are just a few of the other 180 highlights and notes I made as I read through. There is so much to unpack in this book as it relates to faith and work that I don’t think this one book review can do justice to.I found another article that summarises the book quite well. The article gives you a bit more detail but I really do think this is a book that should be read to get a full and broader context for the subject matter.

This is the first book Kindle book I have finished in a long while and this is testament to how much I really enjoyed the content as I am very much a hard copy book girl.It was a really great read and is a book that I would highly recommend to any Christian who has ever wondered about the intersection of work and faith.

Buy the Book

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Thank you so much for reading. I would love to hear from you if you have read the book or plan to so let’s chat in the comments.

Have a lovely Saturday and weekend.

Much love

Oyindamola

Book Review- i am my brand by Kubi Springer

Book Review

I will start by saying that I really loved this book. It is a really insightful book on what it means to build a personal brand. Practical,no fluff and packed with a lot of tools that anyone can use in building a strong and effective personal brand. I loved the fact that the author approached branding not just from a business/entrepreneurial perspective. The book outlined ideas anyone can apply to connecting with a diverse audience at work or in life. It was a book that did not just roll out a plethora of cliches but gave really helpful ideas and tools to actually begin the process. There was an activity at the end of every chapter and if you did every activity as you read along, you would have a workable plan by the time you got the end of the book.

I also loved how how the author used her story and those of others in crafting what it entails to be a personal brand that is both loved and reviled. She used examples of brands or people that we all know and those less well known .I have always been wary of the word ‘building a brand’ as it always felt so phoney or disingenuous. This book helped me see past that reticence as the author explains that a personal brand is less about ‘building a persona’ but more about a ‘emotional connection with a target audience’. In some ways we all have a target audience.Whether it’s a tribe of people who need your business or service, getting an organisation to see the value you can add to the organisation, or getting funding for your non profit we all have an audience that we need to appeal to and as such a brand that they can relate to.


Books in this genre tend to either over complicate the subject matter by using technical jargon or relying too much on anecdotes with little substance but this book manages to do both without going to the extremes. The author breaks down the process of building a personal brand into eight pillars which were;

1.Decision
2.Vision
3.Clarity
4.Strategy
5.Tactics
6.Metrics
7.Ownership
8.Be unapologetic

Sections 1,2,3,& 8 were mostly aimed at the mindset and reasons why you want to build a personal brand.Sections 4,5,6 go into a lot of branding frameworks and give you the tools required to build a brand both at a personal and organisational level.

There were so many quotes I loved but I particularly resonated with this quote from the section called –Own your truth.

Try to see your personal brand success as a contribution to making others happy.Or try to see how what you do adds value to someone else or something else. We have all been put here for a reason and it’s not just to make money or have a nice house or pay our bills on time or create extreme wealth. Yes those things are lovely and in some cases very necessary but we are here for so much more than that. Your talents,your gifts,character personality are in you for more than just you. Believe it or not you have been uniquely designed to help solve a unique problem in the world.You haven’t been created just for you,you have been created for others to enjoy what you bring. It might sound super corny but the world actually needs what you have. Your world and those in your world really need what you have,to show up without apology.The darkness all around us needs your unique light. When you switch on your torch,your light creates a way for others to see. Yes it might well be scary knowing that there are others dependent on your win but it also very rewarding when it happens.”

Page 21

In the section called –Branding is like dating she states that “an effective personal brand is an authentic expression of the individual and a personification of who they really are”. Another quote I loved in this section was;

Your why is is therefore the most important part of building an effective personal brand. Without knowing your ‘why’ you are left with nothing more than your capabilities and skills. There are too many people that share the same capabilities and skills as you,so it’s the who you are,not the what you are that matters.

Page 77

I also particularly loved the 12 brand archetypes she described in the section called – Your difference is your strength.The 12 brand archetypes defined in the book are;

1.The Sage 2.The Innocent 3. The Explorer 4. The Ruler 5. The Creator 6. The Caregiver 7.The Magician 8.The Hero 9.The Rebel 10.The Lover 11. The Jester 12. The Regular guy or girl

Based on the definitions and the work at the end of the chapter I ended up defining myself as a cross between 1,3,5 and 12.(a lot I know 😀). If you end up buying or reading the book this is one activity you should definitely not miss out on.

You can probably tell that this a book I really enjoyed and it is one that I will definitely be going back to again and again.

I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for some tips and techniques on building an effective brand. Asides from the branding tips there are also lessons that can be learned from the author’s story and interviews by other business leaders.

Click here to buy the book

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As usual thank you for reading and hope you have a great weekend.

Much love

Oyindamola