Thank you: The magic word #gratitude

by Kazeem Olalekan

B’ọmọ bá dúpẹ́ óore àná, a tún rí òmíràn gbà – Yoruba Proverb

The above is a Yoruba proverb that roughly translates: If a child expresses gratitude for previous gift, he would receive another one. My son will soon be three years old and I see myself teaching him to say his pleases and thank yous (or Ps and Qs). This is not simply to satisfy my human need not to be taken for granted but to teach him something more profound and spiritual. My case study finding demonstrates unequivocally, in my mind, that magic happens when we say our Ps and Qs.

First things first

Before I launch into the results of my case study, I want to respond to the result of another study produced by the husband and wife team of ‘Tiger mum’ Amy Chua and her husband professor  Jed Rubenfeld. The book is titled ‘Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America‘ and I plan to read that book very soon. I am sure it will make for an interesting read. The response I am providing here, is to the radio interview given by Amy Chua to BBC R4 Today program on the 5th of February (embedded below):

The three traits as identified in their study were: (1) Sense of exceptionality or Superiority complex; (2) Sense of insecurity and (3) Impulse control. Mrs Chua was quite clear in the interview that this was nothing to do with any cultural, race or biological superiority. It is nothing hard-wired. I am very happy to hear that although a number of commentators have assumed the opposite.

I can relate to everyone of the identified traits in the following ways: (1) Be in no doubt that I know, as far as is possible, that you and I are exceptional. The sense of exceptionality therefore goes without saying but I take exception to this being described as a superiority complex. Superiority is a misnomer. I have never consciously treated anyone as superior or inferior. As a starting point, I treat everyone I meet in the same manner – with deference. Superiority introduces a contest between one man against another man when the real context should be between man and his god. When a man wins the battle of understanding between himself and his god, he will realise the futility of the contest between one man against another man. I will explain this further later in this post. (2) On the subject of insecurity, I am also clear about what I think of this. In response to tweet by @jay_asher on the 8th of January 2014 on this same issue, I offered the following response:

@jay_asher I am guessing, not haven read the book, that if you have a superiority complex and secure; then one becomes ‘cocky’. A recipe for disaster. See what happened to the French aristocrats before the revolution. Guess a self confident person still require a degree of doubt or ‘insecurity’ to keep the fire of aspiration burning. The key question, I guess is: What are the drivers and what informs it? If the driver is not constant, then the flame will soon burn out and someone with superiority complex with no drive is…a lame duck, or a crispy duck: needing to be consumed with soy sauce. – Twitter Chat (via conweets)

(3) On the third point, I will say this: We all have impulses…we all have needs. There are people out there who will readily exploits those needs and impulses to undermine your message and substitute what is a golden ticket for a worthless artefact.  You will have to decide what is more important. Where the message is so stark, you have no choice but to control your impulses.

This book is a welcomed addition to my reading list and according to Mrs Chua, the book is ‘…backed by research. Every single sentence is backed by empirical data, statistics…’ I will insert a note of caution here: Even when all the above elements are present, they are not enough to guarantee success. The magic, on the evidence of my study, can only be found in the Ps and Qs.  Now let me explain the results of my case study.

Why a Case Study

It is difficult to know where to start without risking repeating myself. For those that have been following this story unfold, I apologise for the repetition.

I can relate with the three qualities identified by Mrs Chua and her husband. It has been with me for as long as I can remember. The most important aspect of these qualities is the ability to form absolutely no judgement whatsoever about the new person in front of me. The more I interact with that person, the more I develop some working hypothesis about that person. I then, over time, test that hypothesis and discard those that are false and form new hypothesis. In effect, anyone in front of me is a case study! All these happen at a subconscious level and until the leadership training provided by Tesco (you will have to read the book), I hadn’t been able to describe this satisfactorily. The model that was proposed at that training, made absolute sense to me. The training was in July 2007. My life changing experience, a year later, is the type of event that could send one mad! You see, Terry Pratchett is right when he wrote: “The problem with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and putting things in it.” By keeping my mind open and making no judgement about the person in front of me, I might have given the impression that I was gullible – which is a shame and a failure of insight on the part of those with that impression! I keep my mind open but it is not a vacuous space. Jules Henri Poincaré is the mathematician that described the ‘butterfly effect‘ in which ‘a butterfly flapping its wings in say, West Africa, makes tiny changes in the atmosphere that can cause a tornado in Tokyo’. This failure of insight, in my judgement, is the single cause of the events that then unfolded.

Even when I was convinced that my life changing moment was from God, I was not going to take it lying down! Clearly, even God, had to prove Himself to me – I think He enjoyed proving Himself. In the many conversations I had with Jaggy after my seminal moment, all I could say was: this is a Case Study. In this Case Study however, I was the Christ figure. It was also clear to me very early on that I will achieve the objectives (which will only become apparent later) without suffering the fate of Jesus Christ (because I don’t have to!).  Should I have told Jaggy all these? I am sure he would have called the mental hospital himself. So I kept this to myself and see it as a personal battle between me and my God. What became apparent during this struggle with myself is the observation of ‘game psychology‘ by others. What was a serious psychological battle for myself (and my life) was reduced, in some quarters, to gaming. In the end the notion of innate morality was suspended in some perfectly good people. I was never party to such a crass game. My conscientious refusal to be party to such a game, I believe, resulted in the problems I subsequently faced.

What is the chance that everything beyond my control will fall into place? Think about it: The political picture in America(1st black president in the White House), the political picture here at home (a hung parliament first for 36years) and the situation in Nigeria. What is the chance of me responding to the NHS land grab from certain right wing factions in the US? What is the chance of me being the messier of my profession? Did you know there was the Great recession to boot? And did you know the size of my debt in 1997? What is the chance of all these being captured by Big Brother?  There are more but I guess you will have to find out for yourself. “You do the arithmetic. You do the math”. The God that I now know; is true. Everyone’s actions or inactions: all conspired to give me the platform to deliver this hard-hitting message.

If God is happy to be scrutinised, then you better be ready for the scrutiny that will surely come. There is remedy yet and that is the main thrust of this post.

The Ps and QsWoman Taking a Bow

If you don’t even acknowledge that He exists, how can you ask Him for help or how can you even thank Him. The magic, as I found out, happened when I deployed the Ps and Qs. In 2006, around the birth of our first child, we ran into serious financial problems. The prologue to the ‘the Doctrine of Universal Truths’ is an illustration of how I was wrestling with the problem. I had no hope in hell. What did I do? I prayed. It was not just a moment of prayer but rather a deeper relationship with God – A dialogue. It is that dialogue that resulted in my Epiphany which I posted anonymously in 2007. If I were God, I would have smiled too. I had all the tools I needed but I just didn’t realise it. I will now proceed to describe three events that confirms that magic happens when we say thank you.

  1. By July 2008, when I sat down to write what was supposed to be my first book, I was dead but not quite buried. If man wanted to help me, then there were ample opportunities to do so. I didn’t ask for handouts….no! I was ready to work my way out my hole. However, the person(s), I approached to give us a break with our project just slam the door shut! I just didn’t fit. It is not like I stank or something…I often wonder sometimes if I actually smell! In spite of these stark rejections, the book I was planning was a positive one. It was to say thank you pharmacy for getting me this far. As I sat down to write that book…my life changed. If that is not magic, then what is?
  2. In 2009, when I laid my financial position bare to Jaggy and he couldn’t help me, what did I do (in spite of the disappointment I felt)? I said ‘no worries’ but ‘I am grateful to you for coming this far’. ‘I will like to offer my help to get you elected onto the Royal Pharmaceutical Society Board’. I meant it. I did all the leg work and when we got online, the problem we faced as a profession became apparent. That was how I managed to tackle my first objective.
  3. By 2011, there was no end in sight. The opportunity to wrap up objective number two was fading. What did I do? I thought: ‘God, maybe this not to be, but I am still very grateful for what you’ve done. I will get baptised‘. To drive this point home, why do you think I posted this anonymously in July 2010: The melancholic rhapsody – Decision Time. The something special was to get baptised and I started to take actions to make this a reality. By March 2011, I got baptised. In February 2012, the opportunity to tackle my second objective presented itself and I took it.

As you can see from my case study, the decisive impacts happened when I said my Ps and Qs. In actual fact, I got more reward when I said my thank yous. Some rewards were immediate, some took a few months and others took a few years. My puzzle is: How can you say thank you if you can’t even see what has been done for you? It is that insight that I am being denied now because things are now cloaked in almighty secrecy. I have thanked my God by writing the book but I will also like to thank everyone that has given me a chance and platform to speak.

As far as the case study goes, the knowledge of the story of Jesus Christ by a lot of people is what saved me. Without that knowledge, I had no hope in hell! As is customary with case studies, I can conclude that I am satisfied with the Biblical story that Jesus is my source of salvation. I cannot say any more than that. But I feel the Christ message should be made widely available in all other key religious texts; after all: He is the unifying figure in Jewish, Islamic and Christian faiths traditions. Christianity is a label that came after Christ and such labels should not be used to take away from what Jesus really stood for. My concern is this: If Jesus were to come today; would we recognise Him? I am not so sure. In any case, we have made a lot of ‘progress’. At least we don’t nail our prophets to the cross anymore…that is so barbaric…so 33AD! We are way too sophisticated for that now. We employ wilful blindness, psychological torture, financial manipulation, enslavement, embellishment of facts and myriad of other dark arts to impose our will and keep our privileges. Salvation is a very serious business – not in a straitjacket sort of way – but rather in an important and urgent business sort of way. This is why it is imperative to get the message across in the most effective ways: through music, comedy and most importantly through action. Your eternity and mine is what is at stake!

I will now take my bow. I have a lot more books to write and sell…and bills to pay!

This post is dedicated to the memory of John Summerbell BSc MCSP, 1962-2014 : A local Physiotherapist who passed away peacefully on 3rd January 2014 after a courageous battle with cancer. Much loved and sorely missed son of Una and John, brother of Mandy and Paul, wife of Lisa and father of George. His Tribute page is here and his death was announced in the Hampshire Chronicle here.

Thank You Word Cloud in vector format

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