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Stumbling in the Dark

September, 2023

KWESI DARKO: Here & Now I & II, 2020. Courtesy, Kuenyehia Trust for Contemporary African Art.

Please could you lower your tone?
Please, could you get off my phone?
Please could you pause the applause?
Please could you let me be flawed?
Under pressure we fold
But this pain I’d rather hold,
… because it made me who I am
Oh please……
                  Stormzy, Please, This is what I mean, 2022 (excerpts)
This very morning, I had a massive fall on the concrete during my morning run and injured my left knee.
And in the weird way in which our brains form associations it reminded me of my injured little toe – from playing hockey when I was in high school back in my childhood days in Ghana. It’s never really healed since then.
Some months ago, I was walking to get out some stuff from our wardrobe to prepare for my next day at work. It was quite late at night, and I was doing my best not to wake up Dela, who was sound asleep. So, I felt my way in the dark to the wardrobe. I didn’t realise the door was open, so I walked straight into it, stumbled, hit that poor toe on the door. I yelped in pain and uttered some unprintable words – the very thing I was trying hard not to do.
I had stumbled in the dark.
This week marks the week when my debut book, Pay The Price, was published, and when I felt the first copy in my hands.
Looking back, it feels surreal – how much my life had completely changed, because of just one book.
As I sat back to reflect, it seemed incredible that in just one year, the book had won three prestigious awards, had been downloaded and sold thousands of copies, had become an international Amazon best-seller EIGHTEEN times over on the first day, and another FIFTEEN times over with the second promotion six months later.
That in one year, I was now a judge for some of the UK’s biggest business award shows, had spoken at universities and companies and had been a guest on over 30 podcasts across the world.
It’s so easy to become cocky – to become proud – but what always stops me in my tracks is what drove me to write the book in the first place.
A stumble in the dark.
And since then, I’ve stumbled many times, both literally and metaphorically.
As humans, we are all flawed. And much as we try to cover them the flaws sometimes show up in unexpected times, in unexpected places.
They flare up in moments of vulnerability, moments of stress, moments of worries, of fatigue.
They flare up when the worries of this life sometimes weigh us down.
This year, I’ve also read many incredible books, which have given me strategies to get my priorities right, get more disciplined, and become a nicer, gentler person.
But like weeds, the flaws sometimes still show up. We fear them, because they make us naked – we fear people will see us for who we really are.
In his brand-new book Upshift, Ben Ramalingham talks about how crisis, pain, and struggles, when handled correctly cause an upshift in the brain – elevates the brain to higher levels of performance, higher levels of solving problems, higher levels of creativity.
And whilst we must make every effort to improve ourselves, to reach higher levels of discipline and achievement, maybe, sometimes, just sometimes, it may be helpful to embrace those pain points, those disappointments, those flaws, those mistakes, and turn them into an upshift.
The fact that I am flawed may have a purpose. It means if I take my eyes off the ball, I can literally be floored and lose everything.
Those flaws have kept me, and still do keep me humble.
For when I have been at my weakest, then I have been at my strongest.
That’s why I love Stormzy’s new album, This is what I mean. His pain, his flaws, his mistakes have probably led him to produce what may be his greatest work ever.
That pain has literally caused an upshift in his musical and song writing prowess.
And what’s been true for Stormzy, what’s been true for me, can be true for you too.
Where you are weak, there you can be strong.
So next time you stumble in the dark, take heart. That stumble may be the key to your next breakthrough.
Just one caveat: keep it as a stumble, and not a permanent fall.
I’m rooting for you,