Seeking Help Works
Sometimes back, as the year drew to an end, a colleague of mine called me to the side for a heart-to-heart talk. We were at the end-of-the-year get together and everyone had had minutes allotted to them to share their wins of the past year. Outside, as the orangeness of the evening darkened, he shared his pain points with me. His dad had made a lot in his physically-agile years but has had nothing to show for it as his body waned. He resented his dad deeply for that. For while many thought it was his dad who had sent him and his sisters to good schools, it was his mother who had stepped and in an attempt to save the face of his husband and supposedly make his ego and pride intact decided not to make it known to any member of his family or hers.
But he resented his dad. As he blossomed, he has had little or nothing to do with his father. Many have told him he is being unfair to the old man but without knowing the story of how his mother singlehandedly carried the day from her meagre resources, he said they would not understand. And he intends not to share with them since they had already judged without hearing his own side of the story. Let them say whatever they want, he maintained.
Yet here was he distraught at how his life right now is going exactly the trajectory of his father. Commanding a salary many of his teammates would only dream of, he has not been prudent with his spendings. He has always been saying he would save but the common denominator in his reasoning — “soon” — suggests he might not know how.
I remember this story as I read Dennis Rodman’s story today. An accomplished basketball player, who is reckoned the greatest rebounder of all time, Dennis’ father left him and his mother when he was three years old. Philander, his father was aptly named, went on to father a total of 29 children. His mother, he says, lived through her own trauma. She never told him “I love you” or hugged him as a child. Unlike in Nigerian parenthood, hugging was pretty common within loving families in those days in African American families. From his story, I guessed his mother used to be a hooker who was also into drugs and alcohol. At a point, his mother kicked him out of the house and if not for basketball I reckoned he would have made the prison his home for many years.
Unfortunately, even though he says that his parents did not treat him right, he has gone on to live the same way. Like his father who didn’t speak with till he died, he has gone on his philandering ways claiming he has slept with over 2,000 women and like his mother, his relationship with his 4 children are strained. Professional athletes have intense schedules, and on top of that, Dennis was always off partying. When he was at the Chicago Bulls, Rodman partied every night. Even now, he’s not stopped, with reports that he still hits up gay clubs three, four times a week.
He knows he has to change. At 60 years old, he is always thinking about his mortality. He has apologized to his children for being absent from their lives but still, he’s all about “I’ma have a relationship with my kids. That’s coming soon.” Soon! Yet we all know that ‘soon’ is not a strategy.
It’s a lesson about our mortality: We can feel terrible about the harm others have done to us, but it is all so easy to repeat the same things to others. Knowing is not enough. Equally important, or even more, is the ‘how’ to go about breaking that cycle.
If all an entrepreneur has ever known are businesses that crumble at the demise of their founders, simply knowing that would not change the fate of his own business. He has to seek help on succession planning. It’s the easiest thing for countries not to aspire to much when they’re surrounded by other deadbeat countries. If all you have seen around you is that divorce is to be expected in the first 10 years of marriage, then the chances that that would be your lot is high unless you start by making deliberate efforts to choose your partner and seek help on how to maintain the relationship.
Knowing is not enough. You have to seek help for your particular circumstance and not just assume that the problem will go away with time.
I am glad my colleague had that discussion with me because now I can show evidence that seeking help works.