It was an impossible task of sorts. I was mandated to write four articles within a few hours—and no, I wasn’t given topics—I had to come up with them. This meant developing a concept and conducting a fair bit of research before going ahead to put pen to paper. Already mentally tired and inundated with plenty of work, it seemed unfeasible to pull off. A colleague asked how I would go about it and the next words I spoke surprised even me. “I am the “baddest” and the best at this. I’ll find a way,” I said. It was a resolute, firm resolve, not a boastful one. But that statement was all the fuel and fire I needed to work my magic. I delivered before the deadline. In the instance I just narrated, I had to be my own hype man. I needed inspiration and couldn’t find it in anyone or anywhere else but myself. I need that oomph to kick into “beast mode” and when I remembered the many times I have created something of value out of nothingness, I knew I could do it. At a time when enlisting support for one’s work can prove to be an arduous task if one isn’t popular, a foolproof way to stay motivated and undaunted in this tricky course called life is to look within. The chutzpah needed is always lurking somewhere on the inside.
In your little corner of the world, you are doing your best. Trying to do things right, persisting with your goals and working towards some kind of recognition that will validate all your years of hard work. As you will soon find out (if you haven’t already), it’s a tough, rough journey; one that’s often discouraging. When you look around, people who do not put in even a quarter of the work you do are getting all the applause and awards while you are progressing at a snail’s pace. Now you are almost giving it all up. It’s a valid reason according to your own gospel. After all, why should you expend so much time and energy only to reap in bits?
Look, you have to be your own hype man. Praise yourself. Revel in your little wins and celebrate your own milestones. Nobody else cares. Okay, maybe one or two people do—your immediate family— perhaps a friend. Nonetheless, it’s better to assume no one looks out for you; it toughens you up and keeps your head in the right place. A place that reminds you that the road to fulfilment is often solitary. Does it hurt to have many people in your corner? Of course not. Life is easier when others root for us. Send encouraging words, patronise our business, speak to others about the remarkable work we do, provide feedback from time to time and generally just there to help out when we need them.
However, only a few people are lucky to have this, and eventually, you may become one of them. But in the meantime, you must make do with what you have. Yourself.
The flip side of the script is a scenario where you receive constant praise for what you do. You are great at it, no doubt and are deserving of all the positive words that come your way. But one fateful day, you get it wrong—in one delivery, in missing that note, in that fashion fail—and you are hit with scathing criticism. You will be devastated; you may stumble and struggle to get up again. You know why? Because you are accustomed to applause. You must train yourself to accept criticism; better still be your own critic.
While everyone else is oohing and aaahing over your work, you alone are able to tell where it doesn’t quite hit the mark. You can hear yourself go off key where the audience was carried away by the theatrics you employed to distract from your below par performance. You are aware that you did not write that story with as much as clarity and depth as you have the capacity to, and so when others are cheering and describing your work as perfect, you can call yourself out in private. It makes it easier to be unflustered when others are critical of you.
I don’t care how many awards people in my profession have won. I am not bothered about the popularity and following they have garnered, as far as I am concerned, I am the best at this thing called writing. I am my own hype man, I am also my own biggest chider.
That way nothing anyone says or does will faze me.
Not for too long.