"Chidi, you are boring."
That time when a young man in Kigali said this to me last year. He stared right at my chest…and then my forehead, smiled, and calmly dropped the gem—”Chidi…if you weren’t funny, comfortable in your own skin and with people, and really good at what you do, you would be boring as hell.”
Wait a minute…this from a freaking Rwandan?
Ah, ok. Yes sah.
(my Rwanda fam know it’s nothing but all love)
Another moment was when a woman I respect a great deal recently to me that she had really never met a Nigerian who did self-deprecation and modesty the way I did self-deprecation and modesty.
Hmmm. Wait, so…hmmm, alright. I’ll…take it?
Screw it…I’ll take it.
Boring is usually seen as the kiss of death. God help and bless your soul if someone responds to your social media post with “Bo-riiiing” or the yawn emoji. Or you get tagged with the B-word by a dating prospect. Don’t get caught doing boring presentations or pitch decks. Your Tik-Tok better be popping with Afrobeat dances or you flipping off your roof into the swimming pool. If you are a startup entrepreneur, anything outside of spectacular growth with a hockey stick prodding you towards non-boring unicorn status is a road straight into loserdom. And now, more than ever, the individual is now a brand, and you know I am not talking celebrities. If you are caught walking the streets these days with a career sans the high wattage, well-manicured, complete-opposite-of-boring brand? My friend, your own don finish be dat o. I chuckle and marvel at the eternally in-demand superstar marketer who has cycled thru four badass high-profile roles in the past five years—with the requisite marquees and flashing light announcements with each new gig—all due to her well burnished, not-in-any-way-boring personal brand.
I am not hating, abeg. Folks gotta take care of their bags.
I will say, though, that I am cool with boring. To be more precise, I am cool with boredom. One of my mantras these days is that pandemic has slowed down those of us who were rolling at a breathtaking two hundred miles an hour, flying and meeting and dealing and wheeling and top-tenning and trobe-glotting, to actually chill and catch a breath. Scrub excitement and acceleration from the menu for a freaking moment. As Craig Mod (you should check his stuff out) says:
“Boredom” is a goal, the antipode of mindless connectivity, constant stimulation, anger, and dissatisfaction. I put “boredom” in quotes because the boredom I’m talking about fosters a heightened sense of presence. To be “bored” is to be free of distraction.
For me, boring and boredom are and have always been about no drama. They don’t call me No Drama Obama for nothing. Ok, nobody calls me No Drama Obama. I do embrace boring wholeheartedly though, and I actively seek boredom. However, it is that potent, disruptive, gut-punching type boring. That boring that leaves behind good messes. In product management, we talk about vanity metrics vs actionable metrics. Vanity metrics—likes, retweets, site traffic, money in the bank, direct reports, numbers of titles, etc—are exciting and make you feel good, but they are hollow with relatively little substance, comparative, and usually steer you off your way. Actionable metrics—number of new things tried, how much you have learned (vs how much you have earned), time spent with people you like/love, individuals elevated and strengthened—may be boring, not flashy, but dude…now that is when we are cooking with serious firewood. This is where the real disruption happens.
Diogenes the Cynic (a very boring dude) said in a confrontation with Alexander the Great (a very exciting and highly branded guy)—I have conquered the need to conquer the world.
I hear you, Lil Dio G da C.
So, biko…yes, I am putting the same question to all of us cooking here—what metrics matter to you? Are you down with the bore? Or is boredom overrated?