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When the COVID-19 pandemic grinded my daily activities to a halt, like the rest of the world, at first I didn’t know what to do with myself. But as the days went by, I began thinking of how to make the most of the lockdown. I finally resolved to pick up and read a few books I’d kept on my shelf for years, you know, and maybe watch a few TV series while at it, too. Below are some of the lessons I’ve garnered over the weeks from binge-reading books and binge-watching TV series. I particularly wish I’d known about lesson 3 earlier. I’m happy to share these lessons with you. I hope some of them resonate with you.

1. “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” — Haruki Murakami (my favorite Japanese writer)

I came across this in Murakami’s crushingly modest memoir, What I Talk about when I Talk about Running. He wrote about his life as a marathoner in the book, how long-distance running can sometimes come with a lot of discomfort.

In life, it is impossible to escape pain, but we can choose not to allow ourselves suffer from it. We can refuse to dwell on the pain. We can refuse to let it overwhelm us.

“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.”

2. “Do not seek to be known. Seek to know. What you know will make you known.” — Unknown

I do not remember how I stumbled on this quote, but I think its message is quite powerful. We often put the cart before the horse, which is why we don’t see the desired progress sometimes. This quote is very much in tandem with another from the 2009 award-winning Indian movie, 3 Idiots: “Pursue excellence and success will chase you pants down.”

“Do not seek to be known. Seek to know. What you know will make you known.”

3. “Until we have begun to go without them, we fail to realize how unnecessary many things are. We’ve been using them not because we needed them but because we had them.” — Seneca

Stoicism is one other area of interest I’ve been able to grow myself in. Coupled with the solitary confinement that circumstances have imposed on me, I have come to understand myself better, and this has given me more fulfilment.

This particular quote by Seneca has helped me in making many decisions, some of which involved doing away with some things or letting some people go. Sometimes we think we need some people or some things because we’re so used to having them. Many times we are wrong.

4. “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” — Jalaluddin Rumi

It is okay to have lofty dreams about changing the world and making positive impacts in the society, but we have to first prepare ourselves. If I believe in luck at all, then my definition of it will be that of adequate preparation meeting opportunity.

Often, the change we seek has to begin with us.

5. “Don’t just practise until you get it right; practise until you can’t get it wrong.”

Quick fact: Everybody is talented. A more interesting quick fact: Not everybody knows or has realised that they are talented, so, regrettably, a great many people will die with their talents undiscovered, untapped. Even for the few who are aware of their talents, only a small fraction will come close to their full potentials. Why?

Stephen King, the amazingly brilliant American writer who has sold more than 350 million copies of his books, once said: “Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hardwork.”

Talent is never enough. To make a difference, to stand out, you have to put in extra efforts. And don’t just practise until you get it right; practise until you can’t get it wrong.

And who knows, this lockdown might be all the time you need to practise.

6. “The grand failure of others, while we may be sympathetic towards them, consoles us in certain ways, makes us more willing to overlook our own shortcomings.”

I wrote that the day I finished two books I’d been reading for weeks. The first book was by Teju Cole and the other by Yiyun Li. Both authors have been my overall favourites for this lockdown.

So, this is a quick mention or, if you like, acknowledgement, because the duo have been highly instrumental in my growth. If you asked me, I wouldn’t say I stalked them, but I might confess to having spent weeks poring over their works and, well, streaming about 50 videos of them on YouTube.

Yiyun Li and Teju Cole remind me of J.K Rowling, not in writing style or genre but because they all “gambled” with their career and risked huge failure at some point.

“Some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all. In which case, you fail by default.” — J.K Rowling, author of Harry Potter fantasy series.

Sometimes good things come out of failure, either for one or for others who witness one’s fall. When it happens, embrace the positive side of it.

7. “Let me give you some advice, bastard. Never forget what you are. The rest of the world will not. Wear it like armor, and it can never be used to hurt you.” — Tyrion Lannister, Game of Thrones

So far, I’ve shared some lessons from writers of all kinds that I’ve read during this lockdown. While books might have been my mainstay, I can’t deny the tremendous influence that movies and songs have had on me, too. I’d never watched as many movies or listened to as many songs as I have in recent times.

“What one carries from one point to another, geographically or temporally, is oneself: even the most inconsistent person is consistently himself,” said Yiyun Li. In adherence to the words of Tyrion, to the words of Li, I’m trying as much as possible to be true to myself in these trying moments. I’m admitting my imperfections and shortcomings. And against all odds, I’m establishing my capability for love and fun, bonding better with family and friends. More than ever, in spite of everything, I’m at peace with myself and the world.

Special COVID-19 Package: Maximizing the Lockdown

Like millions of people around the world, you have probably been on lockdown for a couple of weeks now. Perhaps you have even lost track of what day of the week it is since every day now seems like weekend anyway. What if there was a book you could read to help you make the most of this lockdown while it lasts? What if you had a book that contains detailed information on how to emerge from this global crisis as a better and happier person?

In these difficult times, it is easy to get distracted from the things that really matter in life. People are more anxious than ever, totally uncertain of what the future holds. With the current social distancing policies, it is possible that you are bored and lonelier than ever, too. Don’t feel bad or terrible about it, as you are not alone. We are all in this together, and with the right knowledge and information, I believe you and I can come out of this COVID-19 pandemic as more fulfilled, healthier, smarter, and lovelier people.

Thus, I am happy to introduce to you an e-book that I think is actually the best thing I have worked on in years. As you would see in the introduction when you get your copy, this e-book was inspired by a series of disturbing questions asked during a video chat with a faraway friend just as COVID-19 started becoming an international concern months ago. Since then I have done lots of researches and interviews, and this e-book titled “Total Transformation: How to Maximize the Lockdown for Personal Growth” is the final product.

This e-book is valued at $5 (NGN 2,000), and it promises to be the most productive $5 (NGN 2,000) you will spend in a while for two reasons:

– the insightful content of this e-book will help you maximize this lockdown in ways you never knew were possible

– 50% of the net profit realised from sales of this e-book will be donated to cater for poor people who are worst hit by the economic blows of this pandemic, especially those whose livelihoods have been destroyed by it.

Fighting COVID-19 requires a concerted effort, and that starts by looking out for one another. By getting a copy of this e-book, you will not only be equipping yourself with knowledge and ideas on how to become a better person during this lockdown; you will also be supporting hundreds of poor people in these trying times.