Chinua Achebe (3 Lessons Fom The Legend)

In this article,  we will be looking at three great lessons from the life of an icon, Chinua Achebe.

Brief Biography 

Chinua Achebe was born on 16th November 1930, and raised in Ogidi, Anambra State, Nigeria. His parents were Isaiah Okafo Achebe and Janet Anaenechi Iloegbunam, which were converts to the Protestant Church Mission Society (CMS) one of the first centres of Anglican missionary work in Eastern Nigeria. At the university, He switched from the study of medicine to English, history, and theology which made him loose his scholarship. He graduated from University College, Ibadan.

In 1966, he ended his career as the post of Director of External Broadcasting in Nigeria during the national crisis that led to the Biafran War. He was appointed Senior Research Fellow at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and began lecturing widely abroad. He was the Carles P. Stevenson Jr Professor of Languages and Literature at Bard College. He then became the David and Marianna Fisher University Professor and Professor of Africana Studies at Brown University.

He wrote 20 books (novels, essays, short stories, and collections of poems). 

Some of his notable works are: 

1. Things Fall Apart (1958), which has sold more than 10 million copies worldwide and been translated into more than 50 languages.

2. Arrow of God (1964).

3. Soul Brother, Beware and Other Poems (1971), winner of the Commonwealth Poetry Prize.

4. Anthills of the Savannah (1987), which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize for Fiction;

5. Hopes and Impediments: An Essay (1988).

 6. Home and Exile (2000).

7. No Longer at Ease (1960).

Some of Chinua Achebe’s notable awards are:

Nigerian National Order of Merit Award 1979

St. Louis Literary Award 1999

The Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize 2010

He died 21st March, 2013 (aged 82) in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.

To get his complete biography,  click the link below:

Let’s look at 3 great lessons from his life. 

1. He Knew What He Wanted Needed; He Followed His Passion.

When Chinua Achebe was given scholarship to the university to study medicine, he decided to leave medicine for English, history, and theology. He did this because, after reading Joyce Cary ‘s 1939 work, “Mister Johnson” he didn’t like the way the author described Nigerians. Aside this, it is also obvious that he is passionate about writing. Hence, he saw the need to leave medicine for what aligns with his passion.

A lot of us are wallowing in the pool of others’ opinion for our lives. We find it hard to follow our passion; we let others be the wind in our sail and determine what we do and how far we can go in life. A number of individuals are living other people’s dream instead of theirs. 

Studying medicine would have been what everyone around him wanted him to do. And he would have been a very successful surgeon and would have even been celebrated. But the question is,  “would he have been as happy and fulfilled as he was, being a writer?” This only points out that you can be successful in whatever you put your effort into, but to have an under-current joy and fulfilment, do what you are passionate about; it could be a skill, humanitarian service, profession, organizing, teaching,  training, serving others. Whatever it is, do it. Don’t let anyone lure you to doing “what they think is best for you,” which in reality,  you don’t find joy and fulfilment in. Let God be the wind in your sail,  not others. 

2. He Was Not Complacent.

According to Chinua Achebe, the best advice he ever received was from his professor, James Welch, who told him, “We may not be able to teach you what you need or what you want. We can only teach you what we know.” This made him realize that if he wanted to be great at writing, then he needed to dedicate to studying beyond the school’s syllabus. 

A lot of individuals are just complacent about exploring the greatness within them. It’s often simply because they feel it’s okay to just “be alive” in other words,  “exist” ignoring the essence of their existence. One thing complacency does is,  it makes you believe it’s okay to just have a space in the world’s population, exist as long as you can and someday kiss the earth goodbye with your potentials, talents,  gifts, vision, innovation and dreams unexplored. It tries it best to influence you to the extent that you ignore the fact that God created you for a unique purpose, which was the licence to your existence. “It makes you live empty and die full.”

Had it been Chinua Achebe was complacent, he wouldn’t have seen his professor’s words as the best advice; he would have not had gone far to gaining more knowledge beyond his school’s syllabus. It’s worth noting that complacency blinds a man’s vision. And man without vision equals a car speeding in a deep puddle; it remains in a spot. One of the reasons we celebrate Chinua Achebe today, is because he wasn’t complacent.

3.He was uncompromising 

It will be quite surprising to people if faster means of getting your work done is provided for you but you still insist on doing it the time consuming way. Well, Chinua Achebe’s way of exploring his creativity might make you rethink on compromise and why you shouldn’t give it a second thought.

In an interview with “The Paris Review,” he said, “I write with a pen. A pen on paper is the ideal way for me. I am not really very comfortable with machines; I never learned to type very well. Whenever I try to do anything on a typewriter, it’s like having this machine between me and the words; what comes out is not quite what would come out if I were scribbling. For one thing, I don’t like to see mistakes on the typewriter. I like a perfect script. On the typewriter I will sometimes leave a phrase that is not right, not what I want, simply because to change it would be a bit messy. So when I look at all this … I am a preindustrial man.” Even though the typewriter was there to make his work faster,  he still prefer writing first, with pen; it’s far an advantage to his creativity.

A lot of individuals compromise their Potentials because of the influence of others and glits and glams of life. Just because you love organizing but you are not as famous as the musician doesn’t mean you should compromise and leave organizing for music. If you love being the “Anonymous” who makes the highest donation to an NGO, and suddenly you saw someone being given an award for being a donor of half what you donate to the NGO,  you shouldn’t compromise by informing them to replace anonymous with your name or withdraw your donation because you are entitled to an award too. Also, just because Miss Kate went into Fashion industry 2years a go and is millions doesn’t mean you should be making millions too  because you just joined the industry. She made some sacrifices to attain that height. Appreciate your process and don’t Compromise to make those millions real quick.

One important fact you should note is,  “greatness is a measure of value, not fame.” There are a lot of individuals who are famous but not great. This is because they compromised their potentials. If the potential God instilled in you is not influencing those it’s affecting positively, then there is need for readjustment.

To wrap it up, don’t let what you see or listen to, make you compromise your potentials because it has the power to change the original intent of your potentials. What if he had decided to leave the pen for typewriter because it was the “trending way of writing.” Maybe his writings would have lost it unique touch or originality. He had his reason not to compromise. Hence, it’s necessary to have a reason not to compromise so as to avoid giving in to compromise.

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