Johnson Babalola: 16 Things I Would Tell My Younger Self

It’s very common to think that we’re always evolving, that we’ve changed so much from our younger selves, that within decades we’ve transformed into these different people. We like to think that. I feel in some ways that I am still so much my younger self. There are ways that I’m different: I feel like I’m wiser and kinder. But I think a lot of the impulses are still the same. I learned that. ~ Carrie Brownstein

I have often asked what messages I would send to my younger self now that I am older and wiser. My conclusion is that there are many. For the sake of this short write-up though, let me settle for 16.

1. Mentorship: I was raised by my grandmother and mother who are both late now. They were amazing parents. They thought me about morals, self-love, love of and for others. My uncle and his wife that I lived with at some point, my siblings and others also assisted in shaping my morals and becoming a responsible contributor to my community. I however did not address my mind to seeking for a mentor that would guide my professional future as a young man. I did things on impulse and feelings. My career choice was an example. Confused about what I really wanted to do with my life, I settled for law with no guidance per se. I was lucky to make a success of it, but it could have been easier with the right mentors in place. I would tell my younger self to have mentors in every aspect of his life and to know that given my experience, my older self has taken pride in mentoring many others across the globe.

2. Education: My younger self had a lot of focused fun. I was a member of a number of socio-cultural clubs on university campus and enjoyed life measurably. At the same time, I did not take my eyes off my ticket to success in life: Education. I was a member of an important leadership training organization on campus and would switch from fun loving activities to academic focused activities at the appropriate time. I would congratulate my younger self for balancing both sides and making education a core focus.

3. Positive Relationships: My younger self was a friend to all. There was never a thought of discrimination with anyone based on age, class, sex etc. I would visit homes of friends and feel instantly comfortable. I would open up about my plans, aspirations et al. My younger self was very trusting with everyone. I am now wiser and will let my younger self know that in a lot of ways, I am still the same. My younger self has shaped my present self. My law practice today is focused on litigating against all forms of abuses, discriminations, and workplace investigations. I treat everyone as equal. My younger self must know however that while I relate with all, I am careful about those that I let into my inner space due to negative experiences with some that were given the keys to my inner space in the past. Having said that, always network and maintain positive friendships with the right people.

4. Material Things: My younger self would recall that I did not grow up with affluence but was not too poor either. There were many times of financial struggles. All through, I was contented and did not allow this to affect my self-esteem. At the Nigerian Law School in Lagos, I attended like many others, with children of rich and influential members of the society. The successes of the parents of these classmates of mine served as inspirations for me to do well in life. I would inform my younger self that success is not about the circumstances of your birth but your efforts, work ethics, relationships, and integrity. Hard work is worthwhile.

5. Health: I would tell my younger self to take care of his mental health because at the time, I worked almost around the clock with little rest. Today, I pay attention to my health and try to balance work with adequate rest.

6. Family: As a young lawyer with a young family, I spent time with my family but did not spend as much time as I would have liked with them. I was committed to making a success of my law practice and taking care of members of my immediate family, extended family and others. My younger self must know that I was lucky that my children turned out alright because my wife was there for me and the children. I would advise my younger self to spend quality time with his family. Today, I make deliberate efforts to connect with my family.

7. Spend Wisely: A big shout out to my younger self: Be careful about how you spend your hard-earned money. I would do due diligence and be extra careful before I invest in some businesses, with some people including family members. You must invest in your own future because retirement happens quickly. My younger self would learn that you “will be on your own” if in retirement you have nothing fall back on. My younger self would learn later in life that you may be abandoned in your old age by those you have laboured for during your active years if you invest in the wrong people and also fail to invest in your children, spouse and self.

8. Positive Outlooks: My younger self did not take things personally and always had a positive outlook to life and things. I would thank my younger self for this foundation to my older self as this attribute has served me well. Having been through several ups and downs, I continue to stay true to having a positive outlook to life.

9. Delay: I would remind my younger self of the years of delay in the United Kingdom when I was trying to obtain legal status. In those years, many of my friends and colleagues were on the expressway of their career journey while I was stuck in the traffic of sideroad in my career journey. Although a trained lawyer in Nigeria, I had to make do with non-related jobs as a cleaner, security man etc. With perseverance and positive attitude to life, I made my way to Canada, got back to the appropriate career expressway and my career took off positively. Today, the delay is history. My younger self must never allow any delay in life to affect his focus in achieving his goals.

10. Happiness: My younger self was a happy person who loved jokes, music, dancing, drinks et al. My older self still loves same. So, my younger self has influenced my older self positively. Happiness was important to my younger self and still important to my older self.  My younger self must realize that being happy is impactful to the soul, to others around us and can help open doors. Share a laugh always!

11. Home & Love: Although my younger self never really had a permanent home address, each place of abode was home full of love and positive relationships. My younger self suffered setbacks in the love arena but never allowed this to affect the search for the right love. His focus was not about outward beauty but inward beauty, strength and integrity. I would applaud my younger self for his perseverance in the search for true love that led to the building of a true home by my older self. With a spouse and children who genuinely love and care for me, I look forward to coming home daily. Opening the main entrance door into my home brings peace, joy and happiness. My younger self would be proud of my simple but happy home.

12. Leadership: My younger self hated doing things alone. He would love to collaborate with others. He believed in learning from positive minded leaders, leading others and leading with others. Same with my older self. My younger self would remember that setbacks had happened but each time, he had picked himself up, remove the dusts of disappointments, learn from his mistakes and the mistakes of others, and bring together a new team. My older self is today surrounded by partners and staff who are leaders in their own rights, and we make one another better. To my older self, leadership must be focused on lifting others up.

13. Respect for Others: My younger one would treat others as he would like to be treated. It was important for him to empathize with others, respect others, appreciate every little assistance and be thankful for everything. My older self will always be thankful to my younger self for this foundation that still hold true today.

14. Communication: My younger self spent time developing some “big” grammars to impress others as that was expected of lawyers in the jurisdiction he grew up at. He later learnt in life that the simpler the better. I would tell my younger self that an effective communicator is one who is understood by the individuals he/she is communicating with. My younger self should understand the importance of improving in his listening skills and stay away from employing negative language against others notwithstanding their disagreements. I would remind my younger self that despite all that is happening on social media space, he can still make his position known without engaging in negative language against others.

15. Travel & Knowledge: My younger self had no fund or means to travel widely but my older self has done the opposite. I would inform my younger self that both experiences are good. Staying grounded in my local areas helped in broadening my experience about my language, culture and relationships. The many travel experiences by my older self, have exposed me to the ways of life of others and has helped me to understand and respect others more. My younger self must continue to seek for knowledge through the experiences of others.

16. Religion: My younger self was lukewarm about his religion: Christianity. My older self takes his religious belief seriously without discrimination against anyone on any ground having the understanding that God created us all.


Johnson Babalola

Group Managing Partner
Topmarke Attorneys LLP; Canada

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