A cousin of mine shared an image of him deep in the snow. I was immediately filled with Nostalgia. It’s been over 20 years since I enjoyed the winter cold. He had recently been offered a job in the UK and we started to talk about his work. I was so excited for him, somewhere along the way I made a comment, “what I miss the most is living in a society that expects excellence from you.”
To which my cousin responds, “Yes exactly, that’s true they expect excellence and it makes you thrive – to do even more.”
I paused for a moment to internalize that simple exchange. I had verbalized what I knew and discussed in numerous conversations with friends. But this time for some reason, something struck me very deep. Just because I live in a society that accepts and at times encourages mediocrity doesn’t mean that I have to abide by that code. Now that I know what the standard of excellence is, in my field, I need to find a new space to thrive, even if it means creating my own space, building a community in that space and then further push myself to a foreign and ideal environment with time.
Trevor Noah started to exert himself in the comedy circuit in South Africa (SA). I didn’t know till I watched the documentary of his life and career, “You laugh but it’s true” that the first one-man show he did, was the first ever, one-man comedy show in South Africa. Sceptics spoke of a pending catastrophe and it having never been done. But Trevor opened that door which is now a thing in SA comedy.
Once he had done it in SA, he kept pushing himself further, Europe, the US, he didn’t give up, he kept pushing himself, new audiences, understanding cultures, improving accents and building comedy relevant to various audiences. You notice it even more now when you watch “Afraid of the Dark”.
This comedy show is definitely more nuanced for an American audience, not the quintessential Trevor Noah we know from Daywalker, Crazy Normal, That’s Racist and It’s my Culture which is more nuanced for an African audience.
But it is interesting because when you watch the Daily Show however much it is all about American politics, he brings his truth to the show.
There is a general fascination with him, especially being a polyglot. The average African, depending on where they are from, will speak a minimum of at least three languages; English, their national language and their ethnic tongue for starters, then you have those who speak European languages like French, German, Spanish or Portuguese and Asian languages like Japanese and Chinese or Arabic.
But because he is living his truth and exerting himself, writing books, still on the comedy circuit as he hosts the Daily Show with Trevor Noah, he is showing the world a completely new definition of what Africa has to offer and what it really is.
The pursuit of excellence, one other word comes to mind “Wakanda” (giggles and winks).
Kenya like many countries, not just Africa, (ahem…Trump), grapple under selfish and at times devastating leadership. Does that mean we need to succumb to the mediocrity and lower the bar in personal pursuits? No.
I think, just like I see in Trevor Noah, Chimamanda Adichie Ngozi and Lupita Nyong’o; the Africans of my generation, find your truth, pursue it with excellence and it shall be rewarded, in its rightful stage – the global stage and it will reshape the narrative globally and at home of what we can do and what we should do.
May the pursuit of excellence be your guide and propulsion this week! (Arms crossed and chest thump)