“Better is a handful of rest than two handfuls of hard work and chasing after the wind” – Ecclesiastes 4:6.
Whenever these individuals grace the covers of magazines, they smile. They exude confidence and poise on every cover, screen, and platform that they appear on. They are mentors to the people that know them, and to those that will never meet them. Some even idolise these particular individuals.
They are the shining stars in our societies; they have distinguished themselves in their chosen paths. Even though their admirers may not know about what happens behind the scenes, a lot of hard work, sweat, and pain goes into their endeavours before success can be claimed.
The truth is that although these people are idolised and looked up to as symbols of success, they are people too. They have the same aspirations, emotions, and sentiments that are present in all other people; however, they are also intense under pressure either to maintain the status quo, or the up the notch and push the boundaries of success. While constantly redefining what success means with their achievements, they are still able to relax.
Let’s peer into the lives of these 10 successful people and see how they keep cool under pressure.
Fighting to correct perceived anomalies in a system that has existed and been reinforced with laws for decades can be quite stressful. That is exactly what South African Statesman, Most Reverend Desmond Tutu did between 1975 and 1990. Tutu advocated for non-violent protests against the then operational apartheid system in South Africa.
Rising against all odds to eventually become the first black Anglican Bishop of Johannesburg and Archbishop of Cape Town, 86-year-old Desmond Tutu is no stranger to pressure. The clergyman was not only part of South Africa’s liberation struggle, but he even shared in the healing of the wounded, traumatised nation. As a result he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984.
How does he manage to keep cool? Music and sleep seem to work magic for him.“I sleep and listen to Beethoven real loud”, Tutu told Rosanna Greenstreet in The Guardian’s Q&A in 2008.
With 15 albums, 3 Grammy awards from more than 10 nominations, and several other international recognitions, Angelique Kidjo is one of the most successful performers the world has ever seen. In 2011, she was listed among BBC’s most iconic figures on the African continent. She was also listed by The Guardian as one of the 100 most inspiring women in the world during the same year. In addition, Forbes named Kidjo among 40 of the most powerful celebrities in Africa in 2012. The success of the 57-year-old Beninois, however, isn’t limited to the music field.
In July of 2017, Angelique received the award for ‘Best Actress in a Supporting Role’ from the African Movie Academy Awards for her role in Kunle Afolayan’s movie, The CEO. Even though she has performed in front of millions of people in almost every continent in the world, she is still human and that means she needs to keep the nerves in control.
The singer/songwriter cum human rights activist practices Transcendental Meditation.
The Transcendental Meditation technique is a specific form of silent mantra meditation developed by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. “Transcendental meditation allows you to readjust to yourself”, the singer once said in a video interview.
The Kenyan strategic communications and public relations expert, Gina Din-Kariuki, lives a very busy life. With over 30 years of experience in the field, and one of the most reputable PR companies in East Africa, Gina Din-Kariuki is definitely a high flyer. The founder and CEO of Gina Din Corporate Communications and mother of two practices yoga to ease tension that comes with her very busy life.
“I do yoga. I read a lot. I have a very large network, but a very tight circle; I spend time with my tight circle”, she revealed in an interview with Daily Nation. “I travel a lot. Yoga makes you very balanced. If I weren’t doing yoga I would probably be drinking a lot (laughs), so yoga has become my drug”.
Alan Knott-Craig Jr.
For South African entrepreneur and author Alan Knott-Craig Jr, relaxing would have meant playing video games; unfortunately, that was too addictive and he gave it up. Alan is the founder of Project Isizwe, as well as the executive chairman of Hero Telecoms, Ever Africa, and a Happimo NPC. With many responsibilities to juggle, he enjoys the escapism of books such as A Game of Thrones by George RR Martin. In one of his interviews with Financial Times, the author of Don’t Panic said that he also purchased box sets of his favourite childhood book series such as Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven and Franklin W Dixon’s The Hardy Boys to read and enjoy.
Being the richest man in Tanzania, Mohammed Dewji has his schedule fully booked. Mo, as he is sometimes called, divides his time between being a businessman, politician, philanthropist, and family man. The 42-year-old businessman extraordinaire grew his family business, MeTL, from a $26m trading and distribution company into a manufacturer of multiple products; it is one of Africa’s few companies with revenues of over $1bn. Mohammed’s ideal way to relax is by finding time to hit the gym where he can sweat away the stress. He also spends quality time with his family.
Expensive suits, shoes, fast cars, and private jets may be what typically comes to mind when the title CEO is heard. Rightly so – especially for someone like Mustapha Fasinro, Chief Executive Officer at Linetrale Petroleum, a company with business interests all over West Africa. Don’t get it wrong though: away from all the ups and downs associated with the oil business, Mustapha Fasinro is passionate about polo. The businessman’s love for the game sees him playing regularly, even in competitive games along with his own team – the Linetrale Delaney Polo Team.
For the richest man in Africa, with the estimated net worth of $14.4 billion, it is an absolute necessity to prevent stress. How can one effectively manage billion-dollar investments in Nigeria, Benin, Ethiopia, Senegal, Cameroon, Ghana, South Africa, Togo, Tanzania, Zambia, and countless other parts of Africa without a clear mind? It seems impossible. That is why Aliko Dangote, the owner of Dangote Group, makes time for quality exercise during his daily schedule.
“Exercise is better than any medicine I can take”, he expressed during a lecture at the Lagos Business School in 2012. “Exercise and sleep”, he clarifies. Even though most of the sleeping is done while travelling from one business concern to the other, Dangote says that sleep does the trick for him.
The 60-year-old Nigerian also lets off steam by driving around, chatting with friends, and attending parties briefly. “My only enjoyment is to sit around and talk with my friends, and exercise…I like to exercise. Also, if people are doing weddings or whatever, I like to show up for 10-20 minutes and then I go”, Dangote added during the lecture.
For a man who actively runs two multi-million dollar businesses at the same time, every hour that is spent must be calculated. Elon Musk, a South African entrepreneur, engineer, and inventor, is one of the richest and most powerful men in the world. Managing his 20.5% share of the Tesla Company and a net worth estimated to be 19.8 billion USD definitely generates a lot of heat that needs cooling off. No wonder the ‘safe artificial intelligence’ crusader cherishes his sleep.
“Sleep is really great. I find if I don’t get enough sleep, I’m quite grumpy…I could drop below a certain threshold of sleep. Although I would be awake more hours, I would get less done because my mental acuity would be affected”, he said in an interview at Mountain View’s Computer History Museum in 2013.
Apart from that, the 46-year-old founder of SpaceX finds listening to music and spending time with family to be very soothing.
The current group director of marketing and corporate communications for United Bank for Africa, who oversees operations in 18 countries across Africa, is a woman of many talents. Bola Atta has achieved striking success in the many areas that she has dared to venture into. Before her current position, she worked at M-Net as the programme manager for West Africa. There she proposed to the network’s executives that a channel should be dedicated solely to the broadcast of Nollywood movies. Her focus and dedication to the goal led to the launch of the first Africa Magic channel in July of 2003, and the brand has continued growing ever since.
With such result-oriented focus and tenacity, it is not hard to agree with her when she revealed that her way of relaxing is by meditating on the day’s work.
‘‘I reflect, analyse, and plan all the time, and that keeps me busy”, she said in an interview with The Punch in July 2017. She also finds joy in reading.
For Michael Owusu Addo, the popular Ghanaian rapper also known as Sarkodie, thoughts are everything. The 29-year-old recording artist who broke into the Ghanaian music scene in 2007 has said, and proven many times, that the best way he unwinds and deals with the anxieties that come with his profession is to always think positively. The artiste once said he’s always nervous when going to stage, so he always takes time to lounge and audit his last performance while envisaging the next. Sarkodie, who released his fifth studio album in September, also loves to listen to music. He appears to be almost inseparable from his mobile phone as well.
Among all of these high flyers, one trend stands out: they all find ‘me time’. For all of these brilliant examples to have stayed consistent with their routine of letting the heat out, the shared factor must be extremely important. The key is that they also find ways that suits them personally. These examples underline the correctness of a popular Yoruba aphorism: Kira kita ko do la, ka sise bi eru ko da nkan. The meaning translates to: “relentless struggle does not automatically make one wealthy, and working like a slave does not necessarily yield greatness”.