Doubt Your Self-Doubts, Just Stretch Yourself

“Itirayi ni gbogbo nkan.”

— Wole Soyinka

 The above statement in Yoruba language translates to;

[clickandtweet handle=”cakinlade” hashtag=”Wole Soyinka” related=”” layout=”” position=””]”The trying is all.”[/clickandtweet]

— Wole Soyinka

In his memoirs, You Must Set Forth At Dawn, Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka attributed the above aphorism to his mother.  According to him, his mother, whom he described as Wild Christian used to confront every “gamut of incompatible situations” with the crisp adage quoted above. Taking his mother’s wisdom with him, Professor Wole Soyinka explained that every time he was faced with any daunting and seemingly intractable challenge, those words always float to the surface of his mind to spur him on. His exploits, both in Nigeria’s political landscape and the world of academia and literature are lasting testaments to this.

I bought two copies of the book at different times some couple of years back. I read each copy through, once. The second copy is occupying its well-deserved space in my book case. What makes the curt aphorism so beautiful is its Yorubanised form of the English word “trying”. So, the Yoruba form of the English phrase “The trying is all,” becomes, “Itirayi ni gbogbo nkan.” Native speakers of Yoruba (and those who write in Yoruba) language will  immediately recognize and appreciate the crystal clear beauty of the Yoruba rendition especially with the transformation of the English word – “trying” to “itirayi”. (Notice the similarity in the sounding of the words.)

This single phrase, “itirayi ni gbogbo nkan” meaning, “the trying is all” is among many others, the most enduring and practical life’s lessons that has stuck with me from the book ever since I first read it.

From my pre-teen to late-teen years, I was brought up by my paternal grandmother. My grandma used to encourage and spur her grandchildren on with a similar proverb though not as succinct as Professor Soyinka’ epigrammatic wit. Similar to Soyinka mother’s wisdom, my grandmother’s philosophy has followed me throughout most of my adult life to this day. Back then, the meaning of the old woman’s words were not clear to me. On each of several such frequent encounters, I used to mutter to myself,  “This old woman self. Mama, you’ve come with another one of those your unending not-easy-to-decipher sayings.” I will not be able to compress it in a fashion similar to Professor Soyinka’s wit above (and I will not attempt to do so). My grandma’s wisdom, translated from my native Ososo dialect to English roughly approximate to the following statement.

“[clickandtweet handle=”” hashtag=”” related=”” layout=”” position=””]When you stretch yourself, even if you fail to touch the ceiling, you may likely touch the shelf[/clickandtweet].”

Pause for a moment and see the wisdom in this as well. I was reflecting on Soyinka’s enduring aphoristic wit when the above refrain from my late grandmother came to my mind. It does come to my mind almost all the time. I found my late grandmother’s words of encouragement always following me  whenever I am faced with challenging life’s situations – both big and small. In the face of seemingly insurmountable odds, I just tell myself, “Remember granny’s words – Just stretch yourself. You may end up winning at the end. Put in more efforts. Try harder. Don’t give up.”

Someone reading this article may ask, ‘Where then is your “self confidence”? Where is your self-assurance? Where is your “Can-do” spirit?’ My answer is, ‘Then, the school  of experience has taught us that there are many circumstances we will meet in life when it will seem that “Can-do” can no longer do. At such times, the only thing that will see us through to the other side – victory, is sheer, persistence, endurance, doggedness, daring to try. And one more thing – stretching.’

So, dare to try. Dare to put in the effort. Even if you fail to reach your highest aspirations you will definitely not remain at the same old level as you were at the onset. You will definitely end up at a higher elevation. Of course, for me there are many sources of encouragement both internal and external. At times, when the external encouragement is not within reach, the internal form of it, what my pastor called “incouragement” is always within reach for me to grasp.

“So what am I telling you?”

“Son what I am telling you is this is, “Just try”. In other words, “Put in more efforts.” You really never can tell the heights to which you may one day rise by simply daring, trying, stretching and putting in all your efforts. Believe me, you will be pleasantly baffled and  amazed at the vista and horizon to which you will soar by so doing. Even you. And all that simply because of your daring, trying, putting in your guts, grit and gumption.

Opportunity Rover

Still doubting me? See. When men aim for the stars, even though they did not reach the stars, they set their feet on the moon. Even right now,the robotic rover, Opportunity is roving on the planet Mars. All because men tried. Now, over to you… “

In summary, always  doubt your self-doubts. Just stretch yourself.

“[clickandtweet handle=”” hashtag=”” related=”” layout=”” position=””]Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt[/clickandtweet]”

— William Shakespeare