I was thinking of my late father the other day. While he taught me a great deal about values, he had a light touch where culture was concerned. And so, I am not a typical Yoruba Nigerian woman. Because Yoruba is not my first language, I do not think or feel in it.

As I’ve travelled around the world (to about 30 countries and counting), I’ve discovered that while values are universal, culture is not.

Culture is a powerful force for good.

It deeply roots you and provides a canvas for authentic identity. But that identity is invariably tethered to a specific tribe, country, skin colour or belief system. As you grow older, you learn to separate harmful customs from rich traditions, history & ideals.

I credit my unusual upbringing with why I walk into a room and am not primarily conscious of my colour or gender. I’ve attended countless meetings where I was the only woman or the only black person. It never occurred to me until someone mentioned it. Usually, they say things like, “Did you study abroad?” or “Your English is so good.”

The reason I’m oblivious of those labels is that my primary identity is not grounded in colour, gender or tribe.

The corollary is, I don’t judge people by those appellations too. People are human first and not where they come from or their job description. That’s why it seems strange to me when someone I’m meeting for the first time asks, “Where are you from?” Or, when they enquire outside of a business context, “What do you do?” I’d much rather ask, “What interests you?”

Seeing the human first is also why I assess institutions in terms of how well they serve people. A system that isn’t grounded in humanity will be soulless, cold and oppressive. It will lose its purpose. This includes religious systems that presumably place God and projects above people. They forget the same God once sacrificed himself for those individuals and assesses how much we love him by how much we love them.

This year, you must learn to see the totality and fullness of humans beyond tribe. Discern what makes them unique and valuable. Also, see how you fit in globally. How your rich culture can exist besides those of others. And then, find common ground in values.

For more, please read You Need Values to Truly Succeed.

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