To end his social media tour ahead of the launch of the show, #WithChude, founder of Joy, Inc., Chude Jideonwo was hosted to a Twitter chat by Tolu Ogunlesi on April 19, 2020. Tolu is a respected Nigerian journalist and Special Assistant to President of Nigeria on Digital & New Media.
Here is a transcript of their conversation.
Tolu Ogunlesi: My first question for @Chude is this: You’ve had a storied personal and professional journey over the last two decades: activism and advocacy, communications, political engagement, etc. Lots of highlights and successes. How did the journey lead you where you are today? #WithChude
Chude Jideonwo: Man. Honestly, I don’t know. My life often seems linear to others but for me it’s a fascinating curve of discovery. Like nothing I have done since I left secondary school in 2000 has been planned or expected. Paths just open up and I followed. #WithChude.
The one thread though has been the media. But the activism, the advocacy, politics, even running a consulting company: none of it was in any plan. My life changed again towards this path in 2016. #WithChude
Tolu Ogunlesi: I completely relate. So would you say everything you’ve done so far has somehow helped prepare you for this? Contributed to this? #WithChude
Chude Jideonwo: Absolutely, Much of what I teach, share, do in my work these days has more currency, more authenticity, more … groundedness, because I have had a very, very wide range of work and life experiences over the past 20 years. #WithChude.
And there is a lot of credibility with the work we do with individuals and organisations because I have been in very many of the same situations that they are: and I know. I have dealt with those issues. It’s not just ‘intellectual’. #WithChude
Tolu Ogunlesi: What was the 2016 turning point / defining moment? #WithChude
Chude Jideonwo: The Great Personal Depression of 2016. In the second quarter of that year (my brain has blocked out specifics perhaps to survive it), I had a Major Depressive Episode. Lasted about 3 months. It was horrible, Tolu. #WithChude.
Everything changed. My perception of everything changed. The things I thought I knew changed. Nothing could hold me. Depression is the worst possible way to be in this world. Clawing myself out of it was the defining ‘moment’. #WithChude
Chude Jideonwo: Ha-ha I love it. The way I now say it is “I am a founder of two storytelling companies. One – RED – inspires young people to take action. The other – @ourjourneyisjoy– teaches happiness and resilience skills. #WithChude.
With a focus on African communities. A lot of the popular global research and evidence on happiness and resilience hasn’t been popularised and mainstreamed here. Joy, Inc. wants to meet that need. #WithChude
Tolu Ogunlesi: Storytelling. Inspiration. Action. Happiness and Resilience. This sounds interesting. Also sounds like they might all be linked somehow? #withChude
Chude Jideonwo: I actually think so. I actually think also, yes. I think at the core of it – and this will use ‘poetic’ language, which is fine – I like telling stories (through the media) that unleash the deepest possible potential of people and make them act. #WithChude
Tolu Ogunlesi: So, what is happiness to you? How do you define it. A related question is: do you think there’s a universal benchmark for Happiness, across all cultures, religions, contexts? #WithChude
Chude Jideonwo: On happiness, it’s simply the feeling of well being in any situation. The feeling that ‘I am doing well’ ‘I will be fine’ no matter what happens in the world or in my life. That would be a simple, accessible definition. #WithChude.
Thankfully, yes. The work that researchers across major disciplines have done – including Jeffrey Sachs, Martin Seligman, Michael Csikazentmihayli and even the popular Daniel Kahneman have done in the field has helped defined a universal benchmark that stands strong. #WithChude the work the World Happiness Index is doing for instance is to ensure there is a shared sense of reality – a rigorous one – around what is usually an elusive concept. https://worldhappiness.report #WithChude
Tolu Ogunlesi: This afternoon I went back to your “Happiness Confessions” video, the Marcelo Bukin series, where you said we can use “[our] happiness to transcend adversity.” That’s the point right? That regardless of situation we are in, it is possible to somehow be – “feel” – above(?) it?
Chude Jideonwo: Yes! As I go deeper into the work, I try to avoid ‘transcend’ because it can creates a sense that there is something intrinsically bad about reality and we must transcend it. But yes, it’s really to live a life where you have a constant sense of balance no matter what. #WithChude.
But the whole point of happiness research, and the reason public thinkers from Ancient Greek to today focused on the idea is because it is essential to have the capacity to remain balanced, in a world with so much uncertainty and possible pain. #WithChude
Tolu Ogunlesi: So what you do now is rooted firmly in strong personal experience, right? #WithChude
Chude Jideonwo: Firmly and totally. @ourjourneyisjoy would not exist if I hadn’t this visceral personal experience. The research builds architecture around it. But the drive, the inspiration comes because I now know deeply that these things matter. #WithChude
Tolu Ogunlesi: So, is this what your new show, #WithChude is all about? Can you tell me more about it?
Chude Jideonwo: Yes. The show is connecting the things I have learnt about joy (human flourishing, resilience, happiness) to the popular culture. It’s of no use only existing in rarefied circles. The people that most need it are on the streets, in the ‘real’ world. #WithChude. So #WithChude is a mainstream, pop culture brand that shares this message in a way that’s accessible, relatable and that connects and speaks to the hearts of people powerfully. #WithChude
Tolu Ogunlesi: “Constant sense of balance no matter what” is actually a great analogy for this. Makes me think of maintaining balance on a bicycle amidst a storm or flood; or a boat staying afloat and upright regardless of the wind. Thank you. #WithChude
Chude Jideonwo: Yes! My mentor Ken Onyeali-Ikpe, who is chief executive at Insight Redefini, gave me a powerful phrase a while ago; he called it ‘Wheel Balancing’. You capture it – staying afloat, staying on firm ground, standing firm. That’s what it really is. #WithChude
Tolu Ogunlesi: And you’ll be doing this by talking to a wide range of people, right? Interviewing them, getting them to engage with you and open up about being real and being human, right? Where can people follow #WithChude? What platforms / media?
Chude Jideonwo: Yes yes. The more personal the more it connects with people. It’s about the stories of people who have gone through dramatic moments that we can all relate to. #WithChude. So the flagship show is on @TVCconnect. It launched yesterday with the AMVCA Best Actress winner @toyinabraham_telling her story of surviving depression and suicide attempts. It’s every Saturday 9-9.30pm. On Terrestial TV, Cable and on their website. #WithChude.
There are other sub-brands including my daily newsletter which I have run for a small community tor 2 years but have now taken mainstream with daily 1-minute video versions, also on @TVCconnect and @NigeriainfoFM. #WithChude.
Then there’s a radical new show about Spirituality, with a focus on Nigeria and Africa, launching on #RadioNow from @TheDariaMedia in May – it’s called #RetailReligion. All the info is on my site – http://brands.withchude.com. #WithChude
Tolu Ogunlesi: @Chude– I’ll rephrase this slightly for this context: what impact are you looking to achieve, in society? How will you be able to tell that you’ve succeeded or are succeeding at the Happiness mission? #WithChude
Chude Jideonwo: Hmm. That’s a good one. The product-based answer would be that the amount of feedback we get, especially from people who are in positions of influence, is what we will track as impact. That’s objectively the measure. #WithChude.
But the real measure of impact is not something that conventional data metrics can report. It will be a shift in public consciousness akin to Oprah’s almost single handed success in making American contemporary culture more confessional. #WithChude.
When we get more people, in their numbers, talking about emotions and and spirituality and ‘being’ and those big themes in ways that show we are thinking a bit more deeply and gently about what truly matters, I will know we are succeeding. This is for the long haul. #WithChude.
And you’re still the pro of pros. I love what you did there – gently, firmly. #WithChude
Tolu Ogunlesi: Speaking of Happiness & Indexes – what do you think of those world-famous surveys that keep insisting Nigerians are among the happiest people on earth. Are they perhaps conflating happiness with a something else, a sense of the comedic maybe? Or are they on to something? #WithChude
Chude Jideonwo: First, much of those reports are false. We have had Nigeria media platforms misrepresent or mis-state question research from small sample sizes in the service of misleading headlines. No credible survey today reports us as one of the happiest. Sadly. #WithChude.
However, yes they are on to something. The low percentages of mental health illness relative to the challenges we have always faced as a nation has proven that our optimism and capacity for humour has made us VERY resilient. #WithChude
Tolu Ogunlesi: This is good to know. I’m guessing the big lesson is to always look for the actual surveys themselves and see what they ACTUALLY say instead of depending on the often misleading and sensational reporting of them. #WithChude
Chude Jideonwo: Yes! My pastor @sam_adeyemi modeled this last week in the 5G madness by sharing how he actually went to ResearchGate or so and looked deeply at the research himself. We need more rigour. #WithChude
Tolu Ogunlesi: I’m curious about links between spirituality & happiness. Your work seems to suggest there are indeed links. Is this correct? I acknowledge this might be too complicated to explain in a few tweets, sorry 🙂 If there’s links to more extensive thinking/writing please share #WithChude
Chude Jideonwo: Lol. Oh there are. For instance people who are ‘spiritual’ are happier. The research shows that every time. It’s linked, in essence to something Positive Psychology calls Transcendence. Connecting to something bigger makes you flourish. #WithChude. The shame and vulnerability researcher (and my spiritual godmother, in my dreams! @BreneBrown) shows the links very, very powerfully in her book #RisingStrong #WithChude.
Here’s her definition: “Spirituality is recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power greater than all of us, and that our connection to that power and to one another is grounded in love and compassion. #WithChude
“… Practicing spirituality brings a sense of perspective, meaning, and purpose to our lives.” #WithChude. And one link to people who share from the research (they are several): https://rcpsych.ac.uk/mental-health/treatments-and-wellbeing/spirituality-and-mental-health… #WithChude
Tolu Ogunlesi: @chude So, our time’s up. One hour has flown by,with me hugging the mic. Sorry all. But let’s quickly go back to the dinner table. Dinner over, we’re rising from the table. And I have last question for Chude: 2 or 3 of your biggest lessons from your journey since 2016 #WithChude
Chude Jideonwo: Thank you! 2 things. 1. Life is often deeper, richer, wider, bigger than it first appears to much of us. Many of us have not accessed its depths even when we have economic success. @nytimes David Brooks explores this in #TheSecondMountain. 2. This is directly the Stoics, and a theme Victor Frankl explores in #MansSearchForMeaning. We are not in control of what happens in the world, but we are always, always in control of how we respond to whatever happens in the world or our lives. #WithChude.
A book I highly recommend will be my number 3. It’s perhaps the most important book written by @EfosaOjomo’s mentor who passed this year: How will you measure your life? #WithChude
Chude Jideonwo: Thank you plenty, Tolu! And thank you for cheering us on through the years – from the start. God keep you!