I picked up my device just after 1am, moments after I had decided (on the ridiculous idea) on becoming a TWAT. Maybe I am already one, just never proclaimed it, never really considered that my actions over the years made me aThinking-Writing-Acting-Talking man.

This proclamation is partly driven by a relentless drive to understand and share the secret code for impact, the series and sequence of undertakings that, if carried out diligently, alter the course of a man’s life, an organization’s purpose, or destiny of a nation. I have come to believe that only a sizable congregation of twats can alter the course of our history.

When I say ‘thinking’, I am referring to that rigorous and often painful process of receiving, through reading, listening and observing, a copious volume of information and discerning what is true, what is real and what to discard. This information usually consisting of half-baked opinions, self-serving perspectives, divinely inspired convictions and a sprinkle of facts.

And I start with thinking, not just because it is the logical course of action when an external input is received, but because it is (or need to be) the foundation upon which we build anything of value. (I haven’t completely ruled out pure dumb luck and the equally random but more mysterious ‘na God o’but I am not a betting man, I like to plan).

And thinking has to be deliberate, not just the fast, intuitive & unconscious thoughts described by Daniel Kahneman inThinking, fast and slow, but also the type two kind, slow, rigorous and less susceptible to our biases. Thinking bridgeslistening, a desired action withhearing, the required outcome and enables us to process reading into understanding. It is also a powerful tool for exercising restraint in a conversation, often projecting you to the speaker as reflective, deliberate and respectful even in disagreement.

Thinkers tend to have fewer words and speak less often. And when they do, it is mostly to ask question, to clarify their understanding or to encourage others to keep talking. In doing so, thinkers enable others hear themselves, assist them in honing their arguments and may even get them toself correct.

But mostly, I am particular about the thinking that happens in solitude, at 1am when the world is finally at rest. It can also happen at any time, night or day or place, but it has to be within you, done with the sole purpose of understanding.

This thinking comes from a cup that is empty, the kind described in the famous conversation between the scholar Tokusan and the zen master Ryutan. “You come and ask for teaching, but your cup is full”.

And Of course, writing. have you noticed that very few of our leaders write anything at all? I am talking about articulating their beliefs, their principles, their thoughts on leadership, not their spiced autobiographies. On this, we owe a debt of gratitude to Obafemi Awolowo, and of recent, to Nasir El Rufai. Many are still trying to place Olusegun Obasanjo’s famous letters and his voluminous record of office but he stands out as the only head of state with the most documented views.

Thinking that leads to writing is often the more impactful way to convey ideas, not only because it becomes part of the body of knowledge for future generation, but because you get to complete your thoughts and thesis before it is debated. It enables the audience proceed to type two thinking before tweeting.It is much harder to troll a thesis than a tweet.

And so I want to become a (better) writer, to organize my thoughts coherently with the objective of being understood, and from that understanding, become part of a bigger truth. I (will) write in the hope that I can bridge the oasis of truths and be absorbed into a common understanding, a community of twats.

Writing enforces a discipline that is often absent even in our deepest reflections. It compels a thoroughness that we may dispense with when thinking, relying instead on mental models andthe third skandha— unconsciously connecting thoughts we may not even know we knew.

Writing is how we debate ideas with our emotions set aside, a necessary ingredient for informed criticism. And writing can be a deeply considered haiku, a seemingly spontaneous tweet or a peer reviewed thesis. Mine will explore concepts, discuss ideas, engage issues and profess theories.

Thinking and writing is all good, but we hardly have a deficit of that. The ‘Nigeria cha-cha-cha’ retort, credited to the late Mrs. Maryam Babangida, came across as offensive but it is not entirely without merit. We are not lacking in empty talk or grand ideas, what is missing is cohesive and sustained action. I agree with the lady but only to a degree. This lack of sustained action is visible in government as well as those dissatisfied with government, in mushrooming political parties and established opposition.

The bridge between converting ideas to action is where our greatest fault is. We execute poorly when we execute at all. Just look around you, so manythings falling apartto paraphrase the late Chinua Achebe. We have almost everything, including a space center, but they just don’t work.

And they don’t work because more often than not, those executing had no discipline of thought, their ideas, if they have any, are not documented anywhere outside rancorous political debates and the equally farcical campaign events. They make them up as they go. Badly.

Of course we cannot discount the role of corruption, incompetence anddefects in how we are constitutedbut these are often exacerbated by the gulf between the technocrats, who are the custodian of ideas and the politicians who barely understand them.

Look around and you will find that the closer a leader is to the ideas implemented, the better the outcomes. From the regional leaders of the first republic to the handful of governors trailblazing today, it is down to ‘knowing what you are doing’- apologies to Barack Obama.

Even in corporate Nigeria, the leader has to own the strategy, it can’t just be bought from ‘world class’ consultants. It is not a coincidence that many of the great companies today are the products of a relentless pursuit of a dream by a founder. Ideation should be the last thing you delegate. if you must.

Action, the great missing link, should be the focus for anyone trying to move the needle. It can be small or big but it has to be the product of twat-ting, it has to come from thinking things through and articulating them through writing. Writing matters because it also connects stakeholders to the task, the project, the undertaking. And writing can be a blog, a slide or a spreadsheet, for those who speak only numbers.

Wendell Berry once noted that ‘patience joins time to eternity’ and I can attest to that. Just as action joins our wishes to reality. We get to decide which reality prevails by doing more, doing it better and doing better things. Action, in my view, is your passport to speech. Talking without a history of doing can often come across as mere twittering, which must not be confused with twat-ting.

Talk

Which takes me back to TWAT (what a ridiculous self-deprecating choice of acronym). Once the thinking is done to clear your head, the writing to articulate and communicate your steps and the actions to realize your dreams, you can (and must) then do the talking. The way to multiply your good work is to talk others into becoming twats. Or to connect with existing twats and organize, collaborate and execute.

The more people we have thinking, writing, acting and talking, the greater our chances of creating a chain of micro improvements which will eventually act as a catalyst, and much like a nuclear reaction, create the Big Bang we all seek.

And yes, It is much harder to troll a thesis than a tweet because trolls don’t read.

Abubakar Suleiman is the CEO of Sterling Bank Nigeria

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