An Insightful Outlook on Self-development - Interview with Mekedela Mekuriya
Discover how Mekedela Mekuria pursued his passion for storytelling and marketing to achieve his dreams. Learn how he uses marketing to help him achieve his goals.
Self-improvement is a quality we all aspire to possess yet struggle to maintain. In our journey of self-improvement, we often seek out those who have achieved the things we desire to have so that we can draw inspiration or knowledge from their life experience. With that in mind, Loline invited Mekedela Mekuria, a lecturer, marketing consultant, public speaker, and business coach, to speak with us.
Born and raised in Addis Ababa, Mekedela says that he was “raised in a big Ethiopian family.” He went to Kebena Adventist school and then Yekatit 12 Menen Preparatory school for his primary and secondary education, respectively. When it comes to his higher education, Mekedela says that he was a wanderer of sorts. He first enrolled in an extension program at Addis Ababa University to study Mathematics. After a year, he enrolled at Kotebe College of Teacher Education to study languages. Mekedela’s interests eventually led him to study marketing. “...the one thing I wanted to be in my life was a storyteller,” he says, speaking of the reasons behind his choices.
Mekedela strongly believes there are a lot of untold stories in Ethiopia, including the story behind his name. By explaining the history behind his name (which was the name of the imperial stronghold of the Ethiopian emperor Tewodros II), Mekedela understood the power of stories in image building. He learned that marketing can help him achieve his dreams, which was why he chose to study it. Mekedela pursues his passion for storytelling by teaching and participating in international public speaking events such as Toastmasters International.
Mekedela’s career experience is diverse. In addition to his experience as an instructor, he has also worked as a radio show host. He started out at Fana radio station, where he hosted a weekly segment on his friend’s show. Later, he moved to Sheger FM radio station to host a program called “Likegna.” An evolved version of his previous show, Likegna, was a radio show that discussed ethics in different walks of life. Mekedela says that his journey as a radio host was a successful one.
Mekedela's next venture was into the world of personal development. The main reason he chose to pursue personal training was that in his teaching experience, Mekedela noticed some skills are not offered to students in the curriculum. In his classes, Mekedela invites successful people to share their experiences. He also makes his students visit different institutions and initiates discussions in his classroom. He observed that the lessons his students learned from these practices were impactful and long-lasting. He then decided to spread those lessons beyond his students through personal training.
As a university lecturer, Mekedela believes that many problems are faced by Ethiopian students today. These problems come from teachers and students alike. While he acknowledges that students are increasingly disinterested in education, he also asserts that teachers should strive to better themselves and the quality of education they provide. Mekedela argues that in this day and age, teachers are not competing with other teachers but rather with the internet. In the internet age, teachers should add value to their students beyond mere information.
Through his life and personal coaching experience, Mekedela follows a set of principles. The first one is accepting that he doesn’t know everything. “Just because I teach marketing doesn’t mean I know everything about it. That is why I invite guests to my classrooms. So that my students can learn more than what I can teach them.” he says. The second is the pursuit of betterment rather than perfection. Mekedela believes that life is a process of improving oneself from yesterday. His third principle is the acceptance of death as an eventuality. Death, Mekedela believes, is a houseguest that’ll eventually leave with you. “No one knows what tomorrow brings. We must try our best to give everything we have today. Plan as though you live forever, work as though you die tomorrow.” As a fourth principle, Mekedela believes our works will remain with us at the end of our lives. Our family and the work we do for and with people will remain our legacy. Prioritizing family is important, he asserts. “Giving time for your family includes giving time for yourself. You are your own family. We are often preoccupied with the noise of life. We need to silence that noise and reflect in silence.”
When it comes to his daily routine, Mekedela is a firm believer in the power of habit. According to him, the key to maintaining habits is focusing on today. “Tomorrow will also become today,” he adds. Focusing on today will subconsciously build commitment as we won’t be intimidated by long-term plans. Mekedela’s days begin at 5:00 a.m. when he wakes up and devotes time to reflection. He accomplishes this by sitting, lying down quietly, or writing. Mekedela's daily routine also includes exercise and reading. "All of my endeavors necessitate reading," he says. Updating one's knowledge is critical because what we know today is far more valuable than what we knew yesterday. Improving our knowledge base and changing our minds when we are proven wrong, he says, is part of being human. Aside from daily routines, Mekedela believes we should be flexible and open to new experiences. He practices this belief by having parts of his day where he doesn’t plan anything. Quoting Wayne Dyer, he says, “we are human beings, not human doings.”
Goal setting is considered to be an essential element of success. Mekedela, however, takes a more nuanced approach. He says everyone has different paths; for some, goal-setting will help them achieve what they are meant to achieve, and for others, goal-setting might lower or even hamper their success. Before we decide to set goals, Mekedela says, we must first inspect ourselves. Everyone is different and thus must take different paths toward success. However, we must set ambitious yet realistic goals. Having unreachable goals lead to frustration and giving up while having easily reachable goals will lead to complacency and stagnation. Mekedela suggests that our goals should be moderated so they won’t be in either extreme. Once we set our goals, maintaining a positive attitude is crucial to achieving them. Mekedela believes we should choose to develop a positive mindset and that it’s better to lose with a positive attitude than win with a negative one.
In his coaching experience, Mekedela has observed the impact of culture on personal development: positive or negative. He believes that we have failed to properly merge our cultural values with what modern education offers, resulting in the rejection of everything culture and the mindless acceptance of everything modern. Mekedela believes that we should carefully assess our culture and preserve those that are of value. We need a new lens to view culture so that we can appreciate what we have more and utilize it to better our society while also reevaluating elements of culture that don’t benefit us.
Mekedela states five aspects we should seek to improve in our lives. The first one is our spiritual aspect. This could refer to devotion to our religion or abiding by set principles, morals, and values. The second aspect is our physical health. Our physical wellness will always translate to a better quality of life, Mekedela states. Exercise shouldn’t necessarily mean a gym membership. We could do light exercises at home that are as beneficial. The third aspect of our life that we should improve is our mind. This means investing in our cognitive development. The fourth one is our environment. We should be mindful of the people around us and our interactions with them. The fifth one is our emotional intelligence. This refers to soft skills that are essential in the relationships we form with others.
While trying to improve themselves, young people often commit different mistakes. One of those mistakes, Mekedela observes, is assuming they have enough time. He puts it as the attitude of “I’ll do it tomorrow.” The other mistake is impatience and looking for shortcuts to improve ourselves. Young people also make the mistake of assuming that Google has the answer to everything. “Sometimes, we need to learn from our friends and parents.” When it comes to internet usage, Mekedela notices a trend of oversharing on social media. Despite these mistakes, Mekedela also believes that young people are often misunderstood and that a better understanding between generations must be built.
In his life, Mekedela’s biggest challenge is practicing what he preaches. Maintaining discipline and not taking things for granted is a battle he fights daily. “I don’t think I’ve overcome it. I’m still fighting it today. But I fight it better than yesterday.” Mekedela believes that we must be grateful for what we have while still trying to avoid complacency. Seeing others thrive with what he took for granted is a great source of motivation for him. Seeing how the assistance he provides changes people's lives gives him hope. That’s why teaching is important to Mekedela. Contributing to the success of others, no matter how small, offers him strength in spirit.
Mekedela concludes our interview by offering his advice to those who don’t know their place in the world. “Others have passed through the hardships you’re facing. Your load is heavy only because you’re carrying it alone. As much as we strive to change our lives, we should also try to change the lives of others. We only feel lost because we have become increasingly individualistic. We must not hesitate to give our time, hearts, and ears... If we want to have good friends, we should be good friends to others. So, whenever we feel like we’ve lost our path, let's try to be good in the path of others.”