“You become what you give your attention to… If you yourself don’t choose what thoughts and images you expose yourself to, someone else will.”
Are you being framed into a life you did not choose?
Are you mastering the 4 “W” of your life?
Are you creating more options for yourself?
In 2020, I turned 40. People often ask me where I am from.
Is it because of the color of my skin? Or maybe it is about my not-so-perfect French accent?
For the first 20 years, I identified as a Senegalese, a Pulaar, and a Guinean from Guinea (Conakry).
In the last 20 years I spent in France, I identified as “SeneGaulois,” Gaul being the ancient denomination of France.
I feel like most of my life has been a succession of moments where this scene is repeated again and again.
In 2021, I discovered that I did need to always comply with the limited choices that were provided to me.
Instead, I shifted my perspective, and my answer now is: “violet.”
This journey brought me to identify myself as an Afropean.
Before sharing the shift that brought me to “create” that violet option, let us delve into the 4 empires of “W.”
The 4 “W” and the power of “W.”
Every human interaction is delimited by four borders that define the frame of such an interaction and the power dynamics behind:
- When: If you are determining when the interaction starts, you are in power,
- Who: If you are defining who can take part in the interaction, you are in power,
- What: If you are defining the content of the interaction, you are in power,
- Where: If you are determining the location of the interaction, you are in power.
Whoever masters one or more of the four empires is in power.
The aim is not always to win all the battles to be in a position of power.
Maybe we cannot choose the location when interviewing for a job, yet we can steer the conversation to define the “what” and/or the “who.”
If we cannot choose the “what” and the “who,” we can make sure that the conversation is held in a place of our choice, and we can try to pick the right time for us by nailing the “when.”
As a Black man in France, I cannot choose the location for all my interactions with people. Yet, I often make sure to always own the “what” of the conversation.
Be it at work or with friends and family, we often have discussions around race, diversity, equity, and inclusion.
I will always make sure to bring in new views of other people who share my opinion. The aim is not to create an echo chamber of my vision of what should be.
I intend to bring more nuance to the group thinking about how people from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds are experiencing France.
The Third eye: the new frame for a powerful life.
When I was young in Dakar, Senegal, I identified as Senegalese.
Yet be it at elementary school, high school, or home, I always had to choose.
At home, my choice is to be a Pulaar, not a Senegalese citizen. In the streets with my friends, they identified me as Guinean because I was a Pulaar.
In high school, the pressure was less. I did not necessarily need to fit in a particular persona. Yet if I wanted to blend in, I had to choose to go with everybody else, as teenagers do.
When in France, I mainly identified as a Senegalese, even when I got my French citizenship. The reason was that identifying as Senegalese gave me a sense of belonging and knowing my roots.
I did not want to risk being unrooted and lost like the millions of first-generation migrants. They are born French but not living the whole French experience.
At the same time, they are not citizens of where their parents came from because they spend most of their lives in France. They go back to the “bled” only for the summer holidays.
They are seen as French people in their parents’ country of origin because that was the only option.
Most of them will spend their whole life living in a country that sees them as second zone citizens while not being able to reconcile with the country of origin of their parents.
What if there were another alternative?
The answer to that question is quite simple: own the frame.
Let me explain.
Previously I talked about the 4 “W,” which are the building blocks of this paradigm shift of an alternative reality.
With the 4 “W,” one can build a frame. Armed with that frame, we can reframe our life and create a new and powerful perspective.
What is a frame, and why should you care?
Every interaction in life is like a game of frames.
Whoever is holding the frame is the most powerful one in that conversation.
We can all be in the Iron Frame (pun intended for the Game of Thrones fans out there) if we follow the 3 steps below:
- Breaking frames,
- Reframing attacks,
- Framing our options.
1. BREAKING FRAMES — In every interaction, never systematically accept the frame in which others define the conversation.
Use one or more of the 4 “W” to break the frame and rebuild it to your advantage if needed.
2. REFRAMING ATTACKS — Every attack or insult is just another person trying to cage you in their frame of life.
Your haters or your naysayers will throw their frame at you. Seize it, don’t just break it. Rearrange the edges to your advantage and put a mirror on it so that they can see themselves truly.
3. FRAMING OUR OPTIONS — Often, people will try to frame you to their advantage. Like Morpheus, they will present you with “only” 2 options.
No matter which one you choose, they will win.
Create your violet pill by reframing the options available and making one to your advantage.
This is what I did and why I like to see myself as an Afropean:
“The term “Afropean,” Johny Pitts writes at the beginning of this beguiling book, “encouraged me to think of myself as whole and unhyphenated … Here was a space where blackness was taking part in shaping European identity at large. It suggested the possibility of living in and with more than one idea: Africa and Europe, or, by extension, the Global South and the West, without being mixed-this, half-that or black-other. That being black in Europe didn’t necessarily mean being an immigrant.”
I don’t want to spend my whole life wandering between those two worlds. I am not just a Senegalese, a Guinean, or a French citizen.
I am even more than that. I am an African and a European. And it is not like those are 2 distinct colors that I can put in 2 separate boxes within my being.
I see them as 2 light sources that blend to make my violet: ultraviolet.
I vibrate with the universe at my frequency.
Within the timeframe of my life, I have defined a new space where I can glow for the centuries to come.
I am joining the new galaxy of Afropea: In this galaxy, there is no need to choose a specific orbit to fly.
You morph and create the path that lets you shine into the void of eternity.
Hi, I am Mad, neither Black nor White. I am Afropean.
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You can read my previous article on Is this the only C-Suite that will ru(i)n your life forever? Choose wisely, don’t leave it to chance if you want to change. (Friendly link)