Book of the Month: Bamboozled by Jesus By Yvonne Orji

I randomly remembered that we haven't had a proper book of the month post this month and I was like we gotta fix that, because I have been reading really great books recently.  And that's the story of how this is coming to you on the very last day of the month. The book of this extremely long month (why, y'all has it been January for soooo long ehn?) is Yvonne Orji's Bamboozled by Jesus: How How God Tricked Me Into the Life of My Dreams. Yvonne Orji is a Nigerian-American actress best known for her role as Molly Carter on HBO's hit show Insecure, for which she was nominated for an Emmy. She is also a stand-up comedian, she hosts shows here and there, basically she is a celebrity. 

In this book, Yvonne takes us on a journey to living our best purpose-filled life. She infuses her humor, good-natured wit, and her confident and accessible approach to faith to show how she went from struggling actor with a Master's degree to an Emmy-nominated babe in Hollywood. More importantly, she  inspires us to believe we too can achieve our wildest dreams. 

One thing about Yvonne is she never ever shies away from being her authentic self. This is someone who when HBO was shooting her comedy special had the entire production crew and all their equipments follow her to her father's village in Anambra. Yeah, exactly.  So when I heard she wrote a book, I knew there would be a whole lot of honesty and authenticity in it. That said, and I'm not even going to lie, I did not expect that much from this book.  Like the title says, even I got bamboozled. I mainly read the book because I was curious. My first thought was, isn't she too young for a memoir? This is both age wise and career length wise. She gets into this really quickly in the book. She is very upfront about that fact that  this is not quite an autobiography. Rather, this book acknowledges and documents the end of a phase (phase 1 of her life). My own sense regarding this was, so many people contributed to her success: the friends that randomly donated 1k or 3k for her to create a concept trailer; the one that housed her; the ones that connected her to people who connected her to people.  I think it was beautiful to acknowledge those people through the telling of her story.  Apart from my curiosity, lowkey, I also went into the book with some aim of throwing shade at Yvonne Orji. But jokes on me cos it's a REALLY good book. And this brings me to my first favorite thing about the book.

The wildest part about this book is how it surprises you. Whether or not you are a Christian or whether or not you even are religious, this book will light a fire behind your butt. I PROMISE you. It's what makes it a great first book of the month for this year.  It is not possible to quantify just how inspiring her story is, so as you read further down, please know that this book didn't just inspire me but it activated my faith in a way I couldn't have planned.  You will feel all of this too even if you do not care for her. A second (or third, who's counting) favorite thing is how she couches these important points in jokes and maybe some banter, but how she makes sure the point shines through and how she centers the word of God. She makes the word of God so plain and accessible. 

Now that all that is said, I am going to deviate a little from the usual book of the month style, partly because of the style of the book itself and partly because of the substance of the book. Therefore, the remainder of this post will focus on NINE important insights and lessons I gleaned from the book. 

1) You bring a lot to the table. Yvonne reminds us of all the intricate and unique parts of us that we must never overlook. It is very easy to think, well, someone else has been there before me or someone else has done this thing but so what?  She draws from 1 Corinthians 12 to drive home this point. It says the body is made up of many parts. The foot can't say "I'm not a part of the body because I'm not the eye", nor can the ear say "I'm not the eye so I do not belong to the body". If the entire body was an eye, how would we hear or talk or walk?  The same way, you bring something to the table. Tap into your most authentic self, and remember that we have the opportunity to be something that people didn't even know they were looking for. 

2.) Put your mouth where your mind is.  There is a lot of talk about dreaming and having faith and such in this book. However, I love how she doesn't just leave it at that. An important point that cuts across this book is envisioning what God has planned for you or having faith should mean you are willing to work towards it. I termed this putting your mouth where your mind is.  Prepare for your big moment like it could come at any time.  This looks like working hard during preparation and being diligent. It looks like honing your craft and doing whatever it takes to stay ready. This, according to Yvonne, also looks like service and always adding value. Sure, her job on Insecure was to memorize lines and give a great performance, but it was also important to go above and beyond and add value. She did this through service. It's harder these days when everyone is a "boss", but the truth is you can't just go from assistant to CEO in a snap. This is why it is important to work your way up; why it is ok to start from the lowly bottom. It's also why you have to prepare for your big moment like it could come at any time. All through the book, there is an  emphasis on preparation, and hard work, and the importance of being ready. 

3.)  You don't have to cater to people's expectations of you. Take the example of David she gave. When he wanted to fight Goliath, even his own brother doubted him and wanted to put him in his place. Everyone thought he was too inexperienced.  But he knew how he had protected his dad's flock in the past from lion and bear.  Yvonne makes this point that you face giants that look new but don't believe the hype, you've seen them before. They may be packaged in a different way, but remember devil ain't got new tricks. If you're fighting the same battles over and over again, the good news is you have fought them before, which means  you know how to fight them. That is A WORD.  I thought about it this way: if, for example, you go through a lot of anxiety and worry, what it means is you have seen this before and can handle it now. Getting through previous episodes should serve as reminder that you can get through another one. When Saul finally allowed David to fight, he tried to give him an edge by giving him expensive gear and tools, but David was so small that the armor was too restrictive for him. He was burdened by the weight of someone else's armor, and Yvonne makes the point that we all have been burdened by the weight of someone else's armor.  Think about that and don't be bugged down by unnecessary weight anymore. 

4.) You don't have to be ashamed of your faith/beliefs/religion. Once, someone I follow on Instagram said she didn't like to talk about her faith because in grad school, she had mentioned it and got a lot of flak from classmates who thought religion was ridiculous. That was a little bit sad, but I also understand the harm that religion has caused in this world and see how and why people are wary of it. It's why about the most fantastic part of this book is how Yvonne lets her faith shine through. Not in an ostentatious way; not in a hubristic way; but more like here is is who I am. My faith who I am. My faith is a core of my identity; it can't be separated. You either get both or nothing, but you cant get one or the other. Reading the book, I realized it would be impossible for her to tell her story without telling us about her faith. I love that and I love how unashamed she is about her faith.

5) You can have faith powerful enough to move mountains and still fail. Related to the above about faith and diligence, having faith doesn't mean everything will be perfect. It is not a guarantee that things will work out for good. I especially appreciate that she talks about her rejections.  The one thing that a lot of motivation books miss, especially when they are secular, is that there are times you just don't have any fight in you anymore. Yvonne talks about how she got so depressed after rejections and rejections and failures, it became but Lord, I've done everything right. You gave me this big dream, and I've been persistent so what is happening? Trust me, we've all been there. Hers looked like breaking down in tears in the public. Yours may be tears on your pillow or refusing to talk to God and even human beings altogether. Whatever it looks like, we've all been there: angry at God. My point is, I think it is important to know that you can work hard, have faith, and still fail. Sometimes your desires don't align with God's plan for your life and that's fine. On to the next. 

6.) Just do something. This is interesting coming from a Christian. So many times, we wait for the "big sign", "calling", "divine purpose", and other such abstractness. And then we wait and wait and wait. When all you gotta do is just take the next practical step. So? Take the next practical step. On to the next!

7.) Focus. She talks about her final audition for Insecure. It was before the executives and no matter what she did, they  remained expressionless and unimpressed. It was staggering because it was a contrast from previous auditions that were drenched with hope and light. In fact, parts of the audition that would normally get big laughs, all she got was muffled chuckles. It crushed her soul. Her main reason for telling this story is to emphasize the need to focus, and to always get through with composure as much as you can. Focus on what you've planned and don't be distracted. Maybe it's in an interview, and no matter what you say your interviewer looks like he needs to nap (true story, guys. TRUE STORY), just focus and keep going. When people don't "get" it, stay focused anyway. Even when no one is watching, stay focused anyway.   

8.) Always do a good job. Yvonne went from unpaid intern to unpaid volunteer to full time staff and getting a writing credit because she wasn't just phoning it in. Although this is closely related to point #2 about hard work, I deliberately set it apart because it's easy to work hard only on that big dream/goal and ignore what your hand currently finds to do. Yes, you have a job now that pays the bill but your mind really is on setting up your own business or some other lofty goal. It is important to always do a good job no matter what. Yvonne says she worked hard and took ownership of every task assigned to her. Here is how she puts it: "Your come up could be camouflaged as grunt work and thankless tasks. Don't miss out on your big thing cos you're only focused on what an opportunity can produce in the moment. Thats hustling backwards. You'll never know an opportunity's true potential until you're deep in it or it's long gone." Selah.

9.) When all is said and done, hard-work, excellence, and having a heart of service can only get you so far. This is where favor comes in. Secular folks call it luck/universe, we just say grace, favor, and its beautiful siblings.  Favor doesn't even play by the rules, and I'm glad Yvonne acknowledges this. She calls it the extra hmmph you have a hard time explaining. Take for instance, how she ended up meeting Chris Rock and eventually opening for him on tour. There was no way she could have planned that. I think it is important to keep this at the back of our minds.  Work hard, yeah, but then there is only so much you can do. You can plan, prepare,  but in the end nothing works out. Call it what you want, but if God desires to do something in your life, He will go all out and make it happen. Hopefully, this gives you permission to rest, to chill, to relax. Stop trying soo hard that you leave yourself frustrated. In a way, favor isn't even about you and this can be very humbling. Stop being so busy, chasing and chasing, that there isn't time to be in the moment and appreciate how far you've come. 

Now one small thing I didn't quite like (you know there had to be at least one): She mentions (quite often) her earlier ambitions of becoming a medical doctor (mainly because of her parents) before she diverted into comedy and acting. Now, we know the stereotype: Nigerians only want their kids to be doctors etc. Apparently at some point,  her decision to forego a career in medicine for the entertainment industry becomes a serious bone of contention in their family. That's sad, of course. What I don't appreciate is extending this mentality to other Nigerian parents. As a Nigerian myself, I have really strong opinions about this. She mentions that the reason Nigerian parents are so desperate for their kids to be doctors (apart from bragging rights) is that there is no social security or medicare or Obamacare in Nigeria, and so they need someone to care for them. I HAVE LITERALLY NEVER HEARD THIS REASON FOR NIGERIANS wanting their kids to be doctors before. In fact, this reasoning is flawed because even her parents who moved here in the 80s and were in a country where there is social security and Obamacare and allathat still wanted her to be a doctor. I think there's this mistake we make, which is making our one experience the universal experience. So if my parents, for instance, sing to us every night, then all Nigerian parents sing to their kids? Honestly, I think her own parents took the doctor thing a little too far. Don't get me wrong, Nigerians love their doctors and their lawyers, but I'm not sure it's ever that intense. It seems to me like what maters ultimately is that their kids are successful and financially secure. This is because for the longest time, the only jobs with security in Nigeria were law and medicine, and maybe engineering; pathways to success were incredibly limited, and medicine was one of the very few guarantees to a good life. So I get that her experience in this matter was awful, but I don't think this is nearly as universal as she made it out to be. 

That said, there is a reason this book has a whooping 4.9 stars on Amazon. It's because it's good.  That should have been the first sign  that it was going be something amazing. If you are down, going through rejection or obscurity, or nothing seems to be working out, maybe you’re uncertain about the path you have chosen in life, I highly recommend getting this book. As for Yvonne Orji, she's filled with so much grace and she’s definitely going places. I just know it. Just please tell her to, for the love of God, stop the exaggerated Naija accent. Haha. It was very beautiful to read her success story even apart from all the lessons and to see all that Insecure has done for her. Let me end by thanking Yvonne for writing this book and for letting God use her like so. 



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