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Student, Entrepreneur, Author Miracle Olatunji, on Balancing Life Between Studies, Work & Social Life

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Miracle Olatunji is an entrepreneur, speaker, forthcoming author… and a college student.

While still in high school, Miracle realized how energy draining and time-consuming is the process of searching for summer programs and opportunities. That’s why she decided to help young people in this situation and created OpportuniMe, with the goal of connecting high school students with experiential learning, enrichment and employment opportunities.

Miracle runs OpportuniMe and studies Information Science and Business Administration at Northeastern University, where she’s also a Director of Innovation of the financial literacy center.

At the end of July 2019, Miracle will release her first book, Purpose: How To Live and Lead With Impact, about how we can use the power of purpose as a tool that helps us both in our professional life, as well as in our personal one.

In our interview with Miracle Olatunji you’ll find out about why she doesn’t compare herself to other people, the books that helped her grow, how she manages to balance her life between studying, work and social life, her reading habits, and much more.

What’s your favorite book and why? Business and non-business, if possible.

There have been so many books that have broadened my worldview and have empowered me to discover bold, new ideas and ways of thinking. My book shelf at home is full of books of all kinds, from autobiographies to fiction to business and personal development and more.

When I was moving for college, even though the car was already full, I made space for the mini bookshelf I got so that I could bring a few of my favorite and new books with me!

One of my favorite books is Start Something That Matters by Blake Mycoskie. It was one of the first business books I read about the social enterprise business model.

I also love The 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins. When you were a kid you may have lived by this 5 second rule: if your snack drops on the floor, but you pick it up before 5 seconds go by, it’s still good to eat. This book applies a different 5 second rule, one that is about human psychology and beating procrastination: If you have an instinct to act on a goal, you must physically act on it within 5 seconds or your brain will squash it.

Was there a moment, specifically, when something you read in a book helped you? Can you tell us about it?

A few years ago, I participated in an incredible youth entrepreneurship program called the Diamond Challenge. Through this program, I met people from all over the world who were building solutions to some of the most pressing problems in their communities and the world. One person I met, Justin Lafazan, had also written What Wakes You Up?, an incredible book that has shown me just how important it is to be mission and purpose driven in every aspect of life. The book details his mission to inspire people to design not only their lives but also the world they want to live in- guided by their own answer this question: what wakes you up? What’s your purpose?

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What books had the biggest impact on you? Perhaps changed the way you see things or dramatically changed your career path.

The top three books that had the biggest impact on me are Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes and The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People (& Teens) by Stephen and Sean Covey.

Year of Yes helped me realize how living at the edge of our comfort zones makes our world bigger. Shonda Rhimes, best known as the powerhouse behind Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, used to be someone who would constantly lived her life driven by fear and always said ‘no’ to opportunities that were outside her comfort zone. She realized that by staying within her comfort zone, she would never grow and decided to do an experiment to say “yes” to opportunities that would push her out of her comfort zone. In the book, she shares the lessons she learned from this transformational journey.

Stephen and Sean Covey’s books, The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People and The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective Teens provided me with an excellent set of principles I could build off of for goal setting and personal development.

What five books would you recommend to young people interested in your career path & why?

1. Build Your Dream Network by Kelly Hoey – This is the most practical book I’ve read about creating meaningful connections in our hyperconnected, digital world. It’s filled with proven strategies, real-world examples, and actionable advice. It breaks down the widespread misconceptions about networking. Particularly, as a young professional, this book fundamentally changed and significantly improved how I approach ‘networking’ or as Kelly Hoey puts it: “every human interaction.”

2. The Fourth Industrial Revolution by Klaus Schwab – This book is highly relevant not only for young professionals but also for any and all professionals, leaders, entrepreneurs- everyone. We are nearing the start of an era known as the ‘fourth industrial revolution’ which is set to fundamentally changing the way we live, work and relate with one another. In this book, Klaus Schwab, who is the Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, provides insights and advice for understanding and thriving in this new era.

3. Strategize To Win by Carla Harris – Carla is a notable business leader and she openly shares her experiences of her career journey and outlines tactical strategies for thriving in your career regardless of challenges and hurdles. It’s an incredible book that also speaks to the importance of developing the hard/technical skills you need in your career but also on enhancing your soft skills and building relationships!

4. New Power by Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms – It’s crucial to realize that the dynamics of power and influence have changed. This book highlights the difference between ‘old power’ and ‘new power.’ Technology and the next generation have contributed greatly to this shift away from ‘old power’ (which has been hierarchical) to ‘new power’ (which is more focused on collaboration and connection). If you’re someone who wants to leverage ‘new power’ to make an impact in the world- whether that’s through creating, building, or leading- I recommend reading this book.

5. Personal Finance In Your 20s by Eric Tyson – One of the key factors that impact our quality of life is our finances. This book is relevant to the concerns and questions that myself and fellow young professionals have as we enter or navigate our lives and careers in our 20s and beyond!

Miracle Olatunji (@mirolatunji) shares why social media is a double-edged sword & why it's important to channel our time and energy into defining our purpose and working to create rather than compare: Click To Tweet

We’re interested in finding out more about your reading habits. How do you make time for reading? How often do you read? What format do you prefer?

As a full-time college student who is balancing my business and social life, I have to actively and intentionally create time to read books outside of my assigned textbooks for school.

I do this by blocking out time in my schedule for reading or by picking a book to read each month and planning out how much of it I’ll read daily until I finish it. I believe my formal education is important, but through books, I’m also able to gain a valuable self education.

I enjoy many book genres, but one of my favorites are autobiographies. I believe that everyone has a story worth sharing. There’s a lot we can learn from our own life experiences and the life experiences of others. That’s one of the many beautiful aspects of our shared humanity.

Do you take notes or have any other technique for conquering the torrent of information?

Whenever I read a book, I try to use active reading techniques. It keeps me stay engaged even if I’m reading large chunks of information at a time. I always have either my notebook nearby or my phone and the Notes app open. During and after reading, I like to draw checkboxes and next to them, I write action steps so that I can take what I’ve learned and put it to action right away. I also write down my own thoughts and observations in the margins, as if I were having a conversation with the author.

You managed to release a book while being a university student, an intern at a multinational investment banking company, and running your own project, OpportuniMe. How do you manage to do all these things?

I use the Google Calendar app which is incredible. It helps me manage my time and see where it is spent the most. It’s also really fun to use. You can also get pretty creative with it. I color-code based on what it is I’ll be doing at the time- whether it’s time blocked out for my classes and studying, writing and edits for my book, business, social – anything in my life!

Another alternative I would recommend is a physical planner or a combination of using both Google calendar and a physical planner.

Are there any activities that other people spend way too much time doing that you generally stay away from?

Comparing ourselves with others. I believe this is a complete waste of time. We all have a unique purpose for our lives. Each of us has talents, strengths, and contributions we can make to the world.

Social media is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it’s really easy to waste hours looking through what are essentially highlight reels; not many people are (or want to) share their lows and this clouds our perception of what the world is really like. On the other hand, social media is a powerful asset for building a business or brand.

Rather than doing this, we can channel our time and energy into defining our purpose and working to create rather than compare.

How do you choose what books to read next? Do you prioritize books recommended by certain people?

I choose based on what my specific goals are: short and long term. For example, one of my goals for this year was to learn more and build skills to thrive in the ‘fourth industrial revolution’ and ‘future of work.’ So a lot of the books I’ve read this year have been around these topics.

Even though I have a list of books to read that is dozens of books long – recommendations from mentors, role models, and friends- this method helps me to create a system for which books I should prioritize.

Last question: what book are you currently reading and what are you expecting to gain from it?

One is a personal finance book called Get A Financial Life by Beth Kobliner. I’m the Director of Innovation at my university’s financial literacy center, and by reading this book, I hope to learn new concepts around starting off on the right financial foot. It includes information on budgeting, building credit, navigating the world of finances in our digital world- which I can share with my peers who come to the center with questions.

I’m also working on finishing Becoming by Michelle Obama. I’m about halfway through and I’ve already learned so many heart-warming lessons from her life and impact on others through her leadership.

Links where you can follow Miracle or find out more about her projects:

All books mentioned by Miracle Olatunji in our interview:

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