Monday, August 25, 2014

Make Your Own Challenge

Over the past couple of weeks, social media has been taking by storm by the Ice Bucket Challenge to find a cure for ALS. As of August 25, 2014, ice bucket donations have reached $79.7 million. ALS, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, is a neurodegenerative disease that impacts the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. It is often referred to as Lou Gehrig's Disease, after the baseball hall of famer and legend who eventually passed from complications of this disease. For more information on this disease and how you can join the cause visit ALS Association.

Not to take anything away from a wonderful cause, I ponder the question, "What challenges are we making in our own lives?" After following, as well as being a part of the challenge through my baseball team, I thought to myself how easy it is to rise to the challenge that someone else proposes but how we fail to challenge ourselves.

Where is our "Ice Bucket" challenge in our own lives? Maybe, we need to pour a bucket of water over our heads to get us to wake up and take control of our own lives. The problem that many of us are facing is that there is a quickness to jump on everyone else's cause in order to divert the attention away from their own issues.

The problem is that we are not challenging ourselves enough. We are not holding ourselves accountable enough. In fact, we are not making our own cause worthy enough.

When we can take the opportunity -whether to be a part of trend or not- to fight and support something meaningful, how come we fail to fight for our own cause for success? How come we do not withstand the discomfort of the chills of life in order to overcome obstacles? How come there is not a campaign going viral where people are pursuing their goals and not stopping until they reach the top?

How about we make our own challenge. Maybe we should call it the Now Challenge, or the Stop for Nothing Challenge, or even the Get Up and Do Something challenge. Because in order for us to have a greater impact on this world, we first have to discover and act in our own greatness.

God Bless

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Problem with the Corporate Ladder

I have my rock climbing shoes, my rope and harnesses. I got all the things necessary for my ascent to the top. Now, I am ready to start climbing in my life towards success, but on this climb I will not be using any ladder.

In many conversations, I hear people talking about climbing the ladder, whether it is the social ladder or the corporate ladder in life. They have it all planned out. This year I will be here and next year I will be there, so on and so on. There is nothing wrong, per se, with climbing the ladder except for the fact that it is always something that we have been taught to do. But there is one problem (that I will explain later).

A ladder is a series of bars or steps used for climbing (or descending) that are fixed between two upright lengths of metal, wood, or rope. There are all different types of ladders, and metaphorically it is easy to see how it can be used as a great comparison to show success or upward moving.

When I think of the corporate ladder, it reminds me of one of my favorite movies "Coming to America" where Eddie Murphy served as a mop boy at the McDonald's knockoff McDowell's. One of my favorite lines (and there were many) came from the coworker played by Louie Anderson, who said, "Hey, I started out mopping the floor just like you guys. But now... now I'm washing lettuce. Soon I'll be on fries; then the grill. In a year or two, I'll make assistant manager, and that's when the big bucks start rolling in."

And this is how we look at our own careers. Step by step, eventually waiting for the big pay day. Next it is the fries, then it's the grill. Ascending the corporate ladder lends to too many people having control of our careers and financial destiny. They tell us how far we go, and when they feel we have gone far enough, they can seal the top. What is even more disappointing is working extremely hard to move up only for your promotion to be given to someone else.

Well, let me explain why I am not a fan of the corporate ladder. Visualize a ladder standing upright. Now think about what you see.
In  most cases , it is leaning against something for support and by no means is there anything wrong with having support. But in our climb, we depend and lean on our jobs so much only to realize that when we get to the end of the ladder, we are confronted with a wall. Yep, the good ol' wall that tells us that that is as far as we are going to let you climb. The wall blocks us from getting to where we want to be in life.

Ultimately, what we all want is control of our lives. So we must start taking control of it. Do YOU continue to climb the ladder, or are YOU prepared to scale the wall? 

In the mean time, I plan on "rock climbing" my way to success. The only scary part would be looking down. YIKES!

God Bless and many success on your journeys.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Play to Win

I remember watching football games growing up, only to see teams lose a game because they decided to play it safe and go into "prevent defense" mode. It was funny hearing the announcers say, the only thing that "prevent defense" does is prevent you from winning. I never understood that comment because as an avid video game player (when I was younger), I would always choose the "prevent defense" mode and most of the time it worked. But as I had gotten older, it all began to make sense. What prevent defense does is it only prevents the big, deep pass, but it leaves the middle susceptible to exploitation. Eventually, all you have to do was to keep marching up the field until you were in striking distance. I learned that defense wins games but being on the defensive doesn't.

When I am defensive on the baseball field, the odds of success are not in my favor. Imagine being up at the plate, and you are swinging the bat trying not to strike out. What eventually happens is that you strike out, because of the old saying that trying not to do something surely ensures that you will end up doing it. But when you are in attack mode, you are taking the game in your hands and are putting the pressure on the opposition. That is called playing to win. You can do a lot more when you are charging forward versus when you are on your heels backing up.

In sports they teach us to play to win, instead of playing not to lose. And in life, we must take the same approach. I remember my first year in college (Loyola Marymount) wondering why our baseball team never took risks - we rarely stole bases, and we played the game one base at a time. We didn't win a lot of games because we didn't put a lot of pressure on the other teams. We made them feel comfortable. Basically, we brought them their ice cold glasses of lemonade and let them rest their feet up on the foot stool. That's no way to win games.

Simply put, if we do not play to win in life, we won't win. It is difficult to be successful when we are backing up and too often we are being defensive with our own lives. In many cases we are not living; we are just getting by. It is not enough to just be in the game, but instead to be competitive.

Take control of the game. Take control of your life. PLAY TO WIN
Share your thoughts

Friday, March 14, 2014

Let's Get Our Children Believing in Themselves

For the past few days, I have been volunteering at the Boys and Girls club near my home to help the students prepare for their oratorical contest. I assisted last year, as well, and was very proud to see these boys and girls get in front of their parents and fellow B&G members and staff to recite their speeches.

As excited as I was to help again  this year, I left yesterday's session disturbed. When one of the young ladies who spoke last year walked in to the room, I inquired as to why she decided not to speak this year. She shrugged her shoulders. Then I told her that the first place prize this year went up to $250. Her reply was, "I'm not going to win anyway because S always win." Now S (abbreviated for the young man's real name) has won the contest the last two years, and he is talented but the reason why he was winning, I believe, was due more to win by default. The other students were conceding the victory.

Then, I mentioned that the reason that he is winning is because they are letting him win. He is not practicing or taking it seriously, but is still expecting to walk away with easy money. I reminded her of the word that she chose to speak on last year- BELIEVE - and that she had to believe in herself. And she just smiled and walked away. I then realized that I couldn't spend my time convincing someone to believe in themselves when there were other students to attend to who wanted to compete.

But even in her absence it still bothered me. I was not bothered by her alone, but by the aggregate of children who are walking around this earth everyday not believing in themselves. How can we believe in a better future if our children are not believing in themselves? I've visited many schools and talked to lots of organizations, and each time I discover this same mindset, and I wonder where is it coming from. Is it coming from home? Is it coming from the schools? I it coming from their surroundings or is it just something that is inwardly in them?

Self-confidence is a tricky thing in anyone's life, especially, when you are pitted against someone that may appear to have more talent. Honestly, when I was a  child I had my doubts and sometimes I recognized that a loss or failure was inevitable; but I still tried. When the odds were stacked against me, I want to prove the odds wrong. Even when my support system seemed shaky, I would pick myself up. But I do admit that it wasn't easy. It was difficult to keep pushing instead of giving up, and I only hope to see our children continuing to push when things seem bleak.

So, here is the call to action!!!!
  • Continue to encourage our children and instill in them that they are great beyond measure regardless if they may have failed
  • Teach our children not to concede victory when in the midst of defeat
  • Remind our children that we support them throughout their journeys, and continue to be involved and active in their lives
  • Remind them that pain is only temporary
  • STOP comparing them to other people and more importantly STOP putting them down
  • Be an example for them to look to
God Bless

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Are we products of our environment or products of other people expectations?

   I decided not to respond directly to his latest protest of his innocence. Instead, I asked a question: "Do you think we're all just products of our environments?" His smile dissolved into a smirk, with the left side of his face resting at ease.
   "I think so, or maybe products of our expectations."
   "Others' expectations of us or our expectations for ourselves?"
   "I mean others' expectations that you take on as your own."
   I realized then how difficult it is to separate the two. The expectations that others place on us form our expectations of ourselves.

   "We all do what others expect of us," Wes said. "If they expect us to graduate, we will graduate. If they expect us to get a job, we will get a job. If they expect us to go to jail, then that's where we will end up too. At some point you lose control."
   I sympathized with him, but I recoiled from his ability to shed responsibility seamlessly and drape it at the feet of others.

   "True, but it's easy to lose control when you were never looking for it in the first place."

   An hour later, our time was up, and he was escorted out as quickly as he entered. I sat in the room alone, collecting my thoughts. I had more questions than I came in with.

-excerpt from The Other Wes Moore

So are we products of environments or of other people's expectations? The better question that begs to be asked is at what point does the responsibility become our own?

It is evident to some extent that we take on the ideal life that others have for us. I've heard so many times, "Make sure you finish up and get your degree, because no one can take that away from you." It had me thinking, is this really something that I am doing for myself. I mean really, is the life I'm living my own, or am I just a vessel that people vicariously live, dream and draw their fantasies through.

But then we have our environment. Are we products of that? Instead, shouldn't our environment be products of what we make of it and not the other way around. Sadly, enough our communities whispers in our ear the commands of destruction that leads us down the road of hopelessness and despair. It leads us to the cemeteries and jails.

Here is my take. Are we a product of our environment? Possibly. But more so we are a victim of our circumstances. But then again, we are not all victims either, because there is really no rule that says that to be a product of your environment has to be negative. Instead, we are products of our actions.

The same rings true with expectations. Whether good or bad, we become subject to expectations placed on us. But again, we are not just a product of our expectations; instead, we are the result of what we do in the wake of these expectations.

Recently, I had a conversation with my cousin who said he wanted to go to the army because he wasn't smart enough for college. He didn't  say he didn't "want" to go to college due to his wants, but because he felt he was inadequate. So, this brings about the bigger problem. Many of us are the products of our own expectations and our own environments that swirls around in our heads and we stop believing.

Eventually, it comes down to do we believe in ourselves? Do we want to fight? Are we going to succumb? As mentioned in Gladwell's David and Goliath is being the underdog really a disadvantage? Coming from a place where we have to fight to get out may be our best weapon; it just might help us reach those great expectations.

God Bless

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Newfound Family

One of my favorite songs is "Family Reunion" by the O' Jays. "If grandpa was here, I know he'd be smiling from ear to ear...". This holiday season I was reminded of the importance of family as I had the opportunity of meeting some of my relatives for the first time in Vicksburg, Mississippi. When my grandparents moved to California from Mississippi, a lot was left behind. I realized that my family in Los Angeles was disconnected from cousins, uncles and aunts from Mississippi, and they do not know who most of their first cousins are, let alone the family history.

When I went Mississippi I was embraced as if they'd known me all of my life. It was a warm feeling. I learned a lot about my grandfather who passed when I was just a baby. But more interestingly, I was able to take a look at our family tree and saw how extensive it was. I saw pictures of my great-great grandfather who was white and was told of my great-great grandmother who was Indian. Their son, my great grand father, married my great grandmother who was black, and along came my grandfather.

What shocked me was that my grandfather's slot on the family tree wasn't marked yet (which highlighted the disconnect) and I was able to provide that information to be filled in. I've met several members of my family throughout the country and I feel like a piece of me is being added back.

But the main thing that I appreciated was the conversations and the stories. That is one thing that the genealogy sites can't provide - the accounts and experiences of my family growing up. I encourage everyone to just talk to your family members. Learn their stories, embrace their experiences and ask questions.

On both sides of the family, I have been able to discover some richness in my family lineage and I am on a quest to learn more.

Talk to your Grandparents, spend time with great aunts and uncles and ask questions. Take it as an opportunity to learn before it is too late.