Be Mindful of Your Energy and Choose to Change It

We all have challenging days. It happens. But be mindful of them and try not to put negative energy out to the world.

Yesterday, my morning was filled with the homelessness that has come to characterize Durham’s downtown. Over the hour that preceded my 9:45 haircut appointment, I came in direct contact with four brothers who looked like me in need of financial assistance. It was an exhausting start to what would turn into a less-than-productive Monday. Toward the end of my work day, I began typing out a blog post that, though relevant, didn’t come from a helpful place. So, I saved it in the drafts as opposed to putting those vibes into the world.

I knew what I needed. First, I needed to read Galatians 6:9. Secondly, I needed my favorite meal. Aware that I had a bottle of wine and a quality grass-fed organic steak sitting in the fridge, I decided to stop at the grocery store on the way home to pick up a potato and some green beans. That night, I did no work and I hit reset.

Today, as I sit on the patio of this market, I am hopeful. I believe that the people in need I saw yesterday will have a better tomorrow. I am convinced that the direction of America will adjust for the better, if not immediately, at the right time. I know that, tough as life may be, we were all put here to help someone else in some way. All of these things were realized because I made a decision to do what I needed to do so that I could be happier. You know what it takes to make yourself smile, so do it. If you are capable of reading this post, you are capable of making yourself smile. I believe that.

 

Make rediscovering hope a priority.

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One Success > Many Failures

“I have failed more times than I have succeeded but my successes outweigh my failures because I didn’t give up. Count it all joy.” — Deryle A. Daniels, Jr.

Sometimes we get down on ourselves because we see (and feel) our failures much more strongly than our successes. And we count our failures more than we celebrate our successes. Seriously, do you celebrate every e-mail response you get from a potential client or only those e-mails that notify you of a payment being made? Do you jump for joy with every passing day that you keep a job or only when you get a new one? But we sulk every time someone responds saying that they decided to go with another candidate for a position we interviewed for. We feel that much more. But we don’t have to.

Let’s start celebrating our small victories. Enjoy the moments that aren’t usually enjoyed. They matter too. And, let’s be honest, isn’t that one exceptional victory, like getting the right job or finding your life partner, worth all the minute losses, like getting passed up for the wrong jobs or dating all those incompatible people?

 

Make counting your victories a priority.

Do More Than Pray

I’m a believer in prayer. Lord knows I am. But it’s cold outside. Real cold. There are people who are hungry, have no shelter, and are poorly clothed. If you have a coat or jacket that you don’t wear, I challenge you to take it out with you tomorrow and give it to someone. But don’t just give it meaninglessly. Ask them their name. Find out who they are and where they’re from. Maybe buy them a meal. And not a $0.99 cheeseburger (unless that’s what you can afford). Get them something you would eat. Actually, sit and share that meal with them. Remind them that that they are human and that you do see them, no matter how many people may have walked or driven by them that day without even acknowledging their humanity. Never forget that you could be that person one day. I hope you’re not, but go a couple months without a check and, at the same time, lose your support system. It can happen easier than you think.

Let’s not be so busy that all we have time to do is pray. Prayer works. Prayer plus action works faster.

 

Make doing something a priority.

What is Service?

Yesterday was the day that America honors the life and sacrifices made by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., one of the world’s most impactful leaders. As opposed to being a day off, it is supposed to be a day of service. But that leads me to ask a question of us all: What are we doing to help humanity on a regular basis? Could you imagine what your relationship would be like if you only celebrated your significant other once or twice a year? How would you feel if your parents had only acknowledged you quarterly? They would just be meaningless displays from people looking to check off a box.

Just as people need to be loved every day, we should be doing something good for someone else on a daily basis. Maybe it’s letting the person at the stoplight know (s)he left the gas tank open. Maybe it’s stopping by your local co-op to grab a hot meal for the homeless person on the corner. Maybe it’s donating some money to keep Bennett College open. But we have to do something if we truly want to honor the legacy not only of Dr. King but the spirit of what America claims to be. And everyone shouldn’t know you did it. Just do it. If you are recognized for it, great. If you’re not, great. Either way, you did something beautiful for someone who can do nothing for you except pay it forward.

Oh, and, by the way, I found that cool graphic by following one of my favorite accounts on Instagram, The 9 to 5 Podcast. Check them out by clicking here.

 

Make embracing a spirit of service a priority.

Is It the Voice or the Volume? (Or Something Else)

Today, I have to ask you a critical question: Are you offended by my voice or my volume? This morning, I had a breakfast meeting with my friend, fraternity brother, and photography client Greg E. Hill. Now, I’ll admit it, Greg’s voice carries. So does mine. So do the voices of a lot of people when they’re discussing things that they are passionate about. Greg and I were talking about goals for 2019 and how we could work together to accomplish something bigger. Toward the end of our breakfast, an older white man stood up, and, as he walked by our table, said “I guess I’ll move to a quieter section.” It was obvious he said it with the intention of being heard by us because he glared at us after he said it. He proceeded to move to a table about 25 feet away, directly beside a fairly loud group of older white women who were laughing about whatever joyous stories they were sharing. Needless to say, he didn’t choose to relocate again.

My question to you is, whenever you choose to boldly stand and relocate, do you do it because of the voice or because of the volume? Do you find offense in the blackness of my voice? Keep this in mind as you move because, if it is the voice that offends you, maybe you should bite your tongue because, if it’s not coming from a place of love and it’s not constructive, you should likely keep it to yourself. But, if the issue is actually volume, which most people can adjust much more ethically than their voices, we’re all adults and it’s very easy to approach someone and say, “I’m trying to enjoy my coffee. Could you speak a bit more quietly?”

Then again, looking at the side of town we were on and the demographic make up of the restaurant, maybe the “Black Lives Matter” and “Stop Killing Us” patches on my jacket combined with G’s black-on-black attire and natural hairstyle was more problematic than anything we said at any volume.

 

Make taking an honest inventory of your motivation a priority.

Ethics Still Matter

As human beings, we’ve all made decisions that we are not proud of. It’s inevitable; We decided to operate in grey areas instead of moving into more black-and-white territory. To be candid, people have done that for millennia with hopes of getting “away” with it (though I believe you always pay for it in one way or another). The problem (or maybe the good thing) about today is that there is a record of everything and people are out here with the goal of putting the pieces together.

As I do my daily read of the headlines in the WSJ (until my $0.99/month trial period ends) and NYT, the same glaring story jumped out at me: WeWork’s CEO is double dipping. He allegedly bought buildings and then rented the space to his own company. Now, as smart as that may seem, in the era of such tight fiscal oversight, I’d strongly recommend checking with both an attorney and business ethics expert before making such a move.

Now, I’m sure a lot of people would say, “Well, when he started this, he probably didn’t know WeWork wold get this big so he didn’t think it’d be an issue.” And, to those people, I say “You’re probably right.” No one who is immensely successful ever knows that their ideas will take off like they do. But they hope. And that hope/faith/belief is what should drive your ethical behavior. When you begin your business, act as if everyone is already watching you. Act as if your name is on the front page of the New York Times. If you’ve made poor bookkeeping/ethical decisions in the past, nip them in the bud immediately and move forward with integrity. Because that is exactly what happened to WeWork. Don’t tell me you’ll have to learn the hard way, too.

Here’s a tip: If people tell you that you have enough money/power and you’re going the extra mile to get more, take a step back and look at how you’re trying to get more. Then ask yourself, “Would someone else see this as greed?” If the answer is yes, STOP!

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Make learning from the mistakes of others a priority.

It’s Not About Money

“It’s never ’bout the money ‘cuz I burn bread. It’s the principalities like Big Worm said” — Fabolous

Some people get so caught up with the dollars. I couldn’t care less about what my bank account said if I knew I lived in a nation that cared enough to make sure that I didn’t ever lose it all. I’ve been there and I can say that pursuing happiness can be pretty tough when you can’t pay your rent/mortgage, don’t have health insurance, and are working a job you hate just to make ends meet.

Bankruptcy and poor credit don’t only affect those whose names they are attached to, but also the people attached to those names. Families get evicted, children lose memories as a result of going from home to home, and those things that could’ve grown to mean the world to a person end up in a storage auction never to be seen again. Or, worse, uninsured people enter a hospital only to be told they will be helped only to a certain level and, after that, they’re on their own. What makes any one human more or less deserving than another to receive quality medical care, housing, or nourishment?

America, if you take anything at all from this blog, know that it’s not about the money. It’s never been about the money. Money just provides security. But what if (imagine this…) community provided security? What if we didn’t let our neighbors slip through the cracks? Or if we buy things to fill the voids we created by not giving our family time? What if we taught integrity before integers? We shouldn’t be privatizing education. Actually, we should be doing the opposite and equally distributing the resources that elite institutions (private and public alike) have.

If we want to make America great in the truest sense, we have to teach love and empathy. Yes, we have to take care of our own households but who will really want to kill us when we show them love? Proposing a truce (within reason) isn’t weak in the eyes of anyone who doesn’t subscribe to a toxic school of thought. I am a vocal proponent of self-defense but let’s have a little faith in God’s ability to put the humanity in mankind. And, in our everyday lives, let’s exhibit that humanity. We should not let anyone be homeless or hungry. Our children ought not learn untruths that the school system teaches. We can change this world together, one neighbor at a time.

And if you think me telling you to love your neighbor is too political, you probably don’t understand the denotation of the word “politics.” But there’s a wonderful book someone put together once that’ll explain that to you if need be.

 

Make money an avenue to improve the world as opposed to a goal in and of itself.