Taking a Loss

Yesterday, a divided nation decided that it would, in part, continue to go down a path that leads toward its demise. But, just because you’re going down the wrong path doesn’t mean you can’t pause, reflect, and commit to bettering yourself.

It’s time for us to demand more of our leaders. As I continue to prepare myself for elevated levels of leadership by taking on more roles and remaining a lifelong learner, I am adding more best practices to my arsenal. Today, as I was reading some of John Maxwell’s work, I was reminded that “(l)eaders lose the right to be selfish.”

We have to start holding our leaders, elected and otherwise, to a higher standard. Sometimes that means turning down campaign dollars from sources that lack integrity. Other times, it means foregoing a raise or rejecting a bonus so your support staff maintains its morale. Paying bills and engaging in self-care are not selfish. Shoot, even getting a bonus when everyone’s doing well is ok. But when, as a leader, you look out for yourself at the expense of those around you, you’re doing damage to the culture and community you’re suppose to be protecting.

Think of it like this: As a leader, if you do something selfish and stupid that jeopardizes your community’s reputation, you’re not only risking your job but also the jobs of everyone that supports you. Let’s look at all the companies that have gone down the drain because of poor leadership. The leaders were not the only ones affected. Their employees weren’t only affected. The employees’ families were affected. The generations that follow that employee are affected. Our decisions, as leaders, will have everlasting impacts on the world.

Yesterday’s election results, though some positive change took place, disappointed me on a large scale. The battle may be a wash but the war is far from over. Over the next two years (and long after that), let us, as follower-leaders, pledge to change the culture across political, economic, and social arenas. We have to get to a point where we can disagree without being mean-spirited and that starts with requiring our leaders to model that. We influence them by demanding more of them so that they can influence us. It’s a simple cycle.

 

Make selfless leadership a requirement.

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Redefining Normal

“Consistency is as important as quality.” — Unknown

Normalcy is a figment of your imagination. Well, maybe not your imagination right now but it can be. Right now, society tells us what is and isn’t normal. The narrative has, as of late, been that life should be easy and carefree. We should all be living the lavish pseudocelebrity life because we deserve it. And I’m not saying that you can’t work your way to the point that you deserve it but everyone is not deserving of it. And, what happens when people get things that they didn’t work for? Generally, they misuse them and/or lose them.

So, today, I challenge you to train your mind to redefine normal. Train your mind to know that the “new” normal way to get to success is to sacrifice and to grind when it’s least comfortable. The perfect example was this morning, when, for the first time ever, I had to get up at 5:00AM, get dressed, and drive 13 minutes away to get to my new gym. But, that’s not the kicker: It was 11°F and it was my first real leg day in months. Now, for my readers who live in other parts of the world where that’s average for winter months, I know that’s no biggie to you but, for those of us in North Carolina, we don’t really experience that often. I would’ve much rather gone back to my bed and acted like I didn’t hear the alarm. But, today, I redefined my normal. I said “This is what has to be done to get the results I want. Laying in bed and redeveloping a six pack only happens on television.”

Get up today and do what you have to do in order to succeed ethically. It’s not going to be given to you and your first swing may not be a home run but, if you keep chipping away at the raw stone, eventually, you will have created a masterpiece.

 

Make professional development a priority.

(INSERT YOUR CITY) Tea Party

As I attempt to flush out my feelings, I do so openly for (hopefully) the world to see.

Being a black toddler, boy, teen, or man in America is (and always has been) to overcompensate. We’ve always been required to look as if we are as strong as our skin is. I recall talking to one of the charter members of my chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha on the night that my father passed. I, as the oldest, felt like I had to handle everything “like a man” at that time. Joe told me to be in the moment and to experience it and to allow my emotions to run freely. I couldn’t. I was stoic. I had to be strong for my mom and younger sister and brother. It is what I knew. That was Halloween. I didn’t truly cry until the following New Year’s Eve.

Six years have passed. Now, I am brought to tears much more frequently than I would like to admit, but for good reason. At 2:50 this morning, I saw the dash cam footage of the shooting of Philando Castille. I didn’t believe the brother could have been justly shot but maybe the jury saw something, anything, that justified the shooting of a man in front of his daughter (I actually wish these cops would have a legitimate reason so that I could have some hope). Nope. All I saw was a more painful display than that of the Facebook Live footage; a display that involved two armed officers, a black man who was doing everything in his power to comply with the law while speaking calmly in a situation where he was truly the one who should’ve been fearful and ready to unload seven shots into the chest of his murderer, and, most the troublesome part, a little girl who ran from the car her daddy lay mortally wounded in. While composing this, Microsoft said that I should revise the sentence because it is long but all of this happened within a short amount of time. This is appropriately one extended sentence.

I see these things, after hearing of acquittals, and I must go back to interacting in a system that doesn’t only devalue my life but one that profits from my pain. This happens regularly, be it with an immediate consequence like the lynching of Jeremy Jackson or the hundreds of microaggressions I experience each week from America and Americans. Whether we’re focusing on the food deserts in black communities, which kill us from the inside out, or those politicians who fight to uphold mandatory minimum sentencing, which keeps slavery alive and well, I challenge the school of thought that says it’s better now for black people. No form of oppression is better, it’s just different. Actually, think about it: back in the day, if I wanted to avoid seeing a body swinging from the tree, I’d just avoid that path to work. Now, I am forced to see the image of Mike Brown’s body lying in the street for hours over and over again thanks to the mainstream media.

If that isn’t enough for your mental state of mind, we face a representation of our oppressor every day, unless we work/live in a vacuum of blackness. White people, even those on the right side, sad to say, you are a beneficiary of the system that keeps black people in caskets or chains. It’s like me and meat: I hate the mass production of meat and how inhumanely it is done, but do I hate it enough to really go vegan? Not at this point. But I’m working toward it. Day by day, I’m giving up some of my human privilege. What is white America doing to give up white privilege? Are you becoming more and more knowledgeable on what laws that don’t affect you are being passed? Are you asking, when you buy that swanky new downtown apartment, who used to live in this community and did they choose to move? Are you questioning why your tax dollars aren’t reaching the underperforming schools, where they’re needed the most? And not only asking these questions but are you challenging your friends to do the same? No, because, just like me ordering a Five Guys burger is easier than going finding a vegan recipe on www.ICanYouCanVegan.com, making the choice to remain ignorant is effortless.

The cows don’t have to knowingly see me every day and know that I am a part of their system of oppression. They don’t know that I ate their cousin while they’re producing my milk. The chickens don’t know that I’m eating their eggs, which they hatched in hopes of giving life. Imagine how angry and/or depressed that cow and chicken would be, knowing that they can take no action against me, as a beneficiary of the system that profits from their pain and death.

But black people are not animals. We are human beings who are aware. Many of us are angry. Some of us are depressed. I am certain that a considerable number are both. And, just as your beloved forefathers eventually stood toe to toe with their British countrymen, eventually, we too must stand against our American oppressors. We are delaying the inevitable but, the beauty of that word is that it can only be delayed. It cannot be stopped. War is not the answer but America doesn’t want to change so the change must be forced. And I’m not necessarily advocating violence because it is not the only option, but it is the final one. I think that there are more effective ways to hurt America. Discipline displayed through strikes, boycotts, and black ownership will accomplish more than our bullets ever will.

Please prove me wrong. I want you to change. Because right now, in interest of my own people, I only see a few options and I’d rather die standing on my own two feet protecting my own than to bleed out in the seat of my car and traumatizing my daughter or to put money into the system that allows it.

And, for those who say you can’t oppose America and be a “good Christian” (because supporting slavery was such a Christ-like thing for the American people to do), I’m going to pray while I withhold my dollars, defend my family, or openly challenge the government. James 2:14-26.

 

Make rebellion a reality.

The Order of Things

Though we live in an increasingly egalitarian society in which, more often than not, we feel as if we can do as we please, we shouldn’t always do that.  There are rules and hierarchies that govern the ways we interact within our given societies.  This allows us to maintain order and civility (and it separates us from the beasts of the animal kingdom).  In order to go over all rules and guidelines, I would need to be writing a book.  But I can give a few tips that will help you in settings, be they professional or social in nature.

Dress
Tempting (and possibly easy) as it may be, you don’t ever want to out-dress your host. This is especially true for weddings and job interviews. At weddings, it takes the focus off the betrothed couple. As narcissistic as we may have become as a society, this is a time that should not be made about you.  A selfie or two is cool but don’t over do it.  Look nice and be stylish but tone it down some.  And, as far as interviews go, you can dress well. I actually encourage it. But if you’re applying for a cashier job at Rooms to Go, arriving in a $900 Hugo Boss suit will likely be intimidating to the supervisor and won’t get you the job.  I learned this the hard way.  Know the company culture prior to the interview and dress well for that office’s setting but, once again, don’t over do it.

Dining
We are humans and humans are animals. Therefore, eating comes natural to us. But guess what? Because we are humans, we have enough sense not to just follow our instincts at all times. Formal dining is one of those times when we should not follow our instincts. When there are multiple forks set in front of you, you work from the outside in. And if there is a fork above your plate, away from the others, it is for your dessert. You do not begin eating until everyone at your table has been served unless the one person (or couple) who is waiting for their food says “Go ahead and start without me.” And, if you are that one person who has not yet been served, it would be most considerate of you to let your fellow diners know they can begin eating so their food doesn’t get cold.

Correspondence
In a day and age when everything is done electronically, saying thank you has become all too simple. But it shouldn’t be. Just as someone put money, effort, and/or thought into giving you a helping hand, you should put some of each into letting him/her know you appreciate their assistance. My suggestion is to purchase a stack of thank you cards that speak to your personality (or, if you want to be really fancy, you can have some personalized cards made). In addition, as opposed to shooting someone a text message after hearing about the loss of a loved one, take the time out to call or write a hand written note. It does make a difference.   And please learn to write in proper English.  Mistakes happen but it’s evident when you don’t know how to use a word properly or construct a well-written sentence.  Elements of Style by Strunk and White is a great resource if you have any questions about proper grammar.  You can find it (and a lot of other books) online by searching for it followed by PDF.

Wedding Gifts
My website stats tell me that most of my readers are between the ages of 19 and 35 years of age. That means that many of you are getting married or have friends who are getting married. Now, if you’ve never looked at how much a wedding costs, let me tell you that they are far from cheap. And the reception can be the most expensive part of it depending on how many people are invited. Of course you were invited to the wedding because the couple wants you to share in the day w/ them and not for your gift. But, if you can afford it, I would strongly suggest making sure that your gift’s value equals whatever is spent on an average plate at a wedding (multiplied of course by the number of guests you are bringing). It’s as simple as searching the internet for “Average cost of a wedding in year ___,” and looking at the itemized breakdown. Usually, it falls between $40 and $75. I prefer to be more liberal and either purchase a nice gift or write a check that is at least $60 per plate just because I know that a young couple would love to have the extra funds to start their life together with.

Tattoos
Big secret: I have a tattoo. I have “ATTITUD3 1919-2007” in small print tattooed over my heart in memory of my great-grandmother who passed away. And you’ll never see it unless I’m at the beach or playing basketball during the summer. Sadly too many people think that they can go as high as they want in the corporate world just because they are competent. Well, let me be the one to tell you that, though it can be done, it’s much harder to do with a pair of lips on your neck or dove on your hand. And let’s not discuss those with heavily tattooed faces. I am all for self-expression but it is my job to let you know that there will be people who judge you based on the markings you decide to put on your body. How about making it harder for them to judge you based on what they see, ultimately allowing them to base their decisions on what it is you know and can accomplish?

Though you may know much of this, I’m certain you know someone who doesn’t. And for that person, I would recommend you get them a great birthday/holiday/just because gift of any of John Bridges’ books on being a gentleman, starting off with How to Be A Gentleman: A Contemporary Guide to Common Courtesy or As a Lady Would Say Revised & Updated by Sheryl Shade. Shoot, or pick it up yourself. I have a copy and I reference it whenever I need a reminder. I actually ready it in its entirety during my flight from Los Angeles this past week. And one of the tips came in handy yesterday at a wedding I had been invited to. If you have any other general questions, feel free to send me an email at DanielsDailyReader@gmail.com. I will respond within 48 business hours and if I don’t know the answer, it will turn into a learning experience for the both of us.

The Wall

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Moral compromise.  Internal conflict.  Selling your soul.

Each of the above have “wrong” written all over them.  And each of them are things we’ve all done.  Everyone reading this post and not reading it has moved the line that represents how far they will go and, more often than not, we move it in the wrong direction.  We’re human.  It happens.  But, as that line continues to move backward, as we mature, we must move our wall forward.  What wall?  The wall that even that line cannot cross.  We must build an impenetrable wall that will keep us from doing certain things in all aspects of our lives, professional, spiritual, physical, and personal.

But that is just the beginning.  So you decide that you will not do certain things past that wall, but then what?  Then do you just sweep it under the rug and continue to live as if there is no issue to be addressed?  No.  At that point, it is up to you, me, or whomever to take action.  If you truly believe in your moral code, you should have no problem explaining to others why wrong is wrong, either through your actions or your words.  For example, if at work you’re asked to do something unethical, don’t just say no and wait for the next person who is asked to say yes.  Speak to someone in power about what is going on.  Or if you’re at lunch and some of your friends are talking about the overweight person across the dining room, don’t just not laugh.  Say, “Hey, she might be a really good person.  Shoot, we’re not perfect either.”  As much as I love the Kendrick Lamar song (especially the remix with Jay {no hyphen} Z), in this instance, it is perfectly alright to kill their vibe.  We have to recreate a moral society with a fabric that speaks to values of love, respect, and discipline.  This lack of integrity is nothing but laziness and it spills over into every aspect of American life.  Changing it starts with you.  Force people at your office to reexamine why they have allowed their lines to be pushed back more times than the ball in a pee wee football game.  Force your friends to find something more significant to talk about than someone’s hairline. We have to create walls that will serve as catalysts for doing good.  If we do, eventually our walls will be in line with our line and, both as individuals and as a society, we will be happier, more accomplished, and in better physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, and financial states.

Start building.

#TrendingThursday Week 47

As I prepare for an extended weekend of motivating young people, family, brotherhood, spirits, celebrations, and Mothers’ Day, I wanted to go ahead and share some good readings with you all.  I hope your weekend is as great as I anticipate mine will be.  Peace and love.

Just Care

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This post is not about Newtown.  It is not about prayer.  It is, however, about the inherent good in human beings.  We have to let that good shine more frequently.  Many people have quasi selfish reasons behind the good that they do.  And that’s not a bad thing.  For instance, the main reason I do good things is so that my family has a better world to live in.  Of course I don’t wish ill on anyone else, but my family’s well-being is my primary concern.  However, when you see evil that goes on in the world (like the massacre of children and school staff) you have to ask yourself “Is there anything that could have been done to prevent this?”  The answer is, “Maybe.”  We will never know.  I was always told that you can neither prove nor disprove a negative.  In other words, you will never know what would have happened had something not happened.  But what you can do is lessen the chances of that negative happening again.

“How do I do that?”

That, friends, is the easy part.  You smile.  You open doors.  You say good morning.  You stop being as cold and self-absorbed as society tells us to be.  Be loving.  And not just to your family members and friends, but to strangers as well.  Random acts of kindness go a long way.  Just last night after leaving work, I was standing a the light rail station in a thin sweater and it was pretty chilly but, being that it was warm when I left that morning, I had forgotten to bring a coat.  An older white man who was waiting on the light rail in his car saw me, said God told him  to offer me his coat, and he did it.  I, on the other hand, refused the warmth but then backtracked, accepted, and the man got back in his car.  On the light rail, we sat on the same row and discussed our walks with God.  That kind of kindness is in everyone, regardless of religous or ethnic background, gender, socioeconomic status, or any other demographic catagory we  can formulate.  The media tells us to be wary of good people.  And I won’t say be gullible but I will say that most people, if they truly think about  do good because they want to build a better world for the generations to come.  Be one of those people and eight times out of ten it will rub off on the people whose lights might not shine as bright.