Children of Ghana

Child of Ghana

I can still see their faces, vividly clear in my mind. The bright, glowing smiles. The youthful energy and excitement. Their yearning for a better future. The children I’ve interacted with in the various rural villages of Ghana all exude the same positiveness and ambition. They want to be educated in what they know to be “good schools.” It appears that throughout their entire lives, they’ve been told that the schools they attend are subpar. They’ve heard stories of other kids who went to “good schools” and how the higher quality education led to markedly improved life outcomes. Yet the abject poverty that surrounds them relegates these children to realities far from their dreams.

The mindset of the youth in Ghana starkly contrasts what I’ve observed from American youth living in the poorest communities. These children are afforded opportunities to receive free education, typically including free transportation and in some cases subsidized or free meals. They are essentially “privileged” in comparison to youth in developing nations. Surprisingly, in my conversations with American youth, I’ve observed a lack focus on a vision for the future. I guess this could be considered a basic dilemma of the “haves” and “have nots.” Will things ever change? Only time will tell.

Dont Quit, Set Goals

GoalsI always find it amusing when I randomly come across pieces of paper on which I’ve jotted notes about future goals.  These random moments may not actually be all that random though.  They tend to occur at times when I’m confused about the direction my life is heading.  It’s during those times when I question every aspect of my existence.

However, when I read the note where I’ve written my goals, the picture becomes clear again.  As if a future version of my self (that has already achieved everything I intend to do) appears out of no where with my future already scripted out.  That person on paper seems so amazing to me, and I can’t wait to meet him.  I know this might sound crazy, but hey, I’m just being honest.

If there’s any lesson to take from my ramblings, it’s this.  During a rare moment of clarity, jot notes about what you want your future to be.   Then stick those notes in the most obscure places.  You’ll thank yourself later when you become frustrated with the path you’re on, and one of those notes pops up and reminds you of your purpose.  Stay focused, don’t quit, set goals.

Avoiding Shiny Object Syndrome: Staying Focused & Minimizing Distractions

Shiny Objects 1I’ve always known that my interests are vast and varied.  Sometimes I even amaze myself in terms of the diverse knowledge that I possess, and my ability to focus on many different things.  But what I’m now beginning to understand is the importance of being focused on fewer things.  Whenever I see something that catches my eye, I tend to jump in with both feed to learn more about it, or get engaged in some way.  However, if I continue this trend, it will prove to be problematic in the future.

Lately, I’ve been forcing myself to eliminate things from the forefront of my mind, and concentrate on the most important things in front of me.  Given my belief in divine intervention, I always look at situations and circumstances as purpose-driven occurrences.  Whether through a new network connection, or through the discovery of an interesting topic, I always feel that these occurrences happen for a reason.  In the past I viewed these occurrences as things I needed to pursue, for one reason or another.  As I’ve gotten older and taken on more responsibilities, I now consider these random occurrences as distractions.  I view their purpose as motivation to hone my ability to focus, essentially teaching me how to resist Shiny Object Syndrome (SOS).

Not to be confused with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), SOS is less of a cognitive disorder, and more of an innate inclination to get distracted by ideas.  I believe a link exists between SOS and the presence of an entrepreneurial mindset.  Entrepreneurs, from the Kirznerian perspective, are considered to be alert individuals that are always scanning their environment for potential opportunities.  Entrepreneurially-alert individuals are constantly evaluating environmental cues, in search of the next business opportunity, and can easily suffer from SOS.  However, you don’t have to be a business owner to have an entrepreneurial mindset, as this perspective can be applied to all aspects of life.  However, the fact that you do think entrepreneurially means that you may be likely to suffer from SOS.

I recently read an article on Addicted to Success that offered some useful tips for overcoming the effects of SOS.  While the article is focused specifically on business ownership, I believe these four tips can be applied by anyone fighting the “shiny object” urge.  Check out the tips below, and let me know what methods you implement to overcome SOS.

  • Step 1: Create a running list of all your ideas
  • Step 2: Pause before you start anything
  • Step 3: View your new ideas through the lens of your long-term goal(s)
  • Step 4: Don’t make crucial business decisions every day

*These tips were originally posted in Addicted for Success*

Long Live Mandela!

“There is no passion to be found in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” – Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela

These are a few thoughts I was inspired to write on the day Nelson Mandela died. 

December 5, 2013 – The universe lost one of it’s greatest citizens today. A man who dared to believe in something greater than himself; freedom and equality for all South Africans. Mandela serves as a beacon of hope for those of us that seek to make the world a better place. While not perfect, Mandela found a way to channel his energy toward dismantling the oppressive apartheid movement that held a tight grip on his homeland. He figured out how to fight evil with kindness, and turned his anger into a relentless drive to transform the nation. Many generations will reap the benefit of Mandela’s efforts, and his sacrifices bore the fruit of racial harmony. Although he did not act alone in promoting the anti-apartheid movement, Mandela has become the global symbol for the movement’s success. If we remember nothing else about this civil rights giant, we must never forget his lesson in what can be achieved by dreaming big and remaining steadfast in the pursuit to make our dreams a reality.

This Can’t Be Life

Jay-Z once said, “This can’t be life, there’s gotta be more…” I feel like that often, and at times, the thing we call life can seem overrated. We go through life and at the end of the day, we’ve rarely fully utilized our potential and talents to make the world a better place than it was when we arrived. Some may say, “who cares?” But if you share my ideology on life, then you also believe we were placed here for a purpose. No one knows exactly what our purpose is, but our creator spent his life spreading love, and helping those that needed help. He fed the hungry and healed the sick, amongst many other things. If we are to live in His image, then we must spend our lives doing the same…spreading love.

Time Vs. Money: Which Would You Choose?

Time is money

Time or money, which would you rather have an abundance of? Would you prefer to have an infinite amount of time, or an unlimited amount of money? Of course money can provide you with things you may not be able to purchase with time. However, time affords you longevity and the ability to have time to do the things necessary to earn money. Sometimes I wonder why we choose money over time, or vice versa. I do believe that we all want to be comfortable and also enjoy life’s various pleasures. To a degree, having money provides us with the comfort that we all desire. But just imagine what you could do with an infinite amount of time. I think that the lives we lead are a constant struggle between valuing time or money. While some days we prefer to have more time, other days we prefer to have more money.

Many of us that lack an abundance of money spend our time in pursuit of it, or lament over the fact that we don’t have enough. Those of us with an abundance of money spend time trying to accumulate more, while also enjoying the comforts afforded to those with money. A small minority of people are content with their financial status, and focus on using money to buy more time. For instance, money can allow you to get back the time you spend on various tasks by employing someone else to do it. For this reason, some may say that having more money can lead to more problems.

Regardless of the category you fall into, your value system dictates your views on the importance of money and time. In addition to values, your personal circumstances exert great influence on your perceptions of time and money. Having responsibilities (i.e. family or financial obligations) only serves to heighten the intensity of the battle between the importance of money or time. The individual with no responsibilities is free to choose what’s best in terms of pursuing more time or pursuing more money. On the other hand, the individual with many responsibilities has a tougher decision to make. For example, should the focus be placed on time, which can be used to spend with family? What about the spending time to make money as a means of supporting family? This dichotomy is one that we will always be faced with.

In my opinion, taking the idealist perspective is not very beneficial. Instead, we each must assess our current reality and decide where the emphasis should be placed. At the end of the day, we will face the inevitable. Our time will eventually expire, and the money we have accumulated will not depart with us. Personally, I have reached a point where a balance has been achieved in terms of utilizing time wisely, while also managing to earn money to support my family. If you’re still struggling with this issue, keep this thought in mind. Money can be created, but time can only be gained or lost. Our time clock starts ticking from the day of our birth. We have no way of knowing when our time will be up, but it will, and probably sooner than you think.

Wake Up! MLK’s Dream Is Now A Nightmare.

This article was originally posted on another website, In The Black 2020. I wrote it around the time of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial unveiling on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The effort (led by Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity) to erect a monument in Dr. King’s memory was driven by the desire to preserve his legacy and ideals. At the time, I believed the effort was a noble one. However, I also felt that “The Dream” as so eloquently depicted by Dr. King was a far cry from reality, especially in the Black community. Even today, I still hold fast to my beliefs about “The Dream.” But things can change through productive dialogue and collective action. Check it out and let me know what you think…..

MLK StatueOn April 3, 1968, a young, fiery Baptist preacher exclaimed, “I’ve been to the mountaintop!” At the time he was speaking to an audience in a crowded church about the struggles faced by the Black community. More specifically, his speech was highlighting the need for socioeconomic equality in response to the Memphis sanitation worker strike. His mention of the proverbial ‘mountaintop’ alluded to his vision of the future of Blacks in America, a future that he viewed as promising. A little more than forty years after that speech, the Black community seems to still suffer in ways that the young preacher could have never imagined.

It can be argued that since the abolishment of racial segregation, grand strides have been made in delivering socioeconomic equality and justice to minorities across America. This is made clearly evident by the recent election of the first US President with a direct hereditary link to the continent of Africa. The election of President Obama follows a numerous series of ‘firsts’ that Blacks have achieved in the post-segregation era. But despite the progress, the journey is far from complete and many battles are left to be fought.

If one were to take a macroscopic view of the Black community today, it would appear that the journey towards socioeconomic equality is complete. Blacks have been able to penetrate all aspects of American society, leading to the generation of a vast wealth, fame and fortune. They exist as leaders in elite academic institutions, multinational corporations, and all levels of federal government. In the entertainment industry, Blacks have single-handedly defined popular culture with their unique styles and sounds. The Black community’s greatest impact has been felt in the sports industry, where their presence and dominance have become commonplace amongst spectators.

Despite these numerous achievements, a microscopic view of the Black community would truthfully show how much regression has taken place since segregation was outlawed. The statistical data on education, imprisonment and unemployment paints a very bleak picture in relation to the Black community. Blacks maintain the largest percentage of those incarcerated in American prisons. With respect to education, Blacks maintain high dropout rates among students K-12 and are less likely to obtain additional education beyond a high school degree, when compared to Caucasian students. Black also occupy the highest levels of incarceration rates in America. Coupling these facts with the disproportionate rate of Black unemployment can lead to only one conclusion: We are nowhere near the mountaintop!

The young Baptist preacher, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was just memorialized on the National Mall in the nation’s capital. If he were alive today, not only would he be disappointed in the $120 million dollar effigy, he would also be distraught by the current state of the community he and others fought tirelessly for. His vision for the Black community, better known as “The Dream,” has not been realized and instead has become “The Nightmare.”

In order to fulfill “The Dream,” the Black community needs to take a serious look in the mirror. Gone are the days of depending on government to solve the problems facing Blacks. The answer to the community’s troubles can be found within the community itself. The community needs to lead the charge in reversing forty years of regression, and focus on transforming its current state. With the vast amount of wealth and power that the Black elite have in their possession, there is no reason why the community should be dying a very slow death. From politicians, to corporate executives, and even athletes and entertainers, Blacks have amassed billions of dollars since desegregation. If just a small percentage of those funds were reinvested back into the community, the effect would be profound. Hopefully I’ll live to see the day when “The Nightmare” is over and “The Dream” has been fulfilled.

Motivation for Life: A Brand New Car

At some point in life, we’ve all been in a place that we would prefer not to be in.  From being in unproductive relationships to working in undesirable places of employment, none of us are immune to bad circumstances.  Instead of removing ourselves from the situation, we typically complain about it, talk about what we plan to do next, and ultimately remain stuck in the same place.  After extreme frustration sets in, we usually decide to do something about it.

Whenever you’ve pulled yourself out of a difficult situation, it is important to remind yourself of what you’ve overcome.  It is also essential to remember exactly how you felt during that period of time.  If you don’t, you could easily wind up back in the same spot you fought so hard to get out of.  For example, 0n a random workday in my former career, I decided to document my thoughts and feelings.  I wanted to capture the moment so that I could revisit it later.  Now that I’m no longer in that situation, I definitely don’t want to go back, especially after re-reading my thoughts.  If you’re currently in a bad situation, I hope this motivates you to document your thoughts and use it as motivation in the future.

…….Today was one of those days.  One of those days when you wake and up and say to yourself, “what am I doing and why am I doing it?”  I am not short of things to motivate me in life.  In fact, I can think of numerous reasons to keep doing what I’m doing and not change a single thing.  But why?  Why should I settle for a life that is un-fulfilling, uninspiring, and any other appropriate adjective that that one can think of?  I shouldn’t.  No one should.  So why do we settle.  Is the pressure from society so immense that we willingly subject ourselves to situations that are clearly not meant for us?  In case you haven’t caught on yet, I’m referring to the fact that I really, really, really hate my job.  I hate my job so much that while at work, the only thing I can think of is how much I hate my job.  I used to be able to wear the mask and blend in with my fellow corporate drones.  But nowadays, it’s hard for me to even crack a smile and act interested in meetings and such.  Today someone passed by my cubicle and cracked a joke.  This sort of thing is common in the workplace and I usually respond with a slight chuckle.  Not because I found the joke funny, but just to acknowledge my fellow drone.  Well today, I didn’t respond in any way.  In fact, the lame joke only increased my level of frustration.  I wasn’t frustrated with the drone or his meager attempt at office chatter.  Instead I was frustrated that I’ve subjected myself to that type of thing for nearly four years.  Four years of fake smiling, extreme boredom, random office chatter, and anything else about life in a corporate setting is enough to drive someone crazy.  I think I’ve reached my breaking point and can only look forward to having a mental breakdown if I continue down this path.

I consider myself one of the fortunate ones because I have the option of actually leaving the workplace.  I didn’t make the mistake of tying myself and my wife down with a mortgage and fancy cars, and I don’t have any small mouths to feed.  Unfortunately for others, their situation doesn’t allow them to just walk away from that paycheck they get every two weeks.  Now imagine that.  Feeling the way I do about my job but having several anchors forcing you to keep your seat.  How about the numerous corporate drones that have been laid off during the economic recession?  Now if that doesn’t cause one to ‘go postal’ then I don’t know what else will.  You would think the fact that I have a ‘good-paying’ job in this climate would be reason enough for me to stay put.  But for some reason it’s more motivation for me to run for the hills.  Maybe one of those anchored-down former drone types who lost his job could benefit from mine.  Hmm…maybe not, because I wouldn’t wish what I’m going through on my worst enemy.

Whenever I talk about calling it quits and walking away from the corporate world, I’m always asked, “what will you do next?”  I immediately respond and say “not this!”  The reason I got into this situation in the first place is due to focusing too much on doing and not taking time to sit back and think.  Had I conducted the thinking exercise when I finished high school, I may have still ventured down the same career path since I wasn’t exposed to much else.  After getting through the first two years of engineering school and completing one corporate internship, the thinking exercise would have yielded very different results.  During the first two years of college I was enrolled in 20 or more courses, and I recall thoroughly enjoying only two of them.  My first corporate internship enabled me to earn a lot of money and a four-year academic scholarship, but it was the also one of the most boring summers in my life.  Amazingly I completed four more corporate internships and the level of boredom I experienced increased with each one.  I still can’t understand why after two years of being an engineering student I didn’t change to art or something else more interesting.  Maybe the scholarship I was awarded the summer before my freshman year had something to do with it.  Someone else was paying for it so I just toughed it out.  Had I been forced to work and pay my way through school, I’m certain I wouldn’t be a cubicle-dwelling drone right now.

Someone has to take responsibility for my current situation.  It sure wasn’t my idea.  How about I place the blame on my father.  Yeah, that sounds good.  Throughout my childhood he told me, “If you get a full scholarship to college, I’ll buy you a brand new car.”  He knew my love for cars would motivate me.  I wish I had a greater love for planes back then.  Dad couldn’t have bought me one of those……..