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.

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Influential Technology (Part 2): Dropbox Cloud Storage

I created this blog with the intent to share my thoughts on the various influential and motivational aspects of life. In addition, I often contribute my thoughts on various issues that inspire me to think introspectively and take decisive action. Technology is an aspect of life that influences me on a daily basis. In the Information Age, technology plays an integral role in our daily lives. While many may suggest that technology has made our lives easier, one could also argue that technology has complicated the way we live. Regardless of your perspective on the usefulness of technology, there are numerous benefits that can be gained from the proper integration and utilization of technology. In this series on influential technology, I will highlight various technology products and services that have influenced me in a positive way. Hopefully this discussion will positively influence how you view technology and inspire you to simplify the increasingly complex nature of life in the Information Age.


Dropbox Logo 3Dropbox Cloud Storage

I vividly recall the days when I carried around a box of floppy disks with all of my critical files stored on them.  At that time, I was a college student, and having quick access to data was essential.  Those 3.5 in. disks only provided about 1.44MB of storage, about the size of a 45 second iTunes music file.  Given the large number of essays, book reviews, lab reports, and other assignments I had to complete as a student, one could imagine the large number of disks required for file storage.  Did I also mention how unreliable those disks were?  On a frequent basis, my files would be mysteriously erased from the floppy disks, forcing me to keep duplicates of each disk in my stash.

By the time I finished college, those floppy disks no longer met my storage needs, and continued life as drink coasters.  A new era in file storage had arrived, and USB flash drives were the new craze.  Despite the high cost per GB, flash drives proved to be a more efficient and convenient method to store data.  My initial foray into the world of flash drives was through the purchase of a 256MB SanDisk drive.  At a cost of $65, one flash drive effectively negated the need for my box of floppy disks.  I was blown away by the fact that my new flash drive could store the same amount of data as 177 floppy disks.  Unbeknownst to me, the future of file storage was about to be revolutionized through the rapid growth of the Internet and related technologies.

In the time since I finished college, less than 10 years ago, the need for physical storage drives has been eliminated and replaced by cloud-based file storage. One of the companies leading the charge in cloud storage is Dropbox, a Silicon Valley firm started in 2007. Dropbox’s vision for the future is one where people no longer need physical disk drives to store files. By making data widely available on the Internet, users can access their files anywhere and anytime, using multiple devices.

I started using Dropbox about three years ago, and the technology has drastically changed the way I store files. The software is available online and on multiple operating systems, with apps available for computers and mobiles devices. The best feature of the software it its ability to sync data in real-time. By connecting my laptop to my Dropbox account, any files contained in my Dropbox folder are automatically updated when changes are made, as long as an Internet connection is available. If the computer is offline, Dropbox will update the file changes as soon as an Internet connection becomes available. I no longer have to worry about keeping up with the latest versions of my important files, as they are always updated and available to me on the cloud.

Dropbox also allows users to share folders with others, which is very useful when my classmates and I collaborate on assignments. Any updates made to a file by one user are automatically synced to the Dropbox accounts of other users with permission to access the shared folder. This feature saved they day when I was in Africa during the holiday season, and was working on a research paper with a classmate in Europe. My wife and I also use Dropbox to share any pictures we take of our son. The Dropbox app will automatically upload any pictures I take using my smartphone or tablet, allowing my wife to access them almost instantly.

Dropbox, similar to other cloud storage companies, offers free storage (2GB) when users create an account. Through referrals and other methods, users can gain up to 16GB of additional storage for free. For people like me that require larger amounts of storage, Dropbox offers paid accounts that increase the total amount of available storage space. If you’re looking for a way to remotely access and backup your valuable data, definitely explore what Dropbox has to offer. While some may have issues with cloud storage due to Internet security, Dropbox encrypts all of your data on their servers, and also provides dual-authentication access to their website. I can easily say that Dropbox is the technology that I’ve used most frequently, and has revolutionized the way in which I store and access my data. If you’re interested and want to create an account, use my referral link to get bonus storage for your account.

Dropbox (Free on multiple platforms), WebsiteFacebookTwitter

Dropbox Logo Large

Influential Technology (Part 1): Day One Journal App

I created this blog with the intent to share my thoughts on the various influential and motivational aspects of life. In addition, I often contribute my thoughts on various issues that inspire me to think introspectively and take decisive action. Technology is an aspect of life that influences me on a daily basis. In the Information Age, technology plays an integral role in our daily lives. While many may suggest that technology has made our lives easier, one could also argue that technology has complicated the way we live. Regardless of your perspective on the usefulness of technology, there are numerous benefits that can be gained from the proper integration and utilization of technology. In this series on influential technology, I will highlight various technology products and services that have influenced me in a positive way. Hopefully this discussion will positively influence how you view technology and inspire you to simplify the increasingly complex nature of life in the Information Age.
 

Day One App IconDay One Journal App

I began using the Day One app less than two months ago as a way to reap the benefits of writing more regularly in a journal. After failing to fully utilize the pen/paper approach to jotting down thoughts and ideas, I decided to look for alternatives. In the past, I typically wrote down thoughts and ideas on a folded sheet of paper that I would carry around in my pocket. The experience of losing and/or misplacing the sheet of paper led to me seek a dedicated journal. I shopped around and settled on the Moleskine brand of leather-bound journals primarily for aesthetic reasons, but also because they’re everywhere. One day, while perusing Brothatech’s blog, I came across the Moleskine Evernote Smart Notebook. Given my infatuation with the Evernote platform (which I will discuss in a separate post), I purchased the notebook for use as my dedicated journal. After a few months, I realized that I only used the Moleskine journal in situations where using a mobile device was not possible or advisable, or was distracting to others. Despite the beauty of my prized journal, my thoughts and ideas seldomly graced the journal’s pages.  Instead, I would capture notes with various apps on my laptop, smartphone and tablet.

While researching various journaling apps, I came across Day One , which just so happened to be free for a limited time. The Day One app is a beautifully, yet simplistically, designed app that offers essential journaling capabilities. The app provides basic text editing features and allows a single image to be attached to each journal entry. It is a multi-platform (iOS, MacOS) app that offers syncing functionality across multiple devices through Dropbox or iCloud. With the Day One Journal app, I have been able to write more regularly, using my laptop, smartphone and/or tablet. The app has the look/feel of common social media platforms and arranges each journal entry in a timeline view. It contains a notification feature that allows reminders to be sent to me when I’ve gone a certain period of time with creating a new journal entry. Also, using my smartphone’s dictation feature, I’m able to create new voice-to-text journal entries on the go. The app allows past journal entries to be edited, which is useful when the voice recognition software misinterprets my words.

If you want to get into the habit of writing more regularly and have not had success with the traditional pen/paper approach, consider the Day One Journal app as a useful tool to help encourage writing on a more frequent basis. There are other apps that offer features similar to Day One Journal, however, I wanted an app that was solely dedicated to journaling. The last thing I need is to be distracted when writing. For those who are wondering about the usefulness of a journaling app, as opposed to using a basic text editor, keep in mind that I said the same thing about tablets before purchasing one.

The realization of my preference for jotting down thoughts and ideas on my mobile devices was initially shocking. In the past, I took pride in using pen/paper to capture the fruits of my brainstorming sessions. Now, with the proliferation of technology products, the ways in which I accomplish various tasks have drastically changed, leading to an increased dependence on these products. Thankfully, software developers have been busy at work trying to fully utilize the potential of technology to make our lives easier, and the team at Bloom has designed a very effective journaling app that serves as a worthy replacement for my Moleskine notebook.  Technology wins again!

Day One Journal (iOS, $4.99; MacOS, $9.99), Website, Facebook, TwitterDay One App Icon 2

The Puzzle Pieces of Life

Puzzle piecesOne day, while pondering my life experiences, the proverbial light bulb when off. I realized that my various experiences were merely pieces of a puzzle. When I was a child, I took great pride in my ability to solve complex puzzles. I would dump all of the pieces on the table and attempt to create piles full of related pieces. Even with the puzzle pieces scattered across the table, I was still able to visually link them together. Applying my puzzle-solving logic to life allowed me to realize that my various experiences represented scattered puzzle pieces that fit somewhere in the bigger picture of my life’s journey.

We are often bewildered by the various events that take place during our life. Some events are joyous occasions, while others remind us of the worst aspects of life. Regardless, the experience we gain from dealing with various events can be simply viewed as another puzzle piece added to the picture of our life. Now that I am in my thirties, I’ve come to understand how certain experiences in my past fit into the overall puzzle. Some of these experiences are cumulative to a degree, and serve to prepare us for something greater that we may not yet understand.

With this perspective in mind, as we go about our daily lives, we must seek to understand how each of our experiences fit into the collective picture of our lives. While that picture may never be fully complete, focusing on the linkages between the various experiences can aid in achieving a level of clarity. I truly believe that we all have a destiny to fulfill, and that the experiences we gain through life are intended to bring us closer to understanding our purpose. If we fail to fit the pieces of our life together, we may miss out on seeing the big picture. So, the next time you experience something amazing, or heartbreaking, take a moment to think about how that experience fits into the bigger picture. Try your best to understand what you are supposed to gain from that experience, and how it can be applied as you move forward in life. It is then that we can truly understand not only who we are, but what we are destined to become.

What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

Kids“What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?” This is a common question posed to youth across the globe. The popular career paths are always given as a response…doctor, lawyer, teacher, police officer, fire fighter, etc. At a young age, can children really answer this question? Many of use choose our career paths based on the influences in our lives. If there is a particular family member we admired along the way, then we tend to follow in their footsteps. Sometimes career choices are driven by the parent’s desire for their children to have a stable job and make a decent living. The career choices we make end up being a good fit for some and a not so good fit for others. To help ensure that youth pursue the optimal career paths, here are several things adults can do: 1) Determine the child’s interests, 2) Expose them to various things, 3) Understand their personality types and behavioral characteristics, 4) Know or find out what it takes to be successful in various careers, and 5) Ensure the child has the prerequisites to compete and achieve.

When I was a child, my parents noticed that I was very curious by nature. I wanted to know anything about everything and asked a million questions. For a parent, I’m sure a constantly inquisitive child could become very annoying. My mother, being formally trained as a social worker, had the brilliant idea of giving me various sources of information to digest. I remember this green box she ordered from some magazine. It was shaped like a lunch box and contained over 1000 different animal fact cards. Each card had a picture of an animal with the scientific name and other facts on the back. I would spend hours reading each fact card and even carried the green box to school to share with friends. Along the way the box became a distant memory, but at the time it was one of my prized possessions. A few years later my parents ordered a set of World Book encyclopedias for my siblings and me. I was astonished at the wealth of information contained in each book and was determined to read them cover to cover. I never achieved that goal but became a walking, talking knowledge bank in the process. What I didn’t realize as a child was that my parents were trying to understand what interested me. This would help guide them in the various things they would expose me to.

It has been often said that people are products of their environment. I’m sure somewhere science has proven this statement to be true. If you look across America, there are endless examples of this. Take the kid who grows up in the crime-ridden, drug-infested neighborhood and sees the criminal living a lavish lifestyle. In some cases the kid observes the criminal’s lifestyle and aspires to peddle drugs as well. What about the kid who observed their parents running a family-owned business as a child that grows up to become a successful entrepreneur? These stories are common across the country and further confirm the previously mentioned statement. It is known that for many, perception determines reality. In regards to youth, what they are exposed to helps them develop a vision of what they can become as adults. So when parents ask their children the question about who they want to become as adults, they must also consider what they are exposing their children to and how environmental factors will influence their child’s decision.

 

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.

Africa’s Growing Middle Class

This article is a repost from a past contribution I made on In The Black 2020. The story of Africa’s growing middle class is still relevant today, especially considering the unique challenges that have arisen. Let me know what you think.

Accra MallA recent article in The Guardian highlighted a study from the African Development Bank, titled The Middle of the Pyramid: Dynamics of the Middle Class in Africa. The results of the study led to the conclusion that one out of every three Africans can now be considered middle class. As a business researcher and scholar, I found the results of study particularly interesting. With these results in mind, I think we can now call the American Dream the (insert your favorite African nation here) Dream. I think its about time that Africa is recognized for something more than a continent of hopelessness and despair. No longer should Africa be the place where governments and individuals seek to give handouts for tax breaks. Despite the fact that the continent has a long journey ahead, there are examples of prosperity across the board. Recently, Economy Watch named the West-African nation of Ghana as the fastest growing economy on the planet for 2011, with half of the top 12 countries on list belonging from Africa. Maybe with this type of news, the global media will start focusing on the numerous positive attributes of the Motherland instead of the negative stereotypes that have been portrayed for generations. I also hope that the government leaders on the continent focus on sustaining the growth of the middle class, instead of squandering opportunities due to greed and arrogance. If they were smart, they would concentrate on growing their small business sectors, butI’ll save that for another blog post. For now, we’ll just have to see what the future holds. Until then, Africa and her people should enjoy the ride.

Back To Blogging: Live, Inspire, Enjoy

Blogging Logo 1After a three year hiatus, I’ve decided that now is the time to continue blogging on a regular basis. When I created this blog, I was in the midst of preparing for major life changes. My wife and I were on the verge of relocating from the West coast to the East coast, a journey that would require us to complete a cross-country drive in three days. Also, I was transitioning from a career as an engineer to becoming a full-time doctoral student. Probably the greatest aspect of my changing life at that time was the upcoming birth of our first child. Needless to say, things were got crazy. As I struggled to adjust to life away from sunny San Diego (given the beautiful weather there, you too would have withdrawals), juggling my duties as a new father and first-year PhD student essentially killed off any free time I had for blogging.

While looking back over the past three years, I can truly say that those life changes led to a rapid evolution of my perspective on life and the world we live in. Gone are the days where I once denounced the “corporate drone” lifestyle and only encouraged entrepreneurial free spirit. The unique blend of capitalism and socialism in our society does require that someone starts the businesses that employ the masses. But, at the end of the day, we’re all occupying space on the blue marble (planet Earth) while trying to make a living and enjoy ourselves at the same time. My focus has always been on making a difference in the lives of others. However, I now concentrate my efforts on finding the right balance to be able to live, inspire, and enjoy simultaneously. It is always easier said than done, but I’m keeping my eye on the prize.

With that said, through blogging, I plan to continue influencing the masses with my thoughts, feelings and opinions on a myriad of issues. Hopefully you’ll follow along, learn something, and contribute to the dialogue along the way. Barring any other major life changes, you can look forward to my contributions to this blog on a more regular basis. That’s all for now. Until next time, live, inspire and enjoy!