Recently I wrote a guest post for the blog of UK author, Siobhan Curham. Siobhan has a new book called Moonlight Dreamers and during an email conversation with her I expressed my hurt over recent events in America. Siobhan invited me to write on that subject and to share how difficult it has been for me to write content to inspire young adults, and encourage them to go after their dreams when their reality is such a nightmare. Below is the post I wrote for her blog:
We learned his name in childhood.
We heard his speech as teens.
As adults, we understand the magnitude of the dream.
The stated dreams of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were many. His most well known dream was that one day, his children would be able to live in a nation where they were judged by the content of their character, and not the color of their skin. That was 53 years ago. His dream, that the creed of all men being created equal would be the foundation on which justice stood, has yet to be realized. The reality of the black experience in America is this: Same Rights, Different Freedoms.
This has been a very tough few days as a writer, as a mentor, as a black American, and as a dreamer. It has been difficult to hold onto my ‘why’, and to write content that teaches and motivates young dreamers, when their reality is a nightmare. I’ve never been anything other than black, so it’s a posture I’m used to, but a weight that never abates. Waking up to new, old news comes with the emotion of fear, the thought of, what if someone I know is next, what if I’m next, and a physical pressure on my chest that makes taking a breath big enough to fill my lungs, feel impossible.
It’s hard to dream at times like these. Actually, it’s harder to be awake at times like these. This week I vacillated between thinking, what’s the use and this is why you must continue. For two days the former thought won me over as my hurt heart, confused mind, and the feeling of helplessness numbed me.
I have returned to feeling, I have brought my anger and fear under submission to rational thought and informed action, and in doing so, a new dream has surfaced.
My work is in service of the ambitious young adults who desire to live up to their potential and to put great work into the world.
Now more than ever, you, the dreamers, need me, and I you; we need each other.
I dream of a peaceful world.
I aspire to be part of the change I want to see in the world.
I long to see young adults grow up in a world where the fear that can arise when encountering someone different is overshadowed by a deep, resounding love for all mankind.
I promise to continue to write and work for you so that my dreams, your dreams, and those of Dr. King’s may be actualized.
“I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.” –Edward Everett Hale
What can you do?
Speak up; do not allow fear to silence you.
Speak out; use your platform, whether it’s big enough for just your two feet to stand on or expansive enough to hold up many. Do not shy away just because you think your doesn’t voice matter.
Take action; in the UK, US, and elsewhere, use the power you have as a citizen to advocate.
Engage with people you wouldn’t normally befriend. Do not cower from those with an opposing opinions; education can be obtained in the respectful debate.
The NBA players getting new contracts right now, they’re rich. The people signing their paychecks, they’re wealthy. But this isn’t about how to get rich, this is how to be rich.
The people you see on YouTube with lots of subscribers, and who are able to earn a great living by making videos, they began with non-money related intentions. They found something that filled a void, met a need, or that seemed fun and worth giving a try, and they kept at it.
When you create something because you love it, because you can’t not create it, you are both rich and wealthy. Just like video content creators who’ve been at it for years. They are rich in experience and have a wealth of knowledge, they’ve put in the time, they’ve created a system and consistently meet their goals. They found something that excited them and because they’re passionate about it, stay consistent, and share what they do, others now look forward to what they do.
It’s summertime (for most of you), and while you have every right to take 3 months off and relax, DON’T! Get up, eat some fruit, drink some water, and do something. Learn something new, go somewhere you can afford, make a new friend, start a business, the thing you see other people doing and are envious of or wish you could do, try it.
Start something. Do something. Make a difference. Matter. Don’t just exist.
Wealth is created. Riches accrue.
Ever been in the awkward position of being within earshot of an argument? Have you ever been hanging out with your friend and their boyfriend or girlfriend and a disagreement starts brewing; or even worse, everything’s fine and all of a sudden your parents start getting into it?
Since you can’t do what you’d love to, which is disappear into thin air, you do what’s second best, you stay out of it. You know better than to jump in or to offer your input or opinion. You do have an advantage though, because as the person not involved in the argument, you aren’t emotionally invested and therefore you listen objectively.
I’ve been in that position before, objectively listening to married friends argue, and among the thoughts that go through my mind are, Why are you yelling? Why are *you* mad? What I usually realize, that they’re too fired up to consider, is that they’re both saying the same thing, they’re just failing to effectively communicate their point in a way that the other can receive it in that moment.
One of my favorite books is Love & Respect by Emerson Eggers. The book is about how women place value on feeling loved while men tend to value being respected. When I hear an argument or find myself in a disagreement with someone, I think about whether the lack of communication and excess of frustration is because someone doesn’t feel heard and/or respected. If that isn’t the case, it’s usually a matter of tone.
You know how it is when someone, especially a parent, tells you something you probably need to hear but they say it in a smart mouthed, nasty, condescending, or belittling manner? It doesn’t matter if it’s the greatest advice ever, when it’s delivered ‘wrong’, it’s ineffective. Many times, good advice falls on deaf ears because it’s delivered with a sour tone.
Sweet Advice + Sour Tone = Deaf Ears
As you know, it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. If your goal is to help, inform, or correct, than speak when you are able to do so with a polite and respectful tone. If you’re too mad, aiming to hurt, or don’t quite have the desire to do so yet, then shut up.
The last post was an abridged version of a behavior cycle. We discussed how we first become triggered, then we act out our bad habit, and then we are rewarded. But this topic is one of those things I wish I would have known when I was younger, so I wanted to go into more detail about it in hopes that you’ll learn and recognize it about yourself earlier in life.
One Thursday my friend Vanessa had a rough day at work and because she was so busy, she didn’t eat lunch. She was stressed out about the situation, the rough day, and she was stressed out about not taking care of herself and eating. She started thinking about how much she resented her job and her boss for how much work she had and she had some negative thoughts about herself, including how dumb she was to not stop and eat. She started feeling dumb, sad, and disappointed in herself and she wanted to make herself feel better in the moment and for her, chocolate always made her feel better. (Even though she was trying to eater healthier and lose weight.) To make herself feel better in that moment, she planned to stop at the store on her way home for some. She set herself up for quick fix success by heading in the store’s direction, instead of heading toward home when she left work. While walking there, she convinced herself that she deserved some chocolate because of the day she had. She walked into the store and bought her chocolate and while walking home, she ate it. After the first bite she had an “ahhhh” moment of release and by the last bite she had promised herself that the next time she wouldn’t fall into the chocolate trap again. A week later she ended up doing the same thing again, and that time she felt even worse because she’d broken a promise to herself.
That’s the cycle, we go from triggered to promise to change in seconds and we repeat the bad behaviors we so baldy want to stop. For Vanessa, it’s chocolate, but for you it could be drugs, shopping, overeating, sex/pornography, stealing, lying, etc.
The way to stop repeating the bad behavior is to practice being aware and slowing your mind down. As soon as you feel triggered, acknowledge the negative thoughts, unpleasant emotions, and even the urge to want to use your go-to vice, and leave things there. Easier said than done, but it doesn’t take long to form a new, better habit. Once you become a pro at that, you can go deeper into the why.
I had a conversation with a friend today in which she shared that she was tired of things being the same in her life. She is frustrated that her life today looks the same way it did last year. Along with other small goals, her 3 main goals last summer were to save more money, to lose weight, and to move into a place of her own. This summer, none of those main goals have been met and while she has had a year of learning, of overcoming, and of growing as a person, her life ‘isn’t where she wants it to be’
You are what you repeatedly do.
So if what you repeatedly do is make excuses, give justifications, choose laziness, or take the convenient road or the comfortable path, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that your life doesn’t look the way you hope. Hope does not equate to action and only action, habits, good habits result in meeting your goals.
Our minds work in cycles, something sets us off, (the trigger) we respond with an action (the habit) and we benefit by doing so (the reward). In my friend’s case, she sees new shoes she loves (trigger) she tries them on (habit) and then she purchases them (reward). Or maybe she’s hungry (trigger), she heads to a drive-thru (habit), and she receives her meal within minutes (reward).
So how do you change your bad habits?
Set yourself up for success. If you’ve ever set a goal to accomplish something that takes time, isn’t always fun, and requires work, you know that preparation is key. If you want to lose weight and decide to start going to the gym you don’t wake up one day and just head there, you prepare. You find a gym, buy a membership, make sure you have workout clothes, and you put a firm start date and time in your mind to go, as well as know specifically what you’re going to do when you arrive. On start day you are prepared, you know that mornings will work best for your schedule so after you wake up and have breakfast, your next move is to head toward the gym. The trigger is you waking up and dressing for the gym. The habit is that as soon as breakfast is over you get in the car and drive straight there and the reward is a completed workout and the rest of your day to yourself.
The good news about changing your bad habits into good and productive habits is that when the rewards are things we want, like losing weight, or seeing our savings account balance grow, we tend to do them more often.
So no matter what you want to change in your life, whatever bad habit you’d like to rid yourself of, begin by inserting a new behavior and forming a new habit. The routine and the reward will eventually happen without you even thinking about it. The most important part is the red arrow, the time between being triggered and doing the habit. Prepare by have a fresh goal and a positive and healthy habit in place.
Concept based on Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit.
Kobe | Peyton | Ali | MJ | Prince |
and just today, Kimbo Slice
What is it about saying goodbye to greatness?
What does them leaving bring up in us?
Is it because retiring reminds us of our ever-aging bodies or that death reminds us of our mortality?
Is it sadness that we’ll never see another like them in our time? Or fear that our kids will never witness anything like them?
There’s something so rewarding and honorable about going out on top. Whether walking away from your job after years of hard work or passing away after years of producing great work. When the great ones leave us, we are sad to see them go, and simultaneously glad we got to watch them.
While you may not have dreams of being a professional athlete or famous singer, strive to go out on top. Whatever you’re involved with today, whatever you wish to be a part of or create in the future, give it your all. Not so that you can be remembered or so that people will make you a trending hashtag. Not so they’ll call you the GOAT (Greatest of All-Time), but do it for you.
Leave it all out there so that you can know that whatever you put your heart and mind to, that you gave it your all.
Saying goodbye to the greats is a cultural event because those people represent times in our lives, memories, and they are motivators to show and remind us that we too can be great and go out on top.
Kobe by http://jstnbrbr.com
Peyton by http://shermandanny.com
Ali by http://sanli.co/
MJ by http://www.josephle.net
Prince by https://www.behance.net/samuelho
I know it’s easier said than done.
Make a Decision!
Decide whether or not you’re going to get a college degree. Make a decision as to whether or not you want to scoop ice cream or babysit for your summer job. Choose whether the ‘friend’ who doesn’t speak too kindly to you, will remain a friend or not.
Don’t get stuck, or be paralyzed by the idea or thought of having to make a decision. Most times, you can always change your mind if things aren’t working out or make a new decision.
Be the person running your life. Don’t be like the donkey who couldn’t decide if he should eat first or drink first and died because in the end he chose neither.
If you’ve never had to raise your voice an octave to sound less abrasive, if you’ve never had to overact your movements when in a store or when leaving a store empty-handed to show to whomever is watching you that you’ve done nothing wrong, you probably can’t relate.
If you feel offended, confused, or annoyed when you hear the words ‘white privilege’, if you’re tired of the conversation and would like to just stop hearing about it, you’re probably the privileged. The people who get the option to not think about race, are the majority. Minorities don’t have the luxury of tuning it out and turning it off, because they live it every day.
I read a story about a lady who sat in a classroom of her multiethnic peers and while discussing race and privilege, she said that she didn’t think about race when she didn’t want to and she didn’t understand why other people don’t just do the same or stop talking about it. Her professor simply said to her, “that’s exactly the point. THAT is privilege.” The lady started crying and for the first time she realized that part of her privilege is that she gets to not think about race or anything involving race when she wanted to and could choose not to when she didn’t.
For the umpteenth time, the privilege discussion, white privilege isn’t about blame. The conversation or topic doesn’t exist to make people who didn’t get to choose their ethnicity or skin color feel bad. It’s simply a matter of making those people aware that two people, both born in America, are entitled to the same unalienable rights, but that they have different freedoms.
Fortunately, we live in a time right now where things are better than they were for our grandparents. We also live in an age where we can begin and continue conversations with people all around the world who are different from us. We can begin to break down barriers by simply reading an informative blog post, and we can be catalysts for change. Being a minority is a full-time job on top of everyday living, that only minorities understand. The privilege conversation shouldn’t bother you, the need for the conversation should bother you. Heighten your awareness to the injustices and listen. It’s not an attack on who you are, it’s an attack on a system and society that functions on an uneven playing field.
Same rights, different freedoms.