Talent is Cheaper Than Table Salt

Stephen King, world renowned novelist once said, “Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.” Turn on the television and it’s easy to spot exceptional talent; it’s all around us in music, film, and sports. Take for example Gabby Douglas, the first African-American woman to win gold in the women’s individual event and the only female gymnast in history to earn both team and all-around gold in the same Olympics. Before claiming these prestigious and historical titles, Gabby spent years in intense training. At fourteen she moved 3000 miles from home to train with Liang Chow to prepare for the Olympics.

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The point is there is always a story behind the glory, but far too often we want the latter without sacrifice. In an interview with a Jamaican journalist, six time Olympic champion and the world fastest man, Usian Bolt said, “In this game everybody’s got talent, but training will get you to the next level.” One thing is for certain: the world is not devoid of talented people, but it has a deficit of successful ones. I don’t mean lots of money, fame, or recognition. I’m referring to the success that enables you to know you have spent each day whole-heartedly walking in purpose and in passionate pursuit of God’s vision for your life.

In a society inundated with the lure of microwave success and YouTube fame it’s hard to recognize the value in mastering the minute and mundane. Mastering the mundane enables you to operate from a platform of stability and focus. Remember the lesson from those Karate Kid movies? Wax on, wax off, wax on, wax off, repeat. You want to be a writer, poet, musician, athlete, under-water frog juggler? The truth is there’s always a story behind the glory and you have to put in the time if you want to shine. Are you simply waiting for opportunities or are you working diligently to create them?  Got talent, so what? Proverbs 13:4 reminds us, “The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.” Dawn never sets twice to wake a man up nor does opportunity knock. There’s no magic formula for success, just good old-fashioned discipline and hard work. Success is the result of preparation, unwavering faith and forward momentum after failure.
Learn more. Fail more. Become more.

All Black Everything: My Trip to Ghana

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In 2007 I visited Africa for the first time and it was a dream come true. It was one of the most surreal experiences of my life and one I’ll never forget. I was part of a seven-week leadership immersion experience with The Impact Movement, a nonprofit organization that empowers leaders of African descent. Prior to this, I only dreamt of going to this great continent and I knew very little about it. In fact, I always referred to it as Africa; just Africa. It was the black man’s Mecca, a distant place that perhaps someday I’d see. After my initial trip I realized that other black people and I had similar experiences. Here are a few.

Welcome home: This was by far one of the more prevalent greetings. This, and Akwaaba, which means welcome. Being in Ghana was like going back to a place I’ve never been for the first time. Yes, you read that correctly, it was like going home for the first time.

All black everything: For the first time in my life I was immersed in an all-black society. I was part of the majority and boy did it feel good. I mean great! I mean amazing! I mean utterly incredible! Words cannot express what it felt like to see people who looked like me on billboards, television programs, in the streets, in the classroom and practically everywhere. Sometimes you never know what you’ve been missing until it’s returned to you. Going to Ghana made me realize how amazing it was to be in an ethnically and culturally diverse majority black population.

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I wasn’t black, I was an American: Simply being an American was one of the hardest adjustments I had to make. Most black Americans, especially men will agree they are constantly reminded of their blackness, and unfortunately it’s rare this reminder derives from a culturally appreciative context. It’s seldom a blatant disapproval based on skin color. Most of the time it’s a subtle reminder that you’re simply different. From the lack of representation in popular media, to the overexposure of fractures within your community, to the inability to simply find the right kind of hair products, you’re always reminded that you’re different. Not in Ghana. I was simply American and for the first time I truly felt like I embodied King’s vision to be judged by the content of my character and not the color of my skin. Words cannot describe how beautifully emancipating it was to simply BE.

My sense of blackness and affinity with African culture strengthened: For centuries we have been presented with a historically anorexic narrative about our history. Essentially, we are taught we are the descendants of slaves. That’s where our history begins and is most significant. Going to Ghana, visiting the slave castles, talking with educated Africans and learning more about African history helped me realize my people were not slaves; they were Africans who were enslaved. That’s a big difference. Slavery is only one aspect of my history, not the complete and full context of it. Knowing this was intellectually and culturally revolutionary.

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I became unapologetically black: Gaining historical perspective concerning my people’s sense of charisma, language, love for music, spirituality and other aspects of black culture equipped me with the cultural esteem to move towards celebrating my identity instead of frequently apologizing for it. I now tell people I’m unapologetically Christian, unapologetically black and unapologetically a man. Simply put, I’m unapologetically ME.

As an American I’m extremely privileged: As the saying goes, sometimes you don’t know what you have until it’s gone. The average American, regardless of background is extremely privileged. Whether it’s running water, food access, or the ability to freely travel internationally; we are privileged and blessed. If we don’t like the service at a restaurant, department store or shopping center we can take our business elsewhere, but what you do if “elsewhere” isn’t an option? Different countries like Ghana still experience very real challenges such as the lack of employment, restricted education opportunities and resource shortages.

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We are remarkably undereducated about other nations: As a child I was constantly exposed to images about Africa; you know Africa: people dying of starvation, living in spiritual desolation, those uncivilized, savage people-you know Africa. For the most part Americans are severely undereducated about other nations. I was surprised when I met Ghanaians who knew more American presidents than I, knew more about my economy and had a level of cultural fluency that surpassed that of most of my peers and I. It was a sobering reality that we do an immensely disheartening disservice of miseducating and undereducating our children about other nations, especially Africa.

Just as America has many states with even more diverse cultures, ideas and characteristics so does Africa. It’s a continent with over 50 countries which are all very different and equally unique. Visiting Ghana left me with an even stronger desire to explore my history and unfortunately I cannot rely on the traditional American education system to teach me. Since arriving in America, Africans and the descendants of enslaved Africans have been trying to rediscover who they are and desperately reconfigure the shattered remnants of their identity. Who we are as humans and as black people begins in Africa. If you’re trying to find who you are Africa is a great place to start. Sankofa!

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Check out one of my favorite songs Africa Rising.

Find more photos of my trip on my Facebook page.

Dare 2 Dream

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People don’t care about the problems you’re going through as much as the ones you’ve overcome. There are many people today that find it easier to complain about what’s not right rather than what is, and unfortunately this becomes more pervasive as our society matures. At times I find myself in this category and I can often become so narcissistic and self-absorbed I begin to highlight all the things that aren’t going well before I appreciate what is. Apathy is an infectious disease that can cripple the dreams of the courageous and blind the eye of the visionary. It’s prevalent in today’s society because it often camouflages itself as caution and critical-thinking. It is the cousin to slothfulness which also has the potential to apprehend the young and gifted. It was once said, “Slothfulness lives because there is nothing for which it will die for.”

With this in mind, there’s an important question to consider: Are you young and gifted? If so, are you living in the fullness in which you were created to live? If not, why not? What’s your dream? Have you ever dreamt a dream so big it frightened you? One of the most dangerous types of people is a person who isn’t afraid to die. He’s dangerous because he knows why he lives and isn’t intimidated by life’s vicissitudes, challenges and pockets of frustration. There are many dreamers that have been silenced by the pressures of life and paralyzed by the persistent pierce of impossibility. If we are truly spiritual beings having a natural experience then we will believe when scripture tells us there is nothing impossible with God and through our weaknesses He is made strong. If you’ve never read the story of Gideon, I highly recommend you check it out. It’s in that book called the Bible. Heck, you can even Google it.

It’s very difficult not to look at the realities of life and act oblivious to the challenges we face, however Solomon reminded us in Ecclesiastes there is nothing new under the sun. You’re not the first one to experience challenge, but you are the only one who’ll experience it in your shoes. Why not use it as an opportunity to help someone avoid some of the roadblocks you faced? Sometimes the biggest enemy to greatness is doing good so don’t waste time simply doing good things. It’s far easier, as well as less demanding but it takes uncommon courage to conquer the uncommon and travel the road less traveled.

The truth is, the longer we wait to start living the more comfortable we become with the idea of dying. Myles Munroe once said, “One of the greatest tragedies in life is to watch potential die untapped.” The purpose in you waits to be released and the world waits on you. It waits on your ideas and vision to be materialized. A vision is only as strong as the mind in which it incubates so decide today to liberate your vision and restore your hope. If you want what you’ve never had then you have to do what you’ve never done. Keep the dream alive and start living today!