Six Tips to the Dating Man

Get ya money right: If you’re dating then hopefully it’s someone you can see yourself with long term. If this is the case, you should really start preparing financially. Although I had an inkling about the importance about financial planning and stewardship, I didn’t understand how much it impacts every area of your life. You don’t have to have a certain dollar amount, or earn a certain income, however you should seriously seek financial guidance. Check out these resources: Dave Ramsey and DFree 

“You don’t have to have a certain dollar amount, or earn a certain income…”

Don’t be scurred: OMGoodness! If I had a dollar for every fearful brother I met,  I’d be rich! I talk to so many men who try to over-spiritualize their insecurity, anxiety, uneasiness, uncertainty and downright fear! A woman doesn’t expect you to be made of iron, she just wants you to be real. I know scurred single brothers and I know scurred “involved” brothers.  I know guys who will meet an incredible woman, know for certain they want to marry her, but postpone “putting a ring on it” simply because they’re afraid of commitment or they wrestle with the idea of not measuring up. Let me help you: YOU NEVER WILL! Move on and put a ring on it anyway. When start stalling because of your overly-amplified, idiosyncrasies and fears you make the relationship all about you. This, at its root is selfish, narcissistic and an inability to walk in faith. I’m not advocating rushing into anything, especially something as serious as marriage; equally I don’t advocate fearful living.  

Take the lead: You don’t have to wait on the heavens to open up and hear a James Earlish voice before you make faith steps. If you like a woman, tell her. If you want to date or court (depending on how you define the process) her then be upfront and be unafraid of possible rejection. There should not be any point in your relationship where your woman has to guess or assume your relationship status. You should have the courage to initiate important conversations, including defining the relationship. Your relationship should progressively move towards the future, even if you realize along the way it’s not with each other.


“Believe it or not, being emotionally vulnerable takes tremendous strength…”



Communication isn’t key, it’s the whole door: If you’re like most guys on the planet, this will probably be the hardest for you. Learning to talk about feelings and emotions isn’t an area in which most of us have proficiency. Believe it or not, being emotionally vulnerable takes tremendous strength, and communicates to your mate you’re willing to grow and you care. This also involves learning the art of listening.

Set boundaries: If you haven’t made a commitment for life, then you’re dating someone else’s wife. I don’t care how spiritual you are, how much you pray and how many accountability friends you have, all is forgotten when you’re turned on.  Nothing functions properly except one thing and it will get you into trouble. Despite what we have been taught by popular culture, media, and music, taking a test drive, having taste tests, using free samples and 30 day trial periods are not real measures of a relationship’s durability or long-term potential. All of these ideologies are MANufactured and don’t consider the very real and costly implications of diverting from God’s original intent for sexual intimacy. Condoms can cover body parts, but they cannot cover hearts. Ideally, in a dating relationship, the man sets the physical and emotional boundaries, not the woman. Not the woman. As a man you lay the foundation in the relationship. She’s looking to you to lead her well and trusts you with her heart and body. Don’t abuse her trust, its’ not worth it. When the purpose of something is unknown, abuse is inevitable. Know what God’s word says about his daughters.

 

“Condoms can cover body parts, but they cannot cover hearts.”



Get some help: I recommend every couple have another couple, preferably older and more experienced, as a support system. You can’t go somewhere you’ve never been without directions so ask for help. Take their advice. Don’t be afraid to allow trustworthy people to get all up in your business. That’s called good leadership and accountability.

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The Breakup: 10 Signs It’s Time to Quit Your Job

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There are few things worse than being stuck on a dead-end job you hate, and for far too many people this is exactly what they endure day after day. For many of us, the burden of working in a meaningless occupation, with an out of touch supervisor, and coworkers with whom we have superficial relationships is not enough to prompt us to leave. No, we have to be dropped from the nest and engulfed in flames on the way down before we get the picture. To avoid all of that, take a look at these signs to help you recognize when it’s time to quit.

10. You try hard to find reasons to stay: Chances are if you have a genuinely  good job you don’t look for reasons to stick around because leaving is the furthest thing from your mind.  However, if you constantly question why you’re still working there and try to convince yourself to stay, perhaps it’s time to go.

9.  You hate going to work: If you dread Monday mornings more than anything and days at the office make you depressed, you probably shouldn’t stay there much longer.

8. You frequently look for reasons to miss work:  Do you find yourself counting the days until the weekend or your next day off?  Do you like cashing in on sick days, vacation time, and personal days? Do you spend more time thinking about the reasons you should call in instead of focusing on work?

7. You avoid conversations about what you do: This is not for folks with top security clearances or G14 classified assignments. This is for the folks that really hate talking about what they do because it reminds them of the fact they work a depressing job. Some of their closest friends still may not know what they do for a living.
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6.  You complain, complain, complain: Sometimes a grumpy attitude isn’t indicative of a dreadful  job; sometimes we simply need an attitude adjustment. Other times, it’s a sign we don’t like what we do. Instead of being the coworker that sucks everyone else into their vacuum of despair, change your situation and leave.

5. You emotionally detach from your work: People who detach aren’t emotionally touched by anything. No success, failure, setback, or incredible victory. If you find yourself simply going through the motions then it’s time to make a motion towards the exit sign. Save yourself some heartache and get out while you can.

4. You don’t have any opportunities for growth:  Does your current position offer any opportunities for professional development? How far can you advance in your company? Does your environment encourage you to learn new things that will help you improve the organization? If your company doesn’t have room for growth, invest in your education, or professional development that’s a huge red flag. Anything that isn’t growing is dead.

3. You are not challenged or utilizing your gifts: Can you do your job with your eyes closed and both hands tied behind your back? When was the last time you worked on a project that allowed you to employ your gifts, talents, and areas of passion?

2. You are hanging on for the paycheck:  You know something is wrong when the best thing about your job is the 1st and the 15th . Sometimes we can be slaves to money while still being broke. Harriet Tubman said, “I freed thousands of slaves and I would’ve freed thousands more if I could’ve only convince them they were slaves.” We can get so caught in the grind that we become oblivious to the fact that Franklin and Jackson have more control over us than we’d like. Just because you don’t know you’re a slave doesn’t make you any more free.

1. Your health starts to decline: I once worked with a guy that would get nauseous, depressed, and would experience high levels of anxiety every time he came to work.  He was so stressed by the job he was hospitalized. Life is stressful enough. You don’t have to add to it by torturing yourself with a job you hate! It’s simply not worth it.

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Norman Cousins once said, “The tragedy of life is not death, but what we let die inside of us while we live.” If you’re dying inside because you’re stuck on a job it may be time to develop an exit strategy. Do you know what you want? Do you know what drives you and makes you happy? Do you know what you’re passionate about? Faith is taking the first step without seeing the entire staircase. Now may be a good time to leap out of the safety of what’s familiar and into the glorious opportunities of the unknown. In the words of George Eliot, “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” Will you prepare for flight or wait to fall from the nest?

21×21: 21 Things Men Should Know By 21

Tie a necktie: Be it for a job interview, wedding, or a funeral; inevitably, at some point in your life you will have to do it. So learn now.

Wash clothes: Nobody likes funky clothes, especially the people who have to smell them!

Clean your house: I’m not talking about that quick and easy, tidy up clean. I’m talking about scrubbing toilets, dusting and polishing, preparing fresh linens, kind of clean. You’ve got to learn how to get down in the bedroom, kitchen and the bathroom.

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Balance an account: Despite the reality of vanishing checkbooks, check writing is still a good skill to have, and certainly learning to balance an account is essential. You always need to know your income and expenses.

Replace a light bulb: As long as they go out, they will need replacing.

Iron clothes: Contrary to what Beyoncé says, is not cool to just wake up like that. Although you may not have to iron, learning how to is valuable. There’s a system for shirts, pants and jeans.

Learn to pray: Being a man is hard, learning to pray makes it less hard.


Learn to pray….


Shop for clothes: Knowing the actual size of your waist, shoe, chest, and neck, and knowing how to buy clothes that fit is just what cool men do. Oversized suits, shirt collars and scrunchie waist jeans isn’t the look. If you have to tighten your belt more 3 loops, something’s not right.

Say please and thank you: Common, or should I say, uncommon courtesy will never expire. Sometimes it can open doors a strong hand can’t.

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Shake a hand: Please don’t be one of those guys who gives the limp noodle handshake or the Incredible Hulk grip.

Buy groceries: Sooner or later, you’ll have move past cardboard pizzas, frozen meals, soda and potato chips. The fresh produce section is your friend, and so is the natural herbs and spices section.

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Cook a meal: Thank God my moms and pops taught me how to cook. Every man needs at least one signature dish that doesn’t involve ingredients that read, “instant”, “quick” or “ready in minutes” on the box.

Use a screwdriver, hammer and saw: I’m not talking about transforming you into Harold the Handyman, but there are some basic jobs these tools can handle if you plan on living on earth any longer.

Change a tire: Imagine it’s 30 degrees, you get a flat tire, and you don’t have AAA or roadside assistance. Now imagine it’s you and your lady and you don’t know how to change a tire or put on the spare. I’ve seen able-bodied men send their lady in the cold to do it, and that’s cold, very cold.

Jump a battery: Trust me, it’s a vital skill to learn. Also, make sure get a good pair of jumper cables or a battery charger for your trunk.

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Wash your butt: Let me help you out. The following are not cool: biting your nails, having excessively long or dirty nails, uncombed or unbrushed hair,  unkept facial hair, smelly breath and BO. Here’s what’s cool…the opposite of all of the above.

Ask for help: Humility is not weakness, it’s reserved strength. In this life we all help, and the sooner we learn to recognize it, the better.

Sign an autograph: Whether it’s on a contract, business agreement or permission slip, every man needs to know to sign his name.

Visit the doctor: Real men visit the doctor… regularly. Your health isn’t about you, it’s about the ones around you. The better and healthier you are, the better and healthier they are. This includes mental and spiritual health as well.

Unclog a toilet or drain: Sometimes things suck, sometimes they don’t. The latter is when this skill comes in handy.

Get in touch with God: We all need Him. If your appliance breaks down you return it to the manufacturer, shouldn’t you do the same with your life?

 

 

Writer’s Block: 6 Steps to Cultivate Creativity

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For years, I used to think writer’s block was an inevitable, insurmountable obstacle I had no power to overcome. I thought creativity flowed from inspiration, and inspiration was summoned by the art gods in some sort of esoteric, supernatural ritual. Years later, and I’ve come to realize inspiration is for amateurs and there are very simple ways to harness creativity. Here are a few:

Creativity isn’t captured, it’s cultivated. Change your mind about how creativity is developed. Imagine if you were a comic book artist that had to produce a fresh strip of comics weekly for a paycheck. What would you do if you were fresh out of ideas? More than likely, you do what you had to do to find some. A lot of people have been led to believe being creative is a mystical, deeply spiritual process that requires divine intervention. In reality, it’s more about developing good habits and refining work. The first step is changing your paradigm  to recognize it’s an intentional process in which the artist is expected to participate.

In the long run there is not much discrimination against superior talent.
 – Carter G. Woodson

Practice capturing the moment. As a college sophomore I was blessed to be part of a group of writers that helped me shape my ideas about writing and creativity. When we got to the subject of writer’s block, the idea of capturing the moment was introduced. This simply means, as a writer you have to discipline yourself to write things down. If you keep a small notebook and make a habit of writing ideas, thoughts, and inspirations you will increase your creativity by a million, bazillion percent. Don’t miss the moment. Inspirational moments are like snowflakes; there are many, but no two are alike. A musician friend once told me he makes a habit of going to bed empty, meaning every night before his head hits the pillow he records all of this ideas.
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: Carter G. Woodson once said, “In the long run there is not much discrimination against superior talent.” Many incredibly talented people have average ability coupled with above-average work ethic and discipline. As a writer, one way to expand your creative perimeter is to write often. The more more ideas you write, the more ideas you have, and the more ideas you refine, the more you have to choose from. Some will be great, some will be good, and others will be average. The overall goal is to have catalogs of work that display your creativity, versatility, and development process.

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Make writing a priority: Have you ever thought, “I know I should write, but I just don’t feel like it?” Of course you don’t, that’s why you have to force yourself. Instead of suffering from writer’s block, schedule a writing block (a chunk of time to create) and guard it like a mama pitbull over her pups. Turn off the phone, TV, YouTube, laptop (if you’re not using it to create), or anything else that could be a distraction. No meetings, movies, or answering crisis phone calls! Treat your writing block as if it’s your job. A job for which you are the CEO!  

Connect with a community of writers: As an African proverb states, “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go further, take others with you.” Everything we know we learned from someone, and sometimes these people are right in front of us. Try searching sites like Meetup.com to locate writing groups you can collaborate with. You can also find people that can challenge your ideas and develop writing accountability groups.

“Remember, sometimes art is a fruit that most benefits the partakers, not the producers.”

 

Don’t be afraid to fail: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. One man’s trash is another person’s treasure, so don’t trash your treasures. Remember, sometimes art is a fruit that most benefits the partakers, not the producers. Don’t be afraid to be as innovative as your mind can imagine! Have fun the process and create fiercely. Try the Bruce Lee approach, “Let no limits be your limit and no boundary be your boundary.

There is no magic formula to becoming a great writer or developing creative ideas. It’s as simple as this: the more you practice correctly, the better you become. Sometimes the hardest thing about finishing a project is just getting started. I hope these tips help you on your journey to becoming more creative and unblocking writer’s block.

Brother to Brother: 10 Types of Women You Shouldn’t Date

In one of my recent posts, I gave women ten types of men to avoid, and although lots of women enjoyed the insight, the brothers felt left out. So, what about all the good brothers out there? The ones who love God, have common sense, are hard-working, and have a vision? Where do they find love? Although it’s arguable who has it worse, the fact is, for some men it’s very difficult to find a lady who is attractive, spiritual, (but not spooky), and isn’t loco.  As you’re in pursuit, watch out for these of women.

Thirsty Thelma: She’s always looking for man, and will do whatever it takes to get anyone that somewhat resembles a man. Her self-worth is predicated on her relationship status, and unfortunately this makes her vulnerable to scrubs, thugs, and bedbugs. Her Facebook status affirms her. Not God, her uniqueness or creativity. Not even the man she’s with. It’s simply the satisfaction of knowing she has a man.

Freaky Felicia: Self-explanatory right? She’s the kind of  vixen open more than your local Walmart. She’s open for business for anyone…and I mean anyone. You don’t know where she’s been, or with whom she’s been with. Bye Felicia.

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Sleeping Sasha: She’s the main character in a story that’s all about her rescue from the perils of singlehood.  She’s stuck in a Disney movie, waiting for her handsome prince to ride in on a stallion, take her hand, and whisk her away to an enchanted land where love lives forever. A woman waiting on a man to become who she is destined to be is a woman out of touch with reality. These women will put unrealistic expectations on men and often play the victim instead of living victoriously.

Kangaroo Katie: She jumps in and out of relationships. Every time you see her she has a new man. She changes men like handbags. Usually, these types of women have issues they may or may not be aware of, and are looking for someone else to help fix. Sometimes they will superimpose unrealistic standards NO MAN is able to meet. They can search for minuscule, insignificant reasons to break up, and it’s on to the next one. She may even try to “build-a-boo”, by having two, three or five men on the side, each embodying a characteristic she desires.

Holy Heather: Ever met someone so spiritual they were out of touch with reality? Well fellas, this is Heather. She’s disconnected from the universe and masks genuine emotions, desires, and ideas-the ones God gives us-with spirituality. She is the, “Jesus is my boyfriend”, and “I’m just waiting on the Lord” kind of woman. She doesn’t know where she wants to go, what kind of man she’s looking for, or what qualities make her unique because, “The Lord ain’t revealed it yet.” She’s a bystander in life, and in relationships.

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Insecure Ida: Every person deals with insecurities, idiosyncrasies and issues, but Ida is unreasonably insecure. She frequently speaks and behaves in ways to seek attention or affirmation. Initially, it can be cute or attractive to think you’re genuinely needed by her, but it’s fool’s gold. Trying to love an insecure person is like trying to cut down a redwood with a razor blade. You will never say enough, do enough, or be enough to give her what she needs: real self-love that comes from above.

Wonder Woman Wanda: It’s her way or the highway. She runs a strict dictatorship, and being with her is a privilege, or so she thinks. She makes the rules, the money, and tells subjects lucky enough to be under her rule what to do, how to do it, and when to do it. She feels the need to be in control and refuses to relinquish her Queendom. Frequently, people like this are deeply insecure and feel the need to overcompensate in areas where they may feel out of control. It’s a means of security. With her, “don’t you ever for a second get to thinking you’re irreplaceable.”

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Krazy Keisha:  Just like Krazy Kevin, she gets hotter than the pavement in Arizona. She screams, cries, manipulates, and is emotionally unstable. One minute everything is fine, and the next, it’s like a scene out of, The Exorcist. She can also get physically violent, and best believe will slash tires and bust the windows out your car.

Cash-in Candace: I ain’t sayin’ she’s a gold-digger, but she ain’t messing with no broke… well, you know the song. If she’s overly-concerned about cheddar, then your life will not be better.  It’s all about the money… dollar, dollar bill y’all.  Her concept of manhood and womanhood may be rooted in false and erroneous ideologies that she will inevitably project on you.

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Heartbroken Haley: Sometimes she walks in circles.  She’s been broken so many times she has built walls taller than Jericho and you ain’t getting through brother. She may have an emotional and spiritual  deficit that may require professional counseling. She’s the younger sister of Wonder Woman Wanda, and without a real intervention, will grow up to be just like her.

It’s tempting to be Billy Graham and go on a crusade to try save a woman from herself, but trust me, you cannot do it. When hurting people hurt people, and are in need of healing, the first step is to recognize the problem. The next is getting the appropriate help. After God made the first woman, that job became obsolete. We cannot make ourselves a wife; we must allow Him to present her to us. This means, like Eve, God makes her. He never told us to fall in love, he told us to walk in it, and sometimes walking in love means knowing what paths to avoid.

 

Brother to Sister: 10 Types of Men You Shouldn’t Date

All my single ladies… all my single ladies… now put your hands up… and pray! Yes, pray. That’s exactly what you need to do if you’re looking for a good man in today’s times. We are living in a hypersexual, pseudo-romantic and superficial society that continually narrates the old and fictitious tale of guy meets girl, the two fall in love, then they live happily ever after. Well, it’s just not true; it’s possible, just not highly probable. Sometimes it’s hard to find a good man and I want to help you as you’re waiting on Mr. Right or looking for him. I want to help you spot the NOTs so you don’t waste time trying to warm a fire that was never meant to burn. Here are several types of men you need to avoid:

 

Casanova Carl He treats his women like Lays Potato Chips: he can’t have just one. The most important thing you need to know about Carl is stay away. Although he may not sleep around with many women, he likes his “friends” a little too much and doesn’t know how to appropriately detach. He craves feminine attention and affirmation and may not know how to relate to men. He may be  good to hang out with, but keep him in the friend zone.

Krazy Kevin: Here’s Kevin! Run! Get out the way! This is the, “I called you 10 times in one hour because I can’t live without you.” The, “I went looking for you because you were gone more than 30 minutes” kind of brother. He’s unpredictable, controlling, overly critical, sensitive and abnormally attached. He can be verbally and physically abusive. He is literally crazy. A couple of red flags: (1) He tries to get too close way too soon, (2) He show signs of aggressive pursuit too early without knowing anything about you, (3) He is a ticking time bomb. Anything can set him off.  He has so many issues you could fill two landfills and still have more room. These relationships are highly flammable and have a high propensity to turn dangerous. Please stay away.

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Wild Wendall: When you see this man please move. NOW! Like, right now! He exhibits unreasonable anger, doesn’t like authority, rules or boundaries. He wants what he wants and when he wants it, including you. Initially, his character deficiencies can be masqueraded by emotional authenticity and admirable drive but buyer beware! Quite often this type of behavior is rooted in insecurity, privilege, and a host of deep fractures. It may also reveal some deeper issues you’re not the person to help fix. I repeat, you’re not the person to help fix. Marriage is a magnifier for who we really are. If he can’t control his habits, sexuality, anger and emotions now it won’t change later.

Passive Paul He doesn’t breathe unless he gets permission first. He waits for you to make the first move for everything. He waits for you to express interest. He doesn’t initiate important conversations, is overly fearful of rejection, and incapable of making decisions and sticking to them. He likes whatever you like and goes wherever you lead. He avoids conflict and seldom steps up, speaks up or stands up.

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Selfie Santiago Simply put, it’s all about him. He spends more time in the mirror than you and everything is about him. His looks, his feelings, his ideas, his dreams, his life! He’s vain and overly focused on appearance: yours and his. Do yourself a favor: take one last picture then crop yourself out.

Brandon the Baby Two words: mama’s boy. Unfortunately, we live in a society where a lot of our boys were raised by single mothers. Historically, this has negatively interrupted our men’s identity development, sense of independence, and unfortunately, you have to deal with it. This guy still lives at home, doesn’t work nor looks for work and still depends on his mama for basic survival. He is a lot like Passive Paul in the sense he doesn’t control his life and waits for others to guide him through it. He will sometimes compare you to his mama and will criticize when you don’t measure up. If you’re not looking to be a mama then leave him alone.

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Lukewarm Larry This guy loves his freedom and doesn’t want to be confined to any religion, world doctrine, or anything that requires commitment. He lives by a smorgasbord of religious, philosophical, and self-derived principles. Essentially, he’s confused. Although he may be intellectually astute and a great conversationalist, unfortunately he stands for nothing. Larry might not lead you down a path of wickedness, death, or destruction but equally he cannot lead you to a place of indisputable truth.

Superman Sean This brother has so much on his plate he bought another one just to make room for everything. He’s the ultra-busy, “sorry, I’ve been too busy to call you back” guy.  He has too many things to do. He habitually returns your calls unreasonably late, misses the appointments you and he set, and puts you at the bottom of his to-do list. He’s not ready for a relationship; he’s just looking for another trophy to add to his mantle.

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Blind Bernard: Bernard is visually impaired and has no vision. He is unable to plan long-term and suffers from nearsightedness.  Don’t get me wrong, he doesn’t have to present a ten year plan, but he does have to have a clue about life. He doesn’t know, nor has ever thought about his life passions, the legacy he wants to leave, or your future together. He is often vocationally, educationally, and spiritually complacent. He lacks motivation and frequently exhibits a “good enough” attitude. That is to say, regardless of opportunities and how they potentially impact he and his family; he does just enough to get by.  Not too little and not too much: just enough. Buy him some prescription lenses and leave them at his doorstep.

Nathan Nonbeliever: If you and he don’t spiritually agree, then chances are it ain’t meant to be.  Need I say more? I don’t care how fine, strong, funny, charming, spiritual, articulate, good to his mama and granny he is. If he is not wholeheartedly committed to his relationship with Christ you are going to have trouble. This is not to say if you marry him all hell will break loose. This is to say marriage is a sacred covenant between two people for expanding God’s work on earth. Yes, it can be fun and nice to have someone to lay beside, but if you two don’t have a basic reference point for life then there will be trouble. The price tag of settling for less than God’s best can be very, very expensive and sometimes you need the courage to say goodbye.

 

If you find yourself becoming frustrated and overwhelmed by the perceived lack of good men, be patient. In your singleness try investing in the lives of others and learning more about yourself. We unfailingly find ourselves in broken relationships because one or both of us started as broken people looking for someone to fix us. If you’re single keep an eye out for these men. If you’re currently in a relationship with one of these men and you aren’t married, you may want to seriously consider ending it. You don’t want to spend precious years trying to water and nurture something that was never supposed to grow. Stand in courageous faith, trust fiercely and keep hope alive until God brings you someone.     

 

Books I Recommend:

Too Close Too Soon

101 Questions to Ask Before You Get Engaged

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!