Posts

COVID-19: Tough Times Don’t Last but Tough People Do!

Great speaker Robert Schuyler stated that tough times don’t last but tough people do. I really find myself coming back to that quotation a lot during these COVID times because people are going through different challenges, be they physical or financial. There are challenges as it relates to what’s going on with our loved ones or even in our own personal lives. But you have to remember that at the end of the day, you’re not given anything that you don’t have the ability to handle. And one of the things I often say in many of my speeches is that there may be challenges that I have been given that if they were given to you, you might not be able to handle. And on the flip side, there might be challenges that are given to you that if they hit my doorstep, I may not be able to handle.

I like what Les Brown said that oftentimes, we’ve been picked out to be picked on and sometimes you just feel like life’s always beating you down and always trying to get at you and take something from you. You have to understand, at this particular time, that this is something that it’s just testing you. There’s a difference between school and life. In school you get the lesson and then you get the test. In life you get the test and then you get the lesson. I want you to think about how you’re being tested today and how you’re going to pass this test!

How are you being challenged right now and what are you doing that’s going to allow you to be able to step up to the challenge? You have to decide to fight because once you stop fighting for what you want, what you don’t want automatically takes over. As soon as you give up, you’ve lost. One of the things I want you to remember is to understand the importance of community and the importance of reaching out and asking for help. Like someone once said, ask for help, not because you’re weak, but because you want to remain strong and you are strong!

We are all strong people and the strongest people get tested in the strongest ways. So don’t put yourself in a position where you feel like you have to go through all of this alone. Put yourself in a position where you tell yourself that you’re going to thrive! Reach out to your community and ask for assistance and offer assistance too! As the late Bill Withers sang, “Lean On Me.” It’s a powerful and this is a song that I’ve been playing in some of my fitness classes at the end because it’s something that we need to do. You need to lean on people and you also need to let people lean on you.

Another thing we have to do is you have to decide that you are going to come out of this on the other side in a better way. One of the things I realized when I was going to be home with all of us in terms of my family was to commit to getting myself into better shape before this shutdown happened than when I went in. I had to say that to myself because even if I didn’t say that I would have been succumbing to what some people are already calling the COVID-15 or COVID-30 as it relates to gaining 15 or 30 pounds from not being able to maintain a regular exercise routine. I’ve had some setbacks in this process but I am still on the path. Without that affirmation, I would have given in to my injuries and my appetite would’ve taken over, trust me!

I knew I was going to have to make certain dietary changes. I was going to have to maintain my workout program with adjustments. Before the quarantine I had to wake up at 5:30 to get the kids ready and out the door to school by 8. Now I don’t have to do that so there are two and a half hours to get it in at least 30 minutes to work out. We’ve also started doing bike rides as a family together and weekends in, which also wasn’t really happening before with our schedules.

This is just one example. What can you do where you’re at, what can you do with what you have right now where you are? Are there new opportunities to find a workout or the new opportunities to find and spend time with the kids? Are there new opportunities just to do anything different or special right now that you weren’t able to do before? We can talk about all of the challenges that the COVID situation presents, but it also presents a lot of opportunities and you have to ask yourself, are you positioning yourself to take advantage of them? These are some of the things I want you to think about as you go through your week, as you go through your month, the next couple of months, and possibly beyond.

You CAN get through this. We just have to do some mind shifts, some changing of our thinking, and lean on the people that we need to lean on. Set your intentions from the beginning so that this whole crisis and pandemic doesn’t set them for you. If you’re able to do these things, you’ll be able to take control of your own destiny and you’ll be able to take control during this crisis. And just remember, you’re never alone and never, ever, ever give up. Tell yourself every single day that you are not alone, that you’re not going to give up, and that you know you’re a tough person who’s going to last through these tough times. We are going to get through this together. I wish you all the best. I hope that you continue to do your best and forget the rest and let’s get through this together! I know you can handle this because you’re not giving anything that you don’t have the ability to handle! Let’s go!

NOW is the time time to grow! Don’t let Coronavirus stop you!

I want to ask you a question that comes from John-Leslie Brown: if you had to be who you are today for the rest of your life, would you be happy? Only you can answer that question. It’s very easy to let other people try to answer that, but it really all comes down to you. As somebody once said, if you want to keep getting what you’re getting, keep doing what you’re doing. But if you want something more, you have to do more. You have become more. During this time right now, when so many of us are home, what are you doing right now to do more, to become more, to be more? Are you reading more? Are you exercising more?

So many companies from fitness companies to literature companies and everything in between have been offering free services. If you don’t have an Audible account and you can get one free for 30 days. Sirius XM radio also has a trial version. There’s “YouTube university” with tons of free videos to help you educate yourself. There are so many things you could be doing right now to build your knowledge. You can come out of this smarter and in better shape if you truly commit!

So now is not the time for wallowing. Obviously there are some of us who are going to deal with some real health concerns either to ourselves or to our family and real time will be needed to deal with that. There is no question about that and we are seeing it daily. But outside of that, there’s a lot of time for you to get to those projects you didn’t get to before. There’s more time for you to get to the reading. There’s more time to get to just about anything that you feel like you can do You may need to wake up earlier to get these things done, which may mean, dare I say, going to bed earlier.

My main point is that if you’re fine and everything’s working for you, keep going on autopilot. But if you know that you could do a little bit more; an extra pushup, read an extra chapter, writing a little extra online work, now’s the time to get it done! Start building the habits that are going to carry you over when you get out of here. Like I said, if you know you could do better, do better! As Ziglar said, you can always better your best, and if you’re home right now, now is absolutely the time to do that. So get out there, BE you. BE great. Don’t use this as a time to shrink away from your greatness. You use this as a time to G.R.O.W. Towards Your Greatness!

The Best Me (an affirmation)

Repeat (with passion)!

There can only be one me!

There was no me before me

There will be mo me after me

And since I’m the only me

That the world will see

I will be the BEST me

That I can be!

G.R.O.W. Towards Your Greatness!

They say greatness is a choice but what have you chosen?

You’ve been frozen in time and broken in mind

For too long the same song playing in your head

Living in breath but better off dead

But who said you didn’t have the power?

Who said this is not your hour?

You’ve been showered with a steady stream of words that kill your dreams

But since you’re still breathing then someone done lied to you

Tried to deny you of your own potential inside you

If you’d just decide to let no one deride you

Don’t even let them get beside you as you unearth the new you

Stop listening to naysayers and decide to do you

No more pity parties, sobbing and boohoos

If no one told you you’re great then let me be the first to

If you have the thirst to drink from faith’s fountain

You’ll develop the might to move mountains

We move tons of dirt to find an ounce of gold

So I ask you to move tons of hurt and find just one ounce of your soul

You’ll be on the path to control your own destiny

Getting out of your own passenger seat and driving your own car

Reaching for the moon but maybe landing among the stars

You have greatness inside you but you must choose to be great

Blaze a path of excellence, leave fear in your wake

All you need is already inside you just believe in yourself

G.R.O.W. towards your greatness and discover your true wealth!

Take control of your future!

I read a quotation that you cannot control what happened in the past, but you can control the future. I would say at the very least you can planfor the future. What happens in the past is over. As Willie Jolley said, use your past as a place of reference, not a place of residence. Don’t get stuck in the past. Whether it was negative or positive, use it to fortify you and motivate you to go forward. As you plot out what you’re going to be working on for tomorrow, remember your car has a bigger windshield in a smaller rear view mirror so you can spend more time looking forward and less time looking backwards.

So today, start thinking of how you can have a forward vision and an idea that’s going to propel you into the future as opposed to a practice that’s going to keep you in the past. You weren’t meant to stay there. Go forward because that’s where your greatness lies. Use your past as a place where you can learn from what happened so you could have a stronger future going forward and start today. You’re worth it!

If you want to watch video of this, please visit my YouTube channel.

Navigating The Path To Great Student Leadership

“Leadership ain’t for the lame, don’t take it in vain

Time to rethink your position, understand why you came.”

These are two lines from a poem on leadership that I often recite when I speak around the world to student leaders. I share this line to underscore two points. The first point is that leadership is not for everyone. Though everyone can be a leader, leadership is a calling that few people answer and therefore, it should never be taken in vain. The second point is that leaders must always rethink why they chose to be a leader, and whether they still have the capacity or even the desire to lead. In today’s political climate, these two points are more important than ever for student leaders.

Whether one is a supporter or opponent of President Donald Trump, no one can argue that his presidency has not only shaken up our system of government, but has also had an impact in every aspect of our society, especially in schools. Some students feel that they have a leader in office who can speak for them in ways that President Obama did or could not. Others believe that President Trump’s rhetoric makes them less safe in school, evidence by instances of middle school students walking into their cafeteria to fellow students chanting “Build a wall” and others being told that they are going to be sent back to their country, even though they may have been born here. The bottom line is that there is a level of divisiveness taking place in our schools that require our student leaders to “rethink” their position in order to evaluate if they are built for the task of leadership today.

When I speak to student leaders, I challenge them to jump head first into whatever challenges their schools are facing. The example of America’s political climate is on the more extreme side of challenges students may face in school, but there are a multitude of other challenges that student leaders face in school. There are issues from cafeteria food and infrastructure to the curriculum and school climate. Regardless of the issues, there are four simple steps that I share with student leaders that can help them better navigate these issues. The four principles stem from my book G.R.O.W. Towards Your Greatness! 10 Steps To Living Your Best Life. The steps are Give, Release, Overcome, and Win.

GIVE

                  Student leaders must do a review of the quality and quantity of their giving. Dr. Wayne Dyer said that the more we give to the universe, the more it gives to us. Conversely, the more we take from the universe, the more it takes from us. Student leaders cannot be self-absorbed and only concerned with the title of leadership as a résumé builder for their college applications. Their elected position means that they must always remember that they represent their constituents, even those who did not vote for them. To that end, student leaders must be giving of their attention to students in their schools. They need to be able to do more listening than talking to really understand what is transpiring in their schools and they must be willing to be giving of the time requisite to lead their school towards effective change. I remind them as Les Brown said that we have two ears and one mouth and we should use them in proportion.

RELEASE

                  Student leaders must learn to let “it” go and let “them” go. By “it” I mean they need to let go of any hatred or even simple bias they may have towards certain groups. I study leadership across the globe from corporate CEOs to country presidents. I have seen situations where someone becomes a CEO and actively works to undermine particular departments they simply do not like. I have seen situations where someone becomes president of a country and exacts revenge on the ethnic group they viewed as their oppressors. I encourage student leaders to practice forgiveness and inclusivity, similar to former South African President Nelson Mandela who, upon his release from 27 years in prison, went to visit the home of his former prison guards to express forgiveness.

Once students forgive or let “it” go, they can work towards letting “them” go. Student leaders must let go of people around them who no longer represent where they want to go as a leader. I cite actor Will Smith when I tell leaders that they are a direct reflection of their five closest friends. If their friends are racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, islamophobic, sexist or anything else, chances are the leaders are as well. Student leaders must associate themselves with people who represent not where they are, but where they want to go. Furthermore, student leaders must understand that with the advent of social media, they need to be even more careful with their “friends” because they will be associated with posts from their friends and it could affect their academic and professional careers, most recently evidenced by the students who had their admission from Harvard revoked after their racist social media posts were discovered.

OVERCOME

                  Student leaders must overcome their fears. Leadership can be a daunting task, but it is a task worth pursuing if they are truly interested in serving their communities. I cite Zig Ziglar who said that fear simply means False Evidence Appearing Real. This means that most of the issues they worry about will not happen so they must work daily towards their goals. Student leaders must be guided by their goals and their vision and not by their fears. One cannot govern effectively if they are governed by fear. Fear keeps leaders from thinking clearly. It keeps them often from even attempting to start a program because they fear what people will think. As Dr. King said: “cowardice asks the question, is it expedient? And then expedience comes along and asks the question, is it politic? Vanity asks the question, is it popular? Conscience asks the question, is it right?” Student leaders must acknowledge the fear they may feel but focus more on what is right.

WIN

                  Student leaders must believe they will win if they do not give in. In this age of instant gratification, student leaders must practice patience. They must realize that some of the changes they seek in their school may not occur during their tenure as a student leader. They must think like some Native American communities who believe that they should think of how their actions will affect people seven generations from now. Depending on the schools they are in, at one point their school may have allowed no women or people of color but people fought for the right to attend those schools even though those fighters for equality never did. Students must believe that they will eventually win. Change does not happen overnight and student leaders must not be seduced by the sitcom nature of society where they see problems resolved in a thirty minute show with commercial breaks.

GROW!

                  At the end of the day, if students look at how they give, release, overcome, and win, they can become effective leaders for their school community. If they use these four steps to “rethink” their position, they will better understand the serious job they have undertaken as leaders in their school. As advisers, you can be the ones that can help them along with this process. Your experiences as educators and leaders in your own environments can greatly aid students in their development. Whether it is the National Honor Society or Student Council or any other form of leadership, we need to make sure that students understand the great responsibility of the leadership roles they have undertaken. I fully believe that with your guidance, our student leaders of today can continue on their path to the greatness that we know is inside of them. I wish you the best as you walk this path with them!

The future of youth: 3 things I learned from youth in Mali

 

            Last week, my organization UPstander International partnered with the State Department to provide leadership training for youth workers in Mali, West Africa. This country has been labeled as being “in crisis” due to its battle with northern Islamic extremists. During the evenings, I trained more than 30 leaders of organizations that work with youth. During the day, I would travel to middle schools, high schools, and universities and deliver my inspirational message “G.R.O.W. Towards Your Greatness!” If you didn’t know, Mali is a French speaking country so all of my presentations had to be in French. Pas de problème (no problem)! I relearned 3 main things from this Mali experience:

 

  1. Youth around the globe want inspiration. The enthusiasm with which these youth and youth leaders received my message was truly moving. I was reminded that, no matter what language you are speaking with youth, they will listen to you if they believe you are genuine in your professed care for them. In order to connect with youth you must understand your real motivations in wanting to work with them.

 

  1. Malian (like most African youth I encounter) place a serious value on education. Many Africans with whom I come across on the continent see education as the primary way to obtain success. In the United States, many students believe the same thing but mainstream media is so ubiquitous that too many youth here succumb to the false notion that their chances of success are greater by obtaining YouTube stardom, getting a record deal or landing on a reality show.

 

  1. Whether in America or abroad, youth respond to music that is uplifting. One of the travesties of our global entertainment culture is the manner in which our youth mainly see and hear music that degrades women, and celebrates drug abuse and violence. Many of us have been convinced that this is all the type of music our youth want to hear. In all of the 19 countries I have visited and performed in, I have found student after student who said they did not believe it was even possible to make music with an uplifting message. The entertainment industry is wrong in thinking uplifting music won’t sell. Our low opinion on what youth value perpetuates a continued arrogance and ignorance towards youth and we must change that.

 

While I was originally nervous about speaking to an audience of French speakers, I quickly forgot my nervousness as they continually nodded their heads in agreement with my 4 strategies for achieving greatness: giving, releasing (friends and letting hurt go), overcoming fear, and having a winning mentality. Even though these were performances blended in with motivational messages, students were studiously taking notes and posing very thought-provoking questions.

I have returned to States more committed to the idea that youth across the globe are in need of motivation whether they are in an economically developing country or the most powerful nation in the world. We have our differences, but at the end of the day, we all laugh and cry in the same language. I am going to continue to travel and speak the universal language of hope for a better day into our youth. Every day, if you think about it, you can also impact a young person. Just take time and communicate to them in the same way you needed to be talked to by an adult when you were younger and you will quickly see that you have an attentive audience. So what are you waiting for?

The future of youth: 3 things I learned from youth in Mali

 

            Last week, my organization UPstander International partnered with the State Department to provide leadership training for youth workers in Mali, West Africa. This country has been labeled as being “in crisis” due to its battle with northern Islamic extremists. During the evenings, I trained more than 30 leaders of organizations that work with youth. During the day, I would travel to middle schools, high schools, and universities and deliver my inspirational message “G.R.O.W. Towards Your Greatness!” If you didn’t know, Mali is a French speaking country so all of my presentations had to be in French. Pas de problème (no problem)! I relearned 3 main things from this Mali experience:

 

  1. Youth around the globe want inspiration. The enthusiasm with which these youth and youth leaders received my message was truly moving. I was reminded that, no matter what language you are speaking with youth, they will listen to you if they believe you are genuine in your professed care for them. In order to connect with youth you must understand your real motivations in wanting to work with them.

 

  1. Malian (like most African youth I encounter) place a serious value on education. Many Africans with whom I come across on the continent see education as the primary way to obtain success. In the United States, many students believe the same thing but mainstream media is so ubiquitous that too many youth here succumb to the false notion that their chances of success are greater by obtaining YouTube stardom, getting a record deal or landing on a reality show.

 

  1. Whether in America or abroad, youth respond to music that is uplifting. One of the travesties of our global entertainment culture is the manner in which our youth mainly see and hear music that degrades women, and celebrates drug abuse and violence. Many of us have been convinced that this is all the type of music our youth want to hear. In all of the 19 countries I have visited and performed in, I have found student after student who said they did not believe it was even possible to make music with an uplifting message. The entertainment industry is wrong in thinking uplifting music won’t sell. Our low opinion on what youth value perpetuates a continued arrogance and ignorance towards youth and we must change that.

 

While I was originally nervous about speaking to an audience of French speakers, I quickly forgot my nervousness as they continually nodded their heads in agreement with my 4 strategies for achieving greatness: giving, releasing (friends and letting hurt go), overcoming fear, and having a winning mentality. Even though these were performances blended in with motivational messages, students were studiously taking notes and posing very thought-provoking questions.

I have returned to States more committed to the idea that youth across the globe are in need of motivation whether they are in an economically developing country or the most powerful nation in the world. We have our differences, but at the end of the day, we all laugh and cry in the same language. I am going to continue to travel and speak the universal language of hope for a better day into our youth. Every day, if you think about it, you can also impact a young person. Just take time and communicate to them in the same way you needed to be talked to by an adult when you were younger and you will quickly see that you have an attentive audience. So what are you waiting for?