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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!

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!

New Album Intro (lyrics)

This is my 8thalbum 7 years since the last

Had a lot on my mind let a lot of stuff pass

Chose to focus on my kids, enjoy being a father

Watched too many brothers & sisters on tv get slaughtered

Hot and bothered, why they use us as fodder

Mothers, fathers, aunts & uncles, cousins, sons and daughters

Silenced by the pain, by cops my people get slain

So many stories I can make a song just sayin’ they names

Sandra bland, Stephon Clark, Philando, Eric garner

Robert white, mike brown, Danny Thomas, John Crawford

Willard & Walter Scott, Tamir rice, and Yarber

Tarika Wilson, Oscar Grant, James Brisette, Shem Walker

I ain’t got enough bars I know they up in the stars

But back on my earth we in a state of constant shock & awe

With the weight of the world on our shoulders Jehovah

In my daughters’ eyes I see the hope that saved this soldier

In my son I see the pride that keeps wakin’ me up

To fight harder every day and stop givin’ a…

What the deal I really feel like I live in a reel

Waitin’ to wake from a nightmare Freddy Kruger for real

Nightmare on my street everyday Friday the 13th

A president who don’t give a damn about my peeps

I see what the hell I got to lose I ain’t confused

And as long as I breathe I’m a challenge these fools

I got my ancestors watching’ I refuse to lose

For the future I be plottin’ on these blasé dudes

Cause everything is love and that’s how it should be

In those 7 years got a PhD in JAY Z

So y’all ain’t heard from me but yo boy ain’t stop

I never let go of the bars never stopped hip-hop

We been through hell but oh well got more stories to tell

Cause we ain’t goin’ nowhere this land’s our for real

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.

Is Leadership In YOU? (a poem)

The chosen few are the few who chose

To step up and open doors tightly closed

So you call yourself a leader, but what does that mean?

Getting green, turning green, badly running your team?

Sadly killing the dreams of a hopeful teen?

Madly willing your ideas, not even listening?

Does it mean you celebrate on election day

Because you can add your new position to your resume?

Can you handle criticism when your peers dis’ you?

Because you don’t care about theirs but only your issue?

Pass the tissue, makes me sad how some leaders let

Power get to their head, constituents they forget

You’re just a leader in name if you’re just searching for fame

For acclaim, it’s a shame why some get in the game

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

Time to rethink your position, understand why you came

You see a leader’s someone who listens firsts then speaks

Someone focused on being the change we seek

Leaders understand they represent all people

Don’t do that your leadership will never have a sequel

Do you seek to understand before being understood?

Do you take time to visit other neighborhoods?

We need real leaders to step up to the plate

To take a swing at racism other types of hate

To stomp out bullying, help end genocide

Do your best to help others hold their heads with pride

A leader builds a team, can’t do it all by yourself

And a leader remembers to practice good health

Because you’re no good to others if you’re no good to you

So let me ask you again, is leadership in you?

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!

G.R.O.W. towards your greatness! (a poem)

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 it seems that since you’re still living that 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!

Do you have the things money CAN’T buy?

Let’s talk about that money! That’s right: mula, dinero, feza, duckets, loot, greenbacks, chedda, whateva! As Rita Davenport said, money isn’t the most important thing, but it’s right there next to oxygen on the “gotta have it” scale. and as the great philosopher Yeezus said, “Having money isn’t everything. Not having it is.” OK this may be true and it’s nice to have the things money can buy but what about the things money can’t buy? Ziglar reminded us of this when he said money can buy you a house, but it can’t buy you a home. It can buy you a mate, but it can buy you a friend. It can buy you a bed, but it can’t buy you a good night’s sleep. 

Are you so caught up in the riches you don’t (and may never) have that you are forgetting about the priceless fortune right in front of you? Your spouse? Your children? Your family members? Your business? Your job? Your global perspective? All of these things are more important than money and so remember in pursuit of those added zeros in your bank account, don’t forget to celebrate the things that money can’t buy…like self love!

Finishing what you start

Today I want to talk about completion. Les Brown said that in order to become someone you have never been, you have to be willing to do things you have never done. Completing my dissertation was a challenge unlike nothing else I have ever done and I have emerged from it a stronger person. The question is: what have YOU not completed? What vision are you allowing to wither away because of fear of failure, fear of success, lack of financial or emotional support, etc.?

It took me 10 years to complete my PhD. I had no children when I started and now I have 3. I could have used each child as an excuse to not continue but I let them inspire me to push on. Too many times, I hear people say “Life happened” as a reason that they did not pursue a dream. Don’t let that be you. Just because you have to go a different path than others does not mean you should stop driving. No. Find detours in the road, stop for gas, sleep at the hotel. Do whatever you have to do but don’t stop driving until you reach your destination and when you get there, find somewhere else to go! You’re not dust. You weren’t put on this earth to settle. You are here to find your calling and pursue it all costs and let no one stop you, especially YOU!