Tag Archives: Freedom

This is America

America

Every time I fly out of Austin, I park my car in the extended lot, it’s not too expensive (yet). Parking at this spot requires me to ride on a shuttle to and from the airport. Now, I travel enough to notice, that unless I sit next to someone or a person of color sits next to me, a white person never sits next to me on the bus ride back. I have noticed this for 3 years. On the way into the airport, I may have had a handful sit next to me, but on the flight home and shuttle bus back to my car, a white person never sits next to me. Every single time they take every other seat available, even by some questionable people, before they dare sit next to me. But I have had enough experiences to let this roll off my back until a trip back from Kentucky after my favorite Uncle’s funeral just two months ago. It was late, and I was tired, and dealing with my uncle’s funeral was draining emotionally. As I got on the shuttle, I sat in my usual seat, and it began to fill in. All but one seat was available, that seat was next to me or so we thought. The driver was about to close the door when another person jumped on the bus, a middle aged white man, got on and put his stuff up. I told myself, he’s going to stand. The only clear seat available was next to me. The bus driver pointed in my direction, and told him that he had to have a seat. And the next thing that happened was completely unexpected.

An older, white-haired man was covering two seats and it was hardly noticeable, but this man found it. He made the older gentleman quite uncomfortable and sat next to him and another lady, and was squeezed very tightly. Then I felt a number of people’s eyes on me. Especially, the old white man who was completely uncomfortable. I couldn’t tell if his eyes were supposed to comfort me, if he was ashamed, or if he had the same thoughts as the man who refused to sit next to me, that he wouldn’t come sit next to me either. I like to think that his look was of regret that he didn’t choose to come sit next to me in the first place. I luckily was the first stop and got off the bus quickly, and I walked to my car, threw my luggage inside, and I began to weep.

That even when I am tired, I mean I was really tired, and sad, and all of the things I was going through with family members and the bullshit at work that at that very moment, I had to be reminded that I am black and there are people who think less of me, who are afraid of me, who’d rather be uncomfortable than sit next to me. This is my life as a black person in America. This is my life as a black person in one of the most “liberal” places in America. No matter if it’s a good day or a bad day, these experiences happen regularly for no good reason. I know that life isn’t fair, but if we can talk about struggles with our weight and body issues or other insecurities that to some extent we might have control over, but I can’t talk about this. Then we might as well be living in 1776.

I wish that the white people who are in power, who are at the table and have the money to make decisions that affect my black life can be like the white people I know and love, like my best friend, and the best two roommates I have ever had, my favorite teacher, my favorite mentor besides my mother and my Aunts. I wonder why can’t all white people look through their lens, and see me as a human being.

I am sure there will be someone reading this and think maybe he sat there, because it was closer. That it couldn’t be about race. You have been conditioned, as have I, by the ills of this country that I cannot talk about my race too much. Even though, because I live in America, I am often forced to think about it almost every day. But you know what…. I have decided to not feel sorry about it. I’ve been wanting to share this story even though it makes me angry, and it would make me even angrier that people might not understand or misinterpret my purpose and meaning. I’ve decided that I do not care.

Because I will remind you, this happens, every single time I ride this bus. It is not a one time deal. It isn’t a coincidence. This my friends is America.

Wake up and realize it.

Unfortunately, the only person who has is running for President of America.

M/P

Take the Time and Use a Timeout

Timeout

“The real man smiles in trouble, gathers strength from distress, and grows brave by reflection.” Thomas Paine

Self- Evaluation

Self-Discovery

Self-Reflection

*yawns*

Are you one of those people who likes reading self-help books? Or the kind of person who takes hours during the week or month to stop and think about how you can do things better or become a better person?

Well, this article might not be for you.

There are people who don’t like to read self-help books, either by choice or because the busyness of life, they don’t stop and reflect (and by they, I really mean we, because I am guilty as charged) ….This post is for you.

For me, I am guilty of being a true energizer bunny, and my goal is to just keep going and going and going…. Rarely, do I stop and take breath or pause for a moment to reflect.

And you might ask, ‘Don’t you ever sit and think about what you are doing’… yeah, if I make a mistake and feel some type of pain or regret. But unless you’re in a constant flow of pain and regret, you can go weeks and months without looking back and thinking of how you are getting from A to B. This is me. To truly sit back and self-reflect on life, you have to be intentional, not only for yourself, but for those around you.

In the past, I was piling things onto my plate and  avoided this much needed self-reflection. But earlier this year, I found myself complaining and irritable, and I began to question whether I was really happy. I am naturally a glass half-full, extreme optimist, who LOVES Monday. So when it felt like every other sentence out of my mouth was negative, I began to see that it was affecting those around me. I knew something was wrong.  But, I didn’t quite know how to stop my normal way of life.

I was used to it. It was familiar. Unfamiliarity is not cool. Sort of.

But despite my resistance to this idea of changing my natural flow of life, I had enough people around me telling me that I wasn’t crazy, and that maybe a switch-up was exactly what I needed.

So 4 months ago, I significantly reduced my involvement in a lot of things which opened my life up.

More time to write. More time to sleep, and to be quite frank, more time to myself. At first, I didn’t use this time wisely at all. I was still a little reluctant and there was no reflection occurring. I filled it with other things, mindless things, so I thought I was making progress, but I knew that wasn’t my purpose. I quickly reminded myself that I needed to be intentional and do something different that was going to help me.

The purpose was to stop and reflect, and after about 3 months, I finally am getting the swing of more alone time, saying no, and developing new skills. As I began to reflect more, there were some things that I am surprised were going on in my life and others were exactly the way I thought they were.

The biggest area in my life that I needed to take a look at was leadership. And boy, am I learning a lot. I am a big proponent that leadership skills are innate, and that you can’t teach people how to be good leaders. But people can learn how to be better at leading and if they are willing to learn. I think I am natural born leader, but I probably haven’t learned anything new about leading. I needed to have a seat.

As of June 1st, 2016, I hold zero leadership positions for the first time in my life in over 15 years and I am loving every minute. I made this decision back in February when I realized, that for more than 15 years, I was in some capacity leading a group of of youth or adults in some way. I was like I have to stop. I was right, I am following, and learning so much more about being a leader than I have in the last two years.

It is important to learn that although you are capable of leading, allowing others to lead you and absorb their knowledge is a part of the process. If I didn’t stop to smell the roses, I would be missing out on some important nuggets that not only will make me a better leader, but ultimately a better person for those around me. I am learning a couple of other things along the way:

  • Patience – I need more of it
  • Discipline – I need more of it
  • Listening – I need to do more of it

The last point is clearly something that I was vastly aware of. I am always trying to talk less and listen, but taking the time to step back and see how I was behaving. I need to make this a reality, what’s the point of knowing you need to fix something and not improving it. Therefore, I am intentionally listening more.

I noticed that I needed more patience and discipline in almost every area of my life. I needed to build a little stamina in both of these areas to be a little better and a little more productive. Although a product of the millennial generation that is in love with instant gratification, this doesn’t change the fact that some things take time and you have to work hard to achieve your goals.

One goal in particular is becoming healthier. Waiting for pounds and inches to drop is the slowest process known to man. But what is the rush? I find myself trying to cheat or expedite the process, cut corners, only to my detriment. Not only did I realize I needed to improve this about myself, I couldn’t do it alone. I have felt discouraged and down on myself a number of times. The trainers have coached me, encouraged me, and loved on me a little bit, and I have stayed more committed to my health longer than ever before. When I noticed this was happening, I reflected on other areas in my life where I was lacking patience. I was able to connect some of my frustrations and identify one of the root causes to my increased complaining. This reflection has made a big impact my life in this short amount of time. So now I have opened my arms to the process on reflecting my behavior and plan to continue this self-evaluation, discovery and reflection with joy.

Why don’t you join me? Please share your experience with self-reflection.

M/P

Value the Unknown (The Monday Fits)

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I have always believed, and I still believe, that whatever good or bad fortune may come our way we can always give it meaning and transform it into something of value. – Hermann Hesse

In our world, we like to validate ____ (fill in the blank) anything by how many likes, shares, or re-tweets something gets. We like to validate certain causes, initiatives, or businesses based on some genius or celebrity that has their name attached to the venture. We like to validate our bodies and self-images based on magazines and the media.  We also like to validate each other in our day to day living by who we think is important, and how they can help us make it to the next stage in life. Now, when I say, WE, each of those examples may not apply to you, or all of them might. But what I am sure of, is that each of us could take some time in valuing something a little more.  Not because it has been validated by someone or something else, but taking the time to make that decision on your own.

Disclaimer: There are a few areas that I am definitely not talking about i.e. babysitters, new car recommendations, your local mechanic, etc. I know I say that jokingly, but there are certain areas in our life, where having a little validation helps you sleep at night. But what I am talking about today, are things that deal with improving our core values and learning new lessons. I am not talking about taking risks (my favorite subject) , but taking a person, an experience, or a new path with “arms wide open” and ears wiped clean. We often hurt ourselves by making judgments too soon or being tainted by the experience of others, and placing the wrong value on something and potentially disregarded it altogether and missing the benefits.

Due to my extreme extroversion, I have a knack for going to places where I know no one, because I might have an interest in a speaker, an event or maybe the occasion. I’m kind of a seasoned pro, so I now expect something out of most of my experiences, whether I learn something, make a connection, or reaffirm something that I already knew. I get annoyed with people who hesitate to do something, because they already know how x, y and z is going to happen…

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I wasn’t always so open to the unknown, and there are times still, people and experiences surprise me, but you honestly have to be open to them.

*Enters new experience*

I don’t know what’s going on in your world, but I currently live in Texas, so the last two weeks have been consumed with the story of Sandra Bland. Last week, there was a vigil and silent march to the Capitol held in Austin. Now since Trayvon Martin, there have been a number of marches, protest, vigils, etc. for the many, many young black men and women who have died over the last two years and I haven’t been to a one.  I do believe they serve a purpose, but I contribute my time to the community in other ways quite a bit. I would publicize and get the word out, but I had never put my foot to the pavement. Well, last week, I was asked to be the legal observer for the vigil and silent march, and I didn’t hesitate to take on this task, because there really wasn’t a threat of anything happening.  Now, I didn’t quite know what I was getting myself into, and I really was expecting much personally from the march, but boy was I surprised.

There were over 200+ people of all kinds of races, religions, and ethnicities to walk in silence up to the Texas’ capitol. Now it was hot, and I had a long day, but I was ready. The march was led by an amazing group of young women, and just to see all of those people come together was truly amazing. And as I walked, my mind had a million thoughts, what was it like in the 1960’s to do this over and over, and to not see the results you wanted instantaneously or  being attacked with dogs, and water hoses, and all the horrible things that were happening to stand up for the rights  that I enjoy today. And as I walked tears rolled down my face with the many thoughts of my parent’s past, and left me with more focus for the future. That the freedoms I have do have aren’t supposed to be taken for granted, and I have to be even more intentional with my time, effort and money to make a difference.  I did not know that I needed that reminder, to refocus my efforts (as I wrote on focus JUST two weeks ago), but it was the experience I needed to shape my paradigm. New experiences, new knowledge.

But it just doesn’t stop with experiences, it happens with people as well. I have told this story quite often, but a nice old (er) lady made a little difference in all the world when it came to me starting my blog. I went to an entrepreneur talk put on by the City of Austin. With events in Austin, I always leave early to beat the traffic. This lady  and I were the only two at the event location, a good 20 minutes before another soul walked into the place. We struck up a conversation, she told me she was retired and her first several comments were discussing how she had been caring for her parents, who now were no longer living. Now to be honest, if I didn’t have a strong appreciation for caregivers, I might not have seen any use in the conversation. I mean, she was an older lady, who’s been taking care of her parents, my thoughts could’ve been:

  1. What do we have in common?
  2. What on earth can we talk about? Or relate about?

But neither of those thoughts crossed my mind, and I am glad they didn’t. Maybe my intuition was working in my subconscious that day, because she was there for the same entrepreneur talk that I was attending.  Too much delight and my improvement, she gave advice about taking risks, starting my blog, and not being afraid. I soaked it all up, not because I knew who this women was, but I figured she was taking the time out to talk to me, why not listen. It was only did I find out later, when we finally connected on LinkedIn, that this women was a powerhouse in her own right who chose family over her career. What a woman! But with her success, did it make her advice any more valid or correct, maybe? But had I made an assumption from her appearance or her initial comments, and not given her any of my time, I would not have gained inspiration that made a difference in my life.  No matter how big or small, you never know the impact of something, pre-judging your experiences or people can have you missing out on a great opportunity or placing in value in the wrong things.

We have to be able to discern who is worth your time and who is not, but don’t be too quick and forget to value the unknown, you might just be a little better for it.

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#FivedaysinDecember #JoinMe

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JOIN ME…..my last five blogging days of the year are going to be part of a series called “Five Days in December”.  I started my blog  this year, to share my voice, and make an impact, and not stand on the sidelines while my thoughts remained tucked away in my brain.  I took a small hiatus, to sit back, watch, listen, learn, and NOW I have plenty to say. Plan, Prepare, Execute! How about you?…What are you doing in your community? How are you advancing your career? establishing meaningful relationships? In what area, could you be doing more? Take a little time out of your day, for 5 days in December, and figure out what you are going to do next year! It only takes ONE!

The only limit to your impact is your imagination and commitment.
Tony Robbins 

M/P

The Monday Fits: Episode 3

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And they write innumerable books; being too vain and distracted for silence: seeking every one after his own elevation, and dodging his emptiness. – T.S. Elliot

One of my favorite days to celebrate is coming up, and you’re probably thinking Thanksgiving or New Years, but Veteran’s Day is just around the corner.(For all of you reading this on Monday, and you don’t know, it’s tomorrow, go thank a Veteran). The reason I love this holiday, because veterans give their lives for our safety and freedom, and never get thanked enough for their service partly due to the fact that many former soldiers don’t demand thanks or recognition. They demand you respect them as a soldier, for the uniform, and most of all, respect for their country.
Now, I am sure there are a few who like to be thanked every chance they get, and brag as much as possible, but the overall sense of military personnel, in my opinion, is humility and service. So of course, I was fit to be tied, about
the back and forth about Robert O’Neill and the many Navy SEALS who are betrayed by his actions. Now if you haven’t heard, Mr. O’Neill killed Osama Bin Laden by delivering the two fatal shots to the head. Mr. O’Neill’s official story is coming out in a Fox special, but other betrayed SEALS outted the soldier, before he had the opportunity, because they were upset that he was breaking the code of silence.

Now as a person whose never been anywhere near the danger of a battlefield or a covert mission, I would never question a veteran, because they give their life for this country and the mental wear and tear on their brain, especially a soldier from an elite, dangerous and covert group like the NAVY Seals. However, if they stop maintaining that role after they are finished serving, what is their
responsibility to this country?

When I think of words to describe the military, my first thoughts are duty, loyalty, and honor, they are all words that would say, “No, keep your mouth shut”. And that’s just it, he forgot the ethos of the military, and exchanged for the American ethos of “Me, Me, oh, and yeah, more Me.” I think it’s irrelevant to talk about the code, creed, ethos though, because he obviously doesn’t care and has taken full acceptance to the American ideals of self.

If the story had stopped there, I would have shrugged my shoulders, and thought “meh”…

But of course, it did not. What makes me a little mad about his original explanation as to why he wanted to share his story was for the healing of 9/11 victim’s families. As a motivational speaker, Mr. O’Neill was “invited to address a gathering of
9/ 11 family members at the National September 11 Memorial Museum shortly before its official opening. During what he described as a highly emotional exchange, Mr. O’Neill decided spontaneously to talk about how bin Laden died.” And Mr. O’Neill exclaims, “The families told
me it helped bringthem some closure”.

So we’re playing a game of BS, are we?

I don’t doubt that the story brought closure to a person who lost a family member in 9/ 11. However, many of the details surrounding the incident have been revealed, and every
one knows Osama Bin Laden is dead. He didn’t have to bring his ownership of the final deed into the mix. Now do I think that this closure is more important than keeping their pact of silence, probably not. And when he was telling the story, he didn’t have to say he was the “shooter”! The reality is that it is not the real reason Mr. O’Neill was coming out and sharing details. And to think we’re supposed to buy that story is ridiculous.

In many of the stories that I have read, they state that Mr.O’Neill wanted to go ahead and tell his story, because he knew his name was going to be coming out as the shooter, so what? Let someone else tell it, let some one else break the code of silence, because your integrity is all YOU got.

If you look at his article in Esquire, at a time when he remained anonymous, the article talks about how he was struggling financially despite the great accomplishments he had achieved. In the article, his father, goes on to say, “He’s taken monumental risks, but he’s unable to reap any reward.” (Source)

Well, how about that? Feel sorry for the guy? Heck no. Osama Bin Laden is not the only extremely dangerous target that America has ever had. Mr. O’Neill is not the only soldier, and will definitely not be the last to feel slighted. His actions make it seem like his mission, his achievements are greater than everyone else’s. And that is why his fellow soldiers are upset and I get it.

But can you blame him? Yes. But I blame the American culture a little more. And I am not surprised by the news media’s coverage of the story, because drama, scandal, deceit, it sells. But a part of me wishes that we were strong enough to not care. That the honor and integrity of our military was more important than hearing his heroic story. But he is the hero, who risked his life, and killed Osama, can we not give him slack? I wish that was the case, I think the real truth is that most Americans would not keep their silence, because deep down we know we’re just as selfish. Let’s do better America, including me.

M/P

Freedom: The New American Silo

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Freedom: The American Silo

 You know you are out of your element when you feel a cringe in your stomach, a knot in your chest, or maybe a slight headache. If you think these feelings are unnatural or unwanted, embrace them. Many entrepreneurs, innovators live off of the feeling, because the moments that make you feel uncomfortable are often the experiences that make you grow. However, it’s becoming increasingly more common to not take the risk or the challenge.

Do you know why? Freedom.

Huh? What? That’s right, Freedom.

America was built on this cool thing called freedom, and it’s pretty awesome until we decided to get lazy, and this “freedom”, basically has become justification for us to only stick to what we know and like, but expanded to the point where it justifies what we don’t do, and that’s bad. In fact, that sentence I just wrote was lazy, and my high school English teacher would scream from the use of cool, pretty, awesome, and bad all in the same sentence as if there weren’t better adjectives to use.

So Freedom IS the power or the right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint. Yet, our sense of freedom to act, beyond expressing disagreement (as discussed in last week’s blog post) is stagnant. I believe that’s some of the befuddlement by the actions in Ferguson, is that the community is standing up, protesting, and challenging the status quo; many have asked them to wait. Wait for an investigation. Wait for due process. Wait for justice. You might not like the way they are doing it, but when did speaking out and protesting ever become an un-American thing to do. They used their freedom to act.

One of the biggest glaring examples, over the past few years, where Americans are using freedom in exchange for not taking the difficult steps to act: Tax inversions. “More big U.S. companies are incorporating abroad despite a 2004 federal law that sought to curb the practice. One big reason: Taxes”  (source: WSJ)

Sound complicated? It’s a deal (merger) between an American company and a non-American company to avoid or lessen U.S. taxes. To some degree, and in certain circumstances, I agree this practice is perfectly responsible for American companies, and my libertarian part of my brain is all for it. What bothers me is the implication that not allowing companies to pursue better tax options overseas on non-American soil is anti- American, because they have the right to choose (freedom) is just plain lazy. I’ve really heard pundits making the comments that this is what America was built on,  freedom, the freedom to move and make more money and that is true, but it’s more than that.

The real issue is that the tax code/system needs to be rewritten and revised. There are opportunities to take a look at our current policies and alter them to effectuate a change that would make companies WANT to stay here; but no one wants to have the conversation, no one wants to act. I mean there are a few scholars, tax nerds, and a small number of legislators that do, but the majority of people who have the power and influence to do so, but really don’t want to. They would rather not get awkward, get a little dirty, and avoid the knots in their stomach because it’s simply uncomfortable.

Companies, banks, and wealthy individuals have leveraged congress on policies with less importance and less effect on the American public. American companies continue to leave American soil and take away American jobs in the name of Freedom. (craziness, right?)

The actions of the companies are so suspicious that Burger King’s recent announcement of their merger with the Canadian- based Hortons, was immediately questioned as to their motives. And at first glance, their explanation seems reasonable, because the fast food market is losing money, and the market is more competitive as Americans are attempting to eat healthier (and rid the world of gluten). We don’t expect our tax rate to change materially,” said Burger King CEO Daniel Schwartz. “This transaction is not really about tax, it’s about growth”  (source: WSJ)

Then you look at the numbers! I didn’t even know Burger King was doing so well, they are 4th  in overall sales, after McDonalds, Subway and Starbucks. Then you see the reason everyone is giving them the big *sideeye*

This is not an attempt to oversimplify a critical, multi-layer problem within our system, but I would argue that we’ve masked our laziness, our fears, behind Freedom, and the American spirit is built around creation, innovation, MAKING MISTAKES, and figuring out a better solution. case and point: Kentucky’s Kynect. Do you know why Kentucky’s Kynect system has been so successful in promoting Obamacare?

So the Democrats got the legislation passed, won the war. Republicans were upset, and understandably vocal against legislation that they believe would cripple the system. Disagreement is good, but failing to ACT is futile.  The leaders in Kentucky had one responsibility: create a solution for all Kentuckians. Not only for one segment of the population, and that would include making the benefits attractive to Republicans.  And that’s where they truly won, and conveyed what America is all about. They executed their job to meet the law, and made it work for those who did not see their vision (and continue to hate Obamacare), and to me that is real freedom.

Freedom is our right as Americans to think, argue, and disagree as we so choose. But Freedom was not fought for and given to us to use these differences to not ACT.  Freedom’s real purpose was for us to recognize each others differences, and have the capacity, technology, and tools to create a solution.

So American, let’s break down the walls, and break out of the American Silo, work together and do something.

MP