Monday, August 30, 2010

Please Pass The Activator

Ok, let’s be honest…out of everyone that is reading this, who had a Jheri Curl? For my younger subscribers who were born after the eighties, this might be a foreign term to you. If so, simply Google “Michael Jackson with Jheri curl” and you should find a plethora of pictures and definitions. According to Wikipedia, “The Jheri curl is a hairstyle that was common and popular in the African American community. Invented by and named for Jheri Redding, the Jheri curl gave the wearer a glossy, loosely curled look.” Now don’t get it twisted. That glossy shine by no means came easy. The harsh mixture of chemicals that were needed to make this look possible often left the user’s hair in an extremely brittle and dry state. In order to bring those juicy curls to life, Michael Jackson and all of those that followed suit with the popular hairstyle from the 1980’s had to add a product called activator.

Now think about that major dream, vision or goal that you have for your life. Can you picture it? Some of you may be living it right now, but for many of you, it is only a dream, vision or goal in your mind or on paper that has no life. So what’s the difference? What is missing? What do those that are living in their dreams have, that the rest of you do not? The secret ingredients are Faith and Belief. Until you add those things to your dreams…they are dead. You need faith and belief to bring your goals to life. Faith and belief are the activators that add the juice to your vision, thus making it a reality.

These two ingredients create an activator that gives your life that shine…no longer lying dormant, dull and lifeless.

If you don’t have the activator, you may as well not speak about it.

If you don’t have the activator, you may as well not write about it.

If you don’t have the activator, you may as well not waste time daydreaming about it or visualizing it.

Sometimes we are not even aware that our style is dry and crunchy.

We say things like, “I really want to go to back to school BUT…”

“I really want this job BUT…”

You might as well finish those sentences with, “…BUT….I don’t believe.” Or “BUT…I don’t have faith.”

We defeat ourselves before we even begin with our little faith and lack of belief. If you find yourself speaking in such a way, it’s time to get some activator!

If you find that a loved one or a friend is in a drought, don’t have them walking around looking like that! You would not let a loved one or a friend that you truly cared about walk around in public with their hair all over their head looking all crazy. So don’t allow your people to kill their dreams by not believing that they will come to pass. Give them a little squirt of your activator. Share how it has brought the shine back into your life. Share your faith and belief based activator until they are able to stock up on their own supply.

Last week I heard a quote that really resonated with me. It said, “When your focus is clear, what you want will show up in your life, but only to the extent that your focus is clear.” Let me amend that twice over for the purposes of this message.

“When your faith is strong, what you want will show up in your life, but only to the extent that your faith is strong.”

“When you believe, what you want will show up in your life, but only to the extent that you believe.”

1 Part Faith + 1 Part Belief = Activator (The activation of your vision, your goals and your dreams).

Invest in an unlimited lifetime supply.

Monday, August 23, 2010

A PhD in ME

I have two degrees, two certifications and years of practice in my fields of study...but there has been no better teacher, lesson or education than life. I went straight from Kindergarten through graduate school without any breaks other than summer vacations during grade school and then one summer off during my first year of college. After having been engaged in formal education for so many years, I thought that life without school might feel foreign. I was wrong. I have probably learned more in the last eight years that I have been out of school than I have in the eighteen years that I was in school.

Over those long school years I learned a whole lot about many different things, much of which I have forgotten. It wasn't until I had graduated from graduate school and stepped out into the real world that I came to realize that I didn't know a whole lot about me.

Higher education establishments put together degree programs that have specific classes that you must take in order to graduate in your selected major or area of study. There are certain classes that must be taken before you are allowed to take others, these are called Pre-Requisites. There are also classes that you must take that have nothing to do with your major so that you are well rounded. These are called Basic Studies. The classes that you take that dig deep into your area of study through practice or a more specific focus are called Practicums, Labs, and Methods Courses. If you want to take a course on your own without actually attending a class with your peers, it's called an Independent Study.

School was great, and it was an experience that I wouldn't trade, but I believe that we can have just as awesome an experience by putting together our own personalized degree program...A program that I like to think of as a PhD in ME. PhD, which stands for Doctor of Philosophy, and is also referred to as a Doctorate Degree, is the highest degree that one can earn.

Think about it. You can set up your own personal degree program based on your interests, passion and purpose. The world is your University. Your recommended or required readings and assignments might include books, travel, movies, relationships, conferences, seminars and networking events that you select based upon the things that you enjoy, as well as your plans and your goals. Now let's take the format that Colleges and Universities have created and break down a few of these key concepts so that you can begin to create a program that helps you to get to know yourself and improves the quality of your life.

Pre-Requisites and Basic Studies:
These represent those things in your life that you may need to put in place before you are able to comfortably and successfully move to the next level. For example, as I continue to build and grow my business, I have found it necessary to get my personal finances in order first. There are certain basic things in your life that must be done before you move on to higher level things or they will keep holding you back or getting in the way. In many cases, these things teach you or prepare you so that you are equipped to move forward and upward. What do you need to do to lay the foundation for your future?

Practicums and Labs:
These are symbolic of the actual hands on experiences where you get out and try things. This may be diving into writing and publishing your own book, or trying your hand at a new talent or skill such as singing or painting. I've found that sometimes the best way to learn is to just get out there and give it a try. We can only learn so much from reading books and listening to lectures. The most powerful type of learning comes when the student is fully engaged in the experience. My literary mentor, Sylvia Hubbard often says, "Just go in there and try to break it." in reference to learning the latest technology. When my brother was younger, he used to take things apart to find out how they worked. Sometimes breaking things and making mistakes is the best way to learn. In what areas do you need more hands on experience?

Independent Study: I often meet many new people and speak to and teach large crowds. I've come to learn that as much as I am surrounded by people, I need to spend as much if not more time alone. Time alone not only gives me the balance that I need, but it's also a time to rest, reflect, recharge and do research. While a huge part of your personal degree program comes from the relationships that you build with others...the relationship that you build with yourself is just as important. How much intentional "Me" time do you set aside?

Give yourself homework. This includes listing and setting goals for books that you want to read, people that you want to meet, events that you want to attend, places that you want to travel to, fears that you want to overcome and new things that you want to learn or try. These assignments can come in the form of long term and short term goals, or daily tasks that you check off on your to-do list. What does your self-made syllabus, custom made curriculum consist of?

Professors: Everyone should have at least one mentor. I would even go as far as to recommend that you have a mentor in every area of your life. For example, a spiritual mentor, a mentor in the field that you work in, and a fitness mentor. The choice is yours, but you should always have someone that you can look to, no matter their age, to help guide you to where you want to be. Unlike college professors, these mentors aren't just there to lecture to you. They should model the skills and behaviors that you aspire to, provide opportunities for you, and answer your questions. Who are your mentors?

CLEARLY I could go on and on with the metaphors...but I'll stop here to give you a chance to let it all marinate in your mind. This week, or month, or season, or year I challenge you create your own program where you first learn YOU and then become the best YOU that you can be. Join me as I obtain my PhD in ME!

Monday, August 16, 2010

What Is Your Escape Plan?

When I go out to do observations and quality assessments for youth programs, one of the first things that we look for is their emergency procedures which should be posted in plain view. Emergency procedures let people know which way to go in order to stay safe in the midst of chaos.

We've become so desensitized that we fail to realize that we are in the midst of a state of emergency. When we look at the messages in the media and popular culture, the literacy rate, the economy, mental illness and all of the things that are going on around us, it's a wonder that we haven't all given up.

Since we are in such a state, we need a plan of escape in order to keep our sanity. Here are some procedures that I suggest you practice in order to keep you grounded, balanced and essentially safe...

Self-Care: I've begun to spoil myself because with all of the work and travel that I do, I need to re-build, re-energize and replenish regularly. I get professional massages, pedicures, hairstyling, eye brow arching and personal fitness training on a regular basis. This is a huge change because a few years ago I hardly ever treated myself to any of these things that I now consider necessities. I consider them as such because in order to continue to give my gift to the world in the way that God wants me to, I need to make sure that my cup is not only full but overflowing. What do you, or can you do to increase your focus on self-care?

A Financial Plan:
I've come to realize that poverty is a to which I have been trapped in for many years and still struggle to be released from the grips of. If we are not focused on financial literacy we tend to spend more than we save, give more than we have, and live well beyond our means, often struggling from pay check to pay check. Now is the time to begin to think about how you might get your finances in order in such a way that you are prepared for the emergencies that can and do emerge every day. Even if it as simple as an old school piggy bank, put aside a little money every day and invest in something that will yield a return. In what ways can you strengthen your financial practices?

A Confidante:
Quite simply, you need someone that you can talk to or confide in. My suggestion is that God be the first, but you need someone that you can talk to who you can trust and that is an active listener. When I say active listening I mean not just hearing what you are saying, but truly listening, remembering, empathizing, knowing when to be silent and knowing when to practice self-control. We don't always want someone to offer the solutions, the lectures, or the shoulda's, ought to's, and need to's....we simply need someone who will just listen without judgment, yet be honest and hold us accountable for the goals and plans that we share with them. Who is your confidante? If you don't have one, identify one...if no one meets the requirements...God is always on deck.

A Place of Peace:
In an actual emergency, this would be a fallout shelter or some other place that would keep you safe in the midst of a natural disaster or act of terror. The things that we deal with in our everyday lives are just as real and we often need to take cover to reflect and regroup.

It's also important to keep in mind that your environment has a huge impact on your state of mind. I've noticed that my physical environment often reflects my mindset. When I am at peace, my space is clean, organized and creatively decorated. When I'm out of sorts, my place looks like it's been hit by a tornado. If you don't have access to a little cabin or some other serene get away, then your home or at least one space in your home should be your place of peace.

Designate a spot, or if you have a loft like me where everything is in one big space, design it in a way that brings you the serenity that you need. If candles and incense are your thing, then make it happen. As much as possible keep your space clean and clutter free. I personally discourage unannounced or uninvited guests because I know that's what I need for my own sanity. Pick your space, design it to your liking and set your standards and boundaries. Everyone should have their very own place of peace to retreat to in tumultuous times.

So today, I encourage you to write, or mentally devise the first draft of your emergency procedures or escape plan. What are your top three self-care practices? What is your financial plan? Who is your confidante? Where is your place of peace? Write them, type them, put them on a poster whatever works best for you and post them in plain view.

There is no need for a drill like those we used to do in school to practice what we might do in the event of an emergency because the time is now. Device your escape plan and your emergency procedures and practice them regularly.

Monday, August 9, 2010

What Were You Born To Do?

Yesterday in church a couple gave a powerful testimony that moved me to tears. The wife had been stricken with a severe heart condition that rewound her life and abilities back to infancy. She couldn’t walk, talk, or do any of the basic things for herself that we often take for granted. Her husband did everything in his power to take care of her. During that time she asked him, “Does it bother you to have to take care of me so much?” He answered, “No, this is what I was born to do.”

In life we often settle for less than we are capable of and less than we deserve. When it comes to what we are capable of, we find comfort in what we are good at instead of pushing further and finding out what we are great at. It may be a skill or talent, but then it may be something as simple as caring for a loved one as was the case with the story above. So I ask you, “What were you born to do?” You may not know now, you may not find out until later in life like the husband did with his wife’s illness, but in the meantime are you pushing past the good, exploring what you are great at and operating in that with excellence?

Now, let’s take a look at what you deserve. We are so quick to play the role that looks like this: “If anyone must suffer, if anyone must come last, if anyone must go without….then let it be me.” A dear friend of mine used to go through life saying and living under that belief only to come to the realization that it was false humility. According to Wikipedia, "'false humility' consists of deprecating one's own sanctity, gifts, talents, and accomplishments for the sake of receiving praise or adulation from others."

Don’t you know that you deserve the best? No matter where you’ve been, no matter what you’ve been through, no matter what you’ve done, at the end of the day you deserve that mate that loves you unconditionally. You deserve that job, career, salary, or grant that you’ve always wanted. You deserve to be in the best of health mentally and physically. Know your worth! Just as you were born for a specific purpose, so was someone else born for a specific purpose for you.

So when it comes to relationships, don’t just settle for who loves you, no matter how they treat you…someone was born just to be the love of your life that you deserve if you wait patiently and faithfully. When it comes to your health, and you think there is no way out, know that there was a doctor that was born just to save your life, or a friend that was born just to pray and encourage you, keeping your spirits high until you heal. Your children may have been born to slow you down, give you someone to love and cherish, and then ultimately someone to take care of you when you can no longer care for yourself.

When people call on me for a word of encouragement, or thank me for a message that I wrote that spoke to their situation, I feel like I’m just doing my job, because I know…this is what I was born to do.

Whatever life has thrown your way or taken away, know that there is a specific purpose for which you were born and on the flip side there is someone, or more than one person that was born to help you or see you through.

What were you born to do? Who was born for you?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Life is Like a Football Game

I had a personal wake up call this weekend when a friend unknowingly brought one of my behavior patterns to my attention.  I came to realize that I have a tendency to brush certain things off, saying or acting like I don't care or like things don't affect me in situations where they should or do.  This got me to thinking, is this a defense mechanism that I subconsciously use to avoid being hurt or disappointed? 

It made me think of football.  In the little that I understand of the game, I know that you either play offense or defense.  The defense defends the ball and the offense goes after the ball.  According to Wikipedia "The objective of the game is to score points by advancing the ball into the opposing team's end zone."  I relate this to life.   

Another word for offense is attack.  Do you find yourself taking life head on, attacking challenges and obstacles or goals and dreams?  Or, do you play it safe by going through life trying to defend your mind, your heart and your ego by manipulating situations so that there is little to no that you can't get that you cannot fail...  We often spend most of our time defending ourselves from other people.  We don't want them to talk about us.  We don't want them to disappoint us. 

We place so much on and in people.  But do you know that people talking about you has prepared you for your impending greatness?  Do you think that the numbers of naysayers will decrease as your success, prosperity, and popularity increases? In all actuality, it is just the opposite.  A person talking about you is all a part of your preparation because when you get better, it only gets worse.  

People begin to look and dig for something to talk about and if they can't find it, they will create it.  So if you weren't or aren't used to it, you might not be able to handle it. If you hadn't experienced it, it might take you out.  It might make you want to quit.  It might make you want to hide.  If you had not been through something, you might not be able to handle all that is coming along with your victory.  Your trials have strengthened you and humbled you in preparation for the greatness that is before you. 

People will leave you. People will betray you. People will disappoint you.  Don't be discouraged!  You've experienced what you've been through to prepare you for what God wants you to do.  Because now you KNOW that you can make it...because you HAVE made it.  And you know that people are just that...people...not perfect...not God. So why even play yourself by expecting so very much of them.  Most are hurting...and they need you. They need you to operate in your God given gift to help heal them. 

Now let me reverse up off of that tangent I just went on and drive my point home.  What are you spending your valuable time doing?  What side of the ball are you on?  Are you playing defense, to avoid pain, hurt, disappointment, failure and a host of other things that are all a part of life, and perhaps very important pieces of your preparation for greatness?  OR are you playing offense by attacking every obstacle that comes your way, whether good or bad, all making you stronger, right and ready for the tasks that lay before you? 

Life is like a game of football.  What position do you play?