Tag Archives: Positivity

Cleaning Up After The Elephant…

A couple of my coworkers recently turned vegan after having watched the Netflix documentary “What the Health”, which documents the role that meat and dairy products play in our diet and subsequently our general health.

It would be easy and routine to see the word diet and instantly think about food, Well!… I am not talking about a diet that pertains to just food, I am talking about a diet that pertains to what we also consume visually and spiritually.

The words diet comes from the Greek word diaita which means “a way of life”, consumption comes from the verb consume which derives from its Latin  origins con “altogether” and sumere “take up” – I point out these references because we spend our whole lives being consumers of a multitude of different “diets” or to put it another way we spend our whole lives “altogether taking up a way of life”

As a 70’s baby, I grew up watching Dukes of Hazard. Not the 2005 reboot, no! I’m talking about the original Dukes of Hazzard, man I used to love Daisy Duke. “Just the good ol‘ boys, Never meanin’ no harm” the theme song, Boss Hogg, Roscoe. The way that Bo and Luke would slide across the hood, jump into their car through the window and race away. The General Lee! emblazoned with a huge Confederate flag on the rooftop, how naive I was? Or was I? I guess what you don’t know can’t hurt you…

Nowadays I try not to watch as much TV as I used to, I’m not judging those that do watch a lot of television, I just choose not to. Although, in saying that I was watching the recent public unrest in Charlottesville and I couldn’t help but get angry and agitated, a procession of racists and neo-nazis spewing hate and delivering a message of white nationalism under a banner of “Unite the Right” vehemently opposed by counter-protestors determined to put a halt to the proceedings. Now coming from where I’m from it’s damn near impossible for me to feel a way about white people, especially considering the fact that a lot of my friends are white. I’m not gonna lie though, having watched these events I felt a certain way about a white male that stood next to me on the train the Monday morning after that weekend’s unrest. I  normally wouldn’t, but this imagery left a sense of disdain for white males and led me to believe that this man standing next to me was essentially one of these far-right bigots that were plastered all over my TV screen this past weekend. He looked just like them, was dressed just like one of them for all I know he could have really been there. I tell you this story just as an example of something that I consumed and how it had a negative effect on me. This coming from a man who has experienced and seen quite a bit in his lifetime and considers himself far less likely to have his opinion swayed by external sources.

That’s the thing with a lot of current television and media coverage. There is a tremendous amount of negative content with a little bit of feel-good sprinkled in every now and again but for the most part, it’s negative content that is continually promoted and thrown in our faces.  Go to the local gas station, 7-eleven or bodega and pick up a newspaper, I can almost guarantee you it will be a negative headline. Shock and awe, mouth aghast, is this what editors of newspapers demand of their headline writers? I’m pretty sure that’s how the story goes. Journalistic sensationalism is a word I’ve heard on several occasions in regards to our current news smorgasbord. Then there’s television’s most recent phenomenon – Reality TV, where do I start? Especially that which is targeting a more youthful, urban market. If you peel back the layers to the majority of it you will find nothing, no substance, no art, no form of motivation, nothing that will enhance your life. Not that you won’t be entertained and not that every waking moment should be spent trying to enhance your life but try living on a steady diet of that and see how it slowly infiltrates who you are and then becomes “who you are”.  Don’t get me wrong as someone who watches the occasional reality show, It’s entertaining, I am entertained. But I find that it is somewhat of a guilty pleasure as I can often feel like it’s an hour of my life that I want back after having watched.

In fact, let’s talk about our current President – Donald J. Trump – a businessman who became a reality TV star who became the ULTIMATE reality TV star. I don’t want to get into politics, trust me. But, even his staunchest supporters would have to admit that his presidency is like a serial drama with a storyline that would seem far-fetched if conceived by Shonda Rhimes. Imagine what this is doing to the collective psyche of the American public. The Whitehouse drama that sees someone in his administration either fired or quitting every other day. The racial overtones that see a seemingly politically sanitized racist America emboldened and without mercy inflict their will on the minorities. This could be a whole piece about “45” in and of itself but I’ll cut this short for now and return to regular programming.

This digital world we live in is like a media free for all, a scrimmage controlled by those who get out their content the fastest and whose flock is the largest. Even more so now with the rise of the smartphone, everyone and their mother is a freelance videographer and media is shared at a rapid pace often times without being vetted or censored. Worldstarhiphop.com, many of you may not be familiar with this website but I’m sure at some point you seen at least one viral video with someone shouting “Worldstar” in the background, I can almost guarantee that video was not of the heartwarming variety.

There’s a continual inner dialogue that we as humans have with ourselves. Self-conscious to confident to arrogant. A pendulum that swings from invincible to vulnerable in the blink of an eye. We are a perpetual rollercoaster of emotions and feelings all generated by thoughts, thoughts which are often determined by what we consume. In fact, while doing some research on this piece I’ve come across the term “cognitive distortion”. Cognitive distortionsare simply ways that our mind convinces us of something that isn’t really true. These inaccurate thoughts are usually used to reinforce negative thinking or emotions — telling ourselves things that sound rational and accurate, but really only serve to keep us feeling bad about ourselves. Now imagine how bad you’ll end up feeling about yourself if you consume a steady diet of nonsense or not even how bad you’ll feel about yourself but how your thoughts will be controlled by that content. Television, music, social media, aural and visual consumption is essentially what shapes our minds.

Environmentalists talk about “cleaning up after the elephant”: the endless task cleaning up industrial contamination, and how a far more effective strategy is to avoid fouling up the environment in the first place.

– B. Alan Wallace, Ph.D. – “The Attention Revolution”


“avoid fouling up the environment in the first place”


I would love to be able to say that as a parent, specifically in my role as the father,  that I am without fault in the way that I raise my son. I’m not! I know it, his mother knows it, I’m pretty sure that at this point even my son(who’s currently 4 years old)  knows it. I’m fine with that. There is no parenting handbook, no manual or instructions or rulebook to abide by. This is nothing that prepares you for parenthood. My little guy is a unique individual, unique as in there will only ever be one Cameron Elijah Madiba Walters. We observe and we adjust, we make mistakes and we adjust. As long as I ensure that the primary focus on adjustment is within myself, my demeanor and how I, we as parents, handle his environment.  How we ensure that he is not negatively affected by the world that we display for him to consume. The goal is to clean up after my elephants so as to leave his environment and his domain uncontaminated. 

Do What You Believe You Can’t Do!….

The old cliche – “anything is possible” – we say it but do we really believe it?  … Well, actually achieving something is the best form of validation and motivation.

The title says “Do What You Believe You Can’t Do”. On the surface that sounds counterintuitive but when you read it to yourself a few times and really listen to that voice in your head, think about it.

Anything is possible? Yes, but we often leave that for someone else to prove, what makes them so special? Yes they achieved the unachievable but how often have you heard yourself saying “I could have done that” – “Anyone could have done that” – “I wish I’d thought of that “ well why didn’t you?… Oftentimes, it as simple as having talked yourself out of it, not leaping when you should have, hesitating when you should have just gone for it. What’s the worst that could happen, you fail? Show me one highly successful person that has not failed and I’ll show you a liar, in fact most high achievers embrace failure with open arms as failure is a part of the learning process, failure is akin to a bodybuilder pumping iron. It’s not really failure, it’s a piece of the lesson in what is takes to achieve your dreams.

The funny thing with “doing things” is , the more you do, the more you do!…

The doing is always possible, the result is what separates the failure  from the success. You never know, you just might surprise yourself.

Sticks and Stones…

As a now mature adult, much of what I think of myself was formed from a very young age through my adolescence. In saying “what I think of myself” I mean,  not necessarily the man I’ve become but more so the man I believe the rest of the world sees. See, we have this opinion of ourselves and we also have an idea in the back of our minds that people see us a certain way. Both of these people – the self opinion vs. what people see – may indeed be the same self for some of us, while for others these two people are indeed entirely different. Why is that, you ask? Well throughout our lives we are constantly seeking approval and validation without even realizing it, it’s not our fault.  There’s a  subconscious conditioning that is programmed into us essentially from the moment we are born. Mom’s cutesy baby sounds while standing over us changing our diapers, Dad’s thumb’s up while approving us taking our first baby steps. The parade of relatives showering us with love and adulation, it’s a human impulse to show love for the newest member of the family, surely this is not wrong. Then we start to grow up and venture out into this wide world seeking approval from our peers, wanting to at least fit in and be liked throughout our school years to one day being accepted into the workforce and being approved of enough to carve out a career for ourselves. Validation and approval, acceptance or rejection?

I was watching an interview with renowned Wall Street investor Warren Buffett and the music icon JAY-Z the other day. At one point during the interview when asked the question about why he started his Sean Carter scholarship fund JAY-Z says how  a small thing changed his life and then goes on to explain how his sixth grade teacher once said to him “you know what, you’re kind’a smart” and he believed her “I’m smart, she sparked the idea in my mind” he said – The power of the spoken word to invoke positive thought, the power of the spoken word to spark to life, Mr. Sean Carter aka JAY-Z arguably the greatest rapper of all time.  Ok! So I’m sure there were and are many more factors that led to JAY-Z aspiring to become the man he is today but those words still live with him. Those words still live in his head, “you’re smart”.

Words are singularly the most powerful force available to humanity. We can choose to use this force constructively with words of encouragement, or destructively using words of despair. Words have energy and power with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate and to humble.
  – Yehuda Berg

I too, have a memory from my school years, to this day I still remember the praise that a teacher had given to me. “Mark, you have a vivid imagination” wrote Mr. Deeks.  I can still picture the words written on the side of my story after having had it graded. I forget what the story was about but today, some 30 some odd years later those words still live with me. The power of the written word.

Two examples of positive words spoken to children, children who still remember these words well into their adult lives. But what about when children encounter negative words at points during their childhood, do those words still live with us throughout our adult years. I tend to think that they do and I tend to think that the impact that they have on us is felt and manifested in exactly the same way that positive words are, albeit in an opposite manner. Moments of self-assuredness and confidence battling against self doubt and insecurity, I myself can attest. Having been a pretty good soccer player growing up, I was always told how good I was, always the one picked first when it came to making teams, there has never been a soccer field that I’ve been intimidated by. Seriously, as a 43 year-old playing against kids half my age I still feel like I can dominate. You can counter that soccer field bravado with my self image. Much of my teen years through early adulthood I wasn’t exactly full of self confidence, the dark skinned black guy with rubber lips is a phrase that comes to mind. A phrase that was not necessarily uttered in that particular way but it was a phrase that I had now associated with the person I looked at in the mirror everyday, “the dark skinned black guy with rubber lips” ? Trust me if you grew up in England in the 70’s and 80’s you are all too familiar with the term “rubber lips” – this is before it was considered cool to have full plump lips. So here I was, this person shaped by life experiences. So confident, arrogant and cocky in one arena. Yet shy, timid and retreating in another; all because of the words that I encountered in my youth. Perhaps if I was told, your skin is beautiful and your lips are fine I would not have felt so self conscious, perhaps?

Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.                   – Napoleon Hill

I think I can speak for many when I say we don’t actively seek to have a negative affect on our children with the language we use around them but as a parent I can raise my hand and confirm that I am culpable for making a young one second guess his worth. I’ve shouted at my son, I’ve questioned his sanity(he was drawing on the wall with a crayon), I admit it! It’s hard to change the language and the ways we react towards our kids, it’s what we’ve been using our whole lives. But becoming conscious of it is a good beginning, becoming conscious of the fact that is could be negatively affecting your child’s sense of self is a start in the direction.

My son is growing up so fast and has recently started a new school. Everyday I’m seeing a change in him and it’s amazing to see your offspring becoming their own person. At the same time I realize that his world is getting bigger and bigger everyday. He’ll be taking in new information and hearing words all day everyday, words that may lift him up alongside words that may bring him down. Unfortunately I cannot always stop him encountering the negative, in fact I wouldn’t want to as I think there is a necessity for him to experience that also.  I can and will though, as his father always lift him up and with my words, give him a foundation of confidence, self assured-ness and validity. I will always let him know that he is somebody and he’ll always know that he is loved just the way he is.

We sometimes get caught up in grand gestures and believe that they speak for the love of our child. The mega Christmas gift, the lavish birthday parties, the toys, the gadgets, the dolls, the cars, I could go on and on, it’s all well and good providing the material things for our kids but from my own experience nothing will live in your child’s mind longer than the spoken word, so make an effort to ensure that those words encourage, empower and lift up your child. You never know, you could be making it one less dark skinned black guy with rubber lips and one more music maestro like JAY-Z, don’t forget to tell him how smart he is.