Tag Archives: wonderful

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.

Social Media, not so social…. Part 1

I realized something today, well I realized it quite some time ago but today it hit home in a way that I never would have thought. I called my grandfather to wish him a Happy 87th Birthday and we had a nice long conversation. Later this evening I went over to my mother’ s house and asked her if she had spoken to daddy(we all call him daddy) for his birthday. “No! Daddy’s birthday was on the 1st, today is Denise’s(my aunt) birthday”, replies my bewildered mother. My mum’s birthday happens to be on the 7th. It just so happens that my grandfather and my mother do not have Facebook accounts, how inconvenient. My aunt Denise does have a Facebook account but she doesn’t publish her birthday, once again how inconvenient.

I love social media but the same thing I love about it is exactly the same thing I hate about it. You can scroll through your feed and feel like you are in communication with people even though technically you aren’t. I’ve had many a phone call where the conversation starts with “long time no speak” and we proceed to tell each other about all the things that are happening in our lives only to be met with a sense of deja vu. Of course! You know this already, you’ve already seen it all on their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat feeds.

It’s like there’s this disconnected sense of connection that is prevalent in our society.  This is coming from a 43 year old male, who knows different, has experienced different. Who remembers a time when people couldn’t take selfies or posts pictures of every meal or live streams. I don’t feel old but to a 2017 teenager I’m almost ancient. Seriously, a conversation I was having a couple of months ago involved discussing the fact that a teenager did not possess the wherewithal to have made a phone call to get information that he needed. We laughed about it at the the time but in all seriousness actually talking on the phone is a lost art. Texting, textese or texting language is the order of the day. This teenager so used to texting, didn’t figure out that he could just call a phone number and actually speak to someone.

Listen, I’m not complaining. Social technology is a great thing and I can personally attest to it’s usefulness, especially being an immigrant living in New York. I can maintain relationships with family and friends overseas. We can organize groups without the need for close proximity. I think the benefits far outweigh the negatives at the moment. I guess my real question at the moment is, where are we headed?

What Would You Do?

TGIF! Thank God It’s Friday, time to get off work and enjoy some cocktails during a much needed happy hour. Yeah right! Not with a 3 year-old it at home it isn’t. Long gone are those days of leaving work and hightailing it to a bar on a whim,  to unwind and enjoy some libations. My preferred destination nowadays is homeward bound and to be perfectly honest with you, I am just fine with that.

So lets’s start this again then. TGIF! Thank God It’s Friday, the little guy has enjoyed his movie(Friday is his movie night) and is now fast asleep and we’re sat here watching the TV show “What Would You Do?” For those of you not familiar with the show, here is the wikipedia description –

“The program features actors acting out scenes of conflict or illegal activity in public settings while hidden cameras record the scene, and the focus is on whether or not bystanders intervene, and how. Variations are also usually included, such as changing the genders, the races or the clothing of the actors performing the scene, to see if bystanders react differently. Show host John Quiñones appears at the end of each scenario to interview bystanders and witnesses about their reactions.

As the experiment goes on, psychology professors, teachers, or club members watch and discuss the video with Quiñones, explaining and making inferences on the bystanders’ reactions.”

This particular episode featured a segment where a mother and son are in a toy store and the boy wanted to get a doll.

I actually wanted to write “and the boy wanted to get a girl’s doll” but feel somewhat conflicted actually typing out the words girl’s doll. That, in a nutshell is at the heart of the issue I raise here.

I myself have been in this very predicament multiple times already and I’m quite sure that I will be in this same predicament going forward. To be honest I haven’t always dealt with it in the way that I would hope to have been able to deal with it. We once went into a Walgreens and my little guy wanted a Minnie Mouse car. I promptly told him no and said we would be getting the Mickey Mouse car and made sure we left with the Mickey Mouse version. It’s happened again with the same suspects, Minnie and Mickey and once again I made sure that he left with the male. Perhaps it’s speaks more to my insecurities than to his choice of toy. Male, heterosexual, retired man about town; my son is not playing with a girls toy. I’m not quite sure, I do realize though that it’s instinctual, almost reflex, son wants “girl” toy, bait and switch with the male version.

Considering my age, background and being raised in the era when I was it would be natural for me to associate dolls, specifically Barbie type dolls with being a girl’s toy. My(Our) biggest argument has always been whether there were enough “Afrocentric” dolls for our daughters to play with, never mind having to worry about your son wanting one. Hell, Action Man was white too come to think of it, but I wasn’t much of an action figure type of kid growing up. Obviously the world has changed quite a bit since my childhood days but have we changed for the better, have we changed for the worse, have we just changed for the sake of change. Or is it that this has always been our world, it’s just that we get to see the whole now as opposed to our previous limited view, due to this digital age.

When it comes to our children and how we raise them,  specifically concerning the boy/girl axis and the values we should instill it can often times be a bit much. There’s that gray area between personal opinion and being politically correct, that gray area between being gender bias and non-gender bias, that gray area between the values that I was raised with and the world that we are/I am raising my son in. It’s a joint effort but going forward let’s stick with the dad’s perspective as I’m the one currently typing on this keyboard.  Anyway going back to the points I raised earlier, it is not my job to be politically correct when it comes to how I raise my son but at the same time there’s an obligation to raise him in order to assimilate with modern society. Not that I want or need him to “fit-in” per se but I also don’t want him to be ostracized because of a belief system that I may have subjected him to and essentially trained him to follow. Think about it, you’re almost treated like a pariah nowadays for wanting to raise your kids with old-fashioned values and to be honest they are just that, “old-fashioned”. The world is constantly changing, we are continually evolving. Maybe it’s time to get with the program. Maybe it’s time I get with the program.

One of the things about becoming a parent is that you are quite literally forced to look at the world differently. You are somewhat in control of a life that came into the world through you.  You realize that you will almost always force your belief system onto your kids. It’s pretty much impossible not to,  but is it the right thing to do? I challenge myself constantly to be “present” and by that I don’t mean just showing up when needed. I mean when I am home with my son, that I am present. This means free from distractions, the cellphone is in the corner, free from the cluttered mind that is left over from a day’s work, right here, right now, nothing else matters. It’s not always easy and trust me I often falter. At the same time, it’s in these moments of clarity that I realize that this little person is a reflection of me and my spouse. It’s the little things too, the mannerisms, the shouting, the gestures towards the dog. All the subtle ways that your child will model your behavior, oftentimes behavior that you are not even conscious of, the stuff that we often don’t see because we are running on autopilot. Let’s face it, if mummy and daddy are working a 9 to 5, you are running on auto-pilot the vast majority of the time.

What I love about this show is that it inspires thought, conversation and the periodic look in the mirror, some self reflection. It also shines a light on society and our collective psyche. It’s a snapshot into our biases or lack thereof, be it cultural, gender or race related. There’s probably a lot of people as now adults who believe in something just because it was taught to them by their parents not necessarily because that is what they themselves believe. I aspire to raise my little guy with an open mind and will try not to project my belief system onto him, a question to you is What Would You Do?

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.