Saturday, September 7, 2013

John Maxwell posted some great tips recently.  Normally I don't go much for the writings of the self-improvement industry's many authors, but I have found John Maxwell's daily 'Minute with Maxwell' spots particularly helpful.  For a while I didn't know why, but the idea came to me as I sat down to type this post:  his focus is not on self-improvement for its own sake, or for enrichment or empowerment, but based on (at least from what I've been able to glean) the idea of adding value to the lives of others.  I found that so singularly refreshing that I got hooked and now view his daily dispatches as often as possible.  Below I've reprinted on from a recent post that I found particularly enlightening.

Last time I wrote about the realities that we all must face before we can learn from loss: Life is difficult… for everyone… and for some more than others. Acceptance of those truths allows us to take the first steps toward dealing with and possibly changing our reality.
Unfortunately, many of us make life more difficult than it needs to be through our attitudes and actions. Here are some ways that people create barriers to success for themselves:

1. Life Is More Difficult for Those Who Stop Growing and Learning
As you know, some people never make the intentional effort to grow. Some think they will grow automatically. Others don’t value growth and hope to progress in life without pursuing it. For such people, life is more difficult than it would be if they were dedicating themselves to continual improvement.
While some people experience greater difficulties in life because they refuse to grow, there are additional kinds of people who create difficulties for themselves: those who become satisfied with their gains and start to plateau.
A few years ago Margaret and I visited the Nobel Museum in Stockholm, Sweden. We spent hours listening to lectures and reading about people who have made a difference in so many lives. Our tour guide shared something with us that day that surprised us. He said very few of the Nobel Prize winners ever did anything significant after they had been recognized for their achievements. I found it hard to believe, but after doing some research I concluded that he was correct. Daniel McFadden, who received the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2000, said, “If you’re not careful, the Nobel Prize is a career-ender. If I allowed myself to slip into it, I’d spend all my time going around cutting ribbons.” Literature winner T. S. Eliot stated it even more strongly: “The Nobel is a ticket to one’s own funeral. No one has ever done anything after he got it.”

Success can have a way of distorting our view of reality. It can make us think we are better than we really are. It can lure us into believing we have little left to learn. It can convince us that we should no longer expect to face and overcome failure. These are dangerous concepts to anyone who wants to keep improving.

How do we fight such ideas? By facing reality. Winning causes people to relax and enjoy the spoils of victory. Do that and you just may coast your way to failure.

2. Life Is More Difficult for Those Who Don’t Think Effectively
One of the most striking things that separate people who are successful from those who aren’t is the way they think. I feel so strongly about this I wrote a book about it called How Successful People Think. People who get ahead think differently than those who don’t. They have reasons for doing what they do, and they are continually thinking about what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, and how they can improve.

That doesn’t mean that good thinkers always succeed. No, they make mistakes just like everyone else. But they don’t keep making the same mistakes repeatedly. And that makes a great difference in their lives. Frank Gaines, who was the mayor of Berkeley, California, from 1939 to 1943, explained, It never bothers me for people to make a mistake if they had a reason for what they did. If they can tell me, “I thought this and reasoned so, and came to that decision,” if they obviously went through a reasonable thought process to get where they did, even if it didn’t turn out right, that’s OK. The ones you want to watch out for are those who can’t even tell you why they did what they did.  We often make life harder for ourselves when we fail to think. A joke I came across years ago describes how many people make a bad situation worse by failing to think things through. It describes the strategies people use when they discover they are riding a dead horse. They try the following:
  • Buying a stronger whip
  • Changing riders
  • Saying things like, “This is the way we’ve always ridden this horse”
  • Appointing a committee to study the horse
  • Arranging a visit to other sites to see how they ride horses
  • Changing the by-laws to specify that “horses shall not die”
  • Harnessing several dead horses together for increased speed
  • Declaring that “no horse is too dead to ride”
  • Providing additional funding to increase the horse’s performance
  • Purchasing a product to revitalize the dead horse
  • Forming a quality circle to find uses for dead horses
  • Revisiting the performance requirement for horses
  • Promoting the dead horse to a supervisory position

These ridiculous practices were cited as being used in business, but we can do such things in any area of our lives when we don’t use our heads. Life is filled with plenty of disappointments and heartaches without our adding to the problem.

3. Life Is More Difficult for Those Who Don’t Face Reality
Perhaps the people who have the hardest time in life are the ones who refuse to face reality. Author and speaker Denis Waitley says, “Most people spend their entire lives on a fantasy island called ‘Someday I’ll.’” In other words, they think, Someday I’ll do this. Someday I’ll do that. Someday I’ll be rich. They don’t live in the world of reality.
Roots author Alex Haley observed, “Either you deal with what is the reality, or you can be sure that the reality is going to deal with you.” If you want to climb the highest mountain, you can’t expect to do it overnight. You can’t expect to do it unless you’ve been trained in how to climb and gotten into physical condition. And if you try to deny reality and make the climb anyway, you’re going to end up in trouble.
Life is difficult. But here’s the good news: many of the things you desire to do in life are attainable—if you are willing to face reality, know your starting place, count the cost of your goal, and put in the work. Don’t let your real situation discourage you. Everyone who got where they are, started where they were.
Adapted from Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn available for preorder HERE!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Black Agenda Report offers an important take on the President's Africa trip
By BAR Editor & Senior Columnist Margaret Kimberley
The Obamas' visit to South Africa, for people of color on both sides of the Atlantic, is heavy on symbolism and photo-ops, but devoid of any substance for those who hunger and thirst for justice. The ANC won the flag at the end of apartheid, but South Africa's white elite kept the land and the money, after allowing a few well-connected black faces into high places.

...Mandela was freed because of armed struggle and not out of benevolence....”
Centuries of oppression have made black people particularly susceptible to the tempting siren song which comes with the image of black success. It is harmless to want a black person to win some coveted acclaim like a Pulitzer prize or even an Oscar, but quite another to be rendered stupid by the sight. Our history teaches us that we must be wary lest we be carried away by emotion that is without substance.

Barack Obama is the most obvious example of this phenomenon and its pernicious influence. A black man being elected as president of the United States was long hoped for but seemingly impossible. The realization of what had long been imagined and the often racist attacks against this dream create common cause with Obama and intense personal happiness on his behalf. Yet what seems inspirational is in fact anything but. The feelings of affection for Obama have been a negative force which impede rational thought and political common sense. The people who most epitomized the American search for true democracy have given it up completely because they love seeing a black man wearing a POTUS jacket and get angry when white people don’t like seeing it.

That history of struggle and the group identity it creates have not been limited to the American experience. The decades long fight against the racist apartheid system in South Africa was supported by millions of people in this country too. Jim Crow was America’s own apartheid. It is only logical that the sight of black people being treated cruelly in the name of white supremacy would elicit feelings of affinity in this country and around the world.

Nelson Mandela’s release from 27 years of imprisonment and his subsequent election as president created a surge of pride and joy among black people everywhere. Unfortunately we did not truly understand what we were witnessing. These events came about as a result of forces unacknowledged in America and they also came with a very high price.

The name of the Angolan town Cuito Cuanavale means little to all but a handful of Americans but it lies at the heart of the story of apartheid’s end. At Cuito Cuanavale in 1988 Cuban troops defeated the South African army and in so doing sealed apartheid’s fate.
It is important to know how apartheid ended, lest useless stories about a miraculously changed system and a peaceful grandfatherly figure confuse us and warp our consciousness. Mandela was freed because of armed struggle and not out of benevolence. He was also freed because the African National Congress miscalculated and made concessions which have since resulted in terrible poverty and powerlessness for black people in South Africa. By their own admission, some of his comrades concede that they were unprepared for the determination of the white majority to hold the purse strings even as they gave up political power.

Now the masses of black South Africans are as poor as they were during the time of political terror. The Sharpeville massacre of 1960 which galvanized the world against South Africa was repeated in 2012 when 34 striking miners were killed by police at Marikana. The Marikana massacre made a mockery of the hope which millions of people had for the ANC and its political success.

Obama’s recent visit to South Africa when the 94 year old Mandela was hospitalized created a golden opportunity for analysis and a questioning of long held assumptions about both men but the irrefutable fact is this. The personal triumphs of these two individuals have not translated into success for black people in either of their countries.

It isn’t true that black people benefit from the political success of certain individuals..”
The victory of international finance capital wreaks havoc on both sides of the Atlantic ocean. In the U.S. black people have reached their political and economic low point during the Obama years. The gains won 50 years ago have been reversed while unemployment, mass incarceration, and Obama supported austerity measures have all conspired to undo the progress which was so dearly paid for.
Obama’s visit to Africa as Mandela lay critically ill brought very sincere but very deeply misled people to remember all of the wrong things. It isn’t true that black people benefit from the political success of certain individuals. It isn’t true that role models undo systemic cruelty or that racism ends because of their presence or that white people see or treat the masses of black people any differently when one black person reaches a high office.

The maudlin sentiment was all built on lies. Mandela fought the good fight for many years and is worthy of respect for that reason alone. But his passing should be a moment to reflect on his mistakes and on how they can be avoided by people struggling to break free from injustice. Obama’s career is a story of ambition and high cynicism which met opportunity. There is little to learn from his story except how to spot the next evil doer following in his footsteps.

It is high time that myths were called what they are. They are stories which may help explain our feelings but they are stories nonetheless and they do us no good.
Margaret Kimberley's Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well as at Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Well here we are again.

Well, it's good to finally be back with a few minutes to write after a grueling semester of zero cash and too many classes.  I'm glad to say I've survived and now have only 3-4 semesters left until I (hopefully) graduate and then who knows how long to study before the bar (assuming I'm allowed to take it anywhere).  I thought I'd take this opportunity to mention a couple of the issues that have had my attention of late and which I hope to discuss in upcoming blogposts this summer before the school year attacks me again:

1) The ongoing divergence between US claims of value and reality;
2) The negative impact of religious extremism in modern society;
3) Deterioration and Improvement in race relations in the post-Obama era;
4) The strengthening security apparatus, both foreign and domestic;
5) A topic close to my heart: the importance of emotional and mental health;
6) The internationalization of sport
7) The expansion of austerity policy application in the developed economies.

These are just a few of the topics that have been floating around in my brain, when I wasn't freaking out over exams, jogging to control stress and boost fitness, and job-hunting.  If you have any recommendations for topics to discuss in future posts, please feel free to comment here.  Looking forward to communicating with everyone.  Thanks!