You Don’t Know Jack?…The One Word That Can Turn Failure To Success!

“Success is going from failure to failure without the loss of enthusiasm” Winston Churchill

How do you turn a perceived failure into success?

By meeting a Guy Named Jack!!!

Let me explain and start by saying that everyone has had times in their life where they’ve felt like a failure, didn’t measure up, or were disappointed in an outcome; including myself.  This actually happened to me recently at a public speaking contest I had been nominated for and entered.  It was an honor just to be nominated and compete in this International Speech Competition.  This was my first “speech competition,” per se.  All my prior engagements were always scheduled, planned and strictly professional.  I really enjoy the process of writing speeches, workshops, training’s and the creative process that goes into putting them together.  To be honest my only expectation was to show up, have a good showing while having some fun.

Then I met Jack!  Jack was an interesting fella to say the least.  While we waited to hear instructions I shook the other contestants hand, Jack being one of them. I simply asked how many of them had previously been in competitions.  Before anyone could answer Jack stuck his chest out and proclaimed “I have been in several, I own these things but don’t worry it’ll be alright.” I tried to contain a chuckle wondering why Jack felt the need to comfort the rest of the field; but it was funny to say the least.  Jack was not the most humble of gentleman and proceeded to tell everyone that he had a contingency of followers that accompanied him to the event.  I must admit my competitive juices began to flow a little when Jack entered stage left but it was all in good fun.

The competition began and the contestants gave their speeches.  My speech was an inspirational speech titled “Lean on Me,” where I highlighted the importance of team in my personal life.  As I left the stage, the president of the competition pulled me aside, with tears in her eyes, telling me how touched she was by my story.  It was a great experience and I was grateful for the opportunity to inspire at least one person in the room that night.  While the competition continued many of the participants and audience members came up and told me how touched they were by the speech as well.  Then, the moment we had all been waiting for, the results were in and the winner of the competition is………..Jack!!! Although I was a little disappointed in the outcome, I accepted the second place trophy, shook Jack’s hand and congratulated him on the win.  I still left feeling pretty good about the experience and my performance.

Until two weeks later.  Thats when I saw Jack again.  This time I was at another contest to support a friend in a different competition. As I walked in the room, I saw through my periphery vision none other than Jack.  At some point Jack made a b-line to me, interrupted a conversation I was having to make sure he came up and said………”What is your name again.”  I simply told him my name and made sure to congratulate him again on advancing.

As I left that night, my competitiveness had a sudden flashback to my days of playing college basketball.  It was a nice moment, remembering my years of playing hoops and the motivation to outperform your opponent.  As I’ve matured and my days of playing basketball have lessened the motivation has changed.  I am still very motivated and vigorously follow my passions and goals.  However, it now usually comes from an intrinsic place, inside of me; where I now want to help solve a problem or help someone for a greater good.  This gives me great personal gratification and truly does the soul good .  But Jack helped me tap into that extrinsic motivation, and I realized that the single most important principle that can turn perceived failure to success is motivation!

Motivation is an interesting thing. It is defined as “the process that initiates, guides and maintains goal-oriented behaviors.” Motivation is what causes us to act, whether it is getting to work early to complete an assignment or reading a book to gain knowledge.  Studies have identified three major components of motivation:

  1. Activation– the decision to initiate a behavior.
  2. Persistence– the continued effort towards a goal despite the obstacles that may exist
  3. Intensity– The concentration and vigor one goes about into pursuing a goal

This is what Jack helped me with and can help us all with; find out what truly motivates you! What are your goals?

My activation was entering the competition to follow my dreams and passion and continuing on this path.

What is yours?  Do you have a goal to go to school, change careers, start a family?  ACTIVATE!

Whatever your goals may be (writing a book, changing careers, following your dreams), be PERSISTENT!

Lastly, go after your passion with INTENSITY and vigor.  If you don’t believe in yourself and your goals, no one will.

This experience has also reminded me that what we sometimes perceive as failures, often times, is our greatest stepping stone.  Learning experiences that come from defeat isn’t failure at all, it’s the motivation we sometimes need to bring about a better perspective.  A setback is often a set up, for a comeback; to something even bigger and more rewarding.

Michael Jordan was cut by his high school team as a freshman.  He has told the story many times, citing the coach that cut him and the experience of not making the team as the reason he worked so hard to be great.  Albert Einstein couldn’t speak until he was 4 years old and his teachers said he wouldn’t amount to anything. Oprah Winfrey was demoted from her job as a news anchor and told she wasn’t fit for TV.  Steve Jobs was fired by the company he helped create at age 30.  The list goes on.  All of these success stories have this one thing in common: they all turned perceived failure to success and used it as motivation to fuel their desire to be great.  They ran into their own Jack!

We all have an opportunity to do the same, to fuel our own desire to be great.  So the next time life presents you with what you perceive as a failure, an undesirable outcome or challenge, don’t allow it to deter you.  Find JACK and get to know him!

7 Tips to Positive Thinking

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

This is one of my favorite Cherokee Indian Legends that highlights the importance of self-awareness and positivity.  Are you aware of the information you are filling your mind, body and spirit with on a daily basis? The things we read, watch, listen to, eat and speak all play a role in our happiness and general outlook on life.  For example, have you ever “woke up on the wrong side of the bed” or stumped your toe in the morning? What happens next?  We often tell ourselves that our day is doomed and more often than not this outlook becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.  In all reality, you can restart your day whenever you choose but it’s up to you and how you change your perspective.  Napoleon Hill once said “It is your responsibility to make sure that positive emotions constitute the dominating influence on your mind.”  Try this…For the next 7 days, practice the 7 strategies below and see how it changes your perspective of the day.  Here are a few strategies to feed the positive wolf within:

  1. Start Writing a Journal- highlight your key successes throughout the day as well as what a successful day would look like. Once I started looking at success, I was drawn to success.
  2. Read Uplifting Information- I take the train every morning and usually read a book on my way to work.  Occasionally a newspaper will be sitting  around and I’ll always open up and read the sports section first. A friend once asked why I read the sports section first and I told him “when I wake up, I’d rather read about mans accomplishments than mans failures.”  So, read a book or listen to a cd that is positive and positively affects your spirit.
  3. Write a Gratitude List- Gratitude in my attitude always helps me with my day.  Sometimes the adversities in life are so acute, that they seem unbearable.  To change this outlook, sit down and take time to write the things in your life that you appreciate, make you happy and are grateful for.  Whenever I write a gratitude list, my perspective usually changes for the positive.
  4. Smile and Laugh – it’s a biological fact that laughter boosts the immense system, releases endorphins and improves blood flow to the heart.  So laugh and smile more and if you can try to make someone else laugh and smile as well!
  5. Help Someone- Take on the responsibility of being a mentor or a coach.  Being of service to someone else often triggers the most rewarding and soul satisfying feelings inside. Helping others takes us outside of ourselves and our own motives.
  6. THANK YOU- Take time to visit, call or write someone and tell them thank you.  I take time to thank mentors, family members and friends for the positive influence they have had on me.  They appreciate it and you will feel good about doing it.
  7. Surround Yourself with Positive People- The people you spend the most time with are the ones that influence you the most!

Do you have a technique to share that feeds the positive wolf?

“It was all a dream…” 3 ways to Develop your Strengths

On the anniversary of one of my favorite rappers, Biggie Smalls aka Notorious B.I.G’s death; I’ve been reflecting on the relevance of a quote he had in his song “Juicy.”  This song in retrospect spoke to important lessons about finding and developing your strengths in order to live a life beyond any you can imagine.  The lyrics of the song went as follows:

“It was all a Dream, I used to read Word Up Magazine, Salt and Pepper and Heavy D up in the limousine.  Hanging pictures on my wall, every Saturday, Rap Attack, Mr. Magic, Marley Marl.”

Whether consciously or subconsciously the message behind Biggie’s words ring true today for those hoping to discover or develop their strengths.  My personal and professional experience with self-improvement, leadership, strength finding and building a successful life has given me the opportunity to study and speak about the subject of strength building in various forums.  Anyone who is trying to develop their own personal strengths in hopes of living their dream life can take the following lessons from his lyrics:

  1. Visualize“Hanging pictures on my wall” If you don’t dare to visualize what success looks like to you, then how will you attain it? Take time to write down what your strengths are and what success would look like to you in 3 months, 6 months, 1 year, 3 years and 5 years.  If you can’t visualize what a successful life will look, taste, smell and feel like, how will you ever achieve it? Use pictures and images that inspire you and look for things that are exciting.  If you are passionate about your work, it doesn’t feel as much like work; it feels like you are in your element and your strengths will develop as a result.
  2.  Research- “I used to read word up magazine.” If you have a goal of being an accountant than you need to research how people in your field became accountants.  My passion is coaching, workshops, trainings and public speaking so I began researching the people in the field that were doing the same.  Market research will tell you what is relevant and allow you to see what is out there.  Research can show you who if anyone in your profession is doing similar things that you would like to do.  Sometimes we think we need to not only reinvent the wheel but the entire car.  Take your time and study your profession in order to develop.
  3. Consistency- “Every Saturday, Rap Attack, Mr. Magic, Marley Marl.” Successful people take time to develop their strengths and skill set.  You can be naturally good at something but that will only take you so far.  Consistently developing your strengths is vital because there is always someone who will be just as hungry for success as you.  Study your profession or passion, attend workshops, coffee chats, and read literature.  We are in an age where information is at our fingertips, so take advantage of it and try to do something every day towards developing your strengths.

Over the past few years, I have spent lot of time cultivating my strengths and helping create a life beyond any I could have imagined.  I’ve been told by mentors to write down goals that I have for myself, and someday I’ll look back on that list of goals and see that I was cheating myself.  And that’s exactly what had happened, I’d been cheating myself.  Mostly because I never dared to dream that “impossible dream.”  In this process of self discovery, I’ve slowly started moving into a life and career that matched my dreams and strengths.  I’ve tried to give voice a voice to the voiceless, give hope to the hopeless, and give strength to those who are struggling.  However, there came a point where I felt that my individual strengths, talents and dreams were being underutilized thus short circuiting my growth and development.  The decision was to either remain complacent or make a change!  This is the point when I had to Visualize, Research and Consistently work on my skills.  The importance of taking time to develop my gift and follow my passion has been the greatest undertaking of my career.  But I had to make the decision to chase this dream of mine and put the time and effort in.  I knew that I needed to seek help from those who had experience and ask them to mentor me.  Their time, support and encouragement has been vital to the process and for that I am eternally grateful.  So take the time and be good to yourself, you are worth it.  You have a unique skill that can be cultivated to maximize your potential.  What are you waiting for? Visualize, Research and Be Consistent! And Dream the Impossible… Aubrey Hepburn once said “Nothing is impossible, the word itself says I’m possible.”

Fear of The “D” Word

 

Divorce! We’ve all heard so many horror stories about the “D word;” it is similar to the cult classic Candyman; feared, hardly ever spoken about at dinner parties, and never repeated three times in front of a mirror! Candyman, Candyman….I still can’t do it!  And if the movie reference misses you, I’m sure an older or younger sibling could fill you in, depending on your age bracket.  Listen, I admit, for all the workshops, trainings and speaking engagements I’ve done on different subjects, my divorce was probably last on my list to discuss.  There was an overarching feeling of shame behind me speaking about my divorce, as if I was unique.  In my journey I’ve been fortunate to have shared with people some of my life story which has included some not so proud moments.  These experiences of sharing honestly has connected me to the human spirit as well as my own humanness.  It has also been the precipice of my continued journey of self-improvement and helping others build a legacy in life that they are proud of. However, something about discussing my divorce made me feel like I had violated some unsaid code of the streets.  This made me realize that the “D” word in society is rarely ever discussed in a constructive way because of the emotional connection behind it.  Ask anyone, and I’m sure they will have a strong opinion, one way or another, on marriage and divorce.  It is usually because divorce all too often is discussed in absolute terms where there has to be a good guy and bad guy.  But this isn’t the movies and there isn’t going to always be a hero and a villain, this is life.  So why can’t we talk about it?  Even as I write this, the little voice, that committee in my head, whispers “do you really want to share this?” So I’ve given the committee the day off and have decided to speak on this subject that is all too often left for people to navigate in silence.  Through my own hesitation I’ve decided to shed my light and experience on the subject with hopes of giving someone the courage to do the same.  I will not minimize the emotional, mental, and financial toll this process has taken on me but at the same time what I have gained from this experience has been priceless.  While this makes it easier for me to broach the subject with you, I know it’s still a risk.

So where did all this shame, guilt and remorse come from?  The reality is that over 50% of marriages in the United States end in divorce and over 75% of military marriages end the same way.  In many ways, these feeling stemmed from the sense of being a failure, inadequacy, disappointment, hurt and powerlessness.  Feelings that are to be expected and ones that I have felt before.  But there is something about a divorce, and the process, that reverberates in your spirit.  At times it felt like life as I knew it was over and there was no light at the end of the tunnel (unless you are counting the lights on the 240 ton train).  But in many ways, life as I knew it was coming to an end and what was to follow were experiences that have forever changed my life course and perspective for the better.  Yes, perspective, a gift that this process has given me.  You may be asking yourself, why would this guy want to write about this subject?  Am I a glutton for punishment? Do I like reliving trauma?  Not at all! I know that whenever I invest my painful experiences, and show people how I got through it, it subconsciously gives someone else permission to have the courage to do the same.  So my hope is to provide some hope and to give a voice to someone who may not have spoken about their pain until they read this.

The stages of my divorce often imitated the 5 stages of grief:  denial, anger, bargaining, depression and hopefully acceptance.  I also experienced stages of fear, bitterness, selective memory, despair and dis ease.  It was a stressful time and as a matter of fact, any medical research team will tell you that divorce is the second most stressful life event after death.  Now that’s some serious company to keep, death and divorce; they make strange bedfellows.  In 1967 Psychiatrists Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe examined the medical records of over 5000 medical patients as a way to determine if stressful events might cause illness.  Patients were asked to make a list and tally 43 life events based on a relative score.  A positive correlation was found between their life events and their illnesses.  Their results were published as the Social Readjustment Rating Scale (SSRS) known more commonly as Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale.  Subsequent validation has supported the links between stress and illness.  Holmes and Rahe concluded that divorce was second only to death of a spouse on the most stressful of life stressors that negatively affect health.  Many people I’ve spoken to on the subject reported having experienced health issues such as: heart attacks, high blood pressure, anxiety attacks and array of psychosocial and medical complications due to the stressors of their divorce.  I have found that most people (especially men) would be more forthcoming disclosing a medical issue such as high blood pressure rather than expose the psychosocial stressors that had affected them.  In my discussions with them, it seemed that the psychosocial stressors felt more embarrassing and shameful to them then the medical ones.  These stressors could include: inability to see their child; false allegations; job loss; restraining orders; and inability to co-parent.  Because of this guilt complex and “keep your problems to yourself mentality,” many people suffered in silence.  This is some serious stuff that could literally kill you! I’ve found that outlets such as going to the gym, talking with people you trust, prayer, meditation and if need be therapy were all extremely vital in helping people get through it. 

Throughout my divorce process, I have also come to experience first hand, the intense feelings of shame and guilt mentioned above.  It’s been a crazy ride, and when I received this news that my 3 ½ year marriage and 1 ½ year divorce proceedings was coming to an end, I had a plethora of mixed emotions.  While there is no question in my mind that we made the right choice, hearing the news of finalization still stirred up old feelings, mostly of sadness. These are all natural feelings that will come up, so no need to run from them. After a long, exhausting and what seemed like never ending road, the realization and magnitude of the moment had become abundantly clear.  Throughout it all, it has felt like if I’ve experienced every emotion known to man but today the overriding feeling is that of acceptance.  Acceptance doesn’t mean that I sometimes don’t have some negative emotions about my divorce. But my acceptance has allowed me to let go of wanting to control outcomes and truly want happiness for the other person.

This process challenged all that I learned, taught and believed in but at the end only strengthened my commitment to the principles I choose to live by.  It’s through adversity that you truly get to do an inventory and see if your principles are aligned with your actions.  Does your walk match your talk? Did my video match my audio?   

Throughout it all, a lot of work was done on myself and I can say I am proud of how I handled it with integrity and maturity, even when I didn’t want to.  I wasn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination and if you’re reading this hoping to be perfect, stop that fantasy.  We’re human, we make mistakes, we feel things and we react but I am so grateful that I choose to follow a lifestyle that keeps me committed to principles.  Even those principles that I struggle with and sometimes don’t want to practice, like forgiveness. Yes, forgiveness good old forgiveness.  The principle that can be hardest to practice, especially when you’ve been hurt (and have done the hurting too).  Your natural defense mechanisms goes into effect, and protecting your own feelings takes precedence.  However, what I’ve learned is that the practice of forgiveness benefits everybody, especially yourself!  One of my favorite quotes states that “Forgiveness is not something we do for other people, we do it for ourselves, so we can move on.”  And no words rang more true than those.  Once I reached a place of forgiveness, mixed with empathy, I was truly ready to move on.  I wished my soon to be ex-wife well, made an amends and accepted that my responsibility ended there.  I have no control over whether she accepts my amends or forgives me, but my job is to do the next right thing. I’ve tried not to participate in speaking negatively about my ex-wife even with the pain and emotion of the moment because that’s not the legacy I want to have.  By not doing so, my spirit has been so much lighter.

 

My life today is beyond my wildest dreams; a journey that began before I was even married and has culminated in the present moment.  I am humbled that through all my life experiences, my set backs are often set ups for comebacks.  The reality is that what seemed like a desperate and hopeless situation has actually transformed my life, again!  Over the past few years, I’ve had a few transformations, spiritual awakenings, and life lessons.  During this process, the ability to cope with the stressors of life while trying to turn the experiences into inspiration for others has been soul satisfying.  I’ve had many discussions with people and have learned that when I invest my pain, it gives people an ability to identify and also feel empowered to invest theirs.  Acceptance of my situation has given me the ability to grieve appropriately without holding me back from a wonderful life worth living.  I now know that light at the end of the tunnel was the light of HOPE, shining bright for all to see.  Peace

What is your Legacy?

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As the first month of 2014 nears an end, it is a perfect opportunity to do an inventory of your success goals.  I’ve been doing alot of work with people creating a successful life and lasting legacy.  It has been a rewarding experience because as much as I have given in regards to time, resources and energy has been returned tenfold! The work we’ve been doing with people surrounding achieving success, self improvement and creating a legacy to be proud of, has fanned the flames of passion for this kind of life.  People of all ages, backgrounds and circumstances have really invested in the process of creating their own Legacy.  So I leave you with a few questions to think about this week and would love to hear your feedback.  By asking yourself these simple questions, the process towards true success and creating a legacy you have dreamed of can begin.

  • Are you where you want to be in life?
  • What Does Success look like to you?
  • What is your Legacy today?
  • What do people(family, friends, employer, etc) think of when they think of you?
  • Do you know how to achieve the success and legacy you desire?

Does Success Have A Look?

2014 has already turned out to be a more successful year than last year! You may ask be asking “how can that be we’re only 13 days in?” or better yet “this guy must have had a pretty terrible and unproductive year last year.”  Not the case at all; actually last year was a year of some major accomplishments, achievements, milestones, and learning experiences.  It was also a year filled with some major life changes and stressors, that left me mentally, physically and emotionally spent.  2013 was the first year I can recall saying to myself and hearing so many others say “I’m glad its over.” The statement is more figurative than literal of course because I have come to know the value of gratitude and the gift of staying in the present(that’s why its called a present ;)).  The ability to find joy in the journey has been a life changing process.  That being said, 2013 did not feel like much of a success.

So what made 2013 so difficult and this year so much more successful?  The major difference between this year (all 13 days of it) and last is that I’ve actually begun to define what success means to me.  If I can’t even envision what success means, looks, feels, and tastes like, how could I ever achieve it?  This has been a game changer and has allowed me to see the progress towards my own defined success.  It has also allowed me to learn, grow and stay energized through failures.  While I look back to see the my accomplishments over the past year I ask myself if that is really what success means to me?

The study of success in my life has been an ongoing process, as I’ve hit many of the milestones previously laid out but not formally scrutinized.  I’ve spent most of my career, both professional and personal, developing programs for the community and particularly at risk youth and families. In addition, I’ve been afforded the opportunity to speak, give workshops as well as training in many places around the country, over the past few years which has been both rewarding and humbling. I enjoy the human experience of providing hope where it seems hopeless, options to what appears optionless and voices to people who’ve felt voiceless.  This has been where I’ve drawn most of my success stories over the years and am very proud of them.

During this past year I was afforded many additional responsibilities and oversight in my work that temporarily brought me away from this passion.  At the same time I was going through a divorce and if there is anything that can drain your energy or view of success it could be a failed marriage.  It was an extremely difficult time but like many other times of adversity in my life, forced me to reevaluate, refocus, and rededicate myself.  The key to me was going through it without losing my passion and enthusiasm. Winston Churchill once said “Success consists of going from failure to failure without the loss of enthusiasm.”  So that’s what I did.

I started looking at the legacy I want to leave and what needs to be defined.  It started with the self assessment and ended with an end of the year conversation with my good friend and a mentor, Jason Womack.  The conversation led to a simple question that I then posed to many people in my network. “What does success look like to you?”

What followed was extraordinary!  I received an overwhelming response from people all over the country giving their perspective and answers to the question.  There were some well defined and focused answers as well some people who were  admittedly befuddled.  Surprisingly, the responses of uncertainty came from some of the more influential and respected folks.  All of whom have acquired many of the trappings that society deems successful.  Money, homes, cars, businesses, status, etc. These very people reached out to me expressing the most inner conflict about the question.  They mentioned that these “things” weren’t what success felt like to them.  In fact the simple posing of the question had them questioning their purpose.

Some defined success as: achieving inner peace, self love, positively affecting the community, giving of yourself, and giving your children options, just to name a few.  What was interesting was that none were convinced that their ideal definition of success matched the commitment they made on a daily basis to achieve that success.  Furthermore, some admitted to putting minimal time and resources towards what they defined as success.  So why the disconnect between 1)what we think is success and 2) how much time on earth we spend doing things not correlated at all to achieving success? Because we rarely take the time (other than on New Years) to develop a daily practice of defining and working towards success.

So what does success mean to you? When I asked my 12 year old his answer was “Success is what you accomplish after years of hard work.” I was proud that my son connected hard work with success but realized something profound.  He at age 12, myself in 2013 and many of my accomplished friends are working hard to an undefined goal.  If we never define what success looks like in our life, then how will we ever achieve it?  Take some time to write down what success look, tastes, smells, and feels like to you.  Then ask yourself:

  • Is the way I’m living my life in tune with attaining my definition of success?
  •  If Success is being an active parent, then how much time are you spending with your children?
  • If Success means inner peace, how much time are you taking to get in tune with yourself and  spirituality?
  • If Success is helping people, how much of your time is taken only helping yourself?
  • If Success is a big promotion, then how much time are you taking to work harder and smarter?
  • If Success is writing a book, then how much time are you spending on research and writing?

Take time to think about this and ask are you being good to yourself or are you short circuiting your own success?

This is why my 2014 has already been such a success, because I’ve not only defined what it is but have done something everyday towards achieving it.  So take the time this year to define what success looks like to you, because nobody can make success look as good on you then you! Success does have a look, and it is up to you to tailor it as your own. Peace