straight from the heart

Archive for May, 2012|Monthly archive page

College, Costs & The Growing Epidemic

In Education on May 27, 2012 at 5:58 pm

Even though tuition fees are at record highs, and total student debt is $1 trillion, I read the other day 53 percent of college grads under the age of 25 either have no job, are waiting tables, manning receptionist desks, or folding sweaters at the mall. Folks this is a huge problem & something I see as the next bubble to burst. How can it be expected that our youth, our children, continue to be exploited by higher education with no guarantee of a decent rate of return? Why is it costing so much to educate them? It used to be that a college degree would be a stepping stone for a decent career. Now, it guarantees nothing but debt, not only for the students, but also their parents. You see, it has become increasingly difficult for the students to secure funding / loans to attend their schools thus forcing parents to mortgage their future to provide their children with the ever shrinking chance to succeed. Poor students who study the Liberal Arts, as these studies, while they may be interesting, are all but useless in today’s market. It’s to the point we must begin to steer our children into studies geared more toward securing jobs. Even better still, those with young children it would benefit all if from an early age, you stress the importance of education, guiding them into practical careers. It now also makes sense, and I can’t believe I am about to write this, once we notice a child is not “college material”, has little interest in school or struggles mightily with their grades, to consider other options & trades. I have come to know numerous, highly successful people who never went to college, but have etched out a pretty good life & sometimes a quite equitable one, mastering their trade. Let’s face it, we all need plumbers, electricians, mechanics & barbers! I have also known several individuals who are self educated, who with a strong work ethic & a good idea, have forged a pretty profitable business. This is not to say college is not important, it is, but it is not for everybody. How many students do we know, barely make it through college, or go for a year or two before dropping out, leaving a mound of debt in their wake? I know several recent law school grads who can not find work, while those that do, barely make enough in the beginning to pay their bills, which causes a negative financial snowball effect. How can the educational system continue to charge these rising exorbitant fees, while the banks charge interest, with no jobs for the students that will allow them the opportunity to pay it back, before the bubble bursts? It’s already starting to crack folks. Occupy Wall Street protesters being a perfect example of a disenchanted group. Sooner or later, no one will be able to repay these loans & another catastrophic financial crisis will occur. I tell the youth who care to listen, that if they pursue a college education, immerse themselves in it, network, join clubs & groups. Maximize their chances of success by learning all they can about their chosen interest, become experts. Networking can help make contacts that in turn can help land jobs. As the old adage says, sometimes it’s not what you know but who.

There are no insignificant or ordinary jobs when they are performed by significant or extraordinary people.

– Mark Sanborn, Speaker

Birth, Adolescence & The Real World

In Parenting on May 25, 2012 at 11:30 pm

Today marks the day my oldest child turns twenty-one. I remember the day she was born like it was yesterday. She always had a smile on her face, happy as can be. She’s all grown up now & still smiling. She is a special young lady, my princess, with whom it’s pretty cool to be able to converse with about adult topics. She has grown into a level headed, thoughtful, intelligent & of course beautiful young woman. But it is also sad for me as my little girl is all grown up. Time for her to enter this world with all the ammunition I tried to give her & some she picked up on her own along the way. As her father, I worry not if she is ready for the world, but if the world is ready for her. Ready to embrace her spirit, to give her the chance to excel. All these years I have watched her interact & embrace different people, never judging, always learning. She is one to accept the good in everyone, to see the positive in things. Now life starts for real. No more trial runs, decisions start to really count & the reality show goes live. Is she ready? As a baby, she slept through the night. She was always a quiet child, never giving me much trouble. When problems arose, she handled things with a quiet dignity, a trait she exhibits til this day. She used to write poetry, words flowing through her pen that would amaze me, as she expressed deep feelings not common for her age at the time. She was always interested in my “daddy jewels”, my words of wisdom. The other day I walked into her room & there she was listening to Nas’ ‘It Was Written’, one of my favorite hip hop albums, I smiled knowing she understood. She’s all grown up now and I expect her to attack life with vin & vigor. I hope she takes advantage of all opportunities & that her heart is never broken. I have prepared her as best I could and I can not be more proud of the type of young lady she has grown into. So go ahead princess, live life, excel and stay focused. You’re ready!

Life doesn’t run away from nobody. Life runs at people.

– Joe Frazier

Life, Lessons & The Power of Thought

In Self-Improvement on May 17, 2012 at 1:22 am

There are moments in our lives when an occurrence or thought cause our life to change. An experience that as time passes you look back and recall how at the moment of your epiphany you began to see things differently. Things looked clearer, your thought process changed & life seemed different. I had such a moment today. While on a long needed break, I was sitting on the beach looking out onto the Caribbean Sea mesmerized by its beauty, when a sort of calmness came upon me. My mind grew quiet and the world seemed to stand still. I saw a young boy, maybe 5 years old, running on the beach ahead of his mom, pure joy on his face. As he came to a stop, he turned, smiled & threw his hands into the air as his mom approached, in a sort of victory pose. I thought to myself, wow this kid gets it. I gazed back out to sea thinking about the blessings bestowed upon me. To my left was a beautiful tree, the gentle wind blowing its leaves in a rhythmic beat. A few feet away was a small bird looking regal as it stood perched on a nearby table. To my right was an older couple laying beside each other on beach chairs thoroughly enjoying each other’s company, obvious veterans in the relationship game. Sure I am spending a few days in a small paradise & maybe the locale made me a bit giddy, but it allowed me to ask myself why it takes getting away to quiet my mind & enjoy life’s simple pleasures? Why do people sometimes compromise who they are or what they want or believe in for someone or something else. Why do we struggle to accept life’s daily challenges, categorizing many instances in a negative light. I remember my younger years when life was much simpler; when things were always kept positive with very little worries. As the years have gone by, the youthful exuberance gave way to adult cynicism. We become more judgmental while focusing on why things don’t get done instead of on what we can do to make things happen. We begin to settle, be it at work or in our relationships, believing this is as good as it gets. We allow life’s roadblocks to derail our dreams. While sitting here, I think about the days past, both recent & some time ago, where I was not at my best. Where I allowed myself to give into the negative energy around me. I begin to think, what if we change how we approach things? What if we stop asking why me & instead ask why not me? Instead of asking why can’t this person understand? We should ask how can I help this person understand? Instead of why are they doing this to me? Ask what is causing them to react this way? When informed something you did was wrong, don’t be so quick to get defensive, instead ask yourself what can I do to improve? It’s about not allowing our perceived vulnerability to hinder our progress. It’s a simple mind shift, allowing us to see things in a positive light, learning each step of the way. While simple, this is not easy & can take sometime to master. The key is to catch yourself when the negative vibe begins to manifest. Quickly pivot & ask yourself how else can you look at this? We each have the power to make the choice to either go down Negative Boulevard or pivot onto Positive Way. There’s no script to follow; life is not a movie, but each and everyone of us has the power to choose how we view things & how we can keep improving. We have the power to think before reacting; to pivot when necessary. So as I sat there with the cool breeze blowing in from the beautiful blue sea, I counted all my blessings, while thinking – Yeah mon, life is good!

To choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance is to choose one’s own way.

– Viktor Frankl (Author)

Effort, Success & “I Am Trying”

In Self-Improvement, Society on May 14, 2012 at 8:49 pm

“I am Trying”, I hear this all the time. I hear it at work, at home or at practice. I have realized, people – me included, really feel they are giving it their best in everything we do. But are we really? While at work are we team players? Do we work as hard as we say we do or can to maximize our work product? Do we do extra or just enough to get by? How bout in our relationships? Do we really try to listen to our partner? Do we try to make them as happy as we can? Do we do the little things they like – which in turn are not really little at all? Do we appreciate? I am currently coaching youth AAU boys basketball, 9th & 11th grade levels, both teams are pretty good, especially the younger group. The other day at the 11th grade practice, after a particularly tough tournament, we coaches called the team together to go over what went wrong that weekend. We gave each player an opportunity to dissect their play, discuss their roles within the team & what they can do to improve. I was floored when two or three members of the ten player team admitted to taking plays off. What!?! I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Already at 16-17 years of age, here they were doing just enough to get by. The optimist in me reasoned that at least they were being honest, but the perfectionist in me was saddened. At work it’s the same type of thing, only worse as I am dealing with adults. I directly manage at least 10 people daily, plus another 20 indirectly. If I had a dollar every time I hear how this will be a great personal month,or how they will do better or improve their work product, I would be chillin’ on the French Riviera! After, repeating myself ad nauseam, I hear the dreaded “I’m trying”. After the 20th time hearing this, the hard head in me realizes this may be all they are willing to give – no not able to but only willing to. The sad thing is how most really believe they are giving it their best efforts. You see, I believe we all can give a little more to improve many aspects of our lives. It is what makes champions – well champions. We all have it in us to be champions if we truly realize how what we do or for the purposes of this blog entry, the effort we give, can influence our lives & improve our lot in life. I understand life is full of surprises and sometimes things do not play out how we envision, but if we give in, half step & just “get by”, selfishly not giving your partner or team 100%, ultimately you really only cheat yourself. You may lose a truly special someone in your life, a job, a client not only for you – but for your co-workers too or your teammates. Life isn’t always about only us. Our efforts or lack thereof can cause damage, change and heartache for others. For those who only think about how things affect themselves, it causes stagnation, putting limits on the heights we can reach. We should all try awaking each morning, looking at ourselves in the mirror while saying today we will be the best we can be; today we will love more & work harder; today will be a success!

Victory is reserved for those who are willing to pay its price.

– Sun Tzu

Smiles, Demons & Death

In Friendships, Society, Spirituality on May 9, 2012 at 4:54 am

A few days ago we learned Junior Seau, a popular, all-pro NFL linebacker inexplicably committed suicide. By all accounts, he was respected by his peers & well liked by all. Everyone who encountered him in the days leading up to his death all state he appeared happy, smiling & full of life. They saw no clues indicating he was in trouble, depressed or on the brink. Here was a man who seemingly had it all to the naked eye, but was drowning inside. Being a football fan who respected his ability on the field, I was saddened by his death. It made me think of an old dear friend of mine, who years ago also made the decision to end his existence on this earth. I remember feeling devastated when I heard the news, thinking to myself what could I have done to have prevented it. I began to reminisce about all the good times we had shared. I remembered the day when I first noticed a change in his behavior. How he went from being a fearless, seemingly confident young man to a confused shell of his former self. We kept him close until he gradually appeared to have regained his mojo. He seemed in control, affable & content. Sadly, he fooled us. He was still hurting inside. Those smiles he showed were but a mask, a tool he used valiantly to ward off those demons he carried within. Would a weekly call prevented his demise? An occasional visit? Folks, I understand life takes hold and we either grow apart or are too “busy” to reach out to many of our people. We see them smile, having a good time while in our presence, but are they ok? Do we take the time to really watch them, talk to them, find out what is happening in their lives? Do we let them know we care? That they have people in their corner whenever needed? It can be a little gesture, but one that can resonate with them. Just because we see them smiling, does that mean they are in a good place? Why do we make excuses, saying we are too busy? Why can’t we seem to share important moments in each others lives, making excuses when it’s time to partake in special occasions? Life is short folks & happiness are moments; moments made special by the people we share them with. Some of us are blessed to have that special someone in our lives who complement & complete us, those are the truly blessed. Some have a good group of “friends or acquaintances” with whom they visit with on occasion. They interact with them often, those are in good shape. I speak of those that when the party ends, find themselves alone. They see no value in their interactions, are not happy with where they are in life or are disappointed in things that have occurred. You see when they leave the party, they still have their solitude. These encounters can be seen as superficial, leaving them more empty. Therefore I have come to the conclusion it’s those shared occasions in each others lives that define relationships. Even if it’s a five minute encounter with a stranger, I try to make those five minutes as pleasant as possible. Relationships are the lifeblood of life. So reach out to your people. Share in their lives, accomplishments & family. Show them you care. You just may save a life.

One who sees only with their eyes are easy to fool.

– Jackie Chan