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Distractions Causing Distance is now on the YouVersion Bible App!

Click here to read my latest YouVersion Bible plan and share with anyone who needs practical advice to help them along their spiritual journey!

Here are a few ways you can support:

  • Post about it on social media, and tag @youversion and @olaolu.ogunyemi.
  • Send the plan to someone and study together.
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I’m partnering with YouVersion because they believe that we all can make a greater impact together. So, I’m excited to have an opportunity to reach millions through the app and see how God will use my content to encourage and challenge the YouVersion Community!

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Mastering the Chaos: Budget-Friendly Strategies for Organized Parenting (Guest Blog by Kris Louis)

Being a busy parent can feel like a juggling act–balancing work, children’s activities, and a myriad of daily responsibilities. While the demands can be overwhelming, staying organized can significantly ease your stress and make your life more manageable. In this article from Parent-Child-Connect, we’ll share tips on how to live an organized family life to make room for what truly matters.

Begin the Day with a Checklist

The first step in managing your time is knowing where it should go. Start each day with a checklist outlining your tasks and priorities. This will act as your roadmap, guiding you through the day and ensuring nothing vital is forgotten. Place this list in a highly visible location, such as on the fridge or saved on your phone, and cross off items as you complete them. The satisfaction of checking off tasks will also give you a small but significant morale boost.

Go Digital with Your Documents

Once you’ve sorted out your daily tasks, it’s crucial to focus on long-term organization to manage important family documents like medical records and school forms, which can quickly turn into clutter. A practical solution is to digitize these essential papers, converting them into PDFs using secure, free-to-use online tools. These digital storage solutions not only streamline your organizational system but also make it convenient to share your files through online formats. Retrieving critical information becomes significantly easier when everything is neatly organized in your digital storage.

Get Smart About Your Receipts

After making your daily life more manageable and digitizing important family documents, it’s time to tackle the financial paperwork that inevitably piles up. Good news: the IRS accepts scanned or digital receipts for tax purposes, allowing you to streamline your record-keeping. Utilize electronic storage systems like cloud services or specialized receipt-tracking apps to keep all your financial documents in one secure, easily accessible place. This digital approach doesn’t just declutter your physical space; it also simplifies your financial life.

Embrace Time-Blocking

With your daily tasks and important documents sorted, you can further enhance your efficiency by embracing proven time management strategies. Techniques like the Pomodoro Method involve working in short, focused intervals followed by brief breaks, optimizing your productivity. Allocate time blocks for specific tasks, which prevents time from slipping away and leaves you with time for your family.

Combine Your Errands

Efficiency doesn’t just apply to tasks at home; it’s also crucial when you’re out and about. Instead of making separate trips for groceries, the post office, or other errands, consolidate them into one outing. This saves both time and fuel, reducing your stress and your carbon footprint. Consider involving your children in these tasks, turning errands into educational opportunities.

Make a Cleaning Routine for the Whole Family

A tidy home is more than just pleasing to the eye; it also promotes mental well-being. Establish a cleaning schedule, dividing tasks among family members or allocating specific chores to specific days. This planned approach avoids the last-minute rush to clean when unexpected guests arrive, or the feeling of being overwhelmed by an untidy living environment.

Meal Prep and Batch Cooking

Lastly, but certainly not least, is the ever-important task of feeding your family. Plan meals ahead to make grocery shopping more efficient and to avoid the “What’s for dinner?” dilemma. Batch cooking on weekends can also provide ready-made meals for the week, freeing up time for family activities.

Parenthood doesn’t have to be synonymous with perpetual chaos and clutter. By adopting these smart, budget-friendly strategies, you’re not just organizing your life—you’re investing in your own well-being and that of your family. Taking control of your time and space brings a sense of calm, allows for more meaningful family interactions, and most importantly, empowers you to live more and manage less. Don’t wait for “someday” to get organized; start reclaiming your life today and experience the transformative benefits for you and your family.

Who is Kris Louis?

Kris Louis is mom to two rambunctious boys. Her oldest is 10 and her youngest is 7. A former advertising copywriter, she recently created, where she puts her skills to work writing about the trials and tribulations of parenting. Kris, her husband, and two boys live in Durham, NC.

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Leadership Lessons from the Gridiron (Part 2): How to build a cohesive team.

College football is back! There is one team everyone is raving about: Colorado. The first game against TCU was an all-out brawl, but Colorado was the victor. Many headlines say that Colorado (the team that was projected to lose by at least 3 touchdowns) “shocked the world.” I believe that the cause of this “shock” wasn’t rooted in a pound-for-pound analysis of players on both sides. Rather, it was “shocking” to see how fast Coach Prime and his staff were able to build a cohesive team capable of withstanding the challenges that TCU presented throughout the game.

The new “Undisputed” co-star (and legend) Michael Irvin said it best.

I’m surprised at how that team kept fighting back…[with] 58 transfers coming in, that kind of union you have, that’s what surprised me the most. Every time TCU came back and scored, [Colorado] came back and scored again. That says that even though [Coach Prime] just got there, they are together.

“Undisputed” Co-star, Michael Irvin

Quick background

Coach Deion “Prime” Sanders was hired by Colorado in December 2022, and he immediately began a complete overhaul of the coaching staff and players. I’ve been following Coach Prime since he became the head coach at Jackson State University–a rival of my Alma Mater, Grambling State University. What piqued my interest was not only his ability to recruit talented players but his ability to build a cohesive team of people from disparate backgrounds and varying levels of experience.

Whether you believe the current press is baseless “hype” or documenting unprecedented success, Coach Prime has been building cohesive teams for years at the youth football and high school levels which, by his admission, is what prompted colleges to contact him. This fact alone warrants further analysis of his leadership style.

As I did in my original article titled, “Leadership Lessons from the Gridiron” about Coach Tony Dungy which was published in the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) magazine, I will examine how leaders are able to learn from and apply fundamentals from another successful coach. In this case, we will specifically focus on how to build a cohesive team.

The thesis in my original article remains true.

Leaders must create a clear mission, communicate a compelling vision, influence culture, and encourage loyalty and faithfulness.

Leadership Lessons from the Gridiron” MOAA Magazine

What is cohesion?

“Cohesion” is an extremely popular topic for leaders in all industries. I love the definitions that Oxford Languages provides. The first is, “the action or fact of forming a united whole.” The second is, “the sticking together of particles of the same substance.” I highlighted the key words (action, united whole, sticking together, and same substance) that create my definition of team cohesion. Building team cohesion is intentionally culturing an environment in which like-minded individuals collaboratively persevere to achieve a common goal.

7 Lessons learned from Coach Prime on how to build a cohesive team.

1. Establish and maintain a unifying belief system.

The first thing you should ask yourself is, “What are my team’s beliefs?” Establishing and maintaining a unified belief system is the only way to create a cohesive team. Coach Prime has probably said, “I believe” thousands of times. It’s a mantra for past and present players and fans. Along with the sub-beliefs (“core tenets”) Coach Prime highlights, “I believe” provides a single point that guides each player and staff member’s actions and goals. Unifying beliefs encourage each team member to fulfill his or her role in accomplishing the overall mission.

This “single point” also creates a bond that reminds team members that they are not alone and their actions impact the entire team. This works as long as each member remains oriented towards that single point. The below illustration of my “Unifying Belief Triangle” visually depicts this idea by placing the unifying beliefs at the top of the triangle. No matter where the little dancing team members are on the triangle, each member is dancing towards the unifying beliefs!

The Unifying Belief Triangle

2. Recruit the right people

What qualities do I look for in a leader? Someone that’s willing to do it in the dark and not just in the light…I just don’t want them to work out when everyone is watching. I want them to be a leader when no one’s looking.

Dick’s Sporting Goods interview with Coach Prime

Jim Collins got it right in his book Good to Great when he said, “first who, then what.” In other words, you have to recruit the right people and place them in key positions before you can attempt to lead your team towards successfully accomplishing the mission. Coach Prime highlights that he doesn’t simply search for talented players, he searches for the intangible qualities that align with his team’s belief system. The same is true for all leaders. A person’s talent may catch your eye, but you must develop a list of intangible qualities with which you’ll analyze how each aspiring recruit aligns with your belief system. If there’s a mismatch, move on. Mismatched team members break cohesiveness and detract from the overall mission.

3. Teach and mentor.

Continuing education and personal development is critical to retaining the right people. There are numerous videos of Coach Prime educating his team and “priming” them for life after football. I highlighted how continuing education creates successful organizations in “Culturing Success (Part 2): Developing healthy relationships.” Therein, I explain that prioritizing individual growth and development “encourages critical thinking and problem solving [and] instills confidence to take action.” These factors keep each team member sharp and strengthens trust in the other members’ abilities.

4. Total dedication: Sacrifice for the mission.

“The sacrifice must be greater than the gift.”

Coach Prime

Ask yourself and your team this: What will you give up to accomplish the mission? In an attempt to influence the culture, Coach Prime had a frank conversation with his staff upon arrival at Colorado. “It’s a spirit that’s riding in this facility that we gotta get out,” Coach Prime exclaimed. “And it’s not a spirit of success. It’s a spirit of losing and it’s a spirit of failure. You must be willing to give it all you’ve got while you’re here.” This challenge may seem brash to some, but this type of direct leadership is necessary to change a culture and unite a team.

The idea of “sacrificing” is rooted in our willingness to trade immediate and/or individual comfort for long-term success. It’s a selfless approach to achieving team goals, sometimes at the expense of personal goals. Sacrificing is about serving others and finding ways to make other team members better. Ultimately, we give something up (e.g. time, resources, etc.) to achieve the team’s assigned mission.

5. Enforce a standard.

There is a lot of leadership material that describes “the winning formula” to achieve success. I believe that the creators of these formulas are referring to the repeatable processes or “habits” that lead to success. As leaders, we should develop and enforce regulations that, if consistently followed, will lead to successful execution of the mission. These regulations establish clear character and performance standards that each team member must maintain to be productive members of the team. As leaders, we must enforce standards and encourage team members to hold each other accountable. Here is an example of the regulations Coach Prime laid out for his team while at Jackson State University.

  • Get 7-8 hours of sleep every night.
  • Eliminate distractions.
  • Show up prepared.
  • Be consistent.
  • Do your job.
  • Play with purpose, passion, and love.
  • Empty yourself (leave it all on the field).
  • Look in the mirror every day and ask yourself, “Did I give it all I have?” (Reflection).

What regulations will your team consistently enforce?

You don’t have to be great or successful to be consistent, but you need to be consistent to be great or successful.

Coach Prime

6. Create realistic training and challenge each other.

After his phenomenal game against TCU, Shedeur Sanders said, “I’m practicing against the best [cornerback] in the world…My margin of error against him is very small.” This is one of the best examples of why it’s important to create realistic training scenarios for your team. Humans rely on intuitive behavior when we are faced with pressure or an extreme shift in emotions. In my “Decision-making basics” article, I explain that improving our knowledge (continuing education) and experience (realistic training) improves our ability to orient on a problem and subsequently take action.

Thus, our role as leaders is to create a controlled environment where our team members can build this experience. This is where team members learn from failure and refine their skills. Inevitably, they begin to rely on each other for personal growth which, in turn, makes them want to challenge each other even more. Develop a plan to create realistic training scenarios and help your team refine their skills.

7. Maximize the moment and dominate.

Coach Deion “Prime” Sanders has always believed in maximizing the moment– whether it was capitalizing on a quarterback’s ill-timed (or ill-advised) throw, playing in a MLB world series, or choosing to take over a youth sports team when the coaching was inadequate. We all must lead and encourage our team to perform with that same gusto.

The “moment” I’m referring to isn’t just the next big game, project, training evolution, or deployment. It’s today. Ask yourself and encourage your team members to ask themselves, “What am I doing today to help my team achieve its goals?” Then ask each other the same question. Introspection and accountability fuel our ability to maximize each moment.

Don’t get stuck overanalyzing the situation or making excuses. Instead, dedicate every bit of your time, skills, and energy towards achieving your team’s goals. This attitude of total dedication and sacrifice throughout the team will ultimately create a cohesive unit determined to dominate every circumstance and opportunity.

Lead well and win!

Leadership Lessons from the Gridiron (Part 1)

My original article was published on September 8, 2022 in the MOAA Magazine. Super Bowl champion and Hall of Fame coach, Tony Dungy is the focal point. Click the image below to read the full article!

Leadership Lessons from the Gridiron
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How to discipline your child (Part 2): Six Principles of Discipline

The six principles of discipline.

In Part 1 of this two-part series, we discussed how “punishment” and “redemption” relates to discipline. Now we will dive into the six principles of discipline.

Principle #1. Use connection, not separation, to bring a child into line.

I know there are plenty of times when I just want to say, “Get out of my face” when my children do something wrong. Whether it’s my frustration with the incident or a feeling that sending them away will teach them a lesson, I should consider the potential unintended negative effects of this action. In essence, we are teaching our children that their connection to us is conditions-based. Thus, they should expect separation if they violate the conditions of this unspoken “agreement.”

Aside from the psychological reasons, children, like all other mammals, learn through imitation. By banishing them, we teach them to disregard other people when they disapprove of them. In reality, our focus should be on separating the human from the deficiency with the belief that humans, including our children, are generally well-meaning beings. Separating the human from the deficiency does not mean we shouldn’t hold our children accountable for their actions; it means we should never identify our children by their deficiencies.

With that said, I’m not saying we cannot take a moment of separation to gather ourselves when we’re frustrated–we’re still humans. I’m suggesting we should eliminate reactions that isolate the child from the adults responsible for grooming and guiding them. Remember, it’s your responsibility to maintain a connection with your child.

Connection before direction.

Hold on to Your Kids

Establishing the connection: Key concepts.

Establishing the connection requires us to apply some basic fundamentals. Remember, every child is different, so they require a unique approach.

  • Communication: Effective communication is key. Listen actively and express yourself clearly. Be aware of non-verbal cues like body language and tone, and adjust accordingly.
  • Contact: Be in the moment. Eye contact and physical touch make a huge difference. Practice embracing your child everyday so this contact will feel natural when it is time to correct the child.
  • Find common and relatable interests: Find shared interests or hobbies to bond over. It helps create a sense of belonging. Nobody likes a long, irrelevant lecture.
  • Respect: Respect your child’s time, intellect, and intelligence. Do not be rude or condescending. Respect their beliefs and opinions, and gently guide them as required.
  • Openness: Be open to their ideas, feelings, and experiences. Being judgmental will cause them to shut down. Encourage open dialogue while teaching them the proper tone and time to provide an alternative opinion.
  • Vulnerability: Be transparent, and share your thoughts and feelings– even if they make you feel uncomfortable. Transparency and embracing each other’s vulnerabilities can deepen the relationship.
  • Trust your instinct: We are naturally wired to nurture, care for, and protect our children. We know what’s best for them and will do everything to protect them. Trust that both of you share an innate desire for love, connection, and closeness.
  • Patience: Building a connection will take time. Be patient and allow your relationship to develop naturally.

Principle #2. When problems occur, work the relationship, not the incident.

This point cannot be overlooked or understated; however, it’s easier said than done. We should teach our children that condemning (giving strong disapproval of) their actions is not condemning them. The challenge is we are simultaneously teaching them to accept responsibility for their actions–a critical component of self-discipline. Therefore, we should teach them how and why what they did was wrong, show them the right way, and recognize them when they do the right thing. The goal is to break the repeated wrongful act before it becomes a habit and the habit becomes their identity. I wrote more about habit creation here: Establishing Winning Habits.

Here’s my advice (with an example):

  • Don’t make excuses: “You lied about that because…”
  • Don’t attack the person: “You’re a liar because…”
  • Highlight the wrong without connecting the wrong to their identity: “The lie you told was wrong, but it is not indicative of who you are as a person.”

Principle #3. Emotions, ego, and embarrassment.

I challenge you to check what I call “the three E’s” when you’re preparing to interact with your child.

  • How does your child’s action make you feel? Be in tune with your current emotional state and address that before addressing your child.
  • Why do you feel that emotion? Did the child’s action impact your perception of yourself (ego)? This is where identifying, understanding, and embracing our vulnerabilities helps us to avoid lashing out at our children or attempting to shame them into submission.
  • Are you responding because they publicly embarrassed you? This is a parenting reality. Our children, especially toddlers, aren’t selective of when and where they demonstrate poor behavior. The infamous meltdown in the grocery store is a perfect example of this. If we’re not careful, we quickly react out of embarrassment instead of love. Our intuitive reaction to embarrassment is to build a formidable defense against the one causing the embarrassment. We do this to regain status in whatever environment we are in at that time. The problem is that the psychological (and sometimes physical) defense we build severs the connection with our child which isolates them and worsens the situation. I’ll talk about this a little more later.

Principle #4. Solicit good intentions instead of demanding good behavior.

We’ve all been there–we’ve excused our own behavior based upon intentions while demanding perfection from others. This is not only counterproductive, but it creates a toxic, no-win environment for our children. Start by recognizing and encouraging your child’s desire to do the right thing. This is extremely hard to do in the heat of the moment, so it’s best to practice this daily before your child does something wrong. Again, this is not an attempt to excuse poor behavior; rather, it is a method to impact the root of self-discipline–a will to do the right thing regardless of circumstances.

Principle #5. Impulsivity and self-control.

There’s a positive correlation between impulsivity and our emotional state. This is something that we intuitively know. The more disarranged our emotional state becomes, the more impulsive we are. Like us, our children sometimes express their emotions with rash speech or behavior with little to no forethought or acknowledgement of how their words and actions impact those around them (including you). Though you should immediately address the behavior, the long-term goal is to teach your child emotional control. Teach them to acknowledge and validate their feelings, take a deep breath to calm down, and develop/execute a plan to solve the problem causing the emotion.

Download my free Three Day Mental Health Guide: Major Payne Edition for more advice on building mental resiliency and emotional control at

Principle #6. The fourth “E”: Environment

I’ve already highlighted that we should check the three E’s (emotions, ego, and embarrassment) before interacting with our children. I’ve also described how our children are susceptible to the three E’s. There’s a fourth “E” that can either tranquilize or inflame an unstable situation–environment.

Many believe it’s best to make on-the-spot corrections. These kind of corrections are sometimes necessary and even useful. There are other times when these kind of corrections make the situation worse simply because you negatively impacted the child’s other three E’s. My advice is that, unless you need immediate conformity (e.g. there’s a dangerous situation), it’s best to isolate your child to have the discussion. This allows you to connect with them and talk to them instead of talking at them.

My embarrassing example.

I’ll share an embarrassing example. My son had a break-away run while playing flag football last season. The nearest person was more than ten yards away with no chance of stopping him before he scored the touchdown. Noticing this, he began to high-step while placing his l-shaped hand on his forehead and looking over his shoulder at the nearest defender. The referee threw the flag and called back the touchdown for “taunting.” I was floored! I couldn’t believe that my son, who I previously told he’d get his team penalized for taunting, was now getting his team penalized for taunting.

I moved closer to the field as I turned off my camera. Another mom said, “Get him, Dad” as I moved closer to the field–further hyping my planned on-the-spot correction. “Jacob!” I yelled. “Cut that crap out, and play ball! You know better than that!” There I was, pointing and yelling at my son from the sidelines like a deranged lunatic. It seemed effective in the moment, but I cringe as I reminisce about that moment because it was ineffective and embarrassing to me, Jacob, and my entire family. The worst part is I publicly created a rift between myself and my child. Oops! Needless to say, I apologized after the game and began restoring the connection.

Mistakes will happen, but keep trying!

Ironically, I’m sharing this embarrassing story as encouragement. None of us are perfect, and we shouldn’t entertain a delusional belief that we will do everything right and lead our children to perfection. Do your best! Discipline takes time, but through your consistent connection and strong desire to lead your children with love, you will help them achieve self-discipline and grow into well-rounded adults.

I believe in you!

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How to discipline your child (Part 1): Punishment vs Redemption

“How do I discipline my child?” This is one of the most frequently asked questions that I’ve received since publishing, “Discipline: A U.S. Marine’s take on what it is and why we need it.” It’s a wise question because on one hand, discipline done right can influence positive behavior, solidify your relationship, and increase your child’s chances of succeeding in their life’s endeavors. On the other hand, discipline done wrong can have traumatic long-term effects, reduce confidence, and create a rift in your relationship that is incredibly difficult to mend. Here’s a brief overview of what I previously wrote so you’ll have context for my recommendations today. I encourage you to read (or listen to) the entire article!

Recap of “Discipline: A U.S. Marine’s take on what it is and why we need it.”

Discipline is training and preparing, not chastising and punishing.

If I were to break my idea of discipline down into its simplest form, I’d submit that discipline is a cyclical process where you learn from someone you trust, reenact what you learned (self-discipline), and teach what you’ve learned. The word discipline was tainted over time to incorporate “chastisement” or “punishment”; however, “discipline” originated from a word that describes a teacher presenting information that a pupil accepts.

Effective discipline leads to self-discipline.

We emphasize discipline because we want our children to apply what they learn in our absence. That’s self-discipline. You lead others to become self-disciplined by applying the following fundamentals:

  • Set the example!
  • Remember, it’s a team effort.
  • Create a structure for repetitive actions.
  • Be consistent and persistent.
  • Reward and hold accountable.
  • Prioritize education and explain the “why.”

Building upon this foundation.

I’ve read several books since I wrote my original article about discipline that have caused me to reflect on my own relationships at home and work. There are two specific books that I highly recommend to any parent, teacher, mentor, or caregiver. The first book is Daring Greatly by Brené Brown that talks about embracing our vulnerabilities. I honed in on her philosophy on how ineffective and harmful it is to “shame” others into compliance. The second book is Hold on to Your Kids by Dr. Gordon Neufeld and Dr. Garbor Maté. Their thoughts on viewing every interaction with our children through the lens of connection or “attachment” resonated with me.

I’m going to intertwine some of the concepts from these two books, and use some of Dr. Neufeld and Dr. Maté’s principles of natural discipline (chapter 16) in Part 2; but first, I want to establish a baseline understanding. We must relinquish control of the outcome.

Relinquish control of the outcome.

Yes, this seems counterintuitive and potentially contradictory to what I have previously recommended. I admit that this can even seem like advice from a defeated father. Contrarily, I couldn’t be more inspired and motivated to deepen my relationship with my children as I lead them to become self-disciplined! I still believe that we should begin with the end in mind like Dr. Steven Covey recommends in his books; however, I believe we’ve become unhealthily obsessed with how our children will turn out. A combination of this obsession and failing to embrace our own vulnerabilities associated with what appears to be our children rejecting us can taint our relationships and diminish our influence.

Children are living beings… not robots. That means that no matter how much you attempt to control the environment or manipulate external factors, only the child can determine the person he or she will become in the future. I highlighted the words “manipulate” and “determine” because these two contrasting concepts underpin my entire philosophy. Another word for manipulate is “coerce,” which is to persuade someone to do something by using force or threats. This kind of leadership may actually be effective in getting your child to do what you perceive to be the right thing–garnering praise from the untrained eye.

I counter by explaining that this type of leadership usually restricts creativity, damages the relationship, and often develops individuals who are unable to solve complex problems–especially in the absence of direct supervision and guidance. The negative impact on the relationship is arguably the most crucial aspect because it creates a vulnerability for the child that is filled by immature people with no vested interest in the child’s success in today’s peer-oriented society.

The bottom line:

There’s no code you can enter that will develop your child into what you assess to be the perfect being. Attempting to do so will only cause emotional distress for you and your child.

Relinquishing control of the outcome isn’t an excuse to become disconnected or give up leading your children; it’s a freeing mindset and daily commitment to doing your best to mentor and guide your children without attempting to control their actions. Many metaphorically describe this phenomenon as “teaching a man to fish” or “leading a horse to water.” In both scenarios, you lead the individual towards what’s best for them, but you cannot attempt to force them to take a certain action. They must determine their own fate.

Punishment vs Redemption


This foundational belief or “baseline” is what forced me to reexamine my take on punishment. Oxford Languages describes “punishment” as “the infliction or imposition of a penalty as retribution for an offense.” I cringe at the eerie parallels between that definition and what the United States Department of Justice describes as a “response to crime” within the criminal justice system construct. Therein, offenders are apprehended, tried, and punished. Some would argue that rehabilitation and restitution have received recent attention. However, the fact remains that “an estimated 68% of released prisoners are arrested within 3 years, 79% within 6 years, and 83% within 9 years.

This highlights that the crime-punishment methodology becomes cyclical, and it has the potential to condition one’s mind to persist in this dangerous cycle. For example, when my oldest daughter was three, her daycare implemented what was called “the red chair.” The teacher could send a child to the red chair for 1 minute of time-out for every year of the child’s age if he or she committed an offense. Well, there was this young man who loved to hit others. So much so, that he would hit someone and immediately begin walking to the red chair to serve his sentence…without being told. My wife and I still chuckle about this, but it is one of many examples of how punishments only lead to immediate compliance, not the change in behavior we seek.

A different approach.

Leading our children to become self-disciplined requires a different approach. This approach should help them recognize what they did wrong, understand why it is wrong, and determine they will not do it again. That’s why I encourage parents, teachers, mentors, and caregivers to remove the word “punishment” from their vernacular. Instead, teach your children that there are positive and negative consequences for our actions.

I also encourage leaders to implement rules and restrictions that keep the child focused on their daily priorities and maintaining a connection with those who share common values with the adult. As I’ve said before, there are a lot of people and things grasping for our children’s attention to influence their behavior. Either we can combat those influences or collaborate with them. Either way, we must be intentional about how we lead and guide our children.


My dad has always given me wise advice even if I pretended I wasn’t listening. One piece of advice he gave me was, “always give your children an opportunity to redeem themselves.” We cannot overlook this important note. To “redeem” is to regain possession of something. So what is lost when our children do something wrong? Nothing! No matter how frustrating their behavior may have been, you still love your child unconditionally. The problem is your child may perceive that they are disconnected from you, and their perception becomes their reality.

I’m not suggesting that we pamper each of our children’s fleeing emotions. This would be an exhausting and fruitless endeavor. However, we must be keenly aware of the moments our children feel disconnected from us. Strengthening the connection to our children should always be the focal point of any interaction with them. This leads us to our first principle of discipline in Part 2 of this series: Use connection, not separation, to bring a child into line.

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Acclaimed Children’s Picture Book Earns Prestigious Award

I’m excited to announce that my book, “Crow From the Shadow,” won the 2023 Readers’ Favorite Bronze Medal award in the Children – Picture Book genre!

The Readers’ Favorite International Book Award Contest featured thousands of contestants from over a dozen countries, ranging from new independent authors to NYT best-sellers and celebrities.

Readers’ Favorite is one of the largest book review and award contest sites on the Internet. They have earned the respect of renowned publishers like Random House, Simon & Schuster, and Harper Collins, and have received the “Best Websites for Authors” and “Honoring Excellence” awards from the Association of Independent Authors. They are also fully accredited by the BBB (A+ rating), which is a rarity among Book Review and Book Award Contest companies.

Award-winning book, Crow From the Shadow, is featured on the Readers’ Favorite website.

I’m honored to have received this award! Here are a few professional reviews Crow From the Shadow has received.

Crow From the Shadow Professional Reviews


An engaging and encouraging tale about countering negativity.

A crow learns to reject destructive self-criticism in this debut picture book from a pair of siblings.

Crow, who frequently wears a hoodie to obscure his features, is connected to “The Shadow”—which could be a person, place, or thing. Crow explains: “The Shadow tells me who to be, how to go, and where to stay” and keeps the bird from doing the things he loves. Crow wears black because The Shadow says blue, the bird’s favorite color, isn’t appropriate. Crow could succeed in school, but The Shadow requires failure. While Crow loves books, The Shadow says reading is boring.

Over and over, The Shadow sucks happiness out of Crow’s life—until the bird eventually asks, “Why should I listen to The Shadow?” Finally, Crow is free, enjoys success, and even finds a spouse. While getting out from under a depressive Shadow is not as simple as author Olaolu Ogunyemi makes it sound, the idea of rejecting the lies of self-criticism is an important one.

Illustrator Joshua Ogunyemi delivers a cartoon depiction of each concept. Crow’s possible happiness is portrayed in bright colors, with the bird wearing blue. In the images where The Shadow holds sway, Crow wears black and is surrounded by dimmer hues. But the marriage plot point seems to come out of nowhere, and more time spent on Crow’s triumphs would have better balanced The Shadow’s dominance in the book’s first half. Still, the enjoyable story’s inspiring message comes through clearly.

An engaging and encouraging tale about countering negativity.

Emma Megan for Readers’ Favorite

Crow From the Shadow by Olaolu Ogunyemi is a must-read picture book for every child.

Crow From the Shadow by Olaolu Ogunyemi is a must-read picture book for every child. It contains valuable and inspiring life lessons and will empower children to believe in themselves, identify, and overcome their negative thoughts. It tells the story of Crow, a bright bird whose life is controlled by The Shadow. Crow doesn’t like that The Shadow tells him who to be and what to do, but he can’t do anything about it. Every time Crow wants to do something, The Shadow stops him. Unfortunately, Crow doesn’t dare to stand up to him, so he keeps dreaming of the life he could have. Will Crow stop listening to The Shadow and regain control over his fate?

I adored this well-illustrated story with an important and influential message. I firmly believe that many children will resonate with Crow’s struggles. What children tell themselves impacts their self-confidence. Their inner voice matters as it’s one of the most significant influences that shape their journeys.

Crow From the Shadow by Olaolu Ogunyemi introduces children to their negative thinking and inner critic. It encourages them to overcome self-doubt, become all they can be, and determine their future. It’s a perfect addition to every home and school. It can help parents, teachers, and mentors to start conversations with children, at home and in the classroom, about self-doubt and how to deal with it. This easy-to-read story will make a huge difference in the hearts and minds of children who are afraid to follow their dreams.

Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers’ Favorite

I love this book and would give it a whole bucket of stars if I could.

Crow From the Shadow, written by Olaolu Ogunyemi and illustrated by Joshua Ogunyemi, is the first book in the Parent-Child-Connect (P2C) picture book series. The book begins by introducing the reader to Crow, a young narrator who says he’s from The Shadow, following this by stating that The Shadow could be anything. It controls every aspect of Crow’s life and sets restrictive parameters of what he can and cannot do.

Crow tells us what his own preference is with what he wears, how he performs at school, and the places he likes to visit. Each is pushed aside by The Shadow’s instruction that Crow feels obliged to follow. As the story progresses, Crow describes isolation and the destruction of motivation, dreams, and all other positives in his life. It is only when Crow comes out from under The Shadow that we see what life is like in the sunlight.

Here comes my favorite part of this review…

Woah! Crow From the Shadow is nothing at all like the other children’s books I’ve been reading for a while, and completely realigned my barometer on what a fantastic piece of kid-lit truly is. And what is it? It’s this and whatever else Olaolu Ogunyemi creates like this. The first thing that leaps out from the start is that this book is cool. Really cool. Not a word that can be associated with most children’s picture books but decidedly appropriate here.

The way Crow talks and the way he describes what is going down in his world is profoundly honest, and Crow looks like the kind of bird you want to be friends with. He’s in a hoodie. He speaks like he’s straight out of an indie film and sort of resembles Spy from the 80s comic strip, if Spy was cool. Joshua Ogunyemi is the artist who breathes life into Olaolu’s words, sticking to a dark palette initially but slowly moving toward color as Crow starts making decisions for himself. I love this book and would give it a whole bucket of stars if I could.

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Decision-making basics: How to make better decisions.

There is no shortage of decision-making processes and concepts. From decision trees to flow charts, many have searched far and wide for practical advice on how to make better decisions. In fact, we discussed this topic a bit during a professional military education session. We used an article titled, “Destruction and Creation” by former United States Air Force fighter pilot, John R. Boyd. Boyd is well known in the U.S. Marine Corps due to his military theories. Specifically, Marines have studied, learned about, and applied Boyd’s observe, orient, decide, act (OODA) “loop” decision-making process.

I’m actually not really a fan of Boyd’s work. In fact, I jokingly refer to myself as anti-Boyd, because (in my opinion) he tended to overcomplicate simple concepts. (Download and read the “Destruction and Creation” article I provided above for an example of this). Whereas theologians and business professionals use metaphors and analogies to explain their concepts, Boyd backed his concepts using science and math. Even so, I wholeheartedly agree with the OODA process. Using this construct as a baseline, I will quickly describe how we can make better and more well-informed daily decisions!

Let’s begin by discussing the four categories that make up the OODA process.

Boyd’s OODA “loop” decision-making process.

I like to break things down into simple concepts. Some may even argue I oversimplified complex concepts, but I’ll do it anyway. Below is my graphical depiction of Boyd’s OODA loop.

Figure 1: My oversimplified version of Boyd’s OODA loop decision-making process.
  • Observe: Gather information using your five senses.
  • Orient: Develop perception–use your prior experiences and knowledge to process the information you absorbed.
  • Decide: Choose the option you feel will produce the outcome you desire.
  • Act: Implement the option you chose. Note: Whether positive or negative, your action’s consequences will serve as feedback or “information” that your five senses will absorb, thus restarting the OODA decision-making process.

How can you refine this process?

Research shows that we consciously and subconsciously make thousands of decisions a day! That means that we constantly repeat the above process whether we know it or not.

Quick example: I caught myself subconsciously going through this process while I was typing this section. 1. I felt slightly annoyed by something on my body (observe). 2. I recognized it was my nose itching (orient)! 3. I quickly determined that I should use my hand to stop the itching (decide). 4. Before I knew it, my hand was scratching my nose (act). I repeated the process once I realized I was scratching my nose with my bare hand (gross) which triggered the decision and subsequent action to wash my hands. See how it works?!

As demonstrated in the quick example above, these steps require minimal cognitive engagement. Here is another oversimplified graphical depiction of what I’m describing.

Figure 2: An oversimplified graphical depiction of Boyd’s OODA loop decision-making process with the level of cognitive engagement.

The million dollar question: If most of our decisions are made with minimal cognitive engagement, how can we refine this process?

I’m glad you asked! As we saw in the above example, we often do not recognize the OODA loop process until immediately before, during, or after the “act” phase. As such, the implied understanding is that there is little we can do to affect our decision making cycle since the vast majority of the process is done unknowingly. Of course that understanding does not align with one of my core beliefs: I determine my own destiny. With that in mind, I’ve sought to identify areas within the OODA loop cycle that I can control. What I found was that those areas resided in the “orientation” phase.

In figure one, I highlighted that you develop your perception during the “orientation” phase. That perception is based upon two things we can impact: knowledge and experience.

Knowledge and Experience

Knowledge and experience combine to deepen our understanding of the world around us, challenge our unconscious biases and preconceived notions, and refine our critical thinking skills. Throughout this discussion, I will equate “knowledge” to “education,” and I will use the term “experience” in its most practical form–a firsthand encounter with facts or events.


Knowledge is a structured framework to learn about various subjects and explore different perspectives. It equips us with the necessary tools to analyze information, evaluate evidence, and form rational opinions.

Knowledge exposes us to diverse ideas, cultures, and philosophies. This exposure allows us to engage with a wide range of perspectives, enabling us to develop a more nuanced understanding of the world. Knowledge encourages us to question assumptions, challenge biases, and consider alternative viewpoints. It fosters empathy and a deeper appreciation for the complexities and diversity of human experiences.

How to increase knowledge.

Attend formalized training.

There are numerous free and paid courses available online and in person. Never allow your formalized training to stagnate.

Network with experts.

Share ideas and learn from professionals inside and outside of your organization/industry. Remember: innovation is applying old ideas and concepts in new ways.

Observe and record the world around you.

Diversify your knowledge by exploring new concepts or ideas that are unrelated to your profession. For example, I have recently indulged myself in growing plants and fruit. Not only can I adopt concepts like identifying the proper nutrients to enrich the soil for optimal growth, satisfying my curiosity enhances my ability to learn. (Here is a good reference to support my latter claim. The psychology and neuroscience of curiosity)

In addition to knowledge, experiences play a crucial role in shaping our perspective and opinions.


Experiences provide us with firsthand knowledge and insights that cannot be acquired through books or lectures alone. Whether through travel, work, or personal interactions, experiences expose us to different environments, people, and circumstances. They challenge our existing beliefs and expose us to new ideas and ways of thinking.

Experiences also allow us to put theory into practice, providing a tangible context for our learning. By engaging in real-world situations, we learn to adapt, problem-solve, and make informed decisions. These experiences, whether positive or negative, contribute to the evolution of our perspectives and opinions. They provide us with a deeper understanding of the complexities of life and foster personal growth.

How to diversify experiences.

Do new things.

Change up your routine. For example, you could try eating foods normally associated with breakfast for dinner and vice versa for a few days. Believe it or not, sometimes your mind needs these kind of drastic changes for stimulation and growth.

Read new things.

Millions of authors have shared their philosophies, beliefs, and ideas with you through articles and books. Take time to learn about the world through others’ perspective–especially if they contradict your own.

Watch new things.

I’ve always enjoyed watching slapstick humor, action, and shows about earth science and biology. As such, my daily actions and decisions reflect what I watch. Watching new things exposes you to new perspectives you would not have otherwise had.


Knowledge and experience work hand in hand to shape our perspective and opinions. Knowledge provides a foundation of usable information and critical thinking skills, while experiences add real-world context and personal insights. By continuously learning and engaging with new ideas and experiences, we have the opportunity to broaden our horizons, challenge our assumptions, and develop more informed and well-rounded perspectives. Ultimately, by focusing on these key concepts, we can positively impact the orientation phase of our respective decision making cycles and train ourselves to make better decisions.

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Watch these fun and engaging bedtime stories on YouTube—Narrated by Olaolu Ogunyemi!

Bedtime is probably my favorite time of day! Nothing like plopping down and allowing my body to sink into the mattress after a long day’s work. Before I do, there’s one more thing we have to do in my home—STORY TIME! Our story times are fun, engaging, and slightly silly. 😜

Official P2C Commercial

I want to share these moments with you and your children. As such, I created audio versions of the three books in my Parent-Child-Connect (P2C) Book Series just for you! Each video was created with you and your children in mind as I read it with the same energy and enthusiasm that has entertained hundreds of children across the world. This selection is perfect for ages 2-9!

Grab your favorite YouTube-compatible device, relax, and enjoy tonight’s bedtime stories on me! Let’s create memorable and teachable moments together!

Let’s read “Horace the Horsefly!” A fun story for children to practice animal sounds and sight words!
Let’s read “Crow From the Shadow!” An engaging and encouraging tale about countering negativity.
Let’s read “Billy Dipper’s Time to Shine!” An inspiring story about self-esteem and embracing self-worth!
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Unlocking the Magic of Reading: Cultivating a Love for Books through Fun and Memorable Experiences

On the go? Listen to the audio version of “Unlocking the Magic of Reading: Cultivating a Love for Books through Fun and Memorable Experiences!”

BREAKING NEWSScreen time is at an all-time high! Some of you would skip right past that headline. Others would say, “I knew it! Those darn millennials ruined everything!” Some would immediately have a reflective moment. Regardless of your reaction to the above headline, we must agree that we are living in the digital age. In a time where screens and gadgets dominate children’s attention, fostering a love for reading has become more crucial than ever!

We all know that reading enhances literacy, but it’s important to note that reading also builds confidence, sparks imagination, cultivates empathy, and opens the portal to knowledge which helps us develop our perspective and opinions. As parents, teachers, mentors, and caregivers, one of the most impactful ways to instill this love for reading is by engaging children in fun and memorable reading experiences. Creating these experiences allow us to unlock the magic of reading and pave the way for a lifelong passion for books.

When should I start reading to my child?

Before we discuss how to create these magical experiences, I’d like to quickly answer one of the most frequently asked questions I receive: When should I start reading to my child?

My recommendation is you start reading as soon as the child is conceived. I know it sounds crazy, but hear me out! There are numerous studies and articles that support reading to your baby while in the womb. Many assert that reading to your baby as early as the third trimester is great for bonding and developing your child’s brain–both admirable goals! I’d like to add more practical benefits: practice and habit creation. If you recall, in my previous article, “How to use books to create teachable and memorable moments,” I offered lessons I learned from reading aloud to children. It’s simple: the earlier you start practicing those fundamentals, the more skilled you’ll become. You are truly bringing the story to life for your child from conception to reading age, so bring on the inflection, excitement, energy, and rhythmic stories!

Start early and sustain the habit!

How do I get my child interested in reading?

This is another frequently asked question I received that is usually accompanied by embarrassment, guilt, and a feeling of inadequacy. Allow me to encourage you: There was a time I felt reading was a chore for numerous reasons! I’m sure my parents chuckle at my “anti-reading” stint when they see how involved I’ve become with writing and increasing literacy, but it was a phase. Reading didn’t fit well with my schedule, I didn’t like the books that were chosen for me, and TV was much more entertaining. These may not have been facts, but they were true to me.

Whether your child is revolting like young Olaolu or they’re extremely interested in reading, let’s discuss my ten principles for creating magical reading experiences to increase literacy.

1. The Foundational Principle: Creating magical reading experiences begins with books relationships.

I admit, this is strange. My foundational principle about reading and increasing literacy is not about books. Allow me to explain. My goal when reading to children is not to simply tell them what words are on the page. My goal is to bring the story to life in a way that resonates with the children. It’s about establishing shared moments or connections with the children that will last beyond the story time. If successful, they can and will carry memories and lessons they learn for the rest of their lives.

Using story time as an opportunity to build relationships gives us the flexibility and scalability we need to engage our children at a level that they understand so they continue this habit throughout their lives. What I’m suggesting is you are the star of this magical experience, and the book is your script. Everyone knows that many successful stars tend to ad-lib quite a bit. It’s what makes the show or movie unique and keeps the fans engaged. Be enthusiastic, athirst, and excited for story time! It’s your time to shine and build a lasting relationship.

The 5 P’s (2-6)

2. Priority: Shared reading must be a priority in the home or classroom.

Why would you want to read when you got the television set sitting right in front of you? There’s nothing you can get from a book that you can’t get from a television faster.

Harry Wormwood in Matilda

Ok, I get it Mr. Wormwood. Children can learn a lot from watching TV. In fact, Joan Ganz Cooney and Lloyd Morrissett –founders of Sesame Street–disproved the theory that TV doesn’t require the interaction needed to enhance literacy. However, prioritizing regularly shared reading experiences creates a safe and productive environment where parents, teachers, caregivers, and mentors can help children explore their unique talents, life experiences, and needs. Ultimately, along with increasing literacy, prioritizing shared reading experiences can help the child grow and develop into a more confident individual capable of developing meaningful connections with others.

3. Patience: To accept delay without becoming frustrated.

The flexibility associated with our foundational principle can be a double-edged sword. Since reading provides countless opportunities for learning beyond the words on the page, imaginations can sometimes seem to completely derail what you seek to accomplish during a particular story time. This requires patience. Do your best to gently refocus the child on the topic. It won’t be perfect, and some days will seem more productive than others. Remain consistent and patient. The memorable and teachable moments are worth it.

4. Perspective: Evaluate your motives. Understand the child’s perspective.

Remember your why and the child’s why when patience begins to wear thin. I have to reframe the situation when I feel frustration or impatience creeping in. Most times, my frustration/impatience is driven by this thought: “I know what’s best for you!” Though this may be true, our intentions, motives, and attitude must remain aligned to our goal to increase literacy and memorable experiences. In other words, I may intend to establish a magical reading experience with my children with a great motive, but if their distracted behavior or disruptions cause me to become frustrated or impatient, my attitude is distorting the connection. There are numerous factors that may influence the child’s behavior. Take a deep breath, reframe the situation to account for the child’s perspective, and re-attack from a different angle.

5. Passion: No passion, no magical reading experience.

Books have the power to evoke emotions and create lasting memories. I love seeing children’s reactions when I’m reading. For example, in my book “Billy Dipper’s Time to Shine,” there is a scene where Billy Dipper hits his rock bottom moment. I do my best to sell that moment to children so they can empathize with Billy. Then, I like to pause both for dramatic effect and to encourage children to empathize with the characters and discuss their feelings about the story. Explore themes of friendship, kindness, perseverance, and diversity to foster empathy and understanding. Encourage them to share their favorite parts of the story or relate it to their personal experiences. These emotional connections make reading a deeply personal and enriching experience.

6. Positivity: Maintain a great attitude and remember: Your positive reinforcement goes a long way.

Reading should never feel like a chore or a task. Instead, it should be a delightful adventure that sparks curiosity and captivates young minds. Therefore, you have to be supportive and maintain a positive attitude towards reading. Bring stories to life by using expressive voices, incorporating gestures, and even acting out certain scenes. Encourage children to participate by asking questions, predicting what might happen next, or even creating their own alternate endings. By infusing playfulness and positivity into reading sessions, we create an environment where children eagerly look forward to the next chapter. Moreover, it shows that you support their creativity and opinion, and your positive reinforcement will help build their self-esteem.

The three I’s (7-9)

7. Inspiration: Develop success from failures.

Consistency is key when it comes to cultivating a love for reading. Even so, children may struggle to comprehend, sound words out, or pay attention. Establish a reading routine, whether at bedtime or a designated hour during the day. Make it a special time, free from distractions, where you can fully immerse yourselves in the world of books together. Allow children to choose books that pique their interest and let them take turns reading aloud. Again, some story times may feel more productive than others, but continue to maintain a consistent reading ritual. Your children’s anticipation of the next story time and inspiration to read will overcome any obstacles they previously encountered.

8. Improvisation: “Situational family engagements”

Create teachable moments. Pause during the story to discuss new vocabulary, encourage critical thinking, and ask open-ended questions. Relate the story to real-life experiences or connect it to other subjects like science, history, or art. Integrate activities, such as crafts, games, or cooking, that align with the story’s theme to enhance comprehension and make the experience more memorable.

9. Influence: There are many influences out there. Will you combat them or collaborate with them?

Choose engaging and age-appropriate books. Selecting the right books is key to capturing children’s interest and keeping them engaged. Vibrant illustrations, relatable characters, and captivating storylines can work wonders in capturing their imagination. Explore various genres and introduce diverse authors and cultures to broaden their horizons. Children are constantly observing the world around them and learning. Create a sense of wonder and excitement about the world of books by relating the things they observe to the things that have the greatest influence on their lives.

10. Carpe Diem: Opportunities & moments are prevalent in our daily affairs. Seize the moment!

Reading to children goes far beyond simply teaching them how to read. It creates a bridge to a world of imagination, knowledge, and discovery. Seize every opportunity to infuse fun, teachable moments, and emotional connections into your reading experiences. By doing so, you’ll nurture a lifelong love for books. Let’s embrace the magic of reading and embark on a journey where children’s hearts and minds are forever transformed through the power of words!

Creating magical reading experiences is fun! I am reviewing the educational material in “Horace the Horsefly” with the preschool class.
Official Parent-Child-Connect (P2C) Book Series Commercial.