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The stimulus-response model: How to develop a healthy response to ANGER!

On the go? Check out the audio version of “The stimulus-response model: How to develop a healthy response to ANGER!

Have you been here?

You are breathing heavily, your heart is racing, your nose is flared, your body is tense, and you continue to replay what happened over and over. You’re disappointed, embarrassed, and most of all, angry. You know forgiveness is the answer, you have to demonstrate grace, and you must return to your jovial demeanor, but your continued rush of emotions seem to make it impossible to move on. You want to participate/contribute to the world continuing around you, but you do not know how to return. Your smile is broad but forced, and your words are few and shallow. You feel old instincts or habits returning that would satisfy your primal desires to express your anger but leave you hollow when you finish. You want to isolate yourself and not be bothered because you are mentally exhausted from giving everything you’ve got and receiving little in return.

Yeah, I’ve been there plenty of times. In fact, I wrote the above paragraph when I was angry. Those were my actual feelings and emotions at the time. The “old instincts or habits” I was referring to involved me lashing out on people, throwing stuff around, yelling into my pillow, or hitting or kicking an inanimate object (like a wall) which, in turn, caused me bodily harm. I used to tell people I had “anger issues,” which means that was the identity I assumed. It was a harmful stereotype that I willingly accepted. Anger and my subsequent response became addicting, so I knew I had to change.

Anger is a normal, healthy emotion. However, many of us give up control of our response to anger. So that’s where we will focus today.

The anger stimulus-response model.

Frank Esser published an insightful article at the University of Zurich entitled, “Stimulus-Response Model.” Therein, he states, “Similar to higher animals, human beings are endowed at birth with a uniform set of instincts that guide their ways of responding to the world around them.” He continues to explain how mass media manipulates this instinctual behavior–which he describes as the stimulus-response model–to produce enticing content. Today, I want to offer a way that we can manipulate this same instinctual behavior to change our response to anger.

How humans differ from other animals.

Stimuli are events in the environment that influence behavior. Today we refer to these as “cues” and “triggers.” Unlike other animals, the beauty of human beings (or homo sapiens) is that we can influence this stimulus-response model through the application of free will or choice. In other words, where other animals instinctually respond to the stimuli around them, our brains are able to critically think about the various stimuli and develop a response based upon the environment we are in.

For example, when we feel hungry but we are on a diet, we are able to suppress those hunger pangs. Similarly, when we feel sleepy but we are driving, we choose to stay awake because it is not the appropriate time to sleep. Dr. M. Scott Peck has a funnier (but true) way to describe this phenomenon in his book, Further Along the Road Less Traveled: The Unending Journey Towards Spiritual Growth.

People sometimes ask me the most impossible – for example. “Dr. Peck, what is human nature?” And because my parents raised me to be an obliging child, I try to come up with answers to such impossible questions, and first answer I give is: “Human nature is to go to the bathroom in your pants.”

It really is. That is exactly the way each one us started out, doing what came naturally and letting go whenever we felt like.

Further Along the Road Less Traveled: The Unending Journey Towards Spiritual Growth by Dr. M. Scott Peck

Point made.

Neural pathways.

As proven by millions of potty training toddlers each day, we have the ability to influence our personal stimulus-response cycle. Because of the brain’s plasticity (ability to change and adapt), we are able to develop “neural pathways.” According to https://www.merriam-webster.com/, a neural pathway is “a series of connected nerves along which electrical impulses travel in the body.” This is an important concept in psychology because these neural pathways are our brains’ way of automatically responding to stimuli (which is received by one or more of our five senses).

For example, when I smell food (cue) after I have gone a few hours without any (cause), the response is usually a growling stomach (reaction). So, I decide to turn into a restaurant parking lot in response to my hunger pangs. As I prepare to turn, I observe a car speeding up (cue) to prevent me from turning first (cause). My automatic response is to become irritated, shake my fist, and yell, “you idiot!”(reaction) Get this, the only intentional or “conscious” decision I made in this process was to go to the restaurant. The rest was predetermined by the neural pathways I developed over time. This is one of our brain’s many efficient ways to save energy.

How to develop neural pathways to change our response to anger.

1. Take inventory. Identify cues (events that signal the brain to react), causes (reasons why the cues exist and trigger certain reactions), and reactions (the actions you take as a result of the cues).

For about a week, I want you to do the same thing I did in the above scenarios. Don’t cheat, justify, judge yourself, or change anything. Just record your cues, causes, and reactions to as many automatic processes as you can–especially those that ended with you being angry. If you happen to be driving at the time, turn on your voice recorder and do a voice log. Whatever you do, it is important that you capture as much data as possible.

2. Limit or eliminate the cues.

Of course this is easier said than done in some cases. In my above scenario, I cannot remove the people who will cut me off in traffic. It would be absurd for me to think or suggest otherwise. However, there are many other examples of cues we can either limit or eliminate. For example, I already know there are certain times of day where I will be hungry. If my goal is to avoid eating out to save money, perhaps I can avoid driving down “restaurant boulevard” during the times I’m likely to be hungry. This simple rerout will avoid the luring smells, giant pictures of food everywhere, and the entertaining guy with the sign advertising my favorite happy hour sale.

The book “Atomic Habits” by James Clear describes a similar concept to remove negative habits. Since we naturally gravitate towards the more convenient option, make it harder to encounter your negative cues.

3. Identify the cause.

This is the psychological step, and it feeds your cues. This step is extremely important because there are many cues you cannot limit or eliminate. Even if you could, I have always advocated for running towards something, not simply avoiding things. The cause is what gives your cue relevance. That’s why this step is arguably the most critical.

We can start with the most rudimentary example. I felt the urge to go use the bathroom (cue). Why? I am doing the gallon-a-day water challenge to ensure I get an adequate amount of water each day (cause). Of course, we know the reaction is to actually go to the bathroom.

Let’s look at the other scenario. I observed a car speeding up to cut me off (cue). Earlier I identified, “to prevent me from turning first” as the cause. Some of you probably scratched your head wondering how that caused the cue. Allow me to explain.

In my mind, this fella personally attacked me! Although it was my turn to go, he intentionally sped up to prevent me from turning. In doing so, he delayed my day. What an idiot!

I know I’m not the only one who has thought this before. Seeing some of the drivers’ reactions in Boston, New York, and Washington D.C. earlier this year proves me right!

4. Address the cause.

Regardless of how many of you agree that the above driver is idiotic, our assumption that the driver personally attacked us is irrational. But to strengthen our argument, let’s say he did personally attack us. My mom used to tell me, “if you let people know which buttons to press to make you angry, they will press them every time.” In other words, some people get a thrill out of seeing you angry. I believe they crave the ability to control you.

Whoa, so these external factors (including people) want to control you?! That’s right!

5. Regain control.

If you haven’t noticed by now, a cue with no cause produces no reaction. In other words, the way you perceive your cue is what causes the reaction.

With that in mind, I have a couple of recommendations when it comes to retraining your mind. If you need more advice on changing your thoughts, check out my post: “Command your thoughts: Three actionable steps to remove toxic thoughts!” If you need more advice on adjusting your perspective, check out my post: “How to shift your perspective and live a better life TODAY!

  • Capture your thoughts. This means we have to be active in our approach. Don’t just allow your thoughts to run wildly because those thoughts feed our emotions and those emotions feed our actions and those actions feed our identity. This is why we started by taking inventory. SEE what you think. That means we are creating a new cue to gain control of our reactions.
  • Ask the 5 Whys. In “How do you Respond to Rejection and Failure?” I introduced a concept called the “5 Whys.” Simply put, this is how we get to the root of our perspective. This time, instead of using the Stone Cold Steve Austin fan approach of asking “why,” I want you to ask, “why does this matter to me?” I’ll use my “cause” from above, but I challenge you to use your own “cause” list.
    • That guy cut me off!
      • Why does this matter to me?
    • Because it was my turn!
      • Why does this matter to me?
    • Because it isn’t fair.
      • Why does this matter to me?
    • Because he’s taking advantage of me.
      • Why does this matter to me?
    • Because I’m tired of being taken advantage of.
      • Why does this matter to me?
    • Because I know my worth, and I don’t like when people make me feel like I’m less than I’m worth.
Reframe your thoughts

I believe we’ve made it to the root, and from that root spawns many thoughts, emotions, and causes. Take that root to your counselor and work with him or her to develop new neural pathways. For me, I’ve worked to reprogram that cue. So instead of yelling and shaking my fist at the guy who cut me off, I use that cue as a reminder that I am worth a lot, and no one (including the random people I encounter in traffic) can take that away from me. In doing so, I have intentionally changed my response from anger to calmness and happiness.

This isn’t magic or just some feel good mumbo jumbo. Trust me, developing new neural pathways doesn’t happen over night. Just keep practicing and give yourself some time.

Change = Steady progress over time

I want to end with this analogous encouragement. When hiking a mountainenous trail, you may be confident and sure of your next step, until that next step causes you to slip and fall. Stand up, brush yourself off, and keep hiking. Regain the momentum that you started building before the slip. When you start again, your legs may feel a little stiff, you may feel embarrassed, and you may be a little bruised from the fall, but keep hiking. This is especially important to remember in the beginning when you fall multiple times. Remember this, you may have lost a little momentum, but you didn’t lose progress. In other words, the only time you lose progress is when you intentionally turn around and hike back downhill (relapse).

You are reading this because you want to change and/or improve. Stay focused and keep progressing towards a better you!

Thanks for reading! Have a great week!

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

On the go? Listen to the audio version of “Discipline: A U.S. Marine’s take on what it is and why we need it!”

Whether you are a parent, teacher, mentor, or in any other leadership position, there is one thing that we all need: discipline! We need self-discipline and must demand discipline from those we lead (that includes our children).

The first image that pops in my head when I think of the word “discipline” is the iconic U.S. Marine Corps drill instructor. That’s partly because every drill instructor probably says the word a million times. In fact, one of the first things the senior drill instructor tells his or her recruits at Marine Corps Recruit Depot (aka “boot camp”) is, “Discipline and spirit are the hallmarks of a Marine. Each one of you can become a Marine if you develop discipline and spirit.” Although it would be the absolute worst time to ask, a recruit may be wondering, “Sir, what is discipline?” So that’s where I will begin.

My thoughts on discipline.

As a guy who grew up in the south, I have always heard, “spare the rod, spoil the child” or as Ms. Trunchbull said in Matilda, “My school is a model of discipline! Use the rod, beat the child, that’s my motto.” Both of these are a spin off of the biblical verse in Proverbs 13:24 that says, “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.”

I recognize that I probably just split my audience in two. One group’s pants just dropped as they ripped their belt from their waist and said, “that’s what I’m talking about!” The other is ready to just stop reading and give me a thumbs down. Either way, I am here to neither condemn nor endorse a particular disciplinary method. My goal is to simply provide my take on discipline. After you finish reading, I encourage you to research and develop disciplinary methods that will work for the people you are leading.

What is “discipline”:

My thoughts on discipline are a result of several things. First, my upbringing and life experiences as a U.S. Marine officer, parent, and mentor. Next, the books I’ve read like “Quiet Strength” by Tony Dungy , “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie, “It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership” by Colin Powell, and many others. Most recently, I discussed discipline in my home Bible study group with other U.S. Marines (who happen to be special operators and fathers themselves).

Discipline is both a noun and a verb that is defined in numerous sources as “the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience.” In verb form, there is an even more direct definition that says, “punish or rebuke (someone) formally for an offense.”

Seems pretty clear that discipline is all about training by applying painful consequences!

Before we commit to that logic, let’s take a look at the root of the word.

The word “discipline” is from the Latin word “discipulus,” meaning “pupil, learner.” “Discipulus” is also the source of a familiar English word “disciple” which means “one who accepts and assists in spreading the doctrines of another.” As you continue to follow the word “discipulus,” you will find it also produced the Latin word, “disciplīna” which means “teaching, instruction, branch of study, orderly conduct based on moral training.” Here’s where it gets interesting, “disciplīna” produced the Middle English word “discipline” which we have already defined. The interesting part is now the word “chastisement” or “punishment” was introduced in 13th century religious practices. To me, that means the word lost its purity over time as various teaching methods were introduced.

My countercultural belief.

Aside from quotes like Ms. Trunchbull’s in the early 1990s, you will hear quotes like “pain retains” when discussing discipline today. Even so, I submit that if we truly want to achieve the ultimate goal, which is for our followers to develop self-discipline, we must return to the root of the word. With that in mind, my belief can be summarized by the quote below.

Discipline is training and preparing, not chastising and punishing.

“But it worked for me!”

I will give a personal example below; however, I encourage you to do your own research on the relationship between punishment and training. Here are a few scholarly articles to get you started: “The dark side of families: Current family violence research,” “The role of maternal discipline and involvement in peer rejection and neglect,” “Discipline and deviance: physical punishment of children and violence and other crime in adulthood,” and “Moderate spanking: Model or deterrent of children’s aggression in the family?” 

I believe the above authors would agree that punishment creates immediate conformity, but again, the goal should be self-discipline, which is a long-term objective. I define self-discipline as the continued application of lessons learned regardless of the circumstance or level of supervision.

My personal example

Sometimes, immediate conformity is necessary. For example, my 3 year old was innocently wandering towards the street. I rushed over, physically stopped her, and sternly commanded, “do not go into the street!” After doing this three to four times, one would assume that discipline by physical means or punishment was achieved. To that, I’d agree. My daughter (the pupil) has learned that I am willing to use physical force to immediately stop her from walking into the street. Many leaders would stop there–assuming the child has received the appropriate instruction and has adequate discipline. The immediate question I would ask is, “what happens when Dad is not around?”

In this case, I needed instant conformity to stop my daughter from wandering into a dangerous situation to prevent a potentially fatal outcome. However, as the instructor who is looking to help the pupil develop discipline, my work does not stop there. I must help her accept my teachings by making it relevant to her. Then, and only then, has she achieved self-discipline. In this example, I showed her how fast the car is going and explained how dangerous it is to walk into the road. When we passed vehicle accidents, I showed her how people could get injured and how vehicles were ruined. Now, she corrects me if she doesn’t see me check both ways before crossing the road. Self-discipline has been achieved.

Effective discipline leads to self-discipline.

If discipline is training your followers to accept what you or your organization believe to be right, then (as I said before) self-discipline is the consistent application of these lessons regardless of the circumstance. For example, I wasn’t the best free throw shooter in high school. In fact, I shot around 65-70% accuracy. I remember the coach telling us, “free throws are FREE!” In other words, the free throw is the only uncontested shot in basketball.

Of course like many other teams, we ran for missed free throws. Though it helped me get in better shape, running had very little impact on my free throw shooting accuracy. What forced me to change was my realization that my poor free throw shooting could be the difference between a win and a loss. That realization encouraged me to practice. Many great free throw shooters will tell you that the secret to shooting more accurately is to do the same thing every time. That means from the way you wipe your sweat to the way you bend your legs to the way you breathe to the way you release the basketball. These factors (and more) contribute to your accuracy. My free throw shooting percentage significantly improved when I learned to consistently apply my coach’s shooting instructions. This is what developing discipline is all about–consistently applying instructions regardless of circumstances for your benefit and the benefit of the entire family or organization.

How to lead others to develop discipline.

I wouldn’t dare claim this is an all-encompassing list, but here are my thoughts on how you can lead others to develop discipline.

1. Set the example!

One of my favorite phrases is, “more is caught than taught.” In other words, people want to see their leaders practicing what they are teaching. Leaders must have self-discipline before they can discipline others.

2. It’s a team effort.

In case you haven’t realized it yet, you have an integral role in helping others develop self-discipline. I know Hollywood would have us believe that we can climb Mount Fuji shirtless to find ourselves and develop discipline, but that’s not reality. For example, U.S. Marine Corps drill instructors don’t allow recruits to just wander around for thirteen weeks until they find this mythical thing called “discipline.” The drill instructors lead the recruits on a physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional journey and allow them to graduate once they demonstrate self-discipline.

3. Repetition is key.

I elaborate on this in a previous blog post entitled “Establishing Winning Habits.” Therein, I said, “You are what you repeat.” Which means we have to teach our followers to practice applying the instructions we provide. That is the only way to influence habitual behavior.

4. Be consistent and persistent.

I have had the opportunity to peak behind the curtains at Marine Corps boot camp. From that experience, I can tell you that some recruits require longer than thirteen weeks to develop self-discipline. That means that some recruits graduate with a different company than they started with. However, as long as the recruit (pupil) refuses to give up, the team at the Marine Corps Recruit Depots will continue to lead that recruit. This same logic applies to any pupil. Everyone is different, so that means you may have to train them longer (or shorter) than you expected. Remain consistent and persistent in your teachings.

5. Reward and hold accountable.

There are numerous studies that conclude that living beings respond positively to being rewarded for doing well. But, we cannot ignore the other half of the equation–accountability. Celebrate successes and quickly correct deficiencies. That is the best way to ensure someone accepts your instructions.

6. Prioritize education and explain the “why.”

This is one of the most important factors to encourage others to accept your instructions. As a leader, telling your followers what to do is easy, but great leaders understand that educating followers by explaining the “why” is what allows the followers to consistently apply the teachings regardless of the circumstance. Help your followers understand why your instructions are relevant to the family or organization as a whole, and help your followers understand why your instructions are relevant to them individually.

    Summary.

    There are a few key points that I want you to take with you today. Self-discipline is the ultimate goal. That requires leaders to lead their followers on a journey towards developing self-discipline. Along this journey, it’s imperative that leaders research and develop disciplinary methods that will adequately contribute to the overall goal. In the end, discipline is what will ensure your family’s or organization’s success. It is up to you to instill that discipline.

    Thanks for reading! Have a great week!

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    Two New FREE Downloadable Resources! (Plus a bonus)

    Today is a great day, because I get to introduce two new FREE downloadable resources to my lineup! Both of these journal-style guides are created to help you along your mental, spiritual, and emotional journey! And since I was feeling so good, I decided to add a BONUS to help you along your physical journey!

    FREE Downloadable Resources just for YOU at parent-child-connect.com/free-resources

    What’s the catch?

    I wanted to put the “catch” up front, because that’s where I prefer it when I read headlines like this. Of course I would love for you to peruse the website, buy a couple of books, and subscribe to my email list; HOWEVER, there is no catch! Navigate to https://parent-child-connect.com/free-resources/ and click “download.” In fact, I will even include download links in this blog post.

    Wait, why would I do that? It’s simple: I care more about providing usable resources than anything else. Or “#purposeoverprofit” as I say on social media. Having a huge mailing list and selling a bunch of my awesome books is great, but I am committed to making parent-child-connect.com a one-stop-shop for everything you need to be inspired, resourced, and empowered to lead your children! So if that means I have to make a line-up of free downloadable resources, I will!

    With that in mind, feel free to subscribe and check out my books (whether in my store or on Amazon).

    Now, let’s talk about why you’re reading this: the FREE Downloadable Resources!

    Free downloadable resource: The Road to Financial Success by Dr. Clement Ogunyemi and Olaolu Ogunyemi

    Description

    Welcome to the The Road to Financial Success guide! The “road to financial success” is always a hot topic, but many of us still find it hard to manage our finances. I mean really, it is such a thrill to find a good sale, right?!

    Yep, it’s all fun and games until we blow a proverbial tire (i.e. we run out of money before we run out of bills). That’s usually when reality sets in.

    Some of us have no problem avoiding sales because we hate large crowds, standing in line, keeping up with the latest trends, or spending money in general… But then here comes this old crazy lady named “Sallie Mae” who just wants to rob us blind for trying to better ourselves. Trust us–been there, done that, and paid enough for thousands of t-shirts but ol’ Sallie never sent us one.

    We’ve got news for you: there is hope! We are going to give you some tips that will put you well on your way towards achieving financial success! Just think of us as your friendly roadside assistance technicians. We will help you change that blown tire and navigate towards a bright financial future! And get this: none of this is a secret! Many people (including us) have embarked on this challenging but exciting journey and have come out better. Share this guide with everyone you know, and let’s journey towards financial success together!


    Free downloadable resource: Distractions Causing Distance [From God] by Olaolu Ogunyemi

    Description

    Welcome to the four-day “Distractions Causing Distance [From God]” journal!

    There is no greater oxymoron for people-loving extroverts (like me) than “social distancing!” Society has adopted this methodology to keep us safe, but I—like most—miss sharing the love of God through a warm embrace.

    What if I told you that there is a type of “distancing” that [ironically] can actually cause us harm? That is a distant relationship with our heavenly Father.

    There is hope! Join me in this four-day devotion as we discuss how to defeat three daily distractions that distance us from Christ!

    I also published an audio version for each devotion for your listening pleasure. Go to https://parent-child-connect.com/category/devotion/ to find out more!

    Olaolu, but what if I’m not a Christian?

    This is one of my most common questions. That’s ok, download anyway! I’m not here to attempt to convert you. I’m using my personal spiritual beliefs as a foundation for the practical advice I give. With that in mind, my advice has universal application regardless of your religious beliefs or affiliations. If you believe you were created for a purpose greater than yourself, this journal is for you!


    BONUS! FREE Downloadable Resource: 30 Day Plan to Increase your pull-ups and upper-body strength!
    Free Downloadable Resource: Captain O’s 30-Day Pull-up Workout Plan by Olaolu Ogunyemi

    This has been one of my most popular blog topics, so I figured I should make it a downloadable resource! I created this workout plan for a U.S. Marine who wanted to improve his pull-ups and upper-body strength. Since I receive this question so often, I knew it would be a popular topic! Enjoy!


    The original FREE Downloadable Resources:

    The original FREE Downloadable Resources: The #defeattheshadow Journal and The Three Day Mental Health Guide: Major Payne Edition by Olaolu Ogunyemi

    The #defeattheshadow Journal

    Welcome to the #DEFEATTHESHADOW Journal! You may have noticed that I vaguely defined The Shadow as any opposing force that exists to stop us from achieving success in my best-seller “Crow From the Shadow.” This resource teaches you how to defeat The Shadow and achieve success!

    The strategies in this journal will help you regain control of your choices and your destiny! This is an excellent resource for all ages, so parents, teachers, and mentors, feel free to use this journal to guide your children on their own personal journey toward success! Ultimately, I want everyone to understand, YOU determine your own future!

    The Three Day Mental Health Guide: Major Payne Edition

    Welcome to the Three Day Mental Health Guide: Major Payne Edition! In this guide, you will learn strategies to raise mentally tough children. I initially created this guide with the “father-son” relationship in mind; however, I quickly realized that readers can apply the strategies discussed within to any relationship!

    This guide is broken into three different sections: Day 1-“A Tough Topic;” Day 2- “Time to Break the Mold!;” and Day 3- “The ‘Major Payne’ Leadership Model.” On Day 1, we focus on the importance of discussing mental health—a topic that is considered taboo in numerous homes. On Day 2, we dispel the myths associated with society’s view of masculinity and mental toughness. Finally, on Day 3, we discuss the “Major Payne” leadership model that we can apply to be effective leaders. Each section ends with a prompt to get your wheels turning.

    Parents, teachers, and mentors, this is an excellent resource for all ages so feel free to use this guide to lead your children on their own personal journey towards excellent mental health. Together, we can build mentally tough children who excel at whatever they put their minds to!

    You can find these two original FREE resources (and more) at https://parent-child-connect.com/free-resources/

    Like, share, comment, and of course, download these FREE resources!

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    Our Journey to Victory:
    The Power to Heal

    Hi guys! I am Joshua Ogunyemi aka Josh O. Not only is Olaolu my little brother, but I illustrated the Amazon best-seller Crow From the Shadow and Billy Dipper’s Time to Shine. Today, I want to post a few words of wisdom I shared on June 13, 2021 that explains how our faith in God and our power to heal has started us on a journey to victory! Feel free to watch the video, read the blog, or both! Please note: I made some slight edits to the written version to ensure it flows well. Enjoy!

    Full video: Our Journey to Victory: The Power to Heal by Joshua Ogunyemi

    Our Journey to Victory: The Power to Heal

    Introduction: Keep smiling!

    “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands. If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands. If you’re happy and you know it, then your face will surely show it. If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands. If you’re happy and you know it, stomp your feet. If you’re happy and you know it, stomp your feet. If you’re happy and you know it, then your face will surely show it. If you’re happy and you know it, stomp your feet. If you’re happy and you know it, smile. If you’re happy and you know it, smile. If you’re happy and you know it, then your face will surely show it. If you’re happy and you know it, smile!”

    Now, why did I start with that song? Well, I thought it was important for y’all to see your brother smiling even while in this struggle.

    We still have our faith.
    We still have our hope.
    We’re still standing, trusting, and believing in God’s Word. I can think of so many times we had to rely on a smile, a laugh, and the joy of the Lord which has always been our strength. That strength that kept us going. It empowers us every day and gives us the strength to bounce back and keep going (NO MATTER WHAT)! So, I thought it was important for you to see us smile.

    I smile, even though I hurt see I smile.
    I know God is working so I smile.
    Even though I’ve been here for a while,
    I smile. Smile!

    “I Smile” by Kirk Franklin

    Smile every day. Smile like you mean it! You may have had a tough week and for some, it’s a struggle just trying to get a smile through. Whatever you do, just smile. Remember that “the JOY of the Lord IS [your] STRENGTH.” We had to hold on to our smile through all the highs and lows on our journey to victory!

    Our gifts were made for this moment…YOU were made for this moment!

    If you are a parent, guardian, caregiver, family member, or anyone else connected to someone challenged with a developmental disability or “special need,” it is important for you to appreciate, honor, love, cherish, and labor with them. Why?  Because it brings out the best in you.  It helps you tap in and begin to transform situations that you previously couldn’t transform. It enables you to impact situations in your life that you previously couldn’t control.

    It’s through our many challenges that we “stir up the gift that is in [us].” And what is this gift that is in us? Well, I’d like to submit to you that that gift is the POWER to HEAL.
    I want to encourage you— anyone who may come in contact with someone who requires special needs.
    YOU have the power to heal.
    YOU are anointed for this.

    When God blesses you to come into contact with a person overcoming physical and mental challenges, make no mistake about it, YOU were chosen for the assignment. YOU were hand-picked for the mission. Not only that, YOU are equipped for the mission. YOU are built for this, and God trusts YOU. He made YOU the executor of his estate.

    What does that mean? It means He trusts you to be informed and make sound decisions regarding your family member and their health and safety. It means He trusts you to make the right move and get the job done.

    The doctor who witnessed it all.

    I’m so proud that earlier this year, we were able to visit one of the doctors who previously gravely said, “She’s a very sick baby…” He saw her after she was born at 23 weeks at one pound and three ounces. She had survived the passing of her identical twin sister and had suffered a Stage 4 hemorrhage–the worst form of bleeding from the brain. At that time, her body was too fragile to undergo the life-saving surgery that would keep her alive, so the surgical staff had to use a needle to withdraw fluid from her brain to reduce the pressure and swelling. More than one of those doctors encouraged us to terminate care.

    They wanted us to terminate care, but we remained hopeful.

    I’m so proud that we chose to stand in faith and believe God. I love it when my wife tells this story, because it’s by far the most gangster thing I’ve ever said. The messed up part is I really don’t even remember it! The doctors came to us and said, “we’ve pretty much done all we can do… It’s essentially our efforts keeping her alive [and] it’s probably best if you let her go.” My wife recalls that I responded, “Y’all do what y’all do, and we’ll do what we do, which is to pray and stand on God’s Word.” That wouldn’t mean anything if we didn’t have the evidence here with us today. This proves that standing on God’s Word WORKS!

    Faith in Action

    God trusts you to get the job done. When you acknowledge Him, He will give you direction. He trusts you and has anointed you to heal. It’s our responsibility as the able-body folks to not leave our loved ones in the conditions we found them in. It’s our responsibility to heal them.

    Many of us are familiar with the biblical story about a rich ruler who divided up talents among his workers and left town for a while. When he came back, the two he gave multiple talents to gave him back more than what he had given them. But, there was one who gave him back the same talent that he had been given. The Master was displeased with the servant who did nothing to multiply his talent.
    Why? Because God wants us to take our situations–the gift that He’s given us–and give him back more! So again, let’s use our power to heal!

    God works through us!

    Now don’t get it twisted. It’s the power of God that heals bodies, makes the lame walk, makes the blind see, and mends the broken hearts. He cures sickness and disease and sets the captive free, but it is by our hands that he causes these miracles to be. It’s by our hands that he manifests these miraculous signs and wonders. The Bible says God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we can ask or even think according to the power that works in us (Ephesians 3:20). So it’s by our hands that manifestation happens.

    Jesus said, “believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. Or at least believe because of the work you have seen me do… anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works…You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father.” (John 14:11-13 NLT)

    So yes, it is God who does the work, but it’s by our hands that he manifests. By doing so, God gets the glory.

    In Acts 14 Paul and Barnabas travel town to town speaking God’s word. When they came to a particular town, they encountered a man “with crippled feet. He had been that way from birth, so he had never walked. He was sitting and listening as Paul preached. Looking straight at him, Paul realized he had faith to be healed.” (Acts 14:8-9 NLT) So Paul called to him in a loud voice, “Stand up!” And the man jumped to his feet and started walking. (Acts 14:10 NLT)
    What am I saying? We have that same power to heal.

    Remember the doctor I told you about?

    Yep, one of the few who thought that turning down the assignment was even an option. We visited him earlier this year–seven years later. He was amazed by Kennedy’s cognitive ability and her speech. He had some questions! This doctor remembered her brain scans all too well. It looked like she didn’t have a chance! He remembered the conversation we had. You know, the one where he encouraged us to terminate care.

    That same doctor now said that based upon what he saw, Kennedy shouldn’t be this far along. She shouldn’t be doing the things that she’s doing. As a matter of fact, they thought she wouldn’t make it. They expected her to be severely retarded and unable to walk or talk. He originally told us that she’d be a vegetable collecting SSI and we’d need a lifetime of medicine, machines, oxygen, and around-the-clock care.

    Kennedy’s [our] journey to victory!

    Instead, after six months of being in the NICU, she came home with no equipment, oxygen, medicine, etc. It was almost like she just came home and said, “that was it?” Today, Kennedy is on the A/B Honor Roll, promoting to the third grade, and can even count to ten in Spanish! She sleeps comfortably in her own room–in her own bed–and she is a prayer warrior. Kennedy quotes scriptures and recites positive affirmations every day. She will also get you together, whether you ask for it or not.

    I will end with this: the doctor told us that he believes Kennedy would have had all the previously mentioned side effects had she been in any other hands. Why is this important? Because I believe our journey to healing begins when we realize our power to heal and transform any situation!

    Please continue to pray for me and my family, and I will do the same for you and yours.

    About Josh O., the author of “Our Journey to Victory: The Power to Heal”

    “Josh O.” is a devoted husband, dad, mentor, author, and entrepreneur. He is proof that faith, courage, and determination will outlast even the toughest challenges. His story has inspired many, exemplifying spiritual and mental toughness, defying every challenge he’s had to face.

    Despite losing a child, extended periods of unemployment, failures, financial problems, the everyday pressures of marriage and fatherhood, and raising a child with special needs, he has become a champion of challenging situations and encourages others to do the same.

    Josh’s book “tough times don’t last, TOUGH PEOPLE DO” is a must read! Josh shows you how to turn your hard times Into THRIVING times with just 9 Key habits.

    “IMAGINE YOU HAD A BLUEPRINT–
    A guide to help you during hard times. YOU can come out ON TOP!
    You just need the tools to help get you there.”
    -Josh O

    tough times don’t last, TOUGH PEOPLE DO” Available now at https://www.amazon.com/tough-times-dont-TOUGH-PEOPLE/dp/1737492717/ or https://excelu.groovepages.com/ttdlebook/index

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    How to develop your child’s inquisitive mind: “Because I said so.”

    On the go? Listen to the audio version of “How to develop your child’s inquisitive mind: ‘Because I said so.‘”

    I believe I received this shirt on Father’s Day in 2015. As you can tell by the wear and tear, it’s one of my favorite shirts. I don’t remember exactly what I said when my family handed it to me, but it was probably something like, “that’s right!” Yeah teaching children to be inquisitive is important, but not more important than doing what I say when I say it! I even ran into an older gentleman who read my shirt and said, “Hey, I would do what you say too.”

    One of my favorite shirts! “Because I said so. -Dad”

    “That’s right!” I thought. “You see these biceps?! These back up my authority. You do what I say, when I say it. Why? Because I said so!” Some of you are beating your chest and wondering where you can buy one of these shirts. Others are ready to vomit. Nowadays, I agree with the latter group. “Because I said so” is easy to say (and wear), but it’s actually quite shallow and it can potentially squelch a child’s inquisitive spirit. We’ll discuss more, but before we dive in, we have to answer two important questions: 1. What does it mean to be inquisitive? 2. Why is it important to raise children who are inquisitive?

    What does it mean to be inquisitive?

    To be inquisitive is to be curious and extremely interested in learning new things. Typically, inquisitive people have an insatiable desire to know more about any given topic. For example, my son [randomly] asked me the following questions last week: 1. Why is the sun so bright? 2. Why is a Rip current called a “Rip” current? 3. Why do we say “bless you” when people sneeze?

    I know that as soon as I mentioned the word “curious,” some of you thought about this old quote:

    Curiosity killed the cat.

    A lot of people

    My ten minute Google search tells me that this quote originated in the 1598 play, Every Man in His Humour, written by the English playwright Ben Jonson. Since, it’s been used as a forewarning for those who are inquiring about or expressing curiosity in something that may result in trouble. Over the years, this quote has been used to keep people from interfering in others’ affairs. Of course this quote has also been used to discourage children from asking “too many” questions about anything. I even remember as I stared at a lifeless cat in the middle of the road, someone told me, “See? Curiosity killed that cat!” Sounds like a pretty compelling argument if you ask me.

    Why is it important to encourage children to be inquisitive?

    In true Olaolu fashion, I’d like to offer you an alternative to the previous quote:

    Curiosity Ignorance killed the cat.

    Olaolu Ogunyemi

    Let’s use the same scenario above. Some argue that the cat died because he was too curious. He met an inevitably fatal ending because he was satisfying his naturally inquisitive mind. Well, I’d like to offer that the cat wouldn’t have wandered into the road in front of a car if he had known it could end his life. In other words, his fatal outcome was based upon his ignorance, not his inquisitive mind.

    It’s not all life or death situations though. There are many other benefits to encouraging our children to be inquisitive.

    Here are a few benefits.

    1. It broadens their perspective on current events.
    2. It gives them a desire to know more about life, science, religion, etc.
    3. It helps to develop their critical thinking skills.
    4. It helps develop their perspective and opinions.
    5. It sparks their mind to conduct analytical processes.
    6. It teaches them to remain open minded.
    7. It gives them confidence as they learn new things.
    8. It teaches them to think freely and explore their thoughts and emotions.
    9. It creates another teachable and memorable moment for you with your children. That’s what my entire parent-child-connect (P2C) platform is all about!

    So now for the million dollar question:

    How do you raise inquisitive children?:

    1. Ask questions.

    It’s no secret that I’m a huge advocate for setting the example. That is our job as leaders and mentors. The more our children see us asking questions, the more they will be inclined to do the same. Your example also teaches them the appropriate time, forum, and method to ask questions. For example, if your significant other says something and you yell back, “Why do I need to do that?!” Expect your child to do the same.

    2. Give answers based upon fact.

    Children may be naïve, but they’ll eventually realize if you’re just making stuff up. It’s ok to say, “I don’t know. Let me read more about that and get back to you.” It may even be a great opportunity for you to learn together! In any case, give them factual information.

    3. Teach them where to find answers and how to conduct research.

    I’m sure we have all heard this proverb.:

    If you give a man a fish he is hungry again in an hour. If you teach him to catch a fish you do him a good turn.

    Anne Isabella Thackeray Ritchie

    I’m not encouraging you to hand them a dictionary or an encyclopedia, and tell them to “go figure it out.” I am encouraging you to show them how and where to gather information. Encourage them to read! This is why I include fun facts and educational material in my children’s books. Not only is this skill transferrable to the classroom, but it teaches your child how to examine perspectives and analyze information before developing their opinion.

    4. Listen to them and be patient.

    Patience is another topic I discuss regularly. It is a critical part of any relationship, and it’s impossible to raise inquisitive children without patience! It takes time for them to ask questions that they perceive to be complex. The fact that they don’t know how to ask the complex question makes asking the question that much harder.

    Relax. Give them time to ask the question, and if they need a little help forming the question (i.e. they are struggling to form the words), gently help them. Whatever you do, don’t rush them or cut them off mid-sentence. Take time to hear their question, and give them an age-appropriate answer that they can comprehend.

    5. Encourage them to ask questions.

    This is a pretty simple concept. If you want your children to be more inquisitive, encourage them to be more inquisitive. Sometimes, they may be scared to ask questions. Maybe there’s a guy yelling and wearing a worn out t-shirt that says, “because I said so!” I say that tongue-in-cheek to make fun of myself, but you get the point. Be aware of what you say about and your disposition towards your children when they are being inquisitive.

    Their inquisitive mind is constantly expanding as they learn about and take in the world around them. Your children’s life-long experiences and opinions will be based upon what they learn and perceive to be true. Their willingness to ask questions and challenge the norm will inevitably make them catalysts for change. And ultimately, that change will drive us to a brighter future.

    Thanks for reading!

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    Benjamin’s Journal Series: The Outsider

    Journal entry–5:00 a.m. 08/29/2022

    I’ve often felt like an outsider in multiple areas and at various times in my life. For example, although my siblings were born in vicinity of New Orleans, I was born in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. We started off in the East of New Orleans then moved to the Westbank in Algiers, and even then, we attended school in St. Bernard Parish because that’s where my father taught.

    My parents uprooted us from our home 17 years ago as Hurricane Katrina ravaged through my hometown. I assumed we were just evacuating for the weekend until my family enrolled us in school the following Friday in rural North Louisiana. Once again, I found myself feeling like an outsider as I settled in and remained there throughout my adolescent years.

    That’s one reason I’ve come to realize that adapting to any given situation is second nature to me. It’s all I’ve known for a very long time. I continue to search for who I am in spite of who I’ve become as a result of the continual changes. Was I designed to be the perpetual outsider?

    Reflection

    To answer that question, I turn to Proverbs 18:16

    A gift opens the way and ushers the giver into the presence of the great.

    Proverbs 18:16 NIV

    Just as height, coordination, and athleticism are advantageous to those who are gifted in sports; perspective, comprehension, and communication cultivate the various gifts inside of you. With that in mind, Proverbs 18:16 takes on a different meaning for me. Your gifts may open the door for you, but the environment you enter helps produce the skills you need to grow the gifts within you.

    Your gifts may open the door for you, but the environment you enter helps produce the skills you need to grow the gifts within you.

    Full circle: The Outsider’s Advantage

    On the anniversary of the biggest adjustment of my life, I choose to ignore hypotheticals. Instead, I will focus on my growth, the growth of the city I love, and the growth of everyone else affected by the hurricane. Though we are still putting pieces back together in a multitude of ways 17 years later, the strength, endurance, and resiliency that came as a result cannot be ignored.

    One of my favorite sayings is “Perspective is everything, and everything is relative.” Meaning, your outlook on any given thing or situation is all based upon your experience and opinion. That outlook could be very difficult to garner if you’ve maintained an unvarying viewpoint for an extended period of time… So maybe being an outsider in multiple areas and at different times of my life isn’t so bad after all.

    Want to read more? Check out my previous entry!

    Connect with me!:

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    What do you see?: It’s all about perspective

    Hello! I know some of you will click this expecting some form of optical illusion or a trivial search. I can assure you that I’m not trying to point your attention towards anything in particular. Instead, I want to introduce two kinds of people who differ based upon their perspective and why each is important.

    On the go? Listen to the audio version of “What do you see?: All about perspective!”

    Last weekend, my wife and I went to watch Kevin Hart in Raleigh, NC. (It’s a hilarious show by the way, but that’s not the point of this post). The pictures you see were taken from our viewpoint in our hotel room. One picture is what I immediately saw, and the other is what my wife immediately saw. While staring out of the window, I told her, “if you look down, you will be disappointed, but if you look up and out, you’ll see the beauty.” How romantic. Here I am spewing out a philosophical observation when we were supposed to be just taking in the view. She simply (and accurately) responded, “sounds like you have your next post.”

    She was right!

    At first thought, I thought I would discuss how important the “up-and-out” perspective was. Then something hit me: the “down-and-in” perspective is crucial to our success. So let’s talk about how both perspectives are mutually supporting.

    The “up-and-out” perspective

    You have probably heard this story, but I’ll share anyway! Sir Christopher Wren is the famous architect responsible for numerous reconstruction projects following the Great Fire in London in 1666. One of his most prolific masterpieces is the St Paul’s Cathedral. Legend has it that one day during construction, Christopher Wren observed three bricklayers hard at work. Christopher Wren posed a simple question to these three men, “What are you doing?” One bricklayer responded, “I’m a bricklayer. I’m working hard laying bricks to feed my family.” The second bricklayer responded, “I’m a builder. I’m building the walls of a church.” The third brick layer responded, “I’m a cathedral builder. I’m building a great cathedral to The Almighty.”

    This is when most of the self-help books and blogs stop to praise the latter of the three men. This man has the up-and-out perspective, and he understands the big picture. People like him can usually keep a positive attitude in the worst situations, because they can forecast a positive outcome. Conversely, they can warn you of impending danger regardless of how positive the current situation is. Can you understand why a large amount of self-help literature recommends this perspective? This person sounds awesome, right? Let’s check how this individual interacts with the “down-and-in” perspective.

    Interaction with the down-and-in perspective.

    Are you actually going to pretend you don’t see that literal pile of trash right there?

    Brea Ogunyemi

    I think this quote accurately captures the kind of conversation I have at least once a week with my wife (😂). The up-and-out perspective person needs this reminder. Because they can often accurately predict the future, they easily become unrealistic. In other words, if untethered, the up-and-out perspective person can set lofty and unachievable goals. Also, their constant positive attitude or sense of foreboding can become exhausting. Sometimes, they need the down-and-in perspective people to ground them and help them embrace the moment.

    Another important note is the up-and-out person often likes to document their thoughts (i.e. budgets, schedules, personnel tracking estimates, etc.) This can feel overwhelming to the down-and-in person and they’ll feel the up-and-out person is overbearing and too controlling.

    The “down-and-in” perspective

    This group of people represents the other two workers in our St Paul story. I always imagine that while Mr. Up-and-out is taking a break to lean on his shovel and admire his work, the down-and-in bricklayers keep working to meet the day’s timeline. They are all about doing the immediate work it takes to get the job done.

    Because they have the down-and-in perspective, they can usually identify immediate dangers or opportunities. They are also more apt to embrace the moment –whether positive or negative. Their perspective may initially seem brash or uncalled for, but it can help inform future decisions.

    Interaction with the other.

    I live in the future!

    Olaolu Ogunyemi

    This is another weekly quote from our conversations. Down-and-in perspective people can often seem like “Debbie Downers.” The down-and-in people usually provide valuable feedback that the up-and-out person may not immediately understand or appreciate. For example, by pointing out the dumpsters in the first picture, the down-and-in person will give the up-and-out person something to think about when choosing rooms in the future.

    To the up-and-out person, the down-and-in person seems to be shortsighted with no comprehension of or care for long-term initiatives. The #YOLO or Carpe Diem lifestyle with no future considerations makes the up-and-out person extremely uncomfortable. The up-and-out person feels the down-and-in person is too unorganized and solely focused on surviving the day. Thereby, the up-and-out person will (often unsuccessfully) urge the down-and-in person to understand how their daily actions contribute to the big picture.

    These perspectives are mutually supporting but not mutually exclusive

    Some of you may be thinking, “I’m a little bit of both.” Well, you’re right! Many of us find ourselves bouncing between these two perspectives. This is an important note as we fulfill our role in any team or relationship. We must constantly understand and adapt to the different perspectives to avoid the inevitable clash and work together to achieve common goals. If you are leading a team, you must constantly assess who’s who and find ways to incorporate each perspective to gain and maintain momentum on any given project.

    So who are you today?

    Picture yourself in that same hotel window with me and my wife. What do you see? And most importantly, how will you incorporate the alternate perspective? These are the questions I challenge you to think about throughout the week.

    Thanks for reading!

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    Talk is Cheap: 8 ways healthy couples set the example for their children

    On the go? Listen to the audio version of “Talk is Cheap: 8 ways healthy couples set the example for their children!”

    “Talk is Cheap: 8 ways healthy couples set the example for their children” audio

    I remember my dad used to tell us, “Talk is cheap, but it costs money to buy land.” I’m sure I was too young to initially comprehend what my dad meant, but as I got older, I responded, “well duh. That’s obvious.” Of course that response was under my breath… ten minutes after he walked away, but it was my response nonetheless.

    So why did he feel the need to regurgitate such an obvious analogy? It’s simple. Regardless of how pure our intentions were, our actions did not align with what we said we were going to do. Furthermore, our actions did not align with what we knew we should do. Yep, we talked a good game, but we did not set the example with our actions.

    What’s even more interesting is though our parents repetitively reminded us to set the example through our actions, I still often find myself selling some of that “cheap talk” without applying any action. If you’re honest, you probably do it too. If that’s you, just keep reading and we’ll dive into some practical advice I have to help you set the example for your children.

    Here’s what triggered my thoughts.

    I posted this on Twitter a few days ago:

    "😘 'I love you.': what my wife feels/hears daily before I leave. Sometimes, a little infiltrator peeks in and yells at me if she doesn't feel/hear the same. 🥴 Reminder: our children are learning from our actions and inaction. Take heed and use that to your advantage."
    Originally posted on my Twitter account on August 12, 2022

    I was so proud of myself! “You’re setting a great example brotha,” I told myself. That’s when my own reminder smacked me. I asked myself, “do you truly ‘take heed’ and set the example daily?” Well, the obvious answer was, “no.” There I was selling that cheap talk again. Only this time, I decided to make a list of ways I could set the example. Here’s that list of eight ways healthy couples can set the example daily for their children:

    Eight ways healthy couples can set the example.

    1. Affection.

    “I don’t want my children–especially my daughters–trying to copy us with their friends!” That was my fear when it came to being affectionate in front of my children. Seems rational right? Maybe not. Either way, that was my excuse. I know I’m not the only one.

    Trust me, I understand. However, this is one of the best examples we can set for our children. Showing affection to your significant other is demonstrating that you care. You are creating a physical and emotional safe place for him or her. Affection is the outward expression of your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual connection, and it gives the receiver a feeling of adoration. To deprive your children of this example is to allow them to inaccurately develop their own understanding of how love is outwardly expressed based upon societal norms. This is the first and arguably the most important example of all.

    2. Respect.

    What you want, baby, I got it
    What you need, do you know I got it?
    All I’m askin’ is for a little respect when you get home

    Man, Aretha Franklin rocked that song! Of course this song came out loooong before I was born, but it has always been one of my favorites. I mean, really… who doesn’t like a little respect?!

    Respect is easy to define but hard to demonstrate because it often has a negative connotation. Somehow, we have managed to create the illusion that to respect someone is to become inferior to them. Instead, to respect someone is to value their words, opinions, and contributions regardless of the circumstance. It is to admire them for who they are and how much they mean to you.

    So lay it on thick! Look your significant other in the eyes and tell them, “I want to know what you think before I make this decision.” Tell them, “Thank you so much for what you do for our home.” Speak very highly of your significant other… especially in front of others. Public praise goes a long way! Give genuine compliments without expecting anything in return. Say things we learned in elementary like, “please” and “thank you.” Last but not least, find out how your significant other wants to be respected and do that!

    R-E-S-P-E-C-T
    Find out what it means to me

    3. Organization skills.

    I am a huge advocate for being organized. My wife and I try to do simple things like keep our room clean and orderly to teach the children how to take pride in and ownership of their belongings. However, my favorite thing we do is keep a joint scheduler. We try to put everything on the schedule from birthdays to bill dates to girls’ night out. Why? Because it allows us to plan ahead. It is a simple way to demonstrate a life lesson that our children can use throughout their personal and professional endeavors.

    Some will argue that this kind of organization will hamper their relationship because their relationship thrives on spontaneousness. On one hand, I agree that if your schedule is so rigid that it doesn’t allow fun or spontaneous activities or chance encounters, your relationship will likely become stale and mundane. On the other hand, I submit that you should use your scheduler to plan for these opportunities. Many times, we aren’t as spontaneous as we think anyway because our disorganization causes us to lack the focus we need to make the best out of the moment.

    I recommend you read the book Deep Work by Cal Newport. You’ll be surprised how much distractions caused by disorganization keep us from accomplishing individual and couple goals.

    4. Patience.

    This one gets me every time. I believe that patience is like any other muscle; if you don’t intentionally build it, it will fail when it’s tested. Like most parents, my children taught me a lesson about patience with the old “are we there yet” question. They challenged me to ask myself, “why are you getting mad over something so simple?” I admit that my ego didn’t allow me to answer the question maturely the first few times. “Because it’s a stupid question to ask every five minutes!” I would say to myself.

    But I eventually stopped acting like a pouty child and decided to answer the question honestly, “I have no reason to be mad.” So if I can handle such a frustrating question without becoming frustrated, there is no reason I should become impatient with my wife. At least that’s my theory and nobody can tell me otherwise! Ok, I’m kidding (kinda). The point is that we have to intentionally build our patience to ensure we set the example for our children.

    5. Forgiveness.

    Forgiveness and patience go hand-in-hand. In fact, I believe that forgiveness enables patience. True forgiveness requires us to release all traces of bitterness, negative emotions, and desire to get revenge. Sounds pretty easy right? Not even close. Just like patience, we have to practice forgiveness if we want to set a consistent example. This requires us to do a few things:

    1. Acknowledge your emotions. You won’t be able to move on if you pretend everything is ok.
    2. Take some time to gather your thoughts. Don’t sulk and dwell on the negative. Just take some time to journal about how you feel and why you feel this way. Try not to even mention your significant other.
    3. Avoid saying things like, “he (or she) should’ve known better!” Though it may be true, this is inflammatory and will only cause your emotions to spiral.
    4. Understand your emotions and refrain from blaming yourself or your significant other for your emotions. I know, that’s easier said than done!
    5. Now for the hard part–time to have the conversation (you knew you couldn’t avoid it forever). Prepare for every response. In a perfect world, your significant other will just say, “I am so sorry, and I will do anything to make it up.” We don’t live in a perfect world though! Be patient and continue to focus on resolution and forgiveness.
    6. Regardless of how your significant other responded, let it go. It’ll be hard and may take a little time, but it is important for your relationship. Continue to be kind and work together towards a solution. Forgiveness may take time, but you both can do it and continue to grow together!

    6. Confidence and Trust.

    “Pull over and ask for directions.” “Nah, I got it.” I think this is one of the most common conversations couples have had over the years. I know we have the GPS now, but that doesn’t matter to me because I can figure it out for myself! It’s so bad that I even find myself looking for ways to prove the GLOBAL Positioning System (GPS) wrong. I put “global” in all caps because I wanted to point out that this handheld computer has a perspective that spans far beyond my own; yet, I am only using it as a reference instead of a guide.

    We often do the same thing to our significant other, and in turn, our children do the same to us and others. Be confident in your significant other’s perspective and trust in their integrity and abilities.

    7. Kindness.

    When we demonstrate kindness in front of our children, we are teaching them an extremely valuable lesson. Kindness is all about being generous, friendly, and considerate. Ironically, the longer we are in a relationship, the more we tend to lose sight of this category. It’s easy to become comfortable in a relationship and assume our kindness is implied. Guess what? It’s not!

    Put down the phone and offer to cook for the evening. Place the book on your night stand and rub your partner’s back. Add a little money in the budget to send your significant other to the barber shop. Whatever you do, make a daily practice out of putting your significant other’s needs and desires above your own. Strive to make them smile and feel good. Kindness is a key component to a healthy relationship.

    8. Harmony and complementary strength.

    As a musician, there is nothing more pleasing than a harmonious sound. That means every musical instrument or voice is fulfilling its role by hitting the perfect tone and note to create a melodious chord. In relationships, this kind of euphony can only be replicated when both parties intentionally work towards complementing the other. This is why it is important to connect with someone who complements your strengths and improves your weaknesses.

    We tend to naturally attract to those who have those characteristics we lack. That’s why we have to be comfortable enough around our significant other to be vulnerable. This is the only way to truly demonstrate our need for and dependency on our significant other.

    It’s time to buy the land

    Setting an example for your children requires focus and intentionality. In other words, it won’t happen without a little work. So let’s put some action behind our words and set the example!

    Thanks for reading!

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    Benjamin’s Journal Series: All I Need

    Note from Olaolu: Today’s guest blogger may be new to the parent-child-connect platform, but he is family! Benjamin C. Fields is a great speaker, a mentor, a finance professional, a former college basketball standout, and a very positive image for our young black youth. I have had the pleasure of knowing Benjamin for almost fifteen years, and it has been amazing to see him grow… I mean that both figuratively and literally (he’s 6’7″).

    When I reached out to Benjamin, he told me that he has been keeping a journal. I was immediately intrigued because I’ve come to admire and appreciate his intellect and wisdom. After a brief conversation, we quickly realized that the encouraging content he was recording is edifying for everyone who has the opportunity to read. So with that in mind, I am excited to introduce a new series to the parent-child-connect brand: the Benjamin’s Journal Series! Enjoy Benjamin’s first entry, “All I need!”*

    Journal entry–5:00 a.m. 06/08/2022

    For a long time, I wanted a friend like me. I’m not sure why I decided to start today’s entry like that, but it seemed right. A lot has changed since my last entry, and a lot is continuing to change right before my very eyes. Moving out of our house in New Orleans was bittersweet for sure, but it was such a blessing to be in that location for the last 2 years. I feel as though I definitely used that situation to the best of my abilities.

    Going from a 5 bedroom, 3 full bathroom house in uptown New Orleans to a 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom apartment in New York City sounds like it would be a bigger adjustment. I’ve been here a week and a day now, and in all honesty, I’m recalibrating pretty smoothly. I guess that truly does speak to how well I can adapt to my circumstances. But to me, adapting is one thing, excelling is another.

    But to me, adapting is one thing, excelling is another.

    Reflection

    I’ve had to adapt several times in my life; that’s how I know I’m truly blessed! I literally cannot thank God enough for every little thing he has done for me. I’m not sure I ever anticipated living in Harlem, NYC at any moment of my life after living in New Orleans until I was nine then moving to North Louisiana for the remainder of my childhood. To go from Bernice, Louisiana (a town with no traffic lights) to New York City is to experience life on two opposite ends of the spectrum.

    All I can do is step back and acknowledge the work God is doing in and through my life. I also acknowledge that he’s just getting started! I feel like I’m figuring out how I’m supposed to operate on this earth and why I’m supposed to operate on this earth. I’m far from content, and I want my actions to align to that truth. I’ve been blessed to think this way, feel this way, and operate in such a manner. Recently, I’ve received every indication that I am favored in a different way or destined to be blessed, known, etc. My perspective has shifted drastically!

    I just want to remind everyone I encounter that God is the only way. He is enough! I would not be here without prayer and discernment, and my comfort and peace did not come from this world. My job on this earth is to chase God with all of my being and serve his kingdom however I can along the way. That has looked like so many things along my journey and unique opportunities will continue to present themselves.

    Full circle: He is all I need

    Now, to return to my opening statement. I used to think I needed other people–especially those close to me–to get to where I’m meant to be. I’ve now realized that all I’ve ever needed was my Lord and Savior. What is mine is already mine. What is meant to be will happen regardless of how things look now. If I want something, I need to put action behind my faith and let God do the rest. He is all I need!

    Connect with Benjamin Fields:

    https://linktr.ee/bencf

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    Establishing Winning Habits

    On the go? Listen to and/or download the audio version of “Establishing Winning Habits!”

    I had the pleasure of working in General Austin Miller’s (U.S. Army) command for a few months, and there is one thing that I heard him say over 100 times (that’s no exaggeration): establish repeatable processes. Sometimes, when you hear something so often, you become numb to it; however, that would’ve been a bad idea for me for a couple of reasons: 1. He was a commanding officer, so becoming numb to his orders is a sure way to get you fired. 2. More importantly, every time he said it, he caused me to reflect on my own “repeatable processes” or as most of us call them, habits.

    Since then, this idea of habit creation and sustainment has become a critical part of my personal and professional philosophy. Why? Well, I can summarize why with this quote:

    If your habits don’t support your goals, your goals are just a wish list.

    Olaolu Ogunyemi

    What are habits?

    Most times when we talk about habits, we are either confronting about or being confronted about bad habits. Don’t get me wrong, I believe this “confrontation” or accountability is a crucial part of habit creation, but it is only part of the equation. We will dive into my principles soon, but first, let’s define “habits.”

    Oxford Languages says that a habit is, “a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.” My love for food was the first thing that came to mind when I read this definition. Like most people, I’m still working towards that beach body six pack, but there’s a cliche that closely relates to my eating practices and delays my results: “you are what you eat.” I want to slightly modify this cliche to give you my own simplified definition of the word “habit”:

    You are what you repeat.

    Olaolu Ogunyemi

    My winning habits principles

    1. Winning habits begins with math.

    Oh no… I’m becoming my parents! When I was young, I was one of those in class telling my math teachers, “I will never use this again!” Now, aside from the fact that i refuse to use a calculator to determine my tips and I solve two math problems every morning to shut off my alarm, I am telling you that winning habits begin with math. It’s actually pretty simple math.

    There are twenty-four hours each day. Most of us spend 6-8 of those hours sleeping and another 8-12 of those hours “working.” (You’ll find out why I put “working” in quotes a little later). That means that about 14-20 hours of our day are usually accounted for. What are you doing with the other 4-10 hours each day? Are you intentionally investing every minute?

    Those aren’t rhetorical questions to make a point; I truly want you to reflect on what you do during those hours. Although many won’t admit it, a lot of us have formed habits that simply drain our time. So much so that we can seldom recall what we did the day before. If you’re anything like me, you went back to double check that math. That can’t be right! Well, it is.

    I reflected on this in one of my very first blog posts where I outlined how many habits I had formed that completely drained my time, and get this: a majority of them were somehow related to the device I carry around in my pocket every day. I challenge you to do your own reflection and record your daily habits.

    2. Focus your habits.

    Were you shocked by your daily habits list? That’s ok. Let’s do something about it! How do your daily habits align with your goals? Don’t lie or try to use some kind of “butterfly effect” justification. Don’t worry about how much effort or energy you put into each habit. Just have an objective review of what results your daily habits produce. Results are all that matter; there is no “A” for effort–make sure your habits support this fact.

    3. “It’s called work for a reason!” -Larry Winget

    I recently read and enjoyed this book by Larry Winget. Some may not like his style, because he refers to himself as an “irritational” speaker. In other words, he strives to make you so uncomfortable where you are that you desire to change.

    I think my favorite part of this book is the fact that it was aptly named. One would assume that once you get a job, you would show up to perform that job; however, many of us have formed extremely bad habits in the workplace from doing personal chores to not doing anything at all. Of course this causes a ripple effect throughout any given organization and severely impedes processes. Your habits in the workplace are a reflection of your character, values, and professionalism. In other words, if your habits aren’t contributing towards the company’s desired results, you are part of the problem. Let’s focus on making our companies better!

    4. Sleep is a must!

    I actually don’t know where I got it from, but I remember saying, “sleep is for the rich, so I can’t afford it.” I don’t know; it just sounded cool to me. Nowadays, I don’t know if it’s maturity, a realignment of priorities, or a little bit of both, but I absolutely love sleep! There’s nothing like racing to my bed after a long day. (I’m yawning just thinking about it.)

    Listen, numerous studies have shown that our sleep habits impact our mood, performance, attitude, and brain function. Temporarily reducing sleep to accomplish a specific goal is ok, but the key word is “temporarily.” Create a set time, routine, and location for your rest. This is one of the most important habits you can form.

    5. Accountability is continuous, but give yourself grace.

    Earlier I mentioned that confrontation and accountability are a huge part of habit creation. Let’s use my dietary habits as an example. I can claim that I want to eat better all I want, but without external feedback mechanisms like my wife or the MyFitnessPal food tracker, my goal is a well-intended wish.

    However, the other part is grace. We spend decades forming habits, but then we expect to immediately break those habits and form new ones over night. Listen, that is highly unlikely, so give yourself a little grace. Implement a “clean slate” policy meaning you get to mess up every once in a while. Just reflect and implement a couple more accountability mechanisms to prevent repeating the same mistake.

    Notice I used the word “repeating” here. You remember where I used that word before? That’s right. “You are what you repeat.” So don’t form a new habit of making more mistakes than progress. This is where a lot of us get stuck. Then we disguise this “one step forward, two steps back” approach as progress as we celebrate the one step forward and apply the “clean slate” policy to our two steps backwards. Let’s break that habit, because it will never work. Accountability and grace go hand-in-hand–you can’t have one without the other.

    My winning habits

    Now that I’ve outlined my principles, here is a quick list of habits I consider important in no particular order:

    1. Read and learn to experience the world from a different perspective.
    2. Take care of yourself: dedicate time each day to building your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual pillars. At least 30 minutes per pillar per day.
    3. Work hard when it’s time to work. Play hard when it’s time to play. Rest well when it’s time to rest.
    4. Spend uninterrupted time loving on friends and family. I cannot stress this one enough. Forgive if you need to forgive. Life is too short.
    5. Schedule time for the “time drainers” like social media, TV, window shopping, etc. These will likely always exist, but you need to manage them.
    6. Prioritize your day. Like Dr. Covey said, “keep the main thing, the main thing.” Or maybe I’ll add a little spin to the famous TLC line, “don’t go chasing waterfalls” (my spin) when you are supposed to be swimming at the lake. Yeah I know that was cheesy, but you get the point. Establish and align your habits to your priorities!
    7. Allocate time to reflect on the day. What did you do well? What are some opportunities for improvement?
    8. Smile, have fun, and remind yourself that you are valuable and have a purpose. Your daily habits support that purpose!

    Thanks for reading! Have a great week!