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Living in the moment.

Lately, I’ve been besieged by the thought of “living in the moment.” I’ve previously written about embracing where you are and how parents can make time count; yet, I find myself pontificating about what it truly means to live in the moment. As many in my generation do when they want to blurt out their opinion, I turned to Twitter to express my conclusion. Here’s what I wrote.:

“Live in the moment” is an opportunity to make the best out of your current situation not an excuse to make careless decisions.

Be resourceful, live in the moment, and shine on! 🌟

Olaolu Ogunyemi on Twitter

It’s easy to scroll past a quote like that because, quite frankly, it’s an abstract concept. In other words, I gave you a Yoda-like quote with no practicability or applicable instructions. The good news is this blog is not constrained to 128 characters, so I can provide that for you today!

Living in the moment is a balancing act.

Living in the moment is actually fairly complex for many of us because it requires intentionality.  If you were to observe the world around you, I promise you will find someone opposite ends of the spectrum. Neither side of the spectrum represents “bad” people. Having been on both sides myself, my justification was supported with good intentions. Either way, I had to find my equilibrium point after a wild swing of the proverbial pendulum.

On one hand, there are some who simply exist. They are physically present, but their mind is elsewhere. They appear isolated and disconnected from the people and world around them. Their number one defense is: “But at least I’m here, right?” Many may call them boring or a “drag” to be around.  I say they are living at the moment.

On the other hand, there are people who appear to follow the wind wherever it leads. It’s almost as if the only word they know is “yes.” They are the ones who live by the motto, “you only live once” and proudly sport a “Carpe Diem” tattoo. Oftentimes, these people have very sporadic and inconsistent relationships. Their decisions are sometimes erratic, careless, and dangerous. Many may call them “scatterbrained,” or as the Temptations so talentedly sang it, “a rolling stone.”  I say they are living around the moment.

Of course I wouldn’t recommend that you lean towards either side of the spectrum. Instead, as Goldilocks learned many years ago, we should strive for the “just right” combination of both.

Living at the moment.

Being physically present is a huge part of living in the moment. Some would argue that’s half the battle. However, I’ve been this person, and I’ve been around this person before. Honestly, many times it feels better if they just weren’t there. They are so disengaged and uninterested that bystanders feel personally attacked by their presence. Their [our] physical presence wasn’t a gift to those around them [us].

In my personal experience and opinion–of which I am an expert in–I believe closure is the biggest contributor to living at the moment. Whether it be closure from a past relationship, loss of a loved one, past hurt, or even daily activities, lack of closure seizes your mind and leaves you thoughtlessly going through the motions.

Here’s my advice to seek closure.

Be patient with this advice as it takes time and practice.:

  • Face whatever it is head on. It can and often will feel overwhelming, but it will steamroll you if you don’t accept responsibility for your own healing. Surround yourself with friends and professionals who can help you begin your journey. The only way to finish a large meal is one small bite at a time.
  • Acknowledge and accept your emotions triggered by this event, series of events, deadlines, etc.
  • Schedule time to journal out your emotions.
  • Develop a daily “closure” action plan that includes what you need closure from and what you are determining to be “the end” for that particular day.   You want to tell yourself, “I will have closure today once I finish [this].”
  • Execute your daily plan or “ritual.” This is an intentionally scheduled time that ends with you declaring “the end” of that activity so you can become more engaged with those around you. I like to associate this step with a physical action.
    • For example, if I find myself constantly thinking about work, I will choose to only work in a designated location. When I finish work, I will say “all done,” turn the computer off, close the laptop, stand up, stretch, turn off the lights, walk out, and close the door. Over time, the combination of these verbal and physical cues trains my mind to leave all traces of those thoughts in my office. This frees me to be both physically and mentally present with my family.

Living around the moment.

Another song that comes to mind when I think of this group is, “Born to be Wild” by Steppenwolf! These are the thrill seekers who are either never around or so busy they never really have time to engage in normal human interaction. Since their minds are constantly fiending for the next thrill, their actions are usually infused with spontaneity. This isn’t inherently a negative thing until it impacts their [our] relationships with others.

Relationships are impacted because this group of people fails to exercise moderation. I believe they can find the same fulfillment and more if they add structure to their lives. Furthermore, I believe this group can benefit from the aforementioned steps for closure. Nevertheless, they must first become more organized.

Here is my advice to become more organized:

  • Goals, goals, goals! Here’s a topic I’ve written about a few times. Why? Because structuring your life begins with setting measurable and achievable goals that will lead you to your desired end state. Zig Ziglar said it best, “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.”
  • Establish a “daily battle rhythm.” This is a military term that describes the deliberate, repeatable events we do everyday to achieve a specific goal. I know this sounds like nails on a chalkboard for spontaneous people, but don’t worry. You can (and should) schedule time to be spontaneous. Just ensure you achieve closure after each activity or series of activities.
  • CCTV. No, I’m not talking about closed circuit television. I’m talking about checklists, clocks, timers, and voices. 
    • Checklists: Many scientists recommend checklists because–according to them– our brain releases dopamine every time we check that tiny box. That dopamine creates positive feelings which, in turn, gives us the adrenaline we need to complete the next task. This tends to work really well for thrill seekers because they enjoy that same dopamine release on their various adventures.
    • Clocks: Allocate blocks of time to do certain tasks. It may be tough to accurately guess the proper amount of time starting off, but you’ll be able to create a better time schedule as you continue to practice.
    • Timer: Having a scheduled time block is important; however, sometimes seeing that time dwindle is the psychological push we need to complete various tasks.  Additionally, the act of counting down creates an urgency that gives importance and relevancy to each task. Some may argue that urgency draws on our adrenaline supply while increasing anxiety. Contrarily, I submit that the adrenaline rush is what gives us the momentum and focus to complete a list of tasks in a timely manner. Using timers are another method to combine physical and psychological activities to produce a favorable reaction.
    • Voices: Listen to your voice and your accountability partner’s voice. Sometimes, our thoughts tend to drown out our own conscience. That’s why we all need that friend (or group of friends) who will help hold us accountable. Listen to them when they tell you to “slow down” or “you’re never around.” They may be trying to help you grow.
  • Clean up! That “rolling stone” or “wild” lifestyle tends to make us a little junky. Physically organizing your personal and professional spaces is key to becoming more organized.
  • Limit distractions as much as possible. I know this can be a challenge depending on your situation, but we have to try! Close the door if you can work in a closed door office. Wear headphones while at the computer. Stay away from the break room during normal “chat” time. Set time restraints on your phone apps and web browser. These are just a few ideas to get you started!

Conclusion.

I get it; living in the moment sometimes seems like a foreign concept or “dream deferred.” None of us will get it right all the time. In spite of that, the beauty of our daily journey is that we can let yesterday go to have a better today so we can start tomorrow off on the right foot. Be encouraged. Living in the moment is achievable!

Thanks for reading!

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Men’s Mental Health: Good Dads podcast, blog, and FREE eBook!

My brother, Dr. Clement Ogunyemi, and I are excited to announce our most recent partnership with the Good Dads nonprofit organization in Springfield, MO! Good Dads has dedicated the entire year to men’s mental health, so we are elated to be a part of these efforts at such a pivotal time.

The Men’s Mental Health interview.

Clement and I were both extremely transparent during this conversation-style interview. In less than 25 minutes, we discussed depression, counseling, family, self-esteem, and more! Our hope is that we can encourage and inspire other men to free themselves from societal norms, and seek the help they need to focus on their mental health and become stronger. Why? Because you have to focus on personal development before you can pour into anyone else. That was the focal point of the entire interview–self care.

The full interview was originally posted at: https://gooddads.libsyn.com/e469-the-ogunyemi-brothers

The Men’s Mental Health blog.

You will hear us reference a book throughout the interview. Well, that book is none other than the “Three Day Mental Health Guide: Major Payne Edition. A leader’s journey to building mentally strong children.” We created this journal-style eBook to help parents, teachers, and mentors lead their children on a positive mental health journey. This guide is completely free to download and has been shared all over the world! You can download your own copy below.

Good Dads was gracious enough to share “Day 1” of our guide. Day 1 helps leaders introduce the “mental health” topic. Mental health should no longer be a taboo topic–especially with men. We must continue to be open about our mental health journey and prioritize mental resiliency the way we prioritize physical resiliency.

Discussing mental health should be revered, not feared.

Here is the full blog: https://www.gooddads.com/mental-health/a-leaders-journey-to-building-mentally-strong-children-day-1-a-tough-topic

WHAT IS GOOD DADS?

I would be remiss if I didn’t provide more information about the organization behind these noteworthy initiatives. Here is a short blurb about what Good Dads is. Find out more about this great nonprofit organization–to include how to donate– by visiting https://www.gooddads.com/about-us!

Good Dads is the only organization in Southern Missouri focused on helping all dads be more engaged with their children. It began when business leaders in Springfield, Missouri recognized the impact of father absence on child well-being and came together for the purpose of supporting father engagement.

Good Dads is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that aims to encourage fathers by providing inspiration, resources and events to help dads be the best they can be.

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Check out my latest interview on the Kickin’ it with Keke podcast! Mindset, Marine, Mentor.

I’m elated to introduce my latest interview on the Season 3 Finale of the Kickin’ it with Keke podcast! We covered a lot of ground during this conversation-style interview, so listen at your convenience. I’m grateful for an opportunity to share a small part of my story, my beliefs, and some inspirational advice for others. I embedded the entire interview below!

Here are some of the topics we covered in the podcast!

  • How personal development contributes to our personal and professional success.
  • Mindset and navigating obstacles.
  • Self-care is not selfish…it’s necessary.
  • My advice for aspiring writers and creators.
  • Producing “in season” content.
  • Background on my three children’s books.
  • The importance of mentorship and community while raising children.
  • Why representation matters.
  • Why minority men need to pour back into their communities.
  • What’s next for Olaolu?
Kickin’ It With KeKe Season 3 Finale: “Mindset, Marine, Mentor”

Find out more!

Visit Keke’s website to find out more about the great things she is doing aside from the podcast! I believe you will be impressed. https://www.thekekechanel.com/

Also, as always, you can find out more about my platform by visiting https://parent-child-connect.com.

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Achieve your goals this year! One day, one rep at a time.

Today, I am inspired to write after finishing yet another great workout! However, I also realized this is my 100th post! 🥳🎉 I started this blog unsure what to write about, so it is unreal to know I have already published so many articles. Guess I had a lot to talk about after all lol. There are numerous topics I can discuss on this one hundredth post, but there is one topic that has been on my mind throughout the week: how do we achieve the goals we set for the new year?

Many of us view the new year as a refresh and an opportunity to set and pursue new goals. Some of us use the new year to reset and recommit to pre-existing personal and professional goals. Either way, many of us are in fresh pursuit of our goals! However, if you’re anything like me, some of those goals are daunting and overwhelming to even think about. If that’s you, I want to quickly encourage you to adopt and apply the “one day, one rep” methodology.

How do you achieve your goals this year? One day, one rep at a time.

Where does “one day, one rep” come from?

I spend a fair amount of time in the gym–around 10 hours per week. As such, it has become a lifestyle, hobby, and necessity for me. Seriously, my entire week is discombobulated if I miss one day 😬. Because it has become habitual, there are times that my workout routine can become monotonous and unexciting and my “gains” stagnate. For that reason, I am constantly tweaking my workout routine to meet new strength and/or physique goals.

Without fail, I find myself flexing in the mirror after every workout–including the first day. Of course there’s no noticeable change. Yet, I wake up early the next day and execute my workout routine even more diligently than the day before.  I usually start to see and feel minor changes after a couple of weeks. Many inspirational leaders would simply say that you should use those minor changes as motivation to continue exercising day after day. The issue is the change you see and feel will be so minor that you may feel discouraged–especially when the soreness lingers. That discouragement makes it harder and harder to muster up the strength and motivation to exercise the next day, and your goals stagnate.

That’s where my one day, one rep methodology comes in handy.

When I flex in the mirror, I flex to measure my progress and dream, not to simply motivate myself. My motivation is based upon how challenging the workout is each day. For example, I focus on the rhythm of each stride when I’m doing wind sprints for my cardiovascular workout. Another example is I focus on how my targeted muscle group contracts on each repetition while I’m lifting weights. Overall, I recognize that the rhythm of my stride and the contractions are what will cause me to reach my ultimate goals.

I know some of you are already wondering, “What does this have to do with setting and achieving my goals in 2023?!” If you’ve been following my platform for any length of time, you know that’s exactly where I’m going next!

How does the one day, one rep methodology apply to you accomplishing your goals in 2023?

This mentality applies whether you want to build muscle, become more patient, get a promotion, find a new job, or any other goal! Here’s how to to apply it.:

The phases for setting and achieving goals!

I am going to introduce an easy-to-remember (and slightly cheesy) acronym to discuss the phases of setting and achieving goals. I will place more emphasis on the execution phase. You ready?

Successfully achieving our goals is DOPE!

Dream

Have a clear vision of what achieving your goal looks like. Maybe that means identifying someone who has been where you are trying to go, reading books, watching movies, reading articles, or doing whatever it takes to boost your imagination. You have to clearly see future you after accomplishing whatever goal you set! I’m encouraging you to dream in such high definition that you can physically feel yourself in that future moment. Sounds crazy right? Not really. That’s one reason I stare in the mirror after each workout; I am picturing what “success” looks like and I encourage you to do the same.

Offload

Brain dump every aspect of your dream! This is why the clarity and high definition vision are important. Focus on what you see in your vision, not how you are going to achieve it. We will address the latter soon. Imagine you’re an artist painting the world around you. Don’t worry about structure or a template during this phase. The purpose of this phase is to simply write out every single aspect of your dream. Try not to omit a single detail.

Honestly, this phase can be both fun and overwhelming. For me, the offload phase can create a range of emotions because I get really excited, then overwhelmed when I start to cheat forward to the plan phase, then I get excited again once I realize I don’t have to worry about “how” yet. Writing down your dream or vision in detail is a crucial step, so do your best to stay focused and inspired by your dream!

Plan

This is the first time you have to apply the reality of your expertise and resources to your dream. Sometimes, it can be the most discouraging phase as you feel like you have to completely erase portions of the dream you offloaded in the last step. Before you do that, slow down. You may not have the knowledge or expertise, but there is someone out there who does. Be creative as you add structure to the dream you offloaded.

Before I begin planning, I like to highlight four “legs” or critical aspects of each dream. Similar to a chair, without all four legs being equally balanced, the overall goal will rock and eventually fall. Each of these “legs” are similar to the “mini-goals” I described in “You CAN Make it Through These Dark Times! PART 2- How to Conquer Adversity, Anxiety, and Toxic thoughts.” The difference is these legs aren’t necessarily sequential, but they are required to achieve your overall goal. For example, if my goal is to lose weight and build muscle, the four legs I would identify are diet, cardiovascular workouts, strength training, and rest. Then, I would go through the first three phases (Dream, Offload, and Plan) for all four of those legs.

The next step is to conduct research on how to accomplish each of the legs. Here are the eight questions I want you to answer for each leg.:

  1. What does achievement or success look like in the end?
  2. Are you in the right physical, spiritual, and mental position to accomplish this goal?
  3. Why do you want to accomplish this goal?
  4. How does this goal align to your overall purpose?
  5. Who is involved?
  6. Who needs to be involved?
  7. What sequential steps do you need to take?
  8. How long will it take to complete?

Execute

You know the “aha!” feeling you get when you’re watching a movie and one of the characters says the title? Well, we’ve made it to the last phase–the execution phase–and it’s time to reveal the title!

Make every rep count!

Many of us naturally feel refreshed and rejuvenated by the idea of getting a fresh start each day. Build upon that momentum! Wake up every morning and affirm this:

Today is a new day and a fresh opportunity to achieve my goals! Yesterday is gone; I won’t dwell on my mistakes, but I will build upon my momentum. Tomorrow’s challenges remain unknown, so I will live in the moment to set myself up for success tomorrow. I will make every rep count today!

That’s exactly how I want you to prep your mind every morning. You should execute a small portion of your plan each day if your goal is important to you. Those small actions (“reps”) accumulate over time and result in you achieving your goals. That means you must be laser-focused and apply all your energy into each rep.

Coach Waldron, my high school basketball coach, would always say something that has stuck with me over the years, “the next game on our schedule is the most important game of the year.” That means that no matter how talented or unskilled the next team was, we would have to recalibrate our minds and focus our efforts on solely preparing for the next team. I apply this same logic to accomplishing my goals. We have to be laser focused on completing the current reps regardless of how challenging the future may appear to be.

Trust the process. Failure is not fatal.

Even with the daily affirmations, focus, and energy, some days will feel like big wins while others feel like significant losses. The most important thing is that we remember that whatever sacrifices we made that day were worth it. The true victory comes from the fact that you did your best, and your best is good enough. You made progress even if you feel like you failed! Though often unplanned, failure is an important part of the process because it presents an opportunity for you to learn, tweak the plan as required, and grow. For that reason, failure is not fatal; it’s fabulous!

I get it though; failure rarely feels good. It causes a bit of a rollercoaster effect on our emotions. Well, I’ll have to borrow an encouraging message that I got from my brother, Joshua Ogunyemi, in his book tough times don’t last, TOUGH PEOPLE DO.:

Rollercoasters are fun! We have had a blast raising Kennedy. Yes, it’s been scary at times. Yes, it’s been a bumpy ride. But that’s why we love rollercoasters, right?! We stand in line patiently for ‘ it doesn’t matter how long,’ push past the fear and anxiety, then buckle ourselves in and enjoy the ride. That’s the mindset you have to take into your tough times.”

Joshua Ogunyemi, tough times don’t last, TOUGH PEOPLE DO

If you want to read more about overcoming rejection and failure, I talked about failure a bit more in a previous article titled, “How do you Respond to Rejection and Failure?

Dedicate time and remain focused, committed, and consistent.

Accomplishing your goals gets tougher as time progresses. For many, it’s the combination of slower than expected progress, failures, change in priorities, loss of focus, reduction of resources, and tiredness that impedes our ability to accomplish our goals. This is where having a strong “why” and aligning your goals to your overall purpose comes in handy. Your “why” and purpose are the driving forces behind your daily reps. Keep them posted in a location you visit often–whether that be your refrigerator door, your office computer, or the “to-do” list in your phone. Commit yourself to continuing a lifelong pursuit of your purpose.

Once you remember your why, ensure you have a set time each day to work towards your goal. This not only helps you settle into a new routine, but it becomes a forcing function for you and everyone else to respect your time and boundaries. Additionally, having a set time and routine produces the consistency you need to achieve your goals.

Measure and celebrate progress.

“Before” and “After” pictures have become a staple in the fitness community. The bigger the difference in the pictures, the more inspiring they appear to be. The minor changes are the ones we tend to overlook and underestimate. That’s where I want you to focus. Create reliable metrics to validate your progress, but don’t forget the warning I gave you in “You CAN Make it Through These Dark Times! PART 2- How to Conquer Adversity, Anxiety, and Toxic thoughts.” Remember, be keenly “aware and selective of what (or whom) you allow to validate your efforts.” But when you do record progress, celebrate it like there’s no tomorrow. To some it may seem small, but you are celebrating the fact that you made progress when many people have already given up on their goals…fourteen days into the new year.

Keep pressing and pursuing your goals this year! I have no doubt that you will be one of the success stories as you achieve whatever behemoth goal you dreamt of accomplishing. I believe in you!

Thanks for reading!

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Prayers for Damar Hamlin: We may feel helpless, but we’re not hopeless.

Last night, I joined millions of other football fans as we excitedly prepared for one of the most exciting games of the week. Both teams were already giving fans a show in the first few minutes of the game until Damar Hamlin was injured in the most horrific way. CNN has the backstory and is providing updates.

Why this injury and other serious injuries hit home for me.

Serious injuries like Damar Hamlin’s or Tua Tagovailoa’s concussion a few months ago always make me pause to pray for these human beings who are so talented that they have earned the right to exercise their gifts at the highest level. I also pause to pray for the parents, families, and friends who have to sometimes helplessly see their child in his or her most vulnerable state. Although I would never claim to know exactly how they feel, I relate to the latter group because of my own son.

My son–who is otherwise healthy–was diagnosed with complex-partial epilepsy in 2017. Although he has had episodes in various locations like home, a hotel near Disneyland, and the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, I remember his first seizure like it was yesterday. I had uncharacteristically left work extremely early that day and received a call from my wife within five minutes of arriving home. She was distraught, and I could tell something was wrong. I initially thought she had a vehicle accident, so I said, “Take a deep breath baby. Where are you? I’m on the way.” Then she said, “they said he won’t wake up.”

My tone changed.

“Who won’t wake up?” I asked. Her next words caused my world to stop, “your son.” It’s almost like my mind couldn’t comprehend the words she was saying for a moment. Then, I finally responded as calmly as I could, “I just walked in the door. I’ll be at the school in less than five minutes… I’ll keep you updated.” The preschool he attended was less than half a mile away, so I arrived fairly quickly and a teacher waved me in. Not knowing what to expect, I rushed in trying to be as calm and levelheaded as possible. One teacher was already beside him taking notes, recording for the EMT, and back briefing me on what had already happened. It’s important to note that the teachers and staff at East County Christian Pre-School in Santee, CA had recently completed training for this exact scenario, so they were professional and well-prepared.

I knelt beside him as he remained unresponsive; his eyes were rolled back and he had what I can only describe as an uncontrolable twitch on one side of his body. For a moment, I just knelt there watching–unsure what to do. The director came behind me and calmly said, “Talk to him. He may be able to hear you even if he’s unresponsive.” She explained this is something she does with her mother when she has a seizure. I obliged until the ambulance arrived soon after. For whatever reason I was unable to ride in the back with my son, so I rode in the passenger seat beside the driver.

A silent ride was the beginning of a stressful few months.

The ride was silent at first as I seared anytime someone was slow to move out of our way. Finally, the driver–a U.S. Army veteran– broke the silence and talked to me until I calmed down. After arriving and processing through the emergency room, the emergency room staff determined this was a febrile seizure. This was the beginning of a years-long journey as my son was officially diagnosed with complex-partial epilepsy a few months later.

With this diagnosis came numerous sleepless nights. My wife and I stared at the baby monitor in his room in hopes that we would hear or see any early signs of a seizure for months. Our visits with neurologists were and have been fairly fruitless as they have been unable to identify a neurological cause. This uncertainty has oftentimes made us feel helpless as we’ve witness a breakthrough seizure.

We have felt helpless but not hopeless.

Similar to what we’ve witnessed with Damar Hamlin, our inability to change the circumstance can make us feel helpless. However, we join millions of parents, family members, and friends who remain hopeful that everything will turn out just fine. Our hope is based upon our faith that God, because we believe He can and will heal. Although my son continues to take anticonvulsant medication daily, he hasn’t had a major breakout seizure in over two years. We continue to pray for his healing!

We pray for Damar Hamlin, his parents, his family, and his friends with that same faith that God will heal. Ultimately, we remain hopeful for great news!

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Say what you mean and mean what you say because your words mean things.

Somehow, 2022 is already over! So many great things transpired throughout the year to include: 1. I published my third children’s book (“Billy Dipper’s Time to Shine”). 2. I won a writing award (“Mutter Marines Command and Control Writing Award”). 3. I celebrated my 10th wedding anniversary. 4. I welcomed additional guest bloggers like my wife Brea, Benjamin C. Fields, Jesse Iwuji, and my brother and illustrator, Josh. 5. I was promoted to major in the Marine Corps. 7. I added additional FREE Downloadable Resources at https://parent-child-connect.com/free-resources. 8. Much, much more! Even so, I am expecting greater things in 2023! I–like many of you–am ending this year with positive affirmations and goals for the next year. If you know me, you know that I am a firm believer in speaking things into existence; therefore, I will be extremely selective with my words. Why? Because, words mean things.

Words Mean Things.

I believe I first heard the expression “words mean things” from a Marine officer. Although I cannot remember his name or rank, I definitely mumbled, “thanks a lot for that sound wisdom Captain Obvious.” I didn’t miss his point though. We often say things without checking our tone, the accuracy of our words, the way the words will be perceived, or our ability to follow through. This would be a great article for politicians and reporters, but I digress. I want to take this opportunity as you prepare to bring in 2023 to encourage you to say what you mean and mean what you say.

Begin with introspection. Ask yourself these questions.:

  • What do people see and hear when I open my mouth?
  • Am I consistently reflecting my personal values and the values of the religion I profess, the organizations I support, and my family?
  • Are people compelled to follow me based upon what I say?
  • Do the people I lead feel like they will be heard when they talk to me?
  • Do the people I lead think I ramble and waste words or use my words wisely?
  • Do I sound competent and confident when I speak?

It’s important to ask these questions and search for an honest, objective answer. (Having someone in your corner who will give this answer is key). Overall, we need to examine whether or not the person we’re presenting is the person we intend to present to others. Oftentimes, we find that is not the case. The words we both consciously and innately speak reflect who we truly are. Therefore, beginning with introspection allows us to get to know ourselves by taking inventory of what we say. This introspection also allows us to focus on a few key factors as we learn to become more intentional with our words and live up to the positive words and affirmations we declare for the new year.

You brood of snakes! How could evil men like you speak what is good and right? For whatever is in your heart determines what you say. A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart.

Matthew 12:34‭-‬35 NLT

Garbage in Garbage out (GIGO).

I remember learning this concept from Dr. Marv Brown during my COBOL computer programming classes. The meaning is self-explanatory; incorrect or poor quality input will always produce faulty output. This same logic applies to life in general. You will always waste words if you are constantly listening to inaccurate or faulty information that makes you feel inferior or superior to others or provides a one-sided opinion. Broaden your horizons by reading things you may not initially agree with or having hard discussions with others without getting offended. This is the only way to learn, form your own opinion, and say meaningful words.

Hurt people hurt people.

This is another common phrase that carries a lot of meaning. In other words, the bitterness, rage, anger, jealousy, condescending tone etc. may be the result of past hurts. Check your words for signs of past hurts, and you’ll probably be surprised what you find. How do you do that? Think about some of the most harsh things people have told you. How did those words make you feel in that moment? How do they make you feel now? What is your reaction to similar harsh words (whether to you or someone else)? Have you said something similar to someone? How do you interact with others in relation to the “harsh” topic?

These are just a few questions to help you not only identify the root of your hurt, but it will help you see how that hurt still impacts everyone you interact with. The only way to truly replace bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, slander, and evil behavior with kindness and forgiveness is to address the root of the pain. As always, I recommend that you hire a professional counselor to help you throughout this portion of your journey.

“Say less”: choose quality over quantity.

One of my favorite series that I have ever written is the “Distractions Causing Distance [From God]” journal series (download yours for FREE). Therein, I described how daily distractions are causing us to be more distant from God and others. On day three, I specifically discussed how our words are causing us to disconnect from others. I offered three T’s to check before you speak: Time… Type… Tone.:

  • Time: Is it the right time to speak or should you just be quiet?
    • Take inventory. How much of your time have you spent socializing in comparison to growing your relationship with God and others?
  • Type: Ephesians 4:29 NLT says, “Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.”
    • What kind of conversations are you having? Are you giving encouraging words to everyone you encounter? 
  • Tone: Are you addressing the situation in the best manner possible? Are you using the “gentle answer” described in Proverbs 15:1?

The right to speak does not take precedence over saying the right thing with the right attitude at the right time.

Set a goal and follow through.

Make a planstick to the planalways deliver!

Storks

This is the second time I have quoted that line from the movie Storks on my blog. (No, I do not receive any kickback for mentioning the movie (although I would gladly collaborate *hint hint, Warner Bros.) I specifically love the part where one of the main characters prepared to deliver a package with a broken wing. This was, of course, the beginning of a long series of unfortunate events before the “package” was finally safely delivered to its destination. Storks reminds me of the one certainty in life: we will all encounter obstacles that will challenge us to remain committed to our words.

2023 will not be an exception to that rule. The question we have to answer is will we give up, or will we find a way to follow through on what we say? Obviously, I encourage you to do the latter. It will get hard, but that is ok. The resistance you feel is there to make you stronger. You are tough enough to overcome any challenges that come your way, because “when the going gets tough, the tough gets going!”

I know, I’m just full of cliches today! But cue Billy Ocean!

Billy Ocean – When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going (Official Video)

Speak blessings and positive affirmations.

Remember: words mean things, so stop whining and complaining! Complaining does very little to help you achieve your goals, and your whining may be the very thing that stops you from winning. Instead, use words that will positively impact your future. I found this wonderful summary from http://www.ymcansw.org as the author beautifully wrote about “The Importance of Affirmations.” :

“Affirmations have the power to motivate you to act on certain things, help you to concentrate on achieving your goals in life, give you the power to change your negative thinking patterns and replace them with positive thinking patterns, assist you in accessing a new belief system, but above all, affirmations can reaffirm the positivity back into your life and help regain or increase your self-confidence.”

Ryan Tanti | The Y NSW

So speak out! Use your words to positively impact everyone you come into contact with. Say what you mean by setting your goals with a purpose. Mean what you say by relentlessly pursuing your goals for next year. Make 2023 the year you dominate every situation you encounter. I believe in you!

Thanks for reading! I wish you a wonderful, prosperous, and blessed 2023!

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You CAN Make it Through These Dark Times! PART 2- How to Conquer Adversity, Anxiety, and Toxic thoughts.

I wasn’t originally planning on releasing a part two, but after receiving feedback from you beautiful people, I decided to continue the conversation and discuss how to conquer adversity, anxiety, and toxic thoughts.

As you already know, life is a journey. In Part 1 (Click here for Part 1), we discussed a quote by award-winning poet, Theodore Roethke: “In a dark time, the eye begins to see.” As I continued to read and think about this topic, it reminded me of a challenging hike I completed when I was doing the Mission Trails Regional Park 5-peak challenge in Santee and La Mesa, CA. It was not the most physically demanding thing I have done (U.S. Marine Corps training will push you to your limits), but there were definitely a few extremely challenging portions.

The Journey

There was one particular portion of the North Fortuna Mountain that gets fairly steep; especially after inclement weather. The natural competitor in me forced me to complete this trail numerous times…but the first time was not a pretty sight! When I first approached this portion of the trail, I heard a loud, Drill Instructor-esque voice in my head yell, “attack the hill!” So I looked down and began charging up the steep incline that led to the summit–pumping my arms and power breathing as I went. I kept my head down in hopes that this would somehow help me magically arrive at the plateau quicker. Unfortunately, this was not reality. The further I hiked, the steeper the incline became. After about two minutes, my legs were burning, I was panting, and I was raining sweat.

I finally glanced up… I was definitely not as close as I thought I’d be. In fact, I hadn’t made much progress at all! So I had a choice to make. You see, I had already determined I was going to finish the hike. (Once I put my mind to it, it is going to happen!) Turning back wasn’t an option, but I had another decision to make: how should I motivate myself to complete this hike? Should I focus solely on the plateau? How long will I dwell on my progress (or lack thereof)? Should I closely monitor my progress as I continue to go forward?

I chose the latter and restarted my journey. After a couple more minutes, I checked my progress. When I looked back I initially thought, “I haven’t gone anywhere!” Then, I noticed some people who were close to where I started. “Those people look small,” I thought. “I am further along than I thought!” That’s all I needed to continue pushing! So I started to hike again–looking back every 5-10 steps or so to see if the people behind me were getting even smaller. After another couple minutes passed, I decided to look up to see how far I made it. “You haven’t gone anywhere!” I exclaimed to myself. The tree I marked during my last break was still relatively close. I made less progress this time than I did before my first stop.

This is where I started to feel sorry for myself. “I am doing my best to get in better shape, and I cannot even motivate myself to get past this hill!” That’s when it hit me. I could not efficiently move forward while gazing at the things behind me. While I was glancing back, I found myself slipping on loose sand, stumbling over rocks, and falling off the path. In hindsight, this made my journey even more rigorous!

I could not efficiently move forward while gazing at the things behind me.

The Winning Strategy to conquer adversity, anxiety, and toxic thoughts!

With that in mind, I developed a new winning strategy that would eventually help me overcome this challenge and subsequently make it to the summit. Before I restarted, I established what I called “checkpoints” or “mini-goals” along the path where I would rest and reflect (i.e. celebrate my progress). While hiking, I paid close attention to where I stepped; ensuring I constantly progressed as each step was on solid or compacted soil. Lastly, I kept my overall goal in mind: reach the North Fortuna summit, take a picture, and enjoy sunrise and the peaceful nature around me. It is important to note, this portion of the trail did not get any less steep or challenging; however, I knew I had the winning strategy to conquer this adverse situation and achieve my goal.

There are a few things I learned from that hike that I believe are helpful…

  1. Rest and reflect. One of the biggest contributors to successfully completing this hike was implementing my mini-goals. I set my sights on several large rocks, trees, or recognizable features along the trail and said, “do not stop until you reach that mini-goal.” Once I reached my mini-goal, I did a small celebration to commemorate my progress. In essence, I broke my journey into manageable chunks that I could physically achieve and implemented preplanned opportunities to refresh my mental resiliency. The stops were not long; just quick enough to catch my breath and celebrate my progress. As goes life. Schedule quick moments to rest and reflect on progress, then keep pushing towards your ultimate goal!
  2. Live in the moment. While grappling with today’s challenges, we cannot allow ourselves to be burdened by yesterday’s news or overwhelmed with tomorrow’s issues. Focus on traversing the path ahead of you and achieving your mini-goals instead of gazing at the things behind you or worrying about tomorrow’s uncertainties.
  3. Be aware and selective of what (or whom) you allow to validate your efforts. I was gauging my success on the trail off of someone else. In retrospect, those people were taking pictures, enjoying nature, strolling, and most importantly, they didn’t even take the same trail. We currently live in a society where it is easy to allow likes, shares, comments, money, and praise to validate us. The issue is those things are temporary. We should only find validation in things that are permanent (e.g. your purpose in life). For me, it is inspiring others. My efforts are validated when my children’s books, blog posts, speaking engagements, and my platform in general inspires someone else to pursue their own goals and dreams!
  4. Don’t lose sight of your goal. My overall goal was to reach the summit, and I did! No matter how challenging the journey, never forget where you are going. Your “why” is what drives you day to day. Your “where” is what makes the journey worth it! You can and will achieve all of your goals! Believe in yourself!

Have a fantastic week, and know that you CAN and WILL make it through these dark times!

Want a little help making it through these dark times?

I partnered with my friend Deb Kartz during her Conquer Anxiety & Toxicity 21-day virtual summit to give you proven strategies to conquer anxiety & toxicity! I embedded the 2-part YouTube series below! Enjoy!

Register for FREE to learn more winning strategies!
Watch my two-part series with Deb Kartz as we discussed how to conquer anxiety & toxicity! (Embedded below)

Anxiety and toxicity are just another way that sneaky “shadow” tries to creep into our life and our children’s lives. As my Amazon best-seller Crow From the Shadow says, “The Shadow is a person… or maybe a thing… or a place. The Shadow tells me who to be, how to go, and where to stay.” Not anymore! In this two-part series, we expose that sneaky shadow and kick ’em to the curb! Watch these FREE interviews as we #defeattheshadow to conquer anxiety and toxicity!

Conquer Anxiety & Toxicity with Deb Kartz and U.S. Marine/best-selling author, Olaolu Ogunyemi (P1)
Conquer Anxiety & Toxicity with Deb Kartz and U.S. Marine/best-selling author, Olaolu Ogunyemi (P2)
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You CAN Make it Through These Dark Times! PART 1- Just Shine Your L.I.G.H.T.

It is no secret: we are living in dark times. It seems like every time there is light at the end of the tunnel, a dark shadow is cast to make the sunshine look more like a small flickering candle. The darkness of that shadowy tunnel seems to surround and embrace us until the small flickering light becomes nothing more than an irrelevant annoyance. I use this symbolism because for many of us, the darkness in the world parallels our hardships (physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual). The flickering light (hope/anticipation that it is going to get better) is more annoying than helpful. It just seems so much easier to give up. Right?

One day as I was meditating (as I do every morning), I received a quote from inspiringquotes.com:

“In a dark time, the eye begins to see.”

Theodore Roethke

I found that quote to be a bit oxymoronic. Darkness is the absence of light. Scientifically speaking, without illumination human vision is unable to distinguish anything. So what is Mr. Roethke talking about?!

I was intrigued, so I did a little research. That quote is actually the first line in the poem “In a Dark Time” by Theodore Roethke. Click here to read the full poem if you are interested. If you do not know who Theodore Roethke is, he is an award-winning American poet who “helped to produce a remarkable body of work that would influence future generations of American poets to pursue the mysteries of one’s inner self.” When he was only 14, his uncle died by suicide and his dad died of cancer. This had a significant impact on his life and influenced his work. (That brief bio does not do his life’s work justice! Read more here.)

I gave that quick background to highlight that his quote has credence, but that still left me wondering, “how does the eye begin to see in darkness?” That question led me to my own philosophy: we can create our own light in times of darkness. How? Allow me to introduce an easy to remember acronym: L.I.G.H.T.

Light at the end of the tunnel.

The first thing I will challenge you to do is shift your perspective of the “light at the end of the tunnel.” It is easy to view the light as simply an escape or exit from dark times. We exclaim, “if I can only make it to that light, I will be out of here!” The issue with that simplistic view is it does not allow room for “life.” Some days we feel like we make significant progress, but most days we trip, stumble, and sometimes fall as we focus on the exit and not the things around us. That makes the light seem like a distant dream or “hope deferred” as the great Maya Angelou called it.

Take another look. Don’t just view the light as a means to the end; instead, view the light as a tool that reveals the things around you. At times, that light may seem distant, but in times of darkness, even the smallest light will expose the stumbling blocks that lurk in the shadow. When you view the light as a resource, you begin to learn and grow from the dark environment. You begin to recognize and quickly step over stumbling blocks in your path that you previously would have missed! So yes, the light is the means to the end but it is also the tool that illuminates your path.

Inspiration.

What inspires you? What is your “why?” We get tired sometimes as we traverse through the dark tunnel. We ask ourselves, “what’s the point?” That’s when our inspiration kicks in! It pushes us to limits we did not know we had. It drives us along our illuminated path.

So how do you find what inspires you?

  • Surround yourself with positive people who are headed in the same direction.
  • Think about the issues you are passionate about changing.
  • Find people you can help lead through dark times.

Our inspiration is usually centered around the value we bring to others. We all have a calling or purpose that is bigger than just us. Allow that calling or purpose to be your inspiration.

Growth.

My good friend and popular Artist, Aha Gazelle, said it best, “the hardest thing about growing is you can’t feel the movement.” (Song: Invitation by Aha Gazelle) That is such a profound message and fundamental truth. I remember how it felt when I started playing basketball as a young child. I knew you didn’t have to be tall to play basketball, but it was a huge help! So everyday I would stand against the wall and record my height with a pencil. It was very discouraging because I could not see or feel the growth. Eventually, I started to measure my height out of habit instead of anticipation. It wasn’t until I looked back after a few months and noticed my pencil mark moved a little higher. I was thrilled! “I grew overnight!” I thought.

That’s a fairly humorous comparison, but don’t we do this as adults? No matter how far we have actually progressed, we feel like we have not made significant progress. Stop doing that to yourself! Every step forward is progress you should be proud of! Even when you do not feel or see the growth, it is happening. Celebrate your growth!

Hardships.

If you read “In a Dark Time” in its entirety, you noticed Theodore Roethke was making the same point I am making right now, hardships exist to make us better. That hurts to even think about. We have spent so many years looking at darkness and hardships as a negative when in reality, they are necessary for our growth. As I shared before, I will compare hardships to the weights in the gym. The gym is full of things that can either crush you or make you stronger. It all depends on your perspective. Just like hardships, gym equipment is designed to create micro tears in your muscles. Sounds scary and counterintuitive right? Maybe. Until we realize that our body heals those micro tears to make our muscles stronger and more resilient than they were before!

So shift your perspective! Those hardships may cause pain or “micro tears,” but you will become stronger because of it! I know it is hard to fathom, and it may seem impossible that you will become stronger as a result of the hardship(s) you are experiencing right now. But like Nelson Mandela once said, “it always seems impossible until it’s done.”

Time.

Why is it important to see, learn, grow, and develop while in darkness? Because it takes time to make it through. I have always been a fan of taking action and making the most out of every second we have here on Earth. As I said before, time is one of our most precious nonrenewable resources, so don’t waste it. Embrace where you are, and invest time learning more about yourself and growing those around you!

If you need a little help learning and/or teaching others how to make it through dark times, download my FREE #defeattheshadow Journal (and my other FREE resources) at https://parent-child-connect.com/free-resources/ today!

U.S. Marine Officer, mentor, and best-selling author, Olaolu Ogunyemi gives you tips on how to make it through these dark times.
Olaolu Ogunyemi: U.S. Marine | Mentor | Best-selling Author

If you enjoyed today’s post, head over to https://parent-child-connect.com/blog/ for more like this!

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Here’s how “emotional bank account” deposits help great leaders develop healthy relationships.

I have read numerous books about relationships and attended several relationship classes. Therein, I found one reoccurring metaphor: the emotional bank account. I first learned about this concept from one of my favorite authors, Dr. Stephen R. Covey, so this is an exciting topic for me! Before we dive too deep, let’s quickly define the “emotional bank account” for those who don’t know.

What is the emotional bank account?

Dr. Covey, the author of several great books to include The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families, creates a beautiful metaphor that aligns an emotional bank account to our relationship with others. He explains it like this: “By proactively doing things that build trust in a relationship, one makes ‘deposits.’ Conversely, by reactively doing things that decrease trust, one makes ‘withdrawals.’ The current ‘balance’ in the emotional bank account, will determine how well two people can communicate and problem-solve together.”

There is so much we can learn from this metaphor, so it will serve as the foundation of our discussion today. We’ll build upon this foundation by discussing how leaders can make deposits into others’ emotional bank accounts to build healthy relationships.

Whether we are leading a tumbling toddler, a superstar athlete, a company of marines, a church, or any other person or group of people, we all share one common imperative: we need to build healthy relationships to be effective leaders. I submit to you that the way to build those healthy relationships is to liberally deposit into the emotional bank account of those you lead. I’m going to break that account down into seven categories: love, compassion, peace, patience, knowledge, values, and redemption+restoration.

How great leaders apply the “emotional bank account” metaphor to their relationships.

Let’s start with “why.”

Why is it important for leaders to make daily deposits into others’ emotional bank accounts? Simply put, by overfilling the accounts of those we lead, we give them an abundance to share with others. These liberal deposits create a ripple affect; one healthy relationship begets another which begets another (and so on). This aligns with my belief that each of us can and should make a significant positive impact and leave a lasting legacy on the world around us. Our impact and legacy begins with our direct interaction with others, and it transcends generations as those we lead apply what they learn from us.

Now, let’s break down those categories.

1. Love.

“Love” is such a broad yet sublime virtue. It is also the root of the other six categories. Even so, love is often hard to define. In fact, Oxford languages defines love as, “an intense feeling of deep affection.” But what does that really mean? In my humble opinion, that definition does not truly encapsulate the powerful meaning of love. Since love often invokes a strong physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual response, I believe we need a more thorough definition.

Regardless of our theological belief, the Holy Bible provides one of the most universally accepted definitions of love.:

“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”

1 Corinthians 13:4‭-‬7 NLT

The foundation of “love” as described above highlights one’s willingness to sacrifice his or her life (time, service, ego, and emotional responses) for another. A continual, selfless sacrifice (love) for another is the most important daily deposit we can make as leaders! It is the foundational virtue from which all other categories stem.

2. Compassion.

I shared my thoughts on compassion in another great blog post “The Three Day Mental Health Guide: Major Payne Edition.” Here’s what I said: Compassion requires you to validate and value others’ thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Do not fall into the trap of saying, “it’s really not that big a deal.” Instead, allow others to share their feelings with you, so you become empathetic enough to have a strong desire to help. Don’t try to be “Mr. (or Mrs.) Fix It,” but at least express the desire to help! For example, someone once stole a very rare unicorn from my oldest daughter in an online game that she enjoyed playing. It seemed silly at first, but I realized this really hurt her feelings. So first, I had to verbally validate her feelings and emotions. Then, I shared the moment with her until she felt better. Simple but effective! 

Liberally depositing compassion instills confidence and a sense of loyalty in those you lead.

3. Peace.

Albert Einstein said it best, “Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.” The “understanding” that Einstein is referring to is driven by the empathetic listening (compassion) that I mentioned above. Hopefully, you are starting to see how all of these categories intertwine. Without compassion, we are unable to maintain a peaceful environment. A peaceful environment begets a productive environment. This productivity leads to loyalty, confidence, and positive mental attitudes. Ultimately, a peaceful environment is one of the major keys to developing the synergy we require for relationships to thrive. That’s why we will park on this topic for a moment.

I personally view peace as “harmonious living.” Some view “harmonious living” as the absence of arguments and violence. With that in mind, we can deposit peace by simply avoiding the other person, right?! 👍🏾 Wrong! 👎🏾👎🏾 This passive method will only appear to work until you cross paths. Then the “peace” you thought you had will quickly disappear. Depositing peace into your relationships requires action.

Your overall objective is to create a culture of mutual respect and dignity. Here are a few tips:
  • Actively listen to understand, not to respond.
  • Become genuinely intrigued with the other person’s thoughts, interests, emotions, and hobbies.
  • Eliminate judgement (express a negative opinion from a moral high ground) while extending grace (undeserved kindness).
  • Be forgiving (seriously, let it go).
  • Enjoy the other person’s company and find a common ground (common interests).
  • Identify the value the other person brings to the table and create a safe/secure environment for them to grow, develop, and thrive.

4. Patience.

Here’s a little known fact about me and my brothers (and our close friends growing up): we all wanted to be music producers from Middle School through High School. We would go into our computer room, hop on the music studio software that came with the Windows 98 and XP Operating Systems, and record our own albums. I have been searching for some of our old work. It would be great blackmail material 😂. In one of the most infamous/hilarious songs that our buddies AJ and Nick created, they said, “Patience is a virtue. What you can’t wait on may hurt you.” At the time, they thought they created a hit… We thought they created a comical jingle. I never knew that little jingle would give me a profound revelation almost 20 years later. I subconsciously learned a lesson about the importance of patience. That lesson greatly contributes to my own philosophy.

I discussed that philosophy a bit in a previous great blog post “How to shift your perspective and live a better life TODAY!” Therein I asserted that similar to peace, patience requires action and we build our capacity to accept delay/troubles without frustration (patience) by hoping and anticipating that life’s situations will turn out just fine. That’s great for life in general, but how do we develop patience with others?

First, we must internalize this fact: we are all flawed human beings. We all make mistakes. Once we digest that, we must realize patience requires practice.

How to practice patience.:
  • Be attentive and avoid jumping to conclusions.
  • Practice waiting on others without getting frustrated.
  • Practice relaxation and breathing exercises when you feel like you are growing impatient.
  • Be more optimistic in any given circumstance. Identify the opportunities and progress instead of focusing on the “failures” and regression (although the latter may appear more blatant).

AJ and Nick had it right! Failure to deposit patience into our relationships can be detrimental or hurtful. Contrarily, patience deposits will help grow the healthy relationships we all want and need.

5. Knowledge.

I love the word “knowledge” because it describes the information we gain from both experience and education. Thereby, our job as leaders is to create an environment where those we lead have an opportunity to gain relevant experience and continued education.

Examples: For a parent, this may look like showing your child how to maintain a car while systematically teaching them the mechanics of a car. For a corporate leader, this may look like appointing a worker as “team lead” and sending him or her to certification training that will make them better at their job.

Creating this environment will pay dividends in the long run because it encourages critical thinking and problem solving, instills confidence to take action, and promotes continual growth and development. This all leads to a positive culture and an overall successful household, classroom, or organization.

6. Values.

Shared values are some of the most valuable currency we can deposit. See what I did there? Values are defined as, “a person’s principles or standards of behavior.” I believe our values guide our moral compass (i.e. a person’s determination of and subsequent action on what they deem right and wrong).

Here are some questions to think about:
  • What are your values? What do you stand for and/or believe in?
  • How do you decipher between right and wrong?
  • What values do you clearly and concisely teach?
  • What values do you consistently demonstrate?
  • How do you incorporate and enforce a shared value system?

Answering these questions and–more importantly–applying what you learn will help you develop shared values with those you lead which creates a collaborative spirit and informs daily decisions.

7. Redemption + Restoration.

One day, I was so disappointed. My oldest daughter did something (can’t remember what she did) that utterly frustrated and disappointed me. Accordingly, I administered the punishment I felt her wrongful act deserved. I believe I grounded her and restricted her electronic time for two weeks! She was heartbroken yet unapologetic, but I immediately mumbled to myself, “don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time!” Then, I probably beat on my chest and celebrated being a firm dad/leader.

Of course that celebratory moment was cut short. My dad/leader, who has an uncanny way of sensing when I have made or will make a mistake, contacted me. I gave him my version of what happened. He responded with a calmness that did not match my high emotions in that moment. He simply told me, “Ok. Make sure you give her an opportunity to redeem herself.”

I initially neither comprehended nor appreciated how profound his advice was. As time progressed and my emotions waned, my dad’s words began to sink in. I went back to my daughter and gave her an opportunity to correct her mistake. She was immediately remorseful and understood why what she did was wrong. That’s when it hit me.

She learned more from her restoration than my condemnation of her.

I’m proud to admit she’s always been a “daddy’s girl,” but that’s when I feel our relationship (and my relationship with my other two children) became even closer. That day, I learned a much-needed lesson as a father and leader, and all of the other categories began to make more sense. I had to sacrifice my previous beliefs, ego, and judgement to truly understand my daughter and provide her the leadership she needed in that moment. I accepted that she (and people in general) will make mistakes, and my dad helped me adjust my perspective to view each mistake as a learning opportunity and an opportunity to make decisions based upon a shared value system. As a result, my patience has grown, and I have made a concerted effort to create an environment of respect that allows those I lead to constantly grow and develop. I truly learned that liberal deposits produce healthy relationships.

Conclusion

Though it may seem like a daunting task at times, we have an obligation to invest in the emotional accounts of those we lead. Those investments will pay dividends as those we lead become leaders themselves and develop their own healthy relationships. Ultimately, our emotional deposits will create a lasting legacy for generations to come! Will you start depositing today?

Olaolu Ogunyemi: U.S. Marine Officer | Mentor | Best-selling Author
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Maximize potential by destroying complacency.: How a “C-” changed my perspective.

I want to begin with a couple of disclaimers.: Firstly, this is neither an endorsement for nor a bash on the letter grading system that exists in many public schools. Additionally, I never had a teacher actually tell me that I received a “C-” for “complacency.” In fact, that would have likely been counterproductive if they have approached me in such a manner. This is simply a reflection on how two specific educators in my life influenced me to live up to my potential.

Of course highlighting these two educators is not to take away from the extraordinary contributions that all my teachers had over the years. There is just one commonality between the two that is worth discussing. The first is my eighth grade English teacher, Ms. Arthur. The second is my advanced composition professor at Grambling State University, Dr. Clawson. Both of these educators gave me a grade I was not accustomed to–a “C-.”

My reaction

Though I remained tactful, I marched into the both of their rooms with a fairly arrogant attitude. “I think you made a mistake,” I said. “I’ve seen everybody else’s paper, and mine is by far the best!” Although these two occurrences were approximately five years apart, both of them gave me the same calm look and responded, “you can do better than this.”

I was floored! “Ok Yoda!” I thought. “Save your motivational speech for someone else.” Believe it or not, I didn’t have a response. I walked out of the room disappointed and slightly angry that this happened to me twice! Once my initial frustration subsided during the latter interaction, a new revelation began to set in. I had once again become so comfortable doing the bare minimum, that it was beginning to show in my work. In other words, my complacency was limiting my potential.

Complacency

We use the word “complacency” fairly often in the Marine Corps. Quotes like “complacency kills” are plastered all over posters in an effort to remind marines to remain sharp and prepared for uncertainty. So what does “complacency” mean? Merriam Webster defines “complacency” as “self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies.” There’s no wonder why military organizations condemn complacency because the results can be fatal, but let’s consider other environments where the consequences aren’t as dire. Does it matter whether you are complacent or not? Were the educators I mentioned above just overreacting?

I will offer this to answer those questions: if you show me an environment where complacency is rampant, I will show you an environment of mediocrity.

Numerous people and organizations have limited their upward potential as they have settled with “good enough.” Usually, complacency is driven by pride in one’s achievements–especially in comparison to others. For example, I have always enjoyed writing, and because I have enjoyed and practiced writing, I improved over time. Over the years, my parents, mentors, and educators have encouraged me to continue to hone in on this skill. So much so that I managed to become extremely proud of my work and ability to effortlessly write thousands of words while others struggled to write hundreds.

My mistakes that led to complacency.

My first big mistake was taking too much time to praise my own work and abilities. I call this the “always A+ mentality.” With this mindset, I believed that everything I wrote deserved an A+. It was like I somehow thought I was the “King Midas” of composition. Of course this mindset was reaffirmed by the grades I received throughout elementary, high school, and college. With this arrogant attitude, I neither practiced writing nor studied to improve my writing abilities. I even began to procrastinate on projects that had a substantial impact on my overall grade. In my mind, I was becoming a better writer without prioritizing writing.

As I continued to bask in my own pride and boast (to myself) how great I was becoming, I began to compare myself to my peers. In fact, my peers began to bring me their work to edit–further affirming how “great” I was at writing. It wasn’t until I received that second “C-” from one of my many respected educators that I began to understand how my writing skills had stagnated. My vocabulary hadn’t truly expanded since high school, my ideas were recycled, and my research-backed evidence presented in my writing was shallow. I had spent so much time celebrating my accomplishments in an echo chamber that I hadn’t noticed that I had peaked and began a gradual decline.

My educators made me aware of my gradual decline and complacency.

In retrospect, I could’ve been much further along in my writing endeavors if I would’ve remained focused on improvement instead of just meeting the bare minimum. These two educators–and many others–recognized my potential, and took action to ensure that my arrogance did not allow me to unnecessarily peak. Rather, they encouraged me to be a continual learner who actively seeks out complacent habits in my life. From a overall grade perspective, the “C-” was inconsequential. However, it was critical to my personal development.

How to maximize an individual’s potential while preventing complacency.

1. Recognize the signs of complacency.

Don’t become so enamored with raw talent and skill that you miss obvious signs of complacency. For example, I heard a basketball coach discussing one of his players, “Man, he’s gotten good! I don’t even know how to coach him anymore!” At that moment, I knew the player’s upward potential would stall if someone didn’t intervene. The player had phenomenal stats, but he was simply going through the motion on offense, giving lackluster effort on defense, distracted by the crowd, and missing obvious ways to engage his teammates. As leaders, we must remain purpose-driven and focused on improving those we lead. Don’t get distracted by the stats!

2. Identify purpose.

Help those you lead find their purpose. I’ve talked quite a bit about purpose in “Chasing purpose is better than chasing success” Part 1 and Part 2. Two of my favorite quotes from these articles are: 1.) Your purpose is the wind beneath your wings during thriving times and the force that drives you during low times. 2.) Chasing success leads to disappointment. Chasing purpose leads to fulfillment. I believe your purpose aligns with what inspires you. As I stated in “How to shift your perspective and live a better life TODAY!,” there are three quick questions to ask yourself to find what inspires you. The intersection of these answers will reveal your purpose.:

  1. What activities, thoughts, or passions energize me?
  2. What value do I bring to those around me (hint: we all bring value to those around us)?
  3. What are my greatest strengths?

3. Develop individualized goals.

Immediate and long-term goals are critical to overcoming complacency and increasing potential. Goals trigger new behaviors and habits while helping you gain and maintain momentum. If you know me, you know I love cheesy acronyms. With that in mind, teach those you lead that developing and achieving goals is “DOPE!”

  • Dream. Develop a clear vision of what achieving your purpose looks like. What actionable steps do you need to take?
  • Offload. Write down your clear vision statement and the actionable steps you thought of in the first step.
  • Plan. Develop a deliberate plan to achieve your actionable steps. That means you should break down how you will achieve each step in detail. Start assigning specific dates, times, and deadlines to your steps. This is where your goals transform from conceptual to actionable.
  • Execute. In the words of one of my college professors Dr. Matthew, “do the job!” In other words, start executing the above steps while adhering to the deadlines. Record your progress and repeat this cycle as required to refine your goals and actionable steps. Remain focused on ensuring your goals align with your purpose!

4. Co-develop individualized standards.

Sometimes, people’s personal standards align with the bare minimum universal standards. You will have to invest additional time helping to develop standards if that is one of the people you lead. Universal standards exist to establish a baseline understanding of societal expectations. However, our personal standards are layered on top of universal standards to help us consistently pursue our lifelong purpose. In other words, the metrics we use to measure our success (standards) shouldn’t simply equal the universal standard; instead, our standard should track and measure how effective our unique goals are at helping us achieve our purpose.

5. Time and effort.

As I alluded to above, developing and achieving goals requires you to adhere to specific dates, times, and deadlines. As such, you must teach those you lead how to budget their time and apply effort to the things that help them achieve their immediate and long-term goals. I have a sticky note on my work computer that reads, “Remember: Don’t dedicate energy and effort to things that don’t matter.” I offer that same advice to you and those you lead. First, write down every activity that consumes your time and effort over a 72 hour period. Next, circle the things that help you achieve your purpose (purposeful). Then, highlight the things that may not necessarily contribute to your purpose but they are necessary for your daily routine (essential). Lastly, cross out the things that are neither purposeful nor essential (worthless). Continue this exercise over time until you develop a list of purely purposeful and essential tasks. After all that is done, determine how much time you need to accomplish each item on your refined task list. Prioritize these tasks in order of importance, and use this document to drive your daily actions and activities.

Conclusion.

Many people live their entire lives without reaching their true potential. That is why it’s critical for us to apply these fundamentals to help others maximize their potential. It will be a challenge, but it is achievable as long as we remain focused. I’m extremely proud of you for joining us on this journey. Keep up the great work, and let’s demolish complacency together!

Thanks for reading, and have a great week!