I’m excited to share my latest article with you! My friends at Stand For the Silent gave me another opportunity to share my opinion. This time, I discussed how we can provide our children the support they need. This topic is extremely important to me because I believe our support is the foundation upon which our children build their lives. Therefore, our children rely upon our support to effectively navigate the obstacles and opportunities in life.
Other Articles I’ve Shared on the Stand For the Silent Platform.
Stand For the Silent has really opened their [virtual] doors to me and the parent-child-connect platform! It’s always fun to collaborate with visionaries who share a common goal. Their message, “I AM SOMEBODY” perfectly aligns with my goal to remind people to “Never, EVER, forget your worth!” Ultimately, we share a common goal to raise awareness about issues that impact our children and provide resources for parents, teachers, mentors, and caregivers to develop a positive relationship with their children to lead them through life’s many challenges.
Here are the other articles I shared.:
What is Stand For the Silent?
I have introduced Stand For the Silent before on my platform, but here is a brief description from their About Us page. It won’t take you very long to figure out why I love collaborating with this organization!:
Stand for the Silent was started in 2010 by a group of high school students in Oklahoma City, OK, after they heard the story of Kirk and Laura Smalley’s son, Ty Field- Smalley. At eleven years-old, Ty took his own life after being suspended from school for retaliating against a bully that had been bullying him for over two years. Stand for the Silent exists as a platform to allow Kirk and Laura to share their story, and offer education and tools that will prevent their tragedy from happening to another child and family. Kirk and Laura’s mission is to continue to change kids’ lives and bring awareness to bullying and the real devastation it causes.
Since May 2010, Kirk and Laura Smalley have traveled to over 1,000 schools and spoken with over 1,000,000 kids! On March 10, 2011, Kirk and Laura met privately with President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama in The White House prior to attending the first ever White House conference on bullying.
The Stand For The Silent (SFTS) program addresses the issue of school bullying with an engaging, factual, and emotional methodology. With the help of student leaders, Kirk Smalley presents his inspirational story, and students are shown first-hand the life and death consequences of bullying. Through this unique approach, lives are changed for the better. Students, some for the first time, develop an empathetic awareness through education and understanding.
The goal of the program is to start a SFTS chapter at each participating site. Each chapter consists of a group of students committed to change. These students will no longer stand for their peers to suffer at the hands of a bully. At the end of each event, pledge cards are given to those who agree to stand for the silent. The pledge speaks of respect and love…hope and aspiration. Above all, it illustrates the main lesson taught through the Stand For The Silent program: I AM SOMEBODY.
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!
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.
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
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:
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.
My winning habits principles
1. Winning habits begin 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:
Read and learn to experience the world from a different perspective.
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.
Work hard when it’s time to work. Play hard when it’s time to play. Rest well when it’s time to rest.
Spend uninterrupted time loving on friends and family. I cannot stress this one enough. Forgive if you need to forgive. Life is too short.
Schedule time for the “time drainers” like social media, TV, window shopping, etc. These will likely always exist, but you need to manage them.
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!
Allocate time to reflect on the day. What did you do well? What are some opportunities for improvement?
Smile, have fun, and remind yourself that you are valuable and have a purpose. Your daily habits support that purpose!
I wanted to use this opportunity to share a much needed resource with everyone. The “988” National Suicide Prevention Lifeline was launched on July 16, 2022 to provide 24/7 access to trained counselors who will intervene during critical moments and connect individuals to local resources. I’m very proud to be a part of a command that consistently reminds us that we should care for each other. My command also posted the below fact sheet throughout the work and living spaces, because one suicide is too many. The statistics are sobering.
988 has been designated as the new three-digit dialing code that will route callers to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and is now active across the United States.
When people call, text, or chat 988, they will be connected to trained counselors that are part of the existing Lifeline network. These trained counselors will listen, understand how their problems are affecting them, provide support, and connect them to resources if necessary.
I’m celebrating my wife’s birthday this entire week! Why? Because she deserves that and more.
I plan to discuss our origin story a little bit more on our ten-year anniversary later this year, but I believe this is an appropriate time to pause and publicly let Brea know how much I appreciate her support, love, and sacrifices! It’s been amazing to grow with her over the last ~11 years (that’s how long we’ve been an official couple).
Thank you for your sacrifices! (Even on your birthday)
In that short period, we have moved eight times across several different states to support my career. Though tearful because she has had to leave behind some great friends, she has continued to support and encourage me along the way. On top of all that, when I decided to finally pursue my dream of becoming an author, she did not skip a beat with her support!
Every single one of my adult accomplishments are because of Brea. Whether it’s keeping the children quiet so I can podcast or write, keeping the house running smoothly while I’m away, listening to my countless ideas, or any other daily thing she does, it has made me a better man.
This is YOUR week!
I could go on and on but I’ll summarize by saying, happy birthday my love! Cheers to many, many, maaaaaaany more years! 🥂
On the go? I felt this conversation about race was so important, I created an audio version just for you! Check it out:
“The Marines are set to have the first Black 4-star general in their 246-year history!” That was the title of an article posted on July 20, 2022 by NPR that I saw on LinkedIn. People typically have varying responses to articles like this: pride, celebration, skepticism, disgust, hope, anticipation, confusion, and inspiration are just a few. Nonetheless, it is a historical moment–one of which our children are witnessing and learning how to digest. The reoccurring question that we have to face as a society is, “does his race matter?” Well, today I am going to discuss this in a way that anyone can comprehend. This discussion will examine how we can use current events (like the article I mentioned above) to spark a conversation about race with our children.
My household rules about race discussions
Before discussing race in my house, I always lay some ground rules for my children:
Discussing and learning to appreciate who you are while embracing your heritage and culture does not make you superior to anyone else. We are all created equal.
Since we are all created equal, everybody deserves dignity and respect. I usually break it down for them. “Every” means “without exemption,” and it does not matter how the body is wrapped. That human being standing before you, whether physically or virtually, deserves dignity and respect.
Let’s dive in!
Color blindness is a myth
I know what some of you are thinking, “but I was medically diagnosed with color blindness!” Trust me, I am not being insensitive to your disability. In fact, my father is color blind, but in the context of discussions about race, color blindness is usually an argument that one only sees a person for what they have on the inside. At first glance, that sounds awesome! We should all have racial colorblindness, right? Well…it’s not that easy. I will use my own household as an example.
If you would’ve asked me a few years ago, I would have proudly proclaimed that we were raising my daughter to have racial colorblindness! “I don’t want her to say, ‘white folks this’ and ‘black folks that,’ I just want her to say ‘folks!'” It worked!… Until my oldest daughter made it to Transitional Kindergarten (about 4 years old). When she came home from school, she was excited to talk about all of her new friends. “There is one girl that is brown like me, but everyone else is yellow,” she said proudly.
I was shocked but didn’t say anything.
I simply let her continue to tell me about her new friends. She continued to come home and discuss how excited she was to have new “yellow” friends–one had the same name! That’s when it hit me: this young child got it right. She recognized a difference but still searched for a common ground. She naturally gravitated towards children with similar backgrounds but made a point to play with others who brought different interests to the classroom. For example, she absolutely hated water getting on her face, but she slowly began to explore swimming when she saw me and some of her “yellow” friends having fun in the pool.
In other words, my daughter recognized a difference but didn’t care! She didn’t need to pretend to be color blind to show genuine interest in others. She learned–and quite honestly taught me–how to embrace the things that made her different from her “yellow” friends. Now that she is in junior high, she obviously knows the difference between the many races, but her friend group remains diverse. She didn’t need color blindness; she needed her parents to avoid teaching her polarizing lessons about race.
It’s ok to celebrate
When discussing historical events (like the one I mentioned above) with our children, one of the most polarizing lessons we can teach is, “the general’s race doesn’t matter.” Some argue that highlighting the general’s race suggests that he was promoted because of his race. Some even argue that highlighting his race is ironically racism or “reverse racism.” In reality, the article described the general’s many accolades and credentials. It then discussed how senior military leaders have continued to focus on decades-old efforts to increase diversity and equality by eliminating systemic barriers. The barriers are eliminated so that the most qualified person and “best fit” gets the job/promotion.
Highlighting the general’s race is not to discriminate or claim ones race is more superior than the other. It is a celebration of progress! is progress that our parents and grandparents did not see when they were my age. It brings hope and encouragement that no matter how recently we were segregated, we are healing and making headway.
Need more to celebrate?
If that’s not enough to celebrate, then how about we celebrate how inspiring the general’s story is. He came from Shreveport, Louisiana. That means there are young people in Shreveport (and surrounding areas) who can/will see someone succeed who looks just like them. It inspires them to pursue their own dreams because those young people relate to the general’s experience. “If he can do it, so can I!” I have seen and heard this numerous times. We cannot discount the effect headlines and historical events like this have on our future generation. Each of us can influence a unique group of people, and General Langley is no exception to this rule.
Systemic racism still exists
This is the final topic and probably the most taboo when discussing race. Some of you may be ready to jump ship, but don’t worry; I’ll keep the ship steady, so stay with me. I have discussed my thoughts on systemic racism with a couple of people, but now it is time to share it with the world. Sometimes, we solely identify written rules, policies, and regulations as the “system,” but we fail to discuss the most integral part of any system–the human being.
For example, I talked to a Human Resources (HR) specialist who said her company has several non-discriminatory hiring policies in place; however, if she sees a “Shequita” (or any unique name for that matter) on the application, she will place the document on the bottom of the stack. That means Shequita never even had a fair chance at the job! Why? Because the HR specialist assumed Shequita was black, she used her authority to deny Shequita’s application. Is it unethical? Yes. Does the company have policies in place that condemn this type of behavior? Yes. Does the company have monitoring and accountability measures to prevent this from happening? Let’s just say the HR specialist had been doing this for at least two years when she told me this story. This is just one of many examples of how a human being can commit discriminatory acts on behalf of a company and inevitably create/maintain systemic barriers.
Let’s move forward!
So when we discuss this topic with our children, it is important that they understand that we celebrate progress while pushing for more. We celebrate the removal of barriers–both people and policy alike! This is an all-hands effort that requires us to embrace our differences, isolate detractors, and celebrate the many steps forward! The ongoing race war will only end in victory if all races fight together for unity and equality.
The ongoing race war will only end in victory if all races fight together for unity and equality.
Thanks for joining me today! Have a great weekend!
One of the best parts about visiting my hometown is stopping by some of the places that brought me wonderful memories. I guess you could say I am often overcome with acute nostalgia. One place I always like to visit is my old job that I worked during my college days. This time around, I reflected not only on the fun times I had and the great people I met but on the lessons I learned that I still apply today. The best way to describe my time there is to borrow a quote from Charles Dickens: “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Regardless, the biggest lesson I learned was to embrace where you are because there is a lesson in everything. I learned some lifelong lessons:
Although my name tag introduced me as a “server,” I absolutely hated that label. I preferred to be called a “waiter” because “server” felt degrading, demeaning, and humiliating. I often quipped, “I work and study hard, so I am no one’s servant!” It wasn’t until later that I truly understood and began to appreciate how important servitude is. In fact, I learned that servitude is one of every successful organization’s core values, and it is one of each inspirational leader’s foundational principles. Servitude is not about degrading the servant’s self-esteem as I previously believed; instead, it is about putting another’s needs before your own to create an environment where everyone can grow, develop, and thrive. Serving others is an honor.
Servitude is not about degrading the servant’s self-esteem as I previously believed; instead, it is about putting another’s needs before your own to create an environment where everyone can grow, develop, and thrive.
I always considered myself a hard-working guy who does not mind getting dirty. Like seriously, I worked on a chicken farm in high school. I always envisioned I would use that blue-collar mentality to become the leader known for rolling up his sleeves and standing shoulder-to-shoulder with his constituents to get the job done.
Even so, there was a part of my job as a server that completely humbled me–“crab leg night.” On “crab leg night,” we added crab legs and other seafood items to the buffet. Aside from holidays like Mother’s Day, these were by far the busiest shifts. Of course there was nothing wrong with “crab leg night” in general; however, some customers really tested how far my attitude of servitude would stretch!
They tested my humility!
Customers complained about prices, questioned me about the quality of the food, threw crab legs on the floor, left a $0.27 tip, and truly tested my humility. Even so, I had to question why I was getting frustrated with these type of customers who made up a very small percentage of the customers I served. My conclusion was that I was frustrated because I felt this kind of work was “beneath me.” That was a red flag because it was contradictory to my can do, blue-collar philosophy. That day I took an oath to never allow myself to become so consumed by my own self-worth that I am unable to willingly and cheerfully serve others.
Remember those busy “crab leg nights” I mentioned? Funny story: I actually made a pretty big mistake during one of the busiest crab leg nights I’ve ever worked. I remember it like it was yesterday: the team and I were working hard to keep customers satisfied–refilling drinks, busing tables, serving orders etc.
Well, it was my turn to make some more sweet tea. As I had done numerous times before, I grabbed two buckets and headed to grab sugar. The first container I opened was completely empty, so I quickly moved on to the second container. Once I opened the second container, I observed the white granular content within and proceeded to scoop it into my buckets. About five minutes later, one customer stopped me to tell me her tea did not taste right… Then another… Then another.
I made a huge mistake.
Before long, everyone in the restaurant who previously had a taste for sweet tea was now waving their glass in the air while making a disgusted face. I am sure it was only about four or five customers, but to me, it seemed like the entire restaurant was about to start a riot. That is when one of the customers yelled, “this is salty, and I’m a diabetic!” If you haven’t figured it out by now, I put about two giant scoops of salt in the “sweet tea.” I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t tasted it myself. It reminded me of my first time wrestling with my brothers in the Atlantic Ocean.
Several customers requested free meals and other accomodations to make up for their salty surprise. As expected, the manager on duty (and owner) was not very happy with me. I later walked in her office fully expecting to be written up and charged for several meals for this mistake. Instead, she asked me what happened, then told me to be more careful in the future.
She forgave me for what should have been an easily-avoidable mistake and inadvertently taught me a lesson about forgiveness. You can win more people over by forgiving them than administering the punishment they know they deserve. I was bought in from that day, and I did my best to represent myself and the company well throughout each interaction. Her forgiveness earned my loyalty and respect.
You can win more people over by forgiving them than administering the punishment they know they deserve.
Embrace Hard work.
Gordon B. Hinckley has a quote that has resonated with me: “without hard work, nothing grows but weeds.” I believe I relate to this quote because I have literally spent countless hours pulling weeds while doing yard work. I also metaphorically understand how much we grow and develop from each of our experiences. When I was working as a server, I learned that my work ethic had a direct correlation with my success. There was nothing like walking around for a few hours while ensuring each of my customers had a pleasant experience. My customers’ smiles, words of encouragement, tips, and appreciation gave me a sense of accomplishment each. Pretty soon, I began to crave that feeling of accomplishment and it became one of my driving forces each day. Work hard and grow!
Without hard work, nothing grows but weeds.
Gordon B. Hinckley
One of my least favorite parts about working at Peking was missing my little brother’s and oldest nephew’s basketball games. It annoyed me so much that I considered just not showing up to work a couple of times. These thoughts were usually short-lived when I remembered I had bills to pay, but more importantly, I accepted that life often presents us opportunities to accept temporary discomfort for long-term results.
I accepted that life often presents us opportunities to accept temporary discomfort for long-term results.
I knew my time at Peking would be short-lived, but I had to remain focused on why I was working there in the first place and how much I was growing in the process. Though I sacrificed quite a bit of my social life, I gained the financial stability I needed to prepare me for life after college which included marriage, children, and starting a career. All of the lessons I learned and the sacrifices I made during this time in my life came to head and made me the man I am today. Although I remain a work in progress, I am grateful that I chose to embrace my time as a server, and I implore you to embrace where you are today. You can and will grow from this!
That was my experience, but what have you learned from your past experiences? What can you learn as you embrace where you are now?
*Quick commentary from Olaolu: I created Parent-Child-Connect to provide resources for parents, teachers, and mentors to connect with their children. I believe a large part of that mission is to use my platform to encourage and spread hope! With that in mind, I am excited to share the virtual stage with a great friend who has been like family to us since we started active duty service in 2013! Meet, Aubrie Owens aka my wife’s bestie. She is excited to speak out and share small portion of her story to encourage, educate, and empower you! Like, share, comment, enjoy!*
I have been contemplating writing this, and I have finally decided to speak out. Social media tends to highlight happy moments, but in truth, it’s not all happiness. I have been struggling with endometriosis for many years now. For those who don’t know, endometriosis (en-doe-me-tree-O-sis) is “a disorder in which tissue that normally lines the uterus grows outside the uterus” (source: mayoclinic.org). They say one in every ten women struggle with this condition. It has caused me infertility and pain for many years, and I have had countless miscarriages and heartbreak because of it. It hasn’t all been heartbreak though. My husband Kyle and I have also had many joys giving birth to a beautiful daughter named Yuri and watching Ava be a wonderful big sister. I have also been fortunate to have amazing doctors and family/friend support.
How it started:
Around 2013, I went to the ER with abdominal pain. The doctors discovered a cyst the size of a softball near my ovary, and they determined surgery was the best option. During the surgery, they identified that I had severe endometriosis. They advised me to immediately start consulting a fertility doctor if I would like to have children in the future. This led us to visit multiple doctors which, in turn, led them to prescribe me multiple medications. Numerous Intrauterine insemination (IUI) and In vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments resulted in many miscarriages. Finally, in 2016 (our last IVF attempt), I became pregnant with Yuri.
After months of heartbreak and disappointment, we finally conceived a child! However, I wasn’t out of the woods yet. In 2017 I almost lost my life, and we almost lost Yuri. I had appendicitis that resulted in sepsis, and Yuri and I would spend months in the hospital trying to recover.
The journey continues:
I have accepted the hard truth; it is time for a full hysterectomy. Though I am extremely grateful that I was able to conceive my two children, I do not want to continue to live with the pain. I do not write this for sympathy but in hopes I can reach another woman who is going through a struggling time. Whether you have had to endure a chronic illness or disorder, a miscarriage, or pain that led to infertility, I am here. We as women must choose what is best for us and never let others dictate how we feel.
Today, I ask for good vibes and prayers as I go in for surgery. I’m going to be straight with all of you, I am scared. The last time I went in for surgery I almost lost my life and my child. But I am thankful for the support of my family, friends, and wonderful doctors. I am appreciative of my husband who has supported me throughout many trying times. He held me as I cried over the children we lost. He spent countless hours with me in the hospital when I was ill, and stayed most nights with Yuri in the NICU.
As silly as it sounds, part of me feels like I am losing my ability to be a woman. I will never be able to carry another child. It is especially painful because people often ask, “are you going to try again for a boy?” I’ve decided my health and my body means more to me than bringing another life into this world. Getting to spend time with my family pain free will be the most rewarding joy.
I write this today as an encouragement to you all. Speak out! Do what you feel is best for YOU. In a world of uncertainty, your happiness and your health is the number one priority.