Father’s Day is coming soon! As such, Military Families Magazine lent me its platform to discuss one of the many challenges that military fathers (and other service members) face while deployed. As the title, “4 Lessons from a Deployed Father” suggests, I wrote this article during a recent deployment, so you’ll quickly gain first hand insight on my personal feelings and the feelings of others who I either deployed with or met overseas.
Many of us shared a similar internal conflict that admittedly seems melodramatic. Oftentimes it is a search for purpose at home that can lead to one simple question, “Have I been replaced?” It’s a harsh reality created by a skewed perspective. However, if left unchecked, those feelings can become consuming and lead to isolation, depression, and other dangerous side effects.
I felt it was imperative to provide four lessons I have learned to apply over the years to overcome my own feelings that arise when I’m away from home for days, weeks, or months at a time. Click the button below to read the entire digital June 2023 edition of the Military Families Magazine. My article is on Page 15. Share with your deployed father, husband, or service member!
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.
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!
On the go? Learn about your purpose on the go with the below audio version!
So there you are; you just implemented an amazing idea! You finally conquered that initial mountain of “what ifs” and persevered through the shadowy valley of self-doubt and second guessing. Even so, you find yourself thinking, “where do I go from here?” You climbed to a new height only to be met by a second wave of doubt. You begin to question yourself, your purpose, and sometimes, your God. Haven’t we all been there? I know I have. I finally pushed past the nervousness of “what will people think” to be met head on by what seems to be another mountain! If that’s you, let me first start off with a quick encouraging word:
So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessings if we don’t give up.
Galatians 6:9 NLT
This topic reminds me of a slightly younger Olaolu in 2010-2011. Although several of my mentors were U.S. Army veterans, I decided to join the United States Marine Corps! I literally had no clue what that meant. In fact, I often tell people that the only two Marines I knew before I joined were Major Payne and Gunny Ermey! After I met my recruiter, I watched a couple more movies like “Jarhead” so I can learn and understand the jargon. Clearly, I had no idea what I was actually signing up for or why I was signing up, but I felt the urge to serve specifically in the Marine Corps.
Although I was already an adult (at least legally) and in college, I knew my first obstacle would be to convince my parents and siblings that this was a great idea for me. The military was considered a “last resort” for many in my hometown. That is probably because it really was the “last resort” for several veterans in my area as a judge was willing to place them in prison as an alternative. This was going to be a tough sale.
Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.
Proverbs 19:21 ESV
The Sales Pitch
“Alright Olaolu, just go to them and tell them, ‘I’m joining the Marine Corps. I’m not asking for your opinion or approval. It’s happening.” I was psyching myself up knowing I wouldn’t take that tone with my parents in a million years. “Just tell them you’re grown and this is what’s best for your life,” I continued.
Of course when the day arrived, my tone was completely unaggressive. I explained to both of my parents that I felt called to serve in this way and reassured them that I would finish college. I was already a Sophomore preparing to head into my Junior year of college, so I felt I could easily afford to take a semester off to attend boot camp and still graduate within four years. Surprisingly, this was pretty uneventful. My parents listened to my idea and calmly asked a few questions to which I responded with very generic answers I previously found on the internet. I later found out they were just putting on a front, but that’s a story for another day. I overcame obstacle number one: convincing my parents this was actually a good idea.
My plan failed, but God’s plan prevailed.
Fast forward a few months, my secretive and ridiculous plan to become an infantryman, serve in combat, train recruits as a drill instructor, graduate college, and commission as an officer within 4 years all came to a screeching halt; something was wrong with my package which prevented me from going to boot camp week after week. Soon, I received a call from an Officer Selection Officer who eventually convinced me to go directly to Officer Candidates School (OCS) through the Platoon Leaders Course-combined program.
After constant preparation like training in some old Army boots one of my mentors let me borrow, cleaning up my diet, and waking up before 5 A.M., I felt I was ready!
The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.
Proverbs 16:9 ESV
Ready for anything!
When I arrived at OCS, I knew I was not the strongest or the fastest, but boy was I confident. I ran a fairly average initial physical fitness test but came in well under the maximum twenty-four minute three mile time. As a person who absolutely abhorred any running beyond the 400 meter dash, I felt like I could conquer the world. There as even a cameraman snapping a picture as I sprinted towards the finish line. I later found out they posted that picture on the OCS website. I found out in a letter from my dad who was congratulating me on finishing ahead of my peers. Little did he know, I was actually “leading” the back third. Regardless, nobody could tell me I wasn’t the greatest runner of all time.
I took this same confidence to one of the first physical training events. The platoon commander led us on a familiarization run where he would show us the trails we’d be training on–a perfect opportunity to show off my impeccable, newly found running skills.
The run started off at a brisk pace, but not too fast or unbearable. After about ten minutes, I started to think, “man you are really prepared! This can’t be what all those people were whining about on YouTube.” Soon after, we started to encounter a few hills–nothing extreme but enough to fire up the quadriceps, calf muscles, and glutes. Then we approached what appeared to be a mountain. Uh oh, I didn’t see that coming. The platoon commander paused at the bottom and said, “this is Da Nang Hill. Let’s go.”
Da Nang Hill
We started a slower pace up this “hill.” I put my head down to watch only the feet of the person in front of me. If they slowed down, I would run around them. Pretty soon I found myself looking at my platoon commander’s heels. I kept pushing; although, I was winded and my legs were on fire. “Don’t look weak in front of these folks. This is what you trained for,” I thought. After running for what felt like forever, I felt it was time to look up to check progress. I immediately got excited after a quick glance. “We’re almost there! Keep pushing yourself!” I whispered to myself. At least I think it was a whisper.
“A few more steps, and we are at the t…” My thoughts were interrupted. I learned my first lesson about running mountainous trails–or “hilly trails” as these new psychos called it–false peaks are real! The trail turned and continued to elevate at what I thought was the summit! I felt like someone hopped out of the brush and smacked me in the chest with a fifty pound sandbag. Then I noticed the platoon commander’s heels were getting further and further away from me. A few seconds later, a couple more heels pass by. Then a couple more. That’s when it hit me, “you’re walking!”
My embarrassment engulfed me. I couldn’t believe that I broke my one rule: don’t walk. I wanted to start running again, but my legs were sending a clear message back to my brain that sounded like, “pssh. Yeah right!” When we made it to the top, I was once again leading the back third. This time, I learned the name of the motley crew I was leading–the stragglers. I was embarrassed, physically tired, and deflated. Although I had made it to the top of Da Nang Hill, I was in an emotional valley.
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
Jeremiah 29:11 ESV
As I reflect on that story, I realize there are so many parallels to life. We prepare, affirm ourselves, set boundaries, and chase after our eternal purpose only to be met by what appears to be a repetitive cycle of rolling hills and false peaks. Regardless of what we have accomplished and our acceptance that God has great plans for our future, we find ourselves discouraged and doubtful of our worth and purpose.
First of all, it’s ok to feel doubt. There are numerous examples of great leaders in the Bible who felt doubt–from Moses to Ruth to the Son of God himself. Each of those moments were profound, and you can easily find countless sermons about their most prolific moments of doubt. However, each of those biblical leaders had one thing in common; they realized that God exists in the past, present, and future outside of our natural timeline…and so should we.
The Eternal Perspective
He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.
Ecclesiastes 3:11 ESV
I admit, this sounds a bit Star Trek-ish or like something you’d hear from the infamous villain Thanos. This is where our natural understanding falls short and our faith begins. This is why we accept many scientific discoveries as theories instead of fact. Even one of the most notorious scientists ever–Albert Einstein–believed the universe is infinite and that there is an indefinitely superior God. Where we differ is in our belief that the infinite (past, present, and future) God created each of us and placed an eternal purpose in our hearts.
I believe the more we grow our relationship with God, the more we grow beyond our natural limitations so we can see the world from His point of view. I was able to overcome my Da Nang Hill experience–and several other emotional valleys–by realizing that though the setbacks hurt in the moment, they had very little to do with my immediate purpose which was to graduate OCS and they gave credence to my eternal purpose which is to inspire others to overcome their own emotional valleys and pursue their purpose.
As I was writing this, I received a call from a young lady who was distraught. She was conflicted about receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, and after her religious exemption request and subsequent appeal were both denied, she was faced with being separated from the military. She was having her own proverbial Da Nang Hill experience–she felt she was being punished for standing up for what she believed to be right. What’s worse is she would have to face her colleagues who watched her “lose” her fight.
For privacy, I will not discuss any more of her details, but I will share the advice I gave her. I started by reaffirming that I believe we follow orders unless they are unethical, immoral, or illegal, something she already knew. But then, I shared my personal belief and explained how I make decisions:
I pray to ensure my decision is in line with my personal relationship with and belief in God.
I examine how this decision–no matter how small–aligns with my eternal purpose and reason for being on this earth.
I replay numbers 1 and 2 in my mind when facing people who mock or disagree with my decision. I realize that a vast majority of the people we encounter are an extremely small part of our lives. We will never see some people again. So I choose to remain focused on the things that matter and the people who help push me towards my purpose.
In the end, I love to leave people like this young lady with one of my favorite scriptures:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.
Hebrews 12:1 NLT
Stay focused my friends! You will make it through your “Da Nang Hill” experience and come out more refined than before as you live out your God-given purpose.
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!
I love joining different platforms to discuss mental health! That’s why I am excited to share my latest conversation with a hypnotherapist, Ashlee, and Sandra at Black Connections! In the first hour, Ashlee and I covered various topics from our unique perspectives to include mental health challenges in the military, proven strategies in hypnotherapy, masculinity and trapped emotions, and more!
We thought we were done!
As Ashlee and I were wrapping up the first hour (planned), Sandra began to provide new perspectives including the struggles returning citizens face adjusting to life after prison, childhood molestation, children in the foster care system, and more! The unplanned second hour became an hour of release, hope, and encouragement! Check it our for yourself.
19 “Mile Markers” to develop your financial management skills and set you on a journey towards financial success.
The road to financial success is always a hot topic, but around this time of year, we tend to throw out any trace of actually managing our finances. I mean really, it is such a thrill to find a good sale, right?!
Yep, it is all fun until we blow a proverbial tire (i.e. we run out of money before we run out of bills). That’s usually when reality sets in.
Some of us have no problem avoiding sales because we hate large crowds, standing in line, keeping up with the latest trends, or spending money in general… But then here comes this old crazy lady named “Sallie Mae” who just wants to rob us blind for trying to better ourselves. Trust me–been there, done that, paid enough for thousands of t-shirts but ol’ Sallie never sent me one.
I’ve got news for you: there is hope! My brother–Dr. Clement Ogunyemi aka “The Finance Doctor”– and I are going to give you some tips that will put you well on your way towards achieving financial success. Just think of us as your friendly roadside assistance technicians. We are going to help you change that blown tire and navigate towards a bright financial future! And get this, none of this is a secret. Many people (myself included) have embarked on this challenging but exciting journey and have come out better. Share this article with everyone you know, and let’s journey towards financial success together!
Roads are a record of those who have gone before.
The 19 Mile Markers
1. Set your goals!
Make a plan, stick to the plan, always deliver!
We must begin by writing down clear individual and family (as required) financial goals. Use this 4-point inspection to set your goals. Each of your goals should be:
Focused on specific events (e.g. retirement), activities (e.g. travel), and opportunities (e.g. lump sum debt repayment).
Aligned to your values, beliefs, and overall strategy.
Quantifiable–associated with a realistic timeline and your financial situation.
Simple, clear, and concise. Don’t overthink it.
For example: A lot of people say, “I want to be a millionaire!” Sounds great! Us too! But does this pass the 4-point inspection? Not quite. Let’s see if we can fix it.
I will achieve a net worth of at least $1 million by the time I retire in twenty years (focused). I will cut expenses by reducing my restaurant allotment by $100/month, cable subscription (save $125/month), and carpool to work (save ~$60/month on gas) (quantifiable). I will work with my financial planner to add this to my other monthly investments (real estate, brokerage account, etc.) (aligned) to take advantage of compound interest. (Simple, clear, and concise)
Last tip on this point, post your goals in common places. That way everyone in your house can see and believe in the goals. The refrigerator is a great place to post!
2. Develop and maintain a “can do” mentality!
Are you a doer or a don’ter?
Johnny Wu, Pain & Gain
Ok, ok. Enough quotes for today. But seriously, let’s develop “doer” mindsets. Repetition is everything. You are what you tell yourself. So we challenge you to adjust your vocabulary. Stop telling yourself what you cannot do! Instead, tell yourself what you will do. Look in the mirror and affirm you can, you will, and success looks GREAT on you! Eventually, your body language, habits, and work ethic will exude confidence and excellence.
3. You get the first piece of the cake!
Imagine this: you get a freshly baked cake every pay period. As soon as this delicious, savory, warm, sweet-smelling cake comes out of the oven, the entire community shows up at your doorstep to take a piece of the cake that you earned. Being the kind person you are, you let everyone have a piece–often leaving yourself with the crumbs (like the little crumbs that get stuck under your fingernails). Not anymore!
We are applying our favorite birthday rule: you always get the first piece of your cake! So we advise that you pay yourself 10% first. Make this automatic. It’s your money! Let it build your emergency fund. Build that fund to at least $1,000 (goal is 3-6 months of expenses). Then, continue to work this muscle to build your long-term savings/investing.
4. Write down every last one of your expenses!
Divide your expenses into two baskets: essential and non-essential. Within the essential basket, break them down even further into variable and fixed expenses. You are conducting a Sherlock Holmes investigation into [Insert your name here]’s personal finances. We want you to be the best forensic detective ever! Identify where you spend literally every penny (even the ones that fell out of your pocket into the couch). Here are a few more things to think about:
Find out where your money is going.
Learn to what/whom you are dedicating your time and resources (priorities) and what you can potentially cut.
Study your spending habits to understand how all your expenses tie together. You may reveal an ugly truth. (e.g. a $5 value meal may not seem like a lot, but it adds up when you spend that amount three times/day.)
5. Prioritize your expenses and pay them on time. (This is where writing down your expenses comes in handy.)
We are going to state the obvious, essential expenses take priority over non-essential. Every. Single. Time. (e.g. XBox Game Pass does not come before food for the kids.) So make your bill payments automatic. Here are a couple of things to think about:
Check out these four essential “expense tires” that your financial vehicle cannot run without: Food, clothing, shelter, and transportation. Prioritize these above all other expenses.
Live below your means. You cannot live a Boardwalk lifestyle on a Baltic Avenue income. (Yes, that is a monopoly reference.)
6. Develop a budget aka a “monthly spending plan.”
Ok, new assignment. You are now the Chief Financial Officer of [Insert your name here] Inc. Congratulations on the new assignment! 🎉 Your new job is to create a spending plan. Here’s what you must include:
How much money did you bring home? (post tax aka “net income”)
You have already written down expenses. So now, let’s create a “zero-based” budget.
Pay yourself first–How much are you able to set aside each month for your personal savings, emergency savings, kid’s college fund, etc.?
Don’t forget to prioritize those four expense tires (food, shelter, clothing, transportation)
Obliterate debt! (We will talk more about this on Number 14)
It’s ok to put your fun activities into your budget! A budget is not stressful, it is fun.
We will continue to “drive” this point home: You are telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went.
Give! Give! Give! Be charitable. The more you give, the more you receive!
7. Start learning more about your paycheck, benefits, tax status, etc.
This is where a good financial consultant and/or tax accountant comes in handy. A good finance professional will teach you how these things work so you won’t unintentionally give free loans to Uncle Sam (i.e. wait all year for a gigantic tax refund) or owe Uncle Sam a ridiculous amount of money when tax season arrives.
8. Plan ahead for large known expenses!
We’ll give you an example: Christmas is the same time every year. Why does it still come as a surprise to us?? Plan ahead. Save. (maybe catch some items on sale throughout the year). Whatever you do, be ready for known large expenses.
Emergencies happen, but failing to plan for known large expenses is often one of the biggest disruptions on our journey towards financial success.
9. Reconcile your checking account monthly.
You don’t want expenses sneaking out of your account. Reconcile what you spent and when you spent it. For example, I (Olaolu) noticed a $0.99/month payment going to Apple from my account. I did not know what it was for and neither did Apple. This is a small amount, but again, every penny matters when you are doing “zero based” budgeting.
If you are single, have a monthly board meeting with yourself. If not, have a monthly board meeting with your family.
It is ok to talk through what went well and what can be improved.
Here are some [nonconfrontation] questions you can ask: What went well this month? What are areas of opportunity?
10. Learn more about investing.
Again, having a good financial professional is key. Let them teach you the ropes. DIY investing doesn’t often end well.
Do not jump in the deep end of the pool! If you do not understand it, do not invest in it.
Stay away from get-rich-quick investments. It seems like there is a new one every week. Do not fall for it!
Educate yourself so you won’t end up in a situation you cannot easily escape (*cough* Bernie Madoff *cough*).
11. Develop a retirement plan as early as you can.
Time is on your side. The earlier the better. Take advantage of compound interest (aka interest on interest).
Make sure the risks align with your goals. For example, if you plan to retire in five years, you probably should avoid extremely risky investments. Conversely, if you have thirty years until retirement, you may feel more comfortable assuming more risks.
12. Develop a college plan for your children as early as you can.
Despite what we think, not all of our children will get an athletic scholarship. Some [most] of us will have to pay for our children’s education. It would suck if your kids are unable to pursue higher education because you did not prepare. It’s all about planning ahead.
Begin saving as early as possible (preferably 16-18 years but a late start is better than no start)
Plan as if your child will not receive a single scholarship. If they do, you created a substantial nest egg for your child to begin investing. Win-win!
13. Start saving for a down payment towards a home.
Owning your own home is a huge step towards financial success.
Despite what people may tell you, your home can be an asset if done correctly.
Make sure the asset side of the home outweighs the liability side (i.e. it’s worth more than what you owe on it).
A home can be passed down (generational wealth)
You are setting your kids up for success while starting a generational wealth cycle.
14. Become debt free.
Again, we cannot allow the lenders to eat all of our cake! The “Debt snowball” method worked for us, so that is what we recommend! Here is how https://www.ramseysolutions.com/ explains it, “The debt snowball method is a debt-reduction strategy where you pay off debt in order of smallest to largest, gaining momentum as you knock out each remaining balance. When the smallest debt is paid in full, you roll the minimum payment you were making on that debt into the next-smallest debt payment.”
15. Learn all about insurance.
Insurance is a must have. Life, health, home/renters, disability, long-term care, identity theft, and auto insurance are seven of the top must haves! Do your research to find the best price for the best product. Review and update your coverages regularly.
Insurance exists to transfer risk of financial loss from you to the insurance company.
Insurance is like an umbrella–if you don’t have it, you risk getting rained on when the storm comes!
Remember, you are the CFO. You’re in charge of ensuring your company’s financial success.
Imagine you were also the CEO of your company. Would you give your CFO a bonus or would your CFO be collecting unemployment?
18. Develop an estate plan and will!
Another must have. We will all die someday. It is a fact of life. Do not make your family guess your wishes. We must normalize developing and discussing our wishes before we die. Do your best to avoid leaving behind a grieving family that is fighting over assets, money, or your wishes.
19. Have fun on your journey towards financial success!
We know this seems like a lot, but it is not a terrible journey. Is it challenging? Of course! But we were always told that all things in life worth having are challenging. Accept the challenge! Turn on your best perseverance jams! Let’s enjoy this journey to financial success!
Want to learn more about personal finance and/or need a little help on your journey towards financial success? Purchase Dr. Clement Ogunyemi’s book Nine Tenth! Regardless of your religious beliefs, the sound financial principles taught in this book are proven to work! Click here to find out more! Also, you can reach Dr. Clement Ogunyemi on his website: https://www.4qfinancial.com/about/
Meet the Authors (Yep, we are brothers!)
A loving husband, Father, teen mentor, and U.S. Marine Officer, Olaolu Ogunyemi has a deep passion for working with children fueled by an unending supply of energy and imagination! Since he was young, Olaolu has been nicknamed the “life of the party” because he pours his exuberant personality into everything he does. As the fifth of six children, he is intimately familiar with the bond that is forged during quality story time; thus, Olaolu was inspired to start writing children’s stories to help create loving and memorable family moments.
Olaolu writes and speaks in a simple, easily understandable language, and an entertaining style that keeps families hooked while learning vital lessons about virtues and sparking a continuing conversation.
Olaolu is a frequent traveler and in his free time, he enjoys playing music, exercising, and spending time with his family.
Dr. Clement Ogunyemi aka “The Finance Doctor” is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of 4Q Financial Management LLC. The company assists clients in maximizing their wealth and reducing taxes. Some of its most popular services include Financial Management, Financial Education, and Tax Planning. Clients of all kinds are accepted. 4Q Financial’s offices are located in Northwest Arkansas where they have developed a remarkably positive reputation working with the local community.
Dr. Ogunyemi has been a finance professional for nearly a decade, with the scope of his work ranging from investmentbanking with Morgan Stanley to managing funds of the world’s largest and most profitable retailer, Walmart.
Dr. Ogunyemi holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Management, Masters of Business Administration with a concentration in Corporate Finance, and a Doctor of Business Administration with a concentration in Finance.
More about The Finance Doctor
Through his experience, he has learned the importance of sound budgeting and spending. He is currently a Chief Financial Officer Consultant for several organizations and serves as a finance chair for several non-profit organizations.
His doctoral study centers around the importance and impact of financial literacy programs on an individual’s financial decision making.
A frequent traveler and entrepreneur, he enjoys working out and spending time with his beautiful fiancé, two sons, and his dog.
Readers’ Favorite is one of the largest book review and award contest sites on the Internet. They have earned the respect of renowned publishers like Random House, Simon & Schuster, and Harper Collins, and have received the “Best Websites for Authors” and “Honoring Excellence” awards from the Association of Independent Authors. They are also fully accredited by the BBB (A+ rating), which is a rarity among Book Review and Book Award Contest companies.
“Reviewed By Asher Syed for Readers’ Favorite Crow From the Shadow, written by Olaolu Ogunyemi and illustrated by Joshua Ogunyemi, is the first book in the Parent-Child-Connect (P2C) picture book series. The book begins by introducing the reader to Crow, a young narrator who says he’s from The Shadow, following this by stating that The Shadow could be anything. It controls every aspect of Crow’s life and sets restrictive parameters of what he can and cannot do. Crow tells us what his own preference is with what he wears, how he performs at school, and the places he likes to visit. Each is pushed aside by The Shadow’s instruction that Crow feels obliged to follow. As the story progresses, Crow describes isolation and the destruction of motivation, dreams, and all other positives in his life. It is only when Crow comes out from under The Shadow that we see what life is like in the sunlight.
Woah! Crow From the Shadow is nothing at all like the other children’s books I’ve been reading for a while, and completely realigned my barometer on what a fantastic piece of kid-lit truly is. And what is it? It’s this and whatever else Olaolu Ogunyemi creates like this. The first thing that leaps out from the start is that this book is cool. Really cool. Not a word that can be associated with most children’s picture books but decidedly appropriate here. The way Crow talks and the way he describes what is going down in his world is profoundly honest, and Crow looks like the kind of bird you want to be friends with. He’s in a hoodie. He speaks like he’s straight out of an indie film and sort of resembles Spy from the 80s comic strip, if Spy was cool. Joshua Ogunyemi is the artist who breathes life into Olaolu’s words, sticking to a dark palette initially but slowly moving toward color as Crow starts making decisions for himself. I love this book and would give it a whole bucket of stars if I could.”
“Reviewed By Emily-Jane Hills Orford for Readers’ Favorite
Horace is a horsefly and he’s not feeling very well. But he still wants to greet his friends: the horse, the cow, the bird, the duck, and so many others. He likes to listen to the sounds each animal makes, like the ‘moo’ of the cow and the ‘neigh’ of the horse. Feeling weak, Horace asks the young reader to take him to visit with his friends. And, when he returns, Horace finds Mama Bug making something to help him feel better, as all mothers love to do.
Olaolu Ogunyemi’s picture book story, Horace the Horsefly, is a sweet story with an unusual protagonist: a horsefly named Horace. Horseflies are not usually everyone’s favorite living creature, but Horace definitely puts the charm on as he leads us around the farm to greet all his friends. Told in lyrical rhyming verse and accompanied by bright, colorful illustrations, this story teaches young readers about animals and the sounds they make. Using simple language, the author is also encouraging youngsters to recognize more words, especially the many uses of onomatopoeia, like ‘moo’ and ‘neigh.’ By repeating many of the words, the young reader will start to recognize the repeated words easily. This builds a reading vocabulary and confidence in reading on their own. As well as teaching them about animals and their sounds, the author is teaching young readers the importance of friendship and love, especially the love shared between a parent and a child. And what’s best? Even though Horace isn’t feeling well, he still has a warm smile for all his friends.”
Now for the bonus Quick Parent Tip: How to teach children to give.
Throughout the year, my wife and I do our best to teach our children the importance of giving. However, we really emphasize giving this time of year simply because a lot of people are in “receive” mode. In other words, our children are expecting to get, get, get. So we figured we should challenge the norm and emphasize giving; embracing the old phrase, “’tis the season of giving!” Here’s a few things we learned along the way (acronym- G.I.F.T.):
Give. This one seems pretty obvious, but it is a challenge nonetheless. Why? Because we all have great intentions on teaching our children how to give, but sometimes we forget to be transparent with our giving… Or we forget to give at all. I encourage you to be transparent when you generously give your time, talent, and money. Of course we are not doing this to brag but to show our children what generosity looks like.
Invite. Invite your children to join you when you give. For example this year my family and I are working with our church (Mount Ararat Church in Stafford, Virginia) to pack shoeboxes of gifts in support of Operation Christmas Child! My children are packing gifts they would enjoy and writing a letter to a child they do not know in hopes that they will bring joy to that child’s life.
Forgive. This is an odd one to mention when discussing generous giving. Yet, here I am mentioning it. By openly forgiving others, our children can see that we have a heart for people. At its core, forgiveness is the ultimate act of giving someone something whether we believe they deserve it or not. So let your children see your kindness as you forgive others.
Teach. This is arguably the most important step. Teach your children why giving is important. Make the topic relatable so it becomes less of just an annual tradition and more of a character trait. Ultimately, we want our children to be considered givers; thus, we must encourage them to give often, willingly, and without prompt.
I will leave you with this quote by Kathy Calvin:
Giving is not just about making a donation. It is about making a difference.
It’s official! I promised my team I’d release at least two books in 2021. The next one is for my little readers (ages 2-5). Available now on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, Kobo… You name it! *Shirley Caesar voice*🎤
More praise for “Horace the Horsefly”:”By repeating many of the words, the young reader will start to recognize the repeated words easily. This builds a reading vocabulary and confidence in reading on their own. As well as teaching them about animals and their sounds, the author is teaching young readers the importance of friendship and love, especially the love shared between a parent and a child.” -Readers’ Favorite
“As an educator and reading specialist, I appreciate the vibrant and engaging colors that are perfect for keeping the attention of young readers. This story does a great job of introducing children to various animals and the sounds they make. Children will enjoy identifying each animal and mimicking the sounds, perfect for language development. There are also many sight words throughout the story, which is an excellent way to help young children learn and apply the words. The repetitive pattern is predictable enough for little ones to follow and become comfortable with, this also helps build strong reading skills.”