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Maximize potential by destroying complacency.: How a “C-” changed my perspective.

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

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

My reaction

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

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

Complacency

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

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

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

My mistakes that led to complacency.

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

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

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

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

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

1. Recognize the signs of complacency.

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

2. Identify purpose.

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

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

3. Develop individualized goals.

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

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

4. Co-develop individualized standards.

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

5. Time and effort.

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

Conclusion.

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

Thanks for reading, and have a great week!

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

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

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

My thoughts on discipline.

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

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

What is “discipline”:

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

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

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

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

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

My counter cultural belief.

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

Discipline is training and preparing, not chastising and punishing.

“But it worked for me!”

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

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

My personal example

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

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

Effective discipline leads to self-discipline.

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

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

How to lead others to develop discipline.

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

1. Set the example!

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

2. It’s a team effort.

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

3. Repetition is key.

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

4. Be consistent and persistent.

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

5. Reward and hold accountable.

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

6. Prioritize education and explain the “why.”

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

Summary.

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

Thanks for reading! Have a great week!

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

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

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

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

What does it mean to be inquisitive?

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

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

Curiosity killed the cat.

A lot of people

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

Why is it important to encourage children to be inquisitive?

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

Curiosity Ignorance killed the cat.

Olaolu Ogunyemi

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

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

Here are a few benefits.

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

So now for the million dollar question:

How do you raise inquisitive children?:

1. Ask questions.

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

2. Give answers based upon fact.

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

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

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

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

Anne Isabella Thackeray Ritchie

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

4. Listen to them and be patient.

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

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

5. Encourage them to ask questions.

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

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

Thanks for reading!

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

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

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

She was right!

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

The “up-and-out” perspective

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

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

Interaction with the down-and-in perspective.

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

Brea Ogunyemi

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

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

The “down-and-in” perspective

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

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

Interaction with the other.

I live in the future!

Olaolu Ogunyemi

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

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

These perspectives are mutually supporting but not mutually exclusive

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

So who are you today?

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

Thanks for reading!

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Establishing Winning Habits

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

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

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

Olaolu Ogunyemi

What are habits?

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

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

You are what you repeat.

Olaolu Ogunyemi

My winning habits principles

1. Winning habits 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:

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

Thanks for reading! Have a great week!

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Chasing purpose is better than chasing success.

Happy Monday folks! As with every move, we find ourselves settling in our new neighborhood and searching for a church home. During our church visit yesterday, the lead pastor at Catalyst Church talked about finding our purpose. His sermon resonated with me and sparked this motivational quote on success:

Chasing success leads to disappointment. Chasing purpose leads to fulfillment.

Olaolu Ogunyemi

Allow me to use this metaphor to explain my thoughts: imagine you are a field goal kicker that your favorite football team recruited to kick long field goals. At practice, your coach pushes you hard to be the best you can be. As a part of his training regimen, he establishes a rule that he will move the field goal post back five yards each week. You attempt several kicks at every practice. After two months, you have found that your kicks have been consistently aligned yet five yards short of the field goal post.

Think about it. You have been extremely disappointed for the last two months if you have been solely focused on successfully kicking the ball through the field goal post. I call this success oriented. However, if you have been focused on your purpose (kicking long field goals), you would be celebrating the fact that you have consistently improved by adding an additional thirty-five yards to your original kick. I call this purpose oriented.

As goes life. We all have a reason for living that is greater than simply existing (purpose), and our daily actions either contribute to or detract from that purpose. We bring unique value and skills to those around us. Therefore, we can choose to obsess over achieving tangible results, or we can gain satisfaction in the daily pursuit of our purpose.

Have a great week!

Author’s note: I want to encourage you to live on purpose (what you do to maintain peak physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health) while pursuing your purpose (your reason for being on this earth). I believe your purpose aligns with what inspires you. As I stated in “How to shift your perspective and live a better life TODAY!,” there are three quick questions to ask yourself to find what inspires you. The intersection of these answers will reveal your inspiration.:

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

Have a long-term focus and celebrate daily progress. You can do it!

Olaolu Ogunyemi: U.S. Marine Officer| Mentor | Best-selling Author
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Embrace where you are!

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:

My old job in Ruston, LA; Wearing my “I determine my own destiny” t-shirt!

Embrace Servitude.

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.

Embrace Humility.

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.

Embrace Forgiveness.

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.

My face when I realized what I did 😂

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

Embrace Sacrifice.

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?

Olaolu Ogunyemi: U.S. Marine Officer | Mentor | Best-selling Author

Check out my blog at https://parent-child-connect.com/blog for more great posts like this!

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Free Download: A journal that will teach people of all ages to overcome adversity and achieve success!

Yep, you read that right! I am giving you a FREE download! No gimmicks. I am just proud to introduce my newest resource, the #defeattheshadow Journal!

#defeattheshadow Journal by Olaolu Ogunyemi

I vaguely define The Shadow as any opposing force that exists to keep us from achieving success. I created this resource to teach people of all ages how to overcome The Shadow! I specifically had parents, teachers, and mentors in mind. Not only can we benefit from these strategies, but we can use these tools to guide our children toward success!