Twenty-three things I’ve learned in my 30s

June 22, 2012

1.) Despite the staggering statistics, opinion leaders and national media will not place the dropout crisis or murder rate high on their agenda. Better to spend money on education than jails, I say.

2.)  At times, silence can resonate louder than words.

3.)  Mentors really, really matter.

4.)  Love is powerful.

5.)  The music I enjoyed in my teens, I still enjoy today. And now I even enjoy music from my parents era.

6.)  Not everybody likes to see people, especially peers, become successful.

7.)  Healthy diet, hydration, and adequate rest are important to reducing stress and boosting mental acuity.

8.) Whoever said, “Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me” probably just hasn’t lived long enough.  Harsh words from loved ones can leave deep scars.  But, alas, the old adage, “Time heals all wounds” is still true.  Or is it?

9.) Good photographers are born that way. They can just anticipate action and see the shot. But, everyone can take good photos if they simply learn how to use their camera settings and understand the basic principles of photography.

10.) Thank you cards mean a lot.

11.) Parents mean well but you can’t always live out their every dream.

12.) Skill-based volunteering is a great use of time and is invaluable to non-profits and young people.

13.) There is good in some of life’s most challenging situations. It might just take a while to see it.

14.) Senior leaders are typically avid readers.

15.) People across the world have much, much more in common than differences.

16.) The New Testament has great guidance for how to live and treat others.

17.) Quiet time is good for self-reflection.

18.) Be wary of people who always want to take shortcuts in life.

19.) Everything I’d want to watch on TV, I can see with basic cable.

20.) True beauty comes from within and radiates outwards.

21.) Bureaucracy can stifle innovation.

22.) Military officer talent must be cultivated and managed.

23.) The NCAA’s BCS championship needs to be scrapped. Also, athletes should get  a small stipend.

I could go on…but I’ll stop now.

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and not necessarily those of the Army or Defense Department.

A true “where were you when…” moment

June 4, 2008

January 28, 1986:  Space Shuttle Challenger crash (Sitting in front of the television; in sixth grade)

January 17, 1991:  Beginning of Operation Desert Storm (Sitting in 10th Grade English class watching Channel One and was penpals with a Soldier deployed to Saudi Arabia)

September 7, 1996:  Tupac Shakur shot in Las Vegas (Sitting at my BOQ watching MTV ***Breaking News*** with Kurt Loder)–BTW, I always believed Tupac is dead

February 10, 2007:  Barack Obama announces his candidacy for President of the United States of America (Sitting at home watching on C-SPAN then drove from Petersburg, VA to Hampton to attend the State of the Black Union)

June 3, 2008:  Barack Obama clinches Democratic Nomination (Standing in a room full Obama supporters in Washington, DC–listening, cheering, hi-fiving)

I wish I could express the internal elation I feel about Barack Obama winning the Democratic nomination for President.  Different than the other “where were you when” moments where I sat back and watched; this time, I actually was able to shape history.  Certainly my role was minor: a donation here, phone call there, knocking on a few doors, and consistentely wearing Obama gear despite the odd looks from classmates during the fall of 2007.  But I know my role was important because “the strength of the pack is not the wolf; the strength of the wolf is in the pack.”

From the outset, Senator Obama acknowledged that his campaign was not about him…instead it was about “us” (American voters).  “…in my heart I know you didn’t come here just for me, you came here because you believe in what this country can be.”

I was fortunate to see Barack Obama, twice in the summer of 2007 at the Essence Music Festival in New Orleans and the National Urban League Conference in St. Louis.  One thing I noticed were Obama volunteers cheering, selling Obama gear, recycled gear, and signing up new supporters at each event.  The media totally missed the groundswell of grassroots for Obama.  (As I reflect, over the past 17 months no one has asked me to support their candidate for president…why?)

Great leaders provide purpose, direction, and motivation.  Despite the haters critics saying, “he’s too young;” “he’s too inexperienced;” “it’s not his turn.”  Senator Obama realized he had to seek the Presidency at this moment to bring about change: 

“I recognize there is a certain presumptuousness – a certain audacity – to this announcement. I know I haven’t spent a lot of time learning the ways of Washington. But I’ve been there long enough to know that the ways of Washington must change.”

Knowing the fight wouldn’t be easy, I knew the best thing I could do was join my candidate in the arena.  It’s too easy to second-guess, ridicule, doubt and follow conventional wisdom.  If one wants anything in life they must work for it.  I, too, wanted change in the culture of Washington.  Therefore, I got off the bench and got in the game guided by my favorite quote from Teddy Roosevelt:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”President Theodore Roosevelt

If you are still reading…as you know, this blog is for my Social Media course and I leave you with a quote from Barack Obama’s announcement speech:  “Let us be the generation that reshapes our economy to compete in the digital age.”

Join me in the Arena.  Forty years from now, when your grandkids ask “where were you when” tell them you were Standing for Change.  Tell them you were Standing with Barack Obama.

***This message complies with Dept. of Defense Joint Ethics Regulations***