Wednesday, May 27

Success On Main Street?

Who are the most successful people you can think of? Bill Gates? Warren Buffet (before the fourth quarter of 2008)? Oprah Winfrey? LeBron James (not after last night)? Michael Jordan?

I met these two individuals about twenty-some years ago. I came to know them through one of the doctors I was acquainted with at this particular hospital. They were such a kind couple…hugging me upon our first introduction. Initially, I met the woman, and as she spoke to me, I couldn’t help but feel somewhat at ease. I turned shortly after, and he was looking me directly in the eyes as if he knew me…

It’s been a long time since that moment we first met in that hospital room. We’ve had our ups and downs, ins and outs, but I have to credit my parents with the success of bringing me up in a world like we live in today. Where many have died, turned to crime, and have gotten into all types of trouble. There are no golden parachutes. No huge bonuses. No bailouts. No going before Congress for extra means (well, there is, if you want to be technical, but you know what I mean). So, let me ask you again, who are the most successful people you can think of?

Tuesday, May 26

Are the Church and the State....Married?

With what’s been going on in California keeping the issue of same-sex unions in the spotlight, I can’t help but wonder what your thoughts might be on this matter? On one hand, we have a group consisting primarily of Christians, who believe that marriage-an institution sanctified by God-should not be recognized when the united parties are of the same sex. On the other hand, we have two citizens (or residents) who have decided to commit their lives each other, and feel entitled to certain legal benefits to which heterosexual unions are privy.

Now, when it comes to legislation, my understanding is that the law shows (or should show) no bias towards any particular belief system, not excluding Christianity. What seems to be the real issue?.…terminology. I believe the primary concern being put forth by the gay and lesbian community is recognition of their union before the state, not before God. Having decided to commit to each other in the same manner in which a man and woman would, why should a same-sex couple not be entitled to take advantage of tax privileges, sharing benefits at work, and the number of other opportunities straight couples have available? Just because they’ve made a decision that isn't in line with what's mainstream?

Monday, May 25

Could You Please Check Yourself?

I sometimes laugh to myself when I hear people say certain geographical regions are more or less appealing when it comes to available activities. I remember hearing a striking question some time ago, “Are you a thermostat, or a thermometer?” Granted, I’m not saying that a person isn't entitled to prefer one place over another, but instead intend to address that small group of people (and I’m sure none of my readers would be included) who always talk about how their current locations have absolutely nothing to do. REALLY?!!! NOTHING?!!!

I could go to New York, Chicago, or L.A. and find people who are so overcome with activity, they would give just about anything to escape to the slower paced lifestyle of a place like Omaha, Nebraska…and the case could be the same for someone from Omaha going to any major city I could name off the top of my head (although I do understand the likelihood may not be as high…but you get my point, right?). In Conduct of Life, Ralph Waldo Emerson proposes his own thoughts on the subject, with which I, for the most part, tend to agree. “…I observe that men run away to other countries, because they are not good in their own, and run back to their own, because they pass for nothing in the new places.” You can’t run away from yourself, and for all those discontent people out there…wherever you go, there’s always one constant. YOU. So, tell me…are you making life happen, or are you waiting for life to happen to you?

Sunday, May 24

Closer Than a Brother?

“If you give me that piece of candy, I’ll be your best friend!!!” Remember on the playground, when friendship could be bartered for something as simple as the Little Debbie in your lunch? Its funny to think about, but how much has really changed since then? I know quite a few people, but who do I consider to be my real friends? I know some people rank their friends in several categories, but I personally like to include anyone in this group who genuinely has an interest in my well-being (sounds like a broad scope, but its really not). Those who I know when all the cards are down, and I’ve got nothing left, will do whatever they can to encourage, support, and inspire me….and they can expect the same from me.

Much like a number of words in the English language, I think term friend is often thrown around carelessly. I believe friendship is a mutual agreement between two people. In this agreement the two parties have a certain level of respect or esteem for the other individual, and upon that base, the two can share almost anything understanding that the relationship is give and take for both sides…ideas, thoughts, plans, visions, and sometimes even financial means (although that can get sticky at times). As I’ve gotten older my true friends have stepped forward time and time again, and as I go through life I’ve begun to take an occasional inventory to evaluate my relationships. It seems like certain people in my life have filtered out after a season, while others have remained constant. It seems kind hard to put a finger on, but how do you really define a friend? Is it really fair to put friends into different categories? Can I consider someone a friend if the feeling is not mutual?

Saturday, May 23

...And I Still Don't Get It?

“I thought I was the best thing since sliced bread…that was…until she told me I wasn’t. The only person I have to look out for is numero uno…right?!! Very wrong. How did she manage to get all twisted up into my thoughts, my plans, MY LIFE!!! I used to be good, but she makes me wanna be great; and once I hit greatness, I wanna be greater. To call her superwoman would be an understatement. She's just __________ (feel free to fill in the blank with anything you might associate with incredibleness).” -Anonymous

I’m a fairly reasonable person and I think A LOT, but try as I might; I can’t wrap my head around this thing called love. Its mind-bottling (when your thoughts get all bottled up inside your mind)…REALLY! How is it that even the most logical individual can toss their previously mentioned thoughts to the wind, because Mary or Tom makes them feel a certain way. I was talking about a situation with a friend a few days ago. My argument was that if a person knows there is a possibility they could get played, its his or her fault for being there when the inevitable happens. I’m an avid student of history, and I believe it holds valuable insights into the future. Of course, history can’t predict EVERYTHING, but I think you get my point? So, basically, she tells me that when you get emotions involved, reason has very little room to work. And further went on to say that loneliness can drive people to act completely on emotions without concern for the repercussions of their actions. The conversation ended shortly after. But I thought about it. I REALLY thought about it. I digested her words…and she was right. Where would love be if we really thought about all the risks associated with it? If we calculated each action along the way? Would there be less heartbreak? Probably…but at what cost?

Friday, May 22

What's Gonna Happen When They Take Hip Hop Off Life Support?

Maybe I’m a dinosaur? A fossil from a time when music once meant something? It seems like the further we get into the twenty-first century; the more hip hop seems to be deteriorating into something further from what it was meant to be. I understand that these artists (and for some, I use the term extremely loosely) have to eat, so their work also serves as a means to putting food on their table; and I respect that. But who let all these swaggin, dougie-ing, Rick Bobby dancing cats into the game? A great MC is like a rare artifact these days. I know we’ve got Talib Kweli, Wyclef, OutKast, Mos Def, and a few others who have managed to survive this new coming of age, but when they leave…what will be left of hip hop? Will I be forced to listen to classics on my ipod and reminisce upon a time when artists had a first priority to give us a glimpse into their thoughts or experiences, and not jig about how they Superman’d that ho? Will things ever go back to the way they were? Could someone please tell me its gonna get better? Please?

Thursday, May 21

Who's Gonna Come Out On Top?

I absolutely, positively, despise…no, I HATE losing! It leaves a bitter taste in my mouth when I compete against someone and they have the audacity to gloat…IN MY FACE…can you believe that? In MY face!!! Now I have been known to be one to talk a little garbage from time to time, but I don’t talk it unless I can back it up, and nine times out of ten…I can.

A friend of mine recently invited me to play basketball with the team from his job in their league at the YMCA. First of all…I can play ball, but I’ve never claimed to be either Kobe or LeBron. I think we make up a pretty competitive force when all of our individual skills are considered, but we don’t quite gel the way we should. It seems like everyone knows what they do best, but only a few understand that all of us can’t show out at once. We lost on Monday. Although the style of play never changed from how we’d played before (when we were winning). It seems as though a microscope magically came out of the blue, and we began to point out specific areas that needed improvement. I wish I could say it went as smoothly as that last sentence, but it really ended up being a lot of finger pointing (myself included). Maybe we’ll make the necessary changes, maybe we won’t; but that’s the difference between the winners and the frustrated. Winners take the time to go through the piles and piles of tape, and recognize their previous errors. Winners go through the play-by-play and the post-game analysis and find out what they need to do to increase the probability of victory. So, what do I expect you to do? Play more basketball? Watch Kenny Smith, Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley, Chris Webber, and all of them? No…not necessarily. Whatever your doing in life, I don’t think you’re looking forward to losses…but are you preparing yourself to win?

To Study or Not To Study?

I’m thinking about going to grad school. You might be asking, “Who isn’t thinking about going to graduate school in an economy like this?” I’ve been asking myself what is my real motivation for taking on such a possibly tedious (Okay, not possibly, it WILL be tedious…and expensive!!!) venture? Right now it seems as though there has been somewhat of a “flight to safety” for a good amount of the population. I’m all about one furthering his or her education, but at the same time-much like a bachelor’s may not have the same strength it did ten or twenty years ago-be careful what you decide to study when going back. I had toyed with the idea of going directly into grad school after completing my undergraduate studies, but at that point I wasn’t quite ready to take on more school.

I’ve worked. I’ve lived. I’ve learned. And as I’ve matured, I have a hunger for the knowledge that further education will provide. I think we sometimes have a tendency to consider education more as a means to an end, rather than a means to infinity. Learning never ends. I mentioned a couple of days ago how I briefly struggled with my social identity when I lost my job. I think part of the reason why we associate our professions with our identity is because they almost become the foundation for our lifestyle. For example, if I list words like Ferrari, country club, four-story house, nanny, and maid; do you think of a social worker, perhaps a teacher? Of course not!!! And you may even have thought of some faces, as you read those words.
But is a graduate degree going to guarantee any type of financial or monetary gain? No. You’ll just be a better rounded person in the scope of what you studied. As for me, I can live with that. A wise person once told me, “If you do what you love, the money will come,” and I’ve carried his words with me. If grad school is the path to your fulfillment, by all means, go for it…but in times like these, millions are going back to their passions. What are you doing?

Wednesday, May 20

Does It Matter If You're Black or White?

I’ve been working in retail for the past couple of months while on the hunt for a somewhat fulfilling full-time position…but that’s beside the point. I happened to be at the store today, and a certain woman came in. After going through the normal greetings at the cashwrap, I proceeded to complete her transaction. After paying for part her transaction with a gift card, she reached into her purse and pulled out some shiny gold coins. Normally, I would have gladly accepted the coins as tender towards her purchase (the coins are issued by the shopping center), but because of issues with redeeming them at the bank, the store was temporarily not accepting them. In a frustrated tone, the woman asked me if that was the case with all stores in the shopping center, or just ours. I told her I was not aware of what issues other stores might be having, but our store was not accepting them. I contacted a manager (while she was present), and confirmed that our particular store was definitely not accepting that tender. Begrudgingly, she paid for the remainder of her balance with her credit card while she mumbled under her breath that it was a tremendous inconvenience. Before she left the store, she told me that we should put a sign up to let customers know we were not accepting these gold coins, so customers would know before hand. About an hour later, my manager approaches me, and tells me that the manager of the center just contacted him saying that the concierge had a customer complaint from a woman. The woman had told the concierge that a cashier had not accepted her gold coins because she was black. WHAT!!!

I hope this doesn’t say anything about me, but this is not the first time this has happened. I can’t help but wonder, “If I was white, would they have said the same thing?” Do I have an obligation to go out of my way to show every person with brown skin that I see their color? What type of thought process goes into an individual making such a hasty judgment about MY intentions?

Tuesday, May 19

What do you do when life hands you lemons?

It happened on December 4th, 2008. I had gotten into work early that morning, and had a pretty productive call session. I had some pretty significant prospects I was going to be meeting with over the next few weeks, and I was collaborating with various colleagues who would be joining me to go in on these meetings. Anyways, to say the least I went through my day, and felt as though I’d accomplished quite a bit. At about 4:00pm, I noticed one of my colleagues was in our manager’s office. Shortly after, I saw him return to his desk, pick up his cell phone, and then leave the office. I got an email from my manager saying he'd like to meet with me later that afternoon. A few minutes later I closed his office door office behind me, as I felt a huge knot growing in my stomach. I HAD BEEN LAID OFF. After about a year of working for one of the world’s most prestigious financial firms (and three years in the business), I walked out the door of that office; and left the financial service industry.

One question I initially struggled with was what people would think of me? Who am I if I’m not a broker? How do I introduce myself? I’ve come to realize that there is so much more to who I am than the title I carry in my line of work. So, tell me…how did our professions become the definition of who we are as people?

Think like a man?

He says: I’m not looking for a relationship. She hears: ...yet. He says: I like spending time with you. She hears: …but eventually you could be my wife. I am not a player, nor do I have the desire to ever become one. I had an opportunity to speak with several women this weekend regarding Steve Harvey’s book, Act Like a Lady…Think Like a Man. I’ll be picking it up shortly for my own case study, but from what I understand, he breaks down the “complexities” of the male mind for women. As a man, I don’t intend for my words to be interpreted in any other way than how they come out of my mouth. I’ve come to understand that women are not so direct with their speech. It’s almost as though their communication is an experience, versus being merely a means to an end. Women sometimes relate to men with the expectation that men are going to respond to them in the same way they do. So, when a man says I’m not looking for a relationship, but she thinks his behavior is relationship-ish…she may choose to overlook his words and believe that his actions speak louder.

So, where do players fit into to all of this? Time and time again I've come across female "victims." I believe players have an uncanny ability to manipulate; understanding that women are prone to cling to certain words or actions over others. Understanding what a woman wants is not difficult for a man to figure out, because she’ll tell you. But a man may sometimes let a woman fill in the blank with whatever she wants. He might say, “I’m not looking for a serious relationship”…but my guy is spending nights at a time at her house, eating her home cooking, AND taking out the trash. In her mind they may already be acting out what she defines as a serious relationship. Communication is one of the most significant things on which I believe men and women differ. Do women really have to think like men to know what’s really up?

I'm an atheist?

I know spirituality is taboo for some to speak of, but it is such an appropriate topic for discussion. I met two women a while back who both claimed to be atheists. I consider myself to be a pretty spiritual person, so I was especially shocked that two women I met consecutively both placed themselves in that category. After further discussion, I found that one believed in God, but felt no obligation to a particular denomination; while the other believed in a higher power, but did not ascribe the attributes of a particular group to whatever the higher power might be. In either case, both were mistaken in classifying themselves as atheists, but I started to think about the reasoning behind the former.

Now, I'm not a theologian, but as I’ve studied and continued to grow in Christianity, I’ve found more and more freedom outside the box of denominational thinking. It appears that denominations often put the cart before the horse; placing certain conditions on the same plane as what is required to be in the body of Christ. It’s an uncomfortable paradox for one to be expected to conform to the restrictions of someone else’s dictations, as well as God’s. I honestly believe most religions have some element of truth, but no group is absolutely more correct than any other.

So, what about the woman who did not ascribe to God from a Christian perspective? I believe that God is three individuals in one, and the part of Him that moves in our lives today is called the Holy Spirit. Now, from my understanding, if she ever was to make a decision to join the body of Christ, it would be the Holy Spirit who would give her the insight to make that decision; but even more importantly…how much more effective could we as Christians be in showing her what life with Christ is like if we let go of our hang-ups? Imagine how stifled the Spirit feels within the confines of denominations?