Living Your Best Life – Be Fully Present

A smart professional will never underestimate the value of skills that do not require an advanced degree – availability, accountability, and reliability. Trust, these key attributes only demand effort, determination, and integrity. It is the steadfast commitment to being a dependable and trusted source; fully present in the moment with a personal charge of delivering the best version of yourself.

Living Your Best Life – Unexpected Joy

GiftsIt would be an immense understatement if I said last year was painfully challenging. Consumed with anxiety and stress; personal victories were attained by simply making it through a day with a shred of sanity intact. True to form, life is predictably unpredictable, and sometimes leaning heavily into faith is the only recourse – even when said faith is terribly shaken. Nevertheless, I am grateful for the quality of life that has been afforded to me through grace and mercy. I am exceedingly thankful that my family has been able to endure the pandemic absent severe sickness or death.

Now, it would be disingenuous to suggest that faith alone solved all my tribulations. And for all intents and purposes, I am a practical man that favors tangible and actionable solutions. Over the course of the year, I was able to find sanctuary within a myriad of activities that were enjoyable. And as the year winded down, the holiday season presented an unexpected opportunity for a constructive distraction to assuage the discomfort in my spirit and mind.

That distraction arrived in the form of wrapping Christmas gifts. Due to my slight habit of being obsessive compulsive, I discovered myself diving into YouTube tutorials featuring the art of gift wrapping. Instagram and Pinterest became familiar destinations to extract visual inspiration. Big box locations such as Michaels and Target stocked the necessary supplies to transform imagination into reality. If but for brief moments of solitude, I was able to glean a piece of happiness through the coordination of design, color, and material. It was especially satisfying to present a beautiful array of gifts under the tree to my children. One of the greatest joys of fatherhood is being able to provide happiness to your children. So, whenever or wherever you might discover some unexpected joy in life; ensure that you grant the requisite time to absorb and appreciate every second of it.

The Standard #58

Clouds

To be absolutely clear, a hardworking gentleman understands the meaning and value of his tireless labor. And to be absolutely sure, the reality of fatherhood only heightens said understanding. Trust, this gentleman maintains a deep, fundamental comprehension of provision and the significance of being a contributor. And so, when seasons of life are absent peace or joy – perhaps both; it is not uncommon for him to lean heavily into his work; a passionate attempt to seek refuge and fulfillment by claiming, reasserting his own value to himself. Work is transformed into an instrument that exerts authority over one’s mental and emotional well-being. It is a blunt tool utilized to manage anxiety, stress, insecurity, and pain. He accepts the incredible burden of arduous work to unburden himself of heavier burdens – both emotional and mental. However, whatever accomplishments that are attained, the satisfaction is never truly satisfying. Frantic attempts for relief only lead deeper into work. The wise gentleman must conclude that work does not inherently grant him value. Rather, it is he that affords value to his work, to his friends, to his family, and to himself. So, if no one tells you today (and demonstrate through their actions); I am here to convey on behalf of countless gentlemen such as yourself; you are recognized, appreciated, respected, and loved.

Living Your Best Life – Fulfillment

As an engaged father, being an active participant in your child’s life is one of the most rewarding experiences you will ever have as a parent. As you nurture their burgeoning self-esteem and champion varying accomplishments; their achievements will reinforce one of the most important components in a gentleman’s life – purpose. To be sure, acceptance of idle fatherhood is to deny one’s principal role as a father. Passionately embrace your purpose, and the joyful fulfillment you feel will further drive the best in you.

The Standard #51

To be sure, the thoughtful gentleman understands that every moment of significance carries meaning. Moments matter. This is especially true for the gentleman that has embarked upon the journey of fatherhood. Understandably, the journey is an arduous one, replete with important occasions that beg the focused attention and participation of a father. This is non-negotiable. Hopefully, this active role fosters an intimate relationship between father and child grounded in an appreciation and love exclusive to both involved parties. For example, approximately three years ago, my daughter was experiencing respiratory distress that prompted an expeditious visit to the emergency room. My wife needed to be home with our newborn son since, ironically, a hospital isn’t the best spot for a newborn outside of the initial birth. So I stayed with my daughter through a series of evaluations and treatments until she was discharged.

During the entirety of the event, I provided a calming and reassuring presence for her, as you can expect the circumstances would be quite frightening to a two-year-old. Now, some may think it odd, but I took pictures and videos during our stay in the hospital. I wanted to capture this moment in time; this moment that further strengthened our bond as father and daughter. To her, I was her protector – a source of depended comfort and safety. To me, she was my ward – simply my little baby girl. I had to be there for her. And every now and again – three years later – I still look at pictures and videos from those days we shared together. And upon viewing them, the emotions from that day come flooding back – in a positive way. Despite the circumstances, I cherish that time we shared together.

Now, I don’t assert that a father and child need to experience an extreme event to form a healthy, caring connection. However, I am asserting that a father should never shy away from moments with his kid(s), no matter how large or small. And he should embrace opportunity fully and make the most of it. Sure, a gentleman probably won’t engage in every waking event, but an honest effort is definitely demanded. There possibly can be a myriad of chances at a gentleman’s disposal: attending a recital, helping with homework, attending children’s school events, etc. Do not be mistaken, inaction is actually a conscious action. Gentlemen, as fathers, ensure the present-day with your kids isn’t a missed opportunity that becomes a distant past that you regret in the future. Make the most of your moments now!

Living Your Best Life – Forgiveness

Forgiveness is not necessarily intended for the individual that inflicted pain upon you. Rather, forgiveness is freeing oneself from the bondage of grief, hate, and vengeance. Forgiveness is an arduous exercise of affording deserved peace and order to one’s spirit. Forgiveness is moving forward untethered to suffering and pain.

The Standard #57

To be absolutely certain, with the steady passage of time, a gentleman will experience quiet periods of emotional and mental fatigue. His spirit will be disquieted. His mood will be wrought with irregular swings of melancholy and anxiety. Desperately he attempts to summon the requisite energy necessary for addressing the everyday grind of life. And to be sure, without a doubt, life will present an array of adversity that will whittle away your spirit – if allowed. Please understand, you do not exist on an island despite your current circumstances appearing that way. Trust and believe, your current tribulations are another individual’s testimony. You will make it through your time of distress. Because, despite what feels insurmountable, you possess the resolute will and strength to prevail.

Romans 8:28 states, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him; who have been called according to his purpose.” All things – even the most painful ones. And so, faith must dictate that even the most distressing circumstances must be molded to achieve a greater good aligned with His word. I won’t lie to you; it is challenging and I struggle daily. Nevertheless, today, I encourage and challenge you to seek assistance from professionals that are trained to address mental wellness. If you are reading this and you feel trapped in an uncomfortable mental, emotional space; I am with you. If you notice, I have not posted material here since November 2020. We all find ourselves in a rut. I am not immune. However, every earnest attempt must be made to escape the seemingly perpetual prison of pain that binds us. And escape we will – together.

The Standard #56

To be absolutely clear, representation is vitally important to a population of people conditioned to marginalization and abandonment. Trust, one must not underestimate the weighty emotional and psychological impact that representation achieves. The visual affirmation symbolizes the audacity of possibility; it molds and breathes life into unbounded imagination. The reflection of greatness can sow seeds of future greatness. And as pride fills long neglected spaces belonging to confidence and self-esteem; the resulting inspiration fuels the desire to want and become more – more than the forsaken environment that continually threatens to suppress and suffocate the life of aspirational dreams. Symbols matter. Role models matter. Representation matters. And so I state to you, no matter how big or small, it is incumbent that you be what the youth need to see. Your life, your testimony can unbind restraints that shackle the potential success and achievement.

 

Standard #29

Humility. The act of possessing a modest opinion of one’s importance, understanding the complex context of life, and respecting the reality that other individuals may be better at some things than you. Gentlemen, please don’t be mislead by the boisterous musings of silly folk; so enamored by their own greatness that they cannot recognize their own shortcomings. Sometimes a man must recognize his faults and limitations. There is no shame in that. One must understand that embracing humility does not make a gentleman weak, actually, humility strengthens you. It keeps you grounded. It keeps you focused – on the important things in life.

It is brazen arrogance that renders a gentleman vulnerable. Trust this: Keep living and life will eventually happen to you. And life can be the greatest administrator of humility. Recognize your position in life, and even if your station ranks well above others, discipline yourself in humility, as the folly of vanity can ultimately become your undoing. You don’t want to discover this bit of wisdom the hard way, but I am sure that you won’t. Maintain the standard my friends; catch you later.

Black Thought

“We cannot have perfection. We have few saints. But we must have honest men or we die. We must have unselfish, far-seeing leadership or we fail.”

– W.E.B. DuBois

These words were spoken so many decades ago. Nevertheless, these wise words ring with an unmistakable truth and resounding clarity today. Because, unfortunately in these turbulent times, the scarcity of leadership is at once hopelessly disappointing and terribly frightening. At its core, leadership demands honest, decisive action in the service and best interests of a people. The naked, bombastic machismo we witness today – delivered with unflinching dishonest selfishness – fosters a maddening, toxic environment with aimless direction. Today, we stand shakily on the precipice of outright moral anarchy. To be sure, the fallibility of man is an unavoidable consequence of being human. No one can escape being marked with some form of moral blemish. Nevertheless, conscientious ignorance emboldened with manipulative deceit is an enthusiastic embrace of corruption. Leadership begs transparent forthrightness based upon principles and honesty. A leader comprehends and differentiates between right and wrong. His actions are guided by truth, justice, integrity, empathy, and humility. A leader empowers others. A leader communicates clearly and directly. A leader practices gratitude. Certainly we need more leaders today. Time to step up.

The Standard #55

The current national climate of uncertainty has undoubtedly reinforced an absolute certainty; power openly divulges intimate details of an individual’s character through a stark magnification of personal attributes. Power is influence and authority. Power absent good ethics and accountability will most certainly lead to unfortunate, perhaps even dangerous consequences. Furnished with said power; how does a man commence to abuse it? The answer begs an exploration of a man’s origins. What becomes of a child not reared to become a man?

Skillfully schooled to subjugate with a superficial sense of superiority and supremacy; relieved of responsibility and rectitude. Insulated from individual ineptitude and inadequacy; absolved of arrogance and amorality. Deprived of necessary growth and development opportunities, this child physically matures as an adult but lacks the emotional and mental intelligence to function as one. It is the making of mock manhood molded in magnificent mediocrity and manufactured masculinity. What becomes of a child not reared to become a man, yet now is imbued with power?

What stands is a man that abdicates any modicum of morality, decency, responsibility, and empathy. He consistently constructs imaginary slights as motivation to humiliate and demean individuals. He accumulates and consolidates power for selfish benefit and gain. Yet shrouded beneath a flimsy veneer of authority is a gross overestimation of ability and overcompensation of might to mask his own deficiencies. Isolated within a self-imposed power vacuum, he gradually suffocates from the lack of respect, love, and confidence. Thrashing about, starved of those key human necessities, he hurts people either directly or indirectly.

And so I say to the audience, to those of us still grounded with integrity, righteousness and dignity: We must use our platform, our voice, our power to speak against such dangers to society. Such naked displays of corrupt power must be fervently opposed and defeated –  for our collective humanity demands it. It cries out for it. Corrupt power cannot be rewarded with indifference or silence because that is tantamount to complicity. Do not be complicit in your society’s demise. I implore you to embrace the mantle of righteous leadership in a time where there are far too many voids. Righteous leadership begs the ability to appeal to the intelligence, emotion and resolve of people – absent manipulative agitation and fear. So, what becomes of a child properly reared through adolescence to adulthood? Hopefully, they become the person I am speaking to now. Rise up!

The Standard #31

It is wise for a gentleman to avoid an ascension that leaves him amongst mountains of hubris; an ascension that betrays his remembrance of the ever distant valleys beneath his feet. Gentlemen, be not thoughtlessly mistaken, your climb towards success does not preclude the possibility of an agonizing fall. Depending upon the heights that one rises, arrogance may silently corrupt your character, and thus the descent could be resolutely sharp, steep and abrupt. This is not to say that a gentleman should not achieve or strive for the greatest heights of success or prosperity. To be certain, a gentleman can certainly ride amongst the highest clouds of accomplishment, and yet remain grounded in modesty and humility. It is the appreciation of the valleys that makes the view from above that much more beautiful. It is the appreciation of the valleys that assuage any fear of falling. Because, if a gentleman so finds himself in the midst of a certain plunge, his spirit is steeled with the knowledge that he will rise again. Conversely, a successful gentleman may never experience any affecting gravity upon his achievements. Nonetheless, the underlying message is consistent – never lose sight of your origins and appreciate the valleys of one’s life that have transformed into triumph. And if you are not there yet, don’t worry, you will be. See you at the top.

Daddy Diary – Ghosts of Christmas Past – How My Children Restored My Joy For the Holidays

I suspect that many family holiday gatherings – much like my own – center around a primary figure that shoulders the responsibility of bringing everyone together. My grandmother bore the responsibility for being that central, primary figure. And for the many years that encompassed my childhood and early adult years; 8882 Kimberly Court Detroit, Michigan 48204 was the hub for food, laughter, and overall joyous times. However, just a few months before I married my wife, that tradition ceased with the passing of our matriarch. She died, and in many respects so did my holiday spirit – especially during the Christmas season. Fractured; segments of my family splintered and celebrated the holidays with their own loved ones at various locales. We ceased to celebrate as one big family. And I fully understand what the real meaning of Christmas should be (as a matter of religious belief), but it is extremely difficult to divorce oneself from familial love and tradition. Sure, I participated in a superficial celebration of the holiday, nevertheless, I was helplessly ambivalent.

Approximately seven years after my grandmother’s passing, my daughter Ava was born. Two years thereafter my son Miles was born. As many parents can attest, the arrival of children marks a decided shift from yourself to little beings that are solely dependent upon you. And so, gradually throughout their young years, my attitude towards the holiday season began to positively change. In many ways, the death of my grandmother was the end of the first act of my young life. The second act was tough. The complexity of life will always offer varying degrees of adversity, but the struggle was about to get real. And life’s problems have a sly way of stripping happiness and joy.

I do not believe one simply moves on from the death of a loved one. No. The steady, deliberate passage time affords the necessary coping skills and rewarding life events to manage grief while building emotional and mental resiliency. The birth of my children was a blessing to both my mental and emotional state during the holidays. I am reminded of innocence. I am reminded of happiness absent preconditions. I am reminded of a wonderful ignorance of the grim realities of the world. And yes, my children love Santa Claus, Rudolph, Frosty, and even the Grinch. Undoubtedly, life awaits them, but for now, I will draw joy from the joy of their childhood. The second act (of my life) was a rough start but was eventually infused with hope. I wish my grandmother was still living to experience life with my children. Unfortunately, we don’t get everything we desire in life because, well, life is life. That part deeply saddens me. However, that sadness is balanced by the sheer joyous pandemonium that is going to ensue Christmas morning with gasps of excitement, flying wrapping paper, and screams of elation. I am a little compulsive, so tonight I will neatly arrange the gifts under the tree before that tornado touches down. I cannot wait. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your families!

Licensed to Ill…Behavior – A Simple Request For a Return to Decency, Manners, & Common Sense

The knowledgeable gentleman comprehends that his image does not begin with how society views him. Rather, the gentleman’s image begins with how he sees himself. He alone determines and dictates the manner in which he is presented to the world. Now, the first few sentences of this post may sound familiar because I penned those words back in 2013 as I was creating my ongoing Standard posts. It amazes me as those words are still true today. Image does matter. Image is sometimes dictated by personal behavior and choices. Now, I wholeheartedly admit that although I identify mostly as a liberal, I still maintain moderate views. That being said, I believe that as a collective, we must champion a standard of self-respect, dignity, and class. This is not sanctimony. This is not respectability politics; it is just plain respectability for oneself. Now, it has been approximately 25 years since I graduated high school, and in just a little over two decades, the cultural shift in principles and decency has been dramatic.

Perhaps it feels dramatic because I am older and this generation’s views regarding manners differ from my own. And perhaps being a father now has aged my way of thinking. However, shouldn’t certain standards be timeless? Can we all agree – using some honest common sense – that all behavior is not created equal? Some conduct is simply ill-mannered and disagreeable. Carrying oneself as a gentleman or as a lady should transcend generations. Yet, some individuals in our more famous population are absolved of any unseemly conduct that a normal person would be roundly criticized. Nevertheless, it feels as if more credence has been afforded some celebrities that don’t represent the best behavior that society has to offer. I fully understand that a celebrity represents a brand not necessarily intended to be a role model. Nonetheless, especially in this day and age, brands are built off a devout following.

Perched upon a pedestal that is supported by unwavering, unbiased devotion; celebrity should not inoculate an individual against a critique of ill behavior. To be sure, power and purpose are pillars of a prominent person’s platform. So there has to be some level of responsibility. Because, when your favorite personality (actor, politician, singer, etc.) is promoting crude behavior, please understand said behavior does not translate seamlessly to every aspect of life. Work. School. Home. There are a lot of impressionable people that emulate what they mistakenly deem as acceptable. Sadly, I feel that my fellow people of color are so angry and determined for representation, they accept the unacceptable and don’t object to the objectionable. So my responsibility as a parent, mentor, and leader is separating fantasy from reality for those that may have challenges discerning between the two. Call me a square, but I would not condone my daughter describing herself as a bad b*tch and showing all her business. Nor would I condone my son sagging his pants and describing himself as a thug n*gga. And this would include any other behavior that would otherwise be considered unbecoming, untoward, unethical, and unnecessary. We have to do better. We have to do better together.

The Standard #48

With absolute certainty, the mantle of leadership demands fidelity to integrity, responsibility, wisdom, and truth. Leadership is an exhausting exercise in guiding others, often thankless, yet undoubtedly needed. It requires a steadfast commitment to exemplifying a righteous standard, a model for all to glean its best virtues. However, do not be mistaken, a person charged with the supervision of others may not necessarily retain the aforementioned leadership prerequisites. Trust, regardless of an individual’s station in life, or designation of a title, everyone is not suited to be a leader. Someone that disseminates disinformation and displays a craven hunger for chaos cannot be considered a true leader. A leader’s actions are dictated not by what is popular, rather, a gentleman’s actions are guided by what is just, reasonable, and logical. In the midst of tumult and tribulation, a leader exudes calm and steadiness. Typified by cohesive communication and unambiguous direction, the servant leader is driven not by emotion. Ideally, he embraces a pragmatic approach based on informed, selfless decision-making in the service of others. He recognizes personal faults; and exhibits a willingness to improve, learn, and mature. His mind is open to differing ideology and thought; always ready to compromise on points that are sensible and rational, as serving others is never lost in his actions.

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