A few moments ago I was reviewing my list of students who I had sent “life vests” and “life rafts” to in an effort to save them from themselves.

Let me explain.

Some of my students take on a weighted course load and find it more difficult than they expected to juggle school, work, family, and a social life. This is especially the case if they take a hybrid or online course, and then when you add that the course is with me, the stakes really get high.

Now don’t cringe.

I’m not a mean or difficult instructor. There’s balance with me. I’m firm and assertive yet I’m always open for negotiation. I pour myself into my classes because it is my mission to give my students enough information that becomes applied knowledge, that helps them in school, work, and in life. For me, it’s more than the textbooks that they read. I don’t want them memorizing and regurgitating information. I want to see and hear how they applied what was taught to them. I want to see their growth and help support their academic and professional needs. I want to provide them with as many tools and resources as I can; so yes, I’m extremely engaged in my classes. So no, the course work is not easy. There are no easy-A’s in my class. You will earn whatever grade that you receive.

As I tell my students:

Your grade is your paycheck and your GPA is your credit score“.

As an instructor, I’m also serious about meeting deadlines but I’m flexible in providing extensions to those who get clobbered or blindsided by life. The reality is, we all get clobbered and blindsided from time-to-time.

Someone who hasn’t needs to be studied closely.

How can I make mistakes and forget deadlines, yet punish my team for doing the same? Is that not hypocritical? The “do as I say not as I do” rule that our parents embedded in our minds is why we have as many problems in this world. We all simply wait until we gain the power to enforce that same rule on others. It’s ridiculous.

As a college instructor I run my classrooms much like a business. I inform my students that for the length of the term or semester, they are to conduct themselves as though this is a corporation, they are managers, and I am their senior manager. But as a servant leader, I am not here to bark orders and reign supreme over them; I’m also not here to hold their hands and coddle them. They are not babies or small children.

I am here to serve them, empower them, and help to elevate them to the next level.

I encourage them to respectfully challenge the textbooks and readings, and yes, even me. Their minds will only sharpen with critical thinking and by testing and applying tools and skills that they have acquired. I also make sure to frequently ask for feedback and evaluations on how much they are learning and applying from my classes, as well as how well they believe that I am managing and leading them. I frequently ask them to tell me how I can best support their learning and growth needs.

I try to intervene with students who risk falling below a “C”. I don’t want my students to fail my class. Not because of managerial pressures from the higher-ups. Not because of any of the reasons and excuses that most would assume. I don’t want my students to fail because it means that somehow I failed them. It is my responsibility as their manager-leader to help guide them. Just as I would for an employee that I don’t want to see fired or to watch go through the stages of “burn-out”. If I see “red flags” early enough I can step in and provide guidance as to how my students can improve or how they can withdraw from the class (by deadlines) and take it at a later date when life isn’t clobbering them so hard. Usually one of these two interventions work.

Sometimes it doesn’t.

There are some students who choose the chartered path that they know will lead to failure, and no matter how much I attempt to help them help themselves, they are content to splash around in that ocean while watching the life vest and raft float away.

So today as I reviewed my list of students who continue to drown in this academic ocean, refusing to use either or both the vest and the raft that I threw to them weeks ago, I ran across an old email from a student who is failing one of my classes. Weeks ago this person said that they wanted to do well in my class and that they would improve—they  just needed a strategy to do so. I provided the student with the strategy and the deadline extensions that they needed to meet in order to bring their grade up to a “C” or better.

I’m always aiming for better but I won’t force greatness on anyone who would rather be average or below. Everyone should be free to choose.

Weeks later this student still has not completed the past due work and sadly they haven’t completed any current work, yet they continue to log into the course room–most likely so that their attendance is tracked so they don’t lose financial aid and other benefits. Yes, I have students who are motivated enough to log into class to not lose their financial aid, but they aren’t motivated enough to do the work, to pass the class, to keep their financial aid. It’s a baffling logic that they operate by in their parallel universe.

Okay I should stop with my sarcasm.

There is a portion of my email message that I typed to this student that I truly believe needs to be shared with others, with you. Someone out there needs to read these few lines below, because maybe it will be the added layer that helps to snatch them out of their “funk”, their “brain fog”, their whatever is holding them back and keeping them down.

Or maybe it won’t. But I’m sharing anyway.

…your dreams and goals in life are only achieved through the efforts you make. No one will give you anything of worth simply because you show up. You must put in the work and earn the things that you desire. Those that think that greatness will just magically come to them will always find themselves cast to the side, because greatness requires boldness—it requires commitment and dedication despite and because of the odds. 

You must choose if whether you want to be good, great, average, mediocre, exceptional, or just “blah”. Your actions and efforts will align and reflect accordingly. I believe that you have the potential to be at any level that you set your eyes, mind, and heart to achieve. 

If you aim low then you will always fall below that line. If you aim high and run your well-paced race, you may fall short of the desired point but you landed much higher than if you had aimed low to begin with.

Where are you aiming?

What efforts are you making to get there?

No one can do this for you, only you can!

I hope that my student gets what I was trying to convey in my email. I hope that it helps to snatch them out of their pit and motivates them to run, walk, crawl or even roll to the victory line. They may not cross in first place, but they will cross. Every race we start we’re expected to finish.

Love,

Natasha

Copyright 2018. Natasha Foreman Bryant/Natasha L. Foreman. All Rights Reserved.

A few months ago I was having dinner with a friend of mine and we were talking about working out and getting back in shape. I’ve been like a bad debtor, putting in the work (paying my debt) then stopping and hiding out for weeks and months, and then starting up again.

My consistent pursuit at getting and staying in a healthy zone at a healthy weight, has been something I’ve struggled with for years. It used to be my lifestyle to work out 6-7 days per week. Now those efforts are emotionally-driven, determined by what’s going on in my life. That is a roller coaster ride that won’t have a positive ending if I don’t get out of my head and get back to the basics of taking care of this temple, this gift that I can’t replace or exchange, so I should do everything positive to keep it going strong and looking its best.

As my friend and I looked at images of muscular men and women I oohed and ahhed over the ones I thought had awesome bodies. My friend asked me what woman or body type (physique) did I want to physically look like.

I was stumped.

I couldn’t point to any particular body type, shape, build, or even a woman who looked the way I want to look.

My Fitness Role Models Growing Up

Growing up I aspired to be an amazing athlete that possessed a similar physique, strength, speed, and physical power of my two sheroes Florence Griffith-Joyner aka “Flo-Jo”, and Lenda Murray.

Flo-Jo

Flo-Jo is a track and field legend, a sprinter, whose workouts I used to struggle to follow from junior high and high school. She endured grueling workout programs including long-distance runs (*eeww*) to build her strength, speed, endurance, and that amazing body.

The sports bra that she’s wearing in this picture is neon green and black. Guess who begged her parents to buy her the same one in neon pink and black? Yep. Me!

I wanted to look, train, and run like Flo-Jo. I mean jeesh, by the time I reached junior high we were the same height (5’7) and same weight (125-130 pounds). I had a vision of something and someone to aspire to be more like.

Even after she passed away I continued to reference her training programs so that I could be a better athlete and one day have a body that looked something like Flo-Jo’s.

So now, decades later, I’ve more than slacked off on running and sprinting (although I think about them often), and there’s a part of me that says, “dude really? Do you think if Flo-Jo was still living she would be kicking back on the sofa? Heck no. She would get up and get to the gym or to the track. Get your butt up lazy girl!

Sometimes I get up and go workout. Sometimes I head for the fridge.

Just keeping it real with you!

Lenda Murray

Lenda Murray was and will always be one of my favorite bodybuilders, male and female. Hands down this woman reigns as queen of bodybuilding in my book. I followed Ms. Murray’s career since the 1980s.

I was impressed that a woman two inches shorter than me (she’s 5’5) could build a body of that impressive size and with striations that look like they were chiseled by a sculptor.

During the season Ms. Murray would weigh an impressive 150 pounds. During off-season she would average 160-165 pounds.

That’s all muscle folks.

We’re not talking flab, muffin tops, and keg belly. She’s chiseled and in my opinion, absolutely gorgeous from head to toe!

Ms. Murray possesses a level of strength and power that leaves me speechless. She retired in 2004 and still puts most of us to shame. Oh the intensity of her workouts boggled my mind and still do. But I never stopped aspiring to be like the legendary Lenda Murray.

Why These Two Women?

For me these two women were the fitness role models that I aspired to be more like.

I ran track since elementary school and gradually took up lifting weights in high school (even though I was curling dumbbells at home since junior high). By college my fitness levels were at a level where I craved my workouts. I couldn’t wait to achieve a goal I had set.

Flo-Jo and Lenda also showed me and the world what a woman can do when given the opportunity. They showed me what a strong woman can do and can be when she sets her mind to it. People said only men could run certain times, Flo-Jo proved otherwise. People said only men could lift certain weights and define certain muscles, Lenda proved otherwise.

I also saw more when I looked closely at them.

I saw me in them.

They both had big legs like me. Thunder thighs of power and strength. I used to be ashamed of my big legs. I equated them to being fat. You can look at both my high school and college track pictures and see that I wasn’t.

But when you compare yourself to others you begin to see yourself as different, and sometimes that difference isn’t seen as positive—especially when other people tease you about that difference.

I was insecure about my body.

When I saw Flo-Jo and Lenda I soon began to learn that there was strength, power, and great potential in these legs of mine. I just needed to put in the work. But I won’t lie, even with my efforts and great results, I’m just not disciplined enough to reach their level. I love junk food too much 😂 Sad but true.

So here’s what I would say to my friend today if the topic ever came back up…

I don’t aspire to look like Flo-Jo, Lenda, or anyone else. I want to look and feel like ME—when I’m at my healthiest—physically, mentally, and spiritually.

I found some pictures that capture the essence of me when I’m feeling and looking healthy; when my mind, spirit, and body isn’t plagued and beat down by life’s toxins. They aren’t from 20 to 25 years ago. They were taken between November 2007 and the spring of 2014. Not that long ago.

Here’s a collage of those photos:

Yes in these photos I was thinner and more muscular than I am now, but what else do you see? When you look at these pictures do you see the energy, zest for life, the spunk and pizzazz?

My friend Tracey Wright told me this time last year (and I’m paraphrasing), “I want old Tasha back…the energetic, wild, fun to be around, bold Tasha…

I do too Tracey.

What I see in these pictures, what you may also see in these pictures, that’s what I want to reclaim, recapture, and then hold on to and thrive from.

That is my focus. Those are my goals.

I’m grateful for Flo-Jo and Lenda Murray and their journey. I’ve admired them for over 32 years. They have taught me to be my best me, to persevere, to love the skin I’m in, and to not abuse this temple for it is a gift. They have taught me to never ever ever give up and to stop being concerned about the person next to me, ahead of me, or behind me. Run my race, lift my weight, do my own thing!

I hope that by sharing my story it will help someone else.

Warmest wishes and love,

~Natasha

Copyright 2018. Natasha Foreman Bryant. All Rights Reserved.

I want to thank my mom for sharing this clock with me and my sister last night.

Please click on the clock and watch it transform from the past of 2017 to what the future holds in 2018. We have a lot of chapters and books of life to live. How do you choose to live yours?

My present and future is bright. My life’s storm is over. I’m claiming the blessings God has selected just for me. I’m determined to live my life fully and intentionally, without regrets and with a focus to stare down my fears as I seize each victory. I’m believing and speaking into existence that 2018 is my year to shine!

What are you speaking into existence this year? What are you staking your claim upon in 2018?

~Natasha

Copyright 2011-2018. Natasha L. Foreman. All Rights Reserved.