My sister-in-love, Arleen, sent this to me this morning and I was motivated to share.
I hope that it inspires and motivates you. Enjoy!
My sister-in-love, Arleen, sent this to me this morning and I was motivated to share.
I hope that it inspires and motivates you. Enjoy!
What I’ve shared below can also be heard through this audio message. Click play and enjoy.
I’m sitting here at my desk reflecting.
My reflection is focused upon my life, specifically my love life.
I’m a romantic. I’ve always been. I don’t need the big and grandiose. I love the simple things in life and love. Oftentimes it’s the smallest of gestures that have the biggest impacts, the smallest packages can contain the best of gifts—and that, for me, brings me the greatest joy. A handbag has a price tag and can be damaged, lost, stolen, sold, or given away; sitting by my bedside holding my hand, rubbing my head, kissing me and telling me that all will be well, while I’m in the hospital fighting fear and whatever else—that’s priceless and can never be damaged, lost, stolen, sold, or given away. That time, attention and affection is for me and only me. That is precious and everlasting in my heart and mind.
Today I shared a message on my Breaking Bread With Natasha blog. I had brought back to life a message that I had written on April 17, 2013. Today I added more content, more ‘meat and potatoes’ to the table. I then recorded an audio message to accompany the written one. It’s easier to ‘take it all in’ if you listen to me speak rather than read the lengthy post. Unless of course you love to read.
As I sit back and reflect on a large bulk of the message, I can’t help but to think that the things that I called on people to question, analyze, critique, and ‘check’ about ourselves and others—are the same things that have turned people away from organized religion.
The hypocrisy, lies, negativity, and toxic situations and environments that have been created by so-called religious people, are the ingredients that have grown putrid in the minds and hearts of people who see the hypocrisy, lies, negativity, and toxicity and they say, “how is that a loving religion?” and “how could God allow these people to use his name and abuse his word this way?”
I can see why people slowly but surely throw their hands up and choose to not invest time and energy in a religious institution; why they have no desire to spend time in any house of faith—except for the few moments in life when called on to attend a wedding or funeral. I can see why people balk at those who proudly walk around with a religious label or title—-yet they don’t walk the walk of their God, their Messiah, their Creator.
So many of us would say that those who reject the church are blind. But I would say that with all of the darkness found in many houses of faith, those who walk away and choose to have an independent relationship with their Creator, those individuals are actually the ones who can see clearly the difference between dark and light, good and evil, lies and truth. They understand that they do not need man to have a relationship with God. They understand that they do not need man to communicate or translate to and from God on their behalf. They understand that they can ‘tithe’ through giving to charity, nonprofits, or directly to a person or family in their community.
When we put more trust, faith, honor, love, value, and respect in man than God, in the creation instead of the Creator—then we create these toxic environments, these pimping pulpit purveyors, and deceptive practices that stand opposite of the very principles, precepts, and commandments of the religion that was formed and of the God that reigns over all.
We must question, challenge, ‘check’, and call to action those individuals who claim to have been called to lead us, those who have a sworn allegiance to their Creator, and we must hold them accountable to leading through service—ensuring that they take care of first the least of those within their doors and the least of those outside of the doors where their house of faith is nestled—then they walk and lead the service of all others.
It can’t be poverty preaching that keeps us all destitute and rejecting of God’s blessings. That goes against the word as outlined in the Bible. It also can’t be prosperity preaching that tells people that everyone can be financially wealthy if they give more to the church and pray to God to take care of the rest. The Bible highlights that God expects people to work hard for what they want, and He will reward you according to your efforts. We have to plant the seeds, water and nurture them, take care of them, keep the weeds away, and then timely harvest them as we grow our crop. None of that is simple. The harvest is never an easy process. It doesn’t just happen.
There is no better way of knowing and seeing what God has for you, or is trying to share with you, than to stand still in your aloneness, to listen and be guided by what comes to you naturally. What works for one may not work for all, and we can never be sure what actually took place behind-the-scenes for the manifestation of the results that we see. I can have the same seeds as the farmer next door but for whatever reason I’m not producing a crop as big or as yummy as the farmers.
How you become wealthy may not be like anyone else. Maybe someone’s wealth came from having enough of the right relationships with people who opened doors of opportunity for them. While someone else picked the right stock or made the right investment. Maybe someone built a business or a product and later sold it. Maybe someone built their wealth from flipping houses. Each of these people take different routes, exert different levels of energy, and there is no one-size-fits-all. So it is wrong for a person, in the role of leader of a religious congregation, to sell a reality that they don’t even know to be true or right.
Maybe life is meant for some of us to live fully and richly but with less finances. Maybe excess is just that. What if many of us find greater contentment and peace in a home with two bedrooms rather than eight? If your life is full, rich and rewarding, are you not wealthy? Do you not then possess, exude, and live in abundance?
We have turned the pursuit of things as having greater importance than pursuing the immeasurable space of joy and peace. We’re constantly chasing rather than simply being. We have focused on being separate religions of separate denominations with so much division—even internally—rather than being religions of love and inclusivity. We tell people who can and can’t attend our house of faith, join our religion. What happened to welcoming everyone whose heart has been pulled to join?
We have placed greater value in the human leader than the One who created that leader. This idolatry and deification of humans in fancy robes, with special titles, with large buildings–who possess more wealth than most that follow and financially support them—is sinful and disgusting. There’s nothing wrong with becoming wealthy, being wealthy—but at the expense of your congregation, who is also not wealthy, is a sin.
When will we remove our blinders, take out the earplugs, unstrap the muzzles on our mouths—and finally see, hear, and speak the TRUTH so that we can be free, alive, and truly blessed in all ways?
Every day I strive to be a better person, servant of God, and Christian. Every day I pray to leave a positive impression on each person who meets me, reads my words, hears my voice, sees me briefly or for an extended period of time. I am flawed and I make it very clear, publicly and privately. I would rather someone embrace me because of the love and respect that I share than because of the Christian title that I attempt to carry and fall short of being each day.
Jesus taught love, acceptance, forgiveness, grace, humility, kindness, and inclusion. How many of us can say that we live our lives like this daily? How many of us can say that we attend a house of faith that lives and practices this daily? So then who do we think that we are to judge others when we can’t even measure up in our own daily walk? We must be mindful of the people that we follow. We must be mindful of the responsibility that we carry and assume when we make the decision to lead others.
I don’t know about you, but I want to enter four walls that are filled with people who preach, speak, think and practice love of all, not few—all, not some—ALL.
Yesterday was part one of this discussion. Hopefully not too many toes were stepped on. For those who felt offended or slighted in any way, look within to see why my observations bothered you so deeply.
Are they not accurate?
I would be interested in furthering our dialogue to examine any points that I made and why you disagree, in whole or in part. Feel free to post your comments below.
Today we begin with part two, which delves into the offspring and legacy of our male-female relationships. Today I will speak to and with the men. Ladies don’t get all high and mighty. Tomorrow, we will have a heart-to-heart.
To the men. To my brothers. I say…
Fellas, I understand that sometimes this is the title that you have been designated by a woman who is hurt and angry about something you did and did not do, and so now you’re just the “baby daddy” in her mind.
You can’t control her mind but you can control yours, and your words and actions, and how you interact with your child.
You have a choice to be a father or a baby daddy.
You make the choice to be involved in your child’s precious upbringing or to be a deadbeat.
You made the decision to have sex with this woman, understanding the potential consequences of your actions. She was good enough to risk conceiving a child with (and please don’t say you didn’t know the risks of having sex), so now you need to do whatever (positively, ethically, and legally) it takes to positively co-parent with her.
Don’t let her foolishness sidetrack and deter you. If you want to have a healthy relationship with your child then do your part to legally and ethically be there in every way possible for your child.
Don’t let her use sex to move the “pawn” (your child) on this “chess board” and don’t you do it either.
Don’t manipulate this relationship with money, through offering or withholding it.
What you do in these instances of using sex and money to see your child is create an environment where you both are participating in pimping and pandering.
It sounds sick doesn’t it? That’s because it is.
If after great effort a woman won’t let you see your child then take her to court and legally fight for your right. But whatever you do, don’t get ugly with her. Let the court see her trickery. When you lower yourself the eyes of the law grow to despise you. The law expects more from you because you are a man, so when you begin acting like a child, doing tit-for-tat with the mother of your child, the court punishes you. Why put yourself through that madness?
If this has been an ongoing battle, make sure that you have already established an account with a bank or credit union where you have been saving money for your child. This money can be used to pay for their daily needs, future needs, or both. It also shows good faith to the judge that you can and are willing to financially provide for the wellbeing of your child and that you have funds designated especially for your child’s needs. It can also grow and expand to be an extracurricular or education fund for your child. It can be an emergency fund for them.
Whatever purpose it serves make sure it’s clearly defined. You’re not obligated to do it, but you should. Your child’s needs should be factored into your personal budget. No one needs to know how much you deposit in the account. A judge may inquire, but no one else needs to be privy. It’s your account for your child.
You also need to show that you have a safe and healthy environment for your child to spend quality time with you. Where will your child be sleeping, playing, and learning at your home? Who else lives there? Who visits your home on a regular basis?
Don’t have your child around a bunch of people that don’t make up the village who are sworn to protect your child. So that includes the women you are casually dating, as well as any men you wouldn’t bring to your own mother’s or grandmother’s home. If you wouldn’t bring someone over to your mother’s or grandmother’s home then keep them away from your child. Why leave the wrong impressions on their minds?
It’s simple. Be the father and the man that you say that you are. I’m not saying that a judge will rule in your favor all or most of the time, or at any time—but it’s not about the judge. It’s about you and your child. It’s a pact that you formed the moment that you knew you were a dad, that even through the obstacles, you did what was necessary for your child.
That means child support shouldn’t be something that has to be dragged from your fingers.
Before that even becomes a piece that your child’s mother moves on the chess board, you need to step up and already begin supplying diapers, formula, wipes and other supplies, clothing, furnishings, equipment, and other things that you know your child needs. If you have money for overpriced shoes, smart phones, tickets to your favorite event, to buy the newest video game, or whatever else tickles your fancy—then you have money to set aside to provide for your child. Provide as though the child lives under the same roof as you.
Don’t punish your child through its mother. Yes, that’s what you do when you withhold and ration money to the mother of your child. That’s what you do when you have women coming and going from your life like a parade, and each one has spent time leaving impressions on your child’s mind—and then you arrogantly throw your “conquests” in the face of your child’s mother.
Hurting her hurts your child. Don’t forget, your child was formed and nurtured inside of her for nine months (on average). They have a bond like nothing you can imagine.
So that also means, don’t try and be vindictive and sue for full custody of your child. Snatching your child away from their mother will have an impact that you never want to experience.
Hurting her hurts your child. Hurting them hurts you.
If you’re concerned with how she’s spending the money that you normally give her for diapers, clothes, etc. then invest the time and money in shopping online for everything your child needs, have it shipped to their home, and then any actual money that you provide to the mother will cover incidentals that you did not allocate for in your budget.
What do I mean by this?
That means if you spend $300 for incidentals online and have those items shipped to her and then you give her $200 in cash (with a signed receipt), is that still not $500 that you invested in your child’s wellbeing? You can even go so far as provide her with a gas card that has reloadable funds available, so she’s not spending money that can go towards rent and utilities on things like that.
Honestly, you should consider doing this even if you aren’t concerned with how she’s spending the money. You actually save her time trying to shop in-store or online with your child in-tow, who of course is constantly needing attention and care. By you shopping online you save both of you from a headache. Most online stores keep track of your previous orders so reordering is fairly easy; and some even have auto-ship options that allows you to schedule shipments to automatically be shipped at a specific period of time, and your card on file is charged once shipment is complete. This can be a great option, and it makes budgeting and bookkeeping easier because you have proof of where and how much money was spent, and on what items.
Why did I say to have it shipped rather than you delivering it personally?
It’s simple. It reduces possible conflict, especially if your relationship with mom is fueled by conflict rather than mutual respect. Additionally, shipping saves you time. You have a job and other responsibilities, it’s about time and money management—it’s about being efficient and effective.
The steps and ideas outlined above are some of the things you can do long before courts get involved. If you’re already financially, emotionally, and physically taking care of your child then any claims the mother has will carry less weight. But you can also implement these steps even after judicial intervention.
What the judge and everyone else will see and know is that you are not a baby daddy, you are a father; you are not a deadbeat, you are a father. A father who is no longer in an intimate relationship with the mother, but is focused on doing his part to help raise a healthy well-rounded child.
Your primary concern and focus should be your child. To do so you must be respectful to the mother of your child, even if she’s being disrespectful to you. Don’t allow her foolishness to impact the relationship that you are trying to have with your child, your heir, the one who will carry on your legacy. Continue to do your job, keeping your word, making sure that you stay informed about your child’s health and wellness, and their education and social upbringing. At the same time, making sure that you respect the mother of your child and her home.
Yeah let’s talk about that real quick, shall we?
Fellas I need you. No. Correction. You need for you to stop thinking that you are still a couple and that you “run things” as it relates and pertains to this woman who is no longer your girlfriend or wife.
Just like she shouldn’t be dictating to you who you date or marry you shouldn’t try to dictate, control, and determine who she dates or marries. The two of you should respectfully discuss how starting and blending these relationships should take place, when your child should be introduced to a potential mate, and how their parents (you and her) will address concerns such as disciplining, caregiving (babysitting), emergency situations (where one or both parent is not available), and other things that you agree are of importance.
This is a conversation that needs to happen early and frequently throughout the growth stages of your child. Not once one of you becomes involved in a relationship. No. No. No. That’s when fireworks start flying everywhere and tempers flare. That’s when the hurt person hurts the other person, and your child is ultimately hurt.
Remember, the number one priority is the health and wellbeing of your child.
Now I know about the belligerent, out-of-control “baby mama” who flaps her gums and bad mouths you as though you’re the seed of satan. I’ve seen them. I’ve heard them. She’s so mad at you for whatever you did to her, real or imagined, and now all she sees is red, and all she wants to do is hurt you in every possible way that she can. The fastest and deepest way to hurt you is through your child and the second way is through your wallet.
Now hopefully some of the suggestions that I mentioned above help to resolve the “through your wallet” dilemma that you hyperventilate over. As far as “through your child” goes—I know that pain. I’ve witnessed and consoled the father who painfully watches as the mother of his child works tirelessly to turn that child against him. It tears at your heart and soul, it bashes in your spirit and your hope.
I know that what I’m about to say you have probably already heard countless times, but I’m going to say it again because I’ve seen this play out full-circle numerous times. I’ve seen what happens when you trust in God, in the Universe to handle those things that you can’t. I’ve seen how by doing what is right as a man and father, by doing all that you can to provide for your child, that child eventually sees the truth and they ultimately cling to you.
Start writing your child letters now, make a copy of the letter (I would even make a copy of the stamped envelope), and mail the original to your child. I don’t care how old they are. Send those letters. Keep the copies in a folder, envelope, box or whatever. It doesn’t matter how long or how short the letters are. It doesn’t matter what you say in them. Speak to your child through a letter, as though you’re only apart because you’re away on an extended business trip. Tell them how much you love them. Tell them how proud you are. Tell them about how excited you were to see their achievements.
When they are older and you’re given the opportunity, hand them the letters. If their mother is a true mother (and hasn’t transformed to “Mamazilla”), then she shared these letters with your child. If not, you now have the time to share months and years of letters with your child.
Don’t scoff or roll your eyes when you read this. Nothing is more powerful than the expression of love.
It doesn’t matter what the mother says and does, your child will grow up to learn and know the truth and when that time comes your child will cherish everything that you did for them, and will learn from your actions on how to be the best parent they can be with the hand that is dealt to them.
Let them see from you what it means to be a man, father, dad, and parent.
No, you didn’t stay with their mom. You didn’t keep the three of you together as one family unit. But you did everything that you could to make sure that they had all that you could provide, with the resources that you had at your disposal.
Don’t listen to your “boys” and others who would convince you to lower yourself to baby daddy or deadbeat status. None of those people have a legacy to consider tied to that child you helped to conceive. Your child could grow up to be a successful entrepreneur, scientist, engineer, educator, author, chef, architect, designer, mogul, entertainer, athlete, or politician.
All of those people who tried to convince you to do the bare minimum or nothing at all for your child, will be the first lining up with their hands of expectation stretched outward—looking for the “hook up” from your now-successful child. But your child will look at them and look at you, and based on your role in their upbringing they will determine how best to treat you now that they have reached a level of success.
You determine the kind (and quality) of relationship that you will have with your child.
I love you my brothers.
March 20, 2018 would have been Brandon’s 36th birthday. I can never forget my friend’s birthday. My iPhone calendar reminds me one week before and also on the day of. Also, his birthday is the day before my paternal grandmother’s.
This week I’ve spent each day reflecting over my memories of Brandon Clarke, aka “B Clarke”.
I couldn’t yet formulate the words by Tuesday, his birthday, but today they have settled and come together.
I watched Brandon grow and evolve into a man, accepting the ups and downs of love and life.
He started out as being a “youngster” with a crush on me, as we worked together promoting and helping our friend Kristian run a club night (“Club Wet”) at Bar 330 in Brea, California. Brandon was one of the promoters, along with my friend and his best friend Brandon Shelby (in the picture above), and Kristian’s brother Anthony. I was in charge of the door, paying the DJs, and overseeing the promoters and their guest lists. I also helped to serve as a liaison so that club goers, the security, the venue owner, and our club promotions team were all satisfied. Once we reached our “cut off” time at the door I would divide the money, give Kristian the splits, and then come inside the club and party with everyone.
The night always ended with our crew reflecting over the success of that night and then leaving together. At least one of the guys would walk me to my car. Once I left I almost always stopped at Carl’s Jr to grab a famous star with cheese combo, and stuff my face in the parking lot. Brandon and the guys would drive by in their cars honking and waving at me and laughing at my weekly routine.
Brandon would try his best each week to convince me that I should be with a younger man (7 years my junior)—that man in his opinion would be him—but I would spend those moments redirecting him towards women his age. I would give him dating advice and show him how to make his Side Kick passcodes stronger. He was dating a girl that was obsessed with trying to break his code. Brandon would say to me “I bet you can’t figure out my code” and in less than a minute I would hand it back, code broken, and watch his gaping mouth hang in disbelief.
Side note: Fellas, your birthdate, child’s date of birth, year you pledged a fraternity, year you graduated from high school or college, and jersey numbers are easy code breakers….
Brandon evolved from “youngster with a crush” into a dear friend and younger brother, in a way. I’m sure the crush was still there, but the respect and friendship weighed heavier and had greater value. He did give me a side eye when years later I started dating a guy 7-years my junior.
Brandon’s cancer diagnosis hit him hard and nearly destroyed his hope and faith. It caused those of us close to him to surround him and lift him up in prayer, and to counter every argument or gripe he had with an affirmation that he was and always would be in God’s hands.
He had been playing basketball at LA Fitness and he kept feeling a pain in his knee. This pain got worse and wouldn’t go away, and initially doctors were clueless as to what was causing the pain. I remember when he told me about it and we were tossing around what could be causing it. He loved playing ball and the pain was keeping him off the court.
Eventually it became clear what was attacking Brandon.
Initially for him the news meant life was over, his dreams were shattered, and those of us without cancer (or never had it at a young age and overcame it) couldn’t relate to his fears, pain, frustration, and anger.
We don’t know what it’s like to face the news of potential death, especially at such a young age. Until we get news that we too would rather forget.
I remember vividly going to the hospital center and rubbing lotion on his legs and feet, and teasing him about his “crusty feet”. I would rub the temples of his head and tell him to just breathe. We would sit and watch television, talk for hours, crack jokes and “trash talk”, until it was time for me to go, or the nurses needed to do something for him, or he fell asleep.
I used to have a Blackberry back then but now I have an iPhone (I converted in or around 2011) and what is amazing is that my address book in my phone still has Brandon’s name but the picture isn’t of him, it’s the one I chose years ago of his puppy that he loved so very much. He took the picture as soon as he got the puppy and he texted it to me. That’s what I used to identify him in my phone book.
I wonder how many people remember Brandon’s dog. I always called him his “Taco Bell dog” and we would laugh.
Below is the actual picture Brandon sent me of his puppy “Kanye”. He used to say I would find a girlfriend for Kanye. Sadly, I never did.
Brandon and I shared some precious moments together as he fought his cancer. He wanted so much out of life. He was just getting started, only the young age of 23, and life was clobbering him.
Brandon wanted a child—a namesake—someone to leave behind a legacy that could be lifted and magnified—someone who would look like him, always remember him, and always cause the rest of us to smile and reflect on the great boy who grew into a great man—who touched so many hearts and lives.
I remember partying with Brandon after his first rounds of treatment were over. It was so awesome seeing him smiling, dancing and laughing. We celebrated his birthday. He and Brandon Shelby came out to celebrate with me for my 31st birthday.
He even came to my going-away-party, November 2007. I was leaving California and heading to Georgia. Brandon looked stronger and hopeful. It gave me an added boost of hope.
Even when I relocated, Brandon and I would talk by phone and chat through text, and at that time we all were deep into MySpace. Our friendship wouldn’t wane because of distance. Whenever I came home to California for a visit I always made sure to spend quality time with Brandon. Our last time together was amazing. He took me and my sister to one of his favorite restaurants for lunch on the Newport Beach-Laguna Beach border. He wanted to talk about everything but his nemesis, cancer. So we did just that.
Whenever I go home and spend time in Orange County I try to have a meal there and stare out at the ocean waves, just like Brandon and I did that day. My sister still fondly recalls that day. It was bright, sunny, and beautiful. It was a perfect day.
I don’t think I will ever forget the day Brandon contacted me.
The cancer was back with a vengeance, it had rapidly spread, and he didn’t see the possibility of bouncing back. Matter of fact the doctors prognosis was clear that he wouldn’t.
Brandon was dealing with that news.
The first diagnosis, Brandon only told a select few of us and we were sworn to secrecy. Now he was telling me awful news again but this time he had waited to tell me. He knew something wasn’t right the last time we had spoken and even when he took me to lunch in California. He didn’t want me to worry. He said “I didn’t want to be a burden“.
I was crushed.
For me, the people that I love are never a burden. Family or friend, when I give you my word I keep it and there’s never a burden when you’re doing something out of love.
I had relocated over 2,000 miles away to Atlanta, Georgia and that day I stood in the home of my childhood friend, Ericka Sampson Smith (as I watched my Godson Kegdrick) and I quietly cried as Brandon and I communicated for what would be the last days. Unlike in the past I couldn’t just hop in my car and come over.
Brandon was trying to hold on but he was also saying “see you later“. He didn’t want to leave without reaching out to his loved ones. Brandon was letting go and I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t there. I told him I would look for a flight for the next day or two to come see him. He told me I didn’t have to but soon said “okay“. He knew it didn’t make sense to argue with me.
But also Brandon knew and accepted something that I couldn’t.
He said he was tired. He said he was okay and content with his reality. He had made peace with God. Oh it crushed me to process those words. My heart was so heavy. I wanted to be by his side as I had been in the past. I knew his family was there and our friend Brandon Shelby was there, but I wanted to also be there. I was the friend that wasn’t there that day. I had promised him that I always would be. I felt I had let him down and no matter how much he tried to convince me that I hadn’t my heart so heavy that I was convinced that I had.
We said “I love you” and then hung up the phone, and I immediately scrambled to look online for flights. I couldn’t afford the tickets and I wouldn’t get paid for another two weeks. But I kept looking.
Then I got the call that I dreaded the most.
It was May 13, 2009.
The person on the other end this time was our friend Brandon Shelby. He was letting me know that his best friend Brandon Clarke had passed, had transitioned.
I just burst out in tears.
Days later would be the funeral and I had reached out to my uncle Ricky to use his credit card to buy my ticket. By the time I went to purchase my ticket the prices had increased significantly. I was so stressed out and so sad that I didn’t know what to do. I remember contacting Brandon Shelby and he comforted me and reassured me, and told me that I had not failed our friend Brandon, but that I had been a true friend—-the type of friend that I wanted to be for him—the type of friend that he needed me to be.
There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about Brandon Clarke.
I see young men and I think about him. I hear someone’s laugh that sounds familiar and I can’t help but turn to look for him. I see a guy dressed as Brandon would and I smile. I sometimes have a student in one of my classes with the same first name and I tell them of my friend Brandon.
I know he’s smiling and pleased to see that his best friend Brandon Shelby got married and started a family, and has a blessed life. He would be pleased to see how I’ve handled the ups and downs of life, but remain hopeful for better and brighter. He would be pleased to see how his other close friends have gotten married, started families, grown in their careers, traveled and experienced many of the things they would daydream and talk about. He would be proud to see our growth and evolution.
I know he’s pleased. I know he’s proud. Because that’s Brandon.
As excited as he would be about his dreams and goals he would be excited about the dreams and goals his friends had. That was Brandon. That is Brandon.
So much life, light, courage, and love in and through one person. He left a beautiful imprint on my heart that I will always cherish.
I’ve learned and continue to learn from Brandon. I share his story with people who need added courage, who need motivation to fight, who need to know that they aren’t the only one to be blindsided by bad news—it’s what you do with that news that matters.
Brandon chose to live his life, spending time with loved ones, and sharing light with everyone who needed it. He chose to not waste precious moments with drama and drama-motivated people. He was intentional with the time he had left here.
It’s not how he planned his life but he made the most of it.
I’m grateful for my friend Brandon and our friendship. He went from being my “student” to unknowingly being my “teacher”.
I love you Brandon and I will never stop sharing your story, for what many would see as a shortened life you have left behind a strong legacy that those of us still here have a duty to ensure has a long and lasting reach. Continue resting in peace Brandon. I know you’re balling it up where you are!
Do you hear that? Listen closely.
That is the sound of a door to the past closing.
You have the options of locking it and storing the key or tossing it to never be reclaimed. You can also choose to keep it unlocked, knowing that every time that door to the past opens a flood of things you tried to leave behind come rolling out.
Now let’s be clear, this isn’t the door to fond and beautiful memories of your life and loved ones from years ago, no no no, this door represents the pain and shame, the let downs and setbacks, the hurt caused by others and even by you. This door represents the fear that kept you paralyzed from making forward progress; the doubt that told you that you weren’t good enough, smart enough, wealthy enough, attractive enough—that is what this door represents. It’s the past relationships, old lovers, friends turned foes. It’s everything that held you back and held you down. This door and what lies behind it represents everything that was keeping you from being the best you that you could and can be.
So the door is closed.
Did you hear the mechanism click into place as it found the groove of the threshold of the door jamb?
If not, check again.
Today you can close that door to your past then open the door to your future, and take a peek inside.
Breathe in the life, light, positivity, and possibilities.
Your present state is a hallway between two doors.
Do you begin your new chapter or do you keep torturing yourself to re-read old chapters over and over again? You can’t rewrite those old chapters. You can’t make them better. They are as they are.
Let me clarify something else that I know can be a sensitive spot for someone.
I’m not saying that your past is not a reference point for your present and continued healing.
It can be.
I’m not saying that it is not a reference point to guide and inspire others toward reconciliation and healing.
It can be.
I’m saying, don’t obsess over your past, don’t let your past blend with your present so that is becomes your present, and it slowly draws you farther away from that door to your future.
Your past can be so toxic that it can create a house of mirrors and doors that will keep you in a constant state of confusion and chaos, that you can’t find the right door to free yourself and get out.
The longer you spend dwelling on the past, focusing on the what-ifs, how-comes, and why-me’s, the more it drains the life out of you and the older you become; the longer you dwell behind that door the longer your journey to return to the present, and even longer journey to get to your future.
Yes, my friends we age rapidly when we are stuck in that past darkness, because there is no light and life to uplift us—we are stuck in a quicksand of misery and grief, and the longer that we stay there the more aged we become.
Have you ever seen someone who is or is around your age but they look 20-plus years older? We may silently make the comment “wow they’ve had a hard life!” and wouldn’t it be interesting to observe them to see how much time they spend in the past compared to the present? If I were a betting person I would say that most of their time is spent in the past, obsessed about what went wrong that could’ve gone right. Every woulda, coulda, shoulda has aged them by several years.
Our lack of faith keeps us from closing that door, locking it, breaking the key and tossing it. There is absolutely no reason to continue walking through that door except that you feel that you don’t deserve better than that pain and misery. You don’t believe that better is possible or that better is possible for you. Because if you truly believed in better (for you) and truly had faith that better is waiting for you through another door, you wouldn’t hesitate to look at your past, say goodbye, and walk boldly and confidently away.
I have big, bold dreams that God has placed in my heart and on my mind. I’m inspired and motivated by these dreams. I believe that they can come true. I have faith that as long as I stay in my lane and run my race, committed to doing my part, with my eyes focused straight ahead (and not behind me), that God will bless me with these things, people, and experiences.
I don’t know about you, but I know darn well that my past has no place in my present or my future. I know darn well that there is nothing that I can do to change my past for the better. I can learn from it and leverage that learning for better and greater. But hanging out behind that door would be the quick death of me, and my future is bright, long, and exciting.
My future is waiting for me and I know how it feels to be kept waiting. So I’m walking forward into my next chapter. I don’t need to open the door of my past to remember what’s behind it. My memory is sharp and when it fades, I have plenty of people around me who will be quick to remind me and turn me about-face.
Your future is waiting.
What choice will you make?
A few years ago I was cycling with a group of friends on the Silver Comet Trail in Georgia. Someone said to me that they admired that I wasn’t concerned with keeping up with the fastest, more experienced cyclists—that I always remained focused on riding at my pace. I told him, “I’m focused on me and my race. I run, in this case, ride, my race. I ‘stay in my lane’ so-to-speak. If I’m concerned with what other people are doing then I will lose focus on what I’m supposed to be doing. I’m not focused on who’s ahead, behind, or beside me—just me and my bike.”
I learned that lesson the hard way as a track and field sprinter. Every race that I focused on one or more other sprinters, I never finished the race as I desired. Either I got a slower time, had a bad hand-off in a relay, or came in a place other than first. When I focused on me and my personal race, my form was always strong and relaxed, my stride opened up, I felt good, and it showed. Even if I didn’t get the time or place that I desired, I knew that I ran a strong race. It’s about my self-improvement, my ability to challenge and push myself past my comfort zones, my ability to test my strength, power, and endurance. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to win every race that I ran, but as I matured I began to see that it wasn’t about the other sprinters—it was about and for ME!
That day on Silver Comet, I rode 15 miles faster than any of the more experienced cyclists expected me to do. I never cycled that far so I had no reference point. I told them that when they reached their resting points, not to wait for me to catch up, and if they reached the turnaround point and were passing me on the way back, then I would simply turn around and follow.
They thought I would slow down the rest of the group because I was new to cycling, and unlike the rest of them I didn’t have cycling shoes and clips. But what they didn’t know was that as I cycled my body felt like it did when I sprinted. Many of the same techniques and dynamics are at play, and the same muscles are utilized in the same way in both sports (it’s difficult to explain this concept at the moment, so just believe me when I say it’s true). They also didn’t know that these thunder thighs are powerful and strong, and that my core is stronger than even I know. That day, my pace was actually complementary to theirs, I was always only a few minutes behind them (so I always arrived at the rest stops moments after them) and their shock to see me rolling in strong put a smile on my face that remained all day.
The interesting thing is, all of them started cycling faster trying to keep me from catching up—because if the newbie could catch up then they were slower than they thought. Now they were riding my race. I was in their heads.
Imagine if I was obsessed with keeping up with them at their much faster pace. I would’ve ran out of energy; risked injury, falling, or both; and I wouldn’t have had a great day.
When we returned to our starting location the other cyclists were worn out. They were racing each other (the men mostly) and they all were racing me—whether they would ever admit it or not, you could tell by the looks in their eyes. If you have ever competed against someone, in anything, you know that look. I just smiled.
Being so obsessed with me even caused one couple to argue, which threw off their ride and messed up part of their day. When the group asked me my technique I simply said “I rode my race, at my pace and comfort level”.
After that day they looked forward to riding with me. Without trying, I pushed them, and with intention I focused on me and my ride—each time getting better and stronger.
This is my mindset and focus in all things. When I lift weights, drive race cars on a track, go cycling, or set my course on a path to achieve a career or life goal, I never do well if I’m focused on other people.
I am my biggest competition.
I am my biggest obstacle.
I am the one who either gives my all and leaves everything on that track, or the one who half-steps and gives the bare minimum. My race. Not theirs.
This translates into and transfers over to my personal and professional life.
Sure I can say aloud or think to myself about where I could or should be in my career, but what purpose does it serve? That only depresses me. For a long time. Which is counterproductive.
Looking at friends and associates who have soared to great heights in their career should serve as encouragement and inspiration—highlighting their testimony, and that we all have the ability to rise above and over life’s obstacles. It however should never lead to the utterance of words or the formulation of thoughts that say that I should strive to meet or exceed their accomplishments.
I’m not competing with my friends, associates, acquaintances, or even complete strangers. I’m not trying to be or outdo Oprah Winfrey, Joel Osteen, Tracey Edmonds, Mary Kay Ash, John Maxwell, Steve Jobs, Maya Angelou, Sheryl Sandberg, Magic Johnson, or Mark Zuckerberg, or anyone else.
I’m trying to be me.
The best me that I can be.
I’m running my race, at my pace, with my eyes focused ahead. I definitely need encouragement and to be challenged—especially and with great intensity when I slack off—but it’s never with a focus to get to where someone else is or to run past and edge them out.
I would always be behind someone (as they started out on their race years or even decades earlier) or I would be extremely exhausted and irritable if I did somehow catch up and surpass them. I’m risking my health and much more, trying to keep up with and pass by the Joneses.
If I’m focused on someone else then I’m distracted, and we all know what happens to many distracted drivers—they crash or they cause a crash. Crashes can be expensive. Recovery can be long and painful. Why risk it?
Every time I sat behind the wheel of a car on a race track, I wasn’t concerned about how fast or how experienced the other drivers were. I didn’t obsess with trying to outrace them. I was and always will be focused on me, my skills, the car that I’m driving, and the lessons that my instructors, coaches, and mentors taught me. My safety and survival depends on it. The goal is to have a great day, enjoy the ride, challenge myself, hit those apexes, and get back to the paddock safely. If I get great lap times and place well, that’s a huge bonus.
Don’t get me wrong, I love competing—but mostly against myself—against the fear and doubt that wants desperately to take root and form in my mind and heart. If I can conquer that each and every race, then I’m always the winner. If I do better than I thought I would, then I’m a winner.
In the pictures above and below you see me at the Ford Performance Racing School in Utah—racing Ford Mustangs (which runs through my familial veins for three generations). In both pictures I’m smiling brightly because I had an awesome day and it was filled with accomplishments. Everyone else on that track drove or had experience driving manual transmission cars. I didn’t. I was the only person who had little to no experience. A little back in the mid-90s but that’s all. My then-husband gave me two driving lessons before our trip to Utah. You don’t know how much I appreciated him for taking the time to really teach me.
His teachings and what the instructors taught us about the track and the school rules is what I focused on when I climbed behind the wheel. I didn’t focus on the other drivers and what they thought about me, or even about their skill level. I let drivers pass me on the track and there were times that I passed other drivers on the track. Sometimes I played “rabbit” for other drivers and at times when I needed to challenge myself I would find a “rabbit” to catch, so I could see how well the car handled and how well I handled the car.
But I won’t make moves based on someone else. I must focus on my race and adjust for conditions and strategic conservation of resources. But never because of the other competitor.
Imagine climbing up the side of a mountain. You have on all of your gear and the higher you climb the greater the risk that if you somehow fall, you will die.
So what would happen if you began to obsess about the climber ahead of you or next to you? What if you were so focused about reaching the top of the mountain first that you started spending less time securing yourself each step you climbed? What would happen if you stopped paying attention to your ropes and the surfaces of the mountain? What would happen if you weren’t paying attention to your equipment and supplies, the changes in altitude and oxygen, and weather conditions?
We all know what could and probably would happen, and it’s not a welcoming thought. But so many of us do these same things when we’re too focused on everyone and everything else but what we’re supposed to be focused on.
Earlier I mentioned Joel Osteen. Here’s an excerpt from his book “The Power of I Am: Two Words That Will Change Your Life Today“:
I decided that rather than typing that entire section, I would just share a snapshot for you to read, zoom in on, and focus for a moment. I hope you don’t mind. If you do, then please go purchase the book and enjoy reading it at your leisure. It’s available in many formats.
My aunt Valerie bought this book for me in October 2016. She bought my sister Alexandra one as well. My sister hasn’t embraced the love of reading books as I have, so her copy is at my home waiting for her. I truly believe that one day she will be inspired to read it. I’m positively speaking this into existence. Yes, it’s just that great of a book that I would love for her to read and reflect upon it. Hmmm does Joel have an audio version of this book? Maybe she can ingest this powerful message that way. Okay so I digressed. See what happens when we get distracted? Back to what I was saying….
This section in Joel Osteen’s book inspired me to write today’s message. Many of us feel like hamsters on wheels because we keep running in life like Joel did in his story, so focused on someone else that we miss our turn, opportunity, etc. I can always tell when I’ve lost focus, when I’m distracted—there’s uneasiness in my spirit, I don’t sleep well, I’m unsettled and anxious, and fear creeps in and drops off seeds of doubt—and then my eyes start looking around at what I lost, didn’t accomplish, let go, didn’t follow through on—and then my eyes focus on what others have, what they have accomplished, and where they get to go. It can be difficult to catch yourself from spiraling out of control. But it’s vital that you do.
Your life depends on you running your own race, staying in your lane, climbing your line, and making sure that you celebrate every achievement no matter how small and insignificant it may appear. It’s your achievement!
I wrap this message up with some final words from Joel Osteen’s book. Enjoy!
Thank you Mr. Osteen for sharing these moving and powerful, yet simple words. It’s amazing how simple can bring the boldest blessings.
What is more important than fear to you?
Go get it!
1) Comment below and tell me how you’re doing, and be honest. We’re good at lying about this. We need to heal, renew, and restore ourselves.
– If you’re thriving then yell it loud. So I can celebrate with you.– If you need prayer, then tell me, and you don’t need to go into specifics if you don’t want to.* You can speak in general terms, like “prayer for strength” or “prayer for clarity” or “prayer for healing” or “prayer for new positive opportunities” or “prayer for patience”.– If you’re having a bad day or not-so-good one, and you need a good laugh, then tell me. I’m always down to make someone giggle or roar with laugher.– If you need a hug then let’s meet up and share some good vibes. If we live too far apart to meet up, I will send you a virtual one…heck I might even record myself so you can feel it a little more.2) Choose a day THIS WEEK and MAKE THE TIME to spend taking care of YOU.– I don’t care if it’s at the nail salon, a library, spa, at the park, movie theater, a museum, or sitting in the back of your car with pillows and a thermos of tea while reading a book.– During this time you need to DISCONNECT from everyone and everything. That means EVERYONE and EVERYTHING that would have you investing more time in others than yourself. Pour back into YOU. Recharge for YOU.CHARITY starts with YOU, just like you must put on your oxygen mask FIRST before you place one on others. If you’re not well then you can’t possibly take care of others.Your strength doesn’t matter if you’re no longer around to be strong for others. Too many of us are passing away too soon because we wear ourselves out so much that our bodies just give up from fighting us so much.
3) Share this with other strong women so that they too can take a moment to breathe, embrace this message and our need for self-care, and then make the time for some self-love.
Here’s another message that I reflect upon from the past. On April 5, 2016 I wrote this message as a reflection to a Facebook post written by a man who was reflecting over his marriage and the ups and downs that he experienced trying to juggle marriage, career, and family.
I shared the message as I share it today, with hopes that it reaches those single individuals who dream of one day marrying, those married couples who are struggling and contemplating divorce, those married couples who haven’t yet hit any bumps, and to those who are divorced and aren’t quite sure if getting married again is the thing for them.
Please read this message, reflect on it, share your thoughts, and then be sure to forward this message to others. With more and more people waiting to marry, others divorcing in staggering rates, or an increasing number of people opting out and choosing to bypass marriage altogether—it’s refreshing to look through the lens of someone who struggled, recovered, and reclaimed the connection he was losing because his priorities were misaligned. It can be a message that can help others before they cross that bridge, as well as those who have crossed it and are sliding down a collapsing hillside. It can also help those who have reached the bottom of the hillside and wonder if it’s worth taking the journey again.
I look forward to your positive comments.
Original post: https://natashaforeman.com/2016/04/05/a-post-on-marriage-family-career-and-community/
Enter 2018 hopeful and with great focus and determination–ridding yourself of people and things that will hold you back, push and keep you down, or drain the essence that makes you uniquely you. This applies to all relationships—love, friendships, and business.
My intuition is strong and I read people and energy well. I know those who have the thicker skin to endure life’s challenges, and those with thin skin who are quick to complain and place blame on everyone and everything but self.
I’ve predicted the personal and professional relationships that would last years and those that would only last months. Not everyone is cut out to splash in the rain with you. Not everyone can look back and reflect over years of overcoming adversity to see opportunities and blessings, rather than obstacles and failings.
Look closely at the people around you and those who attempt to enter your inner circle—how do they treat their family and friends? How do they handle conflict, misunderstandings, and adversity? Do they shut down, pout, give silent treatments, play the victim, and dwell on all-things-negative? Do they refuse to address issues and opt instead to avoid them?
Run from that person.
Unless they are family, stay as far away from this person as humanly possible. They are toxic and don’t even know it—visualize the warning sign and steer clear. They will emotionally, spiritually, and physically drain you. Some may even drain you financially.
There are some people who are “ride or die” and then there are others who need constant coddling and reassurance, which means you’re supporting them more than they support themselves and definitely more than they support you.
Let’s be crystal clear–gender has nothing to do with it.
I’ve known strong women and weak men. I’ve known some men who latch on like leaches feeding constantly on your energy and talent. While I’ve known some women who simply say “tell me what you need” or “tell me how I can help” and they get it done.
A person’s character means more to me than loyalty. A person dependent upon you for both the tangible and intangible can be loyal—heck, they have to because you are their supplier. I want to see people in bad times not just good ones. If I know you will ignore and give your best friend and family members the silent treatment, I know you will do it to me. I don’t have time or patience for foolishness and definitely not for emotional abuse. If when it comes to other people you’re slow to forgive or refuse to do it at all, then it doesn’t make sense for me to expect any different from you when we have arguments and misunderstandings.
How do you respond to life when others are reacting? If your natural inclination is to break down and spiral into a darkness of dreary and negativity, then please keep your distance. I’m not here for hand-holding, coddling, or enabling. Get on your grown man/woman and rise to the occasion.
When life blindsides me are you going to stand beside me or ride my back? When I’m having a bad day, week, or month are you going to add to my grief or find ways to be a positive light? When it rains will you get out and splash around with me or will you give me one more thing to stress over?
Some people aren’t built for seasonal weather. They’re good in the sunshine and an emotional rollercoaster all other times. I’m not trying to carry around and manage your baggage. I’ve got my own. So excuse me I need to grab my umbrella and rain boots so that I can laugh and splash around a bit!
I was on Instagram a few moments ago and I saw a video that a personal fitness trainer posted of her class doing circuit training in the gym. It was awesome seeing these women of all sizes working out and focused. You could see in their efforts that they are determined to reach whatever goals they have set.
I didn’t notice any slackers. I didn’t notice anyone with poor form. They seem in it to win it. I could see the struggle and the sweat. These women weren’t playing.
It’s simple. They showed up and worked out. They could easily take the lazy route and just talk about how they want to lose weight, get healthy, or gain muscle—and never follow through. These women showed up and they are putting in the work.
Let me be clear about one point, since I’m sure someone is thinking this–I’m not referring to a class of well-trained, muscular women. Nope. Many people would have something negative to say about most of the women in this group. Some of you would even stoop low enough to fat shame them. Hence why I said earlier that they seem in it to win it and weren’t playing around with their work out. These women seem very determined to reach their health and fitness goals. They showed up and put in the work.
The ONLY way to reach your goal is to do the work. The people who want it fast and easy are the same ones who fall fast and hard. There’s no true sweat equity invested so there’s no motivation to keep consistently pushing forward, so you usually fall back to doing things the way you used to—taking on the bad habits that frustrated you to begin with, which leads to the hard thump we hear when you hit the ground face first (figuratively of course).
We need to break this “microwave mindset” that has caused us to expect results fast with little to no effort. It’s caused us to become lazy. We’re left to always look for something or someone else to quickly fix our problem or fill our need. We jump on every get-rich-quick scheme or diet fad.
We waste more time trying to find the short cut, when we could actually be working towards our goals.
Get your mind centered on PUTTING IN THE WORK. Or you will continue your weak attempts at New Year’s Resolutions, piles of unattained dream boards, and complaining about how you look or what you don’t have.
If you aren’t tired of hearing yourself whine, complain, and wallow in self-pity, I can guarantee you that there’s more than one person out there who is tired of hearing your mouth. Let me say what they can’t or won’t say to you…
No one faults the person who tried yet failed. But we roll our eyes in disgust at the lazy person who is shocked and dismayed that their lack of effort didn’t result in a win. Get your butt up and put in the work!
“I attribute my success to this: I never gave or took any excuse.”
~ Florence Nightingale
We do absolutely nothing out of fear. We self-sabotage out of fear—fear of the past and fear of the unknown.
We make excuses for not trying, not pushing harder, not loving more and deeper, not getting over the past. An excerpt in a journal I have says that our excuses focus us on the past. We can’t move forward or even operate in a healthy space in our present, because our minds are trapped in the past.
You won’t know if something is impossible until you try every possible angle and opportunity to prove that it is possible.
You won’t know if you can’t do something until you exhaust every attempt at trying to do it.
It’s easy to say “can’t” and “impossible” when you barely skim the surface of “try”.
You can’t live and thrive in fear. Yeah I said it, you can’t live and thrive in fear. It’s not possible to constantly be looking backwards, paralyzed from moving forward, too turned around to do anything of substance in your present, if you’re constantly in a state of fear. It kills you from the inside out. It eats away at you little by little until it completely devours you and nothing is left but a shell or worse, a layer of “dust”.
I learned in Sunday school when I was a little girl that fear is:
It appears to be real. It appears to be so. But it isn’t and the so-called evidence isn’t truth, it’s a lie that you keep buying into until it becomes your reality. It’s like sitting in a room or closet in the dark and the more you stare at something or in a certain direction the more your mind begins to design images and you begin to believe that you see something. When the lights are turned on what you thought you saw is no longer there. It didn’t mystically magically disappear. It was never there. That is how fear manifests in our every day lives. A seed is planted and we nurture it until it is fully rooted and blossomed as a reality in our lives. It is only when someone turns on the “light” that we uproot what was planted.
When I would tell my dad that I couldn’t do something it would infuriate him. He would say “I would rather you say you don’t want to do something than tell me you can’t do it…” because in dad’s mind (and what I’ve grown to learn) saying and believing “can’t” means you have given up, you have made an excuse, and you don’t know what you don’t know because you won’t actually try your best repeatedly to do it.
All of the great ideas that we now marvel were only manifested and made possible because the curators and designers of those ideas never ever ever stopped working to make those ideas a reality.
From the arts to business, the first computer to the Internet, infrastructure to space travel—-ideas that many said were “impossible” but a few kept pushing and trying anyway, and now “can’t” and “impossible” are the past and what we experience and take for granted now is our present. No excuses for the failures along the way. Those visionaries just kept pressing forward, exhausting all of the possibilities until their ideas were tangible.
That is what we need to focus on each day, each moment of every single day—
Action breaks up monotony. Action keeps the mind going and sharp. Action keeps ideas flowing. Action helps you to see things from different angles and perspectives. Action breaks up the darkness and allows for that light switch to come on. Action prevents you from making excuses because you’re too busy working and making things happen.
This is a reminder for me and for you…No excuses—given or taken!
Sure we all may walk around with an attitude, belief or mantra of “like me as I am” or “I don’t care what people think and say about me. I’m going to be me“, or “you don’t have to like me and how I look, because I like me“.
Some of us make the decision to live wild and look wilder, as we choose to wear bold hairstyles, hair colors, nail polish, lipstick, clothes, shoes, jewelry and other accessories.
Many of the bold and beautiful often wonder why they are looked over for promotions or fail to get raises even though the work delivered meets or exceeds standards. They wonder why they are ignored in meetings, demoted, removed from a place of visibility and instead tucked away where they seem invisible.
Many more wonder why they never seem to get that job callback or why the interview that seemed like a potential fit ended up with a “sorry but we’ve selected a different candidate“—if they even extend you the courtesy of letting you down that way.
There are numerous reasons why you don’t seem to be making strides in your professional life. Some may be due to your professional shortcomings. Some may be because others are merely outshining and out-hustling you. Some reasons may be due to people’s perception of you and their bias towards you– and a step farther, your appearance.
Are you working for or applying for a position with a company that is very conservative? Well then look through the owner’s, manager’s and recruiter’s lenses. Your over-the-top hair style, hair color, nails, makeup, or accessories may be a huge turnoff. Your busted shoes and tattered clothes, may be leaving the wrong impression. You may not be reflecting the image that their brand represents. So maybe, just maybe they take a risk and hire you, but don’t be shocked when that risk doesn’t extend beyond you quietly performing a job but then they limit how visible you can be in the job and within the company. If you don’t represent the core values, image, and vibe of the company, they don’t want you to be a face that represents their brand.
Sorry but your green hair, blue lipstick, and polka dot nails clash with that bank’s, doctor’s, dentist’s, and law firm’s image and brand—and most likely the image that their clients expect of them.
So you cop an attitude but let’s look at it from a different perspective, shall we?
Would you accept and then call the hairstylist or barber who handed you their business card but their hair looked a “hot mess”? Would you trust a nail technician to take care of your nails when theirs looks like a rat chewed on them? What about the person who wants to be your personal stylist yet their clothes and shoes look dingy, cheap, and in need of a trash can? Or the car detailer whose car is filthy? Or what about the dentist who has yellow, crooked, and missing teeth? All due respect, would you trust a person to teach you how to be physically fit if they weren’t fit and seemingly health conscious?
Most likely you have repeatedly said “no” to each of my questions. Why? Because appearance matters, attention to details matter, and we have become more brand conscious over the past 20 years—so if people don’t look the part then we just don’t trust them, and we definitely aren’t going to give money to people we don’t trust.
Ever see a shoe salesperson in a midrange to high end store with beat up, dirty shoes? Nope. It’s a turn off to the customer.
Now let’s be clear, this isn’t about you having the most expensive things you can buy and displaying it. It’s about how you present yourself. I don’t care if you shop from a discount or thrift store, it’s about finding items and colors that best complement your look, build, style, and personality.
What does your personal brand say about you? What does your appearance say about the company where you work or the one that you own?
If my dentist doesn’t take care of their own teeth then heck no they can’t dig around in my mouth. They can’t be that busy that they can’t fix their teeth yet they have plenty of time to chastise me about mine. If my doctor is lecturing me on my health and weight, yet they have a keg belly, I’m going to look at them sideways.
My personal fitness trainer and instructors better walk the walk. If they can’t do the workout then stop telling me “you can do it“. Shut up because you can’t even do it! Oh and they better also look the part. It always reminds me of the out-of-shape physical ed teacher during P.E., blowing their whistle, and yelling at the kids, yet they can’t do the workouts they are pushing the kids to do. Why don’t you drop and give us twenty? Why don’t you show us how to climb this tall, rugged rope? Why don’t you lead us in the mile long run? I mean, since you should be coming in first place then all you have to do is quickly grab your clipboard and clock in the rest of our finish times, right?
Now consider this…
If you’re looking for a marriage counselor and the person you meet with has been divorced several times and is currently divorced, then how in the world will they help you protect, save, and rebuild your marriage? I’m just saying, in the words of Jesus, “physician heal thyself“.
If your financial counselor or coach doesn’t have an 800-plus credit score, admits to still getting payday loans (or you happen to see them getting one), then who are they to be coaching you? They need to go back to the drawing board and take some of those classes and work on some of those principles they are selling to you.
People can talk all day long. But can they walk the walk?
So appearance matters to the vast majority of us. A corporate image and culture is formed and shaped at the top of the company, by the CEO/President, and it feeds down through the other levels and branches of the organization. If your image doesn’t compliment the company’s then how can you be upset when they don’t want you as a representative of their company and the brand they worked hard to build?
I want you to do something for me.
Tell me this—are your hands well manicured, are your clothes and hair clean and presentable, and are your shoes in great shape?
“Why?” you ask.
Well because believe it or not, when most people see you the first thing they look at is your face, specifically your eyes. Then they look at your hair. Is it well groomed, does it have a foul or pleasant odor, is it a natural color or something bold or bizarre? What about your clothes? Are they clean? Are they ill-fitting or do they hang nicely on your body complementing your build and shape?
Then when they are close enough to pay attention to the finest of details, they look at two things very closely: your hands and your shoes (and if you have on sandals or no shoes, then yes they are checking out your feet). Our eyes are naturally drawn to these things. Maybe because we speak with our hands (and shake hands with others) and our feet are visible when we walk and are seated. Which is also why we stare at men’s socks when they are seated, and notice how many rings (and the quality of those rings) a woman has on her hands. The attention to detail becomes our obsession.
Let’s start with the hands…
I don’t care if you’re in construction, sanitation, or a mechanic—do your hands look like a person who is concerned about their health and wellbeing or do you look like you’re part werewolf and part science experiment? Keep your nails clean (when you don’t have them in sludge), cut to an active length (for the ladies) and as short as possible (for the men), and please tame those cuticles and hang nails.
Ladies who love nail polish, artificial nails, and accessories…what you put on your nails, hands, head, ears, and around your neck should compliment the environment that you’re in most, which for the vast majority of us that would be our workplace. So think twice before busting out with extreme colors, lengths and shapes. If you work in a more conservative environment your boldness can be seen as a distraction.
If you have a customer-facing role in the company, do your best to represent that brand to the fullest. You’re being paid to represent the brand, so do it well!
That means your shoes and clothes are very important. If your shoes are extremely worn, look beat up, have knots where your toes have been crunched in them repeatedly, the sole and top seem to be fighting over which direction your shoe should be aligned, the heel looks tattered, and the color has faded or revealed the undertone shade—take them to a shoe repair store, donate them, or if you know they can’t be salvaged, throw them away. I truly believe that many people are walking around wearing the wrong shoe size, either too big or too small. Go to a reputable shoe store and have the salesperson help you determine your correct size and see how your size varies depending on the type of shoe you’re wearing. You may wear a different size depending if the shoe is open-toed or closed-toe.
The same thing applies to your clothes. You know what’s too tight, too loose, too short, and too revealing. There have been plenty of times when I’ve stepped in front of the mirror and said aloud, “oh heck no” and immediately changed into something else. Fellas, I’m also speaking to you. If you’re one breath away from bursting the seams of your pants or a button on your shirt, it’s time to donate them. If your pants are hanging below your hips and you’re not a male exotic dancer “working the floor”, you need to pull them up and get them tailored to fit you properly. Go to a tailor or to the mens’ department in the mall and ask to be measured so you know your correct size for dress shirts, slacks, blazers, and jackets.
A first impression is a lasting impression. A first impression could lead to the start of something new and great, or to another closed door and added rejection. Each day we step foot outside of our homes we make the decision about how we want the world to view us, and like it or not, judge us. You never know who is watching you, so step out representing the image and brand of where you want to be (if you aren’t already there).
Copyright 2017. All Rights Reserved. Natasha Foreman Bryant.