Be Better Than Average Blog
designed to provide you with the
inspiration, advice, encouragement, resources and accountability
to help you build and live a
BETTER THAN AVERAGE LIFE
I've found one of the easiest and best ways for me to continue to move toward the success I desire in life is to examine where I am and to be introspective about how I arrived to this place. This calls for a willingness to be present and self-aware and the ability to self-evaluate -- not self criticize.
Over the last few years, around December, I've taken up the habit of identifying and reflecting upon the lessons which the previous year has brought and taught me.
2018 was a very productive, rewarding and challenging year. I experienced incredible personal and professional achievements while also experiencing personal and professional struggles, tragedies, disappointments, betrayals and rejections.
The powerful lessons which I acquired from both the victories and theoretical losses have prepared me to enter confidently into 2019.
Don't Get Stuck There
Shortly after Thanksgiving 2017 one of my two younger sisters suddenly passed away. She was ambitious, smart, focused, resilient and one of the people who inspired me. So much so that I actually interviewed her for a video blog I was working on a few years ago. It was from that footage that I was able to compose her eulogy which I proudly delivered at her memorial service. The theme of that essay was taken from Kiesha's own words "“It’s okay to crash and burn; Just don’t get stuck there.” Her logic behind this mantra was simple. You can do it if want it done if you take complete accountability for your success. "Nobody’s gonna pay your bills but you! Everything falls on you.” she said enthusiastically
“What you bring in. Your energy, your vibe, your circle,
your goals and your dreams. It’s you! So grow up. Put your big girl panties on and go for it!”
The "Don't Get Stuck Here" mindset was one which really helped me soldier on through some of the most difficult storms of 2018.
“The Journey through pain has 3 stages surviving, healing and growing.” - Rabbi Steve Leder
Kiesha's death was shortly followed by the passing away of my sister-in-law Shonnie. I've known Shon since high school and she was the first person on my in-law side who welcomed me completely into the family. We didn't call each other brother-in-law or sister-in-law, we were simply siblings. She even called me "Brotha Jon" a named which the rest of the family has picked up.
Her death was devestating to us. She was the hub of the family. She kept everyone connected and close. When she passed the there were legitimate worries that everything and everyone would fall apart.
I was particularly concerned for my wife. Her and Shon were very, very close. They spoke daily and visited frequently. It was heartbreaking watching her grieve. She was doing her best to survive mentally and emotionally. But eventually, over the coarse of several weeks something incredible happened for both of us. The will to survive evolved into a desire to heal which evolved into amazing personal and professional growth. I did my best to focus on being the kind of person which Kiesha aspired to be continue to be the person who Shonnie was proud of and my wife became so focused on becoming fit and healthy that she embarked on a wellness routine which resulted in her losing over 30 pounds!
You don't have to save your sugar any longer.
For the last several years I've been working on building my online platform and by extension, my customer base. In an attempt to be as appealing as possible to as many people as possible, I was being somewhat inauthentic to who I am naturally. Those who know me know I cuss, often. I have little tolerance for hypocritical, bigoted behavior. I like to stimulate critical thought and challenge common thoughts, beliefs and cultural traditions and some times, maybe even often, I can be offensive to those who are intent on defining themselves and living life as victims.
But in an attempt to market myself and my services on social media, I would often downplay these characteristics and traits.
Early on last year I decided that I no longer wanted to wear the mask. It really wasn't helping anyway because as a success strategist who helps other people discover and build their own empowered identities, relationships are what are key to my success. People have to like know and trust me for who I truly am. Immediately, my social media posts began to reflect my new wide open, transparent attitude and soon people began to take notice. One of those people was a business consultant named Khadija whom I knew through mutual community connections. She invited me to meet her for breakfast so we could get to know each other and our businesses better.
We both ordered coffee. Mine: Sugar and cream. Hers: Just cream. No sweetener.
As we started our conversation, I casually reminisced aloud about how, while in prison, the way I ordered my coffee was called a Cadillac. Furthermore, in order to enjoy a really good cup, we would have to hoard our sugar packets over the course of several meals and store a carton of milk in cool damp place and hope it doesn't spoil.
We continued our conversation around the topic of coffee as Khadija lectured me on the health risks of refined sugar and artificial sweeteners & creamers. Eventually the conversation moved onto business and she told me she noticed the change in tone of my posts and commentary.
She reassured me that my strategy was the right course of action because me softening up my natural voice and sweetening my message was the equivalent of ruining a cup of coffee with packets of sugar and or the chemicals from artificial sweeteners and creamers.
She confirmed my strategy that the more sincere I was with myself the more meaningful the relationships I would have with everyone, friends, family, clients and even my social media followers.
"Be yourself. She told me. "You don't have to have save your sugars any more."
Your haters are sometimes your best coaches.
In 2016 and 2017 I won a lot of awards. I mean, it seemed like everyone was nominating me or presenting me an award for leadership or community service. And while it's nice to be recognized for the work you're doing, when it's the work you're supposed to be doing anyway the awards don't really matter all that much. Plus, when you're in the spotlight, there are certain people who feel like it's their appointed duty to bring the shade.
In 2018 I experienced a whole lotta hatin' from the fans in the cheap seats. There were a lot of people who were critical of what I did and how I did it and what I wasn't doing yet weren't willing to set foot on the field, in the streets, the schools, the houses where I was did the work which they criticized.
And it wasn't always just random haters. It was the co-workers and so-called friends who ran their mouths the most. They tried to discredit me. They tried to undermine me and in some cases they even jeopardized my safety. I lost out on jobs for which I applied. I lost speaking engagements and teaching opportunities based off of the immature gossip which betrayed both a professional and personal relationship.
All of that could have made me really bitter and jaded but thankfully, the two lessons I learned from those experiences of hate, rejection and betrayal are:
Don't React. Work on yourself and your inner peace!
This one came to me late in the year. It was a social media status of a brother a respect a lot. He's a young leader in action and these wise words demonstrate why.
"I’m slowly learning that even if I react, it won’t change anything, it won’t make people suddenly love and respect me, it won’t magically change their minds.Sometimes it’s better to just let things be , let people go, don’t fight for closure , don’t ask for explanations, don’t chase answers, and don’t expect people to understand where you are coming from. I’m slowly learning that life is better lived when you don’t center it on what’s happening around you and center it on what’s going on inside you instead.
Work on yourself and your inner peace" - Brandon Bruce
Self Care is Proper Mental Health Care
For years I've struggled with depression. Over the years I've had multiple suicide attempts. I've turned to alcohol and narcotics in an attempt to self-medicate. It wasn't until late in 2017 that I finally had enough and went to see a therapist and started taking medication.
That was, no exaggeration, a life saver. As a person who is trained in mental health first aid and trauma informed practices, I know sometimes mental illness is more than a person can handle by themselves, just like other types of physical illnesses. Yes, there are over-the-counter drugs for the common cold or band-aids for minor cuts but when shit is serious, you take your ass to a medical professional.
2018 was a much healthier year for me because I did what I needed to for my mental health. When I invested in myself by taking my mental health seriously, everything in my life improved. Even the challenges which I faced were a little bit easier to overcome because my head was in the right space. And because of that, the things I was able to accomplish and achieve put me in the right place to receive blessings which I hadn't even dreamed.
Discipline is self care
Along the lines of self-care, another lesson learned late in the year was a new understanding of what discipline is. A good friend and business partner Jice Johnson of the Black Business Initiative enlightened me to this perspective during one of our mastermind meetings. She shared a YouTube video of Will Smith explaining his theory of "When you say you love your self you have behavior towards yourself that is loving." He goes on to explain how the word discipline has been misused to always equate to punishment and re-examines it as forgoing immediate pleasure in exchange for long term respect.
"If you want to be happy you have to love yourself which means you have to discipline your behavior. The road to sustained happiness is through disciplining your behavior."
This lesson was a recurring theme for me in 2018. About mid-year I listened to a podcast which I learned about Morita therapy, a Japanese psychological technique called Morita therapy, which concentrates on accepting instead of fixing one’s thoughts and feelings, and acting in spite of them.
Combine the two lessons, you begin to understand that in order to be happy you don't wait for happiness to magically manifest itself in your life, you do what needs to be done in order to create that happiness. You act regardless of how you feel.
Don't Go Chasing Waterfalls
I haven't always been a fan of that hit song by TLC because I always felt like the lyrics "Don't go chasing waterfalls. Please stick to the rivers and lakes which you're used to." encouraged mediocrity and complacency.
However, 2018 taught me another perspective of the phrase. As I've been more and more successful at achieving goals which I've set for myself, I've struggled with maintaining a balance between family and career. There have been times when I had to sacrifice time with my wife and son to attend a necessary meeting or function and vice versa.
In 2018 I also saw the so-called activists, civil servants, social workers, and community leaders sacrifice the very people, communities causes which they claimed to serve in exchange for career advancement, financial gain, power plays, social media fame or just plain ego.
Waterfalls are things which lead us astray, sometimes past our initial goal. We tend to chase them because we fool ourselves into thinking they are the goal rather than the peace of the lakes and rivers we already know. That's not to say, we shouldn't have ambition and settle in our comfort zones. No, we must be aim high, be bold while we build and live better than average lives but also be grateful enough to enjoy all the blessings which exist moment to moment, day to day. and present enough to know when your ambitions are destructive to someone else's peace and prosperity.
I am a simple man who has lived a complicated life. The lessons I've learned from the experiences I've been through and the challenges I've conquered have helped me develop a philosophy that life is meant to be lived at a level better than average.
What Our Clients Are Saying
I thought I knew what setting goals looked like. I believed that I was doing it the right way. But, after attending BTA workshop, I realized that I wasn't asking the right questions and digging deeper within myself to define that answer. I was skimming the surface. I'm grateful for the new insight and the tools to move further faster with my goals. I ask myself everyday, "What am I doing today to advance toward my goals?" Thanks, Jonathan, for your wisdom and spirit!” - C. King