The year is 2020—also known as COVID-19

It’s an election year, and it’s a year anarchists’ have set out to destroy America. They’re spreading chaos throughout the country, one prominent democratic city at a time, and creating deep divisions and demolishing peaceful life. 

One of the contentions is racism. 

The Democrats characterize our country as systemically racist. I think they’re nuts. While I’m not saying discrimination and racism does not exist, I’m saying it does not permeate the institution.

They vow to dismantle the structures that they say define racial, economic, political, and social inequity. They are pushing for a ‘societal transformation’ that reinforces Black Lives Matter. Their solution is to radically change the way we live. But they also want to delete our history, which they claim glorifies white supremacy. The Democrats insist systemic racism is on full display.

An example of systemic racism is the “redlining” system that banks once used that literally drew a red line around neighborhoods where people of color lived. If you lived within the red lines, banks considered you high-risk and were less likely to approve and give loans. 

This practice was banned in 1968.

While African American history did begin with slavery, black leaders, artists, and writers emerged – and, still, to this day, continue to rise – shaping the United States’ character and identity. Their gifts and contributions bring us to where we are today: opportunities, freedom, and prosperity for all Americans. 

Robert Abbot was the founder of The Chicago Defender (b. 1870 – 1940), one of the most influential black newspapers in history, in 1905.

Alvin Ailey founded the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (b. 1931 – 1989). He was a legendary dance pioneer, choreographer, and civil rights artist-as-activist. He extended cultural community using the beauty and humanity of the African-American heritage to unite people of all races, ages and backgrounds during the rise of the civil rights movement.

Maya Angelou, poet and activist (b. 1928 – 2014), joined the Harlem Writers Guild. In 1969, she wrote the book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings — which became a seven-volume, best-selling autobiographical series. A strong-minded civil rights activist serving alongside Martin Luther King Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference and working with Malcolm X, Angelou established the Organization of Afro-American Unity.

Ella Baker, a civil rights activist (b. 1903 – 1986), laid the framework for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). SNCC became one of the most critical groups affecting change in American civil rights history through Freedom Rides, as well as its great emphasis on the importance of African-Americans’ voting rights.

Shirley Chisolm (b. 1924 – 2005) was the first black woman elected to the U.S. Congress. She represented New York’s 12th District for seven terms — from 1969 to 1983.

Benjamin Oliver Davis Sr., (b. 1880 – 1970) was the first African-American general for the U.S. Army during World War II. He battled segregation by developing and advancing plans for the limited desegregation of U.S. combat forces.

Dr. Charles Drew (b. 1904 – 1950) revolutionized the understanding of plasma, the liquid portion of blood without cells. He was the first African-American to get his doctorate from Columbia University in 1940. He became the leading authority on blood transfusions. This, just as the United States and Great Britain were becoming deeply involved in World War II.

I can go on. 

Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Malcolm X. 

Jesse Jackson. 

Jimi Hendrix.

Jackie Robinson. 

Soujourner Truth. 

Harriet Tubman.

More recently, Kimberly Bryant, founder of Black Girls Code. Wes Moore, Army veteran and the CEO of Robin Hood, an organization focused on improving the living standards for low-income residents of New York. Mark E. Dean, top engineer at IBM – he’s why our computers talk to printers. Charlene Carruthers, founding director of Black Youth Project 100 which works with hundreds of young Black activists who are dedicated to creating justice and freedom for all Black people.

And let’s not leave out Barack Hussein Obama II, the first African-American president of the United States from 2009 to 2017.

There are so many others whose life and works is the hallmark of opportunities, freedom and prosperity.

The government has taken steps, too, with the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972. This act allows the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) the authority to sue employers when it finds reasonable cause for employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

Again, I can go on.

But this isn’t what I want to talk about.

I want to talk about the issues in America that hold real systemic argument and, until they are addressed, will continue to oppress citizens of this great country. I’m talking about education, housing, mental health…

I can go on.

The four words everyone needs to hear

Just because you consider yourself wealthy, doesn’t mean that the possibility of being broke isn’t lurking around the corner. Let me tell you a story…

From 2009 to 2016, I survived on eleven bucks. I am not exaggerating. Somewhere around 2011, I thought about disappearing for a bit to get my life together. I also convinced myself resurfacing in a foreign country 10 years later with a new name would be OK. But when I returned to the real world, I convinced myself that although I wasn’t living my golden moment, it wasn’t the worst time.

I lived in the middle of a big city that was crumbling in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. I had zero savings and was living paycheck to paycheck. I was flat out broke. “Frugal living” was a necessity. Two dollars and eighty-eight cents bought me a family-size box of Cheeze-its, which fed me for the week. My own two feet were my transportation. I saved the quarter tank of gas for emergencies. I had no furniture – save for a cheap Ikea daybed that I used as a couch and a mattress that I had classily placed directly on the floor in my bedroom. My small TV and DVD player had been gifted to me by my next-door neighbor. They were propped up on a milk crate. I had a $5 antenna that gave me 5 stations – two played Spanish TV shows, two represented church services, and then ION TV. ION TV played Criminal Minds all day every day. I was frightened to be outdoors after dark for years!

While I admit I wasn’t the most financially intelligent person back then, my money problems were not caused by lousy budgeting or living beyond my means. Before 2009, I was in the FLOW of life, totally engaged in everything, and happy. But life took a few turns that I hadn’t adequately prepared for … divorce, death, betrayal, rejection, humiliation, loss of ‘self.’



Surprisingly enough, though, my biggest problem was not that I had practically no money or objects to my name. It was the first time I had ever lived alone, and I was lonely. After my first two panic attacks—full-on racing heart, hyperventilation, and cresting waves of fear and apprehension—I reminded myself that forever isn’t right now.

That’s when I decided I wasn’t waiting around for happiness to bust through the door—just the opposite. I was riding all the waves with my knees bent to absorb all the bumps. And when I needed to rest, I meditated. I like to call it meditating, anyway. It was more like napping.

I was tired of agonizing about paying rent every month. Working just to live was exhausting. At some point, it just became silly. I knew I didn’t need much in my apartment to get by. Still, I needed an attitude of curiosity, openness, and acceptance. I wanted to feel the freedom to choose my response to the ups and downs of life. While 90% of the work I did on myself couldn’t be seen, it was felt. My resilience and strength I brought to the table left no doubt that I could change my circumstances.

I started making decisions that changed how life flowed, and I changed my mindset. Acceptance, instead of feeling letdown, helped me cultivate patience. Patience allowed me to stay present during the struggles. And most importantly, I stopped thinking that I “needed more money.”

I started to find meaning in my life, and that’s when my life started to have meaning. I’m sure a philosopher or great mind has said something to this effect in a book, but this is a real process that has lit me up.

When you focus on something other than money, experiences like barbecuing with friends spending no money will give you far more than you can ever imagine. What I’m saying is, you decide the difference between rich and poor. Since money stopped being all-important to me, it started to find its way into my life again without me focusing on it.


Seven hundred words later and the point of this whole story comes down to four words: forever isn’t right now. If you remember this, you will be just fine.

Ready to become a stronger human?

We may be different in what we experience, what we believe, where we come from, and how we think. Still, there’s one thing that is the same for all of us: success and failure are multiplied by whatever we feed it. Just to be clear, good habits are an ally, bad habits are an enemy.

We’re a society obsessed with achievement. This is especially true in the gym. I’ve never walked into a gym and heard someone say, “You should do something easy today.” I’m asked questions, like, what’s your max? Or, what’s your PR? No one asks how my training is going, and no one celebrates if I go up one pound. Instead, I’m cheered on to try for two more plates.

Here’s the problem, though. When we focus on immediate achievement, we sidestep slower, consistent progress. Success is rooted in our culture so much so that progress is often ignored. (Of course, focusing on slower growth would lead to more exceptional performance, but it’s easy to dismiss this when all we want to do is set a new PR today.)

I’m determined to embrace this principle, and I’m getting better at it. Quarantine + gym-closures are helping. (It’s kind of hard to PR in your living room with a resistance band). The beautiful thing is, the body has a fantastic ability to adapt. Nowadays, I’m training for slow progress rather than immediate achievement.

Enter, kettlebell training

Pop Quiz: If you want to get in shape and become stronger, and if you’re going to reach your full potential, what is most important?

Answer: not missing workouts.

Kettlebells offer a kind of training that uses progressive moves that targets almost every slant of fitness—endurance, strength, balance, agility. This modest lump of iron will get your heart rate up and make you stronger for the long haul. With kettlebells, it’s never about putting up a big number, and it has very little to do with goals. It has everything to do with learning how to contend with a constantly changing center of gravity. Focus and honor the process. Accomplishments will happen.

Keep your squats low and your standards high

You can’t always go hard with kettlebells, and you can’t outwork them. They teach you; You don’t teach them.

It’s been a hard lesson for me, but I’ve learned that my program doesn’t always have to be about strength. And based on my experience, stability should be a pre-requisite to strength. You can’t press a kettlebell if your hips are not stable, and you can’t squat properly if your knees or ankles are not stable, either.

These days, I’m focusing on the simple yet challenging: dynamic, controlled, Iso moves. I’m pairing them together in a pretty spicy collection (and I have battle scars to prove it) with a full-body power movement. 

An example of a full-body power movement is the double kettlebell clean and squat:

  • Explosive start for the posterior chain (the string of muscles that propel you forward)
  • Strong front rack hold for mid-back, lats, and core (gotta build a strong back to force them to talk in front of you)
  • Controlled descent into an explosive squat for strong legs (strong legs provide stability like I was talking about earlier)

Let’s keep movin’ savages

So what’s the point, you ask? The point is, continuous improvement will add up to something significant one day. Feeding our lives with good habits, making slightly better decisions daily, not rushing the process, and expanding our abilities by altering the variables will set us up to move well in life. It’ll make us stronger humans. Plus, kettlebell flows are beautiful. Hard to perform, but beautiful. 

I have a meeting with my boss’s boss

Depending on when you read this, it might be tomorrow, or it might be today – or it might have already gone down.

For the past several weeks, a dialogue about racism in our society has been brought to the forefront in our nation, states, cities, neighborhoods and workplaces. For me, this dialogue had only extended to informal conversations with my friends and family. But now it has taken formal precedence among my colleagues. They’ve labeled it, “Continuing the Conversation: Racism, Diversity and Inclusion.”

My company has three divisions: newsroom, editorial and sales. The team I work with falls under sales, but only narrowly. Several months ago, leaders within the overarching division of sales started holding town hall-style meetings to talk about racism and inclusion. Attendance in these meetings was optional. The intention was “a safe space for colleagues to share their experiences.” I think they had two sessions, total. I haven’t seen any invites in quite a while. My immediate team, a much smaller troop, has picked up the slack. You might call us an active group of movers and shakers!

Our meetings, too, are optional, and up until last week, I opted to NOT attend. I only participated in this last one because I needed to know (for myself) how close or how far apart I am from my colleagues. I’m surprised to admit this meeting was one of the most notable meetings I’ve attended in the last decade. And here’s why…

Our fearless leader (aka, Chris) kicked off the meeting reminding everyone the purpose of this conversation: to discuss strategies and actions we can and will take as a team, and provide an open forum for continued dialogue surrounding racism, diversity and inclusion. A vast portion of the hour centered around the group complaining about “the company” and its lack of action to change.

Honestly, I was a bit lost.

What “changes” do they want the company to make? Are these changes surrounding the operations of the business? Our interactions with each other as a team? Or regarding the work we produce? I don’t know; maybe this was flushed out during the meetings I opted not to attend. The conversation continued with people agreeing, “We have to be change agents” and that we need to “be our authentic selves.” Man, how I hate buzz words.

Either way, the conversation evolved, and Chris said something that sparked one of those beloved “Aha!” moments. He said (and I quote): “Before we can answer the question ‘what action will we take,’ we need to define our ethos.”

Ethos.

Noun, the characteristic spirit of a culture, era, or community as manifested in its beliefs and aspirations.

Chris is right. We can’t decide how we will change or what needs to change until we first define what we stand for.

While I don’t think I really needed to attend the meeting for that revelation, I could have waited for the summary email, complete with slide deck. What I did appreciate is that Chris (unknowingly) was making me think about my personal ethos.

Personal ethos.

Personal ethos is your own framework for making moral choices. Knowing where you stand on morality and why you stand there.

In my opinion, this is an essential first step before anyone can consider becoming an agent of change. Being aware of your personal ethos is more than just a matter of being honest with yourself. It’s about setting boundaries, setting your bar, setting your priorities, and knowing how far you will go to protect and defend and stand on the line. And these days, there is plenty on the line.

And something else.

I’m expected to be my authentic self – after all, it’s encouraged – but what if I don’t see eye-to-eye on an article I’m publishing for a client? I doubt I can just say, Nah, I’m taking a pass on this one. (Oh, hello, revenue.) Up until now, I assumed I didn’t have to agree with what we publish. But now it begs the question, am I being true to myself if I publish something I don’t agree with. There’s a real-world fact: I have bills to pay. How do I reconcile this?

In the day-to-day, I always treated the client as the most important person. I think I’ve been wrong. It should be the reader. (I don’t know what value this epiphany has, but I thought it was worth mentioning.)

But then again, I work in branded content (which is, essentially, advertising). I don’t work in news or editorial. Can you imagine if I told my boss I don’t want to publish this client’s pro-mask article because I’m anti-mask? What in the world??

So, what does it all matter? If I want to get paid, I’m going to publish the article.

It’s my personal ideology that matters; the boundaries and priorities I set for myself. Am I OK with publishing an article I don’t agree with? Or am I not? Can – or should – a small marketing team be defining the company code?

I’m all over the board on this one. And this is what my meeting with my boss’s boss will be about.

Or I’ll just give him a high-five and say, “thanks for a great meeting.” I haven’t decided.

The Trump rally article of my dreams (which this is not)

My initial reaction: I’m at a rally filled with Millennials who seem to have their heads straight.

I have to be honest, I was surprised to see so many young people today. They are quite informed about issues, too—at least the issues that matter to them. They are open-minded and deeply devout. I found strange, though, that they seem to have views that, in my opinion, cross party lines—for instance, their position on immigration. I spoke with one person who said he was in favor of letting in immigrants because of his experience when he went on his mission. Yet he is indeed supporting President Trump – the guy that’s building the wall.

According to another attendee: most people here don’t love labels.

This got me thinking about a podcast I listened to just recently.

Labels.

Disclaimer: This is strictly my opinion. Since at least the 70s and onward, identity politics has been a mode of categorizing new social groups. Whites and blacks, Latinos and Asians, men and women, Christians, Jews, and Muslims, straight people and gay people, liberals and conservatives. And the Left has used these lines of social difference as ways to gain empowerment. More us vs. them.

They’ve done it systematically, and they divvy up the electorate this way. For instance, it’s widely believed that “black voters vote Democrat.” Another example: when my friends found out that I did not vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016, they were shocked (and maybe offended). After all, I’m female, so automatically, I was assumed to vote for her.

I am starting to think conservatives believe the same thing; you can divvy up the electorate using the tactic of identity politics. I never really thought about this before. In a way, this event is evidence. “The Latter-Day Saints for Trump Launch.” One group… one identity… (plus me)… it’s an “us” event.

(Still, my opinion here) The minute you do this… the minute you divvy up the electorate and take on the thinking, “well, if I get that identity group to flip,” you just made some secondary feature people’s primary identity—and that makes you no better than the Left. You create division, disunion, and you continue to push segmentation.

I think conservatives can win by uniting people and giving them a vision of the collective good. That’s what Trump did in 2016. He said, ‘we all bleed the same blood of patriots’ – not, ‘black people should vote for me.’ He said, ‘consider yourselves American.’

That’s the uniting message that is going to bring people together. The key here is not a “Latter Day Saints for Trump” sign. The key is the American flag. This is the most compelling symbol one can carry and the most meaningful identity that we share.