Are Your Words Hurting or Healing?

Words can be used to hurt or to heal, the choice is usually ours to make. I watched someone deliver a speech today and he had a great story. When he was only 6 years old, his mother told him in very clear words that he would never amount to anything. That was the recurring theme within the conversation between his parents and him until he permanently left the house when he turned 15.

When he joined the army, he was lucky to encounter one of his superior who saw something greater in him and spoke healing words. Those healing words, words of encouragements, created a new vision in his mind. He went on to heal from that abusive childhood and grew stronger and more confident in himself. I can’t imagine the damage such words would do to a child, or an adult for that matter.

Each and every one of us on the planet has experience hard times in one form or another. In every interaction we have with others and with ourselves, let’s remember to always speak words that heal, and never words that hurt.

Lessons From the 365 Days of Public Speaking Project

It’s a wrap for the 365 Days of Public Speaking Project. 136 YouTube videos later, I can say that it has been a great experience. The original idea was to produce content daily on a subject I love, public speaking. When I started the year my ambition was to create one 2 to 5 minutes video and publish on YouTube.com under the channel I had created for the purpose. The channel is accessible here: http://www.youtube.com/user/365dps

The project was not successfully completed. I stopped recording after the 136th video. There are many reasons why I stopped, and reflecting about the experience allowed me to draw the following three lessons:

  • A Half Baked Cake is Better Than No Cake

When you are hungry enough, a half baked cake tastes as good as a fully baked cake. It would have been great to finish with the 365 videos, but I am happy I hit 136 videos. That is about 37% of the goal and it is much better than 25%. In other words, if you don’t hit a goal you had set for yourself but have been able to achieve it partially, you can be proud of yourself for taking a good swing at it.

  • Developed Daily Discipline is an Invaluable Skill

One of the reasons why I did not go through to the 365 envisioned videos is because I did not have enough discipline. I guess when I did not see traffic coming to the videos, my interest and zeal for the project declined. That should not have happened. I should have been disciplined to keep going. Discipline is doing what must be done even when one does not want or feel like doing it. I was not disciplined enough to carry the project through to completion. In other words, be disciplined enough to do what you have to do, even when you don’t want or feel like doing it.

  • No Effort is Ever Wasted

I have realized that effort I have put into creating each of the videos was beneficial to me. I was either reviewing concepts I already knew, or was learning new concepts for the purpose of explaining them to my online audience. If no one ever watches the videos, I can say that each one of them was an educational experience for me. In other words, there is a learning (or teaching) experience in every activity you undertake.

If you would like to see the list of all the videos, head on to the YouTube channel here: http://www.youtube.com/user/365dps.

If you have a YouTube channel, share the link in the comments section below and I will definitely check it out and subscribe.

Three Lessons From My Journey Out of Obesity – Part 1

One out of every three people you meet every day is obese. Obesity is a medical condition in which excess body fat has accumulated to the extent that it may have a negative effect on health, leading to reduced life expectancy and/or increased health problems (Wikipedia.org). In June this year I spent a few weeks living close to the White House, in Washington, DC. My stay there was as a result of The Road Tripping Toastmasters project I had embarked on.

Lionnel-with-Cindy
When I looked at this picture and saw my belly, I decided do intensify my workout. Which one of your pictures can you use to motivate yourself?

During my stay in Washington, DC, I found a Higi Station at a Giant store and out of sheer curiosity, I used it. The Higi Station checks vitals like your blood pressure, heart rate, weight, and calculates your BMI (Body Mass Index). My BMI was 36.47. According to the World Health Organization, a BMI  of 30 or above indicates obesity. It does not necessarily equate to health issues, but that must make you ring the alarm.

In my case, with a blood pressure at 149/91 mmHg (normal is 120/80 mmHg), I knew I had to take some action in order to get in better shape. So I did. I specifically took three steps:

  1. Created a support group. I informed my family members about those facts and enlisted them in a support group to help me make a positive change.
  2. Educated myself. I had always been aware that the food we eat has a lot to do with the quality of life we lead. However, I had somehow believed that because I was not “sick”, the food I was eating was good.  Wrong! The greatest talk about food on YouTube is this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zjPFKW_MYtM
  3. Recommitted to my daily exercise routine. I used to walk 1 to 2 miles every day, but not always assiduously. I decided to add more intensity to my exercise, and never skip a day (easier said than done).

That was in June. We are now in November and I got new stats from the Higi Station. Here are the relevant info:

  1. Reduced my weight by 5 Pounds (2.26 Kg)
  2. Reduced my blood pressure to 131/85mmHg
  3. Reduced my BMI to …35.61

It might not be impressive, and could have definitely been better. However, the important thing for me is that I have a much better understanding of my health, and how what goes through my mouth impacts my body. Life is a big experiment and more often than not, you and I are being experimented on without our permission or awareness. I think we should individually be running our own experiments to identify that is best for us, rather than letting other people and corporations tell us.

If you feel or look overweight, you probably are. If you know your height and age, here is a tool to quickly calculate your ideal weight:  http://www.calculator.net/ideal-weight-calculator.html. If your current weight exceeds your ideal weight, welcome to the “people who realized they are obese” club. If you want to join the “people on a journey out of obesity club,” keep reading.

What are the three lessons I have for you, you ask? Here they are:

  • Don’t try to normalize your weight without having a good motive for doing so. Otherwise you will feel bad about yourself when your will is not strong enough to maintain the discipline required. My motivation to normalize my weight is the decision I made to reach my 90th birthday in great health. We cannot stop the aging process, but we can slow it down a great deal.
  • Start small and give yourself at least 6 to 12 months before looking for significant changes. It is true that with workout programs like T25 and P90x, or Insanity, you can get amazing results in a very short period of time. However, if you intend to normalize your weight and keep it that way, you have to develop a new set of habits that help you maintain that discipline. If you don’t have any exercise routine, start with a daily 1 mile walk (about 17 minutes for me) and progressively increase it as the days go by.
  • Make a commitment to someone you respect, and be accountable. It might be your spouse, your boss, your business partner, or even your coach (if you have one.)  Being accountable helps keep you on your toes. When you know you have a report to submit and no excuse is acceptable, you get the report done (even if done poorly). Until you learn to do it well, anything worth doing is worth doing poorly.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series in a few months.

Till then, here are a few links to help you or someone you know tackle his or her obesity situation:

Lessons From Losing the Area G4 Humorous Speech Contest

Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn. Learning I did, after losing the Area G4 Humorous Speech Contest last Saturday 10/11 in Irvine, California. The contest is part of the Annual Humorous Speech Contest with Toastmasters International, and I was up against contestant from 3 other clubs. I did not completely lose (took runner up), but nobody remember who came second place. lionnel-at-contest-with-trophy

All we remember most of the time is who came first place, and even first place is soon forgotten, if he or she does not become the ultimate winner at the Toastmasters District or International level of the competition. Buzz Aldrin was the second man to set foot on the moon. You probably have never heard of him. Who is Lance Armstrong? … That’s right, the first human being to step on the planet moon. Need I say more?

There are three key lessons I took away from the speech contest experience:

  • Never Over-prepare For a Speech

I was very uncomfortable in the time leading to the speech because I am not know to have a lot of humor when I speak. Therefore, I exercised a lot of restrain in order for me not to prepare too much for the performance.

My friend and public speaking coach Quinn was more excited about me going there to win than I was. I knew my main stories, my punch lines, and my delivery turned out way better than ever before in front of other audiences. Next time you have an “important” speech to deliver, don’t over-prepare. Practice a few times in front of a live audience where the stakes are lower, that should be enough.

  • Have Familiar Faces in The Audience

Even though I have met and interacted with many people in my District, the group of about 40 people I was speaking in front of had only about 5 to 7 familiar faces. Two of them had already heard my speech. Having them in the audience provided me with a good emotional support. Yes, even champions need emotional support.

Whenever you have to speak to an unfamiliar group of people, arrange for at least one familiar face to be in the audience. That really helps.

  • When in Doubt Go With Your Guts

Because I was speaking at the contest as a representative of my club OC Toasters, I received a ton of feedback and suggestion for improvement. It felt overwhelming and I did not know what to leave and what to take out. It is difficult to incorporate everybody’s opinion about a speech to improve it.

When you don’t know what to leave out and what to take from feedback you receive, take nothing and go with your original message. That way regardless of how things turn out, you can be proud you followed your guts.

How To Solve The Problems of Black People Worldwide: Five Steps

The black people around the world is in trouble. The trouble did not start today and will not stop today. I have recently been exposed to a lot of the problems blacks deal with through accounts from community leaders and educators like Dr. Umar Johson, Dr. Amos Wilson and Dr. Claud Anderson among others, especially in America. One of the things I have appreciated from all the educators I have listened to is that they always provide possible solutions after stating the problems. From my reflection from contemplating the recent events that recently took place in Ferguson, Missouri, I came up with a few possible solutions of my own.

Maybe that’s part of the problem: having too many solutions, and not doing enough towards their implementations. That is possible. However, it is also possible that some groups are implementing solutions at micro-levels and their success stories will emerge when the processes have matured. Whatever the case is, I am positive and hopeful that the future of black people worldwide is much better than the picture the media paints. desmond-tutu-quotes

  • STEP 1: Create a Black Leaderless Group Lead By Black Consciousness

This step is inspired by the hacktivism group “Anonymous,” not by the “Black Consciousness Movement.” This group will be leaderless and all its members will strive to maintain anonymity.  The primary objective of the group will be to help channel black people’s energy in one single direction, in unity, peace and love for self and towards one another.

The group will also work towards the liberation of the black people from its economic chains controlled by the Western World. The group will not be affiliated to any religious group or practice any political system, but it will rely upon ancestral African customs and traditions that served our black ancestors well.

  • STEP 2: Adopt One Native African Language for All Black People Worldwide

It is my estimate that within a period of five to ten years, every single black person on the planet can learn and speak one language that will be selected by the group created in Step 1. It is possible. A people that cannot communicate in a language that they can call their own will never be truly united.

There are lots of different local African dialect that are already well spoken by a good number of people across the African continent and beyond. Good examples include Ewe, part of the the Gbe family of native African languages (West Africa – Ghana, Togo, Nigeria, Benin). With technology today, it will be easy as 1 2 3 to teach the language to every black person who must learn.

  • STEP 3: Adopt One Single African Currency

The United States of America is (now arguably) called “The Greatest Country” in the world because the world economy runs on the United States Dollar. The more people refer to the dollar for their day to day business operations, the stronger the USA is. If you don’t understand how to United States currency works, watch this 13 minutes video on YouTube:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y1OJlJ9COg0.

It is indeed possible to a United Africa to create and run its affairs with its own currency. Having one currency will reinforce our interdependence on one another as blacks, and reduce our dependence on Western and submission to Western nations. Imagine how divided and expensive it would be for America’s 52 states to each have their own currencies. That would be a chaotic situation, which Africa now deals with.

  • STEP 4: Allow Free Movements of People and Goods Between African Countries

Even though we are in the 21st century, travelling from one African country to another is still very challenging, and stressful. Under a united black people, there would be no need for borders and divergent interest. The current division of Africa and the black people as a whole, only benefits Western countries. Our demise on that front started with the Berlin Conference of 1884 to divide Africa. Read more about it here: http://geography.about.com/cs/politicalgeog/a/berlinconferenc.htm

  • STEP 5: Invite Black Brothers and Sisters To Return Home

Once the four steps above have been taken, black men and women around the world will be so proud of their achievements that they would not probably need an invitation to come back home, to Africa. Ghana has already taken the lead in this initiative. Read about it here: http://thegrio.com/2013/11/02/why-ghana-is-fast-becoming-a-hub-for-african-americans/. There is no place like home. The further away a people lives from its origins, the more vulnerable it is.

There is no people on the face of the planet that is as hard working and resilient as black people. If we systematically follow the steps outlined above, it is possible that we turn our seemingly bleek fate around. The process will take time, there will be a lot of resistance but it will work. However, the cost of not doing anything is too high, way higher than the cost of going into action.

Notes: 

1. Africa is at the core of all the steps above because Black People originated from the African continent. It is home to us. If we don’t like what our home is or has become, let’s get brooms and mops to start cleaning up. Just like Marcus Garvey said: “I have no desire to take all black people back to Africa; there are blacks who are no good here and will likewise be no good there.”

2. You are welcome to suggest more solutions or steps that could be added or removed from the process above.