The Life Inspired: words of wisdom from Will Smith

At my school, all 8th graders are required to give a 5 minute speech to graduate from middle school. A recent Facebook survey to the homies revealed that my friends gave talks ranging from the holocaust to synchronized swimming to Winnie the Pool to the Titantic to Vans to why sports stars are over paid.

Me? Well, naturally I gave mine on Will Smith and his illustrious career, which at that point in time had just been crowned with the jewel of Independence Day. I ended the speech with line that has since become a punch line in my family: “who knows where this talented individual will go next? Only time WILL tell.” Get it? GET IT!??? GeT iT!?!?!?!?! ahahhahaaha.

Will-Smith

Well that was over 15 years ago and time has since shown us that Will Smith not only has staying power as an actor, but as an individual with character, values and strength. I wanted to share this video of him that has clipped together some of his most inspiring, encouraging and motivating quotes on achieving your dreams, striving to DO GOOD in the world, beliefs, fears and making choices.

What I appreciate most is that the video brings together a handful of different segments, but he never contradicts himself and has a beautiful way of reiterating his most poignant points, showing that he knows truly who he is and what he believes. I have a feeling that that is why he has been able to achieve the success that he has.

I received this video from Paul C. Brunson with a statement that said “This Video WILL change your life”. After watching it and letting it all sink in, I really believe that it might….

The Life Inspired: Afrobella on courage and finding your beauty

What can I say, Patrice (a.k.a. Afrobella) is a total G.

This weeks dose of The Life Inspired comes from her TEDx talk she gave recently in her home of Trinidad. I’ve had the opportunity to get to know her over the past couple years, first through her blog and then in person over Chicago deep dish pizza, hurricanes + beignets in NOLA and most recently on stage in Los Angeles. Despite being one of the most prominent bloggers in the world, the one thing that immediately comes across when talking with Patrice is that she is one of the most authentic individuals you will ever meet.

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This talk touches on an idea that I truly believe in:

courage comes from fear.

 

Looking back, I realize that many of the most rewarding and memorable experiences in my life were first planted with seeds of fear. People often call me “fearless”, but the truth is that more often than not I just tap into my courage within. Whether it’s chopping my hair off or taking off to explore a foreign country on my own or quitting a full-time job to pursue my passion, courage is my guiding force.

Enjoy this inspiring talk about finding your own path, your own beauty and most importantly your own courage to face your fears and accomplish your dreams!

The Life Inspired: the best 3:28 you’ll have today

At least that’s how it was for me!

Let’s just dive into this one. We’ll discuss after you finish this Pep Talk from Kid President:

I mean, COME ON! Have you seen anything better than that?! There was SPACE JAM! There was a reference to Life cereal! There was S&^! talking on Robert Frost. And there was a small child punting a football while speaking my personal mantra: don’t. be. boring.

So what do you say, shall we continue on the road less traveled? The one that leads to AWESOME??

I say we do.

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The Life Inspired: the dream of equality

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In today’s segment of “The Life Inspired”, I would be remiss if I did not feature President Barack Obama’s inauguration on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Watching the President stand on the Washington Mall and take the oath for his second term, I couldn’t help but think how exactly 50 years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr stood in the same place and made a radical call for equality. While we have come a long way in terms of equality since the Civil Rights movement of the 1960′s, in his inauguration speech President Obama passionately spoke about the work he and his administration plan on doing in terms of furthering equality in terms of gender, ethnic, and sexual orientation.

In an effort to reflect on how far we’ve come and how far there still is to go, I’m sharing both the famous “I Have A Dream” speech and, if you didn’t catch it earlier, President Obama’s 2nd term inauguration speech.

History.
History realized.
History in the making.

FORWARD!

I Have A Dream (full text)

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating “For Whites Only”. We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

The Life Inspired: on success

Beyond the hair and wellness talk, I wanted to start a new series that shares stories from which I draw personal inspiration.  From keeping me on my hustle  to bringing a moving tear to my eye to putting a simple smile on my face, it’s these tokens of inspiration that are the true driving forces in my life.  It is my hope that you enjoy, share and most importantly live The Life Inspired yourself!

 

photoThis week I’m starting things off with somebody who has been featured many times here on NaturalSelectionBlog.  Two years ago,I partnered with KomazaCare to “adopt a transitioner” and work with them over the course of the year.  We selected Stephanie, a highschooler from Brooklyn who found herself as a lone transitioner in her home and school.  Fast forward two years: Stephanie is now thriving as a fully natural junior in highschool!  She recently asked me a few interview questions about my concept of “success” for a class.  The result is a speech about this topic that is full of great lessons and inspiration that I’d like to share with you as we kick off our weeks and start our new years!

[dropcap style="font-size: 60px; color: #9b9b9b;"] B [/dropcap]eing raised in the neighborhood of Bedford Stuyvesant, everyone expects you to get into drugs, gangs, and violence. No one expects you to become a millionaire. Young men are usually being raised by single mothers who work two jobs and don’t have time to keep track of their son’s whereabouts. Imagine a boy walking down the street to his home, to only notice the local drug dealer standing at the corner wearing the latest Jordans. He looks up and sees the rings, the diamond chains, and the wad of money being stuffed into the drug dealer’s pockets. He looks down to see his own shirt, crumpled and ripped, and his New Balance Sneakers from 2008. His desire for money grows and he approaches the drug dealer; becoming a product of his own environment. This is the story of many young men growing up in the projects. This is the story of Sean Carter. Sean Carter, better known as Jay-Z, is a man that grew up in the Marcy Projects of Bedford Stuyvesant in Brooklyn. Just like the boy in the story, he became a drug dealer when his want for money and power grew. Jay-Z turned to music to get away from the negativity that surrounded him. He stayed persistent, worked hard, and took risks which led him to build an empire worth almost $500 million dollars.

To be successful in America, many things are required and although everyone wants to be successful, a majority of people don’t actually know what it takes to get there. Some people say that earning a certain amount of money is considered success, but it is agreeable by most that everyone has their own definition of the word success. According to dictionary.com, success is the attainment of wealth, position or honor. After speaking to a woman named Cassidy, who is the Founder + Editor of naturalselectionblog.com, I gathered that success is not measured by accumulated wealth nor material possessions, but by the fulfillment you attain when you are doing the things you love. Even John Lennon once stated that happiness was the key to life. To be successful is to be happy with whatever you are doing and to do it well.

Although developing an opinion on success doesn’t require much effort, becoming successful isn’t as easy as it seems. If you think that you can buy success, you are sadly mistaken. Giving up easily, lack of self-confidence and having no plan is how you won’t become successful. You can’t expect things to be handed to you in life nor can you let your success get to your head. So many people end up living on the streets because they lose their humility and stop working hard for the things they want to achieve. Don’t feel like people owe you something because you helped them when they were in need. Chances are, they’re not even thinking about you. You want something done? You do it yourself. You be in control of your future. The people you surround yourself with also affects your level of success. You can’t want to be successful and have friends who have negativity mindsets and no goals in life because eventually, that will rub on to you. Surround yourself with people who are hungry. People that want their dreams to become reality just as bad as you do. People that will pick you up when you fall and remind you of how far you’ve come when you feel like giving up. If you allow the little things to distract you from your dreams, the big things will you eat alive and leave you with nothing but the clothes on your back.

To be successful, first off, you have to have a clear plan. Know what you want to do in life and how you plan to get it. Write down your goal and every week do something to get closer to that goal. Whether it’s putting in that extra hour of studying in high school so you can be a doctor one day, or studying the faces and walks of models so you can one day be on that Victoria Secret’s Runway; every little thing you do will bring you closer to your ultimate goal. Be fearless and take risks. There will be times that you will fail, but never allow yourself to fall to the point that you can’t get back up. No one ever got to the top by being afraid of failing. Out of failure comes lessons and out of lessons comes wisdom. You need to self-assured. And by self-assured I mean having confidence in the decisions you make and not questioning yourself. Once you figure out who you are and your place in this world, never allow another human being make you question your purpose. Stay persistent. Don’t stop or give up just because things aren’t going your way. When life gets harder, you have the choice to either crumble under the pressure or push harder; always choose to push harder and never give up. There is no success story without a story of struggle behind it. No one ever became successful without going through many nights of not knowing what’s next, of questioning their sanity, and of facing daily obstacles that continued to bring them down. But you know what makes them different than most? The fact that they got back up and continued to fight. They continued to believe in themselves when no one else believed in them. They worked hard and they fought with every last bit of strength they had.

Doing something you don’t love will always lead you down a path of unfulfillment. Don’t go to school to be a doctor if your passion is to be a dancer or an actress. Don’t let other people dictate who you have to be in life. You are the controller of your pain, your happiness, and your success. You decide what affects you and what doesn’t. Look in the mirror, you are in control of your future; don’t put it in someone else’s hands. Do what will bring YOU happiness. Robert Tew once said, “Small minds cannot comprehend big spirits. To be great, you have to be willing to be mocked, hated, and misunderstood. Stay strong.” People will hate you for doing what they can’t, people will ridicule you for doing what they don’t understand, people will try to bring you down; but if you believe in yourself, stay humble, work hard, be persistent, take risks and have faith, you can do anything your heart desires.

Success is not given to just anyone. Success is given to the special people in the world that wake up with a smile on their face even though they were crying the night before. Success is given to those that are ready to work hard and take the world and all of its challenges head on, without an ounce of fear in their soul.

Now that you’ve heard what I’ve had to say, answer me this… do you have what it takes to be successful in America?

Hats off to Stephanie for this moving and engaging speech!  Let us know your thoughts on success in the comments.  If you have an inspiring story, video or image to share, please drop me a line!

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