My mother tried to warn me... "Son, the most dangerous and feared person in the world is a well-spoken Black man." She was absolutely right. I'll never forget the time, when I was in graduate school. It was an introductory counseling class, taught by a liberal white man. After listening to him repeatedly make blanket statements and generalizations about the human experience, I started to raise questions and engage in conversations that openly, but respectfully challenged his assumptions.
One day, he mentioned something about overcoming cultural superstition in mental health. Naturally, I pointed out the fact that what one group calls science is superstition to another. A Canadian student chimed in, "What wold you say to a farmer in Ethiopia, whose crops are failing due to drought but refuses to leave the place because he BELIEVES that it has something to do with the gods or his ancestors?" He and the professor both looked at me with absolute certainty that I would agree with their position... I did not!
I responded, "Ethiopians are among the oldest people on the planet, with an ancient civilization. I would encourage him to continue with his rituals - which have evidently worked for tens of thousands of years. But I would also encourage him to investigate what has happened more recently to now interrupt the success his people have had for so many generations... The problem may not be spiritual, or psychological at all. It might be colonial! He might need to keep his goods and keep his land, but get rid of the Europeans." They promptly changed the subject.
Later on, however, I experienced what I call an academic court marshall, wherein this same professor brought me before the department chair, the graduate coordinator and my advisor. The professor started off with his complaint about me: "He can't be taught! He thinks he has an answer for everything... I haven't heard ideas articulated like that since Frantz Fanon." I looked at my advisor, who had wisely instructed me to allow him to do all the talking. Once the ordeal was done, my advisor did told me, "Don't worry about it. To be honest, it's not your fault. You heard what he said, right? Reading about it isn't the same as coming face to face with it. As a department, we weren't ready for a student like you. THAT'S the problem. This won't be the last time you'll have an experience like this so you need to think about what you're going to do next, what you want your next move to be." He was telling me to make up my mind about moving up or moving on.
In his groundbreaking book, Rage of a Privileged Class, Ellis Cose goes into exceptional detail about African American professionals who have climbed the corporate ladder, only to discover even greater degrees of discrimination and alienation. "Blacks with a household income of $50,000... on average, appeared to be more alienated than poorer Blacks... But even many who admit the legitimacy of the complaints will be disinclined to care. For the problems of the Black middle class, they will argue, pale in comparison with those of the underclass, the group that truly deserves our attention. " (Page 7-8)
Case in point, the FBI's newly-created Black Identity Extremist designation. A 12-page report, prepared by the F.B.I. Domestic Terrorism Analysis Unit in August 2016... announces the existence of the “Black Identity Extremist” movement and deems it a violent threat, asserting that Black activists’ grievances about racialized police violence and inequities in the criminal justice system have spurred retaliatory violence against law enforcement officers. It links incidents of violence by a handful of individual citizens like Michael Johnson, who shot 11 Dallas police officers in July 2016, to “B.I.E. ideology” and predicts that “perceptions of unjust treatment of African-Americans and the perceived unchallenged illegitimate actions of law enforcement will inspire premeditated attacks against law enforcement.”
This is fiction. Daryl Johnson, a former Department of Homeland Security intelligence agent, when asked by Foreign Policy in October why the F.B.I. would create the term “B.I.E.,” said, “I have no idea” and “I’m at a loss.” Michael German, a former F.B.I. agent and fellow with the Brennan Center for Justice’s liberty and national security program, said the “Black Identity Extremists” label simply represents an F.B.I. effort to define a movement where none exists. “Basically, it’s Black people who scare them,” he said. [New York Times November 2017]
Basically, it’s Black people who scare them. And who are the scariest Black people? Well-spoken Black men. Make no mistake about it; to be a well-spoken Black man in America is to exist in a state of prolonged crisis.
Bill George, professor of management practice at the Harvard Business School, has identified 7 Lessons for Leading in Crisis. Leading in a crisis is often the greatest test of leadership. George observes:
“In Chinese, the character for the word crisis is made up of two symbols, danger and opportunity. That’s exactly what it represents for you as a leader. Although there is always the danger of failing, guiding people through a major problem is your best opportunity to develop your leadership. That’s why I recommend that young leaders get down on the playing field early in their careers rather than commenting from the press box.” (p. 4)
So, in the words of the Last Poets, Black People, What Y'all Gon' Do? Are you going to move up or move on? Learn more: MENTORSHIP.
Evolution is all about change! Your ability to anticipate changes and prepare accordingly is what will distinguish you from the rest. This is why all Yoruba kings of old retained babalawos, whose job it is to predict subtle changes in the environment and prepare the community thrive in the face of uncertainty.
In contemporary business and military organizations alike, it is the same. You cannot name a single corporation, army or nation that does not invest heavily in research that enables them to foretell the future based upon patterns and trends.
The message is clear: Leaders embrace change! No matter how powerful they are, wise leaders know that they cannot prevent changes. It is in their ability to accept the inevitability of change that effective leaders are able to guide and influence the way changes manifest.
So, why do you resist change? What is it that have convinced you that your denial will somehow stop changes from occurring?
What if you could actively predict changes and manage them with minimal anxiety? What if you could meet any change with total confidence? What if you could actually CREATE the changes that would give you competitive advantage?
Learn more: ObafemiO.com
Without accountability, the vast majority of people will only do what is necessary to get by. We need somebody to remind us to set goals and stay on task until to job is done. Not only that, the more freedom and access you have, the easier it is for you to slip into "cruise mode" and do the bare minimum.
But you know it's wrong, not morally-speaking, but in terms of your own integrity. At the deepest level of your consciousness, you KNOW that you have not come into the world to be average. You chose a divine mission and agreed to deliver upon the Ancestral Promise that was made many generations ago. Let's consider that Ifa says:
It is the particular errand they sent someone that one delivers
One must not refuse to do the work someone give you to do
One does not wake up in the morning
And refuse the errands of ones creator
These were Ifa’s declarations to Oyi
When going to heaven
He sent Ikin to Ado land
He sent Ope, the Palm tree, to Igeti the home of his father
He said they should go and help him take care of the place.
- Holy Odu OturaOgbe
The hero's journey represents the quest to discover and master your identity, which is synonymous with destiny. The process of becoming a hero then, is what we call Ijo L'aiye, the journey of life. Each segment of the journey is an invitation to show up more fully and demonstrate your ability to focus relentlessly and perform effortlessly. Can you be unwavering in your purpose? Can you be fearless in your love? Under any and all circumstances, can you stay totally committed to your spiritual identity? More importantly, do you know where to go to get support for your purpose, becoming fearless and increasing your focus?
Here are THREE DAIYLY QUESTIONS that will help you stay ready to move up or move on in every aspect of your life:
The ways in which you answer these questions will become the laws of your journey towards moving up or moving on. Every day, you either contribute to or detract from your success. As a mentor and personal consultant, I can offer you nine levels of support for moving up or moving on. Find out more: MENTORSHIP.
Rites of passage are one way in which a culture anticipates personal changes and prepares the individual to manage his transition with the least amount of strife.
Birth, puberty, marriage and death are inevitable. But if you're not prepared for those experiences, you will probably be overwhelmed by the changes they bring.
Traditionally, there are elders who act as mentors that facilitate rites of passage. Even in business, all successful professionals attest to the importance of having a mentor who supports their ability to move up or move on.
How about you? Who is your mentor? Who is actively coaching you on how to successfully transition from where you are to where you really want to be?
Don't leave your fulfillment to chance any longer. Follow the best practices of successful businesses and ancient cultures: Get a mentor today!
Learn more at ObafemiO.com
Change is synonymous with uncertainty. If you're like most people, uncertainty reminds you of all the things that could go wrong. Changes to your income or expenses, changes in your living conditions, changes in your relationship status all create lots of uncertainty and generate fear.
One of the most difficult things about change is that you lose the ability to decide what to do next. In truth, that's the number one question people ask me in the face of great uncertainty: "What am I supposed to do now?" And although there are many details involved with managing change, I want to share the first step in reducing your anxiety.
Step #1: “You must face reality.” Reality starts with yourself. Before you look anywhere for answers, you need to look yourself in the mirror and recognize your role in creating the problem. But you can't stop there.
Then, you must assemble your team and come to some agreement about the root causes. Note that your team is not a group of cheerleaders, enablers and yes men. Instead, your team is that group of people who will invest time, money and energy in helping you to improve, even if that means not getting your way.
If you're like most people I work with, you've got that one friend, who is the designated truth teller. Under any circumstances, you can depend on this person to tell it like it is. But in order to create enduring change without fear, it's not enough to have one person on your team who is a truth teller. Everyone on the team must be candid in sharing the entire truth, no matter how painful it is. How else can you solve problems if you don’t acknowledge their existence?
Your team has to recognize what's really going on before problems can be solved. Failure to involve the team will invariably lead to short-term fixes that merely address the symptoms of the problem and ensure that you'll be back in the same situation shortly.
Learn more at: ObafemiO.com
Change is the only constant... You would think that we would be used to managing change gracefully, but that's not the case at all. Instead, change usually creates lots of stress.
Imagine what it would be like if you could meet changes with a smile and sense of optimism. Imagine how your life would be if you felt ready to deal with changes without anxiety.
Many years ago, I did a little bit of martial arts. One very powerful lesson was learning to differentiate between fear and adrenaline. Fear creates anxiety. Adrenaline creates clarity.
A mentor works with you to slow down the action and methodically choose the adrenaline path. Gradually, raw, unbridled emotion gives way to rigid, mechanical reaction. Finally, natural, spontaneous responses, fueled by adrenaline, will emerge.
But mastering change is not natural. You have to learn to internalize it. The best way to do that is with a mentor or coach. The first step is the toughest and the greatest.
Learn more: ObafemiO.com
Stories - not money - makes the world go round. Ben Okri once said that the world is made up of stories, just like the ocean is made up of water. We have been swimming in stories since the beginning of time.
In fact, you cannot separate human identity from stories! Your lineage, your culture, your religion are all made up of endless compilations of stories.
Stories are especially important during times of transition. At the birth of a child or the loss of a home, the stories you tell will define the quality of your experience. When you finally decide to file for divorce or start your own business, your ability to recognize where you are in the story of your life will give you the sense of purpose you need to proceed with certainty. When you feel your entire reality shifting around you - and sometimes WITHIN you - it is your stories that provide the bridge to what is most meaningful and most enduring.
Learn more about how stories facilitate smooth transitions at ObafemiO.com
When I started my career, I was a diversity consultant. The group I worked with focused on educational institutions in Southern California. It was then that I came to realize how phony people never enjoy true success.
Sure, you might have a degree from Stanford, a house in the right neighborhood and shop at the most trendy places. But every time you walk into a room and nothing happens you know you have failed. Every time you speak and nobody is moved, you know you have failed. Every time you write a report and nobody responds, you know have failed.
What's missing? Your culture! Recently, I attended a fund raiser in San Francisco. It was organized two Black men, each of whom was an multimillionaire. What struck me from the very beginning was how unapologetically Black they were. Of course, they were wearing expensive, European suits and spoke standard American English. But the tempo, flow and overall vibe was undeniably Black. Within an hour, I watched them raise about three million dollars!
People patronize and promote individuals, organizations and groups who they trust, like and admire. When you're not being true to yourself, people will sense it. Your culture shows you how to express yourself fully, no matter what role or industry you're in. German engineering, Italian design and Asian efficiency are not just stereotypes. They are culturally-driven brand characteristics. The higher you wish to climb in the world of business and life, the deeper you must delve into your culture. Let me show you how: ObafemiO.com
It has been said that the world loves African culture but not African people. If you believe that's true, I want to know what you're going to do about it.
In response to today’s marketplace, in which many brands use Blackness to expand their businesses, Black professionals have a unique opportunity to lead the strategic use of cultural authenticity for financial success.
The benefits of using cultural heritage in brand strategies has a positive influence on a brand's success. Nike's endorsement of athletes like Serena Williams, Tiger Woods and Colin Kapernick are prime examples.
Blackness is an important tool in exuding a brand’s sense of cultural authenticity to the Global Marketplace. So, why are professional African Americans working so hard to tone down their Blackness in the work space? Why aren't African Americans leading the trend in ways that guarantee cultural integrity?
We're afraid of getting shut down.
We're afraid of being rejected.
We're afraid the glass ceiling will just get thicker and lower. We're afraid of losing money.
Here's the big secret: FEAR IS A MASTER TEACHER. We specialize in what we struggle with. Imagine what might happen if you could turn your fear into economic opportunity? Imagine if you learned to use your authentic voice to demonstrate your authority in the market. Imagine if your life experience gave you competitive advantage in ways you never thought possible.
Learn more: ObafemiO.com
Why are you afraid to compete with White people in any way, shape or form? Is it because of Black Wall Street or is it because of what happened to both King AND X? You do everything to be acceptable, by White standards, including giving your children the best White names, sending them to the best White schools and teaching to wear the best White clothes. Still, you are rejected at every corner. Is that why you're discouraged and reluctant to take risks?
Tell the truth! The closer you get to the White power structure, the less confidence you feel. So, the greater the opportunity to be free, the more terrified you become. Instead of doing your homework, you distract yourself with an endless flood of foolishness. Instead of identifying your true enemy, you squabble relentlessly with the people you should be learning from and partnering with.
You. Scared. Of. White. Folks.
The brother got shot in his own apartment? A 26 year old business man and Bible teacher. That's almost as bad as the brother they shot while he was laying on his back, with his hands up!
Yeah, you scared.
Colin and Serena only provide entertaining opportunities for you to talk about it in public. But I know what's in the back of your mind.
You. Scared. Of. White. Folks.
But know this: Fear is only the beginning of greatness. It is a reminder that you are vulnerable.
Courage is simply finding the will to stand in the face of your frailties.
The hero is the one who remains standing for what you believe when the others have retreated to safety and security.
Give thanks for your fears today. Let them remind you of the hairline distinction between fear and adrenaline. Learn to choose adrenaline over fear and experience a power that will elevate you beyond your weaknesses.
Today is your day of victory. Today, fear is the wind beneath your wings. Fly high!
Live the medicine!
Obafemi Origunwa, MA | ObafemiO.com
Live the Medicine
Obafemi Origunwa, MA
Thought leader, Ifa priest and author of four definitive books, Obafemi Origunwa inspires metamorphosis through living the medicine that will heal your life and heal the lives of the people you're destined to serve.