I know that many of you are still waiting for my first book to be published, but rest assured that it is in its final stages and will be in print shortly. But for now, I would like to draw your attention to the influence that writing these books is having on my life. I am currently working on my second book, which deals with the ability to transform one's life. Based on my years of study in the fields of leadership development and change, I thought that I had a pretty good grasp on the power that personal transformation can have on one's life. However, I didn't realize the impact that writing about this would have on mine. I had no clue that writing this book in particular would take me on a journey of self-discovery that would force me to take a penetrating look into my fears, choices, and how they have impacted my life thus far.
Many times, when we think about our life we tend to assume that our life is the way that it is because, well, that's just the way that it is. In many cases we either believe or convince ourselves that we have little to no control over our lives. Some argue that God chooses our destiny, while others simply don't take ownership for the path that our life take. However, these superficial attempts at explaining our life's journey could not be any further from the truth. In writing my second book, I was compelled to confront a perceived weakness in my being in order to implement positive changes that would allow me to transform it into a strength. This perceived weakness showed up in my life as me not being able to maintain intimate relationships with people. Even though I have been immersed in the study of leadership development and change for going on a decade, along with participating in several intensive self-development programs, I knowingly left this weakness in my being untouched.
I like many of us, believed that this way of being was just who I was. I have always been this way, and therefore, will continue to be this way. Intellectually, I knew better. I knew that this way of being was keeping me isolated from others and would continue doing so if I did not take the necessary actions to confront it. However, what was at the heart of this perceived weakness? Through writing this book and consulting with others close to me, I came to understand that my fear of reliving the conditions of my childhood was at the core of my problem. A recent conversation with my sister showed me that while my siblings and I grew up poor, what made the situation even worse was the fact that there was no interpersonal relations between us and our parents. We were never taught the skills of intimacy because we were never shown intimacy. Therefore, distrust of others has became a powerful underlying flaw in each one of our lives.
I know that the pressures of poverty contributed to the lack of communication and intimacy in my childhood household, as it does in similar households. This explains why it is so difficult to escape poverty. The influence of poverty often contributes to other negative consequences. I remember a movie that came out years ago called Straight Out of Brooklyn. When I first saw this movie, I totally identified with the eldest son. From the mind's eye of a child, poverty seems like the culprit. Poverty was what one needed to escape. But the truth is that poverty was only the surface issue. Because if I like others had a support system at home or in the community to discuss the impact of poverty on our lives, maybe our perceptions of ourselves, others, and life in general may have been different.
You see as a child, I grew up on public assistance to hard working immigrant parents in Brooklyn, New York during the 1980s. I hate to say it because he is my father, but he was very abusive to my siblings and I. Corporal punishment and mental abuse was the rule in our household for even the most minor infractions. I remember my siblings and I being shown over the top discipline on one hand, with little love and intimacy to balance things out. Being the oldest and probably the most sensitive, I subconsciously allowed anger and resentment to fill my heart. It was not only the streets that I had to rebel against, but also those closest to me such as my parents. All I knew was that I wanted out of the life that I was living. I didn't want anyone or any situation controlling me anymore. I wanted to take the reigns of my life. However, I didn't know what I would do because opportunities were so limited for a young inner city black boy from "the wrong side of the tracks."
My life was filled with few ups and many downs, leading me to depression as a teenager. Everyone close to me wondered what I would amount to as I went from an honor student in grade school to a truant in high school. For me, my childhood was an exhausting experience that shook my belief in humanity and in God. Right outside my front door, I witnessed violence, drugs, and desperation. However, because my parents worked all the time, they were able to deny the real dangers and the predators that my siblings and I faced in the streets everyday. There was never any room for discussions about what was going on in our lives or how our lives were being affected by our condition and environment. However, the threat and reality of violence in the house by our father was always a clear and present danger for even the most simply of mistakes.
My mother always excused my father's actions, claiming that this was all he knew. This made no difference to me as I believed that he was compounding the problem of poverty by taking away any sense of self that my siblings and I had with the use of violence and threats. Maybe, I was the stronger of us, I don't know. But I took it upon myself to stand up against my father as a teenager. This proved to be a mistake, as my mother took my father's side. This relegated me to be deemed an outcast and deemed me a bad seed. Luckily, I had a high school guidance counselor that took an interest in helping me get get through my issues at home. After two years of summer school and one year of night school, I was able to graduate from high school. Thank you, Mr. Zucker. Even before graduation though, the fear of what would happen to me if I remained in that environment was so strong that it led me to joining the U.S. Air Force during the initial stages of The Gulf War, against the advice of Mr. Zucker. You see, Mr. Zucker was the first person in my life to see and voice the greatness he saw within me.
The problem with fear and distrust is that they can take over one's life, as they did mine. I can now acknowledge that they have been the driving force behind most of my choices, actions, and resulting life. My life's primary objective has always been to escape the conditions of my childhood by any legal means and do whatever was necessary not to experience it again. However in the process, I subconsciously kept the practice of distrusting people that had my best interest at heart like Mr. Zucker. Individuals that showed me love, friendship, and understanding I often kept at a distance just as I did my parents and the predators of my old neighborhood. As a result, every relationship, every interaction, and every decision pertaining to these relationships were based on fear and distrust. Even if I wanted to access love and understanding I couldn't bring myself to do it. The few that are relatively close to me have always known that I tend to keep my distance. Honestly, I have always known this as well. Now, as I have grown and developed, I have learned to forgive my parents for their treatment. I acknowledge that I don't know how the pressures of poverty affected their psyche.
In writing my current book on the power of transformation, I unearthed many of the feelings of fear and distrust that I try to hide. Unearthing these feelings forced me to acknowledge that most of my choices were a result of my fear of reliving the conditions of my childhood. This is not to say that many of my choices were not beneficial, but there are some choices that have had, and to this day still have a profoundly negative impact on my life. These choices are the ones that I wish I could take back, especially when it comes to losing relationships with some of the most important people to have passed through my life.
I am just now coming to terms with the impact of these fear based choices. Now, some of you may be asking-What does this have to do with leadership development? Or, why not just leave the past in the past? Well, first off we cannot lead our lives when forces such as fear, hate, anger, and distrust are subconsciously controlling our every choice and resulting action. Second, examining the past and rectifying past mistakes if possible is the only way that some of us will ever be able to move forward powerfully in our lives.
Leadership is all about one's choices and resulting actions, but the all important question becomes-Are you leading your life or is your life being led by feelings such as fear, hate, anger, or distrust? You see, up until a couple of years ago, my life was subconsciously led by fear and distrust. I did everything I could to make the "right" choices that would forever free me of my childhood demons, even if it meant pushing people aside that I cared about, or taking on tremendous burdens or challenges. It didn't matter, because I was not leading my life, fear and distrust was.
What is behind your choices? Are you leading your life? How do you make choices in your life? And why do you make the choices that you make? How interesting is it that in the moments when we have to make a choice to move forward, we often fall back on the pattern of choices that we have always made instead of taking each choice as its own separate event? This is what gives our feelings of fear, anger, hate, inadequacies, and distrust control over our lives. This is why a question one should always be asking his/herself is-What is the thinking or reasoning behind my previous choices and what role do those choices have in this current situation? Try and implement this line of questioning in your decision making processes before simply replicating your old pattern of being that leaves you powerless.
For me, fear of reliving the conditions of my childhood became part of my subconscious as I unknowingly allowed it to make my life's choices. It was not until I started writing this book on transformation that I began to take a deeper look about who I had been throughout my life and the impact that it had on my relationships with the people in my life. I always knew that I did not maintain the best relationships with people, especially if they did not fit into my plans, or somehow threatened my pursuit of freedom, but I never took on the fight of regaining control of my life until now. What are you being led by? Lend me your thoughts.
Labels: Personal Leadership