I recently gave a speech for our local National Guard unit. I was speaking on toughness, or as the Army calls it, resiliency. In my view… toughness is something that has to be developed. Merriam-Webster’s calls resiliency “the ability to rise above adversity”. How many of you consider yourselves to be tough, or resilient? How many of you honestly can look down at your life and say unecquivocally that you have that trait? In my eyes, we all have it, but in varying degrees. In my case, I had to grow into this. It was painful and took almost 35 years. This is something near and dear to me. I love seeing people “get over”. I am all about “putting people over”. Toughness is a whole hell of a lot more than using curse words, talking loud and being overbearing. Some of the toughest people I ever met were under 5 feet tall, under 100 pounds.
I am sure a lot of you are reminiscing by now, looking at your body, looking at the tattoos, the scars, memories. If you grew up in my era (late 1990s/early 2000s), you can attest to a shift in the overall consciousness of Americans.Seems to be a less confident, less resilient people now. More groupthink, less “rugged individualism”. More victimhood rather than a “can-do” spirit. I will leave you all with this: Do not be afraid to fail. Don’t be afraid to be hurt. Never fear anything.
Have you ever felt that you are in a valley in life? That everything you do is seemingly “in escrow” for a later time, but you need things now? Add to that, the people around you are not making anything easier, whether they complain a lot, whine, or whatever it is that they do? Troubles, trials and tribulations are the name of the game in life. We do live in an era where people have been softened up with “sweetness and light” coming from every angle. What is more confusing, there are those who actually do have answers, but their manner of delivering the answers further isolates and frustrates the people in need. How can you make something out of the seemingly endless cacophany of voices that all promise you that they will help you, make things easier and bring things to a head? I am no expert, guru or any of that. However, I can tell you about how it is imperative that you think for yourself. Thinking for yourself, personal accountability, stuff like that, is a lost art in our world today. But HOW do you think for yourself, when it is easier to go with the flow of media, popular opinion and groupthink? It is something to behold when you see someone using the brains God gave them. It is amazing to see men and women accomplish their own dreams instead of seeing people go on some track that allows them to live “life on autopilot”. How many times have we on social media or on our blogs, comment on those who we deem to be “stupid”? How did they get to be mentally deficient? And what makes us, any better than they are? Is there some disconnect that we haven’t figured out yet? Is it because it is 2014? Is it because we live in such an affluent society that even a growing class of people who do not have the skills to pay their bills is nothing to fear, since “we got ours”?
i simply wanna say that the times in which we live, it is more important than ever to realize we must “break out of the matrix” and begin to THINK FOR OURSELVES. I know it’s not very popular to be a thinker. I know it’s not very popular at all to have a set of beliefs that prides itself on a deity, or “rugged individualism”. If it were all to end today, what would you want to be said about you in the history books? To be THE LAST MAN STANDING, you must realize the times we are in, the urgency of life (as it passes all of us by to some degree), and just how frail we really are. It takes brains, brawn, desire and the willingness to endure tragedies, troubles and disappointment. As it says in Psalm 30:5, “weeping may endure for the night, but joy cometh in the morning”.
For those of you who this hits, I hope it helps you, as writing is therapeutic for me.
For all of you seeking something in life, remember this old Roman proverb: PERDES OMNES QUI ADVENERUNT (Destroy All Who Came).
Toughness is a word bandied about a lot. But what is it? As defined by Webster’s Dictionary, toughness is being able to withstand great strain without tearing or breaking (which is also the definition of my first name Kente’); strong and resilient. Toughness is also defined as being aggressive; pugnacious. Seems to me that toughness these days is nothing more than comparing resumes, overtalking someone else, name-calling and throwing around big, politically-correct words, followed by a fistfight. That is not toughness. Toughness, at least my definition of it, is simply an attitude of resilience. Not giving up on anything or anyone. Nowadays, it looks like everything and everyone is disposable like a paper cup or plastic silverware. We have recreational dating, we have all kinds of things that are strictly for fun. We literally have entire industries based on the flippancy of people. It is 2014, and look at how weak everyone has become. In our “progressive” world, we have modern families, we have everything that is top-shelf. Toughness is not promoted. Why? Toughness is sorely needed. Comedian Chris Rock recently stated that “kids need bullying”. Why on earth would he say that? In my estimation, he was referring to the toughness created by dealing with people who hate you and decide to mistreat you. Life is not fair. The attempts by the popular culture and the political class to “level the playing field” is ludicrous at best. Life is tough. It does not stop. Time doesn’t stop going. So I ask you all who are reading- is toughness part of you? How many of you have beat a drug problem? Or stopped drinking? This past week made three years for me being sober. I do not miss drinking. At first, I would fight the temptation not to drink. As time went on, it went away.
Toughness is an attitude. And attitude is everything. By toughness, I don’t mean living like an outlaw, destroying everything in your path. Take me for instance. I am an Army vet. I stand 5-11, weigh 238 lbs. I am a guy who likes to fight, military history, etc. Some of the toughest people I have seen were women who didn’t raise their voices or their hands to anyone. I sat and listened to their life experiences, their wisdom. They talked to me in a very soft voice. Old ladies. Tougher than a “two-dollar steak”, as the old saying goes. I am a big believer in what is called “self-talk”. Self-talk is what you say to yourself. Lots of people think that talking to yourself is some sign of inherent mental illness. That perception couldn’t be further from the truth. People tend to believe what the world says about them more than what they believe about themselves. It is a sad sight to see, a person who is a doormat. People who believe lies about themselves. As you all know, I am not a man who is afraid or ashamed to talk about himself. I battled fear, doubt, insecurity, depression, anger and angst for years. A lot of my “issues” came from my self-talk. The more you dwell on the negatives in your life, the weaker you become. Mentally weakened people are not tough. You see it in sports, like in a football game. One team may be stronger, more athletic, more well-like by people in general. The other team may be despised and a “gaggle of hooligans”. The less talented team wins with ease. Why? Mental toughness. One team will bring confidence, swagger and the will to win that crushes the other team. Such how it is in life. People must understand that no amount of knowledge, no adherence or compliance with the popular opinion on “social issues” will help you win in life. The issue of toughness is all about being able to endure hardship, as life is all about loss, pain and being able to withstand it without being destroyed by it.
In closing, I am living proof that life doesn’t have to be a series of losses, or whatever you are fearing. People fear conflict so much they will concede to anything that guarantees ease, peace, tranquility. It is imperative to develop toughness. But how do you develop toughness? In my succinct opinionation of it all, it is to realize that nobody owes you anything. Nobody is responsible for you eating, nobody has to help you. It is all about taking personal responsibility for your life. Using self-control, discipline and never giving up on your hopes, dreams and goals is essential to developing toughness, mental toughness I should say. Physical toughness and strength is also something that has to be developed through calisthenics (push-ups, sit-ups, running), weight-training, stuff like that. I would rather have a weak body than a weak mind. In summation, toughness is something that is developed. No one can do it for you (most folks will assist you in your demise). It is all about your level of pride in yourself, the level of determination to achieve and succeed in life. Never allow life to crush you. Life in my eyes is nothing more than a long, drawn out war. Conquer life or it will conquer you.
Webster’s Dictionary says that an obsession is a persistent preoccupation, idea, or feeling. Obsessions can be in a good way, or a bad way. A good obsession is your expression of faith towards your deity of choice, following the doctrines of your religion to a T. A bad obsession is wanting someone’s spouse, and allowing that to dominate your life. In the case of this post, an obsession can and will be used for bettering yourself, versus the opposite, which is wasting your life and destroying your life. So let’s begin. I can honestly say that I am obsessed with physical fitness, obsessed with dominance in all areas of life. I remember when I was younger, I went vegetarian for almost two years. I went from 290 pounds to 160 in 13 months. At times, I had to make myself eat. I became obsessed with physical fitness and making myself better. Unfortunately, at that time, I had an obsession with having people like me (experience has shown me that that is a waste of time), and it killed my motivation. To quote Chappelle, “haters gonna hate”. I learned the hard way that people are a snare to your success. I personally challenge anyone who is unsure of their standing in this world to go be about something- you will instantly start collecting haters (haters are like a combination of remoras on a shark and that white stuff that collect on the corners of your mouth when you’re REALLY thirsty). I simply am aghast when I reminisce on how people act when it concerns approval from others. It is sickening to me- partly because I have come from the background where I was like so many others- a slave to approval, wishing to have everyone’s adoration. THE WORLD DOESN’T WORK THAT WAY. To be obsessed with making yourself better is something that should be prized, something that other people should aspire to, and to admire. Often enough, we sit on the sidelines of life, watching life pass us by as it were another Monday Night Football matchup.
In my humble opinion, there are so many things that need our attention. Bettering yourself. Overcoming obstacles. Doing what’s right BECAUSE IT’S RIGHT, DOING IT THE RIGHT WAY- ESPECIALLY WHEN NO ONE IS LOOKING. That is integrity. That is courage. That is stuff that will never be sold on MTV, or on the internet. The closest thing you’ll get is some comedian making fun of something and all the lemmings laugh, thinking it’s humorous somehow. In closing, I would like to say to all them who are “on the fence” about their lives- just go do it already. You don’t know what is waiting for you on the other side of your doubt. You don;t know what’s waiting for you on the other side of your pain. Dreaming of a better life is one thing. Just don’t let it stay a dream. It’s not a crime to be obsessed about something that is good. It’s not a crime to want to work at something you want more than life itself. Never ever complain about your life that you refuse to change and make better. Other people usually don’t care about what you are going through, or your problems. Most of the time, they are going through some kind of pain themselves. In summation, it all goes back to “your life, your choice”.
One thing I have been seeing a LOT of lately is people with what I call a loser mentality. It is something I cannot stand ONE BIT. People have gone brain-dead. Folks are so soft now. Every now and then, I take a walk on the streets. I see a lot- like fashion, attitudes, stuff like that. I wish people would toughen up. Now what I mean by a loser mentality, is the attitude of “small thinking”. It soon morphs into a lifestyle. It is based on the fear of loss. The fear of loss is something most people have. I used to have that kind of thing rule me. One day, after losing everything, I made up my mind to never ever live that way. Once I woke up to just how my life was controlled by fear (thanks be to the God in Heaven), I was repulsed. I was scouring my life, looking at everything. When I say everything, I mean everything. Every experience, I scrutinized (I am my toughest critic) EVERYTHING. I ended up making a list of personality traits that I wanted, and still remember going to the dictionary, looking up words that I liked- like dominate. I ended up coming up with a laundry list of words. Then the words I meditated on religiously.
After looking up the words, I started implementing words, quotes, even imitating a few people I admired (in my life, and from television to a degree). If you follow my blog, you know I am not ashamed to talk about myself. This subject/topic has always been one “near and dear” to my heart. I hate seeing people fall to fear. I hate seeing people not be able to break through to realize their dreams and goals.
In closing, I will say this: for those of you who are “religious”, you can pray to whoever your diety is and gain strength from your higher power, still drawing from your experiences and conquering your fears. For those of you who claim no religion, you’re gonna have to dig deep and get it in that way. In any case, your life is “all on you”. There is no way around this fact of life: there is, was and always will be conflict, change, things of that nature. That much is clear. Cowering, hiding behind fear, your past, whatever- is not going to help you accomplish anything.
Yes, that is a lead-in to an old Brandy song… but what I am talking about here is.. well… life itself. Have you ever caught yourself doing something you swore you would never do? I have. I remember in the past, I have done many things I swore I would never do. Just sitting and thinking about things in life, I can almost read myself like a book. I would like to think I am not some revisionist trying to save face with myself and others… I also would like to think that I stay real with myself… besides, you can lie to others, but you better not lie to yourself. I can see where I was a teenager, making dumb mistakes as all teens do, transferring into adulthood, making even more “guy mistakes”, raising hell, talking LOTS of “ish”, making few friends, relishing being a villain… now into my 30s/late 30s, for some reason, people look to ME as some kind of voice of reason… imagine that… just a short time ago (the 90s are not that long ago LOL), I would have been buried under the institutions that I somehow have come to represent to a degree.
When I go back home to GA, I am blindsided by change… it’s like I was never there. Everybody marrying, having kids, moving away, getting divorced– the stuff of life. Sitting back in my present city (I am all over the West Coast now), it is looking pretty good for me… Memory Lane isn’t easy to go down at times… makes me more hungry to get things done in life. When I think of where I have come from… the backwoods in West Georgia, miles away from anything it seemed like… to going worldwide at least 3 times in under 4 years. It humbles me.
I wanna ask ALL of you in cyberspace who are reading this to do the same thing with your own life. It is something to behold, especially for those of you who have had to overcome some stuff to get where you are in life.