Fathers, What are You Teaching Your Children?

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads around the world!

Compared to Jabu, Thabo, Simba, and Eric, his four close friends, Themba now 17 years old and a year wiser than all of them had the most troubled and challenged upbringing. For a number of years, though he lived with his father in the same house, he was emotionally and mentally absent.

Each time his friends started talking about their dads, the time spent together, the wisdom they have imparted on them, including all the other wonderful things they were doing for them, Themba would suddenly wish he lived in a hole alone, on another planet no one else could ever find him.

Because of his father’s antics at home, work, and in the community, Themba became a target of ridicule and shame both at school and in the neighborhood from other kids and lost his self-esteem. Repeatedly, they taunted him chanting, “Like father like son” “You’re a joke like your old man”.

Mandla, the man who was supposed to be a source of love, friendship, wisdom, knowledge, support, inspiration, security, and a perfect role model for living a purposeful life in Themba’s life, unfortunately, failed in fulfilling his fatherly role.

Thus, Themba has always been ashamed of his father. As far as he is concerned, everything that has gone wrong in his life is because of his uncaring father.

For years he harboured resentment, anger, bitterness, and unforgiveness that at one point drove him into depression until John, his basketball coach and a father of three, seemingly became the perfect angel sent from heaven.

Since that time, John has become the father Themba thought he never had, held his hand as he sought healing from past hurts and pain, including helping him navigate this journey of life.

So, how did it all go wrong for Mandla? Folks who have known him since his days of university say he was never like this. They are in fact greatly surprised that such a promising life has been wasted at the expense of alcohol addiction.

Immediately after graduating from university, Mandla secured a role as an entry level marketing specialist at B&B Plastics, a plastic injection molding company.

Within a year of working at B&B Plastics, his stellar performance and leadership abilities caught the eyes of his superiors and he was quickly promoted to the role of a Marketing Manager.

As years followed by, Mandla enjoyed the fruits of his sweat first as a bachelor and then as a husband.

Deciding to settle down at the age of 26, he married his university sweetheart, Suzy, who two years into their marriage gave birth to their first son Themba.

Initially, Mandla did well providing for his young family, teaching his children right and wrong, and became an exemplary family leader, husband, father, and community citizen.

But he had two major weaknesses that spiralled his downfall.

One, he adored finer material things, and it never crossed his mind to save for a rainy day. Whatever he earned, he spent it all. Not a wince did Mandla ever think about tomorrow.

Two, he had an insatiable penchant for expensive whiskey and cigars, sometimes showing up at work his breath rancid with nicotine and alcohol.

Since he was a star performer at work, his superiors often turned a blind eye in favor of profits.

Unfortunately, a prolonged economic downturn happened resulting in many business casualties. B&B Plastics was not spared, the once prosperous business disappeared overnight leaving Mandla with no recurring income but an expectant wife, pregnant with their second child. Themba was almost 6 years at the time.

Full of pride, Mandla was never a man to ask of help from anyone else. Inwardly hurting from losing his high-paying job, he was not the man to go about telling his wife or friends that he is in pain. To him, showing pain or vulnerability was a sign of weakness; the only worth demonstrating was strength.

The toil of searching for a new job amidst an economic crush overwhelmed Mandla, eventually driving him to find solace and peace in the bottle.

From sunrise to sunset, he was drinking non-stop. At one time, he got so drunk that he peed in his pants and became the neighborhood’s laughingstock. His neighbors often wondered how he always had money for alcohol but none to provide for his family.

The more Mandla drank, the further away he distanced himself from his family and Themba. No longer was he supportive of his extracurricular activities or just spending quality time for a father and son heart-to-heart talk.

Instead, he easily lost his temper and was now constantly involved in brawls at the local bars. At home, he unnecessarily raised his voice towards his wife and children.

He also begged neighbors and passers-by for money, to buy alcohol, at times embarrassing his family when the creditors came knocking at his wife’s door because he never paid back. Hence Themba regarded him lazy and improvident.

It’s been years since the economy has turned a tide. Today, Mandla is working as a shop assistant at an auto parts and supplies shop. Although some parts of society consider him a grown-up failure, he is still pushing on to repair broken bridges.

Jabu, has played a big role supporting his best friend beat his alcohol addiction.

The once broken relationship with his children is slowly getting repaired. Mandla is spending time with Themba, and they have gone to watch a couple of football games together. Suzy has stood by Mandla’s side all these years and according to Mandla, he will forever be grateful of his wife.

Dads all over the world, as you celebrate Father’s Day today, remember not to embitter your children or they will become discouraged.

No matter what life has thrown at you, don’t give up. Keep on fighting and set a good example for your children.

It’s never too late to become a better father. Start now, start today.

You Can’t Control Everything

Many people are spending their precious time worried sick about things or circumstances they have little control of or cannot control at all.

You’re worried about what other people think of you.

You have made yourself a prisoner of your past mistakes.

You’re overwhelmed about the future that hasn’t happened yet.

You feel inadequate because of one of your friend’s social media post.

Each time your favorite sports team loses, you are so irascible, your friends tiptoe around you for fear you might hurl insults at them.

Instead of concentrating on what you cannot control, focus your thoughts and actions on things or situations you have control of.

The more you care about what others think of you, the more they own you. You don’t have to be a consequence of other people’s opinions or judgements.

Neither should your happiness or unhappiness be determined by others. It’s your choice and decision, not theirs.

People will always have an opinion and consuming your mind trying to figure out what they think of you is a waste of energy. People don’t like you. So what?

Accept the fact that you cannot please everyone and focus on becoming the best person you can be.

No matter how much you try to figure it out, your mind will never be able to confirm what other people are thinking of you.

Stop ruminating about your past mistakes, replaying them in your mind, and upsetting yourself all over again. The past cannot be changed.

It doesn’t matter how upsetting or painful your past is, don’t regret it.

Instead, learn from it, then move on and make each day a new opportunity to rewrite your own personal history.

Life is not a to do list. It’s a journey and nobody knows what the future holds. Yet, you’re worried about the future because you’ve already fixed what should happen and are afraid of what may not happen.

Don’t miss living today because of tomorrow. Make your present life experiences profound enough and intense.

Don’t allow past and present emotional pain make you overwhelmed about the future and start catastrophizing “What if…?”

Yes, bad situations can happen, but this is part of life. Instead of trying to avoid life, desire to experience it. Your now moment does not have to be simply be a continuation of your past.

Let your desired future govern your present thoughts and decisions. You can change what you are thinking or doing now without mention of the past at all.

Don’t Just Go Through Pain

We all go through seasons of pain or adversity. Maybe you’re going through one right now. You have lost your job. You’re broke. You have been shamed. You didn’t make it to the next round of that job interview.

Indeed, life hasn’t been easy. You have lost hope, you’re feeling miserable and sinking deep in depression. I get that. Nonetheless, these blows should neither diminish your hopes nor diminish your ambition.

Whatever it is that you’re going through today, don’t just go through the pain. Instead, desire to grow through the adversity. Feeling sorry for yourself and throwing a pity-party won’t help you at all.

What can you learn from what is happening in your life today? It doesn’t matter if the wounds are self-inflicted, or caused by externalities beyond your control, there is always something to learn.

Maybe it’s patience, self control, authenticity, vulnerability, forgiveness, self-love, responsibility, and accountability.

In Leadership in Turbulent Times, Doris Kearns Goodwin describes Lyndon B. Johnson, as a man who coveted victory with every fiber of his being. From his early twenties, Johnson believed in coming atop in every endeavor. His goal was simply and solely to win.

In 1941, Johnson ran for Senate seat and despite being confident of victory, he lost the election. Instead of considering the loss simply an obstacle in his political career, the defeat turned into a life-altering ordeal for him.

He felt he had disappointed, even embarrassed, President Roosevelt who had supported his candidacy. His self-worth sunk rock bottom. He lost his sense of purpose. He was depressed and felt hopeless about the future.

To Johnson, politics was everything. He ate, drank, and slept politics. His biggest mistake? Making his identity contingent upon his position and standing. Hence the walls came tumbling down after the defeat.

By contrast, Abraham Lincoln reacted differently after his dream of making Illinois an economic model for the country failed.

Months after the failed attempt, rather than blame anybody or get depressed, he returned to practicing law while also giving himself time and space to read books, to listen and learn and sharpen his storytelling skills.

No matter the adversities, all we can do is endure, learn, and grow through them as Lincoln did. If we endure, we will come out pure and refined like metal that goes through hot fire.

Don’t Shy Away From Discomfort

Many people want the best things in life but very few are ready and inclined to put in the effort necessary to bring about the results.

You want to look healthy but are not willing to commit to healthy eating habits and regular exercise.

You want a better paying job but upskilling and improving yourself lags badly.

You want a safe working environment but are afraid to confront a toxic co-worker or speak up.

For a while you have been encouraging yourself to finally start the business but the mere thought of foregoing a regular paycheque freaks you out.

Or maybe it’s habits or vices that you want to change or give up but are fearful to deal with the withdrawal symptoms.

You are not alone. It’s human nature to always want comfort and safety.

Experiencing some sort of pain or discomfort even if it’s a potential door to progress is something many people aren’t sanguine about.

But you don’t have to wait for loss, tragedy, a pandemic, adversity or stress to elicit positive change in your life.

Maybe you are waiting for the right time. The right time is now. Stop hesitating and get started today. Tomorrow is never guaranteed to anyone.

Challenging the status quo and doing what is right and necessary is the only way anything will get better in your life.

Discomfort is an inherent part of life and if you want progress develop the courage and initiative to go on. Provoke your circumstances right now.

The more discomfort you can live with, the better you become at adapting to changing circumstances and seizing ideal opportunities.

Nothing worth achieving ever comes without a sacrifice. Marcus Garvey reminds us, “Perseverance and determination on the part of any people lead ultimately to the goal which they seek”.

Embrace the discomfort today. Face your fears head on. It’s good for progress.

Are You A Victim of Technology and Internet Overdose?

Technology and internet platforms have revolutionized our lives. It would be a huge disservice for you and me to fail to acknowledge the transformative power of this new breed of technologies.

We now have round-the clock access to rich information at the simple click of a button, can connect with distant family and friends, shop and pay bills online, complete university courses remotely, stream videos, and download music.

The Internet has become our all-purpose medium, the conduit for most of the information that flows through our eyes and ears and into our minds.

Smartphones and other hand-held computer devices have become more deeply embedded in our day-to-day lives, replacing the clunky desktops.

A striking boon to humanity. The benefits are real. But they have come at a price. Internet platforms are not acting only as mediums of communication and connection.

They are also increasingly reshaping our thinking process, along the process diminishing our human capacity for concentration and contemplation.

Uncontrolled consumption of technology and the Internet is increasingly diverting us from our intentions, and we seem unable to stop.

We are sacrificing our day-to-day experience and our relationships for convenience and it’s hidden threats.

A growing body of research has revealed that internet platforms employ addiction strategies perfected by the gambling industry simply to keep us hooked. Yet, many of us are still in denial that we are addicted to them.

Here are few questions to help you with your self evaluation. Select the response that best represents the frequency of each behavior listed using the scale below:

0 = N/A, 1 = Rarely, 2 = Occasionally, 3 = Frequently, 4 = Often, 5 = Always

  1. How often do you get excited with receiving email alerts, social media comments, beeps, rings, likes, retweets, and other notifications resulting in heavy social media use?
  2. How often do you find yourself comparing your own life with seemingly perfect lives of those you see in your social media feeds even if you know without a shadow of a doubt that their lives are less than perfect?
  3. How often do you find yourself experiencing the fear of missing out (FOMO) something important syndrome such that you keep your smartphone closely always, or sleep with it within an arm’s reach?
  4. After waking up in the morning, how often do you reach out first to your phone to check news updates, posts, or any other notifications that you think you have missed while sleeping?
  5. How often do you drive not using your phone, texting, checking your emails, social media feeds, or browsing the internet?
  6. When on vacation, do you find it hard to slow down and unwind because you are always on your phone or using the internet?
  7. How often do you find yourself using the internet, on your mobile device or social media in the presence of friends and family?
  8. How often do you find yourself checking your emails? Research has found out that during an eight-hour day, on average most people unnecessarily check their emails nine times an hour resulting in lost productivity.
  9. How often do you sleep less than the recommended minimum seven hours of sleep a night? If always, is unrelenting exposure to technology a likely leading cause?
  10. How often do you spend at least five hours a day with your devices? One study found out that its participants had on average spent more than five hours, in nearly eighty-five activities, per day versus their own claim of two and half hours per day. We highly underestimate the amount of time we spend with our devices.

If you scored 14 or below, you show no signs of modern tech addiction.

A score of 15-24 suggests mild modern tech addiction. You sometimes spend unduly long time on the web but you’re usually in control of your usage.

A score of 25-40 indicates moderate modern tech addiction and implies that the technology is causing “occasional or frequent problems in your life.”

A score between 41 and 50 suggests severe modern tech addiction and implies that the technology is causing “significant problems in your life.”

Our understanding of the dark side of these technologies and internet platforms on our health, work, relationships, and well-being is too narrow.

Modern tech is efficient and addictive. Yes, it offers us bounties and convenience, speed, and automation, but it also brings large costs.

It’s time we acknowledge the threats posed by technology and the Internet, and the risks of being oblivious to those threats.

Master Your Mind Or It Will Master You

Many people are living below their highest potential, stressed, afraid, and unfulfilled because of the limits their thoughts are placing on their lives.

Maybe you are one of them. Instead of daring to make big changes in your life and be everything you wish, you have been stuck on the same position for years.

Whenever you want to pursue something big, negative thoughts enter your mind and you start telling yourself, “I’m a failure. I will never make it. I’m not good enough. I’m not qualified enough. I lack the resources. It’s impossible. It’s too painful.”

Oftentimes, these thoughts are lies, yet you allow them to continuously torture you. They are controlling your body, your reality, your happiness, and above all YOU.

Negative thoughts will always appear, but we must learn to tame them before they take over our lives. We must stop listening to everything they are telling us otherwise we will forever be at their mercy.

Kute Blackson says, “We can continue living our lives, believing every crazy thing that pops into our heads, allowing our thoughts to control us. Or at any moment we can stop, observe our thoughts, and ask ourselves, Is it true? Is this thought true?”

Refuse to give any negative thoughts room to permanently stay in your mind. Instead, when a negative thought emerges buzzing like angry bees, don’t stress about it or catastrophize it. Simply observe it and let it be like the chaff blown away by the wind. A new thought will emerge.

Just like chaff in the air, thoughts will pass. Don’t give the negative thoughts any power. Just recognize them and acknowledge that they are lies and not in control.

What thoughts are you allowing to control you? Don’t allow your thoughts to be your master. As doing so opens the door for fear to creep in and be in charge. And most times, our fears decide what we do, whom we talk to, or what we pursue, ultimately hijacking our dreams.

You have the power to choose to listen to your mind or to let it go. If you let it, your mind will control you and dictate everything from the choices you make concerning every area of your life to the capacity you have to be truly happy and live a fulfilled life.

You can have all the material possessions life has to offer, including a beautiful family and home but as long your mind is still in power and you are focused on what is not working, what you don’t have, or are stuck in fear, in that moment, you are living in the slum of your mind.

It’s time to take back the reins of your life from the controlling power of your thoughts. It’s time to let the negative voices in your head go. It’s time to push past the limitations your mind has placed on you and live your best life now.

You Are Not Average. You Are Different

I recently read Todd Rose’s book The End of Average: Unlocking Our Potential By Embracing What Makes US Different and found its insights fascinating and thought-provoking.

In the book, there is a section where he talks about walking the road less travelled. The conventional wisdom holds that there is a normal pathway to growing, learning, or achieving our goals but this is evidently untrue.

From a young age, this kind of normative thinking is ingrained in our minds such that if we are lagging behind the prescribed norms, we start to believe there is something wrong with us.

I remember growing up, my folks used to tell me, “To succeed and live a better life, it’s important that you leave high school with good grades, attend college/university, get a good degree, find a good job that has better pay and benefits, climb the corporate ladder, and eventually retire comfortably.”

Later, I would find out I wasn’t the only kid around the block receiving this advice. Almost every child within and beyond my locality was having the same advice hammered in his/her mind day in day out.

The idea of becoming a professional athlete was a far-fetched dream. There was no other alternative. The path to success was education, education, education. Note, here I am referring to the rigid institutional education versus the flexible self-education process.

It seemed like our parents secretly convened and unanimously agreed that no child of theirs would ever waste time trying to become a sportsperson.

Not to say education is bad. Record books are full of men and women who changed the world for the better because of their education.

Simultaneously, there are men and women who defied conventional wisdom about higher education, walked the road less travelled, for instance started a business or pursued an unconventional career path, and are living a purposeful and fulfilled life.

Life was never meant to follow a normal pathway. However, we are living in a world that tends to value an “average mentality” more than anything else.

Think about it, we constantly talk about average age for a child to start walking. Average age to get married. Average number of years to complete a professional course. Average age to graduate with a Bachelors, Masters, or PhD degree. Average age to buy your first house. Average age to retire etc.

Because of this shared belief in normal pathways to achievement, we are always finding ourselves comparing the progression of our own lives against these average-based benchmarks.

The normal time it takes to reach a milestone, or a career goal is embedded in our mind like an ever-present stopwatch.

Yet, average-based benchmarks only highlight broad conclusions about groups of people and ignore the traits and situations of a particular individual, including the various ways these traits and situations interact.

Whatever goal you have set for yourself, know that you are not compelled to follow a predetermined blueprint. In all aspects of your life and for any given goal, there are many, equally valid ways to reach the same outcome.

Neither are you in a race or competition with anybody. Don’t feel pressured that you have missed the boat of life. You are different, the pathway that is optimal for you depends on your own individuality.

Generally, individuals vary in the pace of their progress, and the sequences they take to reach an outcome.

If you believe only one right way exists to achieve your goals, then all there is to evaluate your progress with is how much faster or slower you reach each milestone compared to the norm. The side effect is that you will end up placing much emphasis on the pace of excellence, equating faster with better.

Yes, it’s good to emulate your role models and try to follow their well-blazed trail, but you also need to continuously challenge the presumption that there is a normal pathway or one right way to achieve your goals.

There are always multiple ways to get from point A to point B. Dare to be different and be the leader. Create your own pathway for the first time and alter it as you go along, since every decision you make or every event you experience changes the possibilities available to you.

The only way to judge if you are on the right path is by judging how the path fits your individuality. It’s easy to follow the wisdom of crowds and follow their prescribed norms but this does not necessarily mean the crowd is always right.

Therefore, make a conscious decision to never blindly accept what the crowd or anyone tells you is the right path to follow. Instead, forge your own path based on whatever you know about your strengths and weaknesses.

You are the only one who is able to figure out what that path to your excellence looks like. And to do that, you need to know who you are first.

As Todd Rose writes, “There will always be more than one pathway available to you and odds are the best one for you will be the one less travelled. So brave new paths and try unexplored directions. They are more likely to lead to success than following the average pathway.”

Do You Help Naturally or Feel Compelled to Do So?

Everyday we are confronted with hundreds of choices that either make us open our hearts and help others in need or we hesitate to reach out or we get confused when we try.

At times, helping happens simply in the way of things. It’s not something we really think about, merely the automatic response of an open heart.

For example, someone close to you slips and you extend your arm towards them. A car is in a ditch, you join the others and push. A co-worker is going through hard times, you let them know you care.

Or a friend who’s really depressed calls you, immediately you come out of yourself just to be there for her and say a few reassuring words. In all these cases, help appears natural and appropriate.

Now consider instances where you have a choice to make, or the power to offer help or hold on rests with you. How much time, after all, do you spend helping versus being helped?

The forms may differ: the helping professions, self-help groups, volunteering, counselling, organizing a food drive for the homeless, helping a friend move, financial and emotional support, or giving up a room in your home for someone desperately in need.

Even though helping may happen instinctively, oftentimes we find ourselves not giving help. If we are, it’s anything but natural: self-conscious, half-hearted or begrudging.

Apart from relieving suffering, having a natural compassion for others helps us to grow in wisdom and be of greater service as a result, experience greater unity, and have a good time while we are exercising it.

When you help others, what is your motive? Do you do it because it comes to you naturally and gives you pure joy, or you help out for all kinds of reasons?

Maybe it’s because:

  • You should, it’s a matter of responsibility.
  • Helping boosts your self-esteem.
  • You desire the approval of men.
  • You believe helping gives you status and power.
  • Helping makes you feel so good and useful.
  • It’s your way of paying back some debt.

There is no doubt each of us inevitably faces underlying challenges when it comes to helping others. Inside our hearts, there is real interplay between generosity and resistance, self-sacrifice and self-protectiveness.

Because of this ongoing inner conflict, sometimes we help, and sometimes we don’t.

Instead of helping and caring for others, why then do we hold on even though we are in position to help out?

  • We value our own lives more than others. Think of the times you’ve told yourself, “I’d like to do more for others, but I’ve got my own life to live.” Alternatively, you hear yourself thinking, “Hey, what about me?”
  • We hesitate because of certain biases. For instance, when a stranger walks up to us on the street and asks, “Can you spare a change?” almost immediately we conclude the guy is a druggie and increase our pace.
  • Perhaps we’ve been taught “family first” therefore we discriminate on who gets and doesn’t get our help. If you are not really “one of us” then forget it.
  • We prefer familiar interactions because we are afraid of being rejected. For example, we’ll help a friend who understands our sensitivities, but volunteering to cross class lines and work with juveniles might be uncomfortable.
  • We don’t know how to deal with our own pain and fear. For example, there are people so scared of their own death that they wait for weeks before they can visit a terminally ill loved one.

These and other inner obstacles affect our ability to hear people’s needs and negatively shape our attitude towards social action.

It’s imperative therefore that on a daily basis we seek to identify certain basic inner stumbling blocks to the expression of our caring instincts, strip away some of their concealed power and curtail their influence over us.

As the hold of these hindrances lessens, then, our generosity will flow more instinctively and effortlessly. Able to help in ways we might not have imagined.

So, next time you meet someone who appears to be lost in their own life, lost in their own thoughts, you do the best you can to lift up their spirits.

Never look down on anybody unless you are helping them up. It’s a matter of mind over matter, and you got to have the right spirit.

Everything you do, make it a habit to do with love.

But You Must Act

One of Abraham Lincoln’s principles was, “Leave nothing for tomorrow which can be done today.”

Lincoln served as the 16th President of the United States from 1861 – 1865, one of the most challenging times in the country’s history. He led the nation through the American Civil War, regarded as one of the country’s greatest moral, constitutional, and political crisis.

When confronted with relentless situations, instead of adopting a wait and see approach, or waiting for someone to solve the problem, Lincoln took charge.

For example, immediately after taking office, he discovered that the US was unprepared for war.

The country had a meager, poorly trained, and poorly equipped army under the command of the aging General Winfield Scott who was physically incapable to command in the field and maintained outdated warfare theories and strategies.

When Lincoln sought advice from General Scott on how to conduct the war, he expected the General to be more aggressive in his approach but was disappointed to discover that the General’s strategy was a “no action” plan.

General Scott’s strategy planned no military invasion of the South. Rather, he perceived that the North should wait for a strong Northern position in the South to overcome talk of secession.

Lincoln immediately rejected this strategy, eventually appointing Gen. Irvin McDowell commanding general of the Army, a move that relegated General Scott to a mere figurehead consulted on an as-needed basis.

It wasn’t long before for Lincoln realized that McDowell was also not the man for the job. The President directed General McDowell to engage the enemy at Manassas, Virginia and he complained and argued for more time to prepare.

After four months of command and no action, McDowell was replaced by Gen. George B. McClellan. Nearly three months into his new role, the President attempted to spur the newly appointed General into action against insurgent forces.

But, like his predecessors, McClellan overanalyzed and remained inactive. He delayed engaging the enemy and requested more troops to beef up his army against what he feared was a force that vastly outnumbered his own.

Resultantly, Lincoln wrote a letter to McClellan urging him to act:

“And, once more, let me tell you, it is indispensable to you that you strike a blow. I am powerless to help in this…I beg to assure you that I have never written you, or spoken to you, in greater kindness of feeling than now, nor with a fuller purpose to sustain you, so far as in my most anxious judgement, I consistently can. But you must act.”

Still, McClellan did not act. Lincoln decided to take charge by taking the field himself and successfully led the invasion of Norfolk, Virginia.

Contrast the inaction of President Lincoln’s Generals to Cleopatra VII, one of the most famous women to have lived who ruled Egypt for twenty-two years.

Having fallen out with her brother, Ptolemy, she was banished from the kingdom over which they were meant to rule jointly.

Yet, despite being in a hopeless position and facing the inevitable, she countered with the improbable.

The Roman Civil war – a contest that pitted the invincible Julius Caesar against the indomitable Pompey the Great launched Cleopatra into history.

Pompey had been a particular friend of her father’s and her family was indebted to him for his support and protection of the monarchy. Seeking refuge from Caesar, Pompey thought, in good faith, Cleopatra’s estranged brother would return the favor.

But Ptolemy’s regents differed in opinions. To cast off Pompey was to make an enemy of him. To receive him was to make an enemy of Caesar. If they killed Pompey, he could offer no assistance to Cleopatra, to whom he was well disposed. Nor could he make himself King of Egypt.

In the end, the regents concluded that they could afford neither to befriend nor offend Pompey. He was stabbed to death and beheaded.

Ptolemy’s advisers beheaded Pompey most of all to curry favor with Julius Caesar. Unfortunately for Cleopatra, she had backed the losing horse.

Sensing that her brother’s advisers could undermine her before Caesar, Cleopatra quickly devised a plan to plead her case herself as quickly as possible before the King. The prize was Caesar’s favor.

She had to figure out how to slip past enemy lines, across a well-patrolled frontier, and into a blockaded palace, secretly and alive. But before reaching the palace, Cleopatra had to avoid her brother’s forces who controlled the route to Caesar’s palace.

Thus, instead of taking the simplest route west from where she was camped, she had to detour south, up the Nile to Memphis, afterward sail back to the coast, a trip of at least eight days.

To make matters worse, this route was heavily trafficked and carefully surveyed by customs agents. Also, along the turbid Nile were strong winds and a host of mosquitos.

With the help of Apollodorus, a loyal Sicilian retainer, Cleopatra was able to enter Caesar’s quarters unnoticed inside a sturdy sack and plead her case herself.

For Caesar, the price to pay in Rome for allying himself with Pompey’s murderers, his fellow countryman, was greater than the price to pay for assisting a deposed and helpless queen, and the two emerged as close allies.

What is stopping you from acting today? Like President Lincoln’s Generals, are you overanalyzing everything, constantly finding excuses and remaining inactive?

No matter how hopeless your life or situation is, be like Cleopatra and take charge. That is not to say ruses and disguises should come readily to you.

No, instead of being fearful, build courage, persevere, and remain determined. Doing so will ultimately lead to the goal which you seek.

Not All of Our Wishes Are Granted

The New Year is upon us. Happy New Year to you all!

If there is one important lesson 2020 has taught us, it is this: Certainty Is an Illusion. In addition to the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot happened in the past year.

Devastating bushfires in Australia, plane crashes in Ukraine and Pakistan, damaging floods in Indonesia and East Africa, and community uprisings and riots in the US, India, Nigeria and Hong Kong have all left a permanent mark in the history books.

When we rang in 2020, most of us were certain of what the new year holds. Customarily, we laid bare our carefully thought-out plans designed to help us accomplish our new year’s resolutions even though they have been consistently wrong year after year.

It’s human nature to want to live a life awash with certainty. We want to know with certainty how our favorite stock pick is going to perform against the market.

Some people read tarot cards or horoscopes just to get a glimpse of their future despite there being no satisfactory evidence that these methods perform better at predicting your future.

How the new year 2021 is going to unfold nobody knows for sure. We can predict and plan for the year, in similar or better ways, to how we have done it in the past years but at some point, our ability to predict and plan with certainty is going to be proven wrong.

As you start the new year, always remember what Tony Schwartz said:

Let go of certainty. The opposite isn’t uncertainty. It’s openness, curiosity and a willingness to embrace paradox, rather than choose up sides. The ultimate challenge is to accept ourselves exactly as we are, but never stop trying to learn and grow.

Tony Schwartz

If we knew everything about the future with certainty, our lives would be drained of emotion. No surprise and pleasure, no joy or thrill – we knew it all along.

Of course, this is not to say you should relax and allow life to throw its punches towards you. No, build the courage and resolve to get through whatever life is throwing at you right now and in the future.

Don’t procrastinate on starting that project, pursuing that relationship, mending that broken relationship with a family member or friend, letting go of the past, or starting that course or business.

Yes, an unknown future and plenty challenges await you. But it is you who controls the input and not the outcome. It is you who controls the effort and not the results.

In 2021, against all odds, decide to show up. As Barbara Jordan said, “Take pride in your own inner power. The greatest motivation has to come from inside you. If you don’t think very much of yourself then you are not going to succeed.”

Even if all your expectations are not being met, resolve to meet life’s perils head on, with enormous courage, fierce determination, and bold action, moving forward where most of us would shrink backward.

In an uncertain world, we cannot plan everything ahead. Here, we can only cross each bridge when we come to it, not beforehand.