You Should Want To Die While Singing

She Sings

No one wants think about death.

Yet, it is in reflecting upon the imminence of death and acknowledging the fleeting nature of each passing day that we can learn to appreciate the gift of life. Countless stories of untimely deaths have recently flooded the media– from teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri to American journalist James Wright Foley in Syria to the acclaimed actor Robin Williams. People are angry and hurt and many believe that these individuals were taken from the world before their time.

It’s not just that these stories remind us that racism and prejudice and depression are hardships that millions of people still endure each and every day. They highlight the simple truth that life is indeed short and we must take advantage of every opportunity to share our unique gifts with the world.

Unfortunately, so many fail to do this. As Les Brown says,

“The graveyard is the richest place on earth, because it is here that you will find all the hopes and dreams that were never fulfilled, the books that were never written, the songs that were never sung, the inventions that were never shared, the cures that were never discovered, all because someone was too afraid to take that first step . . . ”

Don’t die with your song tucked away safely in the corner of your mind.

Do this instead.

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This Strange Fruit: Prologue

barber shop

My youth, black men in America are born dead. Listen to me now.

The words hung heavy like a bad memory as Nick thought about Fitzroy’s depiction of life in America for men of color. Did it mean that Fitzroy thought that Nick’s future was hopeless, or was there something different about his story? What made life worth living anyway?

Nick winced silently as Fitzroy pulled at the right side of his head before placing the electric razor against his left cheek, the cold metal sliding up and down in swift movements like an eraser scratching at the frustration of being shoved into manhood too soon. Hair fell softly onto the cream linoleum floor as the vibrating blades traced around the edges of Nick’s lips, slowly revealing a neat goatee coupled with a conservative mustache, a style mature enough for any black man to sit at corporate America’s dinner table, yet safe enough not to raise any red flags.

This was a weekly tradition.

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Making Your Messages Stick With a Story

tellstories

When I was still a young little lad in kindergarten, before tortoise shell glasses and bowties, before I was fully comfortable with printing my long name on lined paper with an oversized yellow pencil, one of my favorite “classes” was story time.

The entire class would surround our teacher in growing anticipation, each of us seated on the carpeted floor with our legs crossed so that we could see the colorful pictures and hear the engaging words. I loved listening to my teacher read each sentence as I imagined the unfolding story play out in my mind.

There is something special about really good stories and their ability to move us.

It’s the reason why Apple described the iPod as “one thousand songs in your pocket” instead of focusing solely on the technical specifications. Or why political candidates spend so much time crafting their narrative and defending themselves against accusations about their past.  It’s why marketing, branding and social media consultants remain in demand, and why videos are a critical component of every successful Kickstarter campaign.

The power of stories is the reason why, even as adults, we crave colorful and fun stories that remind us of our youth, like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings and Happy Feet. And as you will see in this post, stories are even useful during interviews or for those venturing into the business world.

But telling a good story, especially in the professional context, takes some work.

How do you do it?

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This Strange Fruit: Part 6

girl running

The passengers stared at Ariana with confusion as she burst into the train car and began trotting toward the far door, squeezing past a young woman holding a stroller with shopping bags dangling from the handlebars, the baby crying loudly while the young woman fumbled with her Samsung Galaxy phone, perhaps trying to get enough reception to let a loved one know that she was safe.

Ariana moved quickly, straining to see past the dark shadows, guided by the amber emergency lights on the floor of the train car, her eyes focused on the destination ahead. She felt for a moment like she was a young girl again, running through imaginary forests in the living room while pretend enemies, usually played by her younger sister, Maricel, followed closely behind. They would dash into and out of dark caves in the kitchen in search of buried treasure, or sometimes hang upside down from the bunk bed trying to reenact scenes from Spiderman.

Her older brother Maximiliano, who everyone called Max except her parents, would run outside as soon as they got home from school to play with the guys, but her grandparents expected her and her sister to stay inside like nice young girls and watch cartoons.

She had always felt like life was unfair.

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What I’ve Been Reading: 4 Book Recommendations for August

bookshelf

I hope the month of August is off to a great start! The year is flying by!

I just spent a fun week in Cambridge, MA helping to coordinate the 2014 MIT Online Science, Technology and Engineering Community (MOSTEC) Conference.  It was an amazing time and I look forward to working with the students over the next few months to help them grow and prepare for college success!

While at MIT, I was reminded that before life got complicated and we became absorbed with finding the right career or gunning for the best promotion, we simply enjoyed learning for the sake of learning. Waking up each day, excited about using our talents and skills to invent something new or brainstorm solutions to problems in our community. I love reading and am trying to do it as often as I can because it keeps me grounded and reminds me that there is so much to learn and learning is beautiful.

This past month was a busy one and I am still finishing up a few great books. In the meantime, check out four books I finished in July below.  I hope you add one or two to your list for August.

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