Contact Lenses

As a society, we have gone too far proclaiming who is right and who is wrong. Instead, we should be considering the lens individuals use to interpret the world. Each one of us uses our lends to navigate life. Most likely, the lens used is shaped by the experiences in each of our lives: the successes, the failures, and the traumas. When we choose to place our values on those outlooks to determine what is right and what is wrong, we have conflict.

For example, I know people who think that Ronald Regan was a fabulous President. They can point to all of the wonderful things he did- all of the policies that he created (I mean, he did help bring down the Berlin Wall). But I know others that see his presidency from a different lens. They see policies that deteriorated the African American community, they see his participation in COINTELPRO which places him in a different light. Does that mean that either side is wrong? That may depend on your subjective definition of right…

The important thing about a lens is that is brings perspective – it is not just about ethnicity. A lens is shaped by an assortment of experiences: sexual preference, social economic status, trauma, gender, etc. This is why it is so important that we as a society understand that representation matters. Without it, we are creating an environment that promotes group-think.

Nobody ever wins with group-think. Think about how easy it is to govern when everybody has the same line of thinking.

We’ve started to place right and wrong based solely on people’s lenses.

We’ve stopped trying to look at events through the eyes of others.

We’ve stopped walking in other peoples shoes.

When a person has the job of managing and/or dealing with groups of people, the perspective of self as well as others becomes ever-so more important. When we educate, when we govern, when we serve, we are tasked with taking on the responsibility to look at situations from different lenses Although considering different perspectives is not an easy task (no matter how much education and training you have), it is imperative to the success of any entity.

History has shown us that we are a weaker society when we strive to be homogeneous. It leads to the closing of ideas, the stunting of progress, and the eventual collapse of civilization. Sure, it looks nice on its face, but when you dig a little deeper, you uncover a people who are stuck in time with ideas that won’t stand the test of time.

And that is sad.

Basketball is a Spectator Sport — For Me

I debated writing this, but, in the end, I think it is more important to share. Don’t judge me!

I have come to a pivotal point in my life. I did not know that I would get to this moment, and it came on suddenly. In fact, it came on so sudden that it took me by surprise. What happened, you ask?

My oldest daughter told me that my help was no longer needed during her basketball games.

Back when I was a genius…

I was not surprised that I was told that my help was no longer needed; it was the manner in which it was done.

I will provide some context:

I have been my daughter’s coach since she was able to run. I have been her basketball coach since she could pick up a ball. Playing basketball and learning new skills has been a part of our relationship – a bonding point between us. Like other kids who have played on a team coached by a parent, we had our ups and downs. But, with my wife’s help, we had always hugged it out with some understanding. Now, she plays on the high school team, which puts me on the sidelines – and I am okay with that.
During her second game, she was defending a girl, who I believe was a weak ball-handler.

“Get up on her!” I yell.

And that is when she looked at me, while playing defense, and held her hand in a way that represented open lips, and she pressed her fingertips together – closing the “lips”.

Yup, that is correct; she motioned for me to shut up — all without getting out of defensive position.

Son. Of. A. Bitch! She shushed me.

I was so shocked by this! I went through a gamut of emotions:

What the…?!

How dare…?!

Ungrateful ass!

Just then, I turned and looked at my wife who was sitting next to me with a family friend – laughing. Not just any laugh; it was a full-out belly laugh. And then it hit me – I am no longer my daughter’s coach. It was time for my transformation from father/coach to father/mentor/fan.

I had once read the book, Changing the Game, which has a lot of useful information concerning the way parents can help and hurt their kids in youth sports. One thing I took away from the book is this question:

Do my actions reflect the values I want my child to embody.

Both on and off the court, I want my child to have the following:

  1. A love for the sport,
  2. A growth mindset,
  3. Confidence,
  4. The ability to make mistakes,
  5. The ability to learn from mistakes,
  6. The ability to correct mistakes,
  7. Independence.

By her gesture, she was claiming her independence. She was ultimately doing everything I asked of her since she was in third grade — I cannot be mad at that. It is effortless to yell out and coach from the sideline. But that is just it; I am no longer on the sideline – I am in the audience, which brings up another thing that this book has taught me—the importance of saying to her the words:

I Love Watching You Play.

She is such a fierce competitor.

As a youth athlete, I remember nothing that I disliked more than the post-game report — especially after a loss. I did not get it from my parents but from the parents of my peers. They all thought that they were being helpful, but mentally, it was not. My parents? I believe that they knew that there were more pressing issues in the world than how much I scored or how much playing time I received. They left the improvement up to me. If I was going to be good at anything, it would be intrinsically motivated (but don’t get that confused with not caring).

So, what did I gain from this experience?
I should count my blessings that I have a healthy daughter who loves to play basketball at a high level. Before each game, I should review my goals for her this year. Realistically, the goals I have for her have very little to do with a specific sport but life lessons that she can use for the future.

Let’s Go, Afro!

The Decision

To be a black male is to live a life that is full of contradictions. Contradictions that cause us to make decisions that we may not understand. Decision that now our black boys are having to make.

It is a critical one that directly affects them future and the future of their children.

It is one that has been overlooked in our society for far too long, and it is time we discussed it.

It is a decision whether to assimilate or not.

Each path comes with favorable and less favorable outcomes. And, it is a decision that each black individual will need to make for himself.

The decision is whether to become an assimilationist or a non-conformist.

The definition of assimilation is to act accordingly with the intent of fitting in and or conforming. In this case, we are talking about societal norms and expectations.

A non-conformist is a person whose behavior or views do not conform to prevailing ideas or practices. Again, we are talking about societal norms and expectations.

For a black male, assimilation can be considered a good thing. A black person who chooses to assimilate is more likely to be accepted and given privileges that maybe not part of their original environment — an environment that could deviate from society’s expectations of “success.” On the other hand, choosing to assimilate could come at a great price. The acceptance of one set of norms could mean the a denial of another. The ability to attain and keep street credit within ones own community (not just geographical location) is an important part of the black society. To be able to walk down the street and get “the nod” from peers means acceptability and the ability to walk through certain neighborhoods with confidence and respect.

For a black person, to be a non-conformist is to keep and maintain street credit, which holds the ability to walk around a neighborhood as a leader or a a well-respected member of that community (again looking at more than geographical location). People who do not understand this may ask, “Why would anyone forgo the opportunity to improve themselves for street credit?” Those people would be missing the point.

Improving oneself is only relative to society’s definitions of success. If a house, a car, and a picket fence is society’s definition of successful, then the non-conformist may net ever meet the expectations for success, which is why it is important that society does not create perimeters for what it is to be successful. Success can come in many forms and is only contingent on each individual who must decide for oneself when enough is enough.

In order for black youth to be able to make a concious decision, they must first be presented with the question through conversation. This conversation between older and younger generations of blacks males needs to be had and must continue because it is critical. The conversation has not gotten any easier — especially for those of us who live in homogenous communities.

Look no further than the current state of events. It is getting harder and harder to avoid the elephant in the room. It is harder to look past the fact that if it were a group of African Americans that stormed The Capitol, we would be reading a different story. But, who bears the cross of uncomfortable silence? Is it me – who fears that the conversation could go too far and disrupt my livelihood or my life’s work? Or is it my community — who has to live with the fact that there are some truths that they must come to terms with? Especially since the community knows and interacts with me, my wife, and my children daily.


Once again, I, a forty-year-old man, am forced to decide between assimilation and non-conformity. I am once again forced to make a decision that can derail what I have worked for. I am forced to make the same type of decision that I had to as a youth.


Is it fair? No.


Is it real? Yes.


So, here I am, stuck between two worlds — forced to navigate this world without a playbook, instructional manual, or a tour guide. Trying to be successful, while trying not to become a traitor –

An Uncle Tom.

An Oreo.

A Coon.

While also not trying to be angry —

ungrateful

ghetto

intimidating.

It is a terrible thing to be black male to be labeled as one of these things. But, it is a reality.

This is why representation matters. This is why we need black people in positions that matter. Black males deserve to have people in positions that matter!

We shouldn’t have to make this decision. But we do — and, as a whole community, it is our job to guide our black youth and not judge their decision. There are no wrong answers, only consequences.

This is Not a Moment, This is a Movement

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There was a time in history when it was illegal for black people to be educated.

There was a time in history when black people could not vote or hold a political office.

Both actions were punishable by death.

But, history tells us that if you tell black people that they cannot do something, they will show you how it is done.

And that is why 2020 is such an important year for my family and me — I did both.

I have been asked why I would want to run for political office or why I would want to hold a doctoral degree. I have always been hesitant to answer the question; I didn’t think people would understand.

The reason is: I know exactly what my purpose is in life. Many people have no idea why they are on this earth, but I do. My purpose in life is to lead. How did I know this?
My ancestors told me.

I was recently shown that I am a vital part of American history. My people were from Africa; brought here for slavery in Auburn, Alabama; persevered and sought opportunity through the great migration; marched through Jim Crow; and fought for this country in the United States military. I am a product of their perseverance, diligence, sacrifice, and hard work. My ancestors told me that I am needed and that I should prepare. I was told that I would have to sacrifice personal pursuits for the greater good.
So that is what I did.

While some were on vacation, I was locked in a room typing away. While some were watching their child’s events, I was seated next to them, feverishly typing on my laptop. While some spent their weekend at their lake cabin, napping and tubing, I sat in a classroom from 10 am to 6pm, learning, debating, and sharing. I am not saying I am better than, I am saying I had my orders — this was the sacrifice I was told about; this was part of the grand plan. All the while, my wife was tirelessly and selflessly holding the fort down in my absence.
Now, I am not trying to be “the next great” anything. I only needed to lead by example. The objective is simple, beat the odds and achieve at the highest levels without excuse.

So the doctoral degree? Not for me.

The City Council Seat? Also, not for me.

These achievements are for those who look like me; those who have the same backgrounds as me; those who came before me; and hopefully, those who come by way of me. I am a vehicle for others to achieve success. If 3 to 4 people of color see me and feel that they can achieve anything, I have done my job.

So what is next? Unfortunately, my mission is not completed — no, it has just begun. And I am not sure it will ever be until I am in the ground. I still have responsibilities. It is part of being young, gifted, and black.

Signed,

Councilman David L. Woods II, Ph. D

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To Scroll, or Not to Scroll

We have lost our way in terms of communication and social media etiquette. Far too often, I see a person post a not-so-popular opinion on social media, and a different person comes along and adds a comment to the opinion. What ensues is what I will call a cluster f—. Something like this:

“You should not think the way you do!”

“I don’t mean to offend you, but…” (Note: the person meant to offend).

“I hope that never happens to anyone in your family!” (Note: they, in fact, mean to wish shitty fortune on the person and family).

“Well, a simple Google search will show you…” (Note: Insert shitty articles passed off as research from a highly suspect author/group/firm).

“Well, it is my opinion — and if you did not want it, you shouldn’t have posted what you did!”

Here is the thing, purposeful or not, people who post on social media want some sort of reaction or dialogue from their audience. A person would be correct by saying that the author should not have posted something without expecting a negative response. But the audience member also has a responsibility — one that requires some maturity on their part. What is not appreciated is when a person comes along, reads the post, then adds their opinion with the intent of only being right and not to have a dialogue.

If this is you, guess what? Approaching information with that sort of intent does not make you right; it makes you an ass, and here is why:

  • You don’t have to answer. You could go on about your business and have an awesome day.
  • The person who created a post is most likely not going to change their mind.
  • You, I am assuming, are not an authority, nor are trained on researching the subject.

That means that you are entitled.

Sorry, it does.

Not only that, but you also gave up your power. A person that you may not even know got a rise out of you and caused you to react. The person got you.

“But, what if they say something offensive?”

Simple answer, keep scrolling. Physically show someone close to you the post and laugh at the dumbass comment. But keep scrolling and have a nice day.

If it is a company that says something offensive, even better — boycott the business and get others to do the same. But you don’t need to comment on their post.

I have watched long time friends, brothers, sisters, mothers, daughters, disown each other on a public platform because of a need to be right. The sad thing is, both sides were right. Dead right.

I’ll explain

When a person is willing to give up everything, even if it comes as a detriment to their well-being to be right, they most likely will be dead right. Why? Because being right is just a subjective construct. Being right does not mean that you are fair or honest; it only means that your set of values justify your stance. It also means that each person is not willing to change their view, which is not necessarily wrong – unless you cannot coexist with someone who does not believe the same as you.

Let’s review:

  1. If you see something that you don’t agree with: Keep scrolling.
  2. If you see something that offends you: Keep scrolling.
  3. If you see something that you believe is not true: Keep scrolling.
  4. If you have some information that you would like to share, but it does not come from a peer-reviewed article: Keep scrolling.
  5. If you want to add some emoji, fine, but after that: Keep scrolling.

The highest form of discipline is self-restraint. It is wise to practice that.

Arguing with a fool only proves there are two.

*I know there will be some who will not agree with this post, and that is okay. But guess what? I don’t give a shit, so do yourself a favor and keep scrolling.

To Be Young, Gifted, and Unapologetically Black

Many people say to me, “I don’t see color, I just see a person.”

I think it is about time that you start to see color.

I am black.

I am proud to wear it.

It is a badge of honor.

Seeing me as a black man would help you realize how I, along with many others, have to navigate this world.

When a black man is gunned down while he is jogging, you can expect social media to buzz. It’s easy to say, “I’m glad that doesn’t happen where I live.”

Many of us, regardless of color, have said that. Including me.

When you look at me, you see a confident, educated, capable individual on the surface. But inside, I have been suppressing forty years of experience in my skin, and a boatload of instances that suggest that this type of racism is not so rare.

A few years ago (when writing checks was still a thing), a clerk at a local grocery store told me it was against policy to write a check for more than purchase. They cashed checks for my wife all the time. She is Caucasian.

When we first moved to town, an older lady from the community stopped by to welcome us and asked if we had a church.  She suggested one to us that she had “referred another colored family to a few months ago.”

When Covid-19 hit, and officials were recommending that people wear masks, a part of me was more worried about people perceiving me as a threat.

I once looked at a pair of earrings at a department store jewelry counter. After the clerk locked them safely away in the case, she accused me of putting them in my pocket. My girlfriend pointed out her mistake; that was enough to settle it. She didn’t apologize.

I applied for a position for which I had more experience and was better qualified to do than the competition. I didn’t get the job and my boss told me it was because I was “rough around the edges.”

Earlier this year, my wife and I spent a long weekend with friends in Arizona. When we booked the trip, I started researching the social climate of the area we were headed. Finding it to have little diversity, I took my wife with me on my morning walks.

These are just a few of the realities that I have faced as a person of color.

A black man.

And yet, I, like others, pick ourselves up by the bootstraps and persevere. It is what my mother and father expect of me.

I often feel bad for my wife, who married the love of her life – not realizing the anxiety she would experience with starting a family with me. She did not know the terror she would feel when she sees a person of color receives racial injustice. She did not envision the sheer horror she would experience towards those injustices as her sons grow older – the crippling uncertainty of their futures.

This is not a “woe is me” post. I need everyone in the room to realize that a person of color can go through life doing everything right:

– following the laws,

– getting the highest marks,

– receiving a degree,

– loving their family and community,

and still, receive “less than” because of their color.

This is not our father’s racism; this is systematic – and it is time we discuss it.

 

Parenting: This can’t be right, can it?

I was reading the book, Every Moment Matters by John O’ Sullivan when I came across this passage:

Far too many coaches think skill is the aggregation of various techniques that are then applied in a linear fashion back into the competition. That fundamentally misunderstands the fact that skill is something that requires context to develop. You cannot separate it from context. You need problems to be solved in order to develop skill. In a practice with no game-like activities, with no defenders or direction to force decision-making, there may be technical development, but there is very little skill development. And without skill development, there is no transfer.

As I read this passage, I thought about the implications it had on my parenting (which is weird, because I chose this book so that it could inform my coaching).

I am a father. I am not so much a helicopter father, but I am an asshole parent. I am that guy who will not let his kids do “whatever the other kids are doing.” I am that guy who creates hard-line expectations for his children that have consequences if not met. I am the guy whose children are the last in the class to have the latest technology/social media platform. I am their father; it is my duty to protect them. To say that I do not enjoy wearing that badge would be an outright lie; I wear it as a badge of honor.

Until I realize that there is a fine line between protection and shielding.

The book continues,

Transfer is the ability of a learner to successfully apply the behaviors, knowledge, and skills acquired in a practice environment to the competition. If training environment does not mimic those game conditions or if it poses decisions and scenarios that are no encountered in a game, then transfer does not occur.

In the parenting realm, this means that if I am applying discipline to my children for them to be able to transfer lessons into real-life situations, that is a pat on the back for me. But, if I am applying discipline that shields them from transferring lessons into real-life situations, then shame on me. I would be blocking the side of the discipline that promotes learning.

The hope is for my children to find themselves in a situation and mentally go through this checklist before making a decision:

  • Perceive the situation.
  • Conceive of possible solutions.
  • Decide on the best solution.
  • Deceive their opponent, if necessary.
  • Technically execute their best solution.
  • Asses their choice and prepare for the next day.

Is there a right or wrong answer when it comes to handling situations, no. There are only positive and negative consequences based on their decisions and actions. Hopefully, when they are conflicted, my likeness can pop on their shoulder and point them in the right direction.

Things I Learned While Vacationing in Arizona…

I could get used to this.

Retirement could be epic. I am looking forward to retirement, but I have 4 kids and may not be able to retire until I am about 72. Primarily because of the cost of health insurance.

Pimp My Ride: Golf Cart Edition.

It is way cheaper to eat healthy down here. You can buy a ton of vegetables at the local market for very little money. I am pretty sure my wife and I are the colors of the rainbow.

A bag of veggies? Six bucks.

I need the sun and heat. The winter months get really long in the Midwest – especially if you are a teacher. I was so much happier when I took a walk. I was much more content, and my sanity was intact.

It was hard to pull Heather away.

Birds can be assholes. It has been a long time since I was awakened by the sounds of birds. At first, it was delightful. Later in the trip, it became just plain annoying. I like birds, but I am pretty sure they were arguing with each other at dawn.

I need mountains. I am from Alaska, and it has been 20+ years since I have been home. So I have not seen an actual mountain in a long time. Until this trip, I had forgotten how happy I am driving through rock formations. I definitely took that for granted.

Superstition Mountains.

Snowbirds. Many people travel to Arizona for the winter months. I am definitely taking notes these snowbirds are definitely living life correctly. There is only so many -20 says I can stand before I snap.

These people are living life correctly.

Damn them Kids. I love my kids, but I have to get away from them. Do I miss them? A little. Do I feel bad about leaving them? Hell. No. I would love to take the kids along on an airplane, but they will have plenty of opportunities to travel with their peers. If the choir is taking a trip to Philadelphia, they’d better fa-la-la their asses onto that flight!

What kids?

Super-light packing. If there is a way to wash my clothes, then I pack the following: cargo shorts, walking shoes, a ball cap, shades, swim trunks, jeans, sweatshirt, and a t-shirt. Most of which I will be wearing. The rest should fit in a backpack. If it fits, it ships.

Whatever doesn’t fit, I’ll buy.

Rock-Grass. I suppose you can spend your money on better things than watering your grass. So, why not replace your lawn with colored landscaping rock – makes perfect sense!

Any kind; any color.

Life is too short. There are times when you are faced with your mortality. This trip was a wake-up call for me. There a lot of people who are 55+ in Arizona. It was refreshing to see so many of them going on about their lives: hiking, golfing, biking, etc. It reminded me of how quickly time passes and how important it is to not sweat the small stuff.

Vacationing is always better with a partner. Having a wingman (or woman) is invaluable. It would be best if you had someone who is down to do whatever. Someone who is on the same wave as you are. Who not better than your significant other. This is not something that I just picked up in Arizona, but it is nice knowing that your trip is going to be awesome.

Likeness Ownership, Digital Footprint, and Growing Up

For the past 12 years, I have brought you the ins and outs of my entire family, Mostly the times when I stick my foot in my mouth. I am sure you all enjoy typing “Heather is a Saint” in the comments.

My household has come to a milestone. A benchmark.

My first-born is a teenager…ish.

Shit.

Help me.

I am not ready for this bullshit.

For the past 12 years, I would see something funny, dumb, or light-hearted, and quickly publish it for the world to share.

And, whether you want to admit it or not, that shit is funny.

After a while, she would become perturbed.

“Dad! Really! Do you really have to take pictures of everything?”

“Yes.”

“Does it have to go to social media?”

“Yes.”

*Marches out of the room without swinging arms in a pre-teenagerly way.

(Just to dig one in) “I legally own your likeness until 16!”

*door slams

I have come to the conclusion that when she becomes a teenager, she is to own her likeness. Yes, really I own it, but she should have a say in how she is represented. I have to accept the fact that she is no longer a little girl and she should be able to choose the way that people interpret her actions. She has a personality, and (God help us) it is damn similar to mine.

Next, will come the lesson on digital citizenship and etiquette.

Part 2

Before I could even get this first part posted comes the other question:

Why can I not get a (insert social media here)?

I am usually the “because you are too young now shut up and go away” parent. But this time I decided to be the “transformational leader”.

I should have stuck with what I knew.

Do you know how hard it is to explain digital marketing and business ownership to a pre-teen? It is full of, “So, what,” and, “I know that,” and, “All of my friends have it.” Seriously, let’s just forget the chapter about owning your own likeness, digital theft, and copyright.

“Do I really need to know all of this if all I want to do is have fun?”

Fuck. Yes. Little girl.

First of all, the world is a cruel place with shitty people looking to make a buck anywhere they can get it. And second, what is the first thing a potential employer or recruiter does before contacting you about a position?

I’ll wait.

They Google your name. That’s right, you may not get a call back at 20 because of the shit you did at 13 and thought it was funny. So please forgive the long-winded, passionate overprotective speech that your dear, caring father is giving you.

…and spare me the eye roll please.

Am I going to give you your own social media, yes — prohibition in the digital age will work just as well as prohibition in the 1940’s. But you are going to learn the rules, you are going to give me the password to your accounts, and you are going to get used to constantly looking over your back to spot me on my helicopter.

Man Up: Lesson #3

Here is the thing, gentlemen. I have an attitude problem. I am very quick to get offended and I am the type of person who will use confrontation in order to resolve it. So, when I say this, I am coming from a place of caring and understanding.

The lesson of this post: Live to see another day.

This is a line that could save your life, your career, or your marriage.

Storytime:

I was driving home with both kids in the van when a car cuts across two lanes and almost puts me into a snowbank. Being the person that I am, I follow the car for another mile before the car pulls over and a young man gets out. Two things become obvious at this point:

  1. I can kick his ass for sure.
  2. I am going to kick his ass for sure.

So what did I do?

I drove away.

Here’s why.

First, I don’t know what this guy may have had on him. He could have had a weapon, and if he did, what was  I prepared to do about it — especially with kids in the van?

Second, I knew that I could kick this kid’s ass, but then what? Sure, I would have immediately felt better — until the consequences hit. People are not built like they used to. They admit wrongs and take their deserved lickings. He would have gone to the police, and I would have been arrested for assault, which may have resulted in the loss of my job and/or career. That would have messed with my money; and doing that is a no-no.

Third, he could have retaliated in an unforeseen way — always a bad deal.

Fourth, what example would I show my kids? That if you can overpower a person who offends you, kick their ass? Let me be clear; if there is a person who threatens the well-being of you and/or your loved ones. Kick their ass, enjoy kicking their ass, and make them remember it so you don’t have to kick their ass again. But, if what the person did was only offended you, keep walking.

So, what is my point?

It is super easy to get mad, threaten violence, and even act on that violence. But, in the end, where does that leave you? Always hurting yourself. When people get in trouble for violent acts, it is often because of a split-second lapse of judgment. By the time their wits are about them, they realize that they did something that they are unable to fix or take back. Don’t take the easy way out. I am not saying that you will not want to, I am saying try your best not to. In any given situation, you have more to lose than they do.

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