Story Time with Rishone – And… ACTION!

And… Action!! 

It’s hard for me to share this with the outside world because it’s still work in progress throughout my current being. I have not quite figured it out or mastered this approach yet but I know I’ve made so many achievements over the past 6 years because of it.

For most of my life I have been keenly observant. I would study life, family, people, social groups, and myself closely to understand why we made certain choices. To be more specific: like what inspired us to act or better yet, what inspires us to do anything given our unique or special circumstances. So basically most of who I am and what I wanted to become existed  inside my head. There is one specific moment that started a domino effect of where I am right now in this process.  

The First time I chose to act. 

I always remember this one moment in my young life that I believe defines who I was and has inspired me to be the person I am today. I was 10 years old, and I wanted to be on my under 14 soccer team. To be on the Cornwall College under 14 team is something that was always on my mind. My dad was a respected soccer player locally, and though he wasn’t really apart of my life, I still had the opportunity to watch him play on select Sundays. I can honestly say that is the only time in my life where I wanted to be like him.  It was a Saturday night after the Jerk Chicken man had already sold out and everyone headed back to their homes to go to bed in preparation for Church on Sunday. My best friends Keon and O’Neal went inside to go to bed, so I got my old football from the side of my house in Catherine Hall Montego Bay and went under the street light at the end of the block at Keon’s house. That night I connected with a different side of myself. 

To gain more control over the football I need to be better at keep ups. So that night, I set out to accomplish doing 100 keep ups without making the ball hit the road or the side walk. I would visualize myself running on to the field with number 10 on my jersey with Todd above it. I could literally smell the grass, feel how perfect my shin guards felt, and hear my sister yelling my name. I could even feel how connected I felt to my team because I was the star player. 

I started at about 10:30PM that night, and I was so invested in my goal that I didn’t leave under that street light till I got to 100. In fact, at times I got to 90, 95, 98, and even 99. Though I got close to my goal, I knew I needed to get to a 100. Of course, I could lie about it the next day, but to me that wasn’t necessary. It would feel better to actually do it

No matter how long it took, I knew I was going to get it done. I learned so much about myself that night. There was no one there to celebrate with me. No one there to support. No one there to tell me that I could do it or tell me to keep going when I failed many times. At about 3:30AM after multiple failed attempts, I surpassed 100 keep-up, and my heart exploded with joy. I was exhausted physically and mentally. I even did it a 2nd time to make sure it wasn’t a fluke. 

I was happy that I achieved my goal and knew the struggle it took to get there, but I had gained this level of focus that made me feel like I could achieve 10,000 keep-ups. That focus gave me the confidence and motivation that enabled me to make the U14 team that fall with the number 12 on my jersey as the 2nd Half right wing Striker. 

As I have mentioned, I was 10 maybe 11 years old when I achieved my goal of making the U14 team, but throughout my life I would remind myself, whenever I was spending too much time in my head, that I needed to take action. Throughout high school, college, and most of my adult hood, I am still on this journey to go from thought to action. Even with that realization as child, it is not until 2022 that I instantaneously took action before it settled as a repeat movie in my head. 

My Realization:

That moment has lead me to many achievements in my life but none more important than lately. I launched a 5 year dream in Dine & Dance. I was able to serve the community through Plated Soul in response to mass shooting at Tops Friendly Market. I was able to balance Musicality Central, Plated Soul and a promotion at work. I achieved physical goals and so many more. 

The bottom line is this. I realized being observant and a hard worker was not enough. When I wrote my goals down, I also needed to take action and be as fearless about pursuing them as possible.  Being that I love the affair I have with words and beautifully organizing them to create stories, I am now creating stories through action. That is basically what I wanted to share. All the ideas, poetry, short stories, motivational speeches, advice, and accountability speeches have been transferred to this outside world.  

How this might help You. 

I feel like I am always giving you these stories about never giving up on yourself or the things you want for your life. My goal is not to make you feel like you are not trying. My goal is to share how I never stopped trying. I learned to think, create, speak and take action toward my goals, and that has made the difference in my life today. I am continuously growing and learning so I am destined to learn more from failures than my successes.  

Make this year the year you take action. Write your goals down not only on paper but in your mind and heart. If you don’t have anyone to support you or encourage you to win, then let this blog serve as a written document that empowers you to keep going even when it seems impossible. I have worked passed impossible more times than I can remember by now and let me be frank in saying it was hard. However, the joy that fills your cells when you’ve achieved something you have worked hard for over a long period of time is absolutely priceless and unreplaceable. I truly want that for you.

Final Thought:

Life is an action movie in our heads but the beauty of living takes place when we take action in this reality.  

Story Time – When your best doesn’t feel good enough

I’ve been frustrated, guys. The second half of this year hasn’t quite looked as I had hoped it would… Back at the end of July, I was in a fender bender that I initially thought was “no big deal” and assumed I’d easily bounce back from, but things have not gone quite as planned since then.

My body is still trying to work through any trauma it experienced, and with that, my physical abilities have changed, limiting my ability to do the things I love. I have a goal of hitting a 300 lb deadlift. That goal has certainly been put on pause in addition to lifting any weights heavier than 20 lbs. Then even my ability to dance (and teach) has been diminished, needing to modify my movement.

This has been hard. Dance is a part of my identity, and not being able to express myself through dance the way I normally would has me feeling like a part of me is missing. I know any dancer who’s ever experienced an injury gets this. I know I’m not alone. 

I don’t share this with you to get your pity. I just want to be real about where I’m at right now. This has been a journey, and I think I’m now at the point of being able to try to reincorporate some of the movement I’ve had to reduce. I’ve started taking some lower intensity workout classes, like Barre. And to be honest, it’s been humbling. The way I look in these classes is very different from when I used to take these classes all the time in previous years. I’ve got to take things slower and not go as “full out” as I normally would. And holy sore! My body is definitely adjusting to this movement again. 

So what’s the moral of my story?

Keep going! Do what you can. “Your best” will look different in different seasons. Right now, my best is modifying movement and keeping things lighter but ensuring that I don’t stop moving. This is just a season, and I’m confident that it will take me into a new season of stronger movement in the future. But for now, I’m giving my best. 

I want to encourage you to check in with yourself. Do you feel you’re giving your best considering the current season of life you’re in? That’s not for me to answer, and it’s something that you’ve got to be honest with yourself about. But it might be the case that you need to adjust your expectations for yourself so you can positively move forward. 

Story Time – Why can’t I?

No Really? Why Cant I!!!!

One of the most pivotal moments of my life was deciding to play tennis at Dillard High School at the start of my junior year. During my freshman and sophomore year at Dillard, I would watch our tennis team practice as I marched by the army green caged courts wishing I could be volleying a forehand cross court for a match point in an actual match. However, at that time I was on the color guard and drill team competition team that took place during the tennis practices. 

I would always listen for the match scores during the morning announcements imagining that the announcer read.. Rishone Todd won his match 6-3 6-0 against Blanch Ely High School number 2 prospect. So I made a goal at the end of my sophomore year that I would join the tennis team no matter what. 

I had been conditioned, through the sport itself, to think that only certain things were for certain people or exclusive to certain races. Though I loved tennis, I honestly thought that tennis was out of my wheelhouse because of my complexion. Oh how extremely wrong I was. I was led to think this way because no one looked like me that was watching from the stands or playing in the matches. 

My favorite player will always be Andre Agassi. Andre Agassi is an exciting, professional tennis player that set the early 90s on fire and is one of the greatest tennis players of all time in my opinion. He had some epic battles with Pete Sampras, another incredible American tennis superstar. However, they both did not look like me and it played into the marketing that tennis was not meant for people of color. 

However, this blog is not about Andre Agassi or Pete Sampras, it’s about two incredible women that proved to me that I was capable of anything no matter how the world painted me. Venus and Serena Williams made their entrance in the pro circuit in the mid to late 90s. They changed the image of tennis permanently. 
They brought so much grace, athleticism, strategy, and strength to the sport. I was already a die hard fan of tennis but finally seeing two women of color play on television lit a fire inside me that I can’t even explain through words. I no longer was expected to play basketball, football, run track, or soccer. I could focus on my academics, continue to enjoy being a member of AFJROTC program and now choose to fulfill a childhood dream to play Tennis for my high school.

This past week Serena played her last match at the US Open before considering her retirement and it certainly made me emotional. It was a happy, fulfilled, and proud emotional moment for me. As I was cheering her on to win her match, I realized I had been cheering for 25 years through all of her 23 grand slams titles. Now that I am a grown man I realized I was cheering for my dream to be different from the norm.  Even though she lost after playing a great match I simultaneously I saw the 15 year old in Lauderhill, Florida sitting on the couch excited to pick up a tennis racket and a few fresh tennis balls because Serena just beat Martina Hingis (the number 1 women’s tennis player in the world) at the US Open for her first single grand slam title. She is now arguably the greatest athlete of all time and has opened the door for so many other women in sports and tennis players around the world. Even her opponent who beat her shared how much Serena and Venus inspired her career. It was touching to hear how a woman, not of color, honoring Serena for inspiring her journey to where she is right now. 

Over the years there have been so many players that have made me proud of my complexion. Players like James Blake, Gaël Monfils, Jo Wilfreid Tsonga, Naomi Osaka, Sloane Stephens, Donald Young, Madison Keys, Coco gauff and Today (September 5th, 2022) I witnessed Francis Tiafoe beat Rafael Nadal in 4 set thriller to make it to the US Open Semifinals. He played brilliantly. 

Why do I share this story? I know I am a black man and vice versa you may think dance is not for you because you actually believe that knowing how to dance has to do with your complexion. I am here to tell you that it is a myth. Everything can be learned and mastered with time if you are invested for the right reasons. Just like I thought tennis wasn’t for me; I learned that I needed Venus and Serena to help me believe in myself. Our studio is a reflection of that belief. 

We often believe that we can’t do something because we have a different complexion, because we are too short, or too tall, or are not the right size or are not flexible enough, or you have no rhythm or think you have 2 left feet(which is also a lie)… etc. Sometimes it’s the marketing and history that prevents you from doing that one thing that brings you life. Well I am here to ask you. Why can’t you? In an effort to tell you to go out there and start doing. It may take some time to learn or you may even experience some discomfort but be open to that process because it is liberating. And in the process of doing the thing that you love you automatically give other room to go after things they may not have thought they were capable of. 

I will end this blog like this. As I sat in my C++ programming irate period class, I remember hearing my name at the morning announcements. The student said my 1st name incorrectly but I didn’t care. She said Rishown Todd won his match 6-4 6-1 against Platantion #2. I closed my eyes in a meditative celebration because I did. 

Story Time – It’ll All Work Out

You ever have one of those days where you just feel that nothing is going right? Or maybe it’s one of those weeks, or months, or even seasons…. Where nothing seems to be going your way?

That’s been me these past few weeks. I won’t go into detail, but long story short, I went through an unfavorable and frustrating experience with the bank that made me question if I’d be able to pay for the updates I’m making at my house. And in the midst of this, getting into a minor fender bender causing me to not have access to my vehicle for a week and dealing with all the phone calls with insurance companies and practitioners post accident. And then of course the outdoor furniture I ordered came partially broken so I had to order a replacement which is backordered… And I’m going through health complications… And dealing with shoulder pain from the car accident… And, and, and…..

So many things seemed to be going wrong within a few weeks time. But do you know why so many things seem to be going wrong in my life? Because that’s what I was focusing on! Yes, these things were in fact happening, but there were also SO many other incredible and wonderful things happening at the same time, like having a magical birthday celebration for my boyfriend, knowing I’m going to be meeting my niece for the first time next week, the fact that I now have central air installed and I’m not dying of heat in my house, the fact that I have a house that I love living in every day, having incredible dance classes with you all…. There are so many things in my life that that bring me joy every single day.

But instead of focusing on the joy, I was allowing myself to be distracted by the frustrations I was experiencing. I’ve had to remind myself that my life experience is what I make of it. If I focus on the bad, it’s going to feel negative. But if I focus on the good things, I will be so much happier. “Where focus goes, energy flows.” I want the energy to flow to the positive things. 

I’ve decided to no longer dwell on these frustrations, but instead trust that it will all work out, and in the meantime, focus on those positive moments and things that I’m truly thankful for. 

So if you find yourself in a rut, feeling like one thing after another, nothing seems to be going right, I want to encourage you to shift your focus to the things that are going right in your life. If you can’t think of anything, ask yourself, if everything that I didn’t express gratitude for today was gone tomorrow, what would I be left with? That’ll make you realize real quick that you have so much in your life that you can express gratitude for. When you start living in a positive headspace, your life experience will shift to something that feels much more joyful. And once you’re in the practice of seeing the positives in life, it’ll come more naturally, and you’ll start to feel the energy shift in your life. 

So let’s do this together. What’s something that you’re grateful for? Share in the comments below.

6 Things I Learned from Co-Owning a Business for 6 years

“Own a dance studio,” they said…. “It’ll be fun,” the said…. And they were right!! After 6 years in business, I can safely say that spending time in the studio with you all is what I look forward to most each week. 

BUT!! That’s not to say that it’s been easy. It hasn’t. Each week brings new challenges, and to push through each one of those challenges every week for 6 years can be exhausting! But I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

With working through all the ups and downs, both Rishone and I have learned a lot – about dance, business, people, and ourselves….

Here are 6 of my biggest learning lessons from the past 6 years:

1. You have to be uncomfortable if you want to grow 

In order to grow, you have to change. And as we all know, change is not easy! But I’m proud to say that I’m a much different dancer and choreographer than I was 6 years ago. And that’s because (with the help of Rishone), I’ve pushed myself out of my comfort zone to learn different things. I’ve dug into the nitty, gritty details of improving my technique and movement. (Thank the Lord cause my grooves needed some serious help! I’ve learned about Hip Hop culture and my place in it (which that was a very uncomfortable journey that I’m still on!). Cause it’s not just the change it self that’s difficult. It’s hard to fully evaluate yourself and be honest with yourself about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. But in order to change something, you must first evaluate where you are today. Otherwise, you’ll have no idea how to get where you want to be.

2. Working with someone is hard work

For anyone who thinks that owning a business is automatically easier with two people…. It’s a lie! Of course, I absolutely love owning a business with Rishone, but it has not been easy. Rishone and I work every week to better our business and at the hear of that is us working to strengthen our relationship. This means better communication, working through conflict, having patience… These are all really hard things especially considering how different we both are as people. But I’m glad to say that all those painful conversations where we didn’t see eye to eye have all been worth it. We’ve learned how to work through those disagreements. And I think the biggest driving factor for why we’ve been able to come out on the other side of some really hard situations between each other is because of the genuine love we have for each other. Keeping that in mind throughout those challenging times has helped to keep us focused on pushing through for a better result, instead of simply throwing the towel in and giving up.

3. Consistency really is Key 

The only reason Musicality Central still exists today is because we have been consistent AF over the past 6 years. In the beginning, we had one, two, maybe four people on a good day… Some days we had no one show up for class. But we kept going. Because when you’re consistent, you create momentum, and not only for yourself, but for the people around you. The way you stay consistent is to stay focused on WHY you’re doing what you’re doing. If we were teaching dance to because Instagram famous or for the attention, you better believe, we would have quite years ago. But that’s not why we do what we do. We teach because we want to share our genuine love for dance with the world. We teach because we know the impact it has on our clients happiness. We teach because it makes us and you all better people. Because all of these “why’s” have been our focus, we’ve remained consistent.

4. Roll with the punches

Exhibit A – The Pandemic! Man, we certainly had to roll with the punches over these past two years. We had to figure out how to create a completely new business model with online classes and work through all the mini punches along the way with that journey, like mics not working or the internet cutting out. Not to mention dealing with the masks and social distancing once we got back into the studio. Things don’t always go to plan, whether it be a full-blown pandemic or simply forgetting a full 8 count of a routine while teaching it. I’ve learned that there’s no need to freak out. “Everything is figureoutable!” (Marie Forleo). So if I have a class that felt clunky and that our students left with blind spots and questions marks in the routine, I try not to let that get me down. Don’t get me wrong, I might feel sad or frustrated initially that the class didn’t go as well as I wanted, but Rishone and I will take a look and see what I can do to make the class better the next week, and I prepare accordingly. And this evaluation process is a CONSTANT work in progress for me.

5. It’s OK to Suck

This is kind of a tangent to # 1 and #4, cause really these all tie in together. This is something we preach in every single one of our classes: We do not expect you to be perfect! And this is something that I’ve also had to learn for myself. There have been routines that I’ve created where I watch back a video of it, and I feel sick to my stomach because I don’t like what I had created. But just as much as we tell you all that growing as a dancer is a journey, I’ve had to learn that growing as a choreography also takes time, and not to be too hard on myself if I create something that doesn’t quite seem to “click.” I’ve also experienced this as a dancer, even with my own choreography, where I watch myself back in a video and think, “wow, you really didn’t look as good as you thought you did, Susie.” This can be frustrating hard for anyone who struggles with perfectionism. But I’m learning that it’s OK to not be good at everything, cause like I talked about in #1, this is how we grow. But you have to first evaluate and stay consistent with working on your craft!

6. My Purpose in Life is to Connect and have Impact

I’ve actually already written a full blog on this alone. (Definitely take some time to read Story Time with Susie – Finding My Purpose if you haven’t already!) Through this whole dance journey, I’ve learned that I feel most like my authentic self when I am teaching and dancing. And when I’m authentic to me, that’s when I have a real impact on the people around me.

With all these learning lessons, I need to add one major takeaway… I love you guys so much! You all make my week, every single week, and I’m so thankful to have so many wonderful clients and people in my life because of dance.

So thank you for believing in Musicality Central and us. We wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for you all!

Story Time with Susie – Learning the Importance of Love Languages the Hard Way

February… The month of love! Whether you have a significant other in your life or not, we all have people who we love and who love us.

But have you ever experienced frustration with not feeling loved? Or maybe you’ve felt that the love you’ve tried to give to others was not being received? (Been there, done that!)

That’s because we don’t all give and receive love in the same ways.

The first time I really understood this was when Rishone and I first became friends.

NYC – December 2013

I love giving people gifts!! It’s a natural way for me to show people I care about them. I specifically recall on the second year of us being friends when Rishone’s birthday rolled around, I popped over to Walmart and got him an array of different things to give to him… A bunch of random things that I got a kick out of. But when I gave him these gifts, I didn’t get the reaction from him that I was expecting. Of course, he said thanks and I knew he was appreciative of the thought, but he didn’t seem excited about the gifts.

To be honest, I didn’t know Rishone very well at that point, and just wanted to give him something for his birthday cause I knew that I enjoyed receiving gifts. But just because (at that time) I may have appreciated getting a gift with a bunch of random things thrown into a basket doesn’t automatically mean that he would also like it. I’ve since learned that he does appreciate gifts as long as he can tell that there was thought put into it being for him specifically. But even with that being said, I’ve learned that he doesn’t value physical things and that gift giving is not primarily how he receives love.

If you’re not sure what I’m talking about when I say receiving and giving love, I’m referencing the 5 Love Languages, which are:

  • Words of affirmation
  • Acts of service
  • Receiving gifts
  • Quality time
  • Physical touch

Now that I better understand what’s important to Rishone and how he receives love, I always try to make sure I think of different ways to celebrate with Rishone for special occasions outside of my go-to (physical) gift giving nature.

For example, for his birthday back in 2015, I remember creating cards that I gave him throughout the day giving him “paths to choose” for different activities we could do together, like going to a specialty spice store or an oil/vinegar store, putt-putt or bowling, and of course going to get the best french toast in town (Rishone’s favorite) at Betty’s. This was me thinking about Rishone through meant much more to him than me giving him another kitchen gadget.

Betty’s – Rishone’s birthday 2015

This is such an important concept for everybody to understand! Because when we truly love someone, we want to make sure that they can actually FEEL and experience that love from us. So in order to do that, we have to speak THEIR language.

So I encourage you, take some time to better understand what your love language is as well as the love languages of the people you care about most. If you’re not sure where to start, you can try taking the official Love Languages Quiz and sharing it with the others you care about to take as well.

Once you better understand your love language as well as your significant others, parents, siblings, or friends love languages, now you can start taking action!

Let’s say you naturally like to give gifts, but your best friend who is going through a hard time with their job or their family actually receives love through acts of service. Maybe you bring them their favorite meal so it’s one less than that they have to worry about that day.

Or let’s say that you naturally give those you love words of affirmation, but your mom would actually most benefit from quality time with you. I’m sure it would mean the world to her if you gave her a call to schedule some time together even if it’s just doing something simple like taking a walk or doing a puzzle together.

Check out his chart for more ideas on how to show love for each love language:

When we start speaking in others love languages, our relationships get stronger. This certainly does take effort – don’t get me wrong. But if you love them, it’ll be worth it.

I want to hear from you! What is your love language? Does it differ from your significant other or the other people your closest to?

Story Time with Rishone – DON’T Mistake The Strong for being ‘Superhuman’

We all know someone in our lives that represent a pillar that never falters. They never seem to complain, they are always there to support/encourage you throughout your endeavors, always offering a dependable helping hand, and they are always willing to give their time when you are in need. I think the term we subconsciously associate these individuals with is ‘The Strong One.’ The one that holds everything together. The one that makes you feel a sense of resolve when they are present. The one that listens to your problems, gives his/her unbiased advice, talk you off of a bridge when you are at you ends wit, and is just always there to pick you back up when you are down. 

I don’t quite know when it happened in my life, but I became ‘The Strong One’ without even being aware of it. All I know is that it happened at an early age. As the oldest sibling in my family, I am the ‘Big Brother’ to everyone or the one that is always the model of consistency. So in some ways I took on a semi-parent role at a young age where I put my sisters first above myself because my mother was a single parent who worked multiple overtime shifts to give us the life she thought we deserved.

However, over time you learn that if you don’t let family/friends live their lives without being the supporting bridge over the river mistakes that are inevitable in life, you will create a dependency for them to always seek your assistance. However, when you make that decision to focus on your own life, you realize that being ‘The Strong One’ means no one makes an effort to check if you are going through any challenges. There is not even a question that you may need an ear to vent your fears, struggles, and life frustrations. 

So over the years ‘The Strong One’ has to develop their own ways of working/coping through their own challenges without a pillar of their own to guide them through the rough patches.

Everyone marvels at the consistency ‘The Strong One’ exemplifies. They are treated analogically like professional athletes. As long as they continue to produce on the field and fulfill their entertainment duties or provide the support you need in your life in this case, you are blinded enough to not see they need support as well. They are just expected to be a machine and be light for everyone through it all. 

I remember a specific real life scenario between me and my bestfriend/business partner Susie K., where I had to explain that I wasn’t a machine and needed time to be human. Where even as a friend who knew the inner workings of how physically and mentally demanding being a chef was I still had to remind her that I was human. That I needed time to recover and decompress so I can be the Rishone that everyone knows. 

When I first started my business as Plated Soul I started it as a customized meal prep service. At one point I had quite a few clients that I made meals for on a weekly basis. That menu creating process for each client was something I thoroughly enjoyed but it was drawing energy from every part of my being to meet my extremely standards every week.

The crazy details of what that entails are not necessary to share but let’s just say from Thursday through early Monday evening I was locked in mentally, creatively, physically, and spiritually. Needless to say, at the end of every week I was so exhausted on so many levels that I wasn’t even aware of.

As you all may know, every week for the past 6 years Susie K and I meet on Monday evenings to evaluate how the week went for Musicality Central and what we needed to do to make the following week even better. That involves diving into client class experience, how to set the atmosphere, how to cater to new clients, how to cater to our regular clients, how we delivered our material, what routines were next, what workshops were next, Ad campaigns, collaborations with other businesses, email marketing ect ect… A few meetings in a row after a rough weekend cooking for my clients I realized I was becoming more and more short with Susie in these meetings. I literally had no more patience or capacity for anything not straight to the point. We would go down our to do list and I would respond with: ‘Next, keep it moving, OK solution, what is the solution or Can we get to that next week? I was unaware that I was trying to get through the meeting as quickly as possible so I could go home and decompress. Also though Susie is my best friend, she was also one of my clients at the time. I expected her to understand how tough my weekends were especially because I would tell her how taxing it was as a whole. However, most times expectations are a false sense accountability that doesn’t exist in the world of the person you desperately want to notice when you are going through some challenges. 

She would move through our meetings not acknowledging how much stress load I had just carried for 4 days straight with no breaks. With all that I was still expected to be happy, patience, and always supportive.  I was still expected to deliver a certain level, a certain standard, a certain product despite the exhausted state I was in. 

This threw me for a dead spin of emotions so I took some time to evaluate my business, life, how I existed in my world of stress, and my own part in how people treat me. Especially if my best friend was treating me the same way everyone else does during this time. 

It made me realize that you determine how people treat you. If you are real about what you are experiencing and what capacity you have to handle life then people will treat you accordingly. If you give the perception that everything is always good and you go through life like a machine then people will treat you that way. So we had a real conversation about what I was going through, took responsibility for how I was showing due to my stress load and the time I needed to decompress in order to be 100% myself. Most importantly I had to ask her to see me as a human. 

Additionally, in society male fragility is not a thing so as a male you are not expected to express your emotions, insurmountable challenges, and communicate that you are going through a hard time without looked as weak. And that you are not sure you are going to make it through. But because you have faced so many of these challenges on your own you know no matter how hard it gets, you know you have a high percentage of surviving so you hold your head down, tuck your emotions in temporarily, and you push through. 

If you have someone in your life that always seems to have it all together, that has been there for you 100% of the time, and always seems to be happy, have a real conversation about what they are going through. Now, think really hard. This Thanksgiving know that it could be your mother, your father, your sister, your brother, your uncle, your really nice neighbor, or that teacher that is always there for you. Don’t assume they are always ‘OK’ because they make life easier or more enjoyable for everyone. Care enough to ask how they are really doing. Most times it may take asking them what’s going on with them a few times for them to share but they really, really want to. You just have to treat them like they are human, like they treat you. Listen, not just to listen, but also to genuinely offer your help in anyway you can and realy mean it. Even if you don’t understand completely, ask them how you can help. Always remember how hard it is to go through your own challenges even with someone there to help you through. Imagine what someone who rarely ask for help is experiencing. Never assume ‘The Strong One’ doesn’t need help. They need you to help them take off their cape every now and then. 

Story Time with Susie – Don’t let it be too little too late

Loving people while they’re here

Have you ever attended a funeral or memorial service and thought to yourself, “what a beautiful tribute to such an incredible person… If only they were here to see it.” Unfortunately as we continue to get older, death more increasingly becomes such an apparent and inevitable part of life. But it seems that it isn’t until after someone passes that people feel led to express their love or appreciation for that person. The Facebook posts of adoration flood in, the stories of the impact that person had come to light… But the person who should really have been privy to all of those kind words is no longer with us and not able to experience that outpour of love.

This is something I’ve been thinking a lot about as we prepare to have my brother Matt’s memorial service. I remember last year when he passed, the amount of people who shared stories of their love for Matt was astounding. But he was gone and had no idea. That makes me so sad. 

Why do we wait until someone is gone to express our love for them?

Let’s do something about that. Let’s celebrate each other, each and every day.

I’m not saying that we need to have parties for people every day. But if you’re thinking about someone, shoot them a text of encouragement or give them a call to tell them you love them. Heck, maybe even send them a heartfelt card sharing a time they impacted your life that they may not know about. It doesn’t need to be a big gesture, it just needs to come from a genuine place, and I guarantee that you’ll make that person’s day.

Rishone receiving a book filled with notes of love and appreciation from his friends at his 34th surprise birthday party

If you wanna take it a step further, especially for someone who’s really important to you, take some time to think about what would make them feel loved. Maybe you can create a scrapbook of your friendship/relationship, write them a poem, or make them a meal. Or you can reach out to other people who are close to the person to collect notes filled with love that you can compile together.

Let’s start getting intentional with how we treat others, especially those who we care about most. Take it from me; you don’t want to simply wait and think, ‘oh I’ll get to it tomorrow or next week.’ No, do it NOW! Cause another day is not guaranteed.

Story Time with Rishone – Do a little, Change a lot.

I remember 20 years ago, I was in the best shape of my life. I had been living with my mom on the forgotten borough of hilly Staten Island, New York for 2 years after withdrawing from the pre-med program at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I could run 6 to 8 miles at 4am in the morning in under an hour, do my basketball workout for an hour immediately after, then get ready for work, and walk to the train station about a mile from where I lived on Seaview Avenue. I would do all of that get to my first job at KFC at 8am to prepare for the store opening at 10am. 

Yes I know, I know, that sounds crazy, but what makes it even crazier is that when I got home at about 8PM after my long shift, I would do 1000 push ups and 1000 sit ups in under 1 hour and 15 minutes. Even as I am typing this, it sounds like an embellishment, but the truth is I didn’t get to that level of fitness all of a sudden. Yes, youth had so much to do with it, but it took me a full year of consistency and constantly pushing my limits to do a little more everyday to get to that level. 

It took me about 4 months to go from walking 2 miles every morning to running 1 mile without stopping. I started with 20 push ups for 5 sets and the same for sit ups to get to 100 for both in under 40 minutes. Everyday, no matter how stressful it was or how tired I was, I kept waking up early and completely giving everything my body allowed me to give. Then when the workout became manageable, I would increase my run mileage by a half mile or a full mile and my callisthenic workout by 5 more reps per set. So my push ups/sit ups combo went from 20 to 25 after about a month and a half at a time. Progressively after waking up and repeating this for a full year, I reached my peak fitness as I mentioned in the beginning of this blog. 

I had never had a six pack in my life until that point. No matter how many sports I played in school(Soccer, Track & Field, Basketball, Tennis). However, after that year I saw this physical version of myself for the first time that I was absolutely proud of but it came with even more advantages. I was never more mentally sharp. I started studying to return to school again and it was just much easier. I was able to focus more, make quicker, and more educated decisions. I was never more confident, centered, balanced, and present in everything I did. 

I would have never met this version of myself if I didn’t make the commitment to get up everyday to give a little bit more to better myself. Of course this is written from a physical perspective but I benefited from so many different areas of my life. A few weeks ago I was driving in my car after a long disappointing day and instead of shutting down like I do for a short time, I told myself just to focus on getting better a little bit at a time everyday no matter how hard the day was. 
I have followed through with that since then. I have renewed my approach to each day by not setting an expectation to be perfect but approaching each day with an open mind for growth when my mind, body, and spirit allows it. Now that I am older, I listen to my body, trust my instincts and maintain a discipline that is conducive to my lifestyle.

The question is how does that help you or how does this story benefit you? Other than learning a little bit about me there is so much you can take from this. At the age of 39 I am nowhere near the shape I was as a young 19 year old but it has always been a goal to get back there. It takes me longer to recover from a full day of working out. I do not have a six pack but with a few more months of discipline I see it coming back. I am not a mentally sharp as I once was but with each day I get closer. I cannot just eat anything I want but I am learning about what fuels me better to be more productive. Needless to say, I am not exactly at ground zero but I am excited because I get to go on that journey again to get back to that version of myself 20 years later. 

If you have any goals that seem far away from where you are now, know that you do not have to achieve it in one day or even a week. Take that pressure off of yourself and just commit to doing a little bit everyday in the direction of the results you want. If it is to be physically fit, do a little everyday until you can push yourself to do more like I did above. Walk till you can run. If you want to be a better, more effective speaker then read more, and find opportunities to speak as much as possible. If your goal is to become a better cook then get familiar with your kitchen and start with some easier recipes till you can tackle the harder ones. If it is to learn how to dance, find a dance class or find dance ciphers where you can learn from or learn how you can work to get a little better everyday. Get up everyday with that mindset and I guarantee you will figure out how to accomplish anything you truly want for your life. That’s my message for this blog. If you do a little every day it has the potential of changing so much unexpectedly. 

Story Time with Rishone – Wrong is on the way to being right

I wake up every day looking forward to doing something the wrong way. I know that may sound abnormal to you but I get anxiously excited to know that I didn’t get something right the first time or the 10th time I tried it. Why? because I have become more accommodating emotionally with the journey of learning, making mistakes, truly understanding why I made that specific mistake, coaching my emotions, developing a solution to continue learning, and celebrating each step that is closer to the finish product that I see in my mind. Finally, knowing that each opportunity I get to improve slowly removes the ignorance and the unknown factors of life that fuels inactivity or progress. 

Still to this day, I shrink in my confidence when trying something new due to the programming of perfectionism that we all struggle with but there is apart of me that now knows how to flourish in the unknown when faced with learning something new. This was not the case when I was younger but now I proceed almost automatically beyond excited to walk through that fog of uncertainty in front of me. 

I have spent so much of my life scared in fear of what is next that life decided to teach me to become a superhero to save me from myself. Life has showed me that it doesn’t matter what is next, you have to live full in the version of who you are now and continue to work on who you will be tomorrow.

It sounds like such a cliché, but most of the time we are numb to our own processes or routines that dominate how we function daily. This lack of awareness tends to block our own progress depending on how long it takes of to recognize it and then actively try something different. Being wrong is not we like being so we mask our efforts in knowing it all and being right. 

I know that who I am has been groomed by 3 people throughout my life.

My grandmother is my reflection of the unconditional love I have for everyone and all living things under the umbrella of what God intended. So I don’t take any moment or any involved in an experience for granted. That enables me to respect and support others on their own journeys. 

The way I monitor my routines and patterns is a reflection of my uncle. He represented accountability and emotional intelligence in my life. How to quickly get results through analyzing my actions, take responsibility for them and making small adjustments that creates new opportunities to learn. He is also the reason I am solution focus. I don’t identify a problem without providing a solution. So I look at failures and mistakes as opportunities to try something new that I never thought was even possible for me. 

My mother taught me how to live, laugh, and enjoy myself in the process no matter how hard life gets. Indirectly she taught me to work hard but also find the time to enjoy the fruits of my labor. So as it pertains to this blog even when I am wrong I am accountable but because of her I don’t take myself too seriously because I know I am learning and that is always ongoing. 

We are so incredibly hard on ourselves in new learning experiences but here is what I want you to take from this blog. So often we make one mistake and then get so discouraged that we convince ourselves that this new experience may just not be our thing. 

However, I employ you to consider some of my influences in life. Try your hardest when you go after something new. Be present and intentional while in the process of learning. Truly find ways to love your selves and everyone involved in the process like my grandmother taught me. Be accountable for your mistakes because it creates space for you to work on understanding yourself like my uncle taught me. Additionally, take your progress into consideration, no matter how small it is, while simultaneously respecting/separating the progress of others without comparing yourself to them. Lastly enjoy every moment of your successes and failures, like my mother taught me, so you grow more from the journey. That makes the destination that much sweeter.