Thursday, January 5, 2017

Stupidity To Significance

Call someone stupid, and be ready for a fight. We all do stupid stuff daily. Stupid is defined as having or showing a lack of intelligence. Intelligence is acquiring and applying knowledge.

In my experience, stupid people:

  • don't know what to do and are unable to do it even if they knew, or
  • know what to do, yet won't do it. 
Intelligent people, on the other hand, know what to do and are able to do something with what they know. In addition, intelligent people can use what they already know and understand to develop solutions for unique situations.

When the Chicago Cubs released me two years into my professional baseball career, I hit one of the lowest points of my life. Playing Major League Baseball for the Chicago Cubs was my childhood dream; it was my only dream as far as a career was concerned. Many of my youth coaches helped me get my foot in the door. I was drafted by the Cubs – twice – and ended up signing a two-year contract, but my short-lived career was due to a lack of values and poor character.

Honestly, I made a lot stupid choices while playing for the Cubs: late nights in the clubs, playing video games to no end, a bad diet and the list goes on. When I returned home to my new wife, Kelli, I still had bad habits. I didn't want to work. I’d just watch Kelli go to work and school, and then stay home and play video games. I was acting stupid. My ability to think clearly was clouded by being depressed, combative and selfish. Here's what I've learned along my journey thus far. 

The Stupid Stage is the humbling process. This stage lasts as long as it takes for humility to be embraced. 

The Struggle Stage should be where you gather and manage all the resources you need to reach the top which is Significance. The Stupid Stage taught me that I need help from others, while the Struggle Stage is where I needed discernment and wisdom. These two must haves will help you ascertain the resources you need to engage and those you need to get rid of. I am a follower of Christ, so to receive and maintain discernment and wisdom, I have to keep my connection with The Lord.

The Success Stage should be viewed as the individual accolades you've experienced as a result of staying the course. Looking back over the Stupid and Struggle stages, identifying the "grit bits" that have sustained you, is vital to reaching significance. My grit bits helped me stay on course and decide who stays and who goes in my life. In life, our grit bits are the people and things that have kept us from quitting, or taking short cuts and enabled us to see hidden opportunities in defeat.

The Significance Stage should focus on leaving a positive pathway for generations to come. It’s about leaving a blueprint, an underground railroad if you will.

I changed because Kelli told me it was time. If I wanted to remain married to her, there were standards that I had to meet that weren't optional. At first, I struggled with this ultimatum, because I had to think of her more than me. I had to prioritize my marriage over losing my childhood dream, and that was hard. I'm glad I made that decision because now we're building a family legacy our children can be proud of and will prayerfully build upon with their families. While at the same time, God is also using us to partner with hundreds of families to help their children safely navigate their road to significance.

My struggle has became my story, and through my struggle I have developed grit - a relentless pursuit of my purpose. 


Friday, December 16, 2016

The Challenge With Clarity

I define clarity as clearness of understanding. When you understand something, you can do something. Clarity has an enemy called convolution. Convolution is the intentional or unintentional confusion of something.

Ever met someone that enjoys confusing things that are simple?

Several years ago, I attended an event in Atlanta called “Leadercast,” where I heard acclaimed communications thought leader John Maxwell speak. The consummate clarity communicator, Maxwell taught us that everything starts simplistic and must be complicated until it becomes simple.

When it’s simple, you can do something with it.

By definition, simplistic means you treat complex issues as if they are simple. Take racism in America, which is a complex issue that often includes statements such as, "People living in poverty should work harder." This trite and overused statement is complex.

I've always been extroverted, so I have lots of friends. I also have several individuals that are in my life that I refer to as acquaintances. The majority of my acquaintances avoid controversial conversations at all cost, while the others like to engage in them.

Complicating something is only negative when there is a lack of authentic curiosity, care and concern. My friends and I tackle conversations about racism with those should ask (SAQ) questions, rather than the frequently asked (FAQ) questions.

C.J. Stewart with Leadership Atlanta alums JaKathryn Ross and Louis Gump

One of my mentors Pat Alacqua says that SAQs make you delve deeper and faster into a conversation, while FAQs tend to be shallow, simplistic statements such as, "People living in poverty should work harder.”

If my friends and I were complicating that statement with SAQs, we’d ask the follow questions of each other:

1. How do you define poverty?

2. Have you ever lived in poverty?

3. What experience do you have that shapes your opinions of people living in poverty?

4. How has history caused the people living in poverty to get there? Were they born into it?

5. Where do they get help? Do they have to give up their dignity in order to receive help?

6. Why are you not living in poverty? How would you avoid living in poverty?

These questions show authentic curiosity, care and concern for people living in poverty. The questions lead to something simple. When a thing gets simple, we can do something with or about it.

I recently read a book by Arthur Brooks called, “The Conservative Heart.” Brooks writes that people living in poverty need three things:

1. Values

2. A little bit of help

3. A lot of hope

I agree, especially that it starts with the values. My family and business values are six-fold. In sequence, they include: excellence, humility, integrity, loyalty, stewardship and teamwork.

Without values, you cannot ask for, receive or appreciate the help you need. The government provides a lot of help for people living in poverty. Without values, it’s like drinking out of water hose that eventually drowns you.

Hope is a powerful thing. Lose it, and you can literally die. Hope is desire on steroids. It is a strong desire of expectation. I hope that God continues to bless me to bless others. I trust Him and he can trust me.

He who owns the definition owns the movements:

Excellence – Meeting expectations
Humility – Not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less

Integrity – Doing the right thing even when you can do the wrong thing

Loyalty – Unwavering commitment to someone or something

Stewardship – Protection of people and beliefs

Teamwork – Individually doing your job within a team goal

Have I made myself clear with respect to simplistic statements being complicated in order to be simple?

If not, read the above information again in a quiet place several more times.

If so, let's continue, because there’s a challenge with clarity.

Clarity challenges your character. It challenges you to stop complaining and implores you to create change.

Character is who you are at all times. Do you complain about things most of the time, even when the “what to do' is made clear?

People who complain even when things are made clear can be perceived as “time wasters,” instead of value creators.

C.J. Stewart with the L.E.A.D. Ambassadors at Turner Field Nov. 2016

I remember watching “The Jetsons” and “Star Trek” with my dad in the 80s. What was science fiction has become our reality today. So yes, times have changed, because people like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., took a simplistic statement like, "I have a dream" and had it challenged until it became a simple and actionable like the “Bus Boycott of Montgomery.”
Steve Jobs said, "Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower." That's a simplistic statement that had to be challenged and defended in order to get something as simple, useful and transformational as the iPhone.

Ask yourself these questions now. See if they challenge you to think and change:

1. What are four to 10 things that need to change right now in my life to make me feel happiness? (Now narrow it down to the Top 3.)

2. Who are one to three people I distance myself from because they challenge me in a positive way?

3. If the desired change that I pray about occurred today, who are one to three people who also benefit?

4. What are one to three things that prevent me from changing? Does my life work best in chaos or clarity?
5. Who are one to three people who prevent me from changing?

6. What are one to three things I worry about?

7. What are one to three things I dream about?


Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Why me receiving credit matters

I find myself being aggravated when I hear people make statements like, “It shouldn’t matter who gets the credit as long as God gets the Glory.” I feel that when people make this statement it's an opportunity to deflect accountability and responsibility.

As a motivator to get things done, I believe in accountability. I'm also a fan of receiving credit, because as a mentor of today's youth, I need to help them understand that problems are caused and solved by people.

I respect the need to be humble when individuals are a part of a team working to accomplish a specific goal. I ascribe to C.S. Lewis's definition of humility, "True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less."

1 John 4:15 (ESV) reads: “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.”

The irony of this verse, with respect to man deflecting credit when God works through him, is that John is credited as the author of this book in the Bible that millions regard sacred.

My calling in life is to be significant by serving millions and bringing them into a relationship with Christ, starting with my wife, Kelli, and our daughters, Mackenzi and Mackenna. Let’s break that down into six bite-sized chunks:

1. Calling

I have my own personal calling in life, and so do you. I found mine in my suffering. The questions I asked myself in order to determine my calling were:
  • What do I worry about? 
  • What do I dream about? 
  • What do I cry about? 
  • What do I laugh about? 
I worry about yielding to temptations that take me away from my submission to Christ. I dream of being recognized as one of the greatest sports coaches and mentors of all time. I cry about people living lives of hopelessness. I laugh when I see hope in the lives of all children.

2. Significance
Success is what you do, while significance is who you are and what you give.

3. Serving Millions
There are some who subscribe to the notion of serving and saving one person at a time. I support that while I desire to serve and save millions by the power of God.

4. Relationship with Christ
A relationship with Christ doesn’t remove trials and tribulations on earth, but it does guarantee spending eternity with him ruling and reigning.

2 Timothy 2:12 (ESV)
“If we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us.”

5. My Wife Kelli
Ephesians 5:25 (ESV)
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”

6. My Daughters Mackenzi (age 15) and Mackenna (age 9)
Titus 2:4 (ESV)
“And so train the young women to love their husbands and children.”

Jesus Christ is the standard for living a life of commitment, faith and endurance. He was God, while also being a man like me who deals with temptations and frustrations.

Romans 5:23 (ESV)
“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance.”

Jesus Tempted
Hebrews 2:18 (ESV)
“For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”

Jesus Frustrated
Matthew 21:12 (ESV)
“And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons.”

Acknowledgement from our love ones, employers and peers can be more valuable than money, and there are endless opportunities for us to want to quit doing God’s will. This is another reason why I have issue with the trite (overly used) statement, “It shouldn’t matter who gets the credit as long as God gets the Glory.”

One day, every knee will bow and confess that God is our Lord and Savior. And every name either will or will not be in the Book of Life. God has a Son whose name is Jesus, who receives the credit for dying on the cross for the sins of all. And God the Father receives the Glory for that.

Isaiah 45:23 (ESV)
“By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return: 'To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.'”

Revelation 20:15 (ESV)
“And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”

If it’s important for humans to have names, and if we all have talents and gifts from God, then I believe that it's alright for us to receive credit for the things that God is allowing us to do, so that He ultimately receives the Glory for.

  • Who gets the call if your bills aren’t paid? 
  • Who gets the call when you receive a promotion and raise at your job? 
  • Do you want your name in the Book of Life? 
  • Will someone else stand before God for you? 
God created everything that we enjoy on earth, and one day it will all pass. I believe that God should get the Glory in all things that I do for Him as one of His imperfect disciples because of The Great Commission.

Matthew‬ ‭28:17-20‬ ‭(ESV‬‬)
“And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Why is Denzel Campbell such a great L.E.A.D. Mentor?

Several weeks ago I posted a blog entitled "Your 3-Step Guide to being an Effective L.E.A.D. Mentor". I wrote the blog to help prospective mentors understand our mindset as an organization. Stewardship is one of our core values and we define it as a protection of beliefs as well as people.

Denzel Campbell is featured in this blog. He's a L.E.A.D. Ambassador alum, a graduate of the University of South Carolina-Beaufort and also an employee at Aerotek.

He's a great L.E.A.D. mentor because he is a present, he understands how to be present as well as a partner.

Being A Present

C.J.: What do you worry about?

Denzel: I worry about letting others down and not living up to expectations. I care a lot about the people close to me and I want to continue to impress them while inspiring them as well. Always a topic of my mind for me.

C.J.: What do you cry about?

Denzel: My family, life’s hurdles, and my relationship with my girlfriend Courtney. It takes a lot out of me sometimes knowing I’m away and not able to see my family every day. Life’s hurdles can just come from left and right and I have to rely on my own decisions and the help of my girlfriend to figure things out at times. I know I have others to rely on for sure but when you’re young it seems like it’s you vs the world.

C.J.: What do you dream about?

Denzel: I dream about that big house on a lot of land and having enough money to take care of my family. I want to help them out in reasonable ways and also experience life’s luxuries and places I’ve never traveled. This world is so amazing and baseball allowed me to take it all in on and off the field.

C.J.: Why does God have you on earth?

Denzel: My purpose is to impact others in positive ways and spread the word through Christ. My attitude, where I come from, and the tone in my voice has given others motivation to strive for greatness. Regardless of what obstacles are in front of you, no matter your name, color, or sports preference, it’s possible to create success if giving an opportunity while believing in yourself. With faith, strong work ethic and through god I’m able to pass this message along to others.

C.J.: What world problem do you want to solve?

Denzel: Social inclusion. Our community efforts and day to day actions must correlate in a positive manner that benefits not only yourself but those involved as well. Regardless of differences, it takes everyone working together to get beyond those hurdles. It’s the only way everyone can prosper and we as a country can get to a better place. It takes time for sure but we must chip away.

C.J.: What is your calling in life from God?

Denzel: To service my community wherever I am and help place great people in the careers that will reward their long term goals. L.E.A.D. taught me life lessons, instilled a game plan in me, and gave me the keys to opportunities I thought would never exist. Baseball just made everything better. From there I obtained a job with Aerotek which allows me to help others in their careers like those who helped me from the beginning. The path God has given me continues to include heart and giving.

Being Present

C.J.: Where do you research your favorite articles and/or blogs?

Denzel: I like the main local news outlets online or sports websites. Something that’s on my phone while I’m on the go. ESPN, Bleacher Report, WTOC, or Fox News apps mainly. On Facebook and Twitter I can follow my favorite people as well to keep up with the day to day activities and helpful ideas.

C.J.: Where do you research your favorite inspirational video content?

Denzel: YouTube, Twitter, Facebook. You can keep track of your favorite outlets on mobile devices and computers.

C.J.: What's your favorite quote?

Denzel: Jim Bouton “You see, you spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball and it turns out it was the other way around all the time.”

C.J.: What are some creative and virtual ways that you can mentor boys without being in their physical presence?

Denzel: I like to use video messaging, texts, or conference calls to pass along any message possible. It’s an easy setup and a lot of people can be involved with a good game plan.

Left to right: C.J. Stewart, Desmond Stegall, and Denzel Campbell

Being A Partner

C.J.: How do you define humility?

Denzel: Enjoy the wins in life but always remember where it started and the hard work it takes to continue growth in whatever you are achieving.

C.J.: What is your spiritual gift?

Denzel: Giving (Romans)

C.J.: What is your earthly talent?

Denzel: Guiding people in their careers and daily life. Passing along what was given to me for someone else to experience.

C.J.: What's more important, to be perfect or intentional? 

Denzel: Intentional. I feel these are actions based on a thought or decision you have made. It’s what you believe in as well. Good or bad it can affect you in the long term and how you learn from it could affect others as well.

C.J.: What do you have to give?

Denzel: My time and experiences from day one throughout my life. Money is one thing but being able to resonate with those same shoes you once filled means a lot more. C.J.: Why should a mentor follow you?

Denzel: I try to be myself and trust in the things I believe in and what makes me happy. I know working hard and giving back will lead to better things for those involved. I‘ve made mistakes as well but none I regret because I understand more about myself and life today. Give that message to someone else and being a friend can spread good vibes.


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

At 30,000 Feet

Today was a special day for L.E.A.D. (Launch, Expose, Advise, Direct). We presented L.E.A.D. to Major League Baseball Players Association at their headquarters in New York.

L.E.A.D. Ambassador Vernard Kennedy (V.K.) is a senior at New Schools at Carver (Atlanta Public Schools) and he joined Kelli Stewart (L.E.A.D.'s Executive Director) and I today as the closer. It was his first flight and here is his reflection from today.

30,000 Feet - Establishing the Vision and Making Decisions

In The Clouds - Place of Protection of the Vision and Provision

On The Ground - Place of Growth and Harvest

Vernard's 30,000 foot aerial view

Why were you chosen to present to Major League Baseball Players Association along with Coach Kelli and Coach C.J.?

V.K.: I feel that I was chosen because I am an example of the process of becoming a L.E.A.D. Ambassador. I represent the future leadership of L.E.A.D. I have been in the organization since the 6th grade at Sylvan Hills Middle School (Atlanta Public Schools). I am also great at representing the organization and telling others about the organization.

How did it feel mentally to cruise on a plane at 30,000 feet?

V.K.: I was nervous at first but as the ride went along, I felt stable and safe.

How did it feel physically to cruise on a plane at 30,000 feet?

V.K.: At first it felt like I was on a roller coaster. The feeling was exciting and scary at the same time.

How did you view the world from 30,000 feet?

V.K.: I tried to compare it to Georgia and I realized that there are more places that I can travel outside of Atlanta.

What surprised you the most during the presentation to Major League Baseball Players Association?

V.K.: What surprised me in the meeting was the collective power that the people amongst me had.

How has your Atlanta Public Schools (APS) educational experience prepared you for the presentation to Major League Baseball Players Association?

V.K.: APS has prepared me by giving me opportunities to tell my life story. I am comfortable with telling my life story and proud to share it with new people without feeling ashamed.

How has your L.E.A.D. experience prepared you for the presentation to Major League Baseball Players Association?

V.K.: L.E.A.D. prepared me to also tell my story without being ashamed. L.E.A.D. has also prepared me because it gave me the context to speak with clarity in the meeting.

What world problem do you want to solve?

V.K.: I want to solve poverty in the inner cities throughout America because there is a lot of unnoticed talent in inner cities. As an inner city Atlanta teenage Black male, I feel that I get overlooked because of negative bias against me because of my skin color.

What college do you plan to attend fall 2017?

V.K.: I plan to attend Kennesaw State University. However, if I get the Posse Scholarship, I will be attending Texas A&M.

What major do you plan to pursue in college?

V.K.: I want to study business and marketing.

How has your experience at MLB in New York prepared you to lead in Atlanta for the remainder of 2016?

V.K.: The experience taught me to continue to focus on being successful and significant. Success is based on what you get and significance is based on what you give. Meeting with Mr. Dave Winfield was amazing. He reminded me that there is always someone watching you. He said that it may not be now or two years from now but that I will be rewarded for my commitment to excellence.

Mr. Dave Winfield and Vernard Kennedy

With respect to the leadership within L.E.A.D. using Coach C.J. (CEO), Coach Kelli (Executive Director), Coach Kevin Young (Program Director) and you (L.E.A.D. Ambassador), who's positioned at 30,000 Feet, In The Clouds and On The Ground and why?

V.K.: Coach C.J. serves at 30,000 feet because he has the most responsibility. Coach Kelli is in the clouds because her responsibilities allow her to pass her influence down unto the ground level. Coach Young is on the ground because he is actually involved with all of the student-athletes of L.E.A.D. the most. I have a lot of respect for Coach Young.

What do you need to do to get 30,000 Feet for L.E.A.D.?

V.K.: I need to have results to show that I'm are the right person for high level situations. I'm well on my way. Last year, was selected for the the 21st Century Leaders (21CL) 20 under 20. Now I have the power to nominate a L.E.A.D. Ambassador for the 2017 21CL 20u20. I have more power than Coach C.J. in this situation because I have received the award and he hasn't.

Omar Minaya, Kevin McGuinness, Vernard Kennedy, C.J. Stewart, Kelli Stewart, Jeffrey Hammonds, and Dave Winfield


Sunday, October 9, 2016

The Dividends of Poverty

There is a narrative that’s touted in the media and other propaganda on the daily that black boys living in America’s inner-city’s are violent and stupid. Here in Atlanta, we even have the data to support this narrative:

· Many of our inner-city neighborhoods have been rated the most dangerous of America’s inner-cities,

· Youth from three Atlanta zip codes – 30310, 30315, 30318 – grow up to comprise 80% of Georgia’s prison population.

· Black boys in Atlanta have about a 40% chance of graduating at all or on time.

When I hear this narrative – it pisses me off because the naysayers are also talking about me.

Although I partner with Atlanta Public Schools (APS) through my non-profit organization L.E.A.D., Inc. (Launch, Expose, Advise, Direct) and through my Rotary Club of Atlanta West End, this isn’t my first encounter with APS. My very first time inside of an APS school was as a seed in my mother’s womb. She started off at Doug, but when she got pregnant with me, she had to go to night school at Washington to finish her education. I was born at Grady Hospital and during my early years we lived in Hollywood Brooks. She also received some educational and career support from The Job Corps, right on Westlake Avenue. Ironically, when I was a little boy in the day care there, I had no idea that one of the ladies who I saw everyday was the aunt of my wife who I wouldn’t meet until some 15 years or so later.

I say all this to tell you, my Brothers, that I am you. I was on food stamps, TANF, Medicaid and WIC; all of those daily tell-tale reminders that you were born at the bottom and you have absolutely no shot of making it out of the gutter. After all, one of the most alarming stats on poverty in Atlanta today is that only about 4% of children born into poverty will ever make it out, so my being born into a family on the poverty rung of life was surely a death sentence – or so it seemed.

C.J. Stewart speaking to Atlanta Public Schools students at Turner Field.
My purpose in sharing this message with you is to reveal the hidden treasures, the dividends, that poverty paid out to me.

GRIT = Strength of Character

Know: Grit is strength of character. It's not based on talent. It's about getting difficult things done even when you don't have the knowledge and resources to do it. Grit is about possessing passion and perseverance. Your passion is found in your suffering. Pinpoint what makes you made as hell and there is where you’ll find your life’s mission.

Feel: I want you to feel confident when approaching life challenges. You have grit because you are still standing despite your life's challenges. You are still standing in the face of things that would have already destroyed others folks. Remember, you are still standing.

Believe: The world has lots of problems and I need you to believe that you can solve them. You certainly can’t solve them all, but you can solve at least one. The world needs you because your grit allows you to get difficult things done and not quit when things get tough.

Do: I want you to be keenly aware of adversity, run to it and then conquer it like only you can.


Know: Discernment is the ability to judge well. Even if you weren’t born with it, growing up in poverty develops this gift in you like no other situation can. Knowing who to trust and who to leave alone can save your life and the lives of those around you. Discernment; it's a powerful weapon that you possess.

Feel: I want you to trust your gut. Discernment is one of those tricky gifts that sometimes doesn’t come with empirical evidence; sometimes it’s just a feeling you have in your gut. Learn to listen and trust this voice. In my life experience, I grew to find out that this feeling was the Holy Spirit speaking to me and guiding me before I was even thinking about being a follower of Christ.

Believe: I want you to believe that you can use your spiritual gift of discernment to navigate life's experience to make your life better and the lives of others better.

Do: Poor people are often taken advantage of because it's assumed that we don't know better and can't do better. I want you to protect the poor. You can do this; you must do this. As you progress in life and become financially secure, don’t forget the poor.


Know: Great men born in this great city of Atlanta have paved the way for you to become a living legend. We couldn’t chosen a better city in the world to be born in – especially when it comes to poverty. Immerse yourself in the rich history of black people in Atlanta and abroad – their legacies will fuel yours.

Feel: I want you to feel self confident in the fact that you can solve problems because men born in Atlanta and educated in Atlanta Public Schools such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Vernon Jordan, Mayor Maynard Jackson and Coach C.J. Stewart have solved and are solving problems.

Believe: I want you to believe that God has you on earth for this moment. You are a living legend and your legacy will live beyond you. Take care of it daily; use your grit and discernment to protect it.

Do: I want you to start living like you have the power to solve world problems. There are millions of people that will benefit from your contributions to the world that may never get the opportunity to say thank you to you. Do not believe what the world says about you. Make them believe differently. Write a new narrative.

A message to the young ladies: Please know that as I write this blog that I have you in my heart. As the father of the two beautiful little black girls, the leadership and mentoring work I do with black boys is so that my daughters know what a confident, strong and productive young man looks like. I need your prayers as I work with our young men, so they can be great community leaders, husbands and fathers for you.

Coach C.J. Stewart and three of Atlanta's most valuable assets. Photo by Audra Starr.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Your 3-Step Guide to being an Effective L.E.A.D. Mentor

Mentor: A trusted counselor or guide; Someone who teaches or gives help and advice to a less experienced and often younger person.

My calling in life is to be significant through service to others in an effort to bring them to Christ and address racism. This is a tall order, and one I could not come close to meeting were it not for my mentors, Dr. Craig L. Oliver, senior pastor of Elizabeth Baptist Church and Dr. Tim Elmore, the founder of Growing Leaders.

When my wife Kelli and I founded L.E.A.D. (Launch, Expose, Advise, Direct), we became mentors to a group of boys who desperately needed strong role models who would be there for them – even when they didn’t want us to be. As our program has grown, so too have the issues facing the young men we work with. We cannot do this alone and are constantly on the lookout for people who want to be a part of preparing our city’s next generation of leaders.

Do you have what it takes to be a L.E.A.D. mentor? Are you willing to be a present, be present, and be a partner?

Be a Present

It’s easy to avoid the hard things in life. Very few people need help with that. What we do need help with is going deep. When you care enough to ask the tough questions and then stay around to listen to the answers, you are showing a young person you care. I’ve found that in asking the following six questions, I am actually telling the Ambassadors that I love them:

1. What do you worry about?

2. What do you cry about?

3. What do you dream about?

4. Why does God have you on Earth?

5. What world problem do you want to solve?

6. What is your calling in life from God?

Now it’s your turn. Do you have answers for these questions? Can you say them in six words of less? Are you ready to ask our Ambassadors these questions and listen to their answers?

When you help a young man you are mentoring see himself in a new way, you are a present; a present that strips away entitlement and replaces it with empowerment. Out goes the complaining and in comes critical thinking. No need to blame, because now he believes.

Be Present

The number one response when you ask someone to be a mentor is that they don’t think they have enough time. Mentorship is a blessing and a burden. I rely on my mentors to help me do what God has called me to do. To be able to do that for an Ambassador, I must first help him discover what God is calling him to do and then make sure he keeps that front and center. This requires a mentor to be there not just physically, but spiritually.

Can you be there spiritually? If you start by answering the six questions yourself, you will discover your super powers and learn how to be there even when you can’t physically be there.

For Geri Cook, it was through the weekly prayer she texted to Ambassador Vernard Kennedy – prayers that he shared with the other L.E.A.D. Ambassadors on their group text. Those prayers have come every Wednesday since February – the last time she saw the Ambassadors in person. She is present in her faithfulness to God and to the Ambassadors, who have learned a great lesson through her.

How else can you be present? Each month, our Ambassadors focus on a specific core value. You can share an article or blog post, send a video message from you and others, or pass along a favorite quote that reinforces what they are reflecting on that month:

Excellence (August, February)
Humility (September, March)
Integrity (October, April)
Loyalty (November, May)
Stewardship (December, June)
Teamwork (January, July)

You can also literally be present. We have over 50 activities on our calendar and invite you to join us for any one of them. When you come, I believe you will be a fan of what you see, and that’s what Black boys living in poverty in crime-ridden inner city neighborhoods need. They need to see values in action, receive a little bit of help, and a whole lot of hope. That is what L.E.A.D. is all about.

Be a Partner

This is a tough one. This requires humility. L.E.A.D. defines humility as not thinking less of yourself while thinking of others more than yourself. As a child, I recognized the humble people. They were the ones who did something great, but were embarrassed to take credit for it.

When you partner with our Ambassadors, you will learn as much from them as they will learn from you. They will introduce you to a different Atlanta. They will invite you to become a part of a team that is working to make your Atlanta and their Atlanta
C.J. Stewart and Ceasar Mitchell
one. The young men we serve need partners who are willing to walk beside them, learning from each other.

My calling in life is to be significant by serving millions and bringing them into a relationship with Christ, starting with my wife, Kelli, and our daughters Mackenzi and Mackenna. The world problem that I want to solve is racism. My spiritual gift is discernment and my earthly talent is coaching. This all became clear to me after being challenged by friends and loved ones. It involved lots of tears on my part. It is why L.E.A.D. is here and why we need you.

1. What is your calling in life from God?

2. What is your spiritual gift?

3. What is your earthly talent?

4. What’s more important, to be perfect or intentional?

5. What do you have to give?

6. Are you ready to start?

If you are ready to learn more about how you can help L.E.A.D., please contact Kelli Stewart (