Thursday, February 23, 2017

I hear you talking but what are you saying?

Convolution is a word that I added to my vocabulary a year ago after reading a blog. It means to intentionally complicate something that is simple. Ironically, several days later I was at a Leadership Atlanta CEO Roundtable with AT&T's Ralph de la Vega and asked him this question.

How do you combat convolution?
He responded that you combat it by being clear, concise and consistent. I thought to myself, that's the solution that I'm looking for and then I realized that being clear, concise and consistent ain't easy to do.

Clarity + Conciseness + Consistency = Simplicity

Communication isn't just talking. It's about understanding. Poor communication can make you vulnerable and being

vulnerable around the wrong people can make you prey.

What does good communication feel like?
Good communication feels like breathing air. You can see it,
Jon Johnson is a senior at Westlake High School
but you suffer when it's not there.

Why do you need good communication in your life?
You need good communication in order to experience peace. Let your "yes" be your yes, and your "no" your no.

How do you maintain good communication?
You keep good communication going by asking SAQ's (Should Ask Questions) and not FAQ's (Frequently Asked Question). SAQ's forces people to go deep. Convolutors win when simplicity is not demanded. For example:

FAQ: How do you feel about the situation at the office?
SAQ: What are 1-3 things that trigger a negative response for you at the office when you hear it and see it?

How do we avoid convolution? By being unwaveringly committed to being clear, concise and consistent with our communication.


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Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Play ball – The truth about why more Blacks don't play baseball

As the co-founder of L.E.A.D. (Launch, Expose, Advise, Direct), I spend every day trying to help at-risk young Black kids reach their fullest potential.


Our Atlanta based non-profit 501c3 partners with Atlanta Public Schools to help give these young men the tools and confidence to transform their city of Atlanta.

In doing so, we use our unique Pathway2Empowerment co-curricular programming to debunk six myths that speak against blacks playing baseball:

Myth No. 1
"Black kids don't play baseball because of football."

We serve over 250 Black males per year with six of our partner middle schools in the poorest parts of the inner city of Atlanta having up to 40 baseball players on each team.

Myth No. 2
"Black kids don't play baseball because they don't have father's in their lives."

Having a father at home is a "nice to have." A combination of five great role models and mentors (male and/or female is a "must have.)"

Myth No. 3

"Black kids don't play baseball because both football and basketball are faster pace."

Baseball requires discipline, patience, critical thinking and self-leadership. Black people can demonstrate all four of those at the same time.

Myth No. 4
"Black kids don't play baseball because they can't get a full baseball college scholarship."

Being poor with at least a 3.0 in Georgia means you can get full financial aid and the Georgia funded HOPE scholarship. That leaves about 3,000 to 5,000 for college fees per year that you can cover with loans if the baseball coach doesn't want to give it to you with athletic money.



Omar Minya, L.E.A.D. Ambassador Vernard Kennedy, CJ Stewart, Jeffrey Hammonds, and Hall Of Famer David Winfield

Myth No. 5
"Black kids don't play baseball because it's more expensive than football."

Consider the cost of essential items for baseball, including a good aluminum bat and glove for baseball. That's $250 each. A team only needs three bats of varying sizes tops.

Consider the cost for essential items for football, including a helmet and shoulder pads. That's $250 each.

Consider that kids in Georgia can have their own league and develop their skills without having to travel across the country to play tournaments. It worked for Jackie Robinson.

Consider that less than 55 percent of SEC football players are Black.

Myths No. 6
"Black kids don't play baseball because their aren't enough baseball fields in the inner city of Atlanta."

Inner city Atlanta has a surplus of baseball fields.

L.E.A.D.'s leadership is committed to being solution strategist. The decline of Blacks competing in baseball at the collegiate and professional levels in America is a problem and an opportunity for L.E.A.D. to be be solution.


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Why you can compete at the highest level – and how it's done

It's February and that means that means three things.

1. Black History Month is celebrated in America.
2. Major League Baseball starts Spring Training.
3. The articles that question and state the decline of blacks in baseball begin.

The skill you need as a Black baseball player to compete at the collegiate and Major League Baseball level is self-confidence.

Why? Because it leads to success with speed:

1. Self-confidence
2. Self-discipline
3. Self-differentiation
4. Simple
5. Success
6. Speed

Self-confidence allows us to develop self-discipline that differentiates us from those that aren't Serious. Things get really simple when you have self-confidence, self-discipline and self-differentiation.

When things get simple, you can experience success and with speed. Significance is achieved by serving others with your success.




How do you develop it?

1. Do things that are really difficult to develop grit
The bridge between struggle and success is sustenance by grit. Grit is a mental muscle that's built when you fail at doing things that are really difficult. Walking for babies is difficult. But they fall and get back up.

Why? Because they want to walk. What keeps them getting back up? Grit.

2. Know only what you need to know
There is only so much a person can know. Nobody will ever know everything. Knowing what you must know allows you to do what you need to do. Don't waste your time trying to be a jack of all trades and master of none. If baseball is what you need to be doing, don't spend hundreds of hours learning to plant trees. Other people have been put on earth to do that, and they love it.

Great baseball players are great people and possess eight great things:

1. Conviction
2. Passion
3. Grit
4. Character
5. Habits
6. Knowledge
7. Skills
8. Resources

3. Asking a lot of great questions of great people to get great answers

Among many characteristics, great people are those who can speak with clarity, conciseness and consistency. It has nothing to do with how much money you have or your level of influence. Great people know themselves well and can tell their story well. They are shaped by their experiences and they know how to say, "I don't know."

Good people experience success, while great people share their success and are elevated to a difference title – significance. One of my favorite African Proverbs is, "To understand the road ahead, ask those coming back. Success leaves clues."

Great people are significant and come back so ask them great questions.

Jackie Robinson was a great man. Here's a good question and great question to ask him if you could:

Good question: How did it feel to play in your first Major League Baseball game as a Black man?

Great question: Where did you draw your mental and emotional strength to play in your first Major League Baseball game despite the hatred against you as a Black man?

6 myths you shouldn't believe
I'm the co-founder of L.E.A.D. (Launch, Expose, Advise, Direct), an Atlanta based non-profit 501c3 that partners with Atlanta Public Schools to empower an at-risk generation to lead and transform their city of Atlanta.

We use our unique Pathway2Empowerment co-curricular programming to debunk six myths that speak against blacks playing baseball:

Myth No. 1
"Black kids don't play baseball because of football."

We serve over 250 Black males per year with six of our partner middle schools in the poorest parts of the inner city of Atlanta having up to 40 baseball players on each team.

Myth No. 2
"Black kids don't play baseball because they don't have father's in their lives."

Having a father at home is a "nice to have." A combination of five great role models and mentors (male and/or female is a "must have.)"

Myth No. 3

"Black kids don't play baseball because both football and basketball are faster pace."

Baseball requires discipline, patience, critical thinking and self-leadership. Black people can demonstrate all four of those at the same time.

Myth No. 4
"Black kids don't play baseball because they can't get a full baseball college scholarship."

Being poor with at least a 3.0 in Georgia means you can get full financial aid and the Georgia funded HOPE scholarship. That leaves about 3,000 to 5,000 for college fees per year that you can cover with loans if the baseball coach doesn't want to give it to you with athletic money.

Myth No. 5
"Black kids don't play baseball because it's more expensive than football."

Consider the cost of essential items for baseball, including a good aluminum bat and glove for baseball. That's $250 each. A team only needs three bats of varying sizes tops.

Consider the cost for essential items for football, including a helmet and shoulder pads. That's $250 each.

Consider that kids in Georgia can have their own league and develop their skills without having to travel across the country to play tournaments. It worked for Jackie Robinson.

Consider that less than 55 percent of SEC football players are Black.


D'Angelo Julio (S. Atlanta HS c/o 2017, signed with Savannah St. Univ.); CJ Stewart; Devon Shaw (B.E. Mays HS c/o 2017, signed with Tuskegee Univ.)

Myths No. 6
"Black kids don't play baseball because their aren't enough baseball fields in the inner city of Atlanta."

Inner city Atlanta has a surplus of baseball fields.


L.E.A.D.'s leadership is committed to being solution strategist. The decline of Blacks competing in baseball at the collegiate and professional levels in America is a problem and an opportunity for L.E.A.D. to be be solution.


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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. 

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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?


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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.

Endurance
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."

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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.

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