In the last EV, we attack and examined the reality of being “graduated” to the next level of life without being properly prepared and empowered as opposed to achieving graduation as a result of being educated and equipped to not only survive but succeed in life. We further ask ourselves the same question that many youth and young adults are asking themselves in their transition from high school or college, “What Mission am I on?”
Just last June, we participated in and hosted various events that sought to celebrate and elevate Men, young, old and everyone in between. One event in particular was the “Daddy, I Need You, Male Leadership Conference,” that comprised of several workshops that focused on educating and empowering not only fathers, but future fathers, mentors and men who biologically had children but were having challenges grasping the responsibility of fatherhood for some reason or another. I personally had an invigorating experience as I witnessed men who had given up hope on life and leadership, stand up and proclaim that they were going to reclaim there positions. This year, I truly want to continue the effort to strengthen male leadership through the “Daddy, I Need You” Male Leadership Series via the Empowerment Vessel.
In many of my speaking programs, I tell the story of the day my son, Julani, was born and how at first I was utterly filled with joy and excitement as I held him, looking into his beady little eyes. But the critical turn in the story is when I elude to the fact that suddenly something dropped in my mind like a ton of bricks. It was the fact that I had just been thrust into a position of leadership that far outweighed any position I’d ever experience in my life. I had become a father. The truth of the matter is that prior to his birth, my life decisions, actions and the information that I fed myself had not been purposeful, empowering and significant enough, and as a result I was not ready to “lead the seed” that I’d helped to bring into the world. In that delivery room, I declared that I would be an impact, grow through my issues and embrace my purpose so that my son could see the example of a leader.
But because my decision to grow into a impacting leader came after the birth of my son it caused some added obstacles even though my new mission in life was centered on him. I found myself having to play catch up in my life skills. I began educating myself on topics such as effective communication, financial management, entrepreneurship, politics, relationship building, community development, mentoring, fatherhood, and manhood. But in the midst of learning and experiencing these revelations in which I was yet a novice, I still made an abundance of mistakes and miscues. I know what your thinking, “Of course Junichi, when you are first learning things you are going to make mistakes…duh.” But the reality is that because my son was already born, those mistakes resulted in consequences that he and I both had to suffer. Peep this analogy.
It is like I am a track athlete, who is running the 100 meter dash. I can clearly see the finish line each and every time I run, whether it be in practice or in an actual track meet. But every time I run I have to carry a carton of eggs in my hand that can not be broken. Now I am determined to finish the race, but I always have to consider the protection of the carton of eggs while I’m running. Sometimes, I have to switch the eggs to my other hand, carry it with both hands, tuck it under my arm or even hold it under my shirt. Figuring out how to carry this carton of eggs is often stressful, fatiguing and often even slows me down, but because I am determined to not just finish but win, I keep running and creating ways to protect that carton along the way. The carton of eggs represents my son, the track represents life’s journey of training and growth, and the finish line signifies my divine purpose and mission.
Now this analogy is significant for young brothers who have yet to father children, because it is now that they should come out of the starting blocks, identify the finish line and run towards it while they have no carton of eggs to carry. In other words we have to ensure that they are being equipped with the life skills that will empower them with the tools necessary to handle the demanding responsibilities that we know Fatherhood possesses, before the seed is planted. In my Gentlemen’s Society session, in which we expose young men to the vary life skills that I learned after becoming a father, I am very deliberate in letting them know that decisions and actions that they make now will directly affect the children that you have not even thought about having yet, “So what type of man do you want your future children to see?” The answer to that question should weigh heavily on the way you spend your time daily and the actions taken.
Mission Action Steps for building our young men into leaders who will be ready to “Lead, Before the Seed.”
o -Give responsibilities that closely resemble the responsibilities of expected leadership positions, such as being a father: Allow them to experience the responsibilities that are existent in the life of a father, such as paying bills, manual labor, important decision making and earning allowance as a result of completing tasks. Cut the umbilical cord! It is an injustice for us to give our young men things that they have not “earned” through their actions. It sets them up to be lazy and irresponsible, which are two characteristics/habits that prevent effective fatherhood/leadership and are extremely hard to reverse even when he becomes determined to break those habits.(I learned that from personal experience.)
o Connect them to mentors who can advise, empower and relate to them through “real talk” (honest and transparent) conversations about the trials and triumphs of manhood and fatherhood. Expose them to mentoring programs and/or men of standard that will give positive perspectives on life. Example: “A young minister or man of God at church.”
o Encourage them to maintain the 3E balance: Hold them accountable to how they spend their time. Ensure that they give adequate time to studying, learning and working towards their career and extracurricular interest as well as relaxing and rejuvenating their minds.
o Affirm their leadership: Be consistent in calling them leaders and reiterating how important it is for them to make leadership decisions that will positively affect their families and future children. Examples: “We need you to be a leader at home and school, so that you can make achievements that will help to lift us out of poverty and struggle and your children will benefit from the resources you have earned.”
“I appreciate your hard work and leadership at school so much that you have motivated me to finish my degree.”
I don’t have to inundate you with statistics on our minority males to emphasize the fact that the time to get aggressive in saving them is far past “now”. The truth of the matter is that many young men have found themselves in the same predicament I was in, realizing they were unprepared for fatherhood, after becoming a father, but instead of taking on the responsibility they were overwhelmed by the pressure, and simply ran away from the seed. As a result, the cycle of abandoned seeds, un-fathered and half-nurtured perpetuates repeatedly. My indicting question, “Who is going to take the mission action steps to break these cycles?” I submit that the Building of the leadership muscle of our young men is critical to the rebuilding and resurgence of our families, communities and nation.
No more simply complaining about the lack of discipline, respect, focus, determination and waywardness of our young males, but be guilty of spending time fulfilling those voids in their minds and spirits. Otherwise, you will be found guilty of an inaction that murders the possibilities of our future and the generational seeds that follow. This is not a time to leave rounds in your rifle, start firing now, soldier!
write by taylor