Leave a Legacy

 

“The things you do for yourself are gone when you are gone,
but the things you do for others remains as your legacy”
– Kalu Kalu

It has been over a year now that my wife’s cousin Tyrone passed away.  I cannot believe how quickly this last year has gone by already and how many things have changed in such a short period of time.  I wrote the below paragraph last July shortly after we attended his funeral.  Looking back now over a year later it seems like a good idea to share with you on this blog.

Her cousin Tyrone was only 48 years old when he passed away. Needless to say that is much to young.  Tyrone was diagnosed with cancer and despite receiving treatments it kept coming back. Eventually there was just nothing more the doctors could do. I know everyone (including my wife and I) were hoping for a miraculous healing. Unfortunately, despite a ton of prayers, that never transpired.

To say I didn’t know Tyrone well is to say I didn’t know him at all. The first and only time I met him was about four weeks before he passed away. He was in good spirits and it was clear even from the short time we were there how much he loved his cousin Sharlay. It was truly an honor to meet Tyrone in-spite of the circumstances and it is a day I will never forget.

At the time of his passing, Tyrone was a minister in training at Friendship Baptist Church in Liberty, NY (the same church my wife and I got engaged at) under the mentoring of Pastor Harry Brown, Jr. From all accounts Tyrone loved serving God and was passionate about seeing the lost come back to Christ.

This had not always been the case and from what Sharlay and the family have shared, Tyrone made a lot of poor decisions when he was younger. The details of those decisions I am not privy to nor are they important.  We all make mistakes, many of those we end up regretting and some have significant consequences to us and to others. It is how we learn and grow from them that define us.

Tyrone did not let his past decisions determine his future. Tyrone eventually found his way back to God and turned away from the things he had engaged in as a young man. Regardless of how you might feel about God, Jesus or Christianity, there is no doubt that God touched Tyrone’s life in a very meaningful way. Tyrone became resolute to leave a positive legacy for his many children (and especially his sons) and the rest of his family and friends. He had an unwavering commitment to bring the Gospel to the same men he used to run with. He was determined to turn young men, who were following the same path he followed, away from that lifestyle. He purposed in his life to live for the God he served and to let everyone around him know the power of God and His ability to change any life from bad to good. He didn’t hide from his past but rather used it to his advantage to reach men who might normally be out of reach.

His funeral was truly a celebration of his life and all the positive things he accomplished. Everyone loved Tyrone. My wife claimed it was the most fun she ever had at a funeral. It was hard to argue the point. As hard as Tyrone might have lived as a young man, he loved his family, friends and God even harder. That was something that was clearly evident at his funeral. People spoke about how he had personally changed their lives for the better. Whether it was helping them find a job, get into school or simply encouraging them through difficult times, Tyrone was a powerfully positive force in people’s lives. What an amazing legacy to leave behind. His legacy is a shining city on a hill and a torch to light the way for future generations of his family.

Tyrone left an enduring legacy. His life is a testimony to the power of God and the ability of anyone to turn their life around. It will be important that his family carries on his legacy so that Tyrone’s efforts are not in vain.

We can never be certain how long we have on this earth to impart such a legacy. Tyrone only had 48 years. Thankfully he turned his life around before he ran out of time. The resonating effects of that decision were powerfully clear at his funeral.

I can only hope that when I die I have left a legacy that will be celebrated like Tyrone’s was. It certainly gave me pause to reflect on my own life and the legacy I have created in my 37 years on this earth. I hope that this blog might also make you stop and consider your own.

This blog is dedicated to the memory of, Gary Tyrone Fields (B. June 1965 D. June 2013) a man after God’s own heart.

Be a Hero Today

You don’t have to be Superman in order to be a hero.

Hero – a person, typically a man, who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.  Also, another word used for a submarine sandwich.

Being a hero doesn’t take some overwhelming act of bravery on your part (although it can).  Sometimes doing the smallest of things for others can immediately elevate you to hero status at least to those most directly involved.  And let’s be honest nothing beats a good hero sandwich too!

Even a minion can be a hero when needed

For instance, a few nights ago my wife (who will kill me for telling this story) was craving some kind of fudge brownie.  Now despite living in NYC our neighborhood doesn’t have many places one can go to get anything late at night, let alone a brownie.  Fortunately, the one place that is close to our apartment really bailed me out.  They had the exact kind of brownie my wife was looking for.  When I returned home from my conquest she hailed me as “her hero.”

Now I didn’t feel heroic (nor should I have) and the most danger I encountered on my trip was avoiding some broken glass in my flip-flops – not exactly Bruce Willis material.  The point is that my wife was grateful for my willingness to get off the couch after a relaxing evening and do her a favor.  To see how happy she was when I returned was worth the short 15 minute hunt for her brownie. And that wasn’t the only ROI on that trip if you know what I mean….

“Save me!”

The great thing is that being a hero isn’t all that complicated and there are opportunities around us every day to help that damsel in distress, even if it turns out to be an old man.  We as men just need to be open to seeing those opportunities around us and following a few simple rules.

1.  Stop being so selfish.  We are always in a hurry to get where we are going in life (especially in NYC) but that is no reason to ignore the humanity around us.  Sure I want to get to the train and be at my desk by 8:30am but if I take two minutes out of my day to help a mom or dad carry their stroller up two flights of stairs at the subway platform I think arriving at 8:32am will be okay.

2. Do it just because.  Sure she might be cute and giving you that little look that says she thinks you are a real stud muffin.  Who knows? You might even meet your future bride by going out of your main-tera-hero-7away to help some woman in need.  However, don’t let that be the motivating factor (or at least not the primary one) otherwise you run the risk of going from hero to creep in .5 seconds. Besides there is no kind of hero more important than that unsung hero!

3. What’s the worse that could happen? Unless you are trying to disrupt a bank robbery in progress or trying to save a drowning child you probably won’t really be risking your life to help some stranger overcome whatever obstacle they are facing.  All you have to do is ask the question “Can I help you with….”

Many of you probably think I am nuts for claiming you can be a hero every day of the week.  Yet I challenge you to pay attention, look around and when you see a need (whatever it might be) try to fill it.

See a kitten in a tree?  Get a ladder, who needs the fire department?

Is there a screaming child at the check out, whose mom or dad isn’t paying attention?  Instead of bitching about it why don’t you try to distract the child to allow that mom or dad just a few moments to focus on paying their bill and heading home.

Take the trash out without your wife having to ask (or insert any of your “honey-do” items here).

If you have a co-worker who you know is having a rough stretch offer to take them to lunch or buy them a coffee., and then DON”T talk about what they are dealing with (unless they want to.)  They will appreciate the kindness and the opportunity to get their mind off of the situation.

The Rock says “You can be a hero too!’

There are plenty of ways to be a Superman in your own neighborhood and it doesn’t require you to reverse the rotation of the earth.  So go out today and look for that chance to be a hero and then ACT on it!

Until tomorrow, make it a better day.

Andrew

A Few Tips for Living Below Your Means

A penny saved is a penny earned. – Benjamin Franklin

I will be honest, managing money has never come easy for me.  I am always jealous of those friends of mine who manage their money well (and from my vantage point: easily.)  It is a common misconception that if you have a lot of money it is easier to manage.  That is simply not true.

I still struggle with doing a good job with our finances and I have learned several really difficult lessons I would rather have not.  Yet despite some set backs there are a few things I have picked up on that have allowed me to save money and be more content with what I do have.  I hope you find these helpful and if you have other tips (I am sure you do) please feel free to share them in the comment section!

What does “being rich” mean to you?  Maybe you should change your view-point.

You don’t have to be a 1%’er to consider yourself rich.  As a matter of fact you don’t even need to make six figures to consider yourself to be wealthy.  How you measure “being rich” is up to you and your own personal definition.  Don’t allow society to define it for you.

This quick story from Frugal Dad is a good illustration: “I remember sitting in a cubicle at my first professional job staring at a picture of an SUV I wanted to buy (and eventually did). Now, I sit in my office and look at the pictures of my kids, and just outside my window I can see the beater I drive sitting in the company parking lot. What a difference a decade makes! To sum things up, my definition of being rich is having enough money to meet my family’s basic needs, a few of our wants, and to be able to give some away to others.”

Keeping up with the Jones’s is very overrated.  Define what makes you happy and go with it.

Cash Only

Do your best to only pay in cash.  If you only have $40 bucks and you leave your debit/credit card at home, it is a safe bet you won’t be spending more than $40 when you go to the store.   Set a cash limit on how much you can spend and then only carry that amount of cash on you when you go out.

It is really easy to spend four bucks here, seven buck there when you have a debit card on you all the time.  This isn’t easy to do especially today when almost no one pays in cash any longer.  Yet it can safe you a lot of money in the long run.

Shop for a Better Deal

If you are looking to cut costs then you should shop around for a better deal.  My wife and I recently switched from Time Warner Cable which was costing us almost $180/month for cable and internet to Verizon.  This move not only saves us about $50/month but we also have a phone line with Verizon.  Thus we not only saved money but also received an additional service for no extra.

Being Healthy Pays

One of the most basic ways you can save money is by taking care of your physical well being.  Everyone understands that when you aren’t healthy it costs you money.  The great thing is you don’t need to spend money on a gym in order to stay healthy.  There are plenty of alternatives to the gym if you want to stay in good physical health.

Take up an active hobby such as tennis, ultimate frisbee, jogging or soccer.  Going for a walk is also a free activity that is much underrated and can help you stay in shape.  People who practice a healthy lifestyle also don’t get sick as often as others who aren’t healthy.  Thus, saving themselves money on co-pays and the like.

Nothing Wrong with a Night In

My wife and I spend a lot of time just chilling at home and relaxing in front of the television.  Other times we might head up to the roof deck or the back deck in our building and chill out enjoying the nice weather.  It isn’t always exciting of course but it allows us plenty of quality time with each other (one of our mutual love languages) and help us save money.

It also helps so that when we do get the chance to go out with friends or on a date night we are able to spend money and not be concerned about our budget because we have been good with our money.

Until tomorrow, make it a better day!

Andrew

 

Devotional Tuesday – Don’t Let Others Hold You Back

IsClutterHoldingYouBack

“Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.  But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.  God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness,holiness and redemption.  Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord” I Corinthians 1:26-31 (NIV)

Sometimes the thing that hold us back the most as men are the opinions of two different people: others and ourselves.

Other people will spend a great deal of your life trying to explain why you cannot accomplish your dreams.  You are from a poor family.  You are too short; too tall; too skinny; too fat.  People will tell you failure is your only option based strictly on your skin color or the neighborhood you grew up in.  In the end other people will always try to limit your potential by pointing to irrelevant details and how those are impassable obstacles to your success.  Don’t listen to those people.

There were plenty of times when I was a young man that teachers, family members and even friends said I would never get into law school, let along become an attorney.  Those were hard words to hear and of course very discouraging.  Yet I refused to allow other people’s opinions of me determine my destiny.

The larger part of my struggle was my own lack of confidence all throughout high school and even in college.  Understanding my won self-worth and developing confidence didn’t come until I was nearly 23 years old!  I realized quickly when I was in law school that if I didn’t develop some kind of self confidence those professors and students would eat me alive and I wouldn’t make it through my three years.

The verses above were just one of the many scriptures I studied to help build my confidence.  More importantly I wanted to understand where my confidence should come from; that place was from God himself.

There would be no reason for anyone to look at me at the age of 16, growing up in a small hick community and in a middle class family to think I would be where I am today.  If I could have seen into the future at that age I likely would have been just as shocked as anyone else as to the career and life I have managed to forge together.  Yet I owe 100% of it to God.

Success in life does require hard work.  It might require diligent study or practicing whatever craft you excel at.  But it is God who brings the increase and it is God who opens the doors based on your hard work.

It is true that people can work hard and force doors open for themselves.  I have had the chance to work and minister along some of the most Type A and Alpha personalities around.  Often times their persistence, manipulation and forceful personality (i.e. never take no for an answer etc) lead to great success.  Yet at some point they would always hit a ceiling in their advancement because they would refuse to change their approach.  Eventually they run into enough people who can’t be bullied, beaten or manipulated into giving them what they want.  They often leave that company or career then to start all over again in another field.

I have worked very hard most of my life to get where I am.  About this there is no doubt.  Yet, it is only by God’s direction and his opening doors that have allowed me to get where I am today.  But it all started by not listening to other’s negative opinions and learning to develop my own confidence.  Once I was able to do that following God’s lead was much easier because I believed wherever he set my feet I would succeed.  I can say without a doubt that he has yet to disappoint!

Take away for today:

1.  Work hard at whatever it is you want to do and God will help make you successful.

“Do you see a man who excels in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before unknown men.” Proverbs 22:29 (NKJ)

2. No one else has the power to determine your chances at success in life so don’t waste time around people who don’t push you and support your dreams.

3.  If you lack for self confidence than sincerely ask God to show you your true worth.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:7-8 (NIV)

What is Your Plan?

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When you are able to develop a plan for your life it will immediately distinguish you from people who say they want great things but don’t create a clear path on how to accomplish them.

Sure it is true that we cannot prepare for every curve ball and uncertainty that life tosses our way. However, when you create a plan those curve balls won’t keep you off-balance for long and events that might normally spin your life out of control will pass much quicker.

hot-teacher
She looks like she enjoys a good plan of action…

There are a number of positive things that come from planning your life as explained by Tommy Newberry: “Planning encourages self-reliance, sharpens critical thinking, diminishes risk and encourages excellence.  It requires you to apply self-discipline and at the same time hone your self-discipline skills for the future.  Your first step in planning your future is always clarifying your destination.”

Developing a plan is also a leadership skill that will come in handy for you in business and life.  As you rise through the ranks in your career you have to take on more and more leadership responsibilities.  Often times this might mean you are responsible for creating a plan to generate more revenue for you company or something similar.  Learn to develop a plan when you are younger so when you need to do it as part of your job you will feel more comfortable about it.

So what is a plan?  It is simple.  A plan is simply directions or steps you need to take to go from where you are to where you want to be.  One of the difficult things about creating a plan is our over eager nature to rush ahead and start moving towards that goal without planning.  Your plan doesn’t need to be highly detailed (although sometimes that might be necessary) it simply needs to have some basics.

For example: if you know you wanted to go to law school as a high school student there are a few basic plans you need to lay out to get to that destination.  First, take your SAT’s.   Second,graduate high school.  Third, apply for and get accepted to college.  Fourth, graduate college, take LSAT’s and apply for law school.  Boom done.  Now there might be a few more steps involved in between but that is a basic outline.

system
Planning doesn’t need to be this complicated but you get the idea…

Do you want a better job?  Than you need a plan of how to get there.  Do you want to make more money?  You will need a plan for that too.  So many people in this world want those things and more but rather than create a plan they just try to “wing it” and never get the results they want.  Even worse, they can’t seem to figure out why they can’t get to where they want to go.

I remember prior to  getting married my wife was very frustrated by her career.  She was working at Sephora in Greenwich, CT and desperately wanted a better paying job that would offer more career satisfaction for her.  We sat down and created plan which was part of our overall plan to be married.  The first step was for her to get transferred to a Sephora store in New York City where we would be living after we were married.  Second step was to work there for several months while she networked in the city looking for her next job. Third, when the time was right she would either quit Sephora and do freelance work or find a job that paid her the kind of money she wanted and that would put her on a better career path.

Those plans took longer than she wanted and often she would get frustrated by the slow pace of the plan.  When we would talk I would simply remind her of the plan, where she was in relation to the plan and how much closer she was to achieving her goals every time we talked about it.  It always managed to calm her down and help her gain perspective.

The best part of the story is the plan we created worked to perfection just like we had hoped it would.  She ended up quitting Sephora and got a great job working for Fresh Beauty a few weeks later making almost three times as much money.  Planning works and even when it doesn’t work as well as we hope, it does help to keep us centered on our path and plan for life.

Mos20140120-133002t of the people who are unhappy are desperate for change in their lives but have no plan to bring about the change they want to see.  Good intentions will rarely (if ever) lead you on the path to improvement.  If you want to make a change you need a well-developed plan.  Something you have written that is easy to follow and isn’t terribly complicated.  It should contain many practical steps you can take to try to go from point A to point B.

Planning often takes a lot of time.  It requires you as an individual to take initiative; no one is going to just give you want you want in life.  Planning is not only hard work but it can be physically and emotionally draining.

So whatever you want out of life you need to ask yourself this question: “What is my plan?”  If you don’t have one, make one.  Don’t waste another moment.  Start today!

Until tomorrow, make it a better day!

Andrew