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We generally think of initiative as recognizing and doing what needs to be done before being asked. And that's true. But initiative is so much more. Initiative believes in the possibilities of opportunity; it sees opportunity where others see barriers. Initiative means going the extra mile.

The following story is a great example of how taking initiative can change the course of one’s life and the lives of others.

The year was 1949. Dorothy Johnson Vaughan became the first African American supervisor at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (the predecessor of NASA) when she was promoted to manager of the West Area Computers. This work group was made up mostly of African American female mathematicians who worked at the Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. Vaughan’s title opened the door for her to collaborate with other well-known computer operators and gave her access to see future plans of the organization.

In 1958, the NACA officially became NASA. During that time, Vaughan realized that NASA was going to move into machine computing with computer programming. They began bringing in large computers from IBM. Seeing that these computers would likely replace her and her team of mathematicians, she took the initiative to learn FORTRAN programming language. She not only taught herself this complex language, but she also took the time to teach her team.

In 1961 she officially became supervisor of the digital programming center and brought her team with her. She made such significant contributions to the space program through her work on the Scout Launch Vehicle Program and the launch of John Glenn into orbit. Had Dorothy Vaughan not taken the initiative to teach herself and others this new language, she and her team would have been fired. The Scout Launch Vehicle Program may have taken longer to get off the ground. It may have taken NASA longer to get man into orbit. Her initiative changed the course of her life, her team, and essentially that of the NASA space program.

Vaughan’s work and the work of Mary Jackson and Katherine Johnson were featured in the 2016 movie Hidden Figures.

What can we learn from Vaughan’s story? She saw an opportunity and seized the moment by taking initiative. She saw possibilities where others may have seen barriers and she went the extra mile to affect change. As I mentioned earlier, there are four and half months until the end of the school year. I know I’m stating the obvious, but seniors this is your final four and half months of high school. As you all work toward the end of the year, think about where you can take more initiative either in school or in life. See the possibilities, work to overcome your barriers, and go the extra mile to set yourself up for success.

Posted by [email protected]  On Feb 03, 2019 at 1:07 PM

The year was 1947, when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers. A talented and versatile player, Robinson won the National League Rookie of the Year award his first season, and helped the Dodgers to the National League championship – the first of his six trips to the World Series. In 1949 Robinson won the league MVP award, and he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962. Despite his skill, Robinson faced insults and threats because of his race.

When general manager Branch Rickey of the Brooklyn Dodgers offered Robinson the chance to break organized baseball’s unwritten color barrier, the talented ballplayer not only accepted, he also agreed to Rickey’s condition: that he not respond to the abuse he would face.

For two years Robinson endured abuse both verbal and physical, but he stuck to his word until 1949 when he finally broke his silence. Robinson become an outspoken and controversial opponent of racial discrimination. He took the initiative to step up for the rights of others and led other players to urge baseball to use its economic power to help desegregate Southern towns which is where most spring training camps took place. Jackie Robinson provided a important example of successful desegregation. Upon his retirement in 1957, he took that same initiative to increase employment opportunities for African Americans.

Robinson took the initiative and did the work to bring about change. His success encouraged the integration of professional football, basketball, and tennis.

His work reminds me of two quotes from Mahatma Ghandi:

“Be the change you want to see in the world.”

“The future depends on what you do today.”

It takes initiative to get started toward making change. The initiatives we take today, will create the change we seek for our future, our kids’ future, and the future of those that will follow.

Posted by [email protected]  On Feb 10, 2019 at 5:58 PM

The year was 1904 when Mary McLeod Bethune founded Florida’s Daytona Normal and Industrial Institute for Girls. Mary was born in 1875 and is one of 17 children. Her parents had grown up as slaves, but she did not let her background keep her from getting an education. After attending Bible college in Chicago, she dedicated herself to educating others at schools in Georgia and South Carolina.

Her work as an educator led her to found the school for girls which would merge with Cookman Institute for Men in 1923 and become Bethune-Cookman College, one of the historically black colleges that still exists today.

Mary was a firm believer in education as a path to racial equality. She focused on vocational education and social activism. In 1935 she founded the National Council for Negro Women. Her work in education and the initiative she took was noticed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt who in 1936 appointed her as the director of the Division of Negro Affairs of the National Youth Administration. She would remain in that post until 1943 when she returned to her school in Daytona Beach.

In 1974, she was honored with a memorial in Lincoln Park in Washington D.C. In 1985, she was featured in the U.S. Postage stamp.

One never knows where his/her initiative and work may lead. Mary McLeod Bethune found her purpose in education. She had the initiative and drive to educate others and provide opportunities for growth especially for African American women. Mary’s positive impact throughout the world is a result of a life dedicated in service to others. Her impact is from the compound effect of a great work which started by taking initiative.

Posted by [email protected]  On Feb 17, 2019 at 3:35 PM

I grew up loving Carolina basketball. My aunt was a college basketball official and I used to travel with her frequently all over Virginia and North Carolina for games. She instilled in me a love for the game as well as Carolina basketball. I loved watching them on TV. In late March of 1982, I was 12 years old and distinctly remember being in our den at home watching Carolina take on Georgetown in the NCAA finals. It was a back and forth game filled with great plays and great players: James Worthy, Sam Perkins, Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing. I had to name at least one player from Georgetown! I remember being in awe watching Michael Jordan take the shot that put Carolina ahead late in the game. I couldn't believe that a freshman would take that kind of shot, but Carolina fans everywhere were glad he did. As you know, Carolina held on to win the game.

Fast forward to the summer of 1985. My aunt paid for me to go to UNC basketball school and it was there that I got to meet Michael Jordan in person. He had just completed his rookie year with the Chicago Bulls. Again, I was just in awe of him: how he carried himself, how he spoke to us, and of course how much "flight" he could get even on an outdoor blacktop court. He treated us with such respect and appreciation.

Though I was a Lakers fan in those days, I still followed MJ. If there was a book on him or articles on him, I couldn't wait to read them. When VHS tapes were produced on him, I would save my money just to get as many as I could. Come Fly With Me was one of the best.  I thoroughly enjoyed watching him as a basketball player and the amazing feats he would go on to accomplish, but as I got older I became more intrigued with his mindset. How did he think at such a high level? So much can be learned from his mindset of having a positive mental attitude. I know he's not perfect, but there is much I learned from his seven life lessons. Share these with your teenager.

1. Don't be scared to try.
2. Leave fear behind.
3. Focus on finding a solution.
4. Attitude is everything.
5. Stay focused.
6. Put in the work.
7. You can't do it alone.

Check out the full article 7 Life Lessons from Michael Jordan.

Posted by [email protected]  On Feb 24, 2019 at 5:21 PM

The following story about Michael Jordan’s journey in basketball speaks to the essence of confidence.

The year was 1978, Michael Jordan tried out for his high school’s varsity basketball team, but at 5’11 he was told he was too short to play at that level as a sophomore and remained on junior varsity. He worked constantly on his game to improve his skills and during his JV season would score 40 or more points in several games.

Over the next summer, he would grow four inches. He spent countless hours working on his basketball skills. The next two years of high school he would average over 25 points per game, over 12 rebounds, and 6 assists per game. He was named a high school All-American and played in the annual McDonald’s All-American game where he scored 30 points.

He was highly recruited by several major universities with prominent basketball programs such as Duke, Syracuse, and Virginia, but ultimately landed at North Carolina.

He had a phenomenal freshmen year. He would hit the game winning shot against Georgetown in the national championship game and was named ACC Freshman of the Year. The work he put in to honing his skills is what gave him the confidence to take that monumental shot against Georgetown. Jordan later described this shot as the major turning point in his basketball career.

Never being satisfied, Jordan continued to put in the work to get stronger and more consistent in overall skills. The next two years, he was selected to the NCAA All-America First Team. He would be honored with the Naismith and Wooden awards in 1984, his last year of college basketball.

That same spring Jordan was selected as the third pick in the NBA draft by the Chicago Bulls. He would go on to a storied career in the NBA winning 6 NBA titles with the Bulls and several Player of the Year awards. He is arguably the greatest player of all-time.

What separated Michael from other players was the level of confidence he developed. He worked constantly on perfecting his skills, growing his knowledge of the game, and enhancing his thought processes. Because he had worked so much on his game, he knew he was going to make the next shot or make the next stop against an opposing player. He learned to turn failures into positives. One of his most notable quotes describes how he thinks, “I have failed over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.” He developed a perspective that his failures were really stepping stones to another level of success and his confidence grew as he overcame his setbacks and failures.

What we learn from Michael is that confidence is linked to the actions we take in developing and enhancing our skills sets. Regardless of what skill sets you’re trying to develop, it will take real concerted and consistent efforts on your part to develop that kind of confidence.

Posted by [email protected]  On Mar 03, 2019 at 7:51 AM
Our teens are constantly exposed to a social presence that can create unrealistic comparisons about lifestyle body image, and acceptable norms. Some of these comparisons may lead to self-doubt and a lack of self-confidence, but there are strategies to combat this. Listed below are eight strategies to raising a confident teen:
  1. Teach your teen to balance self-acceptance with self-improvement
  2. Praise your teen's effort instead of outcome
  3. Teach assertiveness skills
  4. Encourage your teen to explore new opportunities
  5. Model confidence
  6. Build self-worth on a healthy foundation
  7. Balance freedom with guidance
  8. Help your teen develop positive self-talk
Check out the full article from
Posted by [email protected]  On Mar 10, 2019 at 2:42 PM
The following is a poem by Tai Shona Britto, 2014.

There is always light at the end of the tunnel.
Just like if you looked through the eye of a funnel.
It doesn't stop there, it goes through and through.
Just like you must push yourself to do.

Your life isn't over just because you aren't winning.
It's time to switch the game, and start from the beginning.
Learn from your lessons, don't make the same mistakes.
No body said living this life, was going to be a piece of cake.

Get out of this rut, don't stay there too long.
That's not your new home, and that's not where you belong.
Think of the rights that you do, don't dwell on the wrongs.
You are better than the Darkness, You are the sun shining strong.
Posted by [email protected]  On Mar 17, 2019 at 4:24 PM
When you change your thinking...
you change your beliefs;
When you change your beliefs,
you change your expectations;
When you change your expectations, 
you change your attitude;
When you change your attitude,
you change your behavior;
When you change your behavior,
you change your performance;
When you change your performance,

Taken from the book, The Portable Pep Talk by Alexander Lockhart
Posted by [email protected]  On Mar 24, 2019 at 1:02 PM

The year was 1944 and it was Christmas Eve, during the Battle of the Bulge in Germany. A young boy, and his mother were alone in their forested cabin, safe from the icy cold, and they thought, from the American enemy soldiers hiding in the countryside.


Mrs. Vincken and her son, Fritz, heard someone at the door. She opened it to find a group of US soldiers. One had been wounded. She set aside her fears of execution for helping the enemy and let the soldiers in her house. She did not speak English, and they spoke no German, but they were able to talk in French.


Not long after the soldiers had settled in, there was another knock at the door. Mrs. Vincken was afraid that it might be German soldiers, so she opened the door carefully. She was right. There was a very high likelihood that if the German soldiers had no mercy, that she would be shot for harboring the Americans, even if it had been only for those few moments.


The brave woman stepped outside and told the German soldiers that she would serve them a hot dinner but that it was Christmas Eve, and she had guests. She asked the Germans to leave their guns in her shed because, even though they might not like her visitors, Christmas Eve was a night of peace. She then took the guns of the Americans and hid them away as well.

The German soldiers, having honored her request, stepped inside. The atmosphere was awkward at first, until one of the German soldiers, a medic, began work on dressing the wounds of one of the Americans.


Fritz Vincken recounted the incident in an interview with WII History Network: “Then we added more ingredients to our stew and invited these enemies to sit down together for dinner. One of the German soldiers, an ex-medical student, fixed the wounded American and then Mother read from the Bible and declared that there would be at least one night of peace in this war — Christmas night in the Ardennes Forest. After a good night’s rest, they said their goodbyes and went on their way. The German soldiers told the Americans, which way their camp was and gave them a compass to find their way.”


Fritz credits his mother’s personality and generosity when asked why the German soldiers did not turn her in. “I think it was my mom’s personality and her persuasiveness to have them rest for one peaceful night. There was a place to stay, hot food, and shelter from the cold and they appreciated that.”


Mrs. Vincken never saw any of those soldiers again, but Fritz eventually was reunited with two of the Americans. He now lives in Hawaii.


Said Fritz, “Many years have gone since that bloodiest of all wars, but the memories of that night in the Ardennes never left me. The inner strength of a single woman, who, by her wits and intuition, prevented potential bloodshed, taught me the practical meaning of the words: ‘Goodwill Toward Mankind’ . . .  I remember mother and those seven young soldiers, who met as enemies and parted as friends, right in the middle of the battle of the Bulge.”

Compassion arises through empathy and is characterized by actions. Mrs. Vincken’s compassion that night brought comfort and peace to a small group of men known to be enemies. Her example not only had an impact on those soldiers, but it would have a profound and lasting effect on her son. You see a simple act of compassion such as providing a hot meal to strangers, showing a smile, or just giving a kind word to someone you don’t even know can make a world of difference in someone’s life and in yours!

Posted by [email protected]  On Apr 04, 2019 at 5:22 PM

The following story was taken from In the cold skies over far northern Germany, planes were battling it out in freezing temperatures. On the ground, near Bremen, an accomplished pilot with 22 kills, Franz Stigler, was refueling his plane, a Messerschmitt Bf 109 G-6, which was at risk of overheating because of a bullet in its radiator. Stigler was watching the air, and he saw a tattered U.S. bomber so beaten up it could barely fly.

The plane, piloted by Charles Brown of West Virginia, had sustained the damage to the aircraft’s nose, and with two engines disabled it was slowing down. Brown lost his position in the formation and had been left behind to endure enemy fire. Another engine went at that moment. Internal oxygen was depleting, and half the rudder was gone too. Electrical systems were failing. His weapons had jammed, he’d lost part of the nose and an elevator, and most of his crew were now injured. Brown himself suffered a wound in his right shoulder.

He had to endure the pain because the morphine on board had frozen and he could not radio for help as the radio had been destroyed.

Stigler took off from below and flew to Brown’s plane. The exterior damage to the aircraft allowed him to see inside and the crew was suffering. Stigler was a fighter pilot with integrity and compassion. As a young pilot, a commanding officer had told him, “You are fighter pilots first, last, always. If I ever hear of any of you shooting at someone in a parachute, I’ll shoot you myself.”

Stigler tried to direct them to a German airfield, hoping that they would land and surrender. Brown and his crew did not understand and flew on. He tried to guide them to neutral territory in Sweden, but again, they didn’t understand.

Stigler moved to a formation on Brown’s port side wing to protect him from further German fire. Brown told his crew to aim the dorsal turret gunner at Stigler to warn him off, but not to fire.

The brave and compassionate Stigler remained on the bomber’s wing all the way to the coast to get the bomber safely over open water. Now that the bomber was safe, Stigler looks into the bomber’s cabin, saluted Brown and his crew, and flew back into German airspace.

Brown was able to make it back to England where he reported the incident to his officers. He was told not to repeat the story. The officers seemed to want to prevent their men from having positive feelings about enemy pilots. Brown later said, “Someone decided you can’t be human and be flying in a German cockpit.”

Stigler kept his mouth shut too. His act of bravery and compassion would have put him at risk of execution.

Many years later, in 1986, Brown began a search for Stigler. He finally found him in 1990, living in Canada. The two formed a friendship that lasted until their deaths, both in 2008. This story is about showing kindness and compassion. Give your kindness away without expecting anything in return. At its core, compassion is about paying attention to the present moment with a loving attitude and taking action. The German fighter pilot allowed his heart to be greater than his fear for persecution for aiding the enemy. His compassion saved a life and would later form a bond of friendship.

Posted by [email protected]  On Apr 14, 2019 at 9:32 PM
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