No. 130: Freedom Schools and Upward Bound Memories

I’ve watched this video of Ron Clark dancing with some of his students at least ten times over the past day.

It reminds me of Harambee at Freedom Schools. Starting off the day with a thorough turn-up is good for the soul.

I also think about the summers I worked at Upward Bound. Those were some amazing summers. The photo above is me learning how to pop, lock, and drop it.

Freedom Schools and Upward Bound were full of super long days, frustration, smiles, and progress. Good times.

Alright, back to the video, then back to work.

No. 82: Davidson Alums to Play a Big Role in 2016 NC Senatorial Race?

North Carolina Democrats are beginning to roll out plans for unseating Republican Richard Burr from the Senate. This is set to be an interesting election if rumors are correct that former UNC president Tom Ross and current US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx are eyeing a run for the seat. Both are Davidson grads and Tom Ross was president of the school. 

I don’t take pleasure in the thought of them fighting each other for the seat, but the political environment in the state calls for good leaders and I believe both of them could fill the need. 

No. 67: Pay Attention to the Air Through Which You Walk

Chinedu Echeruo gave a talk at Stanford University’s Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Series on the value that creativity unleashes into the world. In it, he shared a parable David Foster told in a speech to Kenyon College’s 2005 graduating class.

There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, “Morning, boys, how’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, “What the hell is water?”

I found this to be a really compelling commentary on the power of how one thinks. We see that power all around us. Political parties. Marriage. Entrepreneurship.

While thinking on this parable further, I remembered an interview angel investor Jason Calacanis did with Peter Thiel, the contrarian billionaire co-founder of PayPal and early investor in Facebook. He made a point about how one should pay attention to things that don’t work as well as one would like. What comes to mind now is the difficulty I have getting my daughter in and out of her car seat. His argument was that opportunities for a solution lie in those instances of discomfort.

For the past few months, I have tried to document ideas that come to mind during the course of a day. After hearing Mr. Thiel’s argument, I have tried to look a little closer at the everyday things with which I engage on a normal basis. My daughter’s car seat. The rectangular shape of my laptop and iPhone. To apply the language of Mr. Foster’s parable, I am trying to shift my thinking to be aware of the water in which I am swimming, rather the air through which I am walking.

For example, I remember that I heard Mr. Thiel make this comment about paying attention to the discomforts around you while I was sitting at a red light at the intersection of Connecticut Avenue and K Street. I can remember this now, but with all the head shots I delivered playing football, I probably won’t remember this experience 50 years from now.

What if I could take a snapshot of that moment in time – the image of the intersection, the two-minute portion of the conversation, the day and time, how the conversation made me feel? Imagine being able to recall that experience 50 years from now as a form of treatment for my dementia.

You’ve seen the joy on the man’s face as he listens to jazz music he’d enjoyed decades prior. Imagine creating a playlist of sorts for your older self to enjoy pivotal moments of your life.

This may or may not be a good idea (I kind of like it and will mention it to my mom who works on dementia issues). That aside, the thought exercise of paying attention to something as routine as a memory unlocks a creativity that I look forward to experiencing more.

No. 35: What I’m Reading Today

Davidson profiled Muna Musiitwa on her work in Africa. Great nuggets on key questions for mapping the way forward on the continent – [http://buff.ly/1ojta8X]

Jason Njoku does some nice analysis on property values in Lagos in parallel with tech investments – [http://buff.ly/1ojtfsY]

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has paid a good bit of attention to Africa, including a $10M initiative to support the development of financial journalism – [http://buff.ly/1ojtkgt]

Ben Leo, Senior Fellow at the Center for Global Development, provides six key things the Millenium Challenge Corporation should focus on – [http://buff.ly/1n4f3Vb]

My Nigerian brother, Odini Nwakuche, is making waves with his clothing venture – [http://buff.ly/1n4f8Iv]

No.1: Speed It Is I Love

My first track meet ever, I lined up for the 100m dash next to a guy wearing Air Force 1s, jean shorts, and an NFL jersey.  All eight of us in the race had no idea how to get into the right stance, and were jumping around trying to get a jump on the starter’s gun.  When the gun did go off, my man in the Air Forces did not waste any time getting to the finish line.  While I was not the fastest guy, I had so much fun—just running. 

After winning the county championship in the 200m dash in the eighth grade, I had the opportunity to run with a track club during the summer.  Humility is something I learned quickly as I ran against the likes of Michael Grant, one of the fastest 13-year olds in the country.  I also learned what it was to have good form, and to develop my own by studying other athletes.  In high school I became a perfectionist, studying video after video of athletes like Justin Gatlin, Dwain Chambers, Aziz Zakari, and Maurice Greene.  I dreamed of dominance while watching Jesse Owens run and Bob Beamon jump.  I scoured professional athlete progressions on http://www.iaaf.org.  I began following other high school athletes on Dyestat and Milestat.  I raved about Kelly Willie and Jeremy Wariner facing off at the 2002 Golden West Invitational, both running sub-46 in the 400m dash.  Brendan Christian ran 10.20 in the same meet!  I wanted that kind of speed.

I was fortunate that my football coaches in college allowed me to continue running track.  Both sports taught me extremely valuable lessons.  I developed a mental toughness on the track that enabled me to push through a sophomore season in which I fouled out of meets for both the indoor and outdoor seasons in the triple jump, until I set a huge personal record in the Southern Conference Championship.  I developed a physical toughness on the football field that created a craving for contact. 

My obsession with track and field statistics bordered ridiculous.  After track meets, I would spend hours studying results from meets across the country.  I kept a mental log of the progression of a number of athletes and offered my predictions for the NCAA Championships, US Championships, and World Championships whenever anyone showed interest.  I am itching for the indoor track and field season to begin.  I did spend some time this fall expanding my knowledge of cross country running and road racing.  Look forward to comprehensive commentary on track and field at the high school, collegiate, and professional levels.