Finish What You Start

Calvin Mackie is an inventor, activist, critically acclaimed author, internationally renowned motivational speaker, and successful entrepreneur. A lifelong resident of New Orleans, Dr. Mackie graduated from high school with low SAT scores requiring him to undertake special remedial classes before he was admitted to Morehouse College. He completed his degree in Mathematics, graduating Magna Cum Laude and a member of the prestigious Phi Beta Kappa National Honor Society. He was simultaneously awarded a Bachelors degree in Mechanical Engineering from Georgia Tech, where he subsequently earned his Master and Ph.D in Mechanical Engineering. He wrote and incredible book titled,  A VIEW FROM THE ROOF – LESSONS FOR LIFE & BUSINESS, which I have read. These are a few of his words that help me to raise my son to be a better Black man, and that inspire me to be a better father.


I have two beautiful sons and instilling a healthy work ethic in them has become my life’s obsession. Both of my boys, like most children, are real active and love sports. They have played t-ball, baseball and basketball. A couple of years ago, they decided that they wanted to start Taekwondo. Many of their friends were taking lessons and it intrigued them. The difference between most sports and karate is that most sports are played during a finite season, with a beginning and clearly visible and reachable finish.

However, karate has many features different levels of achievement, which are denoted by belt color. The amount of time to attain a new level is dependent on the commitment and progress of the individual. So, when I gave my boys the go-ahead, it came with a stern caveat that they would not be allowed to quit until they’d reached highest level: the black belt.

In traditional karate, the belt and its color have significant meaning. The karate belt’s color indicates the rank of the person wearing it. Karate belt colors tend to progress from lightest to darkest, with white as the almost universal starting color, and either red or black being the final belt. In Taekwondo, a common belt progression is white, yellow, green, blue, red, and black, with different “degrees” marking achievements between belts.

So we explained to our sons that starting karate meant a pledge to earn a black belt-which is a minimum two-year commitment. At the age of five, two years is over 40% of your time on earth! But they both agreed and started their trek towards the black belt.

As karate became more physically intense, one of my sons became increasingly resistant about going to practice. He would say his stomach hurt, or that his head hurt, and he would ultimately shed tears. In spite of his antics, I reminded him of his commitment, and marched him out the door to practice. He would cry all the way to practice, but I did not allow him to quit!

Recently, on a Saturday morning, I awakened to the happiest little boy I had seen in a long time. He was signing, skipping and just plain giddy. I asked, “Son why are you so happy?”

“It’s my last day of karate, daddy! Today I test for my Black belt!”, he responded. He skipped into the gym and began testing: he punched and kicked his opponents and broke the board with his hand and foot. When he finished, he was absolutely elated. After the test, his instructor called us over and explained to us that the judges thought he could have done better and didn’t pass him.

I looked over as disappointment rolled over my little man’s face and tears filled his eyes. His mom tried to console him, told him that it would be okay, that other kids before him had failed a test, but they eventually received their black belts.

I approached my son and explained to him that although other people had failed in their quest to get their black belt, this was about him and that hehad failed. I said, “On Monday you know where you will be after school? He asked, “Where?” I said, “At karate, because Mackie men”, and he finished the statement, “Finish what they start!” I said, “Yes, Let’s Go Home!” Wiping his eyes, he walked alongside me and his mom, knowing that quitting was not an option!!

Many of us know people who are eager, energetic starters: folks who are always jumping from thing to thing, always claiming that whatever’s new is better… and that it’s going to stick. They start businesses, begin writing books, join clubs, quickly jump into relationships, or jump from job to job. As soon as they get down the road and the excitement wanes… they quit!

So many people these days seem to be looking for an exit-a new road means not having to drive all the way down the one you started on. People are quitting jobs without a backup plan, kids are dropping out of school, and teachers (especially within their first five years) are quitting the profession in record numbers.

We recently witnessed former Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin quit her elected position of Governor. More people are getting divorced than are staying married. Most people quit their New Year’s resolution to lose weight every year, even after paying gym membership. Basketball fans have accused superstar Lebron James of quitting during the 4th quarter of big important games. And, if you can imagine this, according to the Labor Department’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, in August 2011, 2.03 million Americans voluntarily quit their jobs-these are the highest figures since November 2008! And the US joblessness rate is still hovering over 9%!

As a people, we Americans are famous for taking the initiative-but we need to work on our follow-through.

As a young man, working on my doctorate, there were many nights I thought about quitting; I was tired, I was lonely, I cried, and wanted out. My friends were out there working, making money, partying, buying houses… and there I was, still broke, struggling and studying. Sometimes, on those long, tough nights, I would hear my dad and my other elders speak to me: they made it clear that I must continue, and I hope to make it clear to you that you must continue and commit to finishing what you start. They forged three nuggets into my psyche that I hope will help you reach the goals before you:

1. Your Word is your bond. Say what you mean and mean what you say. If you are not going to do it, then don’t say it. People will know you by the credibility of your word. Can I trust what you say?

2. It is always darkest right before dawn.Anything worth having will take you through challenges. It is when the challenges are the toughest that we must knuckle down and get through. It is often at these most difficult intervals that the reward is closest.

3. Quitting is a habit. Never say “it doesn’t matter”. I don’t care if it’s karate, high school football, being a candy striper or a boy scout… walking away from anything helps foster the mentality that it’s okay to walk away from everything. If you don’t care about giving up on these things now, what’s going to stop you from walking away from school, or your marriage, or your kids—or your dreams—later?

Source: Calvin Mackie


2011: At The Speed of LIFE

The AntiSocial Socialist WOW! That’s the first thing that comes to mind when I think back on 2011.  I know we use this cliché all the time but, this year sure went by fast. I really do mean it, for the first time I feel as though there weren’t enough days in the year. I was really thinking of writing a letter to my congress person and requesting at least 30, maybe even 60 more days this year. I’m kidding, but there were a few moments I wish lasted a little longer.

They say when you have kids, your life speeds up. Well, whomever “they” are, they sure do know what they are talking about. My son turned two this year. Nothing terrible about it, in fact, I welcomed it. It was his 1st (of many) coming out parties. “This is who I am and this how I want it to be!” was the attitude he exuded. And it was my responsibility as a parent, to let him know, “Well son, until you understand what you are, I don’t think you’re ready to decide who you are.”  He has so much character and such a positive spirit about him. He hardly ever has a dull moment or a negative attitude.  I look forward to sharing many of our adventures with you in 2012.

2011 taught me patience and strength, and as a Black man, those qualities aren’t easy to master and control respectively. At times we lack patience and choose to muscle our way into, and out of a situation. I started a new career, in the world of fire alarm protection and life safety. I have clients now, so people require me to always show a positive attitude and give them the best customer service. My quality of work now, more than ever, represents my character and I’m not in the business of looking bad.

I learned to swim, metaphorically speaking. The things that interest me most, I decided to dive in and see where the current would take me. I got more into music, from a production aspect, in part thanks to drummer Bennie Rogers, who I had the honor of interviewing. I became a better public speaker with the help of our Black Is Podcast. 2011 gave me a voice, through this site, and with my Tumblr page, enabled me to share my thoughts, as well as the local and global headlines that I felt our people needed to be aware of.  In 2012 I plan to go even deeper, bringing you a few new vlog series.

2011 was so amazing for me; I didn’t want it to end. But I know that a good day paves the way for a better tomorrow. So I say again, WOW! If 2011 was such a great blur, I can only imagine and even salivate at what 2012 has in store for me. I plan to share as much of it with you guys as I can capture. Let’s enjoy the ride together, WOW!




Raising a Black Man

For the last three years my child has been an only child, and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future. However, the idea of more children is not entirely out of the question.

My husband and I were raised in entirely different family structures. I am an only child and was raised as such, though I come from a blended family. My husband comes from a traditional family with two working parents with two children. Before we married, we discussed having a large family, but after the birth of our son, we whittled that long list right on down to the one we had with the possibility of another. I won’t front: my labor was hard and at that moment, I was certain I would never want to do it again. But so often I hear that my son “needs” a sibling and it’s selfish for me not to give him one. Family will put the lean on you to pop out another baby when their “baby” stops being a baby.

I think back to my own childhood and the fact that I did experience pockets of loneliness because it was just me, but what I wanted more than anything was an older sibling. My mother, unfortunately, could not make this happen for me so I adopted older friends as siblings. I sometimes envied others who had close relationships to their brothers and sisters, but then felt lucky when they complained of having disagreements or having to share. All of that was foreign to me.

With my son I’m on the fence about what is best for him regarding siblings. Will a second labor be easier than the first because my body is now familiar with it? Will more children put a strain on our family resources and on my marriage? Will the dynamic of a fourth personality blend in seamlessly or make for chaos? And if I don’t have another child, will my son suffer because of it? Will I regret it?

My hubby is supportive in the sense that he does want another child, but isn’t pressuring me to rush into it. We both agree we need to master potty training before we have another one in diapers. Additionally, his brother is nine years younger than him. We definitely won’t wait that long to make a decision, but only time will tell whether or not we continue in our happy little threesome or add another.


My Life as an NBA Superstar Single Dad

by Dwayne Wade

There are a few words that come to mind when I think about the past couple years of my life: challenging, rewarding, transformative—they roll off the tip of my tongue in an instant. In the span of a year my two good friends LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined me on the Miami Heat, I struggled through a painful, public divorce, and I became the full-time parent to my two young sons, Zaire and Zion.

I’ve had some ups and downs lately, but the memories of the unpleasant times disappear quickly, in part because of moments like the one recently when I was able to surprise my younger son, Zion, at his school with cupcakes for his fourth birthday. It was the day after we’d won the Eastern Conference finals, but that victory couldn’t compare with the huge smile on Zion’s face at that moment. I will never forget it. Bad memories vanish each morning when I walk into both of my sons’ bedrooms to wake them up for school—their laughter gives me all I need to face whatever is happening in my life. Not too long ago, due to custody issues, I wasn’t allowed to see my sons for long periods of time, or was given the chance to see them for only a few hours with no idea of if or when I’d see them again. I can’t describe how trying those days were, fighting for full custody while also working as a professional basketball player nine months of the year. I just knew I wanted to be with my kids.

I was seriously motivated to be a full-time parent for my sons. My mother and father weren’t together when I was a kid growing up in Chicago, and early on my mother fell victim to drug abuse. At 9 years old, I moved in with my father because my mother could no longer care for me. Looking back, I now see so many similarities between my own childhood and that of my sons. My father stepped in when I needed him, and that gave me the chance for a better life. That’s what I’m doing for my boys now.

All children need their fathers, but boys especially need fathers to teach them how to be men. I remember wanting that so badly before I went to live with my dad. I wanted someone to teach me how to tie a tie and walk the walk, things only a man can teach a boy. Of course, back then, I never could have imagined being in the same situation someday with my own kids. My dad and I bumped heads a lot—we were so alike, both of us born competitors. My older son, Zaire, is exactly the same way. We’ll battle on the court when I’m 39 and he’s 19. He’s 9 now, and he’s grown up with basketball. Zion could take it or leave it, which is cool by me.

Today, I constantly tell my dad how much I appreciate what he did for me. I think you really have to become a parent to understand what you will endure to be there for your kids. I could say I was surprised at the criticism I received for traveling from Miami to Chicago so often during the regular season for my custody court cases, but nothing really surprises me anymore. I had a duty to fight to be with my kids, and I did it.

Thankfully, I’ve gotten a lot of support from my mother, sister, and others in taking care of my boys and making their new living arrangements a smooth and happy transition. Going forward, I want my sons to have a healthy relationship with their mother, and that’s something we’re working on. I hope to have a great relationship with her one day too, because I know how much it meant to me to see my parents get along as time went on.

I can’t say what we’ll do for Father’s Day, because since my sons came to live with me about two months ago, every day has been like Father’s Day. I just want people—men, and men of color in particular—to hear my story and know that their children need them and that it’s their responsibility to be there for them. We have to step up as men and do our part. There are no excuses.

Dwayne Wade is a guard for the Miami Heat and was recently appointed by President Obama to a new parenting program geared toward encouraging fathers to become more involved in their children’s lives.

(via Newsweek)