To middle, high school and college students, including those of you who are in trouble, and see no hope in life: Navigating the long and winding road of life will not always be easy, comfortable or predictable. You will best serve yourself by knowing the following things up front:
1. Those who increase their chances of success and fulfillment are those that constantly plan and make contingencies for detours in life.
2. It is your life. At some point, you must decide your calling. It is usually the one thing you LOVE to do, are good at doing, and that brings you feelings of achievement. Do not live someone else’s dream or listen to what others say. Find out what YOU want to do with your life.
3. Do not expect tons of support, even from friends and family. Everyone is doing their best to manage their own lives and challenges and may not have the resources, time, or inclination to assist you. There will be times when YOU must be your number one and even only supporter. Do not feel sour about this or resentful toward those you feel should help you. Your mother didn’t hug you enough? Your dad wasn’t there? Work through it! Be sensitive to everyone’s situation and grateful for whatever help they do provide. USE this situation as motivation to work smarter and harder. Most of our people will tend to lend support AFTER they see evidence of your success and motivation.
4. There is NO SUCH THING AS JOB/CAREER STABILITY. This is an illusion. Nothing is truly stable. The molecules in a bowling ball, skyscraper and piano are constantly in motion. Change is a part of life. If you work for someone else, he or she can fire you or lay you off at their discretion. And if you are self-employed, your success is often influenced by outside forces like the economy and societal values. Your best hope is to truly MASTER your profession/calling from the academic and work experience perspectives, build viable networks/contacts, and establish a reputation of being fair, professional, and excellent at what you do.
5. Establish MENTORS in your field. Mentors are older people who’ve mastered a particular field and who are accomplished in that field. They will advise you and teach you things you won’t learn in school, introduce you to important people and opportunities, and save you years of wasted time and energy. When you find such people, humble yourself and learn all you can. If you have none, research and find some IMMEDIATELY!
6. Suffer with dignity. There will be times in life when your plans don’t go as expected. You might find yourself broke, with nowhere definite to live, or not as successful as you planned to be. These times provide you with some of your most important lessons and insights about you and life in general. Don’t wear your struggles on your sleeve. Keep your head up, stay persistent, be grateful for your blessings, resist the temptation to complain all the time, and keep your eyes on the prize you want. There are no shortcuts.
7. Be exceedingly judicious with your time and money. Don’t get into the self-defeating habits of wasting either. Instead, train yourself to wisely invest them into people, organizations and activities that will pay off later.
8. Be like the turtle. Take your time, be soft on the inside but hard on the outside and willing when necessary, to stick your neck out.
Agyei Tyehimba is an educator, activist and author from Harlem, N.Y. Agyei is a former NYC public schoolteacher, co-founder of KAPPA Middle School 215 in the Bronx, NY, and co-author of the Essence Bestselling book, Game Over: The Rise and Transformation of a Harlem Hustler, published in 2007 by Simon & Schuster. In April of 2014, he released Truth for our Youth: A Self-Empowerment Book for Teens. Agyei has appeared on C-Span, NY1 News, and most recently on the A&E documentary, “The Mayor of Harlem: Alberto ‘Alpo’ Martinez.” Mr. Tyehimba is a professional consultant and public speaker providing political advice and direction for Black college student organizations, community activist groups, and nonprofit organizations. If you are interested in bringing Agyei to speak or provide consultation for your organization, please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.