Famous people and common folk alike often compare life to a roller-coaster ride: It has ups and downs and frequently occurs at neck-breaking speed, leaving us feeling reckless and out of control.
Regardless of our intelligence, age, or past accomplishments, life will sometimes have us feeling lost and despaired. However wisdom (accurate knowledge plus the ability to apply it successfully) can help us maintain balance – or at least recover quickly – through the most turbulent times.
What follows are a few powerful words of wisdom that can serve us well, particularly if we apply them to our lives:
1. “Mind your business”: We often use this expression in frustration, and at these moments; we are basically advising people to stay out of our affairs. But the saying goes deeper than that. Rather than being an insult or warning, it simply reminds us to pay close attention to our own affairs so that we can be successful.
2. “It is better to light a candle than it is to curse the darkness.” This Chinese proverb encourages us to focus on solving our problems rather than complaining or getting stuck in frustration mode.
3. “Charity begins at home.” A reminder that we take care of the issues and people closest to us, as we seek to make an impact on the larger community or world in which we live.
4. “A jack of all trades is a master of none.” Most of us are complex people with several interests and skills. We are curious about various things. This is fine. However, scattered energy is not as powerful as focused energy. Even in our world of multitasking, we gain more proficiency, productivity and success when we concentrate on developing mastery of one thing rather than squandering our time and effort in several different directions.
5. “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” More than just a clever play on words, this speaks to the power of making choices and defending or honoring them. Neutrality has its place, but the practice of forming informed opinions involves research and reflection…practices that also guard us against being duped or misled.
6. “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” We might debate the accuracy of inventor Thomas Edison, but the point is clear. Consistently high-caliber performance and extraordinary outcomes are not simply a matter of having an occasional epiphany; more often than not, and almost without exception, such things stem from constant work (study, practice). Identity any entertainer, athlete,or person successful or acclaimed at anything, and you will discover that they’ve invested thousands of hours practicing and/or studying in private. Even those we deem highly creative or innovative spend vast amounts of time reflecting on problems and experimenting with various ideas and techniques.
7. “It takes a village to raise a child.” This proverb from ancient Ghana is timeless, which explains its overuse. It reminds us that the proper preparation and development of children or any worthwhile project usually requires a collaborative effort. Interestingly, the inverse is also true: It takes a village to destroy a child as well, which reminds us to build strong, viable communities.
8. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Dr. King’s insightful statement reminds us to think universally/globally, not just on the micro or local level. If oppression is wrong when practiced against one segment of the population, it is equally unjust and inhumane when applied to others as well. In fighting cites/practices of oppression, we must remember to see linkages and intersections beyond the struggles we immediately identify. Not only should we guard against isolating social justice struggles, but King reminds us to guard against becoming oppressive ourselves. Various historical examples demonstrate how revolutionary figures overthrow oppressive regimes only to become oppressive dictators themselves.
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.”
Agyei earned his Bachelor’s Degree in sociology from Syracuse University, his Master’s Degree in Africana Studies from Cornell University, and his Master’s Degree in Afro-American Studies from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
If you are interested in bringing Agyei to speak or provide consultation for your organization, please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.