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Have a seat, and rest your mind, while I use these words like a blanket to keep you warm from any icy insecurities, chilly concerns, or freezing and frigid frowns. This website, this blog, and this community are always safe places for you and were built to keep you comfortable.
The letter ‘S’ is for Success and the steps it will take to achieve your success. You could also think about the letter S as Star. Since failure is like the darkness of night, and because it must be dark to see the stars, I also equate success to you. Therefore, the letter S also stands for Star and the star that you are.
Albert Einstein was someone who achieved success and lived a successful life. When I was little, besides Martin Luther King, I was fascinated by Albert Einstein. What was funny was that when my hair grew into an afro (which was fashionable at the time), my hair didn’t grow evenly. My hair grew faster on the top and slower on the sides, and many kids made fun of how my hair grew. When I looked at my hair and pictures of Albert Einstein, I tried to create an excuse for why my hair grew that way. “Maybe it grows this way because I’m smart like Mr. Einstein,” I thought. When my grandmother told me I could be a scientist, I said, “A scientist like Albert Einstein?” She said, “Quartus, can’t be Albert Einstein because your name isn’t Albert Einstein. Your name is Quartus, so you can be Quartus, the scientist. Besides, you definitely have the hair for it.” Then, we looked at each other and laughed.
Albert Einstein was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for physics in 1921. The core of his life’s work was embedded in physics. He won the Nobel Prize for his explanation of the photoelectric effect. Albert Einstein also had a substantial impact on the development of atomic energy. Undoubtedly, he was an intelligent man beyond his space and time. I read an article about Albert Einstein. The article states that one day, Albert Einstein was traveling from Princeton on a train.
When passengers ride a train, the conductor walks from car to car and checks tickets. When he checks the ticket, and uses a hand-held device to punch the ticket. After the conductor punches the ticket, that’s proof that you have paid and you have access and can remain on the train until you reach your destination. You'd be forced to exit the train at the next stop if you don’t have a ticket and can’t pay the fee. When Einstein saw the conductor coming down the aisle, he reached for his vest pocket to get his ticket. He felt inside his pocket and realized it wasn’t there, so he started checking everywhere. He checked his trouser pockets and briefcase but couldn’t find the ticket anywhere. "The conductor said, “Dr. Einstein, I know who you are. We all know who you are. I'm sure you bought a ticket. Don't worry about it.” Einstein nodded appreciatively. The conductor continued down the aisle, punching tickets. As he departed for the next car, he turned around and saw Albert on his hands and knees. The conductor rushed back and said, 'Dr. Einstein, Dr. Einstein, don't worry, I know who you are; no problem. You don't need a ticket. I'm sure you bought one. Einstein looked at him and said, “Young man, I too know who I am. What I don't know is where I'm going." The conductor learned a lesson from Albert Einstein that day. You might know who you are and where you’ve been, but you can’t achieve success unless you know where you are going.
A Success story and a confession
About 15 years ago, I applied for a position. Not just any position, but a position directly working for a President and CEO of a large organization. An organization that had hundreds of thousands of personnel training and working in it. Before I even applied, I did my homework. I researched the organization, and at the time, I could tell you the mission and vision statements from memory. I even learned when it was created and could recite the historical importance behind the motto and the insignia. I paced back and forth on my breaks, practiced in the mirror while shaving, and practiced reciting answers to possible questions during the job interview. Not only did I research, but I took the time to know the CEO’s executive staff. They were all great people, and I got to know them really well. Some of them are still friends to this day. I also studied the CEO’s philosophy, watched him make decisions, and realized that working for him would be an honor and a privilege to learn from him. My current job at the time enabled me to work close to the CEO so that I could witness his leadership first-hand. In the Military, we were usually addressed by our rank and last name, but when leaders got to know me, they asked me to tell them my first name. This CEO did that too. Once I told him my first name, that was how he addressed me. Not only was he a phenomenal person, but he also treated people right, openly respected his wife, and showed that he cared about his family. The CEO was a great person and was liked by all who knew him. I was beyond impressed. When I found out the position was opening soon, I applied and submitted my application. I even talked with the person in the current position to see if I had a chance. He told me I should apply and have the requisite values, work ethic, and dedication to replace him. Since he cared about his boss, he explained how he prepared him for meetings and what he did to ensure his day went smoothly. As the day of the interview became closer, I felt confident. I believed that I would be selected for the position beyond a shadow of a doubt. I was going to leave my current job. In fact, my replacement had already been selected, so I was preparing to transition. I was so focused on getting selected, that I didn’t even have a “Plan B.” I even started getting things ready for my new job. “The interview,” I thought, “is just a formality.
The long awaited interview
I will never forget the day of the interview. It was outside, and it was a bright sunny day. I thought, “Even the weather is on my side. What a great day to be selected for a new job.” The CEO was in between events, so I was told to wait in a specific area so we could walk and talk after the speaking engagement. When he walked up, I immediately saluted as per Military protocol. Then, I was ready to answer his every question and include the mission or vision statement in my answer. I had every custom, courtesy, tradition, and heritage on the tip of my tongue. He returned the salute, said, “Hey, Lionel!” and put his arm on my shoulder. I felt elated, motivated, and excited. After that, I’m not exactly sure what he said, but I felt like he had just punched me in the gut. Then, I actually put my hand on my stomach to make sure. I stopped in my tracks and turned to look at him because I wanted to ensure he wasn’t joking. When I looked at him, he was squinting his eyes because the sun was so bright, and he was serious. He was dead serious, and it was not a joke. He was talking, but I couldn’t hear any words, and I felt dizzy and disappointed. I went on to tell him how much I respected him and wanted to work for him. I was anxious to learn from him, and I told him that. I was honest, and I really really meant it. He explained that the decision had nothing to do with my not being qualified. I finally said, “Sir, I just want to be successful, and I want to be successful with you!” He stopped, smiled, tilted his head, and said, “Lionel, you are already successful.” Then, he started listing some of the things that I had done. It seemed like he had researched my career as much as I had studied his. Then, he said, “Listen to me. You are already successful, and you will continue to be successful. You don’t need me to do that. I appreciate you for saying that, but you don’t need me. You are going to continue to be successful. You need to stop and think about where you want to go. Then focus, go for it. You’re getting yourself side-tracked. Think back. What do you want to be? Why are you here, and where are you trying to go?” Being a busy man, he had no more time to talk. He needed to go, and his staff told him he was running late. They smiled, exchanged pleasantries, and walked away.
I was left feeling stunned. I thought, “He told me I was already successful. Not only that, but he said that I would become even more successful." Then, I went from good thoughts, to bad thoughts, to sad thoughts. "I just got rejected. I didn’t get the job. I had put all of my eggs in one basket. Now, what am I going to do?” I thought back to when I had told my soldiers, “If you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail!” It seemed that I should’ve listened to my own advice. Now, I had mixed emotions. I was disappointed that I didn’t get selected for the position. On the other hand, I felt anxious about my next job and hopeful from the encouraging words of an influential CEO. As I reflected on his words, I realized that seemed that I had gotten into my own way, lost my sense of gratitude, and had forgotten how far I had come to get there. Feeling like a wounded soldier in battle, I sat down to think. I thought about his words, “Think back. What do you want to be?”
Looking back into the rearview mirror of success
My mind went back to when I was eight years old and thought about my dream of faith. When I was young, I read books a lot. I liked books so much that my mother and father decided to build me a little bookshelf. I would sit by my bookshelf and would read and read. My books would keep me company. My books would take me to faraway places, and my books would comfort me when I felt alone. When I was eight years old, I wrote my name on the spine of an old book. I hugged that book in one arm and hugged my globe with the other. Then, I cried and prayed that I would one day write a book that would help people all over the world. When I read the information about the authors who wrote the books that I read, they were all gifted writers. They had won awards, had long, illustrious careers, and were accomplished. I realized that before I could write a book, I would need to live a little. I would need to experience life. I would need to achieve success.
I realized that success is not about the destination but the journey and this rejection was part of the journey. I realized that I would need to get up, dust myself off, and continue to walk along the path of my journey. This would be another story in the book of my life. I figured the only way I could grasp that this was only a setback was I needed to start writing down everything that happened due to this rejection. The only way I could make a come-back is to realize all the good that would come out of this bad situation. So I started writing down everything that happened after that. What I realized was that setback set me up for success. Do you know why? When I looked at my notes and connected those dots, I realized that rejection created a series of wonderful events. Regarding success, it is vital to start with the end in mind. If you are not focused, you may find success in a way you never imagined.
Take inventory of your rucksack before you set off on your road march towards success
Early in my career, a soldier put the extra gear into another soldier's rucksack. None of us knew until the road march was over. The soldier wanted to finish the road march faster than the other soldier. When he did, he joked and bragged, to everyone else, that he did it. He didn’t get the response that he thought that he would get. So we told the soldier that it was wrong. His poor choices caused undue suffering and maybe even permanent bodily harm. After that, we added a new process. The new approach would involve weighing each other’s backpacks because we didn’t want that to happen again.
I believe that everyone carries their own emotional rucksack in life. The word rucksack is a German loanword. In German, Rücken means "back," and Sack means "bag." In the Army, Soldiers use rucksacks to hold all the necessities required to survive in combat and through adverse conditions.
In our emotional rucksacks, we have a bunch of things. These things are the stuff that we need to survive. Some stuff we were born with. We can’t change our genetics or how much money our parents made. Those inherited traits, and environmental factors, are beyond our control. However, some things we have stuffed inside our rucksacks. We have put them in there all by ourselves. Theoretically, the stuff that we put in is all the decisions we have made. Good choices are like helium balloons which are lighter in weight. Good decisions make it easier for us. The bad choices are heavy. The mistakes weigh us down. The truth is, no matter how heavy or light, it’s no one else’s job to carry it for us. It’s our job to carry our rucksack. We have to carry this rucksack throughout our life.
In the Army, soldiers don’t leave their comrades behind, so we have battle buddies to walk with us to encourage us in troubled times. The battle-buddies help us find the way back home when we get lost in unknown territory, on a training exercise, or in the heat of combat. When soldiers are off duty, battle-buddies talk with us when we feel lost. Battle-buddies take the keys, so we don’t drink and drive. They are also the extra set of eyes when we are out and about in the various cities and towns. Battle-buddies do many things for each other, but one of the things that they don’t like to do is carry someone else’s rucksack. It’s ok to hold it for a short time, but if we carry it for an extended period, we are enabling them. We need each other to be strong.
Besides the environmental factors we can’t control, and the decisions we make, are the things that we let other people stuff inside our emotional rucksacks. As you read these words, you remember a situation when someone said something mean to you. For no reason at all, someone said something about your appearance, and you listened to it. What made it even worse was that you believed it. When we listen to the bad things people say about us, we let other people put stuff in our rucksacks. That’s not right because we don’t deserve it.
I don’t think that it’s not right for anyone to put their foot on someone else’s rucksack, either. You might remember when you were trying really hard to do something, and someone laughed at you. You weren’t doing anything wrong. You were trying to make an accomplishment. You were making an improvement in your life. That other person, the person who laughed, put their foot on your rucksack. When they did that, it made it harder for you to move. When we see someone struggling to stand up from a setback, don’t ridicule them, bully them, taunt them, or belittle them. Hindering someone else from walking along their personal road march doesn’t make us more successful. When we do this, we’re bringing everyone down. Similarly, if someone does this to you, don’t listen to them. Don’t let them put that garbage into your
emotional rucksack. You don’t deserve it. So what do you do when you see someone trying to put some heavy trash in your rucksack? Turn around, and tell them to stop! You can’t control them, but let them leave that garbage in their hand. They are who they are, but you can stop them from putting things in your rucksack!
After praying with my book and the globe when I was eight, I realized that I needed to come up with a plan to write the book so that I could help people all over the world. After brainstorming for two years, I still didn’t know what I wanted to be or what I would do to write the book. So when I was ten years old, I realized I liked to write. So I thought, “Maybe I could write music.” I also felt that I could be an actor because I would spin my globe, stop the globe from turning with my finger and use a voice that would correspond with that area. Speaking with an impersonation, I would act like I was someone else saying how much they liked Quartus and how much they liked my book. For example, I would use a different voice and say, “I met Quartus, and I love his book! He is smart and funny, and you should buy his book too!”
One day, I told my plan to someone who I respected, loved, and adored. I said, “I like to write, so maybe I can write music. Or maybe I could be an actor. I like to use different voices.” As I continued to explain, the person said, “Quartus, you can’t do that. Quartus, you don’t have the look.” I was stunned. I didn’t ask, but I wondered, “What is the look? What is the look, and why don’t I have it? What’s wrong with me? Why do I have to look this way? God, why did you do this to me?!”
It took me a long time, but I realized that success comes in many shapes and sizes. Success isn’t always skinny, muscular, or picture-perfect. Many people think they will be successful when they lose fifty, ten, or five more pounds. Some believe they will succeed when their bicep reaches a specific diameter or lift twenty more pounds. Some people think their conquest will be conquered after cosmetic surgery. I want to tell you something that took me years to learn. We are all
different. We also know that even identical twins have differences. We know that we look different, think differently, have different ideas, and like different things. And guess what? That’s ok. In other words, we all have “the look.”
We have our own individual, specific, and personalized look. The look that we are supposed to have. Why? Because we have all been uniquely created and creatively designed by a God who doesn’t make mistakes, and we were made with the intention to be perfectly imperfect, and our uniqueness was deliberately decided. Other people might not understand your vision because they don’t have your eyes. Without eyes, a person can’t see, so don’t expect someone else to be able to see your dream or your aspiration. If we were designed to be unique, with unique ideas, hopes, and dreams, then why should our success be any different than that? There has been no one else in the history of the world who has been like you, and there will never ever be another you from now until the end of time. So with firm conviction, without question, without denial, without any outside persuasion- be you. Be the undeniable, the wonderful, the fantastic, the amazing- you!
As I close this blog post, I will tell you what I say to myself every day: “The best of my life is the rest of my life!” And just like it’s waiting for me, it’s waiting for you! So live your life, love your life, and enjoy the journey. You were uniquely created and creatively designed by a God who doesn’t make mistakes. You are so important that if you tell me that you want to keep reading, I will keep writing for you! If so, I will meet you here next time!
Until then, please take care, be safe, and be well.
Kindest and sincerest regards,
Lionel Quartus Lowery II