I’ll Make Your Name Great

 Greatness comes from within. Meaningful actions, allow others to witness it.

The enemy of good is great” is how Jim Collins opens one of my favorite books entitled From Good to Great.  All throughout that book he demonstrates how we as people settling for what’s good, or considered all right has too often become the norm.  In fact, I’d argue that there’s more greatness available, because so many have decided that being just a little bit better than the man or woman next to them will suffice.  So many people do not tap into their potential for a variety of reasons by which we must overcome.  Well the concepts that surround how to define, how to uncover, how to live greatness are not just reserved to Collins in his book. In a few events I’ve been paying close attention to, I was reminded that becoming great seems to follow a very unique formula and I wanted to try and unpack what’s been running through the waves of my mind for a few weeks now.

It is no secret that I’m a man of faith, and I enjoy the peace and privilege that my faith has brought me thus far in my life.  I often use the Bible as a reference for my blogs because let’s be honest there’s some pretty good material in there whether you believe in God/Christ or not. The writers of that text were certainly divinely inspired even though the context of the material can be sometimes construed. (Another topic, another blog).  As it relates to greatness, God uses all kinds of people throughout the Bible to prove points, prove His power, solidify his sovereignty, and most importantly demonstrate His Love.  But what many people don’t realize is other than Jesus, He doesn’t use ‘perfect’ or likely people to get these things accomplished.  My pastor shared a quote with me many years ago when I first moved to Houston, “God doesn’t call the perfect, He perfects… the called.” – MDC.   That by far has resonated so powerfully with me, because for one it’s true, and two… I’m not perfect. So it reassured me that I could somehow still be used even though I’m a pretty messed up guy. All of us have our flaws, but I’ve been amazed at how one small thing about us, or one decision made by us can be used to literally redirect and retransform how our lives are shaped up. I keep hold of my faith, because all the examples of the ‘giants’ in the text are all people that were by all accounts just average, and by some orchestrating became leaders, kings, rules, disciples by a means that could only be by a higher power.

First I noticed that what happens first in a make your name great situation is (drum roll please) …. God tells us. As simple as that. Starting with Abram, and further examples with Simon, Joseph, Daniel, Saul and many more He tells or shows them that He will make their names greats for many a generation. Sounds pretty harmless, right? Sure. However, God is not saying I’m going to make you great doing what you already do or are doing. I have another plan lined up that’s beyond anything that you could ever imagine. Now this is where things get ominous. In the examples of above I gave their ‘former’ names before God called them to a higher place. We know that God changes the names of these giants to align with what He has planned for them. He shifts what they will be called by men and women to prophecy what He has called them to do.  Abram to Abraham, and Simon to Peter, Saul to Paul. He had to change their identify before He could use them fully.

Next, I noticed, that God ALWAYS asks or forces us out of our comfortable situation.   Saul a powerful king, Daniel a pretty savvy Shepherd’s boy, Simon a known fisherman. He tells us in order for me to make your name great, you will have to sacrifice some of the vices or pleasures of your current situation.  Just like these giants, we have to trust God that His ways are indeed higher than ours. And that our greatness just may not be in the very things we went to school for, the very things we are known or even not known for, or even in wrongful persecution. What is consistent in how God takes us from Good to Great is He takes us from a situation and sets us on an unimaginable path. These paths most of the time make no sense. They are rough and misleading.  They cause us to be persecuted by those we have always known and love, they cause us to be talked about by those we’ve never met. They sometimes cause us to be thrown in prison like Martin or Malcolm, or Mandela or Joseph, or even most recently… Kalief Browder. They may also cause us to lose our job and be black balled, you know like Colin Kaepernick.  After changing our names, and asking us to leave our day jobs, God has the audacity to grab us by the collar and allow us to be dragged through some extremely hateful, uncomfortable, and quite frankly scary circumstances. Yep that’s Him. In fact, the more I study the stories of Great people, they always seem to follow this unique path.    You have this idea of what you THINK your life will be, God steps in tells you something unimaginable, changes your identity, and many times removes you from what you THOUGHT might be your claim to fame.

I was inspired to write this after two major events occurred in the past weeks.  I watched the full documentary of Kalief Browder, and Kaepernick was named GQ’s citizen of the year.  Now starting off with Kap, I wrote an article earlier in the year stating why I wouldn’t boycott the NFL, although I’ve truly enjoyed watching the league fall apart as they have refused to deal with the issues at hand. I later made a statement on how I believed that Kaepernick would do more good as an ex-NFL player than he ever would coming back out of retirement. I do indeed know that this man LOVES the game of Football, and it gave him the very platform that he has today. But, now Kaepernick is a globally recognizable household name. For being brave enough to risk his own career, because the cause was bigger than the sport that he loved and played all his life.  Reminds me of Simon, now called Peter.   Simon was KNOWN for his skill in his career as a fisherman. He probably even told people that he’d be in the Super Bowl of fishermen if there ever was one.  However, even He was approached with an opportunity that said I’m changing your name to Peter, (Petros) rock. And upon you I’m going to build my entire church. WHEW…  Colin, if you ever read this, I believe that same opportunity has been put on your table.   Football is a cool sport, and there’s NO doubt that you are skilled, and no doubt you may have been a hall of fame great. However, when you mentioned it’s bigger than football you were speaking your own prophecy into fruition.  And because you were brave enough to do that, you brought about a national conversation about not only Police Brutality, but Racism in a larger spectrum, and even uncovered some hidden racist within your own professional league.  This sir took bravery.  Being called everything but a child of God, and because of that your name is on the lips of those who may have never known your football ability, but will know you because of your sacrifice of it to help improve the lives of the least of these.

In another story with Kalief Browder, it’s a little more disheartening as there’s two parts to his story that both inspire and disappoint me. For those that don’t know the story of Kalief Browder, I’d encourage you to go watch the short series on Netflix before continuing with this blog. (Seeing that it’s almost the end you probably won’t do it anyway).

Let me make it short:  Browder was wrongfully accused of stealing a backpack from a man in his neighborhood. He was thrown into prison on Riker’s island and not given a trial for a couple of years. He refused to take a guilty plea as he knew he was innocent (and he was for the record).  During his time there, he was subject to the violence being jumped many times, beat up by corrections officers, and put into solitary confinement. And not just put in there for a few days, but a couple years. With a combined 1,111 days in prison, He eventually was exonerated when the state was unable to produce the witness who had by this time went back to Mexico. But what happens when a 16 year old boy that’s been in solitary confinement is brought back into the world?  Well he can’t function. Family members mentioned they didn’t even recognize him as he came home, not in physical appearance but in his personality and spirit. That many days of no human contact had crushed him mentally in ways that are synonymous with a caged animal.  Of course, his family led a law suit against the state. During this time Browder was attacked and his face sliced, because those in the area thought he now had money when he in fact didn’t.  Shortly after, he woke up one morning spoke to all those in his family and then hung himself outside his bedroom window. And the story ended with the lawsuit never being settled, as his mother died later from a heart attack.

Now I use this man as an example of good to great, because who knew what Kalief may have ever become. But I truly believe he had to have had a strong relationship with God to get through each and every day in that jail being innocent.   I mentioned earlier Nelson and Malcolm and Martin and Joseph all characters from decades on earth that were jailed because of false charges brought up against them BUT it was being strong in those times of wrongful accusations that brought attention to a wider issue.  I’m pretty sure Kalief did not grow up saying I want to lead criminal justice reform, but that’s precisely what his life did.  Not only that, but it brought attention to the larger problem that we do not value black and brown lives in our country.  It brought light to how the love of a mother for her child can help her withstand a heart disease that should have killed her years and months before it did.  This story literally brought me to tears and I had to pause one episode because it was extremely overwhelming.  But I also believe each and everything happens for reason. And I had to ask myself why. Kalief Browder is now added to a list of heroes of mine.  I can’t say for any other reason that I may have known him but for his bravery to not plead guilty and live out his days trusting God and the process.

Well what do all these people have in common, and what does it have to do with you? Well many of us have hit a part in our lives where we are wrestling with our gift or our calling or purpose in this world.  I want to share these stories, to try and identify God’s methods of assisting us to fulfill His purpose for our lives. It’s first prophetic telling and/or showing us what’s to come. Next, it’s reidentification through alchemy. Literally taking our raw, unrefined selves and giving us a new name a new means by which to be known by.  After that, He then calls us away from the very things we have made our idols. It might be our families, our hobbies, our jobs, etc. Now don’t be mistaken, he could very well use the skills and passion you had towards those things, but this will be on a larger stage. Once you get to this point, you truly have to strengthen your faith and trust the process. The road from good to great with God isn’t always a 1 or 2-year process. It might be a lifetime of process, and a moment of greatness that lives beyond your life for many generations. Allow yourself to be used for the greater good outside of your realm of life. Whether you identify with Simon-Peter, or Joseph, or Daniel, or Colin, or Kalief, realize that there’s something bigger in store for you than you could ever imagine.

My theme for 2017 is “Pushing Limits 10X Effort” and it’s aligned to the scripture ‘Eyes have not seen, nor ear heard, nor entered into the heart of man, the good[great] things God has in store for them that love Him.” I Corinthians 6:9.   This tells me that if I can dream it or think it, there’s something even greater than THAT in store for my life.   Growing up I wanted to be a millionaire, but that’s too easy that’s too simple for what’s supposed to be of my life. Be willing to expect more out of God, and not limit him to earthly pleasures as ‘great demonstrations of His power.’   He can blink and give you kingdoms, but molding you into a beacon of light that will make this world brighter even for our God takes time. And it takes time because He loves you, and He loves you because He made you. And because He made you, He’s working to make you all He’s designed you to be. Trust the process. The greatness is IN you, let Him bring it out.

 

. With Passion, Purpose, and Pride,

 

Trent J ACEO

 

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Every Knee Shall Bow | To Boycott the NFL or Nah? – August 2017

 

For some time, I’ve contemplated how I was going to articulate my thoughts on this rhetoric of protesting the NFL in response to Quarter back, Colin Kaepernick remaining unsigned by any of the 32 NFL teams in this 17-18 football season. I have seen an outpour of backlash, name-calling, and hatred from individuals polarized on both sides as they express their views or stances on why they will or will not protest the NFL. I’ve read through numerous articles trying to gather some history and feedback on the issue before I comment, and would like to provide a few premises on how I’ve reached my personal decision.

Premise # 1 –  Kap’s goal was to spark conversations around the country about oppressed African Americans and police brutality.

Kap most certainly accomplished this. In no interview that I’ve found did he ever say by kneeling he was going to fix the problem, however he passionately expressed how the stories affected him and how he was going to take his position to stand with those that may not have a voice. All throughout the 2016-2017 season people were talking about police brutality with their families, friends, co-workers, churches, and communities. Hats off to Kap, this was not an easy feat to accomplish as criticism continued to come at every side. Moreover, I commend the work he was already doing and continues to do in local communities serving those in need.

Premise #2 –  Kap was not alone in his protest.

Safety Eric Reid, finally joined Kap after about 4-5 games of kneeling to side with his teammate during the kneeling/sitting during the display of the colors and singing of the National Anthem. It’s extremely important to note that at this point, the protest became bigger than just the QB and would grow to other NFL players, College Players, High School players of many races, teams, and backgrounds.  He literally sparked a national outcry for conversation by sitting down and demanding people to have the “hard conversations” as we call them at work.

Premise # 3 – Kap is not a bad football player.

Despite many individuals using this as an excuse as to why he hasn’t been signed. It’s pretty obvious that Kap does not suck. Is he the best in the league? Not by far. However, his skill is something that is still something that could be valuable to many teams if put with the right programs and coaching staff. However, how many of us can think of someone on our job that is extremely talented, but because of how they act, or their energy have decided not to work with someone because it might disrupt the work environment. These are things we deal with every day.

Premise # 4 – A lack of an inclusive environment and attention to social issues by the NFL Foundation has created a sport tone-deaf to what’s going on in the communities they say they are serving. And pumped fear into the very NFL players that help make them rich.

In an interview with Aaron Rodgers in August of 2016, it was made obvious by one of the leagues most talented and popular quarterbacks at the NFL was not a place to take a stance, comment on social and political issues, simply because they were afraid of backlash from the league. It’s one thing to hear this from popular black players, but very insightful hearing this from Rodgers himself. He too is making it obvious that the ability to bring your whole self to the NFL is not a luxury provided to the players without some kind of backlash. Praising the NBA for how they have created an inclusive atmosphere throughout the league in the interview.

Premise # 5 – Viewership of the NFL has been drastically falling year after year in just about every demographic measured.

This is a hard fact for the NFL.  In this article studying the demographics of viewers of the NFL Viewership in the NFL viewership from women, men, African American, White, Asian, and Hispanic are shown over the past 4 years to be in an overwhelming decline. They attributed this to many theories Kap, domestic violence, and even poor programming (in an attempt to give smaller market teams more airtime). However, the more realistic items noticed is the move from cable to streaming, and the Dallas Cowboys losing to Green Bay. (not really, I’m just still upset about that game…. As a Dallas Native!)

 

OK, so there are some hard facts about this situation that I gathered as I sat back and tried to decide what in the world am I going to do this season while the NFL commences its 2017-2018 season. What do I think about those that have chosen to boycott? So here it is:

Until more of the NFL Players make it their priority to demand the entity they work for and contractually in agreement with to create an inclusive environment protecting their rights to be individuals first and members of a team second, I will not protest.

And reviewing the premises above this is why:

I haven’t seen one article or statement or interview showing Kap has called for a protest against the NFL for his unfair treatment and essentially being blackballed by owners across the league. How can I say the NFL is such a terrible foundation and have treated Kap so unfairly and yet, he’s still a free agent and not retired?  It’s extremely hard for me to care more about someone else’s means of employment than they do. There are those boycotting the NFL, as he’s still actively seeking a means to get back in. As highlighted by Aaron Rodgers, many of the players are there to play football and choose their own methods to fight social injustice, and build up the communities they come from in a myriad of ways. We’ve made very popular the pre-school to prison pipeline for many young men of color, but we also forget there is also a pop-warner to professional pipeline of select individuals that have worked their lives to attain the position they have today in professional sports. Now a recently released article highlighted that Marshawn Lynch, one of the most highly respected players in the league has decided to sit during the National Anthem during this 2017 – 2018 season, all while finding out that Kaepernick (if signed) will stand during the anthem, as well as those that joined him around the league will stand.

Requirement:   the NFL Players would need to unite themselves, before I can unite behind them.

Per all of the national marches, call for boycotts, and civil disobedience that has surfaced more aggressively over the past 2-3 years with Police Brutality coverage at an unprecedented high I’ve noticed a trend: We’re more passionate about protest, than prevention. It is so much more effective to be proactive, than reactive.  The NFL, up until recently a non-profit organization, will not fix the interactions between our communities and police. The thing many people have neglected to mention about boycotts is that they must act in a duality of form. Start and Stop.  It’s simple to say stop watching the NFL, but there has been no agreement on what the ask of the NFL will be, what the new activism will be towards having the conversations that Kap brought forth and the issues our communities are facing.  It’s like a diet, you KNOW what NOT to eat, but you won’t get the results that you’d like if you don’t START engaging in healthy active lifestyle.

Requirement:  the boycott would need to make clear demands of the NFL and a common action should take place in the place of the time and energy spent watching and supporting the NFL. (i.e. some large service projects during NFL games perhaps?)

The NFL is already in a decline of viewership, and despite popular opinion this money is something that’s more on the guaranteed side of their revenue streams and there would need to be a more strategic than a few Facebook posts and not supporting this 16 Week season. In order to make radical demands and change of the NFL, as spectators, it’s going to take intentional allies with groups that are likewise feeling the pain of oppression is a similar light.   Vets, fighting for our country and receiving terrible care by U.S. in all aspects, Women, who are the victims of so many domestic violence cases even by very own players of the NFL (that still end up finding a way to find a job), Hispanics who are in a unique position of being the largest growing supporter demographic and also subjects of black/brown injustice and oppression. Since I’m not seeing that type of protest overhaul, I don’t see it being something we can truly say will be effective in the long run. We have to make clear demands of the organization or they will simply reorganize their structure and continue as planned.  Look how the LGBTQ community made an impact as the NFL was preparing to move the Arizona Super Bowl to Tampa just a couple years ago.

Requirement:  Call for allies including but not limited to White women, Hispanics, and Africa Americans as the most polarizing non-white male viewers of the sport to join in a protest.

Lastly, I want to bring this protest home for some people. And there’s a notion that I’d like to dispel when it comes to the complex scenario.   At some point, we need to realize that just because these players are making substantially more than the average American we cannot expect it them to just up and leave their jobs by which they are contractually bound, and for many taking care of many levels of family by which we may never know.  If the truth be told many of us shop at stores and work for corporations that have demonstrated extreme discrimination and unjust practices for decades and we don’t “up and leave” because one person was treated unfairly in another department. Because we too have made it up in our minds that we are there to “get a check and keep it moving.” And in addition, we don’t trust that others will stand with us. We are afraid that we too will stand alone in trying to change the culture. We have to realize that standing alone has its consequences it’s been that way for decades. As stated earlier, hearing that Kap, if signed, will stand for the anthem as well as the players that joined him in the previous season is kind of a slap in the face. Football players have a very limited time to maximize their earning potential in the sport they have spent their lives playing.  Remember “secure the bag”. Many can do more with the money and influence off the field than they can do on. Similarly, we’re hired on our individual jobs to complete a task or create some type of unique value. Being unique and respected is a right we all have, but we do take the risk of losing that job if we engage in activities that prevent you from doing that job.

As millennials, we have a new outlook on what we want out of life, and for the most part are fueling a relative progressive ideal here in the United States. With collaboration fighting age-old cultures is a breeze, but we cannot for a second think just one group is going to get it done. I know I have not been called to lead a protest against the NFL nor plan to. So, this year I’ll be watching as the reasons provided in the aforementioned paragraphs. Again, I do highly respect those that have taken their stance in their way to show disapproval of the circumstances. Hopefully we can both coexist without spending hours bashing one another, and see the common ground to spark a revolution that truly does make it better for all.

 

I Love My HBCU MONTH!!!

I was contacted earlier in the year by my Alma Mater, Prairie View A&M University, requesting that they spotlight me as a noted Alum and express why I Loved my HBCU! How could I turn that down! DONATE TO PVAMU 

“PVAMU was the place where the plans God had for me(Jeremiah 29:11), were revealed. Not only did I receive a ‘First Class‘ education, but furthermore an unparalleled life-changing experience. In my tenure at MY HBCU, I both was humbled and stretched, educated and refined, challenged and most importantly empowered. This is Why I LOVE My HBCU.”

NOW, I’m asking that YOU JOIN ME in donating $18.76 in commemoration of the establishment of PVAMU to a designation of your choice! That’s less than $20!!!!

DONATE HERE

|#ShowSomeLovePV|

Trent Johnson ’11
Senior Consultant, Accenture

“PVAMU was the place where the plans God had for me,…

Posted by Prairie View A&M University on Friday, March 17, 2017

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The Power of Presence

 

Joking around with a few of my friends, my frat brother said to the group, “Oh you know Trent has mastered Law 16”, referring to the 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene, “Use absence to increase respect and honor.” Now, I’ve read the book some time ago and very familiar with this “Law”. But as I laughed, and began to think about it, I was struck with an analogy of this law that I couldn’t resist to explain.

Law 16: Use absence to increase Respect and Honor, 1 of the 48 Laws explained in detail by Greene is a unique one as it’s one of the few that I do naturally. Not necessarily because I’m looking to attain or acquire power, but I’m simply just a private person. I’ve always paraphrased this law by saying ‘Give people a chance to miss you, if you’re too available then your time won’t be respected.’ However, you go about it, the message is relatively the same. As my frat brother went on and on about giving his explanation of this law, I interjected: “Hey, that Law aligns with a fundamental nugget of Bible scripture.”  This immediately grabbed his attention as He and I frequently give personal testimonies or break downs of the Biblical text. “Go find the person and what He said…”  And the Challenge was on.

Shortly after he said, “A man can receive no respect in his own home”.  CORRECT! I exclaimed. But, who said this line (though paraphrased.).   He gave a few names, and I finally gave the final hint “It’s in red text.” Suddenly he replied “Jesus.”  But how could one compare a seemingly trivial law with a short line from the synoptic gospels.

Well in Mark 6, titled as “A Prophet without Honor” gives us the Scene of when Jesus returned to His hometown. And in the first few verses there’s murmurs from friends, and loved ones asking “isn’t this the carpenter”, “where is this Wisdom coming from”, in short truly questioning who and what Jesus, is IN THE MIDST of Him performing miracles. (Talk about lack of faith) This reminded me of how often those places we call ‘home’ and our Closest friends can be our greatest enemies. As we attempt to grow and experience new levels of life, they want to constantly remind us where we came from, and how low we used to be, and all the bad things we did together. Jesus was in a unique position to take them higher, and they were more concerned at the justification of His power. He shortly says after this “A Prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives, and in his own home.” Almost identical to the Law presented by us earlier in this text…. How sad it must be that even the savior of the world, was not respected, or honored during his time at home. In the physical sense, this aligns so greatly with that of the 16th Law.  However, there came to me a thought: “There’s even more here…”

Let’s look again at what we’ve went over.  “Use Absence to Increase Respect and Honor.” Hmm, as I thought on this over and over, I realized there was an even deeper meaning I could tie with Jesus and His life: The crucifixion. Jesus had to become absent of the body, to receive the true respect and honor he deserved. Mom used to say “You’ll never know what you had, until you lose it,” or, “You’ll miss me when I’m gone.”  I can’t help but to think that Christ was looking at these unbelievers with disbelief (pun intended) that even after these parables, divine teachings, and supernatural miracles they took His presence for granted. And in the case of the Sanhedrin they simply didn’t want to believe it at all. The Jews, people who looked like Him, and believed like Him, were the very ones that persecuted Him unto death. Because they took comfort and security in the ‘ways things had always been’ and the power structure in place they rejected any notion that this prophet, this Messiah had professed. Even the morbid march to Golgotha mirrored some of our present-day struggles.  As you begin to grow into who you were called to be, you can’t help but hear those around you mock you, tell you your dreams are outrageous, and how you’ve forgotten where you came from. Just like they did Jesus.

Alas, it was in the final moments of the late Friday when Jesus gave up the ghost and became temporarily ‘absent of the body’ that the temple veil tore, and the Earth shook and quaked. Immediately, the cries went from persecution to realization that “Surely He was the son of God.” But wait, you mean after 33 years of a miraculous life, fulfilling Bible-based prophecy, witnessing miracles, it took Jesus LEAVING earth for Him to get the respect His very name deserves? Wild…

Doesn’t matter how much you do for and around those that are most comfortable with your presence. When they become accustomed to it, they don’t and won’t always respect it. It’s good that we get out and go away at times, so maybe just maybe our time and presence can be fully appreciated. Sure, we can generate pages of exceptions to this concept, but in the most general sense too much of anything sparks complaints from even the most grateful. I mean think about the ‘omnipresence’ of God, always there both in the past and in the present both when we do good, and even when we find joy in doing wrong; reaffirming that there is most certainly power in presence, and just maybe, moreover, a lack thereof.

With Passion, Purpose, and Pride,

Trent J ACEO

And Many More: A Birthday Story

 

On February 11, 2017, I celebrated my 28th birthday.  I know I only look 21, but the truth is I’m now 28 years old.  As per usual, I received a phone call early in the morning from my grandmother wishing me a Happy Birthday as I did her just three days prior. It’s easy to remember her day, as we’re exactly 50 years apart and within 3 days.  As I got out of bed, I received phone calls from my mother and father, my uncle, my aunt and cousin. It’s almost like clockwork each year that I hear from them with their own unique Birthday wish. In addition to that, I started receiving text messages from friends and loved ones close and far even some abroad wishing Happy Birthday in their own local time zone. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, were buzzing all day long with notifications of individuals taking time out to wish me a good day on Feb 11th.

As the day progressed, I went to go workout which is my daily ritual anyhow and noticed that the notifications were still coming through; and phone calls, and memes and e-cards, and e-mails. It was becoming almost overwhelming as it was draining my battery.  As I traveled home to prepare for brunch with a few friends, I rushed  my phone to the ‘fast charge’ so I could make sure I had battery throughout the day. Trying to find a way to silence the notifications so I could simply have a functioning phone throughout the day. And then, it was at this moment that I recalled a situation that happened at church a few months prior:

On the Sunday’s our Young Adult Choir, Psalms of David, doesn’t sing I typically attend one of the earlier services 715 or 9am to be exact.  On the first Sunday of each month, our church: Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church, recognizes those that have Birthdays in that month. And sometimes even gives out gifts to those that are born on that day. Being part of the choir, we’re accustomed to standing and singing a corporate “Happy Birthday to You” almost carelessly before the congregation during this time each first Sunday. But this time, I was participating in worship from the pews.

On this particular Sunday, an older lady came down the row I was on and asked if anyone was sitting in the seat next to me, I replied “No” and she took her seat.  We exchanged some pleasantries before the service started and she mentioned that she wouldn’t be here long. Me being curious I asked, “why so…” She said, “Well, I attended the 7:15AM service but I arrived too late to be recognized for my birthday so I’m here at the 9am service so I can hear the church sing Happy Birthday to me.  You see, when you get my age, you don’t really get to have people sing Happy Birthday to you like in your younger days….”.

At this moment, I realized that I had taken hundreds of Happy Birthday wishes on my own day for granted. I recognized that there was a blessing in each call, text, or post on social media. I realized that it’s a blessing to be alive year after year, and have loved ones around you willing to take time out to wish you another year of life.  Something as simple as “Well, Happy Birthday,” is a proclamation of prosperity and joy in anyone’s life. Not to mention, it’s a reminder that each day is not promised and to be able to HEAR someone say Happy Birthday on this side of the grave is a gift of grace in and of itself!

So, with that being said, I have to express EXTREME gratitude to those that took ANY time to wish me a good day. And likewise, pray that we don’t get too busy or wrapped up to speak well wishes into anyone’s life. How could I forget that I’ve lost many friends and family young in life and expect people to ALWAYS be around. How could I be so worried about my phone battery, and not the outpouring of love that I was receiving.  It was truly a humbling moment because NO ONE had to speak to me, NO ONE had to wish me a Happy Birthday. And beyond that, most of the things I have in life I don’t truly deserve. Moreover, there are those in our lives that we can’t take for granted. Take the time to recognize and honor those around you even if you don’t personally know them.  You never know how a simple “Happy Birthday” could brighten someone on a day when just like my fellow pew-member felt completely unnoticed.

With Passion, Purpose, and Pride,

Trent J ACEO

 

Trump, Clinton & Digital Disruption – December 2016

 And on this episode of How to Get Away with Becoming President in America, we find out who will become the President-Elect of the United States. We know it’s no secret that this 2016 Presidential Race has been nothing short of a popular reality TV show. Featuring characters from every walk of life, and scenes that even the most imaginative writer or producer could have brought to our television screens. However, for me, I was consumed more and almost totally unrelated perspective: DATA. Beginning in 2012, BIG DATA Politics became an extremely useful tool in how to strategically campaign, develop ads, and gather information about and from voters, and down to understanding what demographic was ‘swaying’ in their direction. Moreover, the Obama campaign was one of the first to leverage social media issuing politics into the Digital Era. What does this mean really?

Over the past few years, our economic system has experienced what has been coined as “Digital Disruption.”  I personally define it as the inevitable interruption of a Business, Process, or Industry by a more robust, more affordable, and more easily accessible Business or Business Practice. Quite honestly, it’s a rapidly growing phenomenon, and even more difficult to explain to Business or Technology experts.

So as I was dreaming about what kind of ERP or Cloud Platform CNN was using for it’s predictive analytics, I had an idea that fell into my lap about using the recent 2016 election to explain the Digital Disruption Phenomena. It’s quite simple actually, and below I’ll explain with 6 main players.

Scene 1:  “The As-Is”

An honest look in the mirror……

  • The Obama Administration – President Barack Obama and his administration (inclusive of congress and supreme justice) are the base in this Digital equation. They represent the status quo and ‘the way things are.’ Most people are generally happy with their jobs, and things are going along as they always have. From delivering new IT solutions, to navigating performance achievement there’s a clear answer and process for everything and everyone knows their role. However, there are obvious experts in the strong areas, filibusters and apathy in the weak areas, and an aging worker population. Despite the overall success a change is swiftly coming.
  • The ‘Polls’ – The polls represent the on premise existing practice and solutions. They are what everyone relies on to benchmark how well or how poor the organization is doing. In existence since anyone can remember, the solution is well known and though people complain about the accuracy, most are accustomed and will accept the margin of errors they encounter each and every day.
  • Hard Red/Hard Blue States – These are the people within the organization that not interested in any type of significant change. They’ve been rewarded promptly and largely. These seasoned professionals tend not to sway too far from the core beliefs of the majority and take pride in their loyalty to what made this organization so great. They can recite for you the company’s core values on request. Unfortunately, these are also the people that complain about training, and haven’t acquired a new skill in ages. This is likely the majority of your organization.
  • Battleground States – These bright and brilliant individuals are the ones you just never know how to gauge or predict. Normally the younger and minority in the room, they are hungry for immediate change, but can’t quite convince the electorate to go one way or another. This part of the organization is suffering the most from the external existence of Digital Disruption. They are actively engaged in numerous digital outlets, have colleagues working in the various industries taking advantage, and are constantly causing friction in agreeing on a meeting.

Scene 2:  “The To-Be”

A decision between two evils…

Hillary Clinton & Campaign – Represents the continuance of the ‘good ole days’. Although new face, and new ideas at the high level things won’t change much. Upgrades to the current system with just a few new features. There is a loud majority that are content with things continuing to steadily progress without a lot of drastic change. Though a new leader may come into play with the campaign, people are supportive as they believe things won’t be shifted much and prefer to keep their day job. These individuals in the organization represent new promotes, or even outside experienced hires that don’t seek to shake up the organization but more so assimilate adapt and settle in.

Donald Trump & Campaign – Represents Digital Disruption in every sense of the word. Despite all the knowledge, all the technology, all the human capital the change is coming whether you like it or not. This introduces fear to some, and excitement for others. No real person is a true ‘expert’ on how to handle this change, and how to plan for it. As much as we try to forecast, analyze, and criticize the alternative method to a new digital business, it’s literally unpredictable.

Scene 3:  So Now What?

Dealing with the reality of Digital Disruption…

 Now the recent election probably sparks totally different feelings, emotions, and questions than what’s been summarized above, but I figured I’d juxtapose the two to ease the discussion. Despite which area of the aforementioned scenes that you may fall into there’s no escaping the rapid technology advancement that has come with Digital Business. People are generating unimaginable amounts of data via a host of devices, and in this information age to not properly collect, structure, analyze, and provide business that cater to the insights would be irresponsible and a sure way to become victim of the disruption. This new wave of technology and business will require us to think even more so out of the box than ever before. Customizing user experience at every level of interaction is requiring that whole organizations focus more on the digital realities than their own core values. Digital is the business of the future. Your company just needs to identify how it’s going to uniquely take advantage and keep up with the exponential growth. There’s no getting ready for it, the Digital Age is here!

With Passion, Purpose, and Pride,

Trent J ACEO

Defying Distractions with Deafness

 

For years I’ve assisted various college-prep non-profits by annotating college admission essays, but what I didn’t know is that one would give me a message that would literally change my view on life. Think about it, what really could a High School Junior write about that would impact MY adult life, more than ten years their senior, as I matriculate through the challenges of adult hood. What could a High school student in this information age, with the world at their fingertips convey to me in 500 words or less that would spiritually jolt me in a manner not felt in years. Well, the answer to these questions, came from a young south-east Houston, TX girl, for our purposes named ‘Issa.’ Issa, was deaf in her right ear.

For the Texas Admission college essays students are asked to write on 3 different topics, but the most unique is Topic B:  Describe a circumstance, obstacle or conflict in your life, and the skills and resources you used to resolve it. Did it change you? If so, how? Issa, opened up her essay with the words: “When you’re underwater everything sounds the same, sound is muffled for everyone. Once you rise out of the water, however, you are able to hear fine again. Such is not the case for me.”  Immediately, I was grasped by the imagery she depicted, and found myself instantly recognizing how I took the ability to hear for granted.

Reading through the rest of the topic answer, the young student continued her narrative of all the daily challenges of only being able to hear out of one ear. The difficulty at home, around her friends, and not to mention in the classroom. Always having to ask friends to repeat what the teacher said, talking with instructors after school, etc. Because of Issa’s unique A-bility (for this writing it’s not a disability) her classroom experience was a bit altered from most. It was when she described the layout of her daily classroom posture that I stopped and had to reread it.

Developing some ‘tricks’, Issa described to us how she overcame this seemingly life-halting A-bility in a few ways. See, she had a challenge with being distracted in class because of her only being able to listen in one ear, and having classmates that were often times loud and disruptive. When you only have 1 available ear to the instructor, noise tends to affect you more than others. Issa was determined: “If the teacher allowed the use of head phones, I would simply pop one in my right ear, and leave the other open for the teacher.”  So simple, and yet profound. Moreover, she went on to describe the layout of her classroom. “When I got to class each day I would sit in the desk nearest to the teacher, and turn my deaf ear towards the class room, and my listening ear towards the teacher. PAUSE… WAIT… SAY THAT AGAIN?  “When I got to class each day I would sit in the desk nearest the teacher, and turn my deaf ear towards my classmates, and my listening ear towards the teacher……”

 

 

 

Maybe you missed it. Issa went to each of her classes every day, and sat in a perpendicular position to her teacher in a way that her deaf ear was to her classmates, and her listening ear close and directly in front of the teacher. She altered the environment around her so that all of the noise around her fell on a deaf ear, while the instruction was clearly received into the good ear. Issa had defied her distraction by using her A-bility to her Advantage.     MESSAGE: How many times have we needed to SHUT OUT the distractions of those around us, and focus our attention solely on the TEACHER?   Mark 4:19 talks about

 

 

this very scenario:  but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. The ‘world’, our distraction, keeping us from setting our eyes on something above and not beneath, something great, and not something mediocre. We can’t allow the word to become clouded by the smoke of what everybody else might be focused on, because what’s in store for us is coming from above. Eyes have not seen, nor EAR heard……  the GOOD (GREAT) things… in store for us.  What things do we find ourselves constantly distracted by, that we watch days, weeks, months, and years go by BUSY, and yet unaccomplished and unsatisfied.

Issa implemented a survival tactic in order to not be left behind, and ultimately get ahead of some of her peers in school. Think about the advantage she now was in; not only did she sit closer she literally was unable to be distracted by any of her peers. It’s like she was getting one-on-one instruction.

So what does that have to do with you and me? Well, what if we had the zeal she had to learn in school, with our desire for God’s purpose on our lives. If we could completely shut out our worldly distractions consistently how much better off would we be?  Have you ever felt like God wasn’t answering your prayers? Have you ever thought He’s trying to answer you, but you’re too focused on everything else?  You have to ask yourself: What is it that I’m allowing to get in the way of my true purpose in life:  Fear? Doubt? Money? Relationships? False hope? Social Media? Job?  It could be ANYTHING. It’s those things that seem the most routine, that end up being just what’s needed to keep us enough off track that we’re moving but not going anywhere.

I’m grateful for little Issa, and how she shared her story with me and eventually dozens of colleges across the country. As I write this, I’d expect that Issa is submitting those essays, and making her final decisions on college. I pray that her story, and her A-bility take her to new places and heights. And likewise, to the person that’s reading this, that your new found distraction free perspective helps you elevate to the next level of life. Try it out: Disconnect from a few things, a few people, for a set period and set your eyes on something above. Watch how God will speak to you in an even more mighty way.

 

With Passion, Purpose, and Pride,

Trent J ACEO