Dear Carlton©

What would you say to your 22 year old self?  Read what I shared with my son who recently turned 22!! Chime in with your words of wisdom.

 Dear Carlton©,

As you celebrate your twenty second birthday, please know that I’m also celebrating the gifts that your life has given to me.  I often think about the person I was before you were born as opposed to who I am today.  The two people are so vastly different.  As a result of guiding and listening to you, I have become less selfish and a better me.  I often think about your journey filled with positives and a few sprinkles of pain.  All of your experiences have resulted in you becoming a wise young sage. 

Carlton and his mom in 1993; Carlton snowboarding in 2009

As you continue to develop into an independent man, don’t lose sight of your teachings and always strive to do what is right even when you are tempted to do wrong. The path from twenty two forward is about maturing you, trying on adulthood as if you were trying on a new wardrobe.  Some things and some relationships will fit while others will not.  In life, fear is a constant and will always be nagging at your heels.  Don’t allow it to consume you; don’t allow it to swallow your dreams.  Being a healthy and wise person should be at least two of your primary goals. You can have them both.  Just know, this level of strength begins first with management of the mind.  What do I wish I had known at twenty two?  I knew a lot but in many cases, I didn’t’ execute or I didn’t listen well enough.  I hope you will do a better job.  Below are just a few that come to mind that I felt important to share.

The world judges you differently than your family

Our family sees you as this wonderful and responsible person.  The world may see you differently; although you want to control this; know that you can’t all of the time.  People see you through their past experiences.  You have excelled beyond many of the judgments placed on you for simply being a black male.  You are not a rapper; you have zero rhythm like your Uncle Tommy and Marvin, you don’t wear saggy pants and you are neither a threat nor a thug.  Yet, because of the color of your skin, for some in this world, they will not see you as Carlton but will see you as a suspicious black male.  Don’t take it out on them and stay true to who you are; don’t allow their ignorance to frustrate you to the point that you stoop to their levels.  Guard your heart and keep racism and prejudices at a minimum of arm’s length from your soul.  I have experienced many forms of discrimination in my lifetime and learned more about myself as a result of that treatment. You can get through it; don’t take it personally.  Find the humor and absurdity of it all and when you can, you will experience adulthood.   You come from a lineage of highly intelligent and hard -working people.  Your heritage is one that is rooted with philanthropists, educators, entrepreneurs and engineers.  In the heat of these controversial moments, find solace in knowing your ancestors born into slavery had the courage to name their firstborn Favor.  This always gives me the strength to endure knowing that our forefathers had the courage to think positively even in simple actions.  I imagine the difficulty they faced and find my complaints to be petty excuses.  As our grandparents did, we must also choose positive language and actions even in the midst of trying times.    

The more you’re out of your comfort zone, the more you grow.

When I was your age, I was preparing for graduation believing at that time that I would always live in South Carolina.  I did not have a need to move nor an interest.   Most of my family was in SC and it was my comfort zone.  Each step of my professional journey was an older person on my job or a sibling believing in me and seeing more in me than I saw in myself.  At BellSouth, it was my manager.  He thought I could conquer everything.  Each big challenge of the department somehow landed on my desk.  Even though I was scared to death of failure, I would always try because I didn’t want him to ever be disappointed in me.  Looking back on it now, these are the kind of people you need on your journey.   It was this manager that pushed me to get an MBA and the same manager that motivated me to pursue careers outside of BellSouth after I finished my MBA and landed a role at Intel.   He was someone that I turned to on any major decision including our move to Costa Rica, my divorce and job transitions.  He always had my best interest at heart.  He taught me that failure isn’t terminal; it is one step closer to success if you honor what you learned as a result of failing. You need a person like this in your life. 


 Carlton with mentors Reuben Miller (featured in red shirt) and Demetrius Whye (right photo)

 Look for someone who is constantly learning, a great listener, not afraid of sharing what they know and willing to invest their time in you.  As they are investing in you; find ways to give back to them. The more balanced the giving and receiving is on both ends; the stronger the bond will become.  As I look back on the past 20 years, the greatest leaps I’ve made in personal and career growth has been in opportunities that when first presented, I was afraid to say yes.  Learn from my mistakes; be open to big and scary things and you will find this is where true growth resides. 

Invest in your future now

If I had just listened to my brothers, Lord knows,  I would be better positioned for retirement today.  I remember many conversations about stock with your Uncle Fred while in college.  I had no interest in it at the time; it sounded so foreign and gobbly gook.  My brain was focused on the here and now and finals were waiting for me post my visit.  Fred was adamant and had designed a well thought out financial plan for me to follow. It consisted of me taking my surplus scholarship funds and investing them in stocks of my choice he would say.  At the time, I remember his stock preferences for me were GE and Disney stocks. He had laid out a moderate and aggressive risk plan for me to implement reflecting on it now.  The aggressive option would require me to take out student loans although I didn’t need them; put those funds into stocks since his belief was that the interest rate of the stocks would exceed the rate of the student loans at the time. I was not comfortable obtaining loans when I didn’t need them.  Fred gave me the space to fully decide on my own.  He had planted me with some good ideas. I did nothing. I just didn’t get it and I didn’t get it because I wasn’t really listening.  So, I find myself now implementing the same lessons Fred shared with me in my freshmen year of college.  Just last week, Fred and I are still having great stock conversations. It took me 7 years after those lessons to truly understand stock and the importance of having time on your side.  It was a huge miss on my part.  Rather than asking more questions to get a better understanding, I shut down the dialogue.   Eventually, I took his advice but it is hard not to think that maybe I would be closer to my goals if I had acted on his advice much sooner.  Consider this: If you start saving just a mere $100 per month, starting at age 25, by age 65 you’ll have about $185,700. Trust me; you will need more than $185K but see this as a real opportunity that you could tap into right now by making simple choices today about what you save. Begin to think of investing in you first and start putting aside a portion of your check for your future.

I know that a great future awaits you. But don’t focus so much on your future that you sacrifice enjoying the moments in your reach.  Continue to laugh, spend time with family and friends and snowboard like crazy.  These are the things that make you smile and bring you joy. Don’t lose out on those and continue your work in helping others.  Look forward to seeing the twenty five year old Carlton!! Love, Mom

 PS. If you read this and it doesn’t resonate, remember the words you penned below in elementary school(smile!!). You were wise then. Stay wise.-):


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The Morning After….Reflections from Yesterday

2014-06-24_13 29 30The morning after…


 Sitting in this large hotel ballroom yesterday gazing at Hillary and Bill Clinton do their thing on stage made me think about my parents.  In this thousand or more person plus audience, there I sat.  Daddy’s little scrappy girl, poor, and often ashy “Bobcat” was on the stage with some of the most affluent people in the world.  His poem of “I can’t is a pale, puny pimp,” was echoing in my head.  Mom’s spiritual wisdom passed down to me on a daily basis including one of her favorites, “so the last will be first, and the first will be last,” burned in my brain.  The culmination of these rapidly firing thoughts resulted in simply this…..  I have a heart filled with extreme gratefulness.

> It was shared on stage yesterday, that a child born to parents in the bottom fifth of the income distribution has a 7.5% chance of reaching the top fifth of the income distribution in the United States. The panelists, one by one, discussed what our parents and communities instilled into each of us.  You can’t let poverty, zip codes or stats control your destiny.  Education is still the #1 accelerator out of poverty.

What has slightly changed is that STEM education trumps all other education in terms of return on investment.  Women, as an example earn 92 cents on the dollar in STEM careers versus 77 cents today in non STEM jobs.  STEM jobs are growing 2X non stem jobs.

So, today, I get back on spread the STEM gospel grind. I focus on this moment; not the memory of what is in the past. I’m a steminist with the goal of helping one student at a time. My aim is to connect each student personally with the belief and grit of knowing they have the power to be and excel beyond their wildest dreams.

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This Life – A Poem of Reflection

This Life

Given to us as a gift
To use as we choose.
Some use it wisely
Others wander; stay confused.
Many focus on gaining riches
And success by the world’s definition
Big houses, fine cars, titles,
Awards and recognition.
What I know to be true
Witnessing the death of a close friend.
She longed for peace in her final days
Not the world’s wins.
So a lesson for us all
Is to focus on the now.
Love and live your life with purpose
Let the earthly possessions take a bow.
 ©-Barbara McAllister

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Risk Taking Rocks!

Moving On Can Be Moving Up

This is a call to “reawaken risk taking”  in your daily lives.  Just a few random thoughts on how to jump start risk taking in your organization or your personal life.

1) Get good at possibility thinking. Think of what CAN be done versus the roadblocks. There is nothing like running into a wall of resistance. Monitoring the number of times that we say it can’t be done or we’ve already tried that and it didn’t work can go a really long way. Simply modifying, “it can’t work” to something more open ended like “what would it take to get it done?” will generate a lot more creativity and discussion. You may stumble on something new that will work in the course of a conversation. 

2) Remove the cross department angst. Stop worrying about who gets credit. There’s no faster way to lose credibility than to be worrying about trophies and who gets the prize.   Just do the right thing and let credit manage itself.

3) The path to success requires pushing through your comfort zone. Growth doesn’t generally occur in what we’ve always done. Stretch and roll up your sleeves. Think big.  Most people will say their highest growth opportunity resulted from a roll that they feared or a decision that had them “shaking in their boots.”

4) Set a goal and go after it. With good intent, we tend to make things complicated. We are engineers(analyzers) for goodness sake and we want the 20 page document as our security blanket. Keeping a simple goal that people can connect with gives your vision a lot more mileage.  

5) Get back to the basics. Speak up and make some decisions even if they are tough to make.  Minimize the number of decision makers if possible.  Be very deliberate on the criteria required to make the decision and don’t procrastinate for the sake of delaying a decision. Some delays speed you up. Be clear with yourself and your teams.

 How are you or your teams internalizing the challenge of risk taking?  Please share.  I’ll continue to update you on any cool things I hear.

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Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King and a Committed Life

On this Monday, many from across the nation will have an extra day off in honor of civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.   Honoring the full intent of his dream will require more than simply escaping with a vacation day.  It calls for a deeper reflection of how one can do better; calls for me to assess how I can be a better person knowing the extent of his sacrifices for my quality of life.  

Dr. King is most notable for his plight for social and economic injustices.  He will always be remembered for his Nobel Peace Prize and leading a non violence civil rights movement.  While these items are very important to remember, my adult years have allowed for a greater appreciation of him beyond the fight for civil rights.   I have grown to marvel at the interworking of his thoughts. As an aspiring writer, I marvel at his command of words along with the rich images created by his writing.  It is pure joy reading his letters or listening to his tapes.  His ability to deal with change and transcend fear are excellent models for transitioning through the years of the forties.    “Life’s common denominator, “he said,” is death and all the other shallow things will not matter. I won’t have any money to leave behind. I won’t have the fine luxurious things of life to leave behind. I just want to leave a committed life behind.” 

Leaving a committed life behind requires us to take baby steps in this very moment. How we choose to use our day and where we focus our time will ultimately result in our legacy to this world.  Dr. King was fearless enough to have these frequent conversations. He was clear on his life’s marching orders.  Although his time on earth was cut short, the impact left is a huge footprint.  And that is his bigger legacy; not the civil rights movement, his gift left to this world is a perfect demonstration of a committed life

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Nelson Mandela's Prison, Robben Island

This is an inspirational piece to remind us that we all have the power to be our best.    Thought management is critical to this process and it will  require ”freeing of the mind.”  Drop me a comment regarding your thoughts on this topic.  I’d especially like to hear what’s shackling you and keeping you from being your best.  This is a great week to get off your “buts”  (as in excuses).


Freedom escapes us more times than not

Even without the ties that physically bind.

No chains on our feet. No prison walls.

Yet we are seriously constrained by our mind.

Freedom escapes us

During our strenuous efforts to please.

We seek to gain the satisfaction of others,

And in turn, cause ourselves to bleed.

Freedom escapes us

Too easily in our day to day.

And small decisions made hour by hour.

Choosing the opposite of our truth,

In a effort to suit others,

Results in relinquishing our power.

Freedom Escapes Us.

And what does power have to do with being free?

If we imprison our passions and dreams,

The power of being true to ourselves will slowly deplete.

We then live a story that is a replica.

And our gift to this world is not complete.

Freedom Escapes Us.

Written by Barbara H. McAllister ©

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Machu Picchu -An Awesome Wonder

What an Awesome Wonder!

Machu Picchu

Here I stand in awe

Of your majesty and grace.

I have seen a few wonders;

Yet none as poignant as this place.

The discipline of the Incas.

Is evident everywhere.

You’ve transferred boring rocks and dirt

Into masterpieces built with intimate care.

Your rules of living,

And Sense of community is so relevant now.

Each of us has a purpose; A clear role to fulfill.

The more we help each other,

The better we all live.

Written 06/22/10 by Barbara McAllister

Inspired by the wonders and mysteries of Machu Picchu

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Volunteerism, you have to do it!

A group of volunteers from across the US flew the friendly skies with the Women of Hope Project, Inc. to aid an underserved community in Wallecedene, South Africa.   At the end of a heartfelt experience and purposeful outreach, volunteers voiced introspective thoughts:

 “The people are wonderful, most humble and hopeful in spite of…”

“When you are working towards a meaningful purpose, it doesn’t feel like work.”

“This is why we do this.  It makes an immediate impact on all involved.” 

Community Members lined up for hours in advance and waited patiently to be served.  Roughly, 400 women and families left with care packages that included toiletries, clothing and food supplies.    In addition to providing care packages, a medical team was on board to screen for high blood pressure, HIV and tuberculosis.  Social Workers provided expertise in domestic violence counseling and other social concerns.   To make the waiting period as comfortable and fun as possible, we led many songs and learned new songs from the community including a stellar impromptu mini concert provided by a group of nearby school kids.  The eyes of the children told a story that touched us from the inside out.  

These volunteer experiences warm you and draw you closer to what’s really important in  life and why connections with people matter.  It melts away all of the petty concerns we have on a day to day basis.  When you find yourself in a rut, try being of service to others and you will be reinvigorated to walk through your challenges with confidence.

A big thanks to the Founder of this organization, Rev. Jessica Ingram as well as friends that aided in our package preparations in advance of this trip and my new group of friends met on this journey. 

While hard to describe, there is no greater feeling.  Being of service to others warms the heart from the inside out.  Stop reading now and get out and volunteer!!!

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Parenting Is A Lot Like My Day Job

You must admit that most of us are open to inspiration from any source. Inspirational breakthroughs are especially warranted when leading teams though challenging work or complex environments. Even with an attitude of openness towards trying new strategies, I never dreamed parenting a teenager would help me so much in my role at work. There is a deep reservoir of similarities. Here are just a few examples. You will be able to relate even if you don’t have kids because when you look in the mirror, you’ll be reminded of the kid you once were.

Transferable Knowledge:

 1) Change: A shift in behavior is not as easy as the owner visualizes in his or her mind. “Just don’t leave your dirty socks on the bathroom floor.” No matter how clearly the owner of the change sees value, there will not be a sustainable shift until the person sees value what’s in it for them. There has to be an upswing somewhere or a cost for not changing to get buy in.

 2) Training: Just because you gave training one time does not mean it will be done to precision immediately after the training has been done. “Son, this is the trash can, this is the bag that goes in it . Once the trash reaches this level, it should be emptied.” That sounds pretty clear, doesn’t it? Verbalizing training is one thing, PowerPoints are good, too, but getting someone to ownership is a whole different story. It may take several iterations of training and hand holding before the behavior sticks.

 3) Attention Span and Distractions: To get the mind share of a kid is really tough these days. On any day, the number of distractions is overwhelming. With ear phones on, texting in the right hand and updating a Facebook status on his netbook while completing homework, my son will declare if you are lucky. “oh, you said something?” This is true at work too. In the middle of meeting, keystrokes are pecking in the background and you’ll get. “can you repeat the question?” People are overwhelmed with content and overloaded and distracted with technology. You rarely have 100% of a person’s mind share. .

 4) The Right Information and Solution but Wrong Timing: Sometimes you can give your kid quality information like, “you know planning ahead on your homework assignments will prevent you from staying up all night.” In that moment, the information may not have an impact. Don’t assume because it wasn’t received the first time that it is impossible to be heard at a moment when the timing is better. If the information is the right information and adds value, stay focused and eventually it will coincide with the right timing.

 5) “No” is debatable sometimes:  Kids are never discouraged by “ no.” I love their resilience. No is never the end of the story for my son. It’s the beginning of new dialogue. Experiencing this with him has increased my persistence at work. Kids simply do not focus on the no; they focus on working on a solution that moves the conversation from “no.”  They keep working it creatively from different angles. Although sometimes no ends in a definite no, it is never personal and there is no fear about bringing the topic up again in the future.

 I’m sure there are many other similarities and some under construction, too. Share any similarities you have experienced between parenting and your day job. Watching my son grow up mirrors in so many ways how my projects grow up at work.

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Is Procrastination getting in the Way of your Destination?

Procrastination most often is one of the show stoppers between us moving forward on those things we should be completing or staying stuck in the “same ole same.”   

Procrastination is common for many of us and according to Pier Steel, a human resources professor at the Univ. of Calgary’s Haskayne School of Business, 95% of us procrastinate  with 15% to 20% being chronic offenders.*  His study also shares that people who procrastinate underperform in every area of their lives from health to finance. What this screams out loud is that because we are all prone to it, we should really beef up our ability to manage through procrastination.

Knowing the end result or negative impact of procrastination helps in our ability to manage this challenge.  Procrastination can result in: missed opportunities, increased stress, poor performance, and wasted time that will delay your progress towards your goals.  It is often rooted in distractions, fear of failure and lack of self confidence.   Sadly, each time you put off tasks, you are strengthening your habits around procrastination. 

Try doing the following in managing procrastination:

1)   Be clear on what it is you are giving up by procrastinating. In many cases, it is your dream job, advanced education and growth opportunities and/or reducing your quality of life.

2)   Eliminate your distractions.  What’s pulling you away from the prioritized tasks?  This may include shifting some of the hours spent on facebook or TV to hours spent on key tasks that are on the path towards your life goals.

3)   Address the “thinking” behind your procrastination at the root.  We are what we think. Are your thoughts getting in the way of your success?

4)   Make a complete list of all of the things you have been procrastinating on.  Commit to completing 1-2 items per week or an appropriate schedule that you can accomplish and stick to like glue to keep things moving.  Set up small celebrations and/or rewards that will keep you encouraged to continue moving forward.

5)   Enlist a coach or friend. Share your list with them and ask them to aid you in staying accountable to your list.

Don’t let procrastination get in the way of your destination.  We become our habits and procrastination is not something we want to become because “procrastinators underperform in every area of their lives.”

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