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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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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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Stereotypes -Breaking them down and a Call To Leadership

Stereotypes, by definition are fixed assumptions
Others Hold About You and Me.
Often inaccurate , based on exaggerated tv images,
Or passed down by families generationally.

Stereotypes, framed pictures in our minds
Whether seen or unseen.
Constrain opportunities to collaborate or grow
And often demean.

What we’ve learned during this brilliant BDA* Fellowship,
An accelerated and safe environment to explore.
All is not what it seems; one size doesn’t fit all; to every story, there’s more.
The key nugget we will all take away from this experience is:
We are all human beings at our core.
We are all human beings at our core.

Whether we choose to wear traditional wrap , uncover or we’re louder than the others.
Practice religion strictly or liberally.
We are all fundamentally seeking peace and progress in this world.
We each want our kids to achieve more than we.

So, my sincere thanks to BDA*, Intel
My caring Arab and American Fellows
My new sisters and brothers.
The dialogue has been opened wide and so have our hearts.
Let’s continue breaking down barriers.
Let’s chart a fresh new start.

We are the leaders.
We have been chosen to do this work.
The change that comes about, our collective futures,
Will be simply that we never gave up.
It will exist simply because our work never stopped.

Written by Barbara H. McAllister ©
2009 BDA and YAL Conference
Stereotype Panel

BDA-Business for Diplomatic Action
YAL-Young Arab Leaders

2009 Arab and American Fellows

2009 Arab and American Fellows

This poem was inspired by my 3 week fellowship and two way exchange between Arab and Americans as a part of the 2009 Arab and American Fellowship sponsored by DOW, Young Arab Leaders and Business for Diplomatic Action. It was read as a part of my opening and participation in a panel, “Breaking Cultural Stereotypes.” Fellow panelists included John Zogby, Nesrine Halima, Shk Sultan Al Qassemi and Moderator, Jeff Weintraub.

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What Local Egyptians are Feeling

Barbara McAllister takes Creative Liberties below as a Ghost Writer for the Egyptians met on the ground in various settings during our journey.  This is my interpretation that resulted after having 10 to 15 conversations with local Egyptians. This represented a cross section of people from hotel employees, vendors, real estate developers to entrepreneurs including employees met at the embassy.
Dear President Obama,

We are extremely excited about your Presidency and thank you for coming to Cairo so early in your administration. This speaks volumes to us and we hope you felt our warmth during your recent visit. In fact, please come again because your visit alone brought about some serious preparation and clean up in our city that was long overdue. We did this especially for you. We are very proud of our country and we wanted to make sure everything was super clean and intact for your very important trip.

The previous 8 years with the prior administration resulted in some mistrust, disgruntled spirits and many unknown fears. These were some tough times for us. However, we are a strong people with unending faith that can weather turmoil. As a result of our resilience, we are willing to turn the page. With your election, our spirits have been uplifted and the optimism is transmitting like a radiant sun.

We also wanted to share that there is a healthy bit of skepticism in our country and we want you to be alert and aware of this angst so that it can be effectively managed. Our country is clear that you inherited some heavy duty issues and your domestic challenges are nothing to take lightly.

Just know that we have expectations here in Cairo and we believe that 18 months is an adequate period of time for you and your administration to show some tangible results. We are reasonable and we know that you cannot finish everything in 18 months but can you please pick 1 key challenge that is mutually beneficial and show some substantive progress. This will alleviate what I believe you call in your country “haters.” This will show the doubters in our country that you are serious about all of those items you outlined in your Cairo speech.

We should also tell you that every NGO, school, private company, real estate developer, young entrepreneurs, students and teachers have all printed personal copies of your speech and we hold them in our wallets next to our driver’s license. This is our hope, key to our future and we review it daily. We want to see the transformation from the paper to reality. We want to make sure all of our efforts are orchestrated well so that we are not mismanaging resources but working in alignment. Our country’s growth is counting on all of these words and thank you for this vision.

We sincerely respect the work you have in front of you and if we can help in anyway, let us know. Remember, we need some progress and it has to be tangible and if possible, in the timeframe provided above.

Thank you again for your leadership. May God preserve you and may His peace be with you always.

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Reach! Extend a Hand. If it is to be, it’s up to Me!


If I could extend my reach to you in this moment
I’d have you in Cairo with me today.
You’d be horseback riding through the pyramids
Or learning why hijabs are worn a certain way.

If I could reach extend my hand to you
I’d offer you solid faith.
That kind of faith that powered the pyramid laborers
Without a detailed engineering plan.
The faith that drove mothers towards freedom
To rear their children in a peaceful land.

My reach would transform this world including peace in the Middle East.
It would provide access and quality healthcare, education and jobs too.
Because at the core of our beings, whether east or west, brown, white or black
We all want success for our families.
Do we need to explain that?

Reach of understanding and compassion towards others
Is the aim of what I’d like to impart.
Before criticizing or judging others,
Pause, reach deeper and have a conversation with your heart.

For as much as we are different, there is so much that is the same.
Peace and success in this world is up to each of us to grab and claim.

Written by Barbara H. McAllister 10/11/09 (inspired by multinational company visits while in Cairo, Egypt)

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Faith can Fill The Gaps -How is your Faith and Fear Relationship

We had another great day yesterday and were able to visit several key attractions in Egypt that will last in our memories for a lifetime. In a day, we were able to visit the Egyptian Museum, The Citadel, The Pyramids and we concluded our day with a yummy dinner with the Citadel as our back drop. Oh what a beautiful day we had together and we are learning and being exposed to so much of the history and culture of Cairo.

We started the day by touring the Egyptian museum and marveling at all of the astonishing King Tut artifacts. The detail in every item whether the coffins, jewelry, beetles or monuments highlighted the quality of work administered during this era. As we marveled at the work, we realized that the creators of these immaculate designs are the forefathers of all of the engineering disciplines. We took notes for most of our visit as the tour guide shared tons of key factoids and interesting trivia facts. In one of our question and answer sessions, a fellow engineer and I were having a side conversation about how amazing it was to see this level of architectural design and civil engineering details that were designed with perfection and with a lasting effect without formal training? The tour guide didn’t hesitate in his response to our question and left us with words that compel us to think beyond ourselves. He shared, “ The people of this era had faith. This faith provided the inspiration behind every design and it eliminated their fears about not being able to create and develop these great pieces of work. Their faith kept them active and moving every day and provided what they needed even without the formal engineering training.”

What a poignant word and so very timely. It is this same faith that has me traveling in the middle east to participate in a two way exchange between Arabs and Americans. It is this faith that both regions have to stay focused on to bring about improvements in the access and quality of education and healthcare. It is this same faith that keeps Dr. Alon Ben-Meir , Najla Al Awadhi, Young Arab Leaders and Business Diplomatic Action moving towards their visions. With this faith, we can move forward and individually contribute our gifts one action at a time. Where there is faith, fear moves aside.

Today we are meeting with international companies in this region. I’ll share more tomorrow. Have a nice day.

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BAM! Dubai Trip is Taking Our Thinking Up A Notch!!

Emerill, a famous US Chef, Restaurateur, and Television Personality , came to mind today as I listened to the Deputy CEO of Dubai Media Incorporated(DMI). His phrase of Bam! , meaning taking the flavor up a notch or adding an extra zest that exceeds the norm and usual expectations of the palate. Similarly, this is the flavor brought to the American fellows today by CEO Najla Al Awadhi . She spoke with so much candor, wisdom and unique flavor that was miles beyond excellent. She definitely took it up a few notches as Emerill would say.

What were the notches in my mind?

1)Global awareness with key data and trends at her fingertips. My new sister friend is deep in research, knows her data and speaks to it with clarity. A few facts that stuck with me: Emirates (Dubai natives) represent s ~16% of people living in Dubai, 22% of Parliament is women and this is the 4th highest globally and while the country of Dubai is only 37 years old and is located in a complicated region, it has been able to move closer towards its vision and is a model for women in the Middle Eastern region.

2)She walks the talk. She is highly committed to education and believes strongly that we have to start with our youth, provide internships and uplevel skills. “Great attitudes are key,” she shared . Not only is she in parliament but is also leading DMI and in her spare time, partners diligently with Youth Arab Leaders. Go girl is all I can say. I just wish I could say that in Arabic!

3)My favorite item she shared . “Think for yourself!” The fact that this statement resonated with me will not surprise any of you that know me well. This has been a key life’s motto. Critical thinking in my view although rarely discussed in this fashion, may be the #1 skill set after attitude. We now live in an era and in particular our US news(media) is not as objective and our freedom of press on some days look more like freedom of mess. I will not blame themedia but rather believe that each of us has a responsibility to gather our own data and arrive at our own conclusions without the sensationalism. Don’t count on objective news. You have to to that critical thinking for yourself and never stop searching for the truth.

4)Finally, today was a win for women and sisterhood. I’m so proud of my UAE Sister! You make women all over the world proud. Keep carrying the torch, breaking down sterotypes and role modeling excellence. You inspire us all.

So, let’s all take it up a notch. Bam! Have a nice day. Tomorrow we fly to Cairo Egypt and I’ll be checking in with you later.

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Are you passionately consuming or passionately contributing?

Have you ever had the experience where an inspiring word hit you and created enough anxiety internally that it would cause you to wrestle and turn and massage it over and over almost as if you were molding clay into a piece of artwork?

This described my last 2 days of the AABF(Arab and American Business Fellowship). The fellows had the opportunity to hear Dr. Alon Ben-Meir, PhD, an expert on Middle East politics and a diplomat that is extremely passionate about peace between Israel and the Arab states. What a great treat it was for us to hear him and experience passion in full bloom. Passion came to life in his voice but it was also backed up by his long lasting commitment and contributions to this very important body of work. He shared boldly without hesitation, “a solution must happen and there will be peace in the Middle East and it will take young, committed and devoted individuals like you to bring about this outcome and contribute.”

As soon as I heard the word contribute, the engineer in me went to a chart with my contributions flowed against consumptions. It left me with a key question, “Am I contributing more to this world than I am consuming?” Where can I contribute more based on the gifts and many blessings bestowed upon me?”

I wrestled with this some during my 12 hour flight to Dubai and I know it will sit with me for a little while more until a clearer plan evolves from my thinking. I will also enlist the feedback of others that know me best as well as my new friends met this week. I documented 3 key areas where I can contribute more to the betterment of our world while in flight. I’ll continue to marinate on them as this program evolves.

Passion is great, but is even a stronger package when combined with actions, commitment and contributions. Think today of one way you could contribute more to the betterment of our society based on your gifts. Are you a contributor or a consumer?  That is the question of today.

More from Dubai on tomorrow.

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What is your Strategy For Growth?

Do you know where you are growing to?  In a graduation speed written by Dr. Seuss, he wisely states:

“You have brains in your head

You have feet in your shoes.

You can steer yourself

Any direction you choose.”

 You choose.  That is the most powerful part of his statement.  What are you choosing for you?  What actions are you taking every day to aid in your personal growth and development?   What are you choosing by not choosing?  If an answer doesn’t arrive quickly for you, try reflecting on how you spent your time last week.  What percentage of your week did you focus on your personal growth and development strategies?    

The growth you expect will not naturally happen.  You create the growth you need by getting busy and staying actively involved in making this change happen. 

As Dr. Seuss eloquently says and I agree 100%  with him although I paraphrased his words slightly.  Sorry Dr!.  

“You’re on your own.

And you know what you know.

And YOU are the one who’ll decide where you GROW!  

 Have a great week everyone.  Be very deliberate about the growth you want to see.


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