Life Is Not Complicated, God is the guide…

“I am extremely proud of my humble beginnings. I make it my mission to live up to and hopefully exceed the expectations of every single person who sacrificed blood, sweat and tears to set me on the right path. These basic, albeit critical, small country town principles enriched my life in ways affluence or prominent social standing could not. Fundamental, unpretentious lessons that set the stage for how I would comport myself every day in an overly complicated world. Today the duality of my character is obvious: beneath the surface of a strong willed, honorable, hard working family man and altruist beats the simple heart of a Good Ol’ Country Boy from East Texas”. Life Is Not Complicated, You Are: Good Ol’ Country Boy

This past weekend was one for the books (No pun intended)! After months of planning, preliminary book sales and local radio, print and television interviews, I headed to my hometown of Jacksonville for a book-signing at the Jacksonville Public Library. While this may seem like it was just par for the course, I can assure you, the experience transcended the typical literary obligation I have grown accustomed to.

ketk liveI appreciate every opportunity to meet supporters of Life Is Not Complicated. But being back home, where my story began, among the friends and family who knew me long before I even dreamed of writing a book, was perhaps one of the most humbling and meaningful experiences I may have for a long time. The weekend began with a long awaited interview with KETK’s East Texas Live. The spirited exchange with Bob Brackeen literally had my hometown buzzing and helped set the stage for a tremendous weekend.

 

jville flyerThe following day, during my book-signing, I was overcome by a flood of emotions. Coming face to face with people who knew and loved my Mom- to whom the event was dedicated nearly brought me to tears at several points during the afternoon. There were so many pleasant surprises. As I sat in the newly restored library, Ms. Sheffield, the woman who gave my mom her very first job (coincidentally, at the old Jacksonville Public Library) walked in and my jaw dropped! She told me weeks prior, she saw a book with my picture on the cover and mused, “I wonder if that is Alice’s boy?”. When she realized I was indeed Alice Wallace’s oldest, she promptly decided she would make her way to this special event to tell me how much she loved my Momma, and how proud she was of me. I’m not sure people understand the magnitude of this encounter! My mom had just arrived in the city, with a young child in tow (I was not much older than three), ready to begin a new life and probably a little scared. And this woman gave her the opportunity that would set my mother on the path of success. This wonderful woman is such a significant part of my family’s history. As are the many former classmates, teachers, coaches, the parents of peers I have not seen in years (but manage to keep in touch with on social media)–all of whom gave up a few hours of their busy lives to share this day with me, to support a native son. That evening, I was invited to a special charity event, where once again I came face to face with my past in ways that will remain with me forever. Handshakes, hugs, reminiscences that called to mind a good time in my life. Old friends and acquaintances who talked fondly of my parents and my son Jazz. The rest of the weekend was filled with family dinners, visits, church… more memories in the making.

Saturday, April 12th, I was reminded why you can never forget where you came from. Whether your experience was good or bad, your roots, your foundation shape who you are. I write about the significance of one’s Foundation extensively in Life. The impact of our family and the community we grew up in will always have profound meaning in anyone’s life. Think back to the stories that make you laugh, cry, cringe, smile, shake your head while you wear a knowing smirk; I will bet good money many of those memories are from your childhood; your formative years; those coming of age days.

“I love what Jacksonville taught me and where it led me. The good, the bad and the indifferent all helped shape me. I may not live there anymore but it lives inside me. It is and will always be my foundation.” ~Carlos Wallace

 

Life Is Not Complicated, 95 percent isn’t good enough…..

Today, seek your own approval. Encourage yourself. Do something that benefits you and your future. And above all, be proud of your accomplishments, no matter who else acknowledges them! You should always be your greatest motivator. Never leave that power in someone else’s hands. Once you learn to love the person you are, there are no limits to the person you can become; there are no limits to your Success. ~Life Is Not Complicated: Success

Kwasi AveryThis past week, I have been absolutely intrigued by the accomplishments of two young men who I have never met and know very little about. They gained national recognition for achieving something many have attempted and few (that I know of) have accomplished. At the time of this writing, neither of these young men had graduated from High School, yet through their tireless academic efforts, each left an indelible mark on their families, friends, teachers, and complete strangers all over the country.  On April 1, 2014 I read that 17-year-old Kwasi Enin of Shirley, N.Y. had been accepted to every single Ivy League college he applied for. All 8 of them. Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania and Yale have all asked Kwasi to be part of their class of 2018. Days later it was announced, Avery Coffey, born and raised in Washington D.C, had been accepted to Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Brown, and University of Pennsylvania. I was so proud of both these young men, you would have thought I was a member of the family!

Jazz GraduationNow, before I get to far ahead of myself, it absolutely bears mentioning that I am the very, very proud father of a very accomplished son. He is every parent’s dream. On top of being an MBA (who graduated with a 4.0 grade average) and a star athlete, he is the kindest, most loving, hard-working, determined gentleman you will ever meet. In fact, when I read about Kwasi and Avery I immediately thought to myself, much like my own son, these are the types of success stories that we do not hear enough about. It is not that they do not exist. I will go out on a limb and say these stories probably are not as rare as we may think. But we live in a society where these triumphs are overshadowed by endorsement deals, news of which athletes is earning the highest salaries, or which athletes have gone afoul of the law. Our culture is more interested in reality t-v shows, viral fist fights, celebrity divorces and who holds the twerking crown. Meantime, while the newspapers and various media outlets covered the story of these Ivy League bound students, It barely made the news-feeds of the numerous social media sites that have permeated the online community. And that really disappointed me.

We pay far too much attention to things that don’t matter and then wonder, “What’s wrong with kids these days?” Why are our kids so behind the curve academically when compared with the rest of the world?” “Why are young men and women so oblivious to the way society views them?” I truly believe it is because we glorify meaningless (and sometimes bad) behavior and give short shrift to worthwhile accomplishments. Young men like my son, like Kwasi and Avery (And like other young men and women in my life that I am extremely proud of) are viewed as “corny”, boring, nerdy. Who wants to be like the kid who actually studies, who spends his summers working on improving his athleticism, who works a full time job, and goes to school full time? The answer to that is…not enough of our youth. Not nearly enough.

MalcolmXObamaDr.KingWe have to do better as adults, guardians, parents, neighbors, mentors, role models. Our children need to be taught that life is more than record-deals and multi-million dollar contracts. If you are talented enough to realize either, God Bless you. But as with anything worth having, it should be a passion, a goal, a reason to work hard and be a trailblazer and game-changer; to make a difference in the world, not just pad your bank account, drive a fancy car and live in a big mansion; material possessions that can disappear in the blink of an eye. However, not everyone is going to be an uber football or basketball star. Fewer still will sell 1-million records in a day, much less the span of a career. Let’s encourage our kids to be the next CEO of a Fortune 500 company (or President of their own company), the next President of the United States, the first physician to find a cure for the myriad of deadly illnesses that take countless lives each day. Let them know it is ok to be brilliant and confident and dedicated and well-rounded. It is absolutely acceptable to want to change the world and if that means missing parties, and not getting high or drunk or hanging out all afternoon playing video games, face-timing, tweeting, etc.. than that is what they have to do. And let them know you support them, every step of the way. Kwasi, the Long Island teenager who got accepted into all eight Ivy’s says he was whipped into shape by his strict mom and dad — who hovered nearby, encouraging him to push himself. He says they were “helicopter parents” and monitored everything. My favorite comment from Kwasi, and one that I will repeat every chance I get–his parents taught him 95 percent isn’t good enough.

 

When good things happen to good, hard working, deserving people, we should rejoice. I am sure there will be a lot of folks out there shaking their heads at this blog, wondering what the big deal is, even trying to speak ill of these young men (which is a sad reflection on the state of our society). Well to all that I say: Never apologize for the good in your life. People who try to make you feel badly because you have been blessed are consumed by self-loathing. Wear your accomplishments proudly, be it your career, your relationship, your children, your success. True friends will bask in the glow of your shine, not pray for darkness to fall.

My sincere congratulations to ALL who work hard, go against the status quo, and focus on the ultimate goal of success. May God continue to bless you, always.

 

Life Is Not Complicated, building a friendship should be a slow, steady climb…

Today, I have a very tight knit, very small circle of friends and family. My best friends John John, Lorenza and Vinson and I have been thick as thieves since we were 3 years old. My boy Cody, who I met while in college is the epitome of loyalty and support. I also make it a point to surround myself with other positive people who I trust hold my best interests in as high regard as I hold theirs. People who have proven their loyalty. Life Is Not Complicated, You Are: Disappointment

challengesI always find it interesting how the simplest things, can spark a substantive conversation. While my publicist and I were looking through some file footage online, we came across this shot. She interpreted the scene as one that demonstrates strength and trust in the face of challenges. I immediately saw the picture as one that reflects the intricate steps it takes to build a friendship. I have had a lot of practice learning how to choose my friends wisely. Experience has taught me choosing the right people to have in your life should be a well thought out, deliberate process. As I write in the chapter Disappointment, my circle of friends is quite small, by design.

I understood why she came to her conclusion. I mean, as this climber hangs perilously off a cliff, it goes without saying she is using every ounce of fortitude (physical and mental) to ensure she does not fall. Granted, it takes both to survive most of life’s challenges. Not to mention, she is putting a great deal of trust in the “buddy” she is likely climbing with, since it is suggested you should not climb alone if possible.  I however, looked beyond the obvious and explained that friendships (to me) can be compared to a climber’s process. You meet a person. Establish an initial rapport. As time passes, you set your bolt anchors. One at a time. You want to take your time. It is wise to forge friendships slowly. Think about it: if you try to ascend a cliff too fast, the results can be tragic. As you climb (establish your bonds), you give your climbing rope a bit of slack.Just enough to allow the friend enough rope to assist in the climb, but not so much that if there is a misstep, you do not have enough rope to support yourself. All the while, you are paying attention to checkpoints: the rope, the anchors, the harness, the brake devices (In other words, their words, their actions, their character, their consistency). As you become assured the checkpoints are solid, you climb higher, give a bit more slack, become more trusting. By the time you reach the summit of your mountain (and your friendship), you should be completely confident that the person you have literally trusted your life to, has not only passed your critical checkpoints, they will maintain the security of each. To have climbed to the top of your friendship means trust, loyalty, and the bond has withstood the dangerous ascent without incident. By the time I was done with my analogy, my publicist was able to see clearly how I was able to make the comparison. We both agreed that you want a friend who will help you climb to the top without concern they will miss a step, forget to secure your harness, give up too much slack (or too little) at the wrong time, lose focus and let you fall. Who better to call friend, than someone you trust with your life? If we took this much time to determine exactly who we call friend,we would be less likely to be hurt or betrayed. I have often said, In an ideal world, you know who you can truly trust. We do not live in an ideal world. Be careful who you confide in and allow access to your private life. The *word* friend is a label anyone can try on. Be wary of the devil in disguise.
I will leave you with this excerpt from the chapter in Life Is Not Complicated that I reflected on today: Disappointment taught me early that every now and then it is prudent to reevaluate my social sphere and that I should protect my personal life vigilantly. I reveal this for one important reason: to remind anyone reading these words that no matter how put together a person may look on the outside, sometimes there are mental and emotional scars buried deep beneath the surface. Life Is Not Complicated, You Are: Disappointment

Life Is Not Complicated, deal with disappointment and its effects head on…

“Inasmuch as you cannot predict if and when you will be disappointed, once it happens you have only two choices: You can either let it consume you, until you become bitter
and resentful. Or, you can accept what has happened, learn from it and move on. It really is that simple. What we tend to do is over analyze.” ~Life Is Not Complicated: Disappointment

Gold-WaterI had to take some time to refocus. Over the past two and a half weeks, I was sidelined by illness (I am fine now, thank God), had to deal with a challenging personal issue, navigate changes in my career, and accept for the first time in nearly two years, all good things must come to an end (or at the very least, may be abruptly interrupted). This period in my life almost knocked me off-center. As I’m sure many of you can relate, it’s as if I was being bombarded by an unrelenting series of disappointments. And I am not too proud to admit that it was exhausting. Mentally and physically. You begin to question everything you have done up until that point. Not in a “second-guessing” oneself kind of way. More like, “What is it do I need to change in order to get back on track” kind of way. I was taking on too much, thinking about too much, trying to coordinate way too much and it caught up with me. God has a way of letting one know, it’s time to take a step back. In fact, one of my favorite scriptures is Mark 4:39: “And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea,Peace, Be Still. And There Was a Great Calm”. That is a powerful verse. One we should heed, especially when facing disappointment; when we are twisting in the wind and battered by life’s storms.

When things do not go our way, we typically have two choices (as I describe in the chapter Disappointment.) We can either be controlled or take control. After a brief period of solitude and deep prayer, I realized I needed to get back to my old self or else I would lose the firm hold I had on all the moving parts that make up my life. I took it all one step at a time. First, I settled my personal concerns. I am a firm believer that if things are not good at the center of one’s life it will be very difficult to control everything that emanates from your core, your heart, your soul. You need to be right with yourself and the people you count on to keep you grounded before you can productively tackle extraneous, extracurricular factors of your day-to-day existence.  I then addressed my professional hurdles. I re-visited my business strategy, re-assessed and restructured. I also have been making a much greater effort to remain healthy, mentally and physically. No matter how boldly you stand against life’s challenges, if the mind and body are weak you are basically defenseless. Bottom line is, I took action. I decided what I wanted, what mattered, who mattered and made a conscious decision to proceed in a direction favorable to all of the above. I did not sulk or wallow. To do so would be to succumb to disappointment; to take for granted that I have been given the ability to decide if I will be happy or miserable. That choice is a blessing…a gift. It’s all up to you. You either want the best life can offer or not. To straddle that indecision in between is to waste your days away. Decisiveness, desire and purpose are the best weapons against disappointment.

I will leave you with this excerpt from the chapter, Disappointment. “If you can train yourself to be actionable instead of reactionary, you will break out of the negative space that is typically furnished with fear, uncertainty and inaction, and move into that peaceful zone of determination, power, decisiveness and growth.”

Hoping from this point on you choose to deal with disappointment and its effects head on. Life becomes less complicated when you do.

 

Life Is Not Complicated, stop and smell the flowers…

Many of us lead busy lives. We juggle careers, family and extracurricular activities while trying to pay bills, set up nest eggs, chase our dreams, raise children, perhaps care for aging parents all as we struggle to maintain our sanity in the process. Throw in a desire to exercise and (for many) meditate, worship and sleep and you can use up every second of your day. Thing is, while we are doing all we can to survive the day to-day grind and live up to our responsibilities, we neglect a basic human need: The need for affection. The need to love and be loved…One should never be too busy to take a moment to express a thought or loving word or share good news. These are the moments that link hearts. They are the ties that bind. ~Life Is Not Complicated: Flowers

I am not an overly sensitive person. I rarely (very rarely) wear my heart on my sleeve. This is an aspect of my personality few understand. I find it so interesting how many friends and family who, after reading Life Is Not Complicated, called me saying, “Now I know why you are the way you are!”. As if they had unearthed a secret that up until that point masked some kind of enigma! I did not know how to take these reactions at first! But most went on to explain that they just never quite got why (or how) I was so pragmatic about life; why I didn’t dwell on sadness, mourning, or why I was seemingly void of feelings or emotion under circumstances that would rattle most people. (First let me clarify: It is not that I am void of feelings. I just know that in order to overcome disappointment, we cannot be OVERCOME by disappointment. All about perspective). Some say they envied my ability to remain so focused, so resolute no matter what. Others, as I mentioned, just couldn’t grasp the notion. But it got me thinking. One of the best things about writing this book is, it forced me to look at my life through the eyes of those closest to me (And even through the eyes of people with whom I was only informally acquainted).  In examining my life up until this point, and after hearing some of the feedback I am reminded of the chapter entitled Flowers.
sunset_flowers_by_maya_bella-d392xmn
Let me preface by saying: I am definitely not one to let the opinions of others change me, shape me, deter me from my goals or otherwise affect me in any way I do not deem necessary for my personal growth. This is one of the guiding principles I write about at length in Life Is Not Complicated. However, having lost so many loved ones before reaching this level I do understand how important it is to have balance. Not that my parents, grandparents and Uncle Rube Earl ever doubted I loved them, but in the case of my Uncle Rube, I was so busy working on making him proud, I missed the opportunity to share my achievement with him. It’s as if I got so caught up in reaching the destination I neglected to visit while on the journey. To know you are loved, and to be shown love… two very different things. Sometimes, the latter gets lost in the busy shuffle.

Carlos Parents FlyerThat epiphany really hit me hard. And I had to remind myself, and I want to remind you, it does not have to be that way. Look I get it. We want so much in life. We do so much to accomplish even more and we are constantly going and thinking and planning and preparing and we have our eyes on this prize and we are reaching and running and dealing and grinding and our entire existence becomes as fast-moving and complicated and run on as this last sentence! And before we know it, we realize we missed out on some important moments, lost touch with “home base”, with what keeps us grounded and stable. And sometimes, we discover this sad fact too late.

I will never make excuses for working hard and being progressive and focused. It is who I am, and has gotten me quite far in this life. However, I acknowledge, there must be balance. What good will the fruits of labor be if you cannot share the feast with special people in your life? Or if you are too tired to even enjoy the trappings of your own success? You can have the drive just don’t forget to put it in park sometimes… take in the scenery, enjoy the moment. Don’t spend so much time chasing your future that you run over your present. Remember: “One should never be too busy to take a moment to express a thought or loving word or share good news. These are the moments that link hearts. They are the ties that bind”. ~Life Is Not Complicated: Flowers

Life Is Not Complicated, keep success in perspective…

Never apologize for the good in your life. People who try to make you feel badly because you have been blessed are consumed by self-loathing. Wear your accomplishments proudly, be it your career, your relationship, your children, your success. True friends will bask in the glow of your shine, not pray for darkness to fall. Life Is Not Complicated: Success

I have been in L.A for about 3 days now. Admittedly, I can now say that I can see why this city is often referred to as “La-La Land”. Yes, this is an actual, bona-fide, definition for Los Angeles; a definition which describes it as “a state of being out of touch with reality”. Now, I am in no position to say if that is indeed the case. However I can attest to the fact that material (and physical) enhancements are a pretty big deal out here. Who you know, what you wear, what car you drive, where you live… go a long way in framing how important you appear to be or how successful you are.

hr_Tyler_Perrys_Single_Moms_Club_3Now, I am not going to stand on a soap box and preach about how material possessions should not determine your self-worth. If you have read Life Is Not Complicated, you already know my stance on what determines healthy self-awareness. Not to mention, I am not naive enough to believe that some of life’s luxuries and benefits should not be a by-product of hard work and success.  However, after spending time with two very successful and dear friends, I realize more than ever that the true definition of character really lies beneath the surface. You can’t mask fear, insecurity, self-loathing, laziness with nice clothes, expensive cars and mansions. Billy and Cocoa are two of the most down-to-earth people I know and they are, as we speak, the toast of the town in L.A! Today, we are preparing for a major movie premier (The Single Moms Club, Cocoa’s first full length major feature film), and all we have talked about are our kids, relationships, new business ventures, investing in the future and whether or not we have time to make a trip to Roscoes for breakfast! Simple things with immeasurable value. Simple things that will be here long after movie premiers, red carpets, limos, stylists. More importantly, they know (I know) that there will be people who love them and those who do not. People who will be thrilled with their success and others that will be envious. In the end, they are confident and satisfied that hard work got them here and they have every right to be proud of that. It is only befitting that they celebrate success. What they won’t do is become distracted by success. That is when your focus gets blurred; when you lose sight of the important things in life. And that is when things begin to fall apart.

In Success, I write about one of the most beloved men I have been blessed to know. He wasn’t a rich man, he wasn’t famous, he was not a world traveler. Just a plain, simple man (a father, a mentor, a football coach, son, brother, good friend) from Jacksonville, Texas. Yet, the impact he made on so many lives, just by virtue of his good heart, his integrity, his strength, and love of life, was (and is) more powerful than any amount of money can buy. He is eternal proof that it is not what you have, but who you are at your core that truly matters. And he was good with that. And in our eyes, he was a star.

Ultimately, we all just want to be happy. What gets us to that place of course is all relative. But one thing is for sure: True happiness comes from within. It comes from being confident, grounded, determined, and content with your lot in life. This should not suggest you settle for less. I am merely saying you should put the things you value in their proper perspective.

When you set your GPS to get you to a place where the simple, important things are a priority, you will never get lost in La-La land.

Life Is Not Complicated, failure is not the final chapter of a life God authors…

Faith brings clarity. You stop asking why, and prepare for when. You accept that life’s biggest disappointments can become the greatest blessings; when one door closes, another opens. When it does, step through fearlessly! If you walk in faith, you will not get lost. Life Is Not Complicated: Phoenix

As I write this, I am making plans to travel to Los Angeles. First, I want to say, packing is not one of my favorite things! However, as with most situations I am able to look beyond what I consider a tedious endeavor and appreciate the reason I have to pack in the first place.

Phoenix3A few years ago I was at a very difficult season in my life. As I write about in the chapter entitled Phoenix, I was fighting for my job, I had just lost my Dad, Hurricane Ike had wreaked havoc and destruction  along the Gulf, I had just started a new company as a means to subsist and create new opportunities for me and my family while ironically, my marriage was ending. Fast forward past the fear, the doubt and the worry. With the help of prayer and a whole lot of faith, today my business, Sol-Caritas is thriving, I have been able to honor my loved ones’ legacy in my first book, I have found fulfillment in every aspect of my personal life and in a few hours I will be on my way to L.A. to support my artist and good friend Billy Sorrells as he and his cast-mates celebrate their exciting new comedy show, According to Him & Her ,which will air on Black Entertainment Television (BET) CentricTV. I am so proud of that young man. Billy continues to build on his successes, never settling for just enough. Meantime, I will join Sol artist, actress and phenomenal comedienne Cocoa Brown and her fellow actors and actresses as they prepare to stand alongside prominent director Tyler Perry for the opening of The Single Moms Club, a new film coming to theaters Friday, March 14th. Before I began packing, I screened the final version of New York based anchor and comedian Liz Faublas’ widely anticipated DVD Liz Faublas: From Broadcast to Broadway. In classic Sol style, Liz has parlayed her award winning news career into a successful stand-up career. Meantime, sales of Comedian GrossMann’s DVD F#@k It, I Don’t Live Here have surpassed even our wildest estimates. I must add, the production of both Sol artists’ DVD’s comes courtesy of our exclusive, state of the art in-house production facility, Sol-Rise, led by  Mikkell “Fetti” Limbrick.

The purpose of today’s post is not to bore you with my itinerary. I really just want anyone reading these words, or who read Phoenix to see first hand that if you have faith, if you work hard, if you truly believe that you will NOT be side-lined by your challenges, your seasons will change for the better. It is possible to have a good life and it is yours for the taking. I could have given up at so many different times over the years. But thanks to my legacy and foundation, my faith and the support of people around me who I trust and love, I persevered. I had to. There was no way failure would be the final chapter of a life that God authored!

So, when you think you cannot survive, cannot overcome, cannot progress past your pain, defeat, disappointment… create your own itinerary and do not stop until you are packing for your own journey toward redemption. And when you are on that road… you need to keep pushing. Never rest on laurels or believe “This is it”. Each day, I am reminded opportunities abound. You are no different. You just have to believe it.

Life Is Not Complicated, be comfortable in your own skin…

MotherThere is considerable freedom attached to knowing and accepting who you are. Fortunately, I never really had to struggle with my identity. My mother loved me from the moment I was conceived. I know this because she told me, often. Not that she needed to reassure me, although it was wonderful to hear. From the time I could reasonably understand what it meant to be loved, her affection encouraged and empowered me. More importantly, she taught me to love myself. I became comfortable in my own skin. It is a trait I relish and for good reason. It arms me with exactly what I need to overcome the most daunting challenges in order to break from that what if mentality and engage what is. ~Life Is Not Complicated, You Are: Purpose

Life Is Not Complicated, never forget where it all began…

Country Boy with signatureI am extremely proud of my humble beginnings. I make it my mission to live up to and hopefully exceed the expectations of every single person who sacrificed blood, sweat and tears to set me on the right path. These basic, albeit critical, small country town principles enriched my life in ways affluence or prominent social standing could not. Fundamental, unpretentious lessons that set the stage for how I would comport myself every day in an overly complicated world. Today the duality of my character is obvious: beneath the surface of a strong willed, honorable, hard working family man and altruist beats the simple heart of a Good Ol’ Country Boy from East Texas. ~Life Is Not Complicated Intro: “Good Ol’ Country Boy From East Texas”