Five Things You Should Stop Doing in 2012. Or, Five Things You Should Do.

Five Things You Should Stop Doing in 2012 – Dorie Clark – Harvard Business Review.

Let me add to this article by offering Five Things You Should Start Doing in 2012.

To be successful in your personal and business life, I’d suggest these:

  1. Listen.  It’s probably the most valuable thing you can do, in both the short and long term.  It’s also absolutely free. When I’ve been quiet and focused on what another person is saying to me, and haven’t appeared to just be waiting for them to stop so I can now talk, it has always paid off.  It’s also one of the hardest things to do sometimes.  Here’s one technique:  decide ahead of time that in the next business or personal conversation you’re having with someone, you will purposefully hesitate before saying anything when they finish their sentence.  Don’t fake it, because people can sense odd, pregnant pauses when they aren’t genuine.   Instead, use your pause as breathing space to form a question back to the other party, that will relate back to what they just said.  It will indicate empathy, make a healthy deposit into your bank of good will, and most of all, you’ll learn something.  For extra benefit, use this with someone you wouldn’t normally find yourself talking to.
  2. Breathe.  Are you impulsive?  I am.  One lesson learned through some hard times has been to just breathe.  When you hear something going wrong or a situation going downhill, just breathe.  Everything’s going to be OK.  Taking a breath or two will help you put things in perspective and your reactions are more likely to be perceived better by others.
  3. Refuse to have negative conversations with yourself.  Self-doubt, self-hate, too much self indulgence — all of these distort our perspective and have a tendency to reproduce and manifest themselves.  Kind of like bacteria.  Find some way to keep the positive channel clicked on in your head. Remember, positive thoughts breed and have children just like the negative thoughts do.
  4. Appreciate the tiniest gifts you have, along with every second you can of our short time on earth.  The old Seals and Crofts song says “we may never pass this way again.”  We won’t.  Absorb your child’s gap-toothed smile just an extra second.  Be grateful to see another sunrise, sunset, and go actually touch the leaf of a tree.
  5. Simplify.  See how little you can get by with, in every phase of your life.  It’s amazing how rich and happy you will be.

“Although I was a little homeless kid…”

There was a time when o2ideas president and CEO Shelley Stewart wandered the streets barefoot as a homeless child.

As an African American in the segregated world of the 1940s American South, he had every possible disadvantage.  Having seen his father murder his own mother with an axe, then abandoned by other relatives, he and his brother Bubba found themselves alone in a hostile world.

Meanwhile, a first grade teacher had seen Shelley and Bubba searching for food in the garbage cans behind a local grocery store.

One day, Shelley found himself in her classroom.  She picked him up in her arms and with tears said, “I’ve seen you, and I know who you are.  If you learn to read… if you get a good education… you can be anything you want to be.”

Shelley relays this life-changing moment in a recent keynote address at the dedication of the new Parker High School in Birmingham, Alabama.


Neighborhood Comeback

This is where I grew up, on 53rd Street North in Woodlawn. Much of the block is now in ruins.

Grandmother washed these windows all the time.  Now the glass is gone. 

The aluminum siding that for a railroad family was a big investment, is now ripped off.  This is where I grew up. In Woodlawn, a historic Birmingham neighborhood not far from downtown and near the airport.    

This is where we rode our bikes all day and most of the night.

This used to be a pretty street, lined with oak trees.

In summer, we shelled peas from the Finley Avenue Farmers’ Market and swatted mosquitoes on the front porch. And my strong and agile grandmother washed that front porch every two weeks in the summer, whether it needed it or not.  This is the house where folks came in from out of town to stay on weekends and holidays.  It’s where we spent cold winter Saturday evenings warmly snuggled inside, watching Bob Newhart, Carol Burnett and the Mary Tyler Moore Show.

Run-down basketball court covers part of the old sandlot ballpark we played in.

Behind our house was Willow Wood Park, where we played endless games of football, softball, and basketball.  The Park has seen much better days, but it’s still there.  

This was once "Riashy's Delicatessen." A Lebanese man and his wife ran the store for many years. A favorite stop on the way home from school for a candy bar.

Around the corner, as we walked home from school at Gibson Elementary, we would stop off at Riashy’s Delicatessen.

Riashy’s really wasn’t a deli in the traditional sense.  It was a convenience store.  Mr. and Mrs. Riashy were always friendly to us. But many times, we would walk in the store and they seemed to be arguing with each other, in Lebanese where we couldn’t understand them.  It was pretty tight quarters and I guess it was tough to hang out with each other like that all day and not get testy.

This was the Woodlawn of the 1970s.  A neighborhood in decline but still a decent place to live.  The last of us left there by the mid 1980s.  It had become unsafe for my grandmother to live there alone.  She got mugged one evening walking up to her own front door on that squeaky-clean front porch.  So we made a way for her to get out while she could.  We all went on to new lives in other places.

Woodlawn continued to decay over the decades.  We thought the death knell had come when the beautiful, gothic-style First United Methodist Church on 1st Avenue North went up in flames.

What a beautiful new building for this "comeback" church! The old 1880s church had burned down a few years ago.

Yet the seeds of redevelopment had been coming up out of the ground even prior to the church fire.  And the remarkable rebuilding of First United Methodist is truly symbolic of the cross-cultural rebirth of Woodlawn, led by numerous churches, concerned citizens, and key nonprofits such as the YWCA of Birmingham. 

Today, parts of the neighborhood like my childhood home are still in bad shape. But, the main core of Woodlawn along 1st Avenue continues to revive.  

YWCA Housing

What a great start this is, improving the “front porch” of this part of town. It’s happening with the help of efforts such as Woodlawn United, the YWCA, Church of the Highlands, Cornerstone School, First United Methodist, and countless other individuals and organizations who are making a huge difference.  

YWCA's Woodlawn Community Building

Below are a couple of great links to coverage by the Birmingham News. 

Woodlawn United Methodist Church Rebuilding

YWCA Housing in Woodlawn