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Do Whatever It Takes!!!
“Discipline, the ability to do, what you need to do, when you need to do it, while no one is watching”
I believe the title of this chapter is quite clear and it hits down at the core, “You Got To Want It and You’ve Got To Want It Badly". This is my second key to seizing your opportunities, “DO WHATEVER IT TAKES.”
A logical thinker knows that if you want something bad enough, you will do whatever it takes to get it. My former Kansas City Chiefs Coach Marty Schottenheimer used to utter over and over again,
"Men, if it’s important to you, you’ll find a way to get it done.”
Before Coach Marty taught me this, I saw this trait in my mother. Earlier I told you I was raised in the inner city, combine all the challenges that presented and then add that my mom raised us as a single parent. My mom had a “Whatever It Takes” attitude when it came to providing for my siblings and me.
I watched how hard she worked and how hard she struggled at times to make ends meet. Although she dropped out of high school her junior year, she never used that as an excuse. She set a good example for us and was not afraid of doing what it took to make sure we had what we needed. While growing up, she held various odd jobs. But the one I remember the most was when she became a welder. You see opportunities can come disguised in different ways. Sometimes people can view them as an opportunity while others might see them as an obstacle.
Through a contact from a friend she was invited to join an apprenticeship program to become a welder for a large company in Portland called FMC. The company was looking for more welders but I don't think they were looking for women. It was not typical at the time for women to become welders for large companies operating on large machinery. Everyone in the family thought my Mom was nuts! I can remember some saying, "Women don't become welders” or “You are going to get all dirty and how are you going to carry all that equipment?” “That job is for men!” Needless to say, my mom did not allow the naysayers to change her mindset. Mom also had key number one, she had a “PASSION” for taking care of our family. She saw this as an opportunity to take care of her family. She quickly passed the apprenticeship program and was hired to become a welder at the company. Even after she got the job and worked there for some time, she still had to deal with being questioned whether or not a woman belonged there.
It was no easy job. The best opportunities are usually wrapped in difficulty. The after affects were evident when she returned home. She was worn out! She’d arrive home in full welding attire, wearing big heavy boots. Soon as she arrived, she’d sit down and we would start yanking off those big boots. I can remember my big brother Tony on the right side pulling on one boot, while I was pulling on the other boot. Those boots were so hard to get off. I always thought how difficult it had to be for my mom to walk in them all day long. While we were doing this, my sister TanJa was running her bath water. She was usually sore and very tired so she deserved the relaxation. Mom set a solid example for me in being a hard worker and realizing sometimes the circumstances aren't always perfect. So you make the most of the opportunity set before you no matter what. My mom saw the welding job as an opportunity to provide and that’s what she did. We always had the basic necessities for life. She was the first person to teach me to “Seize Your Opportunity.”
My mom set the standard. With her example, she established a gauge for me to aim for something higher and she better prepared me to handle the unpredictable.
Later in life, I was given the opportunity to put in practice what my mom taught me and what I had seen her do over and over again, go to bat for the family. If you have lived on this earth just a little while, you know that life will throw you curve balls, what I now like to call opportunities. Several years ago I was thrown one of the biggest opportunities in my life. I’m laughing as I writing this because I can tell you, you have to be careful, because when you first see the opportunity, it will not look like an opportunity.
August 2007 I received a call from my nephew Justin Birden. After hanging up the phone, I knew I needed to head Tulsa, Oklahoma to check on my nieces and nephews. Raina and I talked and we both agreed there was a sense of urgency so I took the next flight out to Tulsa. Less than 48 hours later I was knocking on the door where Justin was living. I quickly learned the situation wasn't what I thought it was. I spent the next 24 hours rounding up my five nieces and nephews. The entire scene was like something out of a movie. The police took me to a nearby gas station and told me to wait there. Then thirty minutes later the police returned with two of my nieces and one nephew. I remember one of my nieces Aaliyah entering my rental car filled with tears in her eyes because she wasn't sure what was going on. It touched my heart because I knew she was confused. The following day I was standing before a judge fighting for temporary guardianship of my nieces and nephews. The judge gave me temporary custody of the children.
However, I was required to bring them back 30 days later for a final custody hearing. With 30 days to my next court date I couldn't stay in Tulsa that long, I needed to get back to Oregon. The dilemma was how could I get 6 people back to Oregon in the most economical way. We could drive or purchase 6 plane tickets. Driving was out the equation; I didn’t have the desire to drive. Buying the plane tickets was very expensive. So after talking with Raina, we decided buying Greyhound bus tickets was our best option. I couldn't remember the last time I was on a Greyhound bus. But our journey was set, Uncle JJ and his five nieces and nephews ranging in age from 6 to 17.
The long bus trip was the most grueling and disgusting form of travel I've ever done. No doubt about it! I’m sorry Greyhound bus service but I was not impressed. The buses we were on usually had a foul smell. We often sat in the back so we could be near each other. That meant we were next to the bathroom. They consistently overbooked the buses so I was asked several times to allow my six year old niece Alishia to sit on my lap for several hours at a time. Not to mention we observed some pretty quirky people on these buses as well as at the bus station. That actually made it somewhat entertaining as we enjoyed people watching. At the time, I had just started a new job, while my wife and I were still juggling our current businesses.
I can remember making sales calls on the Greyhound bus while Alishia was on my lap. I could not just shut it down, I still had to work and provide for the family. Remember, “Do Whatever It Takes.” It's interesting to me when people have an amazing opportunity in front of them but they are not willing to put in the effort to achieve it or they allow life to get in the way. I like to share the Greyhound bus story when people try to tell me they can't do something or find the time to pursue their passion. Yeah right! Traveling from Tulsa to Oregon, in the back of a disgusting smelling bus, with my five nieces and nephews while one is sitting on my lap. What was I doing? Making sales calls! Hey “You do what you have to do when it’s important to you.”
When we finally arrived in Oregon I'll never forget the some of the first words that came out my wife’s mouth. She said,
“You guys stink! Babe, you’ve never smelled this bad before, oh my goodness.
You guys need to get cleaned up fast!”
She was right. We did smell awful!
This was a significant change for our family. Going from 3 children to 8. We were basically like the Eight Is Enough TV show rather than the Brady Bunch. The next 30-days was full of adjustments. We did not have a house to accommodate 10 people, which presented an immediate problem. Without delay, we changed up the sleeping arrangements. My youngest son Dante moved into my oldest son LaJourdain’s room while Justin and Brandon took over Dante’s room. LaShawn, Aaliyah and Alishia moved into my daughter Camille’s room while Camille moved into our bedroom with Raina and me. I get tired all over again thinking about it! We positioned a twin mattress at the end of our bed for her. Despite these drastic changes, my children were great and were willing to make the sacrifice as well. They too saw it as an “OPPORTUNITY” to be there for their cousins.
When the 30 days were up, my nieces, nephews and I, headed back to Tulsa for the custody hearing. If you’re wondering, we did NOT take the Greyhound bus this time. During the custody hearing the judge informed us there were two options for the children’s future, return back to my brother-in-law or be placed in separate foster homes. As I'm standing before the judge listening to the dialogue that's taking place, I quickly realized the children’s two...