By Frank Dappah
Updated 12:43 PM ET, Sat. September 5, 2020
This article is an excerpt from my new ( soon to be available) book: "' Zero to Sixty"
“It seems to me that the idea of a personal God is an anthropological concept which I cannot take seriously. I also cannot imagine some will or goal outside the human sphere... Science has been charged with undermining morality, but the charge is unjust. A man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death.” - Albert Einstein
The concept behind morality and/or what is deemed ethically sound does not differ from person to person. Culture or social norms, not even one’s religious belief system has any power over this idea - The idea of what is wrong and right.
Whether Atheist, Jewish, or Muslim, we all know when we have strayed from what we know within ourselves to by just and fair. We can often navigate the dynamics of morality just fine without much outside intervention in our early years. As toddlers, we all know to be inclusive, kind, happy, generous. and so on.
My guess is that our extraterrestrial overlords- God, Allah, Anu - made us this way to give future generations a head start on life. There are some parts of our psychological and emotional infrastructure that come with the packaging.
In “Death in the Afternoon”, Ernest Hemingway writes: “So far, about morals, I know only that what is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after.” We don’t need a Priest or some Rabbi to remind us or guide us through the rights and wrongs of life.
Neither the pious nor the non-believer can deny a sense of dread and feelings of emptiness when we live a life devoid of service to others, kindness, and productivity.
The sloth claps back when their general disposition of laziness is even remotely mentioned. The glutton makes nothing but excuses and invests so much effort into trying to educate the rest of the world why thick is in, as opposed to devoting thyself to living a life that is challenging but healthier.
It is much easier to be "woke" online than it is to actually go out there and walk the talk that we talk of social media. It is super easy to be unapologetically black in your Facebook posts than it is to actually rethink the way we as black folks treat each other, in business, and in life.
Some of us engage in unethical behavior as a result of the existence of uneradicated/unmitigated adverse habits and/or temporary, situational circumstances. We all at one point or another have not lived up to what we know to be right.
In fact, if you ask me, most acts of callousness, selfishness, foolishness, and other not so great “nesses” have been as a result of our misguided “young” years, right? We do stupid, sometimes cruel, and shady things when we are young - During our teenage years and even sometimes, well into our twenties.
Scientists say this is because we are often still working on developing the parts of our brains that is tasked to regulate our take on risky behavior, action and reaction, consequences, and empathy.
As young folks, we can always make the “youth excuse" when asked to face the often adverse consequences of bad behavior. This is understandable to a point. The legal systems of most developed nations and territories take one’s age into account when dolling out punishment for one’s behavior, criminal or otherwise.
Some of us never actually grow out of this phase, though. My take is that most of the folks running around seemingly unaware of their own bad behavior/attitudes do so as a result of their lack of a deep understanding of the long-term effects of their efforts to stay young and act as such. We want to stay young and act like children do, for it is more enjoyable to live a carefree life.
Look, I get it. It isn't easy to grow up. It is scary out there in the real world. In the real world, we must work hard (all the time) if we want a chance at success. In the real world, we cannot say what we want without considering those that might be offended by our words - Not if we want to be gainfully employed or be allowed to participate in any level of normal social connectivity.
In the real world, we must fully, and wholeheartedly be invested in the quest for social change. No one is coming to save us. We must be our own knight in shining armor. I get why this can be a bit much to handle at first. I understand the temptation to try to remain as we once were. But we cannot remain stagnant. We must evolve to survive. We must innovate to thrive. I came upon this little piece of wisdom very early on in life.
A Strange feeling
In my case, I can tell you exactly when I realized that in order for me to move forward in life with my goal of starting a business and being a generally happy person, I would have to make significant changes to the way I did things and interacted the people around me.
I would have to redefine what my identity was. Not to the outside world, but to myself. I would also have to have a very frank conversation with myself about my destructive habits. I also felt this strange feeling of calm. I mean, I bearly had a place to stay.
I had like $20 in my pocket, all my bank accounts were overdrawn, I had somehow managed to burn all my bridges, but yet, I was calm in that very moment. It was as if I knew what I had to do to be happy and successful. I got a kick out of knowing that my road to redemption was not going to be easy.
I knew I had to tackle my worst qualities first. The ones that had an immediate impact on my daily life. For me, this was laziness. You see, I grew up being told I was special - You can blame my parents for that. You know? smart. Somehow my interpretation of this was that I didn't need to work hard to accomplish things.
In school, good grades - A's and B's - came easily. But school was over and I now found myself in a 1999 Toyota Camry that I couldn't believe was still functional. Not after everything I had put that poor car through. At this point, it had been like a year since my last oil change.
My breaks were at that point when every time I stepped on it I wasn't sure if the car would actually stop? I mean things were bad. But I decided that I first had to work on the "get money" part of my life. And so, I did.
I started working harder than ever. I was working an hourly job at that point and I think I picked up every single hour of overtime I could get. Soon, I was turning my financial picture around. I would later, go from there to launching my company, but we will get into that a bit later.
What we all want in life
There is no other position in life as perspective-inducing as rock bottom. Am I right? If you have been there, then you know what I am talking about. Nothing makes you examine what's more important in life and appreciate the simple pleasures of life than hitting that point in one's life.
I have hit rock bottom many times. The funny thing is, the way my life turned out allowed me the strange advantage of losing everything a few times over, but with the advantage of youth. What I mean is that it is much better to hit rock bottom when you are young than doing so much later in life.
This gives you upside potential. Well, it depends on the kind of rock bottom we are talking about I guess. I am talking about " I am broke, my guy or gal has left me, the family is not speaking to me. Even the dog shakes his head in disappointment every time I walk by" kind of rock bottom.
Being at the bottom looking up helps one evaluate and reevaluate things. What's important in life, what's not, and everything else in between. I also got a chance to really think about what makes me happy. Or at least what I thought will make me happy. I started to enjoy simple things. I got a chance to spend a lot of time with myself.
Long walks and drives thinking about what I wanted to do with my life. The solitude helped me form several strategies to combat the various aspects of my life I felt needed work. And since no one I knew was speaking to me, well, let's just say I had many strategy sessions.
Working long hours and saving money, as you would expect, came naturally since I was new to the Charlotte area with no friends and as a result, nothing else to do but work. The crazy thing about failure and all the social isolation that comes with it is that anyone can take advantage of the quiet time to truly work on what we all want in life: Happiness, right? When it is all said and done, that's what we all desire.
We sometimes miss this because we are not sure what we want or that we have these things, personal flaws that prevent us from reaching this point of joy, acceptance, and contentment: The adult version of "happy".
So, why is it that some folks seem so freaking happy and others struggle to move from point A to B in life? Why do some seem to just tear down all obstacles and ascend to great heights while others remain sedentary?
Well, I am sure the behavioral scientists and mental health experts have many explanations and reasons why the human condition seems so complex. Especially when talking about some folks' inability to overcome life's most basic challenges.
One expert once explained that as life changes. As we get older and our world becomes complex and amorphous, some struggle to adapt to their new realities while other flow like a river, shaping and reshaping themselves to move to life's undeniable circadian rhythm.
Some experts will tell you that some folks were just raised to be winners. Why? Well, because they were raised by winners. And others assume the various counterproductive qualities of the ones whose job it was to manage their upbringing.
So, how do you explain the son of an alcoholic, abusive dad who goes on to build a great family and launch a successful business? This guy I am talking about somehow managed to overcome all odds to "break the cycle" and change the family legacy.
How do you explain the daughter of a textile worker going on to become State Senator, First Lady, Secretary of State? No one has the answer. And if they did, it would be a very long one.
What I can say is that regardless of one's challenges - whether external or internal, what all winners have in common is that they do not weaponize their flaws and/or challenges. In other words, winners never see themselves as helpless victims caught in some plot by the deep state to keep them down.
Winners overcome, and sometimes this means looking within yourself to try to work on some of the values we spoke about. Sure, this sometimes takes a while and brutal honesty with thyself.