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December 26, 2006

Message to the People: Seven for ’07

The year is over. Rough year, but we made it. No resolutions from the good ol’ “Bastard out of Georgia” as we enter the next one, just a few suggestions. I’ll call them the “7 for ’07.”1) Discover your passion. As I always advise my students, don’t seek what you think will make you the most money — find what you really, really enjoy in life. What can you do to make a real contribution to this world? Your passion is not your job or career (though they should relate). It is your calling. Do not confuse the passion I am speaking of with the passion of romance. If you are more passionate about a person than you are about anything you can accomplish and give to the world on your own, you may need to ask yourself some questions.2) Consider your personal legacy. When you are gone — taking your long dirtnap — how will you be remembered? What will you leave behind? When most people think of “legacy” they think of money. I urge you to think of something greater. I have always been intrigued by people such as DuBois, Hobbes and Sun Tzu. These men penned works that people are still reading long after their deaths. As a teacher and writer, I hope to have such a personal legacy — a book so great that it will be read centuries after I pass. Your dream doesn’t have to be so ambitious (or small). And remember — it’s yours, no one else’s. Don’t let me or anyone else dictate to you what is worthy of your attention.3) Read at least seven non-fiction books. I am ceaselessly amazed by how anti-intellectual our society has become. Great indicators of this fact are not only the infrequency with which Americans read, but what they read. Many women these days are quite dedicated to their book clubs, but it seems the dominant majority of their choices are fictional romance novels. Most men, unfortunately, don’t read at all. I know, I know — some of you are asking, “What’s wrong with fiction, Jones? I like fiction!” Yeah, well I like comic books, but at some point we need to check out the real world. Read your fiction, veg out, dream! But read some real stuff, too.4) Cultivate healthy relationships and reconstruct or eliminate unhealthy ones. Again, I’m not just talking about romance, though those relationships can be considered here. I’m talking about all the people in your life. All of us need people to look out for us, and vice-versa. It’s problematic, however, when you’re looking out for someone and they’re solely committed to looking out for themselves. You’ve got their back, but nobody’s got yours. If you have people close to you who are filled with selfishness, jealousy, manipulation and conceit — you may want to reevaluate those relationships.5) Work for some cause greater than yourself. Do something that will help people you will never, ever meet. When my grandmother was diagnosed with multiple myeloma (a rare form of cancer) earlier this year, I made a personal pledge to talk about the disease everywhere I spoke and contribute a portion of my speaker’s fees to the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF). You don’t have to give or serve as a spokesperson for MMRF (though I’d appreciate it if you would), but give to something.6) Appreciate and celebrate the small things in life. Sometimes we spend so much time worrying about what we want that we don’t stop to appreciate what we have. Many of us spend so much time reminiscing about the past and dreaming about the future that we never actually enjoy the present. Don’t ruin “the now,” folks. In most cases, things could be a whole lot worse. Being a poor ol’ boy from the projects, I’m just happy to have air-conditioning. I’m sure you have some small things that you should appreciate, too. Stop complaining and celebrate them!7) Don’t get comfortable with mediocrity … work on living a life without fear. Self-explanatory.In 2007, then, have no fear, stay strong, stand on truth, do justice and do not leave the people in the hands of fools. Dr. Ricky L. Jones is associate professor and chair of the Department of Pan-African Studies at U of L. His LEO column appears in the last issue of each month. Contact him at blackvanguard@hotmail.com