Updated: Jun 13, 2021
I think ‘MATURITY’ is the most important weapon that exists in our ‘Arsenal of Life’. With the passing of time and keen attention, the socialization within our environments results in the development of behavioral patterns, which help us create a better quality of life.
Living my best life
I’ve often heard, and have fallen victim to the saying “if I had the opportunity to do it all over, I would do it differently”. This is a tacit acceptance that, with greater maturity, our decisional processes improve.
When Tazhna asked me to participate in her podcast, SHOP TALK: The Unfiltered Truth, to discuss the topic of "The Mature Man's Guide to Life”; I quickly surmised that this partnership could be a most worthwhile contribution to the development of our young black men. Given that the young black man’s experiences and history is known to have been, and still is, difficult. They require a cocktail of tactical and strategic guides to enhance their success rate in life; as the world is filled with economical and health inequities coupled with institutional and systemic racism that further threatens the young black man’s success and existence.
I believe my own life provides a rich framing for this discussion. I have made many mistakes along the way that have created many positive learning opportunities.
The strength of our society is directly correlated to the development of our young people and more specifically, our young black men. This statement is as profound as the proliferation of ‘crime and violence’ to pandemic proportions in Jamaica and is being driven, unfortunately, by young men. I believe one of the reasons for this, is that many of our young men have been deprived of a father figure during the influential years of childhood. Some were not provided a role model or simply a male figure to offer guidance in these turbulent and menacing times.
I am blessed enough to have had the influence of a Dad, nine older brothers, many uncles, and numerous community male elders, which I took for granted. Thankfully, I recognized this blessing and am now compelled to share my experiences with others as was done to me.
Conceptual Framework of Life
To discuss this topic, it is important to recognize the many influences that impact the quality of our lives. The effectiveness of our responses to these influences is tied directly to our level of maturity.
My Conceptual Framework of Life identifies five (5) major age cycles that our lives evolve through from birth to the end of life. It also identifies ten (10) quality factors that influence my quality of life.
Conceptual Framework of Life
Cycles of Life
The 5 major cycles of life are as follows:
1. Cycle 1 - Ages 0 - 12 years
I cannot emphasize the importance of parenting during this period of my life. Its contribution to my character and aspirations to be a professional cannot be overstated. Having a strong father figure in my life was so important. My Dad was like a military leader who instilled army-like discipline in all our lives. My Mom and my Sisters provided the loving and nurturing that I needed during these formative years of life. We had a strong and stable family life that was built on God, love, security, respect, and education. This inspired my desire to utilize the support of family and education to mobilize my professional development. Guidance from my brothers and a community approach to raising children kept me in line both inside and outside of our home.
2. Cycle 2 - Ages 13 - 24 years
I left my rural home at 12 years old to live with my second Mom, my sister Bernice, in Kingston. The growth of our family was driven by the migration of the older siblings to Kingston and overseas, and then support provided to younger siblings and my parents. Going to school was not optional during this period; in the end, attending high school and university felt mandated. I was fortunate to have an active school life, where I played competitive sports (football and cricket) and was a socialite. My teachers, siblings and family friends were all very influential in my selecting my professional career. I was told I could be anything I wanted to be in life and I was provided consistent support by all, this drove my career path.
3. Cycle 3 - Ages 25 - 45 years
Living in rural and urban Jamaica gave me the best of both worlds. My sociability and experiences across the different class structures of Jamaica prepared me well. I was blessed with my first daughter at the age of 25 and I immediately assumed the role of provider and caregiver. Subsequent to this privilege, my life was transformed as I traveled for further studies in Trinidad, this experience made me into a Caribbean man, one who fell deeply in love with our cultures. Working in multiple organizations in the public and private sectors, I gained diverse professional experiences while continuing to give back to my country. My entrepreneurial biases were ignited during this period of my life.
4. Cycle 4 - Ages 46 - 65 years
At the age of 54, I am now living my best life, literally per minute. I am lucky to be able to leverage the fruits of my labour and the many social and professional engagements that I have had over the last 3 decades. I now accept that I have lived more years than I have left to live. The completion of a Doctorate of Business Administration (DBA) was my last big dream. Now I am inspired to provide my knowledge and experiences through this and other mediums to the world. From this point onwards, I will focus on my health and wellness, business expansion, and living my life to its fullest. I will also preserve my long-lasting friendships and continue to focus on health and wellness. Most importantly I hope to keep grounded in the teachings of God.
5. Cycle 5 – Ages 66 and above
I have not yet entered into this cycle, but I have access to the experiences of my older brothers. The age of 65 years old is the stipulated retirement age for many. It signifies the twilight zone of life, where many will be waiting in the departure lounge for our time to leave this earth. At that point, I hope to be living the rest of my life enjoying the fruits of my labour, my kids, and my grandkids. I hope there will be no unforeseen errors that will change the present trajectory of my life or cause any trauma, dislocation or instability in the future.
Growth and Maturity
The following are 10 quality factors that I suggest could be utilized to guide one’s life:
1. Be supportive of family
If you are to have a family, always love and stay close to them. Commit yourself to care for your parents and ensure that their health and wellness needs are properly supported. Your siblings should be your most trusted friends, always keep them as your closest confidants and mentors. If or when you produce a family of your own, invest in their security and well-being. Encourage and support your children by ensuring that they achieve the highest level of education they wish to attain. Create a stable family home for them that is based on love, respect for self, and the community in which they live. It is clear that our families provide the best support to us as we grow and develop into our best selves.
2. Focus on education
Most of us were not born with a “gold spoon” in our mouths. This means, acquiring education in order to create economic opportunities and better our quality of life, requires focus and determination. Having a strong educational foundation ensures that we can become anyone we desire to be. Strive to be an above-average student, to ensure that you are selected for schools with solid programs. It is important that you decide what you want to be in life at an early age, select the appropriate courses and areas of specialization consistent with your career desires, and be reminded that it is okay to evolve as you age. If you did not access school because of a lack of resources or other barriers, go back to school, don’t allow age to prevent you from learning. I have proven that age is just a number, as I successfully completed my DBA at age 47.
3. Develop relevant experiences
We all need to differentiate ourselves professionally through developing relevant experiences. I have trained in multiple disciplines that include engineering, information systems and management. I must confess that I have questioned myself many times about my decision to study across such diverse disciplines to be a “jack of all trades, master of none”. You should always develop relevant experiences in your area of interest, in my case, I love engineering. You should be an authority and highly respected in your professional domain of choice and you should strive to use this expertise to make a difference. Always be proud of who you are and whatever you do, always strive to be the best at what you do.
4. Leverage your skills in business
I agree with those who say you cannot get rich working for others. I guess I am one of those who will remain poor! Working for someone is what is called subsistence living; you will always work enough to pay your bills and be comfortable, but never have enough to be called rich. Many of us are satisfied living our lives this way and that’s okay, not all of us are inspired to do business but I urge us all to leverage the innate skills that we have, by monetizing our talents through a business venture. Starting a business now is much easier than before as the marketplace available to us is now global; a brick-and-mortar business is not a necessity. We can use technology to bring our talents to the global marketplace by just a mere click of a button. Learn to multitask, don’t let anyone person or company manipulate your talents without adequate compensation.
5. Learn from your mentors
The greatest external influence in my life has been my professional mentors. These persons include family members, work colleagues, and friends who have taken time out to create opportunities and support my development. You must be eager to learn and always align yourself to people who know much more than you do. I have found that older more accomplished persons have created better development and learning opportunities for me. Always give respect, loyalty, and commitment to your mentors, this is an invaluable way to sustain these relationships. Be self-aware in your progress and when it is most appropriate for your individualism to advance above all others. Don’t be selfish, but be deliberate about when you feel you have full confidence in focusing on your own dreams and aspirations. Nothing is wrong with shared goals and vision, but self-actualization should always be paramount, life is short!
6. Contribute to something big
I think we all came into this world with a purpose; the key is to find it and act upon it. We all don’t have to be superstars or billionaires to fulfill our purpose in life. Start by identifying the natural gifts that God has bestowed upon you and find a way to leverage that gift to make this world a better place. Also, identify what it is that you love and are passionate about doing day in and day out. From an early age, I loved designing and building things. I love pulling things apart and fitting them back together and I love solving complex problems and I believe myself to be a ‘problem solver’. My greatest wish has been to help contribute to making my country a better place for my fellow citizens through being a public servant.
7. Support the development of others
Always be willing to help and contribute to the development of others. Lending a helping hand in school, at work, in your community, and in your family can make a substantial difference in our society. Our contributions should not necessarily be judged by its value but by the impact that it has on the lives of others. Every contribution that is made in the public or private sector is valid, just a friendly courteous offering of services to a client can enhance the life of another person. Those who volunteer their services to help the less fortunate, especially children and elderly people, are special humanitarians in our community. I encourage every person, from youth to senior, to identify an organization of choice and volunteer their services. I want to big up my family for the projects we are working on to assist the residents of Springfield in St. Elizabeth.
8. Learn from your mistake
A mature person is expected to be a knowledgeable person. This knowledge should be utilized to enhance our quality of life, and that of the community in which we live, better. One of the most important learning tools available to a person is using the mistakes made to better navigate future decisions. I have made numerous blunders and mistakes throughout my life. I am glad none were ‘fatal’. You should never be devastated by the mistakes you make. Always pick yourself up and use the mishap as a tool to learn from in order to enhance your future decisions. More importantly, always be opened to sharing your mistakes and the lessons gained with others. The biggest misfortune would be not learning from your mistakes.
9. Live life to its fullest
Life is so short, we must all find time to live it to its fullest. You must have a deliberate balance in your life, as the saying goes “work hard and play hard”. I am a strong proponent of educational and professional development, but I also believe you should live life to its fullest. For me, this means, identifying the things you love and do them while you have health and strength. Never put off life or put it on hold, every minute, every day, every month, and every year is a precious gift, use it well. Ensure that you focus on health and wellness so that you have an able body to enjoy the things life has to offer. In my case eating right, exercising, and having fun have become my lifestyle. You should never rely on others to make you happy, make yourself happy first.
10. Focus on Health and Wellness
Living a healthy lifestyle creates a better quality of life. It helps to mitigate the many illnesses that attack the human body. While we are young, we tend to abuse our bodies with what we eat and drink, and by not resting our bodies adequately. It is true that when we are young we are more physically active, which compensates somewhat for our poor health practices. These poor health practices sometimes become a permanent part of our lifestyle, which becomes difficult to modify later in life. I have been very active throughout my life, from playing sports to being a gym addict, even at the age of 54 I continue to focus on good health and wellness. My most important guide to you is to stay healthy to preserve life.
The “Mature Man’s Guide to Life” was written using references from my own life experiences. This guide recognizes that life is a process that traverses many cycles from birth to death. As we grow through these different cycles our decisional processes are strengthened by our engagements with people and our environments. I have identified 10 quality factors that can be utilized to enhance our quality of life and even its duration.
Our level of maturity impacts the quality factors and how they influence our quality of life. In my case, I am still trying very hard to fully optimize my quality factors. I urge all young black men, who are challenged by the many inequities in our society, to critically assess the quality factors that are most relevant to their circumstances. LIFE IS WHAT YOU MAKE IT!!
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