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Focusing on the African-American community, the author of Unlimited Power and an associate present a motivational program for training the mind so that African Americans can overcome societal roadblocks to achieve empowerment and the life of their dreams. Read by the authors. Simultaneous.
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Tony Robbins is a philanthropist and #1 New York Times bestselling author. He lives in Palm Beach, Florida.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
The Human Choice
There is absolute magic in this being called Black -- splendor and purpose in every single cell. For within us are the genetics of the warrior, who steps boldly into the future, and the connection of family that binds us together with love. There is unlimited power and innate intelligence in the very soul that drives us.
Joseph McClendon III
The conflict is classic: The difference between what we feel in our souls and what we deal with in the real world is all too often like night and day. Inside each and every one of us is a seed of greatness, a deep yearning to grow and contribute, to make a difference. All of us want to believe we deserve the good life -- that we can actually achieve it.
So what prevents us from having our dreams? What keeps us from achieving what we long for in the core of our being? There is no question that racial and cultural differences all too often show up as challenges that could impede our forward motion. But if any of us truly believes those differences determine our destiny, then our future is dim indeed. To allow ourselves to fall into the cultural hypnosis of thinking that the outside world ultimately controls our lives -- instead of realizing that each day is replete with opportunities to become powerful beyond belief -- is to surrender the magic given to us at conception and guaranteed with our very first breath of life.
Deep inside, we all know the real truth: It is in fact our differences -- our points of uniqueness -- that make every human being worthy of greatness, and adversity strengthens our very souls. Muscles only grow with demand. Anything that doesn't kill us makes us stronger if we learn from it, and challenges are God's way of preparing us for what we ask for.
When I look into the eyes and hearts of others who share my beautiful heritage, I feel alive and proud. When I see how much we've grown, contributed, and loved as a culture over the years, I have a sense of connection that is unshakable. I feel extremely privileged and humble to be able to share my thoughts with you, and I deeply thank you for the opportunity to walk this new path together on this enchanted journey we call life.
As I look at my life today, I can't help but feel incredibly grateful. But it wasn't always that way. Like most people, I experienced a time so full of self-doubt and confusion about who I was and what I was capable of that it all but paralyzed me. While I was raised in a family that taught equality and fairness, often the outside world showed me quite a different picture.
We've all had times in our lives when being different was a liability for the moment -- and those moments can seem like an eternity. All too often these "defining" moments can powerfully shape our beliefs about people, opportunities, and the world as a whole, thereby shaping our lives for better or worse. Without warning, something happens. Things change, and we can be thrust into horrific situations. Life turns on a dime, and depending on how we interpret those turns, they can either limit us or accelerate us on our journey to fulfillment.
The Opportunity to Transform
My own life has been full of incidents where being Black was the catalyst for sometimes vicious treatment. Let me tell you about one such event...a long, long time ago.
On a cold, windy November night, out in the middle of nowhere, life as I knew it was about to change. Darkness hung in the air like a thick, black, velvet blanket. And even the thin slice of the moon that shone that evening seemed frozen in place by the emptiness of the desert sky.
It was about 11:30 on a Friday night, and I was riding my motorcycle from Los Angeles to San Jose to visit my father and sister. I was passing through the small town of Oildale near Bakersfield, on the way to Interstate 5. (In those days, to say that Oildale was a "redneck" town was like saying that the Grand Canyon was just a little hole in the ground, or that Adolf Hitler had just a few minor personality glitches he needed to work out!) I had a full tank of gas and only about three more hours to go before I reached my destination. I always traveled late at night to avoid traffic, and I loved the feeling of freedom that being the only one on the road gave me. It was sometimes scary but always exciting. I was blasting down the roadway on my Harley-Davidson at about sixty-five miles per hour, and under normal circumstances I would have been able to pass right by Oildale.
Unfortunately, on this particular evening I had neglected to tighten the rear chain on my bike. With a loud bang it came flying off the sprocket, leaving the bike powerless and out of control. I coasted to a stop, walked back to collect the pieces of chain, then pushed the bike to the nearest freeway off-ramp about a hundred yards away. I pulled into a closed gas station nearby to make the necessary repairs.
I had been there about half an hour when an old Chevy pickup truck appeared with three men in the cab. They pulled into the station and screeched to a stop between me and the pumps. At first I thought they had stopped to help me, but as they stumbled out of the truck I knew I was in trouble. It was obvious they had been drinking, and they seemed so excited over what they had found that they fell all over each other, laughing about who would get to deliver the opening line.
As I stood there, afraid for my life and trying to figure out what to do, I couldn't help thinking that most of us have probably feared this type of situation more than once in our lives. All the stories of vicious mistreatment of Blacks flashed through my mind like some horrible civil rights newsreel from the 1960s on fast-forward. Now it seemed I was about to relive one of those events. For a split second I thought everything was going to be okay, because the large one (the one with the stained overalls and all the teeth missing) stepped to the front and grinned. But my hopes were instantly crushed when he drawled, "Well, niggra, looks lak you picked the wrong place to git broke down at."
After that, everything seemed to happen in slow motion. They all charged me at once, kicking over my bike and trying to pull me out into the open where they could beat me down. "It's time for you to die now, nigger!" one of them shouted as they encircled me. Instinctively I wedged myself between the gas pumps for protection, and I was able to defend myself for a short while, but not before taking some pretty intense hits. Wherever I turned there was another one of them taking a swing at me. In total fear, I realized I did have a weapon: The wrench I had been using to work on the bike was still in my hand. I lashed out with it in hopes of driving them away. It helped for a time, but there were too many of them. I remember being kicked and punched in the head and ribs, actually hearing the impact and knowing the blows were serious. The dull thud of someone's foot in my side or fist in my teeth seemed to be coming out of nowhere, too fast for me to block or dodge. I remember being more angry than scared, feeling like I was going to pass out but fighting to stay conscious. I knew if I lost consciousness, they would rip me to pieces. I don't really know what made them stop, but I do remember running after one of them, yelling at the top of my lungs, ultimately hurling the wrench at him.
Finally, they all piled into the truck and peeled out of there. The rage and hate I felt in those moments was overwhelming. My mind was screaming, You bastards! How dare you do this to me! How dare you! I looked down at my shirt and saw my own blood all over it. I felt my insides on fire, and the bitter taste of blood in my mouth brought a lump to my throat. My face felt like it was tom to shreds, my nose and mouth were bleeding, and I was having difficulty breathing. So scared that I couldn't think what to do, I did know there was something seriously wrong. I figured if I didn't get medical help quickly, I would die.
I made my way over to the pay phone at the far end of the station to call for help, but the receiver had been torn off. I couldn't walk any further, and I was afraid the good ol' boys would return to finish me off, so I spent the rest of the night in the back of the gas station praying they wouldn't find me.
The seconds passed like hours as I sat there freezing in a pile of old tires at the back of the station. Finally, at about 6:30 A.M. when the attendant came to open the station, I crept out from behind the tire pile. The attendant took one look at me and phoned for help. The police arrived and took me to the hospital to deal with my injuries.
About an hour and a half later, I was driven to the sheriff's station in the back of a squad car so I could fill out a police report. The people at the station were cold and unfeeling. With the way they were treating me, you would have thought I was being blamed for what had happened. One of them even asked what the hell I was doing in that part of town anyway, as if I had no business being there. Still shaken and aching from the beating, I was told, "Sit on the bench in front of the desk and wait until we can get to you." As officers came and went, many of them shook their heads in disgust as they walked by. Some even snickered and smirked as if I'd gotten my just deserts. I wanted to cry, but I was so angry and scared that I just sat there and steamed in disbelief. While I felt I couldn't possibly get out of there soon enough, I had to spend several hours at the station -- while they ran a warrant check on me and impounded my bike!
By being in the wrong place at the wrong time, it was as if I had stumbled back into the dark ages of my not-too-distant ancestors. (To this day, I have serious doubts whether they really ever looked for the men who assaulted me.) I felt violated and, despite an upbringing that stressed fairness and racial harmony, I felt the seeds of prejudice germinating in my own gut. It sickened me to see what I was becoming. For the first time in my life, I found myself reacting to color and culture instead of character. From that point on, anyone who even slightly resembled a redneck was cause for immediate suspicion. Even though intellectually I knew better, another person's race could instantly create rage inside me.
Despite the fact that most of my business and personal interactions included White people, I found myself trusting only the ones I knew, and befriending only those who really went the extra mile to prove their camaraderie. I was leading a double life, and the denial and contradiction were tearing me up inside. I hated who I was becoming with all my heart. I was guilty of the very process that caused those men to attack me viciously without cause, knowing nothing about who I was as a person. The scars on the outside would heal, but I didn't know how to deal with what was eating me alive inside.
The Battle Within
0 For years after that event, I was living a lie. Outside, I was happy and ambitious by most people's standards, but inside, I was completely steeped in the memory of what had happened. I was angry, bitter, extremely sarcastic -- I'm sure you'd agree, rightfully so. But I was wrong to generalize my hatred, and somewhere deep inside I knew it.
The incident was over, but the effect lingered and governed my very being. Not only did I feel rage against White rednecks but perhaps worst of all, I actually began to buy into the idiot idea that the color of my skin made my soul less significant. It made me sad and angry to think how many Black men and women felt like me because they or someone they loved had endured abuse as bad or worse than my own. I didn't want that event to shape the rest of my life. I didn't want to live the rest of my days filled with self-doubt and vengeance. I didn't want to be like those rednecks! Yet I couldn't stop thinking not only about the injustice I had encountered, but the pain my entire race had experienced throughout history -- the oppression, the slavery, the mistreatment, the stereotyping of an entire culture. The words "it's not fair" constantly rang in my head like an embarrassing, subliminal reminder of a hideous legacy binding us to hopelessness. I felt like I was losing the battle within myself.
Time Heals All...Or Does It?
As time passed, I thought it was over. My hatred softened to bitterness. But at the same time, the ghost of that experience continued to haunt me. It became the filter for all my inner actions, not only with whites but with my own people as well. My low self-worth and my self-doubt translated into suspicion and judgment of anyone like me. If I were so insignificant that I could be mistreated so cruelly with no consequence, then anyone who looked like me must be just as worthless -- right?
We are responsible for the world in which we find ourselves, if only because we are the only sentient force which can change it.
Those were the most counterproductive months of my life. But you know what? I didn't feel that way at the time. I had no idea how I was allowing the events of my past to affect me. I'd always been driven, yet something began holding me back. The invisible force of fear and insecurity showed up in little ways I never would have connected to my past. Procrastination, hesitation, failure to follow through, low motivation, and flat-out fear became cancers in my life, draining me of ambition and accomplishment. Even when I was doing well, something always seemed to prevent me from living my dreams. I'm sure there has been a time in your life when you wondered, like I did, what was stopping you from reaching your full potential. I had no idea how my behaviors and feelings of self-worth were skewed by my perceptions of who "we" are and what "we" are capable of in this society. I'd seem to get so far, only to sabotage my own progress.
Always, there was a horrible little voice deep inside me constantly suggesting, They're right! You don't fit in; you're not smart enough. You're Black, and in this world being Black is a liability, not an asset. What's more, you're not only Black but you're also dark, and that's two strikes against you. No matter how hard you try you'll never be good enough.
I'd known for a long time most of the world is conditioned to think of Black as less preferable than White, and Blacks have been suffering from lower self-esteem for centuries. I remembered seeing a study on TV where Black children were given an assortment of dolls and asked which ones were the prettiest and the best. All of the children picked White dolls. When they were asked which were bad and ugly, they all picked Black dolls. These were babies, beautiful Black babies, and they had already begun to prefer something other than themselves. They had learned that Black was wrong, bad, and ugly.
I had also seen a show when I was a kid about what life would be like in the future. There were huge, clean cities with monorails, moving sidewalks, and smiling, happy citizens all enjoying the modern conveniences of the day. Everyone had futuristic bubble-domed cars, and they all lived in modern homes with every gadget you could imagine to m...
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