Attuquaye Okai – The Challenge

As we journey through this experience called life we are all challenged in many ways with hits, trials and tests on every side. It seems that once we muster the faith and the courage to overcome one issue, we get hit with another one! But, the truth is that these are only mere distractions to keep our focus off who we are and what we can truly achieve if we just had a vision and true understanding of who we are and know the gifts and talents that we have all been born with.

When you allow yourself to be distracted, pressed, overwhelmed and afraid, you tend to focus on the problem and not the solution. This is where you get stuck and produce more of the same. We lose sight of what makes us who we are and where we are going and what we would like to accomplish.

As such we begin to focus on doing just enough to survive the storm by pacifying our fears and creating a false sense of security and settling for the “Status Quo.”

You know what I mean. You’re taking a job only because it pays the bills right now. It is ok for a time while you are setting your goals, and figuring out what YOU would like your life to look like. But letting that job become your master rather than you staying true to what you truly desire to be or do is not good! You were meant to rise above your challenges and use those challenge to become stronger, more determined and focused to achieve your goals so that you can be the master of your own dreams, goals and life.

Or maybe you never tapped into what your gifts and talents are and what makes your heart sing because someone else, like your parents, family or friends, told you who you were or what path you should take, and you did it just to please them. Or you have a family of your own with a lot of responsibilities, so you must do whatever you have to do to maintain and provide… I get it. That is not uncommon. In fact, that is more common and the most accurate scenario of most people.

Statistics show that better than 80% of Americans hate their jobs because they don’t feel appreciated. They feel overworked and underpaid and out of control of their future while realizing that they are building the dreams of others and their jobs are not giving them the lives they want to live. The reality is that they are just surviving and truly not living!

Often, for most people, it takes having the rug pulled out from under them and having that false sense of security, getting a consistent paycheck, to disappear before they decide to take control of their own lives and future. Sadly, for most, if that doesn’t happen you find yourself allowing years to go by living in a fog, a false reality, not even getting close to tapping into who you can be or were meant to be. You allow someone or something to dictate the quality of your life and shape your experiences while building a legacy for someone else and not your own.

Then there are those who have found a way to use their talent in a profession for a time and some life event comes along that forces them to have to redirect and reinvent themselves and they get stuck there focusing on what they once had. Wishing things remained the same because they got comfortable or even complacent where they were.

If that is your story, then you too have found yourself in a place where you are having to grow through while you go through!

If there is a common experience for everyone, it is that change is inevitable and the only question when change knocks at your front door is, are you going to find a way to control your future or are you going to let that change control you?

What will YOU do? What will your future look like and what legacy will you leave behind for your family?

YOU have The Power to Design the Life You Want regardless of the circumstances!

The Journey:

Like you, I have had to pick up all the pieces and figure out “what’s next” or “what am I going to do now?” when life didn’t go the way I planned it.

One of my first experiences with that was as a young teen. I had a dream to play professional football and to be an entrepreneur, so I could do what I loved and be able to help other kids and families.

Some people told me that I wouldn’t even make my high school team let alone accomplish such a huge goal. But I had a vision of where I wanted to be in life and I refused to let anyone talk me out of it!

Well, I made the team, which was awesome and exciting, of course. I went to Bayside High School in Queens, New York, and in my first season with the team, we went undefeated.

But life started to present challenges for me that seemed impossible to overcome at the time and threatened to pull me off the path and goals I wanted to achieve. After that season my family fell apart. My parents divorced, and my household became so uncomfortable for me I had to leave at 14 years old.

So, I ended up getting two McDonald’s jobs at two different locations doing maintenance at one and cooking and cashiering at the other and working them both at the same time. Alternating days and sometimes working at both on the same day. I rented a room all while still going to school and playing football. Can you imagine what that must have been like for me or what my schedule must have been like?

Having a clear vision of what I wanted to accomplish and where I wanted to be was a driving force for me. I didn’t want to become just another statistic and I was determined to have the life I wanted and not what someone else said I could be or have!

Subsequently, my team and school went on to win 3 straight NYC Division One Championships in the late ’70’s and early ’80’s, which had never happened before by any school and hasn’t happened since!

I managed to overcome many challenges and kept good grades. However, two more challenges threatened to derail my dreams.

The first, was that I became seriously injured, playing tight end, while catching a ball over and in between defenders in the middle of my senior year when recruiters were coming in and out to scout us and select us to come to their schools. It almost ended my season, but I managed to make it back on the field by our championship game 6 weeks and 5 games later. That could have ruined all my chances to be recruited to a top school, get a scholarship and stay on track to reach the professional level.

The second, was that I missed so many classes, because I had to work that the school refused to let me graduate even though I officially passed all my classes with high grades. There was a rule that said that if attendance wasn’t up to the standard they had set, which I didn’t know about, the right to hold me back another year and that’s what they decided to do, effectively making me what they called back then, “A Super Senior!” Again, another major hurdle, that threatened my dream.

As it turned out, I learned that a very important principle was affirmed for me while playing football back then. In fact, other famous coaches like Phil Jackson of the Chicago Bulls and Vince Lombardi of the Green Bay Packers, employed this ancient principle to help propel their teams to championship status. Though I wasn’t told the source of this powerful principle back then, and who had successfully used it, I later discovered that the use of prior visualization or the human imagination is an amazing tool that will help guide you to and be a strong catalyst to help you achieve the desires of your heart. Today we have many words for it like: Vision, Purpose, Mission, or Your “WHY!”

All these coaches employed the technique of visualization, or imagination, of a desired goal by asking us to close our eyes and imagine catching the ball and scoring a touchdown or perfectly executing the plays/game plan they had taught us for a game we were about to play. As it turns out, this tactic happens to go back as far as the oldest book known to man today, called The Bible”! (Basic…Instruction…Before…Leaving…Earth)

Not only did we run and drill the plays we learned physically, we also played back the execution and the desired result in our minds over and over before we even touched the field on game day! As you can see from what I told you about the three straight NYC Division One Championships we won, the results are undeniable! In fact, I stumbled onto this principle even before I made the team because I had the goal of making the team in the first place and imagined myself doing it before I did it and it was further confirmed by all I was taught while playing for the team.

We had an unprecedented number of players from one school who managed to get scholarships to Division One Colleges and many other players that made it to other colleges and universities that year! Three players from my high school team during those years went on to play professional football!

What I learned from those experiences shapes my life even today. Even though I had an injury and then did not officially graduate with my class could have held me back. But I employed the principles. My athletic period kept me focused even while having to leave home at such an early age to fend for myself, and despite those circumstances, I refused to let them deter me from accomplishing my goal of getting into a Division One College Football Program and then getting to the professional level.

That Vision and my WHY helped guide me to find a program given at York College in New York to prepare for something called a G.E.D. (General Education Diploma). I never told my coaches or confided in anybody what I was going through at the time, but the determination to never let go of my goal fueled me and even guided me to opportunities and resources I didn’t even know existed at the time. I enrolled and passed with one of the highest scores in New York City at that time. Then I called he University of Iowa; they had recruited one of the players from my team and several other players around the city from my senior year. There were several other schools that had done the same, but this school happened to look like my favorite professional team and wore almost the exact same uniform, was also in the “Big Ten,” which is a big time college division I wanted to be in because they get to play in the Rose Bowl and get heavily recruited into the NFL. The twist was that I originally wanted Michigan to select me but with the injury in my senior year a lot of schools that were showing interest, prior to the injury, did not continue to show interest after that.

Getting back to what Vision and a strong WHY did for me and can do for you.

I called up the University of Iowa and spoke with a counselor and told them my situation. Normally, your coaches would have these kinds of talks with the schools that show interest in you. But, because I never shared what my personal situation was with them; not graduating, and having that injury during the season, the conventional tools they could use to discuss my athletic or college future weren’t available to them, so I didn’t even ask for their help. Fortunately, the counselor at the University of Iowa told me that there was a way that I might be able to enroll there even though I had a G.E.D and even though I didn’t take the  college level entry test. But when you have Vision and a strong enough WHY the HOW to will take care of itself!

So, they told me that if I could figure out a way to get there, then they would let me enroll as a non-matriculating student in a few summer classes to prove I could handle the work and take another kind of college entrance exam called the A.C.T back then while taking the summer classes, and if I passed it and got good enough grades in those summer classes, they would enroll me as a matriculating student (official student with credits toward a degree) in the upcoming fall semester which would also allow me to officially play football there!

Then came the next step, I called the coaching and recruiting staff on my own, told them who I was and who I played high school football with and they listened. Well, it didn’t hurt that they had recruited and given a full scholarship to one of the players from my team and had already scouted us; they knew who we all were. It didn’t hurt that they already had film of me playing so they could see what I was capable of. I guess they were impressed with my attitude, determination and the film they saw so, despite my lack of “officially” graduating and my injuries, knee, ankle and turf toe, they invited me to work out with the team as a “Walk On” (a player that tries out and joins the team without a scholarship initially).

Next thing I know I’m on the field running routes with a receiver who ended up going pro and was signed by the New Orleans Saints and catching passes from a quarterback who ended up playing for the San Diego Chargers. The running back that came from my high school team went in the first round of the draft to the Buffalo Bills and just barely missed the Heisman Trophy which went to another running back from Ohio State University that year!

Back to me, as it turned out I was still affected by those three injuries, so they decided to unofficially “Red Shirt” me (hold me off the roster so I could still have four years of eligibility to play for them going forward), my first year/season. Let me heal up and be ready for next season while still working out with them.

So, I went ahead with my classes and ended up with a 3.75, which is an A-average for the summer as a non-matriculating student, and in the fall as a matriculating student! The team went on to appear in the Peach Bowl that year, because of all the recruits they got from New York, 6 in total, including myself. The next year, they recruited a 7th player, my high school quarterback who went on to sign with the Seattle Seahawks as a running back.

Iowa had not appeared in a Bowl game in many years before that and subsequently went to the Gator Bowl and The Rose Bowl after that!

Unfortunately, during that time of my life, while technically still a kid, I had to make some tough choices. It was quite painful. I received a call from my little sister saying that there were major problems back in New York with our parents, so I left college during my spring semester of my first year with intentions of coming back to study and to play football finally for the next semester. But life got in the way. Love compelled me to stay in New York and work there and be there for my sister. I ended up laying my dream down and never went back! All six of the New York City high school players that were at Iowa with me went on to play professional football. I don’t regret choosing love over my own dreams, and what I was fighting for, because to me my sister meant more than any of that, and I couldn’t imagine not being there for her. Though I must admit that I was affected by it so much that I couldn’t watch football for 10 years! I never regretted that decision because I believe it was made for the right reasons.

In spite of having to re-enter the workforce as a 19-year-old kid, with a G.E.D and no college degree and my original goals rerouted, I still came away with some of the greatest lessons and experiences that a college education doesn’t teach you, and subsequently prepared me to win at everything I put my hand to later on.

Within two years I was able to go from being one of the top sales people, as an independent rep, for a nationally recognized brand, to being offered the opportunity to run my own business as a distributor for them. Another opportunity was given to me in a different field which made me co-owner of a different type of business by the time I was 21-years old. So, the entrepreneurial side of my goals were in full effect.

I would occasionally run into some of my former elementary, middle school and high school classmates and they would tell me of their exploits having a hard time finding a job with their college degrees, and as such would ask what I was doing, and when I told them, knowing I had to drop out, they were amazed.

The other part of my goal was to be able to help the kids and families in the communities I lived in. I thought football would give me the platform to do that, but without it I didn’t know how.

However, when your Vision and your Why is big enough… the How To will take care of itself!

As a result of all the lessons I have learned and am currently using, and am sharing with you, I have worked to improve the communities that I lived in and did non-profit work in for better than 26 years across America teaching, mentoring, and coaching youth and adults in sports and in life. Also availing resources to them and I am currently working to bring medical, educational and housing assistance to villages in India, Kenya and Ghana through the international ministry that I founded.

Currently, I own my own business and provide legal, identity theft and business consulting services to small business owners to help them protect and grow their own businesses and also provide services to families to give them affordable access to the legal system, including services to protect them from the plague of Identity theft. I have run this business for 17 years now.

This also allows me to “make a living while making a difference” and provide career opportunities for people who have had an unorthodox start, like me. To give students and recent grads who are just getting started and don’t have experience yet, a chance, as well as, people over 50 years old who are finding that they no longer fit in the traditional corporate structure.

I have owned and operated other businesses and have the distinction of being my own boss for at least 26 years overall.

All this goes to show that it was within my power to choose the direction that I took, and I shared this story with you because the bottom line is that we ALL have the power to choose and YOU have The Power to Design the Life You Want regardless of the circumstances.

The Plan:

It’s all up to you now. All human beings have the ability to access a force and tool called imagination which gives you creative ability.

If you can see it in your mind and have the audacity to believe it, you will, with discipline, diligence and determination, most certainly achieve it.

Nobody but you will be able to stop you because that is how we were made to function. “As a man thinketh in his heart so is he.” Whatever you meditate, focus on and give most of your attention to, you will manifest in your life. In most circles they call that studying.

Have you ever noticed that when you buy something you never really noticed it as much before you bought it, then suddenly you start noticing more of them after you bought it? It’s because now your mind is tuned in to that thing or frequency.

That is how the mind is wired. It was all around you the whole time. It is the answer you need. It’s the provision or opportunity you need, but because you didn’t tune into that thing with focus or vision, you were  not drawn in to it and it was not apparent to you.

You may find yourself in a position where it’s time to change your career or to reinvent yourself, the best course of action is to design your life the way you want it to bet. Take some time and really examine what is important to you and what you want the next chapter of your life to look like.

Don’t settle and don’t let fear trap you. Fear is only… False… Evidence… Appearing… Real. That is an acronym that I learned some time ago that is so true. Most of the time fear is only smoke and mirrors designed to rob you of the thing you want and when you begin to move forward through that fear you will find that there was nothing to fear at all.

In fact, I have said previously that if your WHY is big enough the HOW TO will take care of itself.

When you figure out what you want to achieve and you refuse to live without it or if it would adversely affect someone you love if you don’t achieve it, then you now have a big enough WHY that will propel, motivate and push you to stay focused and achieve what you need to achieve.

Step one: Think of what you want or need to achieve then write it down as your own personal vision or mission statement.

Preferably, it’s something that’s really important to you and that lines up with your natural gifts and talents. This way, whatever you do won’t be like work and will be something you would want to do whether you get paid for it or not. It will be something noble that makes your heart sing.

Notice that most successful companies and organizations have a vision written down so everyone, especially their employees, can see it to achieve it. Everything they do must line up with that vision or mission statement. It is this kind of focus that makes them successful and  helps you too. Because, if you don’t have a clear destination in mind, any destination won’t do; you could end up far away from where you want to be.

Step Two:  Really hone in on WHY you must accomplish your vision and use that as a driving force.

It could be out of concern over a loss, or a need to do something for a loved one. It could even be the realization that your retirement plan isn’t going to be enough for you to live comfortably down the road. Or you really want your life to have meaning and purpose. Or it could be that you want to leave a legacy behind. Whatever it is make sure you write it down. Sometimes your WHY can be a short-term goal like getting a new car or getting a child through college, and once it is achieved you may have to refocus and readdress it. Your WHY could be a life mission, if it is, write that down, too. Whatever it is, keep it before your eyes, speak it, and imagine achieving it every day. This will fan your flame, keep that burning desire in your heart!

Step Three: Continuous Meditation on both your Vision and Why will create Belief!

This is necessary because there will always be some sort of obstacle which will threaten your ability to achieve what you desire, and this will be the fuel that will push you through to victory.

In Conclusion:

Whatever you choose to do, do it with your whole heart because there is nothing worse than regret.

You don’t want to look back over your life and be filled with remorse because you may have a slew of “woulda… coulda… shoulda’s” that play loudly in your mind, tormenting you.

We all have one life to live and one chance to get it right!

Your time is NOW and, as long as, you have breath in your body it is never too late to accomplish what you desire!

YOU have The Power to Design the Life You Want regardless of the circumstances!

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