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WHAT DESTINY MEANS TO ME ...
Follow your interest, get the best available education and training, set your sights high, be persistent, be flexible, keep your options open, accept help when offered and be prepared to help others.
Mildred Spiewak Dresselhaus
It was a morning quite like every morning of my life ... I wake up; roll out of bed and on my knees, I pray. The only difference about this morning is, it's my fiftieth birthday. I'm a half-century old and as a child I never thought I'd make it this far. God has blessed me with another great year and I also give thanks for great family and friends. As I think about this fiftieth year, reflecting on my childhood: the good times, the hard times and specifically the bad times; thinking about all the crap I went through as a child I'm able to laugh at some of it. Some of it was just a little too serious to let go of and sits in my box, so learning to "DEAL" became a way to survive. Even though I've had hard times and some bad times, I'm still able to smile. "Never give up," became the mantra I learned to live my life by. By adopting a "never give up" attitude I came to believe, "From Opportunity Comes Unlimited Success." Every opportunity placed before me, I've taken advantage of them, but ultimately my survival became key.
LIFEWORK JOURNAL ENTRY
I don't quite remember how old I was, 3 or possibly 4, but I do remember waking up in the middle of the night, with what I believed to be, two very strong hands around my neck, choking the life out of me. I was so afraid I pissed all over my bed and myself. My eyes still closed, I was truly afraid to open them, because I didn't want to see, who or what was choking the life out of me! When I finally summoned the courage to open my eyes, I realized there was no one choking me. Was I dreaming? To a point I was dreaming, because there wasn't anyone physically choking me, but I was choking and I had truly pissed myself. First of all, I was a small child and I was unable to breathe. Each time I took a breath, I felt as though each one was going to be my last. I thought I was dying. I got out of my bed and made my way down the hallway of the apartment we lived in, to my parent's bedroom. I knocked on their bedroom door and even though I was unable to breathe, struggling for every breath, I was more afraid of what was going to happen to me for wetting my bed. I remember my parents being afraid when they saw me not being able to breathe and rushed me to the hospital. Looking back, this is the first of many struggles I had to learn to deal with. I was born with asthma, but I never had an attack so severe. Asthma was not a fun way to start your life, but these were the cards I was dealt, so I learned to deal. For the first thirteen years of my life, my lungs were plagued with difficulty exhaling, so when I had what was known as an Asthma Attack, I couldn't even blow out a candle if it was one inch from my mouth. If we allow circumstances to control our lives, those particular circumstances could give us every excuse to fail and in most cases without even knowing we did it. I was born with the perfect excuse to fail or just give up. I could have said, because I was a black male who grew up in the ghettos of Watts and Compton California, during some extremely tough times, what kind of future did I have? I could also say because my parents weren't rich, what chance did I have to make something out of my life? Joining a gang was another option. Again, I could have used every excuse in and out of the book, but I chose not to give up. Deep in my spirit, I always believed circumstances can and will change. Taking advantage of opportunities became a way to believe I could move ahead in life.
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These opportunities, I later discovered, had been placed before me for a reason. They were always mine, but I didn't know it, or was not able to see them at the time because of a lack of clarity. If you look deep into your memories, you will discover there have been endless advantages presented to you in your life. I had heard for years, "Things happen for a reason." Being the child, I was, I always wondered what that phrase really meant. Everyone always associated this phrase with the negative things in our lives. Someone got shot or the Smith's car was stolen. Why was it that people never said this when positive things happened? Kenny graduated college or Shelia was able to get a home loan. How come we never associated good things with what we thought was fate? As I grew up I came to my own understanding about the way things happen in our lives. I believe things happened in your life the way they are supposed to. Choosing your path, whether consciously or unconsciously, every door you choose to open on your journey will determine your success or lack thereof. When these things do happen, good or bad, you have to be ready, willing and able to deal with them. When you have a better understanding of what's happening, this will also help to direct your steps to success. Now think about why things happen for you. The main reason I didn't allow myself to live a down and out defeated life is because of my parents. Now my parents were not easy on me growing up, but I believe it helped to prepare and develop me into the person I am today. If they didn't stay on me, I could have strayed in the wrong direction, down the wrong path, or maybe even wound up dead. That's just how things were. Another fact of life my parents pointed out to me was, "To take advantage of every opportunity placed before you." Taking advantage of those opportunities meant getting the education and the knowledge wherever, and whenever, I could. My mother would tell me, "It didn't cost anything to go to the library." I followed her advice and spent some of my spare time at the local library, reading everything I could to learn more about the world I lived in. Learning about life beyond my neighborhood gave me a desire to see the "Whole World" and I began realizing I was a part of it. My dad was old school and he believed, a man was his name and he always said to me, "Your name (meaning your last name) is all you have in this world. You're born with it, you're responsible for it and you'll die with it, so you have to respect it." Growing up, I came to understand what he meant (Self Respect). If you don't respect you, who will he said? And when people see that you respect yourself, they are less likely to try and take advantage of you or disrespect you. He also said, "When you believe in you, others will do the same." One day I finally understood what my dad was saying about my name and talk about pressure! Having self-respect or respect for a name is not easy to understand as a child. As a child or even as an adult it's a lot better hearing your name being called when you've done something positive as opposed to negative. Your family's name is not just a name, it's your legacy. With that legacy, if you're smart, you develop a sense of honor. Whatever you do and wherever you go, so does your name. I realized it helped me to really keep myself in check so I didn't embarrass my family name. You see every time I did something in my neighborhood, good or bad I was known as, "Joe Pryor's son." Not just Joe, but Joe Pryor. It was sort of a checks and balances system I grew up with. You learned everything you did, good or bad would get back to your parents and the bad was never a good thing. As I got older everyone pretty much always called me by my first and last name. Introducing myself as, "Joe Pryor" became a habit I will never change. I'm not saying things are always going to be easy, because you're going to go through some crap from time to time. How you dealt with these situations would determine where you would come out in the wash, so to speak. Because so much crap happened to me as a child I had to create a positive acronym for the word "CRAP". So, for me "CRAAP" became, "Creating Real And Active Possibilities". This form of CRAAP kept everything moving in a positive Focus Forward direction. I've learned over my fifty plus years, everyone has grown up with one or more challenges in their life. For most of us life was not easy, but we don't give up. I'm just laying some of the groundwork for what I believe created the base of my Focus Forward foundation and my positive mindset was created, by learning to turn "CRAP" into "CRAAP."
The reality I created may not have been real but it was mine. I began learning how to FOCUS on getting my life in order. It took a little while, but I learned to call difficult times in my life "CHALLENGES." One day, I looked up the word "challenge" in my Webster's Dictionary. "Challenge" is a verb, giving several definitions. The first part of the definition that applies to my life is: "TO QUESTION THE TRUTH OF." Looking at this definition caused me to realize, all my life I've had questions about everything. Also, by asking questions, I became a reservoir of knowledge. I guess it was all the time I spent in the library opening up my mind. Learning is key in the forward progression of our lives. The second part of the definition: "TO ORDER TO HALT AND BE IDENTIFIED." So many times, in our lives, we have to take a step back. Stop, look and listen so you can clearly see, identify and understand the challenges you are faced with. They're not all going to be easy, but as you develop strength of mind, nothing will be able to stop you. Making situations in your life a challenge causes you to compete. We all need some form of competition. It's a healthy way to live and it's an extremely healthy way to learn. Think about growing up ... all of your life, learning has come through some sort of challenge, or competition. Whether you're rich or poor challenges help to shape the people we've become. In many cases it starts at home as we begin competing with siblings. This is one of the first phases. If you're an only child when you get older and start going to school, even pre-school, we compete with our peers. As a natural course of our development competition will always create challenges. As you move forward in your education pretty much everything you do becomes a competition, i.e.: for grades, even for the attention of the opposite sex. Taking tests and competing for grades is another phase of competition. Sports create yet another type of competition or challenge, but it's still the challenge pulling us in.
Another challenge I faced as a kid, was growing up in Watts and Compton, California. I was born on June 7, 1960 at 12:26 AM and this could explain why I like being awake at night. Growing up in and around these two cities in the Sixties and Seventies was truly a challenge. It was during the time of the Non-Violent demonstrations, of Dr. Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement. Malcolm X, with his "by any means necessary" motto is how I started and ended most of my days. Black Power and total power to the people was all around me. The Black Panther Movement was another staple in our community. They started out great, helping in the community by creating educational and food programs. They also became an extra set of eyes and ears in the black community keeping a watchful eye, on one or two bad apples of the local police. The Panthers also kept the local neighborhood riff raff in check. They truly became local heroes, especially to the young Black men in my neighborhood. It helped to keep the community strong and it also began to make Blacks proud of their neighborhoods. As time went on, one day according to government sources, they decided to overthrow the American government. Also, according to government sources, The Black Panther Party decided to incorporate a type of "Democratic Socialism." This democratic socialism indicates that, "the means of production are owned by the entire population and political power would be in the hands of the people democratically, through a co-operative commonwealth or republic, as a post state form of self-government." "Don't Trust The Man, Pigs Must Die!" Was scrawled everywhere in my neighborhood. If it were true or not, this whole "Democratic Socialism" was not a very smart thing to do back then. The riotous violence in August of the 1965-Watts Riots showed me, a 5-year-old child, how quickly the lives of so many people can change. One traffic stop, on one day and the world as we knew it would never be the same. Without change we would never succeed or grow. We had a revolution to free ourselves from British rule and it was extremely necessary, but this time there had to be a better way. When you are pushed and feel as though your back is against a wall, and on top of that you feel as though you have no place to go, then you fight! Watts was never the same after the riots as far as I was concerned, but could it get any worse? One of the largest and most notorious gangs in the United States was born in my back yard. "The Compton Crips." Again, challenges create competition, and competition sparks learning. I learned very early to watch my back and be extremely careful with the people I brought into my life. Making a friend back then created a bond that made our neighborhoods pretty strong. Looking at my life growing up in a challenging environment, being in it you don't see the challenges because they become commonplace. As these challenges continued to invade my life they made me stronger and more focused. By the way, the "Compton Crips" are still there!
LIFEWORK JOURNAL ENTRY
FOCUS was slowly creeping into my life like a stalker. It became a way of life for me and in turn, became a "Rite of Passage." That Rite of Passage became real and a very serious life experience for those close to me and myself. I lost a very close friend to gang violence James (Mickey) Chamberlain. Mickey and I met in junior high school and we became the best of friends. Growing up without any brothers, I was a year and several months older than Mickey, so he was like my little brother. Making it to college first, Mickey was going to meet me at Cal-State Los Angeles and from there we were going to go to law school. This would be our ticket out of the hood. We talked about becoming lawyers, making lots of money and living the single life in LA. Life can change in a split second ... Mickey was killed! Another victim of senseless gang violence and black on black crime. During the time between 1979 and 1985 gang violence in South Central L. A., Watts and Compton was at an all-time high. We found out later Mickey's murder was a case of mistaken identity. I will never forget Mickey and how having someone as close to me as a brother, changed my life. Many lives have been lost for no other reason than ignorance. After Mickey was murdered, I became even more focused with everything in my life. There were times when I got extremely angry thinking about losing someone so close to me. At times, and not by choice, I began to live my life in an angry state, and that would create depression, which at times would cloud my FOCUS. Mickey had a potential for greatness, so in his memory I refused to stray and I learned to control the anger that sometimes raged in me. Clint Eastwood, said "When you kill a man, you kill every opportunity he ever had!" As I got older I learned the system is sometimes not fair and not always as honest as we would like it to be. You don't have to completely conform to the system, but you need to understand how to work in the system. Learning how to work in the system known as "THE STREETS" is what you and those close to you did to survive where I grew up. The lessons' I lived through, not only taught me to be loyal to those I grew close to, but I also expected them to be loyal to me. This did become a serious Rite of Passage.
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Every day I survived a challenge; FOCUS was developing in me. It also helped to keep me out of trouble. Staying out of trouble was extremely important because, my dad didn't play that. Not wanting to ever become a product of my environment, focusing on my schoolwork was extremely necessary. I also learned very quickly once you've truly learned something no one could take it away from you. Knowledge became my real power. Acquiring knowledge is one of the easiest lessons for survival. Whether it was book knowledge, or street knowledge you need to educate yourself. We live in a country, a nation, a universe, where information is free. The Internet is everywhere and around every corner information is at our fingertips. There is no excuse or reason, why you can't succeed at whatever it is you want to do with all of the resources we have at our disposal. I believe the more you learn, the more you should want to learn. Spending so much time in the library, learning became second nature for me. Success should never be measured by financial gain (MONEY). Money is a tool and if used properly will not only benefit you, but as a tool can be used to help others. This might sound a bit cliché, but "true success starts in your heart." Having a fire burning inside, igniting your passion and desire for something, is one of the true keys to your success. Everyone has his or her own personal feelings, or idea about success. The Passion, Drive and Desire, P.D.D. is what fuels your internal fire. It starts in your heart, but the end result is your dreams and hard work completed. Whatever the idea, whatever the feelings, you can't accomplish any of your objectives without understanding how to FOCUS. Knowledge can be infectious ...(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Unlikely Destiny: Volume One"
Copyright © 2018 Joe E. Pryor Jr..
Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: What Destiny Means To Me, 1,
Chapter 2: Look In The Mirror!!!, 20,
Chapter 3: Why Are You Here?, 40,
Chapter 4: What Do You Want?, 65,
Chapter 5: Time To Think Outside The Box, 81,
Chapter 6: Being Open To Any And Everything "BOTAAE", 103,
Chapter 7: Three Steps In Life You Must Go Through ... Anger, Depression, To Enlightenment, 118,
Chapter 8: Now That Your Vision Is Clear, What Do You See?, 147,
Chapter 9: No More Excuses ... "You Can Win", 161,
Chapter 10: The New Beginning, 177,
About The Author, 187,