Five years ago today I started this little blog. A lot has happened to me over the years since and many lessons have been learned. I can honestly say that I am a different person in the sense that I have grown up quite a bit, but I am still me. I can be no one else. That’s kind of my life’s theme these days. I accept me for who I am as I work towards being the man I want to be. It’s a paradoxical way to exist, but it’s true. Here are the top five things I’ve earned in the last five years – in no particular order:

1. Being a good father takes practice and you are never as good as you think you are. Parenting is a lifelong endeavor and kids change, their environments change and their influences change. Being a rock star parent when your child was an insane three year old may not translate to the same success when they are older and challenging you in different ways. The reverse holds true as well. These days I just try to be consistent and roll with the punches, and be the biggest positive influence I can be. And I am taking a much more manly approach to being dad. My son is lucky to have a wonderful mom, I think I will embrace being dad. That said, everyday there is a moment, sometimes big, sometimes small, when I think to myself “I didn’t see that coming. What wold a good dad do?”

2. I value loyalty and love above most things. My wife, son, brothers and my friends are some of the most important people to me. The small circle that I keep is special because of our shared loyalty and love. They are my peeps no mater what. If I don’t see them for a year they don’t make me feel guilty, they welcome me back and ask what I’ve been doing. They encourage my personal mission to support fatherhood, and they understand me (or at least try to). I lost some friends over the years, one or two that I truly miss, and that’s because they didn’t or couldn’t reciprocate the love and loyalty that I had for them. My loyalty extends to my commitment to support fatherhood, especially black fatherhood, wherever I can.

3. People are unpredictable. Human beings are capable of inspiring and brilliant feats. They are also equally adept at doing some of the most despicable and horrific things one can conceive. Thankfully the good almost always outweighs the bad. No matter how heartless people are when they leave grimy anonymous comments on blogs and websites, generally speaking they are not bad people, they just have bad thoughts that they can’t control (more on that later).

4. Appreciation is the key to many things.This is one of the difficult ones for me. I am a self deprecating cynic by nature. Sarcastic by practice. And habitually snarky. It doesn’t come across in this blog because when I actually have time to sit down and think about how I want to be perceived it’s usually not as a douche bag. However, in real life I don’t have time for instant reflection and sometimes I’m a complete jerk. Jerks don’t appreciate things easily. I have to consciously remember to appreciate all that I have, say it out loud, and I have to give myself a little poke in the eye every so often to remind me to appreciate each individual for who they are. I am glad to say I am really getting good at this (I had better or else I will soon be blind in my right eye).

5. Your thoughts are the only things in life that are truly your own so don’t waste your time with the negaive ones. This is another hard one but I also accept that it’s a lifelong journey, much like parenting, and I cannot master control of my thoughts over night. Sometime we let sadness get the best of us. Sometimes we allow things/people/situations to take over our minds and drive our emotions. We’re only human. But with being human comes this beautiful gift of self awareness. We have the ability to be aware of ourselves, how we are feeling, and make adjustments. If we want to. On occasion self awareness pushes us to the doctor for a dose of Prozac (or whatever they are writing prescriptions for these days) and that’s OK. It’s actually one of the biggest ways you can decide you want to feel better is knowing you need serious intervention. For most of us, however, its about getting into the habit of being positive and seeing the bright side, even when there may not be one that is apparent.

I’ve learned a ton more. But these are my favorite five at the moment. They are being incorporated into the non-profit that I am building up to work with fathers on a larger scale. My new non-profit, Black Dad Connection, is in motion and updates will be forthcoming as 2011 progresses….

Life is about growth and I challenge you to think about this – If you aren’t growing as a person, what exactly are you doing?