Keep On: Reflecting on two years of columns
ID: INTERACTIVE DIALOGUE
THIS month marks two years since I first started writing an opinion column for this paper. I still find myself having to explain the difference between an opinion columnist and a journalist or reporter, but I have got used to it.
It was always part of my 15-year plan to write for a major newspaper, and the opportunity came after years of writing letters to the editors of both papers in Jamaica and having a few published. I have been fortunate enough to share my ideas, experiences and the ideas of others with a wide audience.
The most rewarding experience was when someone told me that they couldn't believe I was the same guy that used to dance on top of speakers at parties and that they had no idea I was so smart. I simply replied, with a smile, "Used to? I still do."
When I write, I either write as if speaking to a crowd or try to be very personal as if I was having a one-on-one discussion with a reader. This is one of those heart-to-heart columns. I cannot know what you are going through in your personal life at this point, but I know that you have faced decisions that could change your life and certainly will face more.
You have played many scenarios in your head, you have seen things you wanted to speak out about, you have worried about your financial future and you have passed over opportunities because you did not want to take the risk.
When I was offered the chance to write an opinion column at the age of 29, it was something I had dreamt of since I was 15. There were certainly going to be risks. The Chinese have a saying that the nail that sticks out gets hammered, which is true. However, we also know the saying, "As tough as nails", so I figured if I am going to get hammered I should always remember to be prepared for it and be tough.
I have had to use this column to defend my reputation; to expose a minister of state who felt that she could tell lies on people working for the benefit of Jamaica; to expose a plan to politicise the Jamaican Diaspora Advisory Board and remove a democratic process for electing representatives for each reason; to laud policies that I felt made sense and expose policies that did not seem to be well thought out.
It was not that I felt no fear — fear of attacks, fear for my family, fear for my financial future. It was precisely because of fear why I spoke up — fear that if I did not stand up and speak out when I saw wrong, then I would have no right to complain about mismanagement, waste, improper behaviour and corruption.
My family was not very happy when I told them I was willing to sacrifice everything if it meant standing up for what I believed in, what I thought was right. You are reading this and you cannot help but think about the wrongs you see around you. You want to speak up, but you think you are alone.
Stop. Think about the difference one person speaking up would make if a member of your family was in trouble and that one person called for help. One person can make a difference, even if it is just to inspire someone else. It can start a chain reaction. Expect haters, expect some people to tear you down. Luck favours the prepared, and you will definitely need some luck.
You do not need a column in a national newspaper to contribute to a better society. You just need to stand up and speak out. Face the fears and think about how many you can help. I genuinely believe that focusing on just my safety or that of my family is selfish and I cannot inspire others by being selfish.
I was raised in a household where integrity, reputation and ethics were extremely important. Being selfish was never part of what I was taught. My family recently had the opportunity to meet President Barack Obama and I was happy that someone sent me a message saying that anyone could have made a donation to the campaign in order to get a photo opportunity, but almost no one would come up with the idea to create a birthday card for Jamaica's 50th anniversary of Independence for the first Black president of the USA to sign, much less turn around and donate it to the country.
That is just how I was raised, and what the National Pledge taught me about working creatively. I cannot alter the cards I was dealt in life, but I can keep on trying to do good and inspire others. You have been dealt different cards but there is no use complaining. Just recognise that we both have different starting points. That does not change the goals you can set for yourself.
If you are afraid of failure, then do your best to get over that. Success requires failure because it is how you learn best. While at the University of Miami I minored in Religion, mainly focusing on Asian Religions. The Tao Te Ching says that "failure is an opportunity" and you must imprint that in your way of thinking.
I could have failed at writing this column and it would have bothered me a little, but I decided that it was worth the risk. I did not want to spend the rest of my life wondering how it would have turned out and whether I could have managed to write even one good column.
The 'Keep On' in the title of this column is from Cezar's song which pulled me out of a deep depression years ago after a major failure with RealVibez. My wife and I made Cezar one of our son Luke's godfathers partly because of that. (Full Disclosure: Cezar is a co-founder of RealVibez Records with my brother and me).
I use it because I am going to keep on speaking out, keep on inspiring and keep on writing. I hope that you will spend some time thinking about how you can face your fears, tackle them head-on and play your own part in helping to improve society.
"Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." — Winston Churchill
David Mullings is Chairman and CEO of Keystone Augusta and was the first Future Leaders Representative for the USA on the Jamaica Diaspora Advisory Board. He can be found on Twitter at twitter.com/davidmullings and Facebook at facebook.com/InteractiveDialogue