Tuesday, February 28, 2012

come on dorothy...lets go through the rabbit hole

“Think about it:  there is no experience that you have had, that you are not the absolutecenter of,” ("David foster wallace,," 2008) David Foster recites in his 2005 commencement address to graduates of Kenyan College.  I believe that all too often, people only view situations from their own perspectives, not allowing themselves to view the situation from different angles or attempt to place themselves in another’s shoes.  People tend to allow themselves to interpret events according to their own thoughts, beliefs, and feelings, without giving much thought to how others are interpreting the same situation.  If individuals were to collaborate on ideas or events, more often, a compromised perspective could be achieved, and negotiations could be made.  This would help others to learn to communicate, understand, and compromise, rather than judging one another or maintaining a self-serving bias attitude.  People must learn to communicate their thoughts, opinions, and beliefs; but also be willing to give the same thought and respect to the fact that others may have their own views, much different from their own, on the same topics.  We must learn to accept others unique attributes, and learn to communicate our own individuality in a peaceful and rational manor, in order for harmony in our relationships to be achieved.
          After discussing the “pillow talk method,” (Adler, Proctor & II, 2010) in class last week, I was having trouble understanding the whole process.  Only when was able to apply the method to real life experiences was I truly able to comprehend it.  I work with at risk youth at Pressley Ridge, and on this particular day, I was working with a group of ten girls between the ages of 15 to 17.  As the group was transitioning from lunch back to school, one of the girls walked away from the group.  She refused to talk about her problem, or return to the group so that we could return to school.  The group patiently waited, while I tried to talk to the youth about what was bothering her.  The only thing this youth would say is:  “They pretend to be my friend and then say that, knowing it would piss me off.”  I attempted to process with the youth, trying to figure out what had happened that had made her so upset.  I urged her to return to the group so that we could talk about what was bothering her, and resolve the issue, emphasizing that holding her problem in would only make matters worse.  I explained to her why communication is the key to resolving her issue.  After processing for a bit, she agreed to return to group, but stated that she did not wish to discuss her problem with the group.  As the group gave the youth feedback, they encouraged her to confront her issue.  She continued to hold her ground, refusing to talk about what was bothering her, but agreed to return to group so that they could move on to school.  Once the group was settled into class, I gave the issue some thought, and decided that this would be a great time to educate the youth on “pillow talk.”  I called her into the hallway, and described to her that I was learning a new concept in my communication class, called pillow talk.  I then began to explain the concept of pillow talk to her.  I sympathized with her and talked about the problem from her perspective, but also described how the other peers perspective may differ from hers.  I then showed her a fresh perspective by describing in detail how they are both probably right and probably wrong on certain aspects of the situation.  I then talked about the fact that she must care and trust this individual which is why she is feeling hurt.  I also helped her look at the issue from the peers perspective by reminding her that the peer may also be hurting or have other things that are bothering her as well, and that it is important to look at the situation from many different perspectives in order to better understand the situation.  I encouraged her to remember that she must care for this peer and asked her if the problem was worth the friendship.  I urged her to communicate the problem with the peer so that she could get the other person’s perspective and decide how to communicate or resolve the issue.  “You must not dance around the issue; you need to talk it over.  Not only will you make peace in your relationship, you will also find peace within yourself because you will not be filling in the blank or jumping to conclusions about what your peer is thinking, you will instead understand.”  She smiled, and thanked me, telling me that she will talk to her peer afterschool. 
            Dealing with this situation, and then thinking back on the issue, I felt good about myself for being able to control my thinking.  Rather than becoming annoyed that the girl was holding up group, or assuming that she was just being defiant, I remained calm, and tried to view the issue from the youth’s perspective.  After giving the issue thought, and seeing things from different perspectives, I was able to use what I had learned about pillow talk as a teaching opportunity to help this youth understand the importance of seeing things from different perspectives.  She went from a self-serving bias, thinking she was the center of her universe, to realizing that she shared the space and problem with another individual.  By empathizing with this girl, I was able to negotiate with her so that she was able to sympathize with what the other individual may be going through; therefore altering her attitude and self-serving bias.
            When David foster talked about the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master, this hit home with me, even as I am writing this paper.  We, as people, tend to allow our thoughts to determine our behaviors without giving our thoughts much thought.  If we allow our minds, to serve our thoughts, it can take us on many different paths.  As we sit back, and contemplate each thought, allowing our minds to take us on a journey of many different paths, perspectives, outlooks, and outcomes, only then will we feel confident in our choices.  By allowing our thoughts to determine our behaviors, but rather, our thoughts to determine more thoughts which in turn gives us many choices in which we can weigh.  By thinking about thinking, one can realize that there are more choices, alternatives, methods, reasoning, decisions, and perspectives than they could ever imagine.  This opens up a whole world of possibilities.  No longer is one locked in a cave, nor do they see only black and white.  Suddenly they have the freedom to experience the now, a world full of color and an endless ocean of possibilities. 
             In Fosters speech, he stated:  “That is freedom.  That is being educated and  understanding how to think.  The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing.”  ("David foster wallace,," 2008)  What an intriguing thought!  Upon reading this, it made me think about a note that I once wrote on Facebook about what freedom was to me.  This is how I interpreted freedom:  “Freedom, to me, is all about free will.  Humanists described it best when they said that people can choose to live more creative, meaningful, and satisfying lives.  Freedom, to me, is connecting rather than freeing.  Freedom is connecting with our selves, connecting with others, and connecting with the world around us.   Freedom is about completing the circle which consists of self-esteem, belonging, self-expression, creativity, and spirituality.  Self-actualization is the most important aspect in one gaining freedom.  Every person has wonderful and truly amazing and unique qualities inside of them.  It is up to each person to take on the challenge of finding these qualities, becoming the best version of themselves, and choose to make their life into what they wish for it to be.  Usually, in life, the right path for each of us is accompanied by difficult decisions, and often paved with endless obstacles so one must be resilient, determined, and have a positive outlook towards the future in order to thrive.,  Many choose; however, to take the easy route and give up or use their past as an excuse to continue making bad decisions. 
          Freedom comes from within; to think about your thoughts, not just act on them.  I use hedonistic calculus, not just in the criminal aspect, but weighing my options:  if I do ___, then ___ could happen.  Would this be worth it?  I think that ultimately freedom to me is trusting in yourself tomake good decisions, not only for yourself, but for others, and trusting your character, morals, and values to lead you in the right direction.”   In the end, these are my thoughts, which lead to deeper thoughts in which I perceive to be similar to Fosters ideas about the human mind.
            To me, the most passionate part of the speech is when Foster states:  “It’s the automatic way that I experience the boring, frustrating, crowded parts of adult life, when I’m operating on the automatic, unconscious belief that I am the center of the world, and that my immediate needs and feelings are what should determine the worlds priorities.” ("David foster wallace,," 2008)  I am passionate about this statement because this is exactly what I hope to change in the world.  I wish to have people connect; put themselves beside or below other’s needs.  To make people understand that others problems affect us in many ways, and that by connecting and understanding others, we can work together to resolve many issues and conflicts that are going on in the world around us.  We are not the center of the universe, but rather the universe is our center.  We must work outward, making us just one of the many perspectives of the universe.  I choose to see LOVE as all that is good, healing, and healthy.  For me, the universe is a ball of energy, of love, in which created all things that be.  The paths that I create from my universe is filled with love which helps me to have faith and hope in my fellow man, helping me to see light where there is darkness, and allowing me to see the glass half full.  This pushes me to understand, rather than judge which in turn links me, with compassion, to my fellow man, making us all equal parts in the whole of the universe that is fueled by love.   
            Now that all is said and done, I am thinking about the process of writing this essay.  I am coming to realize that I have added my own perspective into much of what David Foster had said.  The parts of the speech that stuck out in my mind, were the ones that pertained to me and my experiences, so in all actuality, I was making myself the center of the universe when writing this paper.  I have taken the information that was useful to me and my experiences and chose to speak about those.  I have allowed my passion on certain subjects, build this paper through my beliefs.  Although my thoughts are to serve others and find a way to make others choose to live in a peaceful manor, I have used my narrative on life to negotiate how others will react or think.  I guess you could say that in some way I am trying to control their thoughts.  I have organized this paper in a manor in a way in which I hope that others will adhere to my beliefs.  Although my intentions are good, I must also realize that others will have their own opinions and perceptions.  I just hope that we can get together, to negotiate and come up with a solution that best suits mankind in any given situation so that there will be less wars, lies, conflict, deceit, corruption, hurting, selfishness, or hate.  In order to reach peace, we must first communicate with one another.  By stating our intentions and perceptions, hopefully we can find a way to compromise and work together.  I think that by making one another the center of our worlds, there will be more than enough love to go around, and peace can be accomplished.   
Adler, O. B., Proctor, U. F., & II, (2010). Looking out, looking in. Wadsworth Pub Co.
David foster wallace, in his own words. (2008, september 19). Retrieved from           http://moreintelligentlife.com/story/david-foster-wallace-in-his-own-words

This one is for you OPRAH! you are an amazing woman, and you inspire me to accept, and use my experience for something great!

Okay, some may wonder where i get my passion for serving today's at-risk youth...it comes from my own desire to see them reach resilience, to allow them to feed off of my energy if that's what it takes.

You see, I was abused by two different people as a young child, then i was slipped a roofie and date raped by a guy (whom i thought i was good friends with) as a teenager.  The statistics show that once a person is a victim of sexual abuse, they are far more likely to be a victim many more times in their lives, than the avg. person....so i'm def agreeing with these statistics.

I am not writing this post to get people to feel sorry for me, but rather, show the girlies out there that we are strong, and we can AND will MARCH ON!

In fact, i am almost grateful (and def forgiving) of what happened to me.  I look at it as a blessing as i feel that GOD knew i was strong enough to make it through, and with the love and support from my family, i would be able to help sooooooooooo many girls out there who are going through similar situations. 

I never knew i had low self esteem (even though my bad choices should have been a wake up call)!  In fact, recently i told my mother this, and she was like, but Kelli, you were always sooo pretty...well (not to sound conceited, but i did know i was pretty), however, i still had low self-worth.  I chose to ignore the issue instead of facing it head on like a raging bull!  haha (which obv i have since done). 

Not that i am rationalizing or justifying my bad choices, but i do think that these issues had a ton to do with the bad choices i made thereafter in my life.  This is why i am sooooo dedicated to serving at risk youth, i dont see them as troublemakers, i view them as beauty waiting to be discovered.  I am dedicated to helping them understand everything i have come to know, and believe that through leading them on their journey of self reflection, and introspect, they will come to realize the beauty that lies inside of each and every one of them!  I dont see their behaviors as an "in the moment" choice or decision, but rather, a root problem that we have to dig deep to discover, all the way down to the core.  We must never take things as they appear, heck even the kid may not know or understand, but with TIME and CONNECTION, we can do it together!

Please guys, never ever judge, but rather seek to understand..... the VALUE AND THE RESULTS ARE PRICELESS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

If there are any of you out there who need some advice on how to help you or someone else to overcome these obstacles, feel free to msg me and i would be glad to serve you...

Also, dont ever accept that "everything is OK" cuz that is the image i portrayed and even thought, but it wasnt so...the earlier we realize this and get help, the better, hopefully it wont take them as long as me but hey, better late than never right, now i will use my experience IN HUGE WAYS!!!! and help everyone and anyone i can..so like i said DO NOT, and i repeat, DO NOT be afraid to msg me for ANYTHING at all, even if it is how to approach a loved one who is going through this, as this is what helps me to keep my mind on the right track!  Blessings, love, and light to you all!

Facts and Stats on date rape:

Did you know that one out of eight women will be raped while in college, and one out of four women will be sexually assaulted in the one place they should feel safest, on their college campuses?(1)   Date rape is the most common form of rape, in fact, fifty-seven percent of all rapes occur on a date.(1)  Date rape is a felony offense, and the main difference between rape, and date rape is that with date rape, the victim has agreed to spend time with her attacker.  Date rape is defined as unwanted sexual intercourse, anal sex, oral sex, or other sexual contact through use of force, threat of force, menace, or duress by someone the victim knows, either through chance acquaintance, or intimate relationship with the person, including marriage.(2)   The important thing to remember is that no matter the circumstances, or situation, if a person tells another person that they do not wish to be involved in sexual activity, NO means NO, and the other person should respect that.  Never is it okay to use coercion or force to become engaged in sexual activity.

            Drugs and/or alcohol play a huge role in date rape.  Approximately seventy-five percent of students who have experienced date rape say that they were under the influence of alcohol at the time of their assault.(3)  Alcohol, when consumed, can cause a person to lower their guard, distort their thinking, and possibly render them helpless.  The alcohol will cause the person to overlook important warning signals coming from the assailant that would normally put up a red flag, or let the person know that danger could be lurking making them less likely to flee, or avoid talking their way out of a bad situation.(4)

            There are certain drugs that are known specifically as “date rape drugs.”  The three main date rape drugs are GHB (gamma hydroxyhutyric acid), ketamine, and rohypnol.  These drugs are often colorless, odorless, and tasteless, and a lot of times even  undetectable and untraceable.  These drugs can be mixed into an unsuspecting victims drink, causing an unsuspecting victim to become physically helpless, unable to refuse sex, or even cause the victim to not remember the sexual encounter, and can be used to facilitate a sexual assault.(5)  These drugs, when ingested, are harmful, and can sometimes have lethal results, especially when the drugs are mixed with alcohol or other drugs, which is typically the case.

            GHB, a synthetic drug, is a clear, odorless, and tasteless liquid, that causes a euphoric and sedative feeling.  It is made illegally, by people on the streets, so you never know what is put into this drug, as it varies.  GHB causes weak and/or paralyzed muscles because it acts as a depressant on the central nervous system.  GHB can affect a person within fifteen minutes of being administered, and can last up to four hours.  Most people who administer the drug either lose consciousness, or completely black out, not recalling what happened while they were under the influence.  There are many effects of GHB, such as drowsiness, relaxation, nausea, dizziness, problems seeing, seizures, problems remembering, breathing problems, vomiting, sweating, tremors, loss of consciousness, slow heart rate, dream like feeling, coma, and even death.(6)  GHB has been implicated in over 5,700 recorded cases of overdose, and in over 57 known deaths.(7)  As you can tell from the effects that these drugs have on the body, it would not be hard for a perpetrator to take advantage of an unsuspecting victim who is under the influence of this drug.

            Another type of date rape drug is Ketamine, a dissociative general anesthetic that has hypnotic, stimulant, and hallucinogenic properties.  Ketamine is legally used by veterinarians to anesthetize animals for surgery.  It can come in a liquid or powder form, and can take effect within thirty minutes of being ingested by a person.  Often times, a person is aware of their surroundings, and what is happening; however, they are not able to move or respond.  Ketamine will cause a person to feel disattached from their own bodies, and surroundings, almost as if the person was experiencing an out of body experience.  In some circumstances, Ketamine can cause a one or two hour period of amnesia, and the person may never recall the events of this time period.  The effects this drug can have on a person could be very serious, such as distorted perceptions, hallucinations, disorientation, out of body experiences, impaired motor functions, breathing problems, convulsions, vomiting, numbness, aggressive/violent behavior, depression, high blood pressure, and in severe situations, respiratory failure.(5)       

            The most common of all date rape drugs is Rohypnol, also known as “roofies.”  Rohypnol is a potent sedative that depresses the functions of the respiratory, and nervous systems, and is found in the same drug category as Zanex, and Valium.  Rohypnol comes in a round pill, usually white, but newer versions of the drug could be green-gray in color, that are usually crushed into a powder form, then slipped into a person’s drink.  It can take effects on the body within thirty minutes after ingesting it, and can last for several hours.  A person under the influence of Rohypnol often looks and acts the same as a person who is under the influence of alcohol, and often has problems standing and talking, and in some circumstances, these individuals pass out completely.  Rohypnol can cause the following problems:  muscle relaxation or complete loss of muscle control, difficulty with motor movements, nausea, loss of memory, black out, confusion, problems seeing, dizziness, sleepiness, lower blood pressure, stomach problems, and sometimes death, especially when mixed with alcohol.(5) 

            Date rape can happen to anyone, anytime, and does not have to involve the perpetrator giving the victim drugs; however, drugs/alcohol makes it harder for a victim to think clearly, set limits or make good choices, or fight back when assaulted.  It also makes it harder for a person to say “no“ to a person who is demanding sex, or even harder for a person to realize that they are getting themselves into a dangerous situation.  It could happen on a blind date, or a first date or to a person who is in a relationship with the perpetrator, even marriage.  Meeting a stranger, who seems “nice” in a public place could lead to date rape, especially if they get you to an isolated area where there are no witnesses.

            Since it is the victims word against the rapist, sometimes it can be hard to get a conviction against the rapist when a date rape has occurred.  The victim is, in most circumstances, the only witness to the crime, so the burden lies on the victim to prove that the sexual encounter was not consenting.  The victim should be sure not to wash their hands, shower, brush their teeth, douche, or change clothes, as it increases the chances of getting rid of valuable evidence that can be used to prosecute the perpetrator.  The victim should leave the scene of the crime undisturbed, until the police have time to collect evidence, so that it can be used to help convict the perpetrator.  The victim should also try not to urinate, as the urine could be tested for possible date rape drugs.  The victim should call 911 immediately, and report the rape to officials then go to the hospital so that they can have a medical exam/rape test done to retrieve evidence and also have the incident recorded by doctors.  At the hospital, the victim will receive antibiotics that will help with any possible STD infections, and a morning after pill to help prevent unwanted pregnancies. 

            The victims will most likely suffer from severe physical, and emotional pain.  It is possible the victim could have cuts, abrasions, and/or bruises in the pelvic area, and on the rest of the body that may need immediate attention.  Emotional pain is the hardest thing for most victims to deal with, and overcome.  The victim will probably feel intense emotions such as shame, guilt, embarrassment, fear, and  anger; which could have both short term and/or long term effects.  Calling a rape crisis hotline can be a great way to help the victim cope with the overwhelming emotions that they are going through, as well as let them know that they are not alone.  It has been recorded that an average of thirty-one percent of rape victims will develop PTSD.(8)  The symptoms of PTSD related to rape could include:  flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety, nervousness, and fear.  As a result of rape, victims often acquire feelings of distrust (especially in men), they no longer enjoy sex, they withdrawal from society, and they often experience disruptions in schooling.  It would be a wise for the victim to join a support group, and seek therapy so that they are able to get past their experience, and begin the healing process.  If the case were to go to trial, a victim often suffers from humiliation from secondary victimization as their past, morals, actions, and dress are put on trial as if they deserved what happened to them; resulting in many victims to choose not to report the incident to authorities. 

            There is no one type of person that commits this type of crime, as date rape has no limits or boundaries.  There are; however, some characteristic traits that could act as warning signs that a person could become hostile or abusive such as aggressive behaviors, being overly demanding,  jealousness, appears dominant or seeks authority over people, or acting like they know you better than they actually do.  These aggressive individuals are also known to frequently belittle people (especially the opposite sex), dictate lifestyle and/or dress, become physically intimidating (such as blocking doorways or exits), gain pleasure by instilling fear in others, and they usually do not handle frustration well, especially being turned down for intimacy.

            There is no way to guarantee that a person can be safe from date rape, even if they are in a known place with known individual; however, there are some precautions that a person can take that will lower their chances of being assaulted.  Alcohol and drugs play a major role in date rape, as I mentioned earlier, so the first step would be to avoid consuming alcohol altogether; however, if a person is going to drink, they should never leave their drink unattended, only accept drinks from servers or bartenders, open drinks yourself, and a person should never drink out of punchbowls.  If a person feels drunk, while only consuming a small amount of alcohol, be sure to tell someone, and receive help as soon as possible.  It is wise for a person to use the buddy system, and if you go to a party/event as a group, then leave as a group.  Never should a person leave a public place with another person, especially one they do not know that well.  Avoid blind dates, or if you are on a first date, meet in a public place, and use public transportation or your own car.  When a person is on a date, or in a relationship, they should be clear about their standards and limits within a relationship, and what, if any, sexual conduct that they are comfortable with, and should avoid people who place any type of pressure upon them.  A person should always trust their gut feeling.  If a situation doesn’t feel right or makes you uneasy, get out of it immediately if possible.

            Date rape is a disturbing thing for a person to go through, and could have long term effects on a victim, making it hard for a victim to become stable, and return to their daily lives or routines.  Unfortunately many individuals will go date rape or some type of sexual pressure at some point in their lives.  The only thing a person can do is take proper precautions, and make themselves aware on the topic so that they can better avoid certain situations, or know how to seek help if it were to happen to them.  If it has happened to you, or does in the future, I would recommend seeking treatment from a trained professional, and always remember, NO MEANS NO!

Paul Coelho was born in 1947 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.(1)  His father was an engineer, and his mother was a maker of the home.  As a teenager, Coelho realized that his dream was to become a writer.  At age 16, an introverted Coelho was admitted into a mental institution by his parents due to his opposition in living the traditional life that his parents expected of him.(2)  Coelho would escape from the mental institution three times before his release at age twenty.(3) 

            Following his parents’ wishes, Coelho abandoned his dream of becoming a writer and enrolled in law school.  His time at law school would be short-lived.  After a year at school, he dropped out and chose to live life as a gypsie.  He became involved in the drug culture of the 1960’s and lived life as a hippie, traveling through Mexico, Europe, South America, and North Africa.(4)(5)  After his travels, Coelho returned to Brazil where he worked as a songwriter for several artists, including a Brazilian icon named Seixas.  In 1947, Coelho was arrested by the ruling military of Brazil for “subversive” activities.  The government claimed that Coelho’s lyrics were associated with Satanism and occultism; therefore, considering Coelho to be Left-wing and dangerous.(6)(7)  In the years that followed, Coelho worked as an actor, journalist, and theatre director before pursuing his dream of becoming a writer.(4)

            In 1986, Coelho encountered a turning point in his life.  As he walked the five hundred mile Road of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain, he had a spiritual awakening.  It was on this road that Coelho realized that although he had all the things that he needed, he was not following his dream.(8)  This is the point in which Coelho decided to leave his career as a songwriter and follow his dream of becoming a full time writer.(9)

            In 1982, long before his journey to The Road of Santiago, Coelho published his first book, Hell Archives which failed to make any kind of impact.(6)  In 1986, shortly after his awakening, Coelho wrote The Alchemist which was published through a small Brazilian publishing house who made an initial print of nine-hundred copies with no intention on reprinting.(10)  Once Coelho was finished his next book, The Brida, he looked for a bigger publishing house to print the book.  This is when The Alchemist became known to the people, was made to be a bestseller.(10)  Since that time, The Alchemist has been translated in seventy-one languages and sold over sixty-five million copies, making it one of the bestselling books in history.(6)  Altogether, Coelho has published twenty-nine books, and sold over one hundred million books in over one hundred and fifty countries worldwide.(5)

            In 1996, Coelho founded the Paulo Coelho Institute, which provides aid to children and elderly people with financial problems.(11)  In September 2007, the United Nations named Coelho a Messenger of Peace.(12)  Paul Coelho is now a member of many organizations worldwide such as:  a member of the Board of the Shimon Peres Center for Peace, a special counselor for “Intercultural Dialogues and Spiritual Convergences” with the UNESCO, a board member of the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, member of the Brazilian Academy of Letters, member of INI International Advisory Council (HARVARD INTERNATIONAL NEGOTIATION INITIATIVE), and a member of the Board, Doha Center of Media Freedom.

            The Alchemist is a book about a boy named Santiago who is on a journey to find a treasure that he dreams is buried underneath the pyramids of Egypt.  While on his journey across the world, to find this treasure, he encounters obstacles and setbacks that will lead him on a spiritual journey to finding himself, and his dreams.  The story begins in a small village in Spain where Santiago lives with his parents who aspire him to be involved in the church, and live a sheltered life within the village, but Santiago dreams of traveling and seeing the world.  Santiago’s father gives him some gold to buy some sheep so that he can become a shepherd and follow his dreams of traveling.  As he is traveling across the plains, the boy has a dream of a buried treasure in Egypt, one night, while sleeping next to a church underneath a tree.

            During his journey, Santiago encounters a king and a gypsy woman who advise him to follow his dream, which they call his “personal legend”, saying that it will lead him to the treasure he is seeking.  Santiago sells his sheep and travels to Tangier, Africa.  Once arriving in Africa, Santiago befriends a young man who robs him of his money, leaving him broke in a country where he doesn’t speak the language.  Feeling lost and scared, Santiago realizes that he has made a mistake that has cost him everything he owns.  He takes up a job in a crystal shop where he works for a year and earns enough money to return home.  Santiago goes to town, with thoughts of returning to Spain, and it is here where he meets an Englishman who seeks to fulfill his own personal legend, finding a two hundred year old Alchemist who will teach him the art of Alchemy.  It is the Englishman’s talk of passion and seeking the truth that inspires Santiago to continue on his journey to find his treasure and fulfill his “personal legend.”  During the ride across the desert, Santiago is able to connect with nature, and hear stories about the power of Alchemy from the Englishman.  The caravan experiences harsh climates and wars between feuding tribes that make Santiago wonder if he made the right decision to continue on his journey.  After months of traveling through the desert, the caravan stops at a desert oasis.  It is here where Santiago meets a woman, named Fatima, and falls in love.  Once again, Santiago has to determine if he wants to continue on to the pyramids, or stay with Fatima. 

            Fatima encourages Santiago to continue on his journey, believing that the universe brought him to her, and will also return him to her.  Santiago, unable to sleep the night before his departure, looks up to the sky for answers.  He sees two sparring hawks and takes it as a sign that war is looming, and the oasis is going to be invaded.  He takes this insight to the chief of the village, who prepares the tribe for war.  The next day, the village is invaded, but the tribe is prepared and they are able to survive the attack.  The next day, Santiago gets a visit from a man who claims to be the Alchemist.  The Alchemist agrees to help Santiago complete the last leg of his journey to the pyramids.  During the trip, The Alchemist teaches Santiago about reading signs, spirituality, and the power of belief.  After a few days, Santiago and the Alchemist encounter a warring tribe who believe them to be traitors.  They are captured and held hostage.  The Alchemist tells the tribesmen that Santiago has conquered Alchemy, and the men wish to see the proof.  Santiago questions his ability to perform Alchemy, but with encouragement and belief in himself, he is able to show the men that he can speak with the Earth and that the elements will follow his command.  As Santiago speaks with the wind and the sun, he is able to create a sandstorm that is so strong; it makes the men believe that Santiago is some kind of God.  The men, witnessing the boy’s power, decide to allow the two to continue on their journey. 

            Satisfied that his job is done, the Alchemist points Santiago in the direction of the pyramids, and tells Santiago that he will reach his dream.  A few days later, Santiago arrives upon the pyramids.  He quickly begins digging for the treasure.  Two men arrive upon Santiago digging at the pyramids and want to know why he is there.  Santiago tells the men of his dream and the buried treasure.  The men beat Santiago, and hold him while they continue digging for the treasure.  After hours and hours of digging, the men realize that there is no treasure and decide to go through Santiago’s belongings. They find the gold that Santiago had earned while working at the crystal shop, and take it from him.  As Santiago lay there, hurt and defeated, one of the men say to Santiago, “I dreamed, once, of a church in Spain where a boy slept with his sheep.  In my dreams, there was a treasure buried underneath a tree, but I was not dumb enough to follow this dream.”  Santiago returns to Spain and the church where he had the dream years before.  He began digging under the tree.  A few hours later, Santiago uncovers the treasure that he set out years ago to find and imagines returning to Fatima.

            There are many philosophical issues in the book “The Alchemist.”  In the beginning of the book, Santiago’s father wishes him to be a priest, yet Santiago decides his own fate and passion which is to travel and see the world.  While on his journey across the Spanish plains, Santiago sought to take new roads, rather than follow the path’s that he knew would get him where he needed to go.  This is a symbolic approach to life in general.  One can choose to take the roads that are traveled or they can choose to go where no man has gone before.  This is the type of thinking that comes with entrepreneurs and creative individuals.

            When trying to decide if he should remain a shepherd, Santiago meets a king who encourages him to follow his “personal legend.”  Santiago, while contemplating this issue, says to the king “Bakers are more important than shepherds,  Bakers have homes, while shepherds sleep out in the open.  Parents would rather see their children marry bakers than shepherds.”  The king replies “in the long run, what people think about shepherds and bakers become more important for them then their own personal legends.”  This has great meaning for me.  This says that people are too worried about what others will/do think of them, which will hold them back from what they truly desire in life.  When Santiago is robbed in Africa, he states that he is seeing the world in terms of what he would like to see, rather than what exists.  Sometimes, we as people tend to hope for the best; therefore, we may overlook danger or even the “truth.” 

            In the book, there is a lot of talk about not interfering with one another’s personal legends.  It is very important to become connected with others around us, and to realize that every person has their own personal legend to fulfill.  We must respect those who wish to find their personal legends, and assist in any way that we can to see that we help those who wish to do so, and not interfering or discouraging their actions.  The Alchemist talks of becoming connected with the spiritual plane, stating “when one is able to do this to perfection, they will come into contact with the material plane.”  By becoming connected to the spiritual plane, one will realize that what is and what was were all created by the same hand.  When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too, and when we love, we always strive to become better.  For me, this means that by becoming connected with the world around us, we strive to want to know and understand more about it.  As we seek out the answers, we gain knowledge, truth, wisdom, experience, and understanding; therefore, we begin to love, not judge, the world around us.  In doing this, we become one with the universe and all of its creations and are truly connected.  We are able to see how everything on Earth has a purpose, and affects the other.  Even people have their own purposes, or “personal legend,” to fulfill, and when these thoughts are through love, the world and our surroundings will become better, and the energy and care will move things in a positive direction.  The book says that when a person truly desires something, the universe will conspire to help the person realize their dream.  The universe will not just hand out what the person dreams of, but the universe will place things in the person’s path, that will allow them to gain the knowledge and skills it takes for the person to realize their dream.

            Santiago asked the Alchemist why other alchemists were not able to turn lead into gold.  The Alchemist replied, “They were seeking out the treasure of their personal legend, without actually wanting to live out the personal legend.”  Santiago does not understand what the Alchemist means by this statement until later in the book.  Later, Santiago states, “when I have been truly searching for my treasure, everyday has been luminous, because I’ve known that every hour was a part of the dream that I would find it.  When I have been truly searching for my treasure, I have discovered things along the way that I would have never seen had I not had the courage to try things that seemed impossible for a shepherd to achieve.”  This implies that the value is in the journey, not the destination.  All the different people, situations, experiences, and knowledge acquired along the way is what will prepare the boy, and help him to discover his personal legend.  He is able to reflect back on the many obstacles he has faced, and overcome, and realize his true potential and courage.  This relates to a part of the book when the Alchemist tells Santiago, “what you still need to know is this:  before a dream is realized, the soul of the world tests everything we have learned along the way.  It does this not because it is evil, but so that we can, in addition to realizing our dreams, master the lessons we’ve learned as we moved toward that dream.  That is the point most people give up.  It’s the point at which, as we say in the language of the desert, one dies of thirst just when the palm trees have appeared on the horizon.”  I believe that the Alchemist is trying to tell Santiago that this is the universes way of trying to see if what the person is seeking is truly their personal legend.  If it is, when the person is faced with opposition, they will never give up or lose sight of their dreams.  They will overcome any obstacles in order to achieve their own “personal legend, “ and in doing so, they find the ultimate meaning of their lives. 

            On nabou.com, the book reviewer states that the book is “a symbolic masterpiece where Coelho states that we should not avoid our destinies, and urges people to follow their dreams, because to find our “personal legends” and our mission on Earth is the way to find “God”, meaning happiness, fulfillment, and the ultimate purpose of creation.”(13)  The reviewer also states that “Coelho suggests that those who do not have the courage to follow their “personal legend,” are doomed to a life of emptiness, misery, and fulfillment.  Fear of failure seems to be the greatest obstacle to happiness.  As the old crystal merchant tragically confesses, “I am afraid that great disappointment awaits me, and so I prefer to dream.”  This is where Coelho really captures the drama of man, who sacrifices fulfillment to conformity, who knows he can achieve greatness, but denies to do so, and ends up living a life of void.”(13)

                The Alchemist was a great story, and should encourage all of its readers to follow their dreams.  It shows that when a person really wishes for something in life, no matter how big or small, if they truly desire it, it is achievable through hard work, determination, and perseverance.  This is the universe’s way of testing us, to see if what we seek is truly our personal legend.  In the book, Santiago was able to become an Alchemist, not because he was able to turn lead into gold, but rather, he was able to master the lessons along his journey which would make him able to use his knowledge, and eventually find his treasure.  The book always implied that the treasure under the pyramids was Santiago’s personal legend and dream, but in the beginning of the book Santiago told his father that his dream was to travel and see the world.  The dream of the hidden treasure is what kept Santiago on his journey across the world, and although he thought he was seeking the treasure, and eventually obtained it, the real treasure was in him being able to realize his dream and see the world. 

Leadership....RAISING THE BAR!!

Moral Leadership:  Raising the Bar

            Are you one who chooses to lead your life in a way that serves mankind or are you one who is consumed with selfishness and greed, only choosing to makes choices that benefit yourself?  Can you wake up in the morning and be proud to look in the mirror and smile at the reflection staring back at you?  These are questions that I ask myself on a daily basis.  For me, it is important to self-reflect and make sure that the decisions I am making stand by my values of honesty, integrity, and the greater good.  If one chooses to lead by example, they are creating their future and setting expectations for others.  When one leads in a way, to act as role models for others, they can create an environment of unity and collaboration where others are transformed into leaders with moral standards and good personal character that they feel confident to pass onto others.  One must choose to lead their own lives in positive ways before they will have the ability to lead others.  Self-control and self-reflection is a huge aspect when one wants to lead their own lives.  They must exhibit control, not over others, but over their own actions and behaviors.  With this, comes confidence, in yourself to stand by choices that you make.  BE THE CHANGE YOU WISH TO SEE IN THE WORLD!

            If one chooses to be a moral leader, they must learn to act and expect higher standards, both, from themselves and others.  They must be a good judge between what is right and wrong, and what is fair and just.  If one is going to be a moral leader, they must exhibit the same character traits in all situations whether it be work, life, love, family, and relationships.  The fact is that moral integrity argues for one ethical standard, applicable in personal, social, economic, and all other aspects of life.  Inner leaders provide that moral standard.  Their task is to create it in themselves first, then bring it out in their followers.(1)  Moral leaders tend to be self-sacrificing and stand up against the majority, if they feel as though their moral integrity is being compromised or it is for the greater good of the people.

            Morals and ethics go hand in hand.  Ethics shows that one can make wise decisions, and choose to do the right thing.  Morals are the core values in a person that shows that a person has good integrity.  Showing good morals means a person is doing the ethical thing.  The single most important factor in ethical decision making in organizations is whether leaders show a commitment to ethics in their talk and especially their behavior.(2)  There have been several times, on the job, where I have been put in a position where I felt that people were being treated unfairly, and I know that it is in my character to speak up about these actions, if I did not I would be compromising my morals.  There have been times when I have feared the consequences of opening my mouth, but for me, it is more important to stand up for what is right.  I am the one who has to look myself in the mirror, and it is extremely important for me to know that I stand up for my beliefs.  No one knows you better than you know yourself, and through my self-reflection, I have come to know myself pretty well.  I am honest, faithful, and trustworthy; therefore, I feel confident in standing by who I am as well as my decisions.  I know that my heart is in the right place and that I care deeply for my friends, coworkers, family, people in general, my mission, and the work that I do and with this love comes passion to make things better for ALL, and the alignment with my morals helps me to have the confidence I need to take on those who act immorally or not in the best interest of the people.  I know that I do not serve any self-serving bias when my mission is to create peace and unity with the people who surround me even if it leaves me without a job or chances of advancement.  I choose to stand tall in the face of opposition, in hopes that my actions will somehow create a greater sense of pride in the work that we do, and be of inspiration for others to stand by their morals and values with courage.   For an individual to become a moral person he/she must possess certain capabilities that empower him/her to perform moral and ethical actions.  To know what is moral and ethical is not enough.  To become a moral person, the individual must put this knowledge into action.  Thus, the capabilities that empower the individual to know and to act morally are primary importance in developing moral leadership.(3)

            There are three stages of moral development.  The first stage is preconvention stage.  These people follow rules to avoid punishment; therefore, they are acting in their own interests.  The second stage is the conventional stage.  These persons live up to expectations of others, fulfills duties and obligations of the social system, and upholds laws.  The third level is the postconventional level.  These people follow internalized principles of justice and right, balances concern for self with concern for others and the common good, and acts in an independent and ethical manner regardless of expectations of others.(2)  I believe that I have reached the postconventional level because I am not one to follow the crowd, as I have my own sets of standards.  I stand by my beliefs even when it means going against my parents and their beliefs or people of authority, if I feel that they are wrong.  I will also be the first to speak up when someone is being put down or gossiped about, causing them to rethink their words, and hopefully making them think twice about if what they are doing is “okay” by moral standards.

            Moral leadership is about holding yourself accountable for your actions, whether wrong or right, and having the courage to speak up when things are wrong.  Courage is the ability o step forward through fear.()  In many organizations, the main thing is to get along, fit in, and do whatever brings promotions or pay raises.  These organizations may or may not thrive, but lack change that could possibly make an organization an exceptional place to work that creates an invaluable product or service for others.  In my case, working with at risk youth, I have come across incidences where I felt like children were being treated bad or unfairly such as verbal abuse, unneeded restraints, or restraints where the person put in an extra jab or unneeded physical abuse.  I did not have to think twice to intervene in the situation and take the kid out of it because I knew in my heart in was wrong.  Afterwards I would reflect on the issue, and come to the conclusion that what I did was right but it did cause stress in my life because now coworkers were rude to me, supervisors acted like I shouldn’t have intervened in front of other children, or I am in no position to question the actions of coworkers and I should have left it up to them. 

            Moral leadership and transformational leadership go hand in hand.  When a person exhibits moral leadership, they hope to transform others into leaders, to guide and support them and help them grow so that they are then able to be a leader who will also help transform others.  As people see qualities in others that they value, ones that make them trust and admire this person; the values are more easily transferred from the leader to the follower.  One thing that I cannot stand is a hypocrite.  How can one expect something from others that they are not willing to do themselves?  If a person exhibits selfishness and greed, how can they be angry when others exhibit the same?  I try my hardest not to be a hypocrite in the work that I do.  In fact, working with these children has helped to mold me into the person that I am today.  There have been times when I have not asked my children to do specific things or act in a certain way because I know that these were things that I was doing myself.  Later, after reflecting, I realized that if I didn’t want these youth to do these things, it is for a reason, so I shouldn’t be doing them either.  That made it easy to make changes and become a better person.  I started living my life in a way where I didn’t behave in ways that I would not want my youth behaving.  First and foremost, how can we tell these children not to gossip or talk bad about others, to not yell or scream, or not to use physical violence yet the people who are telling them these things are doing it themselves.  I try to point this out to my co-workers when I notice such things happening.  A few of them have changed their ways, and act in ways that are being of a role model to these youth, and others just blow me off like I should mind my own business.  This goes with ethics.  Never is it right to put others down, hurt them, or make them feel bad.  They need role models who can show the positive effects of love, understanding, teamwork, and compromise.  Only then will they be inspired to want to change.  I am not saying that we all should act in any one specific way, and I realize and appreciate all different personality types and ways of handling conflict; therefore, I can appreciate both the authitarian leadership styles and the relationship building leadership styles.  I know that different situations calls for different styles but I also know that when you are hindering growth or hurting others, than something must be changed.  The whole idea is to make people first into leaders over their own lives, not dependent on others, and then they will foster independence and courage to become leaders themselves.      

            Upon doing my research on leadership, I came across a text that completely hit home with me.  It pretty much sums up everything that I believe about leadership and its effects:  A prerequisite for moral leadership is the spirit of service- service to one’s family, community, and nation.  This spirit of service does not in any way negotiate individual drive or initiative, nor does it stifle individual creativity.  Rather, it calls for a model of leadership which will release the potential of the individual while safeguarding the wellbeing of the whole.  Those who emerge as leaders would likely combine a spirit of service with a drive for excellence.  The institutions which would emerge from a service-centered leadership would promote the well-being of the whole community while safeguarding the rights, freedoms, and initiatives of each individual.  These institutions would preserve human honor which would lead to a civilization which deeply cares for the beauty of nature and all beings on the planet.(3)  I would definitely have to agree with this statement, as it encompasses everything that I believe in and know in my heart is possible.

            In my opinion, moral leaders are the most important in today’s society.  With the rough shape of the economy, single parent households, greed, and drugs being major problems in today’s society, it is extremely important for there to be moral leaders who can role model  ethical behaviors, provide support and understanding, and encourage relationships where others needs are, at the very least, just as important as our own.  As a follower begins to engage in moral leadership, they will feel an inner peace within themselves, and the confidence they need in order to trust themselves in making decisions that will benefit themselves and others.  With the trust that they gain from their followers, they can help to change the environments around them to ones of collaboration, self-efficiency, and hope.  With this hope will come the determination and courage that it will take to help make this world a better place!  Some people act out of greed and they choose to lie, cheat, and steal their way to the top all the while abusing their privileges and power.  These people will stand the chance of being in competition with others, and attract others of the same nature into their lives.  People, who chose to live morally, will have self-respect and the respect of others.  Although these people may not gain, or possibly even lose certain jobs, and material possessions, no one could ever take away their pride, dignity, and good honest reputation.  This will stick with them, and these people will have all that matters most….trusting, loving, and caring relationships in their lives along with a feeling of inner peace and freedom.


(2)   Daft, Richard l., (2008). The leadership experience.  Cengage Learning Co.