Monday, August 31, 2009

Living Life to the MAX!

By: Willie Johnson, Performance Improvement and Training Consultant

Living to the “MAX” means competing with you – and you alone. Therefore, throughout life, in all that you do, pursue your purpose, not someone else’s.

On a regular basis, I emphasize to my one and only daughter Andrea, that she should live life to the max and pursue her purpose - on her terms and not someone else’s. (Smiles), like many other parents, I get push back (you know what I mean) but, I persist with my mission by sharing lesson’s I have learned from life; in the hope that she would endure less struggles; as she continues on her life journey.

Through this short article - I will share with you, three of the philosophies I learned (sometimes the hard way) and passed on to my daughter. Knowledge of these philosophies has been beneficial to me and my daughter as well. I am certain that if you embrace these philosophies, they will be beneficial to you also; in your quest to living life to the max, and pursuing your purpose.

Number 1: Push Negativity From Your Life: It has been said that there are two types of people in the world. There are positive people and there are negative people. Look at your circle of friends. If someone is constantly belittling your dreams, then recognize that person as a dream buster and a drawback to your achievements and purpose. If someone causes you to employ self-destructive tendencies, acknowledge that person is not a friend. Accept that you must push away such negative people from your life. Why? Life is too short to waste a single moment on negative people. Life is also too precious to waste it with those who wear you down, rather than build you up. Therefore; prune away negative people, thinking, and habits from your life.

Number 2: Put Positive People into Your Life: Too often we feel that we have to or must face our problems alone. We are not comfortable admitting our pain, inexperience, or lack of resources. In other words – “pride” (ole ego) gets in the way. When we shut others out, at the same time, we shut ourselves in. Too many of us are trying to cope alone, when we would be much better off if we would just reach out for help. (I personally learned that lesson the hard way – but never again) If we embrace the first philosophy of letting negative people go from our life, that would open the way for us to receive positive people into our lives. Therefore; don’t be too proud to ask for help, particularly from those who are wiser, older, more experienced, and maintain a positive outlook on life. Pull into your life positive, supportive, networking, like-minded people who nurture you and your dreams.

Number 3: Pursue Your Purpose – Not Someone Else’s: Inside every one of us is a deep call of destiny. All of us have a unique purpose; for which we are called. Therefore, living life to the MAX requires that we understand that our success in life is not measured by how much we have accomplished compared to what we could have accomplished. Instead, our success in life is what we have accomplished compared to what we could have accomplished with our talents and potential.

All that glitters is not gold. We (society) desperately need individuals who will be true to their purpose, not the purpose of others – while living their life to the “MAX”.

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Youth & Young Adult Corner - Staying in School

Getting out of school any way that you can sometimes seems to be the most important thing in the lives of many teenagers. Unfortunately, the “Getting out” and the “any way” overrides logic, reason, and the pleas of many a wise and experienced parent, counselor, friend or relative.

Steven Crudup is an excellent example of someone who stayed the course and graduated from high. Since that time he has experienced the world and much of what it has to offer, helped to defend this nation, and is now looking forward to, YES, returning to school. After completing high school Steven volunteered for a tour with the U.S. Marines. I personally don’t know why it is called a tour. My definition of a tour is something fun and leisurely. I can’t tell someone else what fun is to them, but leisurely requires a very big stretch of the imagination. Anyway, a Daniel Webster I am not, so I will get back to the point of this article.

Steven has traveled virtually around the world and experienced situations that most people can only dream about. In addition to traveling to various parts of the United States, Steven has been in far off places such as Dubai and Bahrain in the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Spain and Italy. Knowing just a little bit about the military, I am sure he has been to places he may never reveal. Steven has spent time aboard the famed USS Iwo Jima, and no doubt felt the emotions of being on a vessel whose name represents a proud but bloody period in American History.

Despite and after all of that, Steven has decided that when his “tour of duty” is over in December he will return to SCHOOL! Actually that is not totally true. Steve cannot wait to get back into school, so during his last days as a proud U.S. Marine, he has already taken three courses on line and is carrying an “A” average!

While some of you cannot wait to get out, Steve cannot wait to get back in. The point is (especially as pertains to seniors), you are so close to experiencing and enjoying the fruits of an education that many would and are dying for. Please exercise the patience and wisdom that will complete the strong educational foundation you must rely on the rest of your life.

Glenville High Classes of 1959 50 Year Reunion

Cleveland’s Glenville High School Classes of 1959 recently celebrated their Fifty Year Reunion, and I decided that I must share in at least part of the weekend festivities. I tell people that because of a threatened TKO, I did not actually attend Glenville. Those who follow the sport of boxing, and many who don’t, realize that TKO is the abbreviation for Technical Knockout. A Technical Knockout is the best I could have hoped for if I had attempted to go against my mother’s instructions that I should attend Cleveland Trade School (now Max S. Hayes) instead of Glenville. It wasn’t that my mother didn’t care for Glenville, but in 1956 when the decision was to be made about what school to attend, there was not a lot of promise on the horizon for entering into the job market that suddenly opened up for minorities less than ten years later.

My mother’s decision was that I would attend Cleveland Trade School where I could learn a trade and in her words “stay out of trouble.” My mother knew a lot, but she didn’t know the about the 300 plus students at Cleveland Trade School that did not look like me, and in many cases did not like my looks, even before we met. Anyway, I and my less than one dozen equally challenged African American brothers survived the experience, and now my explanation to my “almost” Glenville classmates is complete. It was not my fault!

I did have the good fortune to grow up in the Glenville area and attend Empire Junior High School, so I knew many people at the reunion. For those unfamiliar with the era, the late 1950’s ushered in Glenville’s long and proud tradition as a school that produced legendary sports figures. While at Empire I loved to run, and with people around me like Nate Adams, Victor Reed, Renaldo Reed, and Major Calhoun, I spent a lot of time looking at the back of those who ran track. But I would not quit! Little did I know that I was in training for Cleveland Trade School!

Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed seeing classmates, some of whom I had not seen in over fifty-three years. It was a fond reminder of what in many ways, was a kinder and gentler world. Those memories have helped me survive and prosper against many a challenge that I could not have imagined. Those who are no longer with us left an empty spot, but it was a reminder that we are not here to stay, and if we are here, it must be for a reason.

I was equally troubled as I wondered what reunions might be like fifty years from now. So many young people are not graduating. Today, many young people are becoming the perpetrators or victims of senseless violence. What will help take them through the challenges of adulthood? What will they celebrate fifty years after high school?

While the purpose of the reunion was to re-connect with old classmates, it also renewed that underlying need to continue to work with, set an example for, and inspire our youth. So to my fellow Glenville “Classmates,” we have work that is yet undone. Keep the torch lit Tarblooders!

Our Family Reunion

In the early nineteen seventies, a young lady had a dream, or more appropriately, it might be called a vision, which then became a plan. Sadly, the family lost the dreamer and visionary at the early age of thirty-six. She was a beloved wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, niece, cousin, friend and so much more to so many. Yet the dream, the vision and the plan proved to be the foundation of what to this point has become 36 consecutive years of family reunions. In 1974, while still immersed in the shock and grief of the untimely passing of Synnia Solomon, the Ford-Bryson Chapter was formed in Cleveland, Ohio. It was there that the first family reunion was successfully planned and executed. Words of reflection and challenge from the family web site at summarize from where we came and where we are today.

The Dreamer had a VISION of a FamilyUnited in faith and joined in love.And the Dreamer began the foundation,but before the 1st Reunion she responded to an even Higher Calling.In 1974 The Dream lived on with the formationof the FORD-BRYSON Reunion.TODAY The DREAM LIVES ON because others believed in the Dream and The Dreamer.When today is viewed in a historical perspective, let it be said that THE DREAM CONTINUED BECAUSE OF YOU!

Visiting the web site offers even more of what is possible with family. In late July of this year, family members and friends traveled from all areas of the country to help celebrate the thirty-sixth annual reunion. The event, hosted by the Florida Chapter, took place in beautiful Sarasota on Florida’s picturesque Western Gulf Coast.

I’ve been blessed to attend all thirty-six reunions, and you would think by now I would be either bored, or not surprised, or both. The truth is that there is always something new, something inspiring, something earth-shaking in the experience of so many family and friends coming together to celebrate. From the silky soft sand of Siesta Key Beach, to the rap version of the Family History shared by my sister Jean, her husband Emmanuel, and several young family members, there were new ways to celebrate life and appreciate each other.

This year, several weeks before the reunion we were treated to the good news that our family had suddenly grown due to the locating of a new “branch.” Barbara Williams, a member of the founding chapter, using intuition and the marvels of technology, connected with a descendant of Peter Brison (or Bryson). When the reunion was started in 1974, the whereabouts of Peter were a mystery to the founding members, and therefore we had no contact with his descendants. That all changed due to Barbara’s efforts, and not only was contact made, but two descendants of Peter scrambled to make last minute plans to attend the reunion.

As you might imagine, Ruth Jones and Sharon Simpson were welcomed with open arms, and they certainly showed the love in return. We are anxiously looking forward to learning more about their past reunions and meeting more of our family. Our thanks to Tracie Brison who helped connect Barbara to Ruth and Sharon.

Tracie, Joan and Sharon have in a way been responsible for our family’s recent spike in the empowering field of genealogy. Considering how much work and time can be invested in the study of genealogy, I have avoided becoming involved in that area. My sister Jean recently sent me a copy of a 1930 Census Report listing our father along with his parents, siblings, and Hansie Solomon, our oldest living relative and a former slave.

The mental picture that was created from the thought of how close I came to slavery kept me awake most of that night, and has impacted my thoughts since then. The thoughts that emanate from that vision are frightening, but also potentially empowering. The empowerment is in the strength and resolve of our people and in the goodness of God.

Another notable trend in our reunion as we become visible to the on-line world, including our presence on FACEBOOK, is that we have begun to touch people worldwide. Thanks to the ability to track the geographical location of our web site visitors, we have noted people spending time viewing our web site in such diverse places as Canada, China, India, South Africa, and even from Ummul Qura University in Saudi Arabia. This assures me that in addition to positively impacting family, friends and visitors from the United States, we have become a model of sorts for people around the world. This is quite an accomplishment from a people that less than one-hundred and fifty years ago were enslaved.
Even as we celebrated, our thoughts and prayers included those who were unable to join us because of the economy, illness, or even those who have passed on. Our thoughts were with family members who could not be with us because of being involved in efforts to help others. Such was the case of Angela Walker who tragically lost her son Joshua Broomfield to senseless gang violence during the past year. In the midst of her pain and suffering, she chose to participate in a Survivors Conference in Scottsdale, Arizona, designed as part therapy and also to discover ways of turning some of life’s tragic moments into opportunities for self-help and helping others.

The oldest family members attending the reunion were acknowledged. With homes in Cleveland and Detroit respectively, Charlie “C.W.” Ford and Willie Ann Huff demonstrated that distance traveled would not keep them from the festivities.

Before the close of our celebration, we were assured that the dream would indeed continue, with the family reunion being hosted by the Detroit Chapter in 2010, and the California Chapter in 2011. Our founder, Synnia Solomon, and all those whose memories we cherish, must be looking down from their Heavenly Home with pride at what has occurred and what is planned for the future. The continuation of the work they began is proof that their efforts are appreciated, that the goals they sought were reasonable, that the challenge is worth it, that the dream lives on, and that there is no limit to what is possible.

Visit our web site at and experience what has been recorded for the enjoyment, the education, and the hope for this and future generations.


A BIG CONGRATULATIONS to Jimmy and Barbara Cozart who recently celebrated their birthdays with a combined party. Friends and relatives from as far away as Georgia joined the happy couple in the joyous occasion.


Reflecting upon the cover article by guest contributor Willie Johnson, Jackie McDonald’s Retirement party included many stories of her “Living to the Max” by her involvement and contributions to her family, to her career, to her church and to her community. The huge turnout was a testament to her many accomplishments, but beyond those accomplishments, were the even more moving and touching stories of how she impacted the lives of others.

It was clear that during Jackie’s career the choices she made while following her objectives, almost always provided service, comfort and inspiration to others. Guests travelled from many parts of the country to show their love and appreciation for Jackie. And there are few people who can boast of having the mayor of their community attend their retirement party. One of Jackie’s outstanding qualities is that of being humble, so you may not hear that boast from her. In fact, as a demonstration of her thoughtfulness and her attention to detail, the Thank You Note arrived at our home just days after this fantastic affair. And Yes, Jackie’s Thank You was handwritten and signed, but I removed the signature for our newsletter publication.

We congratulate Jackie on a successful career and we are preparing ourselves for even greater things in the future.

Saving at Christmas

If your closets, crawl spaces, attics and spare rooms are cluttered, you are not alone. In a society accustomed to excess, some of that excess can be attributed to Christmas Gifts. No, I’m not a Scrooge, but if you (1) Have any unused (or unwanted) gifts lying around, or (2) Discarded any of the same during the past year, or (3) Reluctantly give some gifts only because you think those people will to give you one, or (4) Are still paying off the credit card (principal and interest) from last year’s overindulgence; then say Amen and try to take this message in context.

In these economically challenging times, it is especially important to re-visit what we expect of ourselves and others, and re-evaluate our priorities. We have available a large selection of a reasonably priced alternative for showing how much you care.

We have an extensive collection of Christmas and other greeting cards available on-line through our web site at (saves time, money, and scheduling) or if you live within our service area and prefer personal contact, we have several catalogues you can browse through. If you plan to order through our catalogue, additional savings and bonus offers are available if we can schedule you to complete your order before September 27th. But PLEASE, call us today at 216-348-4612 for an appointment.

The Wedding

Weddings are always special, almost always expensive, and usually stressful. We are here to keep them special, minimize the expense, and reduce the stress. What better ways to reduce the stress than by beginning the planning process early and minimizing the expense? What better time in a young person’s life to help them learn planning and budgeting than during the process of wedding planning? Of course a better time for them to have learned would have been prior to now, but it most instances, that has not been the case.

Whether you are the Bride-to-Be, Groom-to-Be, the involved (and paying) parents or grandparents, Wedding Planner, or concerned friend or associate, please see what we have to offer before making one of the largest financial and emotional decisions of a lifetime. We have been providing top quality invitations, announcements and accessories at reasonable prices for over twenty-eight years. We can save you a minimum of 20% off your purchase while providing the benefit of our experience and genuine concern.

Give us a call at 216-348-4612. You can enjoy even greater savings and the convenience of ordering from your own home by accessing our huge on-line selection at