Winner’s win and losers have really great excuses

Posted: January 30, 2013 by Keith Townsend in Uncategorized

As I mentioned in an earlier post, one of my 2013 goals is to run 1500 miles.  I’m starting to understand how difficult of a goal it will be to achieve.  On average, I’d have to run 125 miles a month.  That’s a pretty big number for me.  My best running month is 100 miles so, I’d have to average better than my best.

Today, I’m in Atlanta, GA for work.  I’ve been putting in crazy hours and got in late last night.  I awoke an hour later than I usually do and decided not to go for a run because I would be late to my client site.  This is completely reasonable.  Then I remembered that I’d work late again tonight and I wouldn’t have time for a run.  So, I got up, got dressed to go running and hit the door and wouldn’t you know it that some pretty ominous clouds are out.


I turned back around and was headed back to my hotel room to get dressed and be on time for my client engagement.  Then one of my favorite personal sayings hit me, “Winners win and losers have really great reasons why they don’t.”  It would have been understandable and acceptable for me to continue to get dressed for work but that’s honestly taking the easy way out.  We love stories of people who against all odds achieve incredible things in life.  They achieve these incredible things in part because they make sacrifices many of us would deem unacceptable and I dare to say most of us would agree with the reasons why they should have gave up.  This is why we call them heroes.  They are willing to do the hard things we wouldn’t.

I turned back around went outside and ran one of my slower 5 miles.  But no matter the pace I’m 5 miles closer to my goal of 1500.

Winners win while losers have great excuses for why they didn’t win.


Your body may give out but don’t ever give up!

Posted: January 28, 2013 by Keith Townsend in Lessons from dad
Tags: ,

I was running outside in Chicago in 20 degree weather and it reminded me of my dad. Just after a few minutes there was nothing more I wanted to do but stop, go in the house and warm up. But, all I could see in my mind was my dad saying, “Son, your body may give out on you, but don’t ever give up!” I ran for about an hour and a half and had gone better than 7 1/2 miles. My dad passed away about 3 years ago but I remember these words as if they were spoken just yesterday.

My dad was as physically tough as they get. He was an alley mechanic by trade, not only was he the strongest man I knew he was the toughest one as well. He would have me, my older brother and my younger brothers (when they were old enough) come out to the alley and help him work on cars. The problem was that Chicago get’s cold. If you’ve never experienced 20 degree whether with a wind chill then you don’t know what it’s like to work in the cold. Then try using metal tools to twist bolts in that weather. I hated everything about it. My hands would sting, my toes would go numb and my face would hurt.

He would routinely scold me about being too soft using this phrase. After about 20 minutes of helping him, I’d wanted to stop go in the house warm up to some hot tea and food. I really didn’t understand that the hard work that my dad was trying to get me to do provided the hot tea and warm home. I just wanted the comfort.

I pursued a career in technology so that I would never have to do what my dad did to provide food and shelter for my family. But the impact was made and I can’t do anything to change it. My wife often complains that I put myself in unneeded physical strain. I’m sure if you asked my sister-in-laws and my soon to be sister in-laws they’d say my brothers are the same. In order to fight off diabetes and continue to provide for my family I have to run. Diabetes doesn’t care if it’s 20 degrees outside or if I had a hard day at work. It doesn’t care that my feet hurt, or that I have some deadline at work. It wants very much to kill me and stop me from providing for my family. I understand my dad now.

I guess I wish down deep I was as tough as the old man.

I run to make my dad proud!

Changing lives by tumbling

Posted: January 27, 2013 by Keith Townsend in Uncategorized

The Jesse White Tumblers have been a staple of Chicago for a long time.  They are one of the most successful outreach groups in the black community in Chicago.  The focus of the team is to create opportunities through gymnastics for at risk youth. I was pretty surprised by the numbers Illinois Secretary of State check off during an appearance of his Jesse White Tumblers at a performance at a group meeting for my job the other day.  His Tumbler’s have –

  • Been around for 53 years
  • Have had 1500 kids come through program
  • Have 7 teams that will have performed 70 performances by end of the 1st month of the year
  • Performed across the nation and globe

More importantly, a number I was encouraged to hear was that of the 1500 youth to come through the program only a 110 have gotten in trouble with law enforcement.  That was a pretty staggering number to hear when some sources say 1 in 4 black men will be incarcerated in their life time.  I have to admit that at times I’ve just gotten too comfortable with the work that this organization has done.  It’s similar to everything in life.  I’ve just seen them too many times.  But it has been a few years since I last seen them perform and the freshness of seeing them has reminded me of just how amazing the group is in both talent and mission.


Seeing them again has encouraged me to step up my volunteer efforts and reach out to the youth of the city.  I’m so grateful for these private organizations and look forward to sending financial support to the building of the Jesse White Community Center.

2013 Goals

Posted: January 12, 2013 by Keith Townsend in Uncategorized

So, I like that Scott Lowe created a project list and shared with us the readers of his blog his progress throughout the year and a final update.  It was a pretty balanced list which included some tech stuff and learning German.  I decided to create a similar list of Goals for 2013 as they were in my noodle to begin with.  I promise to update you guys on my efforts and hopefully be as transparent with you as Scott has been with us.

2013 Goals

  1. Run 1500 miles – More so than most people, I have to maintain a healthy weight to stay off medication.  I’ve found over the years that the only effective way has been to run.  It’s going to be a combination of treadmill and outdoor running (hey I live in Chicago).  You can track my progress via RunKeeper here
  2. Obtain my PMP – I have a Masters in IT Project Management and I might as well
  3. Renew my CCNA – I don’t do much networking any more but it expires in March and the knowledge comes in handy
  4. Read the Entire Bible – One of the every year goals
  5. Learn to Speak Spanish – Paid a lot of money for Rossetta Stone a few years ago.  It’s about time I put it to use
  6. Become proficient in Linux – I’ve avoided this since 1999.  I don’t think I can continue to put it off

I think the learning to speak Spanish goal might be a little tough.  I’ve attempted it before and it’s just difficult.  I actually wrote a paper on it for school.  I might just dig it up to remind me of some of my lessons learned (See how I brought the project management thing into it).  The certifications are relatively low hanging fruit but I feel the other 3 goals are pretty tough and should really challenge me.  At the end of the year I have to be able to look back on this list and at list be able to present it to my parents without worries of getting disciplined 🙂

What are some of your Goals for 2013?

A little Holiday Fun With my Kids

Posted: December 30, 2012 by Keith Townsend in Uncategorized

I have a tradition of giving my kids gag gifts inside of real nice boxes.  I go through the whole wrapping thing.  It’s become a thing upon itself where the kids actually expect me to do it every year now even when they are all adults.  This year’s was a classic as I wrapped my son’s faux gift inside a iPad box.

Why I moved from Chicago and why I’m moving back

Posted: December 12, 2012 by Keith Townsend in Uncategorized

If you are a middle class black family, it’s a tough debate on if to leave the city for the suburbs.  Our communities need strong middle class families to help improve the community.  The men are needed to mentor boys without dads at home and give vision and overall leadership.  While at the same time you now have the means to provide better opportunity for your own family.  If you have an heart for others it’s a difficult decision.  I had to make the decision on if to leave or stay.

Keith_Kevin_MarcusI knew it was time to move from the City of Chicago when my son came home with all A’s and B’s.  My son will be one of the first to tell you that he’s not a scholar.  He has learned to work really hard at school and get out of it what he needs.  I’ve always known this about him.  We’d sit at the kitchen table for hours teaching him how to round numbers and develop critical thinking skill.  That’s why after his first semester at Hales Franciscan, a private school on the south side, I knew something was wrong.  He hadn’t really worked or studied particularly hard that semester but came home with his best grades ever.

I went in to have a conversation with the principle and staff and it became clear that I was going to have to find different options for him.  The school’s mission wasn’t focused around academic metrics.  They were located in a part of the city that really suffered from a lack of male leadership.  Their focus was to help develop boys that didn’t have strong male figures into men that could lead the community.  They were trying to provide my son with something he was already getting at home.  The same theme had already played itself out with my oldest.  My daughter went to Hyde Park and found that the public school education left her ill prepared for college life.  I had another son in middle school which meant the problem wasn’t going away anytime soon.  So, we moved in December of 2005.

We went 50 miles outside of Chicago to the suburb of Plainfield and school district 202.  It has paid off.  Both of my sons are well on their way to obtaining degrees from NIU. One of the things that I’ve drilled into them is that they have an obligation to pay forward their blessings.  There are plenty of middle class black families in the suburbs but I think my skill and presence will be much better felt in the actual city.  I’ve looked at the experience as an investment.  My family is overall stronger and God has opened an opportunity for us to return to the home that we moved out of in 2005.  I’m anxious to get back in there and build up the community as well as get back involved with our original church.

I’m pretty excited about the next few months and hope to have a positive impact on the city I love.

Save my Son

Posted: November 9, 2012 by Keith Townsend in Uncategorized

I’m watching “Save My Son” on TV ONE and its reminding me of what it was like growing up in Chicago with a limited lens of success.  When you grow up in the inner city your view of what’s a hero and success is warped.  The other day, I got into spirited debate on FB with someone I was in elementary school with on the merits of the teachings of the leader of a major street gang in Chicago.

His argument is that a man’s teachings should be independent of a man’s past actions or the actions of his organization.  If the laws of the organization are good then it’s not relevant that the organization has warped the views of those teachings.  He likened it to Christianity.  Christianity in itself is pure but so much bad has been done in its name.  My challenge to him was to at least show me a single organization that was doing inspiring things because of this man’s teachings.  I’m still waiting on an example.

This is important because children and especially young men don’t respect teachings that are not backed by actions.  They look at the life of the men behind the teachings.  If you have children and have ever thought or said, “Just do what I say and not what I do” you get the point.  Just as unscrupulous ministers can use the Word of God to achieve their worldly goals, I believe this man and his followers are doing the same with his teachings.  We are seeing the results of their leadership and it’s hard to fight.  I remember talking with my peers at the age 16.  Success to us was getting a nice used car with a nice sound system and maybe some nice wheels.  Note that this didn’t necessarily include moving out of your parent’s house. That was a bonus.

This was and I believe still is the definition of making it.  And what did the lives of the men that “made it” look like in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago?  Some had good jobs but the majority sold drugs.  When they achieved the goal of buying their nice used care with “rims and sounds” they were honored in the same way you’d honor someone at work for getting a big promotion.  They’d get slapped on the back and congratulated and other men would look at it and the vicious cycle would continue.

We couldn’t see the world beyond the borders of our neighborhood.  I’d sit and have conversations with my cousins on how we’d make it and continue to live in the hood.  There’s nothing wrong with living in the

Don Thompson – CEO MacDonald’s Corp

This is what was so inspiring about the TV program I watched tonight. Dr. Steve Perry has always impressed me as a dedicated educator but he gave a great framework for what’s needed to snatch our young men from the influence of these people.  Young men need other men to look up to and push and inspire them.  They need purpose and a feeling of family.  Both examples I saw tonight were inspiring.  I know that it takes a lot more than what was provided in the few days he was involved in their lives but it was still a great framework for success.

neighborhood that we grew up in but we just couldn’t see beyond it.  So, when a man who leads an organization of thousands of men gives you hope backed with a message that seems principled then I can understand the desire to follow. But they’ve had years and years of leadership in these neighborhoods and not much has changed in a positive way.

This is why the success of men like Collin Powell, Barack Obama and MacDonald’s CEO Don Thompson is so inspiring.  They are the difference in what true hope and change looks vs. a marriage of hope.  They help to provide visions of what possible for minorities who with some help and hard work are able to reach the highest levels of success in our nation.  But as I look back on my own life I realize that it’s not easy.  I had my mom and dad and a slew of social program and church to help mold me into the man that grew beyond the boundaries of the neighborhood.

More opportunity to make poor decisions

Posted: October 3, 2012 by Keith Townsend in Uncategorized

I remember before I moved out to the burbs the conversation I had with my teenage and middle school aged sons.  I warned them about the difference is peer pressure and the types of challenges that they would face in the suburbs versus the inner city of Chicago.  The challenges within Chicago were kind of obvious.  They needed to stay clear of drug dealers, gangs, not wear the wrong colors and make sure they kept their hat on straight.  It may seem weird to some of you but that’s part of being a male minority in Chicago.  But the rules were pretty basic and engraved into them as part of my training and the training from the neighborhood.

I warned them that the challenges that they would face in the suburbs would be much different.  The kids in the suburbs had different problems.  In most cases their new peers would have excess material wealth.  Some of their friends would have a couple to a few hundred dollars a month in deposable income just from lunch money etc… This opens a whole new world of temptation for trouble that’s not apparent.  The obvious one would be drug use.  I warned them that drug use among suburban teens would be much different than drug use among inner city teens.  The options are just greater and even more dangerous.  It was these types of challenges that I feared the most.  The city was kind of easy for me to understand and navigate as a parent.  I grew up with similar challenges and could help my kinds avoid them where the suburbs were a completely different animal.

Both kids are now off to school and doing well but as I reflect on our transition, I’m grateful that both of them had strong morals and were good kids.  I don’t know how I would have handled the same transition.

I don’t always vote Democrat.  I have very conservative Christian values and believe like many other Christians struggle with who to vote for from election to election.  I was on the fence for a while with Mitt Romney.  I don’t necessarily agree with his take on Christianity but from afar he seemed to have some of my same Christian values.  I’m going to be honest and say like most other politicians, I don’t particularly trust Barack Obama.  I do believe he’s very intelligent and capable leader (and was born in the U.S.).

I come from a part of America where Mitt Romney’s 47% is much larger than 47%.  I grew up in the Englewood and Bronzeville neighborhoods of Chicago.  Most families including mine were poor and required government assistance.  We darted in and out of the lower middle class.  My mom had my brother at 14 and me at 15.  I eventually had 3 younger brothers.  My dad was a hardworking but poorly educated man.  They did the best that they could with what they were armed.

I’m not ashamed to say we needed help.  We took advantage of every private and public program we could including Food Stamps.  As we got older my mom got stronger and eventually went back to school and completed her GED using private and public assistance.  She took a job driving a school bus making I believe about $147 a week in the mid 80’s.  She kept at it and was eventually promoted to a dispatcher and later a supervisor.  I got a chance to work with her for about a month and was amazed at how good she was at her job.  We always said she should start her own business.

She later actually did start her own transportation company with her new husband.  They run Threpar Transportation out of Chicago.  They provide safe transportation for school age kids to and from school.  Depending on the peaks and valleys of business they can employee anywhere from 3 to 5 full-time drivers.  They are examples of true job creators in an area of Chicago that needs jobs.

This wasn’t a benefit from some trickle down policy by giving a tax break to “job creators.”  It was a combination of long term government aide and private support working together to help educate my mom and give her a chance.  I picture Mitt Romney and his supporters looking at little girls today like my mom and thinking they are a waste on government resources.  The thought sickens me that someone would call people in these situations victims.  My mom didn’t feel like a victim.  She made some poor choices (I’m glad she did) and understood that no one put her in the situation.  But, I promise you she has given much more back than she received.  Are there people that abuse the system?  Sure, just as long as there’s money to be made their will be cheats.  It doesn’t matter if it’s $200 a month in food stamps or sub-prime mortgages.

I don’t have to see the debate to know who I’m voting for this year.  It’s the guy that didn’t call my mother a victim.

By Mark Dyson of Competetive Resumes and The Voice of the Job Seeker

If you are unable to walk your toddlers through your neighborhood, where you live, then you’re missing
out on knowing your children. There were times when it told me who they would become. It told me
what I needed to teach them as growing young men.

We lived in a beautiful co-op near 69th and Jeffrey in the 1990s. I strolled both of them through the
hood, good parts and bad parts. We also walked throughout the neighborhood including 71 st street.
They were un-phased by the homeless, the belligerent, and the Metra train noise.

What intrigued them the most? Dogs.

None of our relatives had dogs at the time. A few friends, but we have relatives that hate dogs. Despise
them. Abhor them.

All of the dogs on our block were friendly. Even the big dogs melted when they saw the boys walking
through the neighborhood. Dogs were friendly, and the boy adapted until one day a loud and mean dog
came really close to them barking, snarling, and seemingly infuriated. Fortunately, this dog separated us
by his owner’s gate.

There was no need for panic I thought. Both of the boys were startled, and couldn’t grasp that nothing
was going to happen to them. What happened next was the first major revelation of the character that
appeared out of both of them.

The oldest was crying hysterically, but stood between the dog and the youngest. The youngest was
startled and wasn’t crying, and no longer afraid.

We kept walking, but that was a preview of who they are now. My youngest keeps asking my wife and I
for a puppy.

And I didn’t teach them that.