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ELC Blog Post 3: The Power Of The Pivot

Jaque (Center) leaving for Basic Training in Parris Island

Hello and welcome to the third blog post of Empowering Life Changes, LLC. Our company, exist to provide life coaching skills that allow our clients to experience the success of positive decision making, and to empower our clients to learn and maintain life-long healthy habits.

This week like most people my age, I took a trip home to be with family for the July 4th holiday. Growing up, within my home, holidays were not really a big deal. We celebrated birthday’s, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. We were poor, my mom raised 5 boys with the assistance of our family and some state aide. Times were tough, but we always had each other. My mother is doing just fine living on her own and is now able to explore what she loves about herself. My oldest brother is finishing up a lengthy prison sentence. I’ve begun a practice as a life coach, finished my Ph.D., teach at a major college, and spent some time working for a high-profile metropolitan police department. My middle brother served in the KY National Guard, has an amazing son and a supportive partner in his girlfriend. My next brother is currently serving in the United States Marine Corp and is married to a phenomenal woman. My youngest brother is becoming a self-sufficient adult. It is truly amazing to see 5 kids come from the same background, and all go in different directions. This blog will be dedicated to talking about our ability to pivot and the importance of pivoting at the right time.

Life Change #1: What is a pivot?

A pivot is our ability to take a bad situation or experience and redirect ourselves. Some examples of a pivot can be: 1) Working in a dead-end job for years and deciding that you don’t want to do that anymore. This inspiration for change moves you to go back to school, to update your resume, to seek other opportunities at your company, or could move you to change jobs/careers completely. 2) Living in a draining relationship and one day you decide to live a life based on value and worth. Maybe in this pivot you decide to end the relationship, seek couples counseling, or seek individual counseling. 3) Your family relationship dynamics are in disarray, and you want to mend burned bridges. It is quite possible that this pivot may look like reaching out through text or a phone call. It can look like hosting a dinner at your home or a restaurant. It may even look like creating a group chat and engaging the family in a healing conversation. All of these are examples of pivots that could happen in anyone’s life.

In karate we called a pivot an “off-angle” or “side-step”. This tactic was used when an opponent used a straight-line attack like a side kick, and we would quickly “off-angle” to dodge the attack and follow-up with our own counterattack. The pivot is not complete unless you introduce a forward movement, otherwise you’ll just pivot back into the same mess.

Life Change #2: Know when to pivot

Timing a pivot is critical. Too late and you’ll find yourself sucked back into the mess, too soon and you’ll have telegraphed (shown) your movement. The ideal pivot requires that we see the problem as it is, assess what tools we have to handle the problem, side-step any obstacles that might hinder us, and then begin working to resolve the issue. Several years ago, a few key family members suddenly passed away. Many in the family never fully quite recovered from the significance of these losses. The end result has been chaos, resentment, and frustration. When we are faced with conflict, we can unknowingly enter into fight or flight mode. This “stress” is the result of the body trying to maintain balance. In our stress we may say and do things that are hurtful in an attempt to get the other party to back down. Or we may shutdown and allow ourselves to be verbally, emotionally, and sometimes physically abused.

This is why the timing of our pivot is important. In our family’s situation I decided to reach out to a family member I hadn’t seen in person in over a year (partly due to COVID), but also because I just never made it a point to stop by regularly. It would have been easy for either of us to pick up the phone, to do a quick 5-15 minute check-in, and to let one another know that we love each other. But we didn’t do that. With so many people unexpectedly passing away over the last 15 months I have made it a point to contact people anytime they run across my mind. This weekend I got the chance to go over to my aunt’s house and check-in. We shared laughs, hugs, swapped old stories, and I got to see a collection of items from my Great-Grandmothers house. My heart was so fulfilled. This was a powerful and positive pivot. Every pivot will not feel this way.

Life Changes #3: How to handle a not-so good pivot

So, what do you do when the pivot doesn’t work out the way you envisioned? The quick answer is that you determine what went well with the pivot, what went poorly, and how you can improve for a future pivot. The lengthy answer is that it is normal to not always feel good about undertaking a pivot. In fact, if every pivot feels good then you’re probably not doing it right. Growth is uncomfortable and there is no getting around that. Les Brown calls it, “unavoidable suffering”. Don’t worry about the pivot causing you distress, you’re already in distress from the situation you’re going through. It would amaze you how many people stay in situations that require them to shrink themselves to fit someone else’s ideas.  

When the pivot doesn’t feel so good, pivot anyway. Forward progress is often better than no progress. Pivoting is truly an aggressive tactic. It doesn’t always require you to be “matter-of-fact”, you can and should (whenever possible) pivot with grace and class. This is to say, that as we learn to pivot, we want to show others the usefulness and fullness of the process. So again, when the pivot doesn’t feel so good, pivot anyway.

Life Change #4: What I’ve come to appreciate about pivoting

I want to wrap up this post with a brief summary on what I’ve learned from pivoting. Just about every negative situation we encounter in life can be turned around if we look at it through a positive lens.  I remember one rainy night I was driving home and took a turn too sharp causing the car to bump the curb. I ended up having to pull over in a church parking lot to change my tire. When I got out to start changing the tire it seemed as if an ocean started falling out of the clouds. In that moment I just started singing a song and enjoyed the fact that I knew how to change a tire, I was in a safe location, and that I had the tools needed to do the job. This was a successful pivot.

From another point, I once tried to salvage a friendship. Unfortunately, there had been too many layers of trauma, and we could not move forward together. Did the pivot fail, absolutely not. I didn’t receive the desired outcome, but we were able to move forward amicably in separate directions. A pivot does not guarantee you’ll keep the same company along the way. Grace and gratitude are big components of an effective pivot. Grace to understand that we must deal with others from their level of awareness, while maintaining our established boundaries. Grace to also recognize our own needs. Gratitude to be thankful for the knowledge, ability, and wisdom to even endure such a task. This concludes the blog on pivoting. Please leave a comment, subscribe to the blog, or send an e-mail to demetrius@empoweringlifechangesllc.com.

Be kind to yourself. Be kind to others. Live with intention and purpose. 

Sincerely,

Demetrius  

Jaque graduating from USMC Basic Training

Introductory Blog

Hello,

My name is Demetrius Latham, Jr.

I am a life coach, college lecturer, police officer, martial artist, and IRONMAN Finisher. I strive every day to make decisions that will improve my life and the lives of those around me.

For years I had talked about doing an IRONMAN. After my friend was tragically killed by a distracted and intoxicated driver, I really felt a need to get it done. I made that happen on October 13, 2019. Although I have a great photo of when I crossed the finish line, I had a significant amount of unseen support from an ever-growing network of supporters. The IRONMAN training taught me a great deal about myself, my journey out of poverty, and about resiliency.

I love to travel, to read, to explore, to help others, and to listen. My goal with this blog is to help each reader maximize their personal and professional potential.  I believe that though life coaching, we can all learn how to lead more fulfilling and productive lives. I am excited to share my story with you, and to engage you with beneficial information.

Remember, Every Change Has A Story.

Sincerely,

Demetrius

Empowering Life Changes Blog Post 2

Hello and welcome to the second blog post of Empowering Life Changes, LLC. Our company, exist to provide life coaching skills that allow our clients to experience the success of positive decision making, and to empower our clients to learn and maintain life-long healthy habits.

Life Change 1: Understanding a fire 

Recently, I was blessed with the ability to take a trip to a forest area near Houston, TX. My partner planned the trip as a way for us to getaway and reconnect with one another. I never imagined that lighting a fire outside would give me such a prolific thought. Lighting a fire is simple. You need something that will burn, an ignitor, and a lighter. Well, not in the woods. In the woods you have to be certain that the fire will last. Thus, the foundation has to be built right. A good fire is planned, you have to make sure the area is safe for a fire to be established, have you cleared away any debris that could lead the fire to spread to unintended sections, is the fire pit established in a way that the fire will last for the length of time needed, and will you be able to monitor the fire. As I was making breakfast on the open fire pit it really hit me that I had created something. If I took my attention from it too long then it would start to die, but if I provided for it, and nurtured it properly then it would last me for hours (the needed time to cook a meal or enjoy the warmth). 

The tinder or the easiest burning materials help to get a fire going. Usually wood shavings, waded paper, or strips of cardboard. If we think of this in the terms of relationships, friendships, or the vision that we have for our own purpose these would be the initial compliments. “You are very handsome”, “You’re very intellectual”, “You handle yourself well”, these initial starters help to get us going. Next would be the kindling, these are usually twigs or small branches that help the fire to sustain itself. Again, going back to the example above, “you are a very empathetic person, I enjoy seeing you help your family and friends”, “you are so inspirational, you inspire me to be a better person”. Firewood is the crown or the jewel of the fire (rightfully so). It provides the warmth of the required heat to cook the meal. Firewood is the love or the action within the relationship. On its own it cannot sustain itself, but with help along the way it can do wonders. Lastly, you’ll need a Firestarter. Back in the day we would use a knife or rock and strike them until a spark ignited. But with all things that advance, now we have lighter fluid and other things to help get the fire going. 

Life Change 2: Building the fire 

Once we have what we need to make the fire, then we have to build the fire. The base of the fire truly determines how long we anticipate the fire to burn. This is true for so many things in our lives. When we set out to be start a business, start a relationship, or to work on ourselves, we have to first determine how long do we want this thing to last. By establishing a timeframe, we give ourselves an internal clock to work towards our goals, but also to align our behaviors with our expectations. In this blog we won’t get too deep into self-sabotaging behavior, but we do need to understand that what we think and speak to ourselves, will become evident in our day-to-day actions. Therefore, it is so important that we speak positively and truthfully to our inner self. Be authentic with yourself. One thing about fire is that it will burn, or it won’t. Fire needs certain things to sustain itself. For instance, fire cannot burn without oxygen. If you are not speaking life into yourself then how do you expect to be your most productive and authentic self? Build the fire of your life with the intention that whatever you are setting your mind will burn for an eternity. With this in mind, you’ll build from the base of being present for as long as life allows, and then, someone else will come along to pick up where you left off. 

Life Change 3: Watching over the fire 

Many will get started and fail. It so important to monitor the fire as it burns. A campfire requires you to move the wood/coals around from time to time, to ensure even burning and longevity. Every so often you might have to blow on the fire to re-invigorate the flames. Just as with our own dreams and visons, we must constantly blow life back into them to keep us moving in the right direction. Life comes with unavoidable suffering, and unimaginable grief. But we must be steadfast in the things that are moving us forward. At the campsite, I watched as the fire began to die down after I got it started but didn’t continue to tend to it, once I began to tend to it the fire reignited, this process continued over and over. For me, it was a revelation into the need for us to truly continue to press on and remain committed to our talents and purpose. Watch over your fire as if your life depends on it, in fact, it most certainly may. 

Life Change 4: Learning when to put the fire out

At a some point it will be our responsibility to put a fire out. It may look like ending a relationship, ending a friendship, ending a job/career path, or ending our desire for a certain outcome. When this time comes, we must be aware of the delicate nature required. When putting out a campfire you cannot saturate the fire in water as the steam can burn you, and by doing so the firepit could become unusable for some time. It’s best to enter this stage with a plan, purpose, and intention. Sometimes we must let old things go, other times it will serve us best to pass our plans onto others as me move to the next assignment. As you begin to determine the things that best serve you, release the things that drain you, and move deeper into your purpose, remember that you cannot pour from an empty cup. 

Life Change 5: Training the untrained mind

This concludes the blog on what I learned from a log fire. Constructive feedback is always welcomed and should be emailed to empoweringlifechangesllc@gmail.com. You can also leave a note here so that we can all chime in together. A practice that has served me well over the last several years is called the “After Action Debrief”. In the debrief we go over what went well, what went bad, and where we can improve. This is a tool that my squad and I used during my time in Louisville. Try to find at least 3 things in each category. Be mindful that we can always improve, that we are always making mistakes, and that we are always capable of doing our best. As you explore the fires you are creating, ask yourself, “How are my fire building habits good? How are my fire building habits bad? How can my fire building habits improve?”. Be kind to yourself. Be kind to others. Live with intention and purpose. 

Sincerely, 

Demetrius  

Empowering Life Changes Blog Post 1

Hello and welcome to the first blog post of Empowering Life Changes, LLC. We exist to provide life coaching skills that allow our clients to experience the success of positive decision making, and to empower our clients to learn and maintain life-long healthy habits. In this first blog post we will be discussing financial freedom through budgeting, proper credit management, and money discipline. Most of us who grew up during the technology boom of the late 90’s didn’t learn much about balancing a checkbook, long-term financial planning, or even credit for that matter. However, we are still held to the same standard as the professionals in the various financial industries. In the next several paragraphs we’ll touch on some key topics to help jumpstart or maintain your financial independence. 

Life Change 1: Identify your budget

Life Change 1 is meant to help you see how much money you have coming in and see where your money is going. As simple as it seems, a budget is a revolutionary tool that will help you track the value of your financial decisions. Below is a sample budget:

Rent: $1,000

Car Payment: $300

Insurance: $200 

Cable/Wi-fi: $140

Electric/Gas: $140

Water: $60

Groceries: ***

Fuel: ***

Haircut/Salon: ***

Savings: ***

Date night(s): ***

Netflix/Hulu/HBO: ***

Credit Card: ***

Child Support: ***

Net income (Monthly): $2,800

Expenses: $2,240 (Less miscellaneous expenses)

As you begin to develop your budget, you will see that the numbers shift (either up or down), you may have additional expenses or fewer, and be sure to list your expenses from most important to least important. The above sample is of a monthly budget. When I first graduated from high school and made $800 a month, I had to budget based on 2-week intervals (the time frames that I got paid). This helped me identify which bills were due for each pay period, and I could edit payment dates so that I wasn’t overspending on either paycheck. Creditors and billing companies prefer to get paid; use that to your advantage when working out payment arrangements with them.

I recommend in the beginning that you track all of your purchases for 15-30 days. This will give you a realistic look at your spending habits (using your banking app to review your expenses). The last note here is that you don’t need to overextend yourself to get a bill paid. This doesn’t mean skipping out on your bills unnecessarily, but if you don’t have it, then you don’t have it. Call whomever you owe and work out an arrangement, don’t make people search for you (a lesson for later). 

Life Change 2: How to be financially disciplined 

Most of us know what we can and can’t afford. Often, through the lens of social media, we lose track of who we are and begin to adjust to the societal expectations we perceive. Consumerism (an obsession with buying material goods or items) leads many of us into debt through a temporary sense of fulfillment. Financial discipline goes beyond developing a budget; it means sticking to the budget, being able to say, “no, that purchase doesn’t align with my future goals,” and being able to recognize poor spending habits within yourself.  Don’t be too hard on yourself here; you will find that you’re going to go outside of your budget from time to time. Excessively punishing yourself only degrades your mental capacity. The overall goal is to learn from our mistakes, use those lessons to make better decisions, and pass on our knowledge to others. 

Financial discipline requires significant work upfront (especially for those of us who struggle with impulsivity). Generally, as we become more aware and efficient, we begin to release the reigns, and we can move through life with more certainty. 

Life Change 3: Understanding credit

In its most simplistic form, we think of credit in credit cards, loans, and buying power. For the most part, this is a good base of understanding. Credit cards come in two forms: secure and unsecured. A secured credit card is typically for someone who has no established credit history, has a poor credit history, or is looking to rebuild their credit after a bankruptcy. The secure credit card requires the applicant to put down a certain amount of money (collateral), which becomes the established credit limit. You may (if the creditor allows) send additional checks to increase your credit limit; however, the creditor may deny the request. An unsecured credit card is given by a bank or financial institution with no collateral (think discover, capital one, chase bank, etc.). These cards come with a pre-set credit limit based on the applicant’s creditworthiness. 

Credit Karma is an exceptional resource for discovering what is on your credit report, disputing inaccurate/outdated information, and learning more about the beneficial impact of credit on your life through the articles section (a second resource is Experian). Most of us can receive one free credit report per year from http://www.annualcreditreport.com. It is increasingly important to check on your credit report at least once a year to ensure you haven’t become the victim of a cyber-attack.  In a future blog, we will revisit credit and dive deeper into interest rates, APR’s and other credit nuances. 

This concludes the blog on financial habits. Three resources have been provided above as well as concise information to help you along the way. Constructive feedback is always welcomed and should be emailed to empoweringlifechangesllc@gmail.com. You can also leave a note here so that we can all chime in together. A practice that has served me well over the last several years is called the “After Action Debrief.” In the debrief, we go over what went well, what went wrong, and where we can improve. This is a tool that my squad and I used during my time in Louisville. Try to find at least three things in each category. Be mindful that we can continually improve, that we are constantly making mistakes, and that we are always capable of doing our best. As you explore your financial decision-making, ask yourself, “How are my spending habits good? How are my spending habits bad? How can my spending habits improve?”.