Oh! The Mistakes I’ve Made (Letter 2)

Dear Y.B.M.:

I hope my last letter helped you get caught up to where we are.

No one likes admitting to making mistakes, and it is amazing what lengths we go to to try and cover up our mistakes and failures. Below are three reasons why it is a waste of time to try to cover up our mistakes and failures:

1. Covering up our sins and failures never causes us to prosper. Proverbs 28:13 says: “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.”

2. People who are not transparent rarely help other people.

3. Many people already have your number—you just don’t know that they do.

I remember while I was a student at Baptist University of America in Decatur, Georgia, we had mandatory chapel services each morning at around 11:00. We had a different preacher each chapel hour. I enjoyed most of the preachers who preached, but there was one preacher by the name of Raymond Hancock who visited regularly, and whom the entire student body loved to hear. The difference between this preacher and the other preachers was like night and day. The reason is that this preacher had the humility and ability to not only preach the Word of God, but to be transparent at the same time. It made all the difference. I learned through those chapel services that the great preachers and the preachers who help people the most are those who keep it real.

With that said, allow me to share with you some personal and painful mistakes that I made in my early years. My purpose in sharing these mistakes with you is so you would avoid them, because contrary to popular belief, some mistakes done in youth leave scars that can last a lifetime.

The first big mistake I made as a young man was having sex before marriage. I know that may sound punkish. Nevertheless, it was a big mistake. Like so many brothers, I took pride in my sexual “conquests” for a long time. But as time went on, what I was not proud of was the pain I caused so many people: the young lady I was involved with, the mothers and fathers, the grandparents, the aunts and uncles, the children born out of wedlock, and the child that was aborted when I was only fifteen years old, because the mother and I, in ignorance and immaturity, thought it was the best thing to do at that time. This murdering of an innocent life haunts me even after thirty years.

THE LESSON IS THIS: I believe the real reason God forbids sex before marriage is because it hurts so many people for a long time—sometimes for a lifetime. Although sex is a lot of fun, it is far more a spiritual thing than a physical thing. I say it is more of a spiritual thing because it is only through sex that God brings another spiritual being into the world to fellowship with Him.

The second big mistake I made was not taking my early education seriously. I, like many of my school friends, had no idea how important our education was. In my mind, school was a place to tolerate, a place to skip, a place to run the girls, and a place to have fun. Oh, how I regret not taking my schooling seriously. Because I didn’t, I had to play catch up when I got older. Son, that is exactly where the system messes up young black men. Because many of us have the wrong mentality when we enter high school, and because the teachers don’t have the time nor the patience, they let us keep our playful, wrong mentality, and at the end of our high school days, they pass us on to graduate just to get rid of us—knowing that we haven’t learned anything. If you waste your high school days and still manage to graduate, it is very likely that you will not be able to handle college, because college work is built on high school work.

THE LESSON IS THIS: You will have plenty of time to play after you get your Doctorate. For now, don’t make the mistake I made of not taking school seriously. Learning is best done while your mind is young and while you can grasp things better. So, hit the books while there is still time.

The third big mistake that I made as a young man was running with the wrong crowd. The irony of this is, I was a preacher’s son. Not only was I a preacher’s son, but I had the same name as my dad, and on top of that, my dad was on television each Sunday morning with his Gospel program.

Being a preacher’s kid, I know the reason why many preachers’ kids are worse than the other kids. The preachers’ children are trying to fit in with the in-crowd. My friend, Bill, and I were big time preachers’ kids, yet we raised more hell, drank more liquor, and had more women than any of our other friends. We were the leaders of the pack. I remember one incident in which some of the children on the school bus were joking me about being a preacher’s son, and I blurted out, in an attempt to fit in, that “I am going to drive the bus to hell.” That is frightening, but I remember making that statement.

I remember on another occasion, one of my “girlfriends” and I were sitting on the front porch watching the sun go down. During the course of our conversation, she told me that I was going to be a preacher one day like my father. I don’t know what came over me, but I cursed her and I swore that I would never be a preacher. Why? Because while I was sitting on that porch with her that evening, preaching was not on my mind at all. I despised anything to do with preachers. I wanted to fit in, and preachers’ children normally do not fit in with the in-crowd.

THE LESSON IS THIS: Stop trying to be like others and be yourself. If you think you need a crowd, get with the crowd that is going to church and the crowd that is getting A’s in school. Lynn Swann said: “Why try to fit into a crowd that after you graduate from high school, you will probably never see again?”

As you will see in my next letter, I have made some more mistakes, but these are some of the big ones. Avoid these pitfalls, and you can save yourself a lot of heartache and trouble, and you can get down the highway of success much faster.

Avoiding Mistakes,


P.T. (Power Thoughts):

Winston Churchill said, “All men make mistakes, but only wise men learn from their mistakes.”

James Joyce said, “A man’s errors are his portals of discovery.”

Hugh White said, “When you make a mistake, don’t look back at it long. Take the reason of the thing into your mind and then look forward. Mistakes are lessons of wisdom. The past cannot be changed. The future is yet in your power.”

Ryan Cabrera said, “Running with the wrong crowd will never help you.”


The Obstacles To Getting A Good Education (Letter 10)

Dear Y.B.M.:

At this writing, I am on the steps of the Coleman Library on the campus of Florida A & M University in Tallahassee, Florida. I will be speaking in a couple of churches in the area on Sunday.

Frankly, I wish I had someone to write me like this when I was your age.

Now, on this important matter of getting a good college education: you will have some obstacles, to say the least.

The first obstacle that you will face is yourself. Why? Because the process of truly learning is laborious, monotonous, and at times downright bitter and boring. Therefore, obtaining a truly higher education will require of you a determined mind and a will to stick and stay. In short, it will take discipline. But in the end, it will be worth it all.

Your second obstacle to obtaining a higher education is the ever present lure of immediate money and gratification. This is a temptation. For example, you may have a good paying job right now and you don’t want to leave it to go to college or you don’t want to cut back on your hours so that you can go, at least, part-time. I recall, upon my graduation from high school, my parents wanted me to go on to college at Gardner-Webb College in North Carolina. However, I was too short-sighted, and, frankly, too foolish to take their advice because I had this restaurant job in high school that offered me a new job as trainer and assistant manager for new restaurants that were opening up. In my view, the money was good, so I opted for the fast money and the fast lifestyle of partying, women and drinking — immediate gratification. However, thankfully, by the grace of God, I came to my senses and began the higher learning process, and became a college graduate later.

My friend, you will learn in life that you must postpone gratification to reach for something far more important and valuable. One great preacher of the past put it this way:

You cannot offer up the future on the altar of the immediate.

Of course, he is so right. I hope that you will learn this great lesson early instead of later.

A third obstacle that you will face will be your friends. Just as all men do not have faith, all men do not have knowledge, or wisdom or good sense. Just because your friends appear to be cool and powerful does not mean they have wisdom and good sense. If they are not increasing in knowledge, and if they are not exhorting you to do the same, then you are flying with the wrong birds. Get rid of them. Don’t listen to them. Please don’t let them keep you back from something as valuable as this.

The fourth obstacle will be finding the right college. Every college or university is not necessarily the right institution of higher learning for you. There are some colleges and universities that “teach you why.” Then there are colleges and universities that “teach you how.” And then there are colleges and universities that “teach you why and how.” For the sake of common sense, please try to get into the college or university that can teach you the “why and the how.”

A good way to determine whether or not a college is a “why or how” college is by examining the kind of people the college produces.

The students who come from the “why school” and the students who come from the “how school” will normally have the following characteristics:

They have that locked in, locked down mentality (commonly called the slave mentality.) This mentality is bent on working for somebody for thirty years, retiring, and then dying with nothing. In my opinion, these people do not carry the edge of what I call inside knowledge.

The students from the “why and how” college or university on the other hand, will normally have the following characteristics:

Independent thinkers, innovative, entrepreneurs; they may work for somebody for a little while, but their aim is to be in charge of their own business or what have you. These kind of folks will normally rise to the top more quickly than the rest of the pack. They will have their eyes on being free and doing their own thing. They have the inside scoop — the inside knowledge.

Proverbs 4:7 says, “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.”

Your fifth obstacle, of course, will be the money. Please do not let the money problem strike fear into your heart because even in these days there are ways in which one can get an education, if he really wants to. Here are a few ways:

1. Prayer
2. Work part-time. Many have done it successfully.
3. Well-off family members.
4. External study colleges.
5. Junior or Community Colleges.
6. Scholarships for good grades
7. Financial Aid – Student Loans

And there are other options as well.

All I want to say to you in closing is this: I don’t care what it takes, or how much it costs, please get yourself a good education. You will never regret it.

For a Smarter Young Black Man,


Power Thoughts

Dr. Addie Mitchell said, “If you plan for a year, sow a seed;
If you plan for a decade, plant a tree
If you plan for a century, educate the people.”

Earl G. Graves said, “Education is the primary tool of emancipation and liberation for African-Americans in our fight for true equality in this country.”

Someone said, “Education is your passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.”

Governor Douglas Wilder said, “In the absence of education, all else fails.”

The Importance of Increasing Knowledge (Letter 9)

Dear Y.B.M.:

I am writing this letter from the beautiful F.W. Bluford Library on the historically black North Carolina A & T University in Greensboro, North Carolina. I am in town for a special meeting that I am to speak at in a local church. But my being here in this particular library is quite fitting since in this letter I wish to encourage you to get a good education. This matter of getting a good education, or rather, increasing your knowledge, is extremely important — so important that even God addresses it in His Word: the Bible. Notice these words from the book of Proverbs 1:5:

“A wise man will hear and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels.”

The value of getting a good education or “increasing your knowledge” is all around us. Notice just seven of the many advantages of “increasing your knowledge.”

First, through increasing your knowledge, you will receive personal enrichment and fulfillment.

Second, increasing your knowledge will give you a greater capacity to help others.

Third, getting a good education will, generally speaking, allow you throughout your life to do better financially and materially.

Fourth, increasing your knowledge will help you to deal with the vicissitudes of life better.

Fifth, increasing your knowledge will help you to interact with your family and other people better.

Sixth, getting a good education will allow you to better express yourself through speech and writing.

Seventh, increasing your knowledge can help you to become a more humble individual because you will find, as you increase in knowledge, how ignorant you really are. Now, you may not think humility is a good quality to possess, but the fact of the matter is that you can’t go up until you come down.

Proverbs 15:33 says, “The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom; and before honour is humility.”

Matthew 18:4 says, “Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

I Peter 5:6 says, “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.”

The aforementioned advantages of getting a good education are just a few of the many advantages. There are many more. You will find them out as you increase your knowledge.

As I wrap this letter up, may I kindly but firmly say to you “CHANGE YOUR ATTITUDE TOWARD EDUCATION AND KNOWLEDGE?” High school and college are not times to play! School time is not a time for partying! School is not a time for foolishness! School is serious business! Very serious business! Somebody somewhere is paying good money for you to obtain this knowledge. It is either your parents, some other member of your family, Mr. Tax-payer or yourself. This is not the time to be Mr. Cool! Change your attitude towards education, increase your knowledge and become a more powerful individual.

Do your best in High School, and get a good college education of some sort “by any means necessary.”

For the Increasing of Knowledge,


Power Thoughts

P.T.: Nelson Mandela said, “A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “When we go into action and confront our adversaries, we must be as armed with as much knowledge as they.”

Romare Bearden said, “Real knowledge, properly used, will help anyone.”

Daniel J. Boorstin said, “Education is learning what you didn’t even know you didn’t know.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Nothing pains some people more than having to think.”

Daniel Whyte III said, “The classroom is a sanctuary.”