Shaking Off The Dirt with Michael Arterberry (Episode 181)
This week is another podcast interview complete with video! The summarized transcript is below, along with being able to listen and/or watch. No matter what is best for you, I have you covered, and you can be inspired along with me as I interview my guest, Michael Arterberry.
The Farmer and the Donkey
Once upon a time there was a farmer who owned a donkey. And this particular donkey was his most favorite of the farm animals, because once he finished working with the donkey on the farm, he would bring the donkey back to his home and allow the donkey to play with his kids.
Every evening, he would come home and they would complete the same ritual - the donkey would walk alongside him, his children would run out and greet them, and they would play with and ride the donkey before settling in for the night.
On one particular evening, they did their routine, the farmer put the donkey out to pasture, and they went inside to eat and go to bed.
The following morning, the farmer went out and whistled for his donkey. He called and called, yet no donkey appeared. This was so uncommon for the donkey, the farmer knew something was amiss. He walked all over his farm, calling his name.
And finally, he hears a faint noise, calling from the bottom of an empty well.
Apparently, while the donkey was wandering the night before, he had stumbled and fallen into an old abandoned well on their property; an area the farmer had already told his children to avoid due to the danger of it.
Well now, the donkey was stuck at the bottom of it, having bellowed all night with no way to get out.
He called on six neighbor friends to come help, and they stood there, scratching their heads, trying to figure out how in the world they would get him out.
One of his friends suggested that they get some rope. So all six of them got some rope and they decided they were going to lasso him and pull them out. So they threw the rope. They missed. They threw the rope again, and again, they missed. They threw the rope again, and, finally, they caught him by his back hind legs.
He stepped into the rope, and they started to shimmy it up his body and pull. The donkey started to budge, and the bellowing got louder. They started pulling, harder and harder, the screams getting stronger, until they had him about halfway up. At this point, they realize...there is no way this is going to work. The rope had started to tear, the donkey was clearly in pain, and he was flat too heavy. They lowered him back down, and the farmer was faced with a grim decision.
He couldn't feed the donkey at the bottom of the well: that would make no sense and wouldn't last. He didn't want to just shoot him, because he was more like a family pet than anything.
So what could he do? One of his more reasonable friends came up and whispered in his ear and he said, "Listen, you don't want your kids to fall into the well, to what we're going to do is we're going to sacrifice your donkey so that your kids are protected from falling into the well, and we can lay the donkey to rest in the process."
To which, the farmer decided, he would have to deal with. So all six men got shovels and started shoveling in the dirt. And every time that dirt would hit the donkey, he would start bellowing, and it would cause the farmer distress. So they would shovel dirt, the donkey would scream. They throw dirt, the donkey screamed. Over and over again, dirt, scream, dirt, scream, dirt, scream.
And then, all of the sudden, the screams stopped.
They gave the donkey a moment of silence, and then they got right back to work, shoveling more and more dirt.
And the next thing they knew...they saw his right ear! They started shoveling faster and faster. The next thing, his head, and then his body started to show.
Eventually, the donkey walked right out of that well with the dirt level to the ground.
You see, every time that dirt came over the well, it would fall on the donkey's back. He would shake it off...and then he would step on it.
He took every scoop of dirt that was meant to kill him, and he used it to save his life. He shook off the dirt and kept on standing.
Michael shared the story above as an analogy of his own life. He says he is that donkey. He grew up in a home with a raging alcoholic father, who created a world of chaos until he passed away when Michael was 16 years old.
No matter what happiness Michael got caught up in, he'd always have that weight on his shoulder reminding him of what he would be going home to.
He grew up in poverty, oftentimes not even having heat through the winter. Both his parents worked full time, his dad as a bus driver, and his mother as a housekeeper. Yet it was his mother's salary that went to raising her four children, as his father squandered his to feed his addiction.
Living in a household of abuse and addiction just layered one dysfunction over another. And Michael's home was similar to many others in his community. There was chaos and dysfunction all around him.
Here is a little Throwback Thursday with my kids.
My children are thirteen and 16 at this time. When I think of my footprint and legacy, I think of my home first.
I have made it my mission that I want to be my children's hero. Every opportunity I'm given to prove that I'm hero status, I take full advantage of it.
They are both super athletes. When that commentator drops that mic in front of them and asks, "Who is your Hero?", I want them to say "My Dad is my Hero".
As for the world, I want to leave a person changed in whatever way we make contact. It could be a Podcast, phone call, social media post, or in person. I want them to feel that they have been touched in a deep, intimate way, and are better than they were before I met them.
Motivational Speaker, Author
The Silver Lining
As is the case so often, Michael was able to find a silver lining. He's been able to take the pain he went through to motivate other people and move them to a place of peace, resilience and overcoming.
Doing the Work
In light of 2020, Michael has been laying the groundwork dealing with poverty and racial barriers way beyond this past year. One of the ways he does this is by going in to a school and asking the principal to gather a cross-section of 20 students that are a representation of the overall school. In addition, he requires at least two teachers to be involved as well.
He looks for the diversity - making sure the students have every aspect - every ethnicity and culture represented, from black and white to the artist and the athlete. He gathers them in a circle for a two-day experiential experience.
The goal is not only to gain insights on themselves, but also to build a community with the students who may not normally hang out together. Creating a bridge and a shared experience can be powerful for how they will connect later on throughout the year.
He opens every session with the donkey story he shared above, and then passes a picture around of the home he grew up in - a house that looks condemned, yet it looks exactly as it did when he lived there growing up. He shares how it felt to live there, and he shares how far he's come. He shares the cracks in his own life, and how he is a beautiful "cracked pot", just like them.
We flow through life, and there are landmines all around. If we step on them, they can cause major damage. And, as he shares, we often tend to make decisions based on the damage done rather than what's going on in real time.
"So, when you ask me, what do I do when I get a young person in my room is, I have them retrace their steps and find the landmines. And then have them ask themselves, 'Am I making decisions today based on what happened to me when I was seven, or am I making decisions based on what's happening in real time?'"
So, what do you do with a child that has checked out? Maybe they're lost in video games, sports, or doesn't really care about anything. Especially with all the volatility in the year of 2020, there are a lot of reasons to be emotionally drained and check out. How do we keep our children from shutting down and checking out?
Before your children check out, check in.
When you see any irregularities with your children, don't wait around for a few weeks. Be proactive and hop on it immediately. Check in with them and ask how things are going.
When you are proactive, the hole doesn't get as deep to begin with, and you aren't diving in to save someone drowning; you're simply observing how they're swimming first.
Staying in tempo with your children means you're reading their rhythms as you go. If it goes too long, you'll need to step back and find some familiarity where you can reconnect.
When Michael hears his groups share, he listens "between the lines". He absorbs everything. So sometimes they don't even tell their story, but as they leave the crumbs, he gathers them up and is able to summarize their life with way more insight than they thought they left on. There is so much more to our story than simply the words we use to tell it.
As a parent, step back, look at the broad picture, and look for those little spaces of commonality where you can get in there and let your child know you're listening, you love them, and you care.
Validating Your Children
Make sure you are in their corner - not looking to just placate a problem or find a quick fix - but to really be there for your child where they feel heard and acknowledged.
Sometimes it's not about getting your children - or anyone - out of a hard place. Sometimes, it's simply acknowledging their heart is heavy, or that aren't in a proper place at the time. Give them the relief that you see it and you're there for them. Don't discount simply validating the feelings of where your child is at the moment.
WE Are The Products Of Our Thought Lives
As Michael says, we are the products of our thought lives. You have the power to kick out negative thoughts rather than holding on to them.
You can hold onto them, and they will germinate. They will plant themselves, grow, and then they become a part of who you are and your thought process.
Choose to be the driver of your car; not the passenger. We need to take all our life experiences, including those landmines and negatives, and make sure we are choosing to drive them and use them how we want. Otherwise, these will become the catalyst and the push of the direction that we go down.
And, we're not our children's "Friends"
Nope, as much as I want to stress that we are to be friendLY to our children, that doesn't mean we are to be their bestie in the same respect as their peers are. When you create a relationship of just friends, it gets awfully awkward when the subject of discipline comes up.
There are times their immature minds may not be equipped to make the right choices, and you as a parent have to step in. When it's been "just buddies" and then you lay down a law for their own good and self development, you can really hit up against some uncomfortable conflict.
Be familiar with your kids. Keep up the dialogue and open space for communication. Mutual respect and empathy go a long way, and, while you aren't your child's best friend on a peer level, you can definitely create a loving parent-child relationship full of fun and connection.
As a parent, you're going to have to make the executive decisions for the family, but that being, you can respect your children's needs and hear them out in the process. As we talk about in our family, we have bathtub boundaries with an ocean of love.
You know, you throw a kid in the middle of a bathtub and they can play to their heart's content and be happy playing in the bubbles and everything else. You throw that same baby into the middle of the ocean, and there's pure terror. There are no walls, there is no boundary. When you don't know how far you can go, there can be true fear. Yet when you can clearly see the boundaries, you know your limits and are more free to swim.
We can be very respectful and we can be very clear on boundaries as a way to help them to actually support their independence.
Two Activities to do with your family
1. Choose Your Word:
This works for any age. Write down ten words that describe who you are, both positive and negative.
Then, prioritize them. Put them in order of how important they are to you. Then connect each word to your life, one at a time. What does that word do to you? How does it feel? How does it affect your relationships? Think about each of these words, and the order in which you placed them. And as you complete this process for each word, crumple it up and throw it on the floor. By the end of this, there will be ten papers in front of you.
When this is complete, it's time to clean up. Not every piece of paper. Think long and hard on what papers you want to leave behind. What do you want to choose to pick up moving forward?
"We become what we think about." Earl Nightingale
2:Voicing The Positives
At the dinner table, turn to the person on your left and have them share 5 positive qualities about themselves. Then, each person goes around and shares the 5 positive qualities about the person on their left (bonus points if they want to add any extra affirmations about that person on their own)!
It's great enough to be able to voice those affirmations on your own, and hearing someone else say them out loud can be twice as good. Just reiterating that positivity and encouragement in your home is a powerful affirmation for keeping your whole family in the realm of positivity.
Think about the auditory, visual, and kinesthetic type of learners - you're hitting all of it. You're having them jump into the process. And so if we're looking for resets in our family, we're looking for opportunities to instill a growth mindset, to do different things like this. Sometimes maybe we stop talking about it and maybe do something, do an activity, do an action or something like this that may jar something different. Don't just talk and wax theoretical. What is a way to incorporate all aspects of learning to really reinforce the positivity?
Break the Cycle
Make a conscious effort to not pass on a legacy you yourself didn't want. Michael shares how poverty is a mentality. And so you could pass on a mentality of poverty to your kids, and it could have nothing to do with not having money. Do you have a fixed mindset? A poor one? A victim mentality? Get clear on what habits and mindsets you are passing on to your children.
So sometimes you have to be able to be big enough to not only do it for yourself, but you have to do it for those that are coming behind you.
We always had that opportunity to create that clean slate and start fresh from right now, not from, "Where did I come from", but "Where do I want to go?"
And, "Who do I want to be in that process?" We have the beautiful opportunity to create that every day.
Some additional resources for you
- Michael's Non-Profit: YouthVoicesCenter.org
- Get Michael's Book, Be Encouraged
- Who Owns Your Boat? On Anger and the Law of Attraction (Episode 142)
- The Steps For Emotional Resilience (Episode 150)
- Dealing With Heavy Emotions (Episode 68)
- Does My Life Reflect What I Care About? What Example Have I Set?
- Learn more about DISC Personality Styles
Your Weekly Challenge:
Try out the exercises with your family. Get focused on where you want to move forward; not simply where you came from.
And the more that we can do this and recognize it's not just finding the positivity and having a positive outlook. It's about recognizing our own self-worth and our own relevance and importance and significance, and being able to kind of stand up in our own confidence and then be able to connect with others can truly show us how the uniqueness in each of us strengthens all of us.