Sometimes it is what we do, not what we say that matters the most
Cultivating emotional intelligence can be a long and arduous process, beset by failure, perseverance and a twisting, turning road to self-awareness and self-empowerment. Yesterday, January 26, 2020 the entire world collectively felt a great sense of loss with the untimely and tragic passing of Kobe Bryant and his 13-year old daughter, Gigi Bryant. For sports fans, and those of us that hold legendary athletes, like Kobe Bryant, to the highest esteem for their ability to overcome adversity, break barriers and execute superhero like feats, it reminds us of the delicate nature of life.
I would love to say that my love for Kobe Bryant spanned years and years, but my genuine love for Kobe and what he represented has been informed by my 11-year old Kobe Bryant obsessed son, Naythan. Naythan can tell you any Kobe stat, quote Kobe endlessly and has carried the book Mamba Mentality around with him in his school bag for nearly 2 years, the posters and endless YouTube highlight reels and mix-tapes (even encouraging one of his favorite YouTubers to feature Kobe Bryant) have formed the basis for Naythan’s daily routine for years now. When given the chance to choose his jersey number, of course he chose #24. And why not? The messages of perseverance, work ethic and feeding your passions that Kobe espoused in his motivational lessons were powerful and it was obvious that my son was being molded and shaped by Kobe’s example. Through Kobe, my son was finding his lane along his personal journey to cultivating self-actualization and awareness.
For young Black boys, the journey to self-actualization is often impeded by the insidious nature of anti-Black racism; lowered expectations, the school to prison pipeline, streaming, the list seems endless when you are a parent wanting nothing but success and joy for your child.
Knowing that it takes a village, and the more positive examples that my son has that he can reach out, touch and draw near, challenges the duplicitous nature of anti-Black racism, and keeps his #BlackBoyJoy shining through. Outside of his father, and his late grand-father, my son holds two other men in his life to the highest esteem; his two basketball coaches. Coach Reshon and Coach Jevaughn, both young Black men in their twenties, and both have demonstrated dedication, perseverance and genuine care and concern for my son’s learning, growth and development as a basketball player. Yesterday, both young men showed a vulnerability with my son around the passing of Kobe, that seemed to give Naythan permission to be vulnerable, to cry and to question the cruelty of life. The exchanges were powerful and I am certain they will inform how my son processes grief and disappointment for years to come. They showed up, they shed tears and they reminded Naythan of the important lessons that Kobe has imparted on the world. It was not what they said that counted yesterday, it was what they did. They were present, attentive and demonstrated how serious they take their roles as coaches and mentors
Having the ability to process, understand, and manage your emotions rests at the foundation of emotional intelligence. Naythan’s coaches, and the countless other athletes that are expressing their grief publicly are actively mentoring the next generation to develop a sense of self awareness and actualization which will undoubtedly lead to a generation of young people that understand emotional intelligence, and its role in self-empowerment and social connection.
As you grieve, and talk with your peers about the impact that this tragic loss has had on your life, have you thought to reach out to the young people in your life that could use a powerful message of perseverance and grit? As life continues, I am certain there will be many other Naythan’s out there that just want to know that it is okay to feel, and that it is okay to cry and be vulnerable and that someone is willing to show up, be present and be an example for the next generation along their path to greatness.