Stepping Outside Our Comfort Zone

          When you take responsibility for your life, serendipitous events unfold and lead you to awaken your inherent wisdom. Getting out of your comfort zone is hard because as humans we have the tendency to expect the worst-case scenario of every situation within which we find ourselves. Your brain wants to keep you safe, so you have a natural bias towards any perceived or actual negative event.

When you’re evaluating whether or not to take action and you receive negative information, it influences you more strongly than equally positive information, restricting us from stepping out of our comfort zones. Although comfort brings with it, a sense of familiarity and calm, it does have a dampening effect on being curious, something we are naturally born to be. That means, curious about what is, curious about what was and ultimately curious about what’s next.

A comfort zone, though a beautiful place, but nothing really ever grows there.

Even so, your comfort zone is neither a good or bad thing. It’s a natural state that most people trend towards. Leaving it means increased risk and anxiety, which can have positive and negative results, and no your comfort zone is not something holding you back. We all need that head-space where we’re least anxious and stressed so we can process the benefits we get when we leave it.

Like any journey, the intention to reach one’s destination is typically heralded by a goal or a plan, though you may not anticipate the rough waters ahead. That is, you might have to sail your boat in uncharted waters to reach your final destination.

Life’s journey is filled with countless lessons, which many fail to concede when embroiled in their drama.

Technology has made great advancements in our world and the answers are now within seconds away from us but with such bombardment of technology, we are simply no longer thinking critically and as a result we have gotten lazy and our curiosity quotient has dropped significantly.

So much is missed and so much of life is missed out on by not raising your hand, your voice or your platform. It doesn’t have to be this way. Finding what peaks your curiosity is essential in stepping out of our comfort zones.

In Paulo Coelho’s acclaimed book The Alchemist, the young shepherd boy Santiago undertakes a quest around to traverse the world in order to find treasure and personal legend.

Ultimately as he draws to the end of his journey, he discovers his treasure was right where he started. He recognizes his trek across the world filled him with wisdom and a great deal of knowledge owing to the people he meets along the way. His journey has not been a waste of time, for he has gained much from his experience in search of his treasure.

I wish to remind you that contained within every effort, every step, and every so called failure draws you closer to your treasure — your pot of gold. Nothing is wasted. No effort has been in vain.

The experiences and emotional intelligence gained within our experiences into life becomes paramount, since it is defined by learning and inner growth, which becomes the focal point of pushing past your comfort level.  Push yourself out of your comfort zone frequently, and the stresses you impose on yourself should range from low to high (just not chronic). With repetition, you’ll prove to your body and mind that everything is just fine on the other side, if not better.

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Optimism, In A Stress-Filled World

          Dr. Martin Seligman, a renowned psychologist, from his research presents an interesting piece of thought and advice: that, Optimism can be learnt. Indeed in his book “Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life”, he indicates that one can learn optimism and thus utilize it in the face of adversity.

Research indicates that pessimistic people have a nearly 20 percent higher risk of dying over a 30-year period than those who are optimistic. 

This research in conjunction with Dr. Seligman’s, all point to the importance of avoiding self blame or perhaps a perceived character flaw and instead learn to psyche our mind to accept failure or misfortune and realize they all are a necessary facet of life.

Instead of going into our shells when the storm of life hits, we should learn how to bounce back an even stronger of our selves than ever before. This can be done by learning to be Optimistic in the Chaos that is the modern era with all its nuances and intricacies.

Mr. Seligman outlines 3 crucial ways to changing our mindset to face even the worst situation with a positive mindset: Permanent, Pervasive and Personalization.

It’s not PERMANENT: When adversity strikes, don’t think your bad time will last forever.

   It’s not PERVASIVE: Don’t think that it happens all the time.

   Don’t PERSONALIZE it: Can’t take all of the blame

When adversity strikes, it helps if we use an explanatory style or inner dialogue that doesn’t give us such heavy responsibility for making bad things happen to ourselves.

Nothing grows without a make-or-break moment. Understanding that challenges are part of growth gives you the calmness to handle what might normally be a very stressful time. When problems arise, It is a measure of your sense of self in how you tackle and eliminate or inverse foster till it becomes a cancer and impediment to your continual growth as a person and a team player.

If you want to feel positive, it pays to stop putting yourself down in your own mind. With practice, you can resist worrisome thoughts and perhaps even transform your internal critic into more of a cheering squad. No man is an Island after all.

I end today by pointing to the need for Exercise. Yes Exercise! When one takes action, it leads us to feeling less helpless and more in control. This is key: to feeling like our actions matter. Good or bad especially…creates consequences. Consequences which can signal to our brain that we are not helpless, reinforcing our optimistic dialogue during tough times. 

When all else fails you there is only one refuge to whom optimism and strength comes naturally,”So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” Isaiah 41:10.

Always remember, tough times don’t last, be optimistic, you are not the first to face challenges and you will not be the last.

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Why Persistence?

“I will persist until I succeed. Always will I take another step. If that is of no avail I will take another, and yet another. In truth, one step at a time is not too difficult. I know that small attempts, repeated, will complete any undertaking.” — Og Mandino.

          Such is the nature of life that no matter what you do there is always the possibility that one will face difficulty. No matter how well laid out your plans are, there will be times when things don’t exactly go according to plan, when the world seems to be against you and moments when you FAIL!

We are a truly unique existence, in us, hope and anguish can coexist and still create something truly amazing. Persistence is the ability to maintain action regardless of your feelings. You press on even when you feel like quitting, until you achieve that important goal.

So now you wonder how are you supposed to keep up your spirits when it seems like the whole world is against you? How does one keep fighting the good fight when you don’t have it in you to go another round, let alone another day, week, month or years, even?

Einstein once said “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” The simple truth is that when we face adversity in our lives, when the storm of life threatens to up-end everything we have worked for, it is during moments like these when our confidence and self esteem is so low that we feel worthless, when the easy thing to do is to quit and perhaps attempt something different, something new: These are the moments when we need persistence the most.

It is so very easy to just give up and start anew. this is exactly what a majority of us do because it is a natural human tendency to pick the easy way. Everybody enjoys the fun and easy things in life in contrast nobody really likes the grind and hard stuff. Unfortunately, when one is not willing to persist and instead quits whenever the going gets tough, it almost always leads to long term failure in life as they never really stick with something long enough for it to truly flourish or bare fruit.

Much of persistence is based on the fundamental prerequisite of focus as I elaborated in THIS post. Focus is the pathway to persistence, therefore, being able to focus and trudge on through periods of adversity stands you in good stead to achieve something of real meaning and value in life.

When you work on any big goal, your motivation can wax and wane. Sometimes you’ll feel motivated; sometimes you won’t. But it’s not your motivation that will produce results — it’s your action. The decision to persist. To make progress even when you don’t feel like it. From my personal experiences and observation this is what truly sets the people who succeed and those who do not apart.

Very often when you persist through difficult times you realize that you learn something that will help you progress farther than you could before. Persistence, per its very nature ensures that one who indulges in it comes out a better person for it. And as Richard M. Devos put it “If I had to select one quality, one personal characteristic that I regard as being most highly correlated with success, whatever the field, I would pick the trait of persistence. Determination. The will to endure to the end, to get knocked down seventy times and get up off the floor saying. “Here comes number seventy-one!” 

Don’t lose sight of your hopes and your dreams, but also don’t forget about what you have in the present moment. Keep your focus and as Dale Carnegie said, “Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.” So therefore, keep on moving, keep on being persistent and don’t ever give up, no matter how long it takes to achieve your dreams.

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Stay Focused.

          In a world where we praise the multitasker, where devices with myriad functions are always considered superior, and where the ability to work from anywhere often means we never stop doing so, Focus is a skill too easily tossed aside and ignored yet essential if we are to make headway in our ventures and endeavours.

The reality is that when we try to juggle many tasks at once, we often never finish any one of them fully. We talk about doing many things and ultimately do very few, often leaving efforts unfinished or abandoned. We basically barely get anything done as a result of overstretching our body and mind.

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In an effort to be more productive, social, and informed (all at once), we most often than not rather end up slowing down, running in circles, and becoming more isolated and less informed than we ever were before.

So why don’t we just stop and take a breather? Why do we keep firing on all engines, even if we can tell we’re losing a sense of direction?

The result of multitasking on our everyday relationships is that we become only superficially committed to one another. The palpable social pressure governing our online communities often pushes us to abandon difficulty, rather than stick with tough tasks. It creates a certain disharmony between our Social media statuses and the actual reality within which we live.

Myself, I believe in the positive impact social media “can” have in the lives of millennials and the youth. 

It is of importance, to come to the realisation that only someone who is healthy, happy, and focused can build relationships on trust and respect (of any kind really).

How often do we miss things along our paths because we’re distracted by other worries and concerns? Staying focused means being mindful, aware of, and awake to the world around you, and that can be a tall order in a world where we’re bombarded with one hundred new hours of YouTube content every minute together with a self imposed addiction to WhatsApp-ing, doing us no favours in our quest to be focused in life and her nuances.

There are a number of ways to start cultivating focus in your everyday life. One I personally love is actually a game where friends pile their phones face down on the table when out for dinner (whoever picks up his or her phone first pays the whole bill! neat right??).

Another one is when at least once a week, you try to institute a policy whereby. throughout your day you don’t answer any text messages or even check your phone (is that even possible?) when communicating with others.

Great gains are achieved when you focus on yourself—not the you projected on Facebook or Twitter but the you who emerges when you’re silent and unplugged.

Whether in your mind, in your neighborhood, or across the ocean, there are so many ways one can stay focused. Focus is the everyday ambassador’s antidote to multitasking pressures and the flagging commitment it perpetuates. This means developing habits to follow through with our ambitions—or simply setting realistic goals in the first place. In a world where we communicate in 140-character quips and goofy GIFs, we need to work harder if we are to keep our passion alive, and as well, when it comes to human interaction, we must be fully involved and focused to gain more from ourselves and life in general.

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Of Shoes And Giggles

          I am seated in a vehicle, an unlucky passenger to a truly abhorring exchange between a young man who looks to be in his late teens or early twenties and a member of what my fellow country men dub, with affection, a “Senior citizen”. What were they “arguing” (if you want to call it that, because from my perspective it was more of a one sided badgering) over, one might wonder. Apparently earlier that week the young man bought a new SHOE (guy can talk) and the elderly gentleman had done himself the disfavour of daring to actually step on the said young man’s pristine white SHOE, mistakenly or not (How dare he).

Yes you read that right a SHOE. I was caught between fits of giggles (manly ones mind you) and the reality that the very values our predecessors held dear and passed down (was supposed to anyway) is gradually fading from today’s youth and millennial’s, yes Us!!

Now lets take a step back and look around us. I mean kids do crazy things, but we expect more from grown-ups, don’t we? Especially when you consider yourself an adult and expect others to too. Then surely your behavior must reflect these thoughts and as one of my favorite excerpt states “Action Not Words”.

When you find folks screaming obscenities at each other on the road, on social media and perhaps in your very own household?, what crosses your mind? There are some that behave this way for personal gain; some others don’t know any better; and others know they’ll get away with it — because they have in the past. The simple truth is: some grown-ups never grow up.

As leaders, role models, parents and (yes) even the youth, we must utilize every opportunity to reinforce the values that we hold dear. 

Are polite manners a thing of the past? I think not but if we don’t promote good values, then the situation I found myself in becomes the norm and that certainly doesn’t sound like a bright future does it? Surely had the young man taken the Senior Citizen at his word and accepted his apology gracefully he would have been a better man for it and I wouldn’t have been tempted to giggle (mhmm manly ones I repeat) at the very reasoning behind his anger (which I still cannot fathom).

The fact is these situations are a very common occurrence. Therefore, it is important that we don’t blur the difference between right and wrong. Compromising our principles in a fit of anger or in defiance to authority. If we want to live in a moral and civil society, then we must be the change we want to see. If you are a grown-up then behave like the adult that you (think) are.

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Today Not Tomorrow.

          “Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. And today? Today is a gift. That‘s why we call it the present.” Babatunde Olatunji.

So what do you do with your today? Robert Frost chose the road maligned by most, he took no detours nor did he allow any hurdle to block his way, and as he stated “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the road less travelled by, and that has made all of the difference” 
For sure all that is certain is this very moment.
My thoughts have a tendency to jump all over the place; I can never seem to just be in the present moment. If I am not thinking about my future plans, I’m reflecting on my past actions and how they led me to where I am in that very moment. But then I remember what the Good book says in Mathew 6:34 that, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Today has enough trouble of its own.”
I know I am not the only one who suffers from overthinking. If I am, why then has a book been published on the topic? Eckhart Tolle — a genius, in my opinion — wrote a powerful book entitled, “The Power Of Now.”
It is not easy to fully be present in the very moment you are living. It takes strong will to let go of the past and allow the future unknown to unfold itself without worry. The very nature of the future is itself a mystery and thus subject to change as decisions good or otherwise, made, affect the course of our future.
It’s in our nature to remember the past, to allow it to envelope us with thoughts of speculation. My advice is to not relive what was, but instead, to pave a new path.
When your head’s stuck in the past or the future, your actions won’t be based on your current reality and you’ll have essentially given away your agency to make the very best of this situation. Because “Today is the tomorrow that you worried about yesterday” as Dale Carnegie succinctly put it.
Do not concern yourself with the future, for tomorrow is never promised; your past does not determine your future. Live today with the mindset that it is your last, do not sell your values, belief, identity and being for a future established on shattered dreams, broken promises and destroyed values.
Stressing over the future can throw you off track from your destiny.
Today, not tomorrow — all we have is now.
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Shaping Our Future: The Role Of The Family And Society

          As research suggests, more than 300 million people around the world now suffer from depression, and the number of children, youth and millennials suffering from this is significant. But as strange as it may seem, children and youth who receive their basic needs are contributing the most to this number. Of the many factors behind depression, society’s obdurate attitude towards a youth’s choice in career is one, though we are the least concerned about that.

Every child is born with immense potential and innumerable possibilities. As he or she grows up, genetics as well as nurturing play a vital role in this process. But as a human being, every youth creates his or her own world apart from all those family teachings and school lessons.

As we grow, we develop our own sense of ethics, moral values and mannerisms. We learn to distinguish between right and wrong, what kind of interests we have, and develop a sense of purpose in life in our own way.

This is quite a natural phenomenon. Obviously, family as well as other elements of society take part in the process; however, problems arise when we are forced to abide by certain beliefs and expectations in life. Parents and society’s expectations should never be the deciding factor in the path a child takes when he or she is ready to pursue his or her own life goals.

It is quite illogical as well as immoral to force a child to make a certain career choice. The problem is more blatant in the under-developed and developing countries. It is a common scenario that parents make their children take science/mathematics/humanities courses without taking the child’s own choices into consideration. And when they fail to demonstrate their adeptness and proficiency in those fields, these children get admonished and eventually they find themselves drowning in abysmal despair.

Statistics don’t always tell the truth! Despite being provided with all their basic needs, these children suffer from the anxiety and stress of meeting expectations and being forced to take paths in life that are not their own.

Parents should never force their own path and expectations on their children, they should consider supporting them with their own interests and endeavours. When one can work with whatever he or she likes, and nurture their passions, it becomes possible to make meaningful contributions to society in our own way.

In his famous book “The Prophet” (one of my all time favourite reads),  Kahlil Gibran writes, “they are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself. They come through you, but not from you. And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.”

This delineates the actual responsibilities of parents and society’s expectations towards children, and it is sage advice for those who attempt to control a child’s future.

All should show their sincere-most attitude for the nourishment and total betterment of each and every child around them. For a better world, we should all work harder to ensure basic human rights for all children as well as the ability to let them nurture and grow in their own way. Hence, we will be able to keep accelerating the growth and prosperity of human civilization.

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Authentic Relationships

          As individuals, we are at our most relaxed and reposed best when we create and maintain close relationships or connections with our fellow humans. Building genuine connections however can be difficult – especially when you’re a young adult or millennial.

Our world is so complex and there’s so much digital architecture being created that we the youth end up building barriers between ourselves and achieving intimacy and connections. We’re being encouraged to believe that everyone wants to be interacted with at arm’s length, through a screen and not face to face or in real-time.

Excellent interpersonal connections can enhance the way that you make friends, your interpersonal interactions and your career prospects. Building intimacy needs a foundation of authenticity, which means embracing our own individuality and being confident when we communicate it to others.

Taking the time to get to know people and connecting with said people, can lead to a better understanding of them and in the long-term ourselves too. Misunderstandings can be rife when we don’t fully comprehend how others think, their perspectives and their motivations.

Understanding others helps to create key allies and we can do this by aligning the way we approach and interact with people we want to connect with.

Undoubtedly, authentic empathy doesn’t come naturally to some people, but if it’s a trait you possess then embracing it is paramount. High-quality connections are created when people feel valued and engaged, conducting yourself with empathy is a big part of this.

How can you start to practice empathy? Self-awareness and the ability to reflect are a massive part of this process and if you can learn to be constructively critical of your own actions and ideas in accordance with how they affect others around you, you’re on your way there I’d say.

It’s natural for us as humans to seek out close and authentic relationships with others and we shouldn’t neglect this no matter our circumstance, in an era where technology is creating more and more distance it is important for us to keep and protect our personal relations.

By trying to connect with others and using emotional intelligence, empathy, and humility to build relationships, you’ll find that people around you respond in a better way and you can have a deeper mutual connection and understanding.

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Social Media; Impact On Our Mental And Social Health.

We live in a world where our phones are constantly attached to our person, whether it be in our bags, in our pockets or glued directly to our hands. While social media allows us to easily connect with people around the world, the potential to carry around an excessive amount of problems within these devices haunts us with just a single notification.

Social media is arguably one of the fastest growing innovations in the world today. It emerged as a concept in 1997 with a website called Six degrees, which enabled people to add others as friends and create a profile for themselves. From there, the concept grew and expanded across multiple websites, such as Facebook and Twitter, and more recently established mobile applications like Snapchat and Instagram.

With such a rapid change in the way we communicate and interact with others, one has to take a step back and wonder if our social media management is up to par. Specifically, how is social media affecting our mental and social health?

According to Mary Harris, a Communications professor at Monmouth University, “Social media platforms are designed to get people to keep checking and returning frequently,” says Harris. “Unfortunately, notifications via the like button operate like little hits of dopamine to the brain. And depending on the individual user, this causes an addiction to the constant feedback loop.”

When individuals are constantly engaging with social media, they are also exposing themselves to the distorted lifestyles of the people they follow.

Oftentimes, people want others to see them as happy and living an exciting life but, in reality, nobody’s lives are that perfect. 

So why advertise your life as something it’s not? Social media provides people with the perfect opportunity to showcase themselves as the person they want to be rather than the person they are.  So they’ll edit their photos and post about the cute thing their significant other did for them that day. What they won’t post are the photos they weren’t ready for or the fight they had with their significant other, you get the idea.

For people that suffer from issues relating to esteem and self-concept, social media is a breeding ground for exacerbating these problems. It is important to understand that others can edit what they want others to see as well as the fact that pictures can be airbrushed.

However, being a player in this game can cause people a great amount of stress. When the number of likes received on a post comes as a source of validation, it can lead to a heavy reliance on those likes. When considering the age groups that are exposed to this mindset through their social media use, one needs to take into account the younger generation, specifically millennials and adolescents.

Adreea Dilorenzo a Psychology professor points out that, social media users in this age group “are certainly at risk since they are experiencing hormonal changes and identity formations, both while being inexperienced. The continuous connection and the materials that they are exposed to can hinder logic.”

While social media can be linked to anxiety, impulsiveness, self-comparison and depression, how we use it is more to blame than its existence. As users, it is our responsibility to be aware of the effect these platforms have on our lives. People need to become more media literate and educated on the effects media can potentially have on an individual, either consciously or subconsciously, so that they can be aware of and monitor the impact it’s having on their own lives.

Taking a step back from social media allows one to put into perspective what really matters in life. While partaking in social media, we tend to lose track of our reality because we are so infatuated with the events in the virtual world. 

Try putting down the phone and have a face-to-face conversation with your friends. With the weather becoming nicer, take a step out into the fresh air, go on a walk with the family or take a ride around town to unwind. Just enjoy yourself but don’t do it for the opportunity to post on social media; do it for you.

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The Value Of Family Heritage: (Inspiration From My Grandma)

          It was last December when I travelled back to Sunyani, a city in the Brong Ahafo Region of Ghana. I have an affinity for my grandparent’s house here. A nicely sorted garden sits far in the front yard, with planted veggies, assortment of herbaceous plants and surrounding trees (around the house too). One sunny day, we were idly sitting in front of the house having a nonchalant conversation about life.

“When I was younger than you are now, I was already working at the market (with little to no real education), devoted to earning a living for my family…” Like a tranquil flow of tides, her voice drifted into my senses as my mind wandered back in time to when my grandma was young.

Every life is a story. Whenever our parents or grandparents tell us about theirs, we can identify similarities between them and see certain patterns. There is always a glimpse of wisdom in these patterns, these stories. That’s why people say wisdom is like fine wine—it takes time to age.

I’m always so fascinated by the stories of my family members. Very much like the tales from your childhood, family stories seem so unreal and far away. Yet as we mature, the authenticity of those stories emerges and manifests into something we can actually understand and hold on to. And that something is what we call our family heritage.

From birth, we have been moulded by the culture of our family. The history, knowledge, values and traditions encompassed in our family heritage significantly influence us as individuals. The great Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “every man is a quotation from all his ancestors.” It’s never a coincidence that we can find parts of ourselves in our family’s narrative, for this narrative is also the story of where we come from.

My grandma has always been an inspiration to me. Straying from a sweet and soft-spoken “grandma” image, she is also tough, strong, vibrant, audacious and loud(very loud:when she wants to be anyway). From a very young age, she was determined to make her own way in life.

And so, my grandma embraced uncertainty in her life, and she overcame the challenges and hardship of starting a family without any proper education (in a very competitive era), creating a successful business (which she refuses to quit) that helped make a prominent Midwife out of the families only daughter and in essence proving the naysayers wrong. It sounds too surreal to be a true story, doesn’t it?

The hard work of generations before us has enabled us, the millennials, to explore immense opportunities within our society. Those captivating stories of diligence, strife and hard work, are what inspire us and propel us forward. The story of my grandma is just the tip of the generational iceberg (my father,grandpa too…). For that, I take pride in my family heritage and in what my ancestors were able to accomplish.

But, of course, success never comes without impediments. My grandma remarked how, when she started selling, in a quite uncomfortable setting to be sincere, she would stay up late, selling from dawn to dusk (repetitively across the days, months and years). And when she was done for the day, the weariness she felt so deep in her bones almost prompted her to second-guess the path she had chosen.

“After all, people are judging you by the results you reap from your business, seldom do they consider the hard work and determination you have dedicated to achieving all that,” she remarked, chuckling softly.

Success is only reserved for those who persist in achieving their goals. Many of us have heard this, yet when it is illustrated by someone close to you, someone in your family, the message asserts itself in the most profound way.

This is the power of family heritage. The knowledge and values encapsulated in these stories become invaluable blueprints that we can use as a reference, so that when we face challenges or uncertainties in our lives, instead of panicking, we can understand and acknowledge them as a natural part of life.

In today’s era of speed and data, heritage has been relegated to mere footnotes in our family’s books. They are often watered down and forgotten through the eroding tides of time. We must remember that a part of us comes from our family heritage that we inherit, and that our heritage holds intangible values which cannot be demolished. We must remember and be willing to preserve our heritage to pass onto the next generation, and the next.

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