Breaking Imaginary Chains to Fulfill Our Destinies



By Dawn Onley

In the picture, the horse is tied to a plastic, outdoor chair, under the Robert Breault quote: “Sometimes the chains that prevent us from being free are more mental than physical.”

We’re just like that horse. We are bound to imaginary limitations which impede us from breaking the mental shackles that still exist from a different time and place. When we think we can’t, we are summoning old defeats. When we don’t even bother trying, we are steeped in our previous failures.

This is all mental. This has no bearing on today’s reality. The things that keep us grounded are all rooted in the past.

But here’s the thing: Our realities are malleable. Just like the potter who molds the clay, we don’t have to stay in the same shape that we were once in.

Broken chains

I’ll bet many of us can point to things that threatened our start. But those things shouldn’t get to determine how we finish. We determine this. The teenage mom who is pushing her way through high school?  The ex-con who is learning a trade to become marketable? The lady diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes who is eating healthier and exercising? They are all viewing their reality as clay. They were each presented with hurdles that – if given a defeatist mindset — would have hindered their futures. But they refused to accept their old realities. They fought back.

It’s not how we were raised, and what we weren’t taught. It’s not whether our dads were around or whether we get along with our siblings.

It doesn’t really matter how we grew up. Sure, our childhoods play a role in shaping who we are today, but it terms of what direction we head in now as adults, how we grew up doesn’t really matter.

No one asks you at 40, whether you had enough food to eat when you were 10.

Stories of overcoming obstacles are commonplace with successful people. There are many people who have turned dismal realities into hopeful ones.

If we want a different reality, we need to make different choices. Starting today.



The Impact of Mentors


By Dawn Onley

Throughout my life, I’ve been blessed with some great mentors and role models. People who cared enough to get involved, who spent countless hours giving me invaluable advice, reviewing and editing my work, providing feedback and making vital introductions. All of this has helped to shape my career and life journeys.

I got to benefit from their lessons learned. They stepped up and eagerly helped me finagle key decisions. Their support was immeasurable and I am grateful for such deliberate kindness and direction.

One volunteered to mentor me through a program my college newspaper set up that matched journalism students at Norfolk State University with reporters from The Virginian-Pilot/Ledger-Star, a mid-sized daily newspaper that served my college town.

Some, I approached and asked if they would mentor me. I saw something in them that I wanted to emulate. So, I went for it. I asked if they would teach me what it was that they excelled at, and in most cases people willingly obliged.

In whatever area in my life in need of direction, I’ve always found it helpful to read, study, meet, and when possible, align myself with the people who have been there and done that, successfully. It has made a real impact. It has gotten me through doors that would have taken much longer to knock down on my own. In some cases, it even put me at the top of the list for job interviews.

Some of these mentors have been formal; many more have been informal. The one thing they all have in common is I admire them. I have a lot of respect for them. Some don’t even realize that when I spend time with them, they’re teaching me. I use these moments to soak up as much knowledge as I can. Always the lifelong student, I strive to apply what I’ve learned.

From them, I’ve learned about stocks and real estate. I’ve learned about book proposals and mothering a toddler. I’ve learned techniques to baking and how to negotiate. And so much more.

Help Mentor

Who we align ourselves with in life is extremely important. It can influence how far we go. If everybody on our team is in our same boat, with the same knowledge and experiences, how will we learn new things to get us to a new level?

Mentors make a difference. In my life, they’ve made a huge impact. We should always look for ways to learn and for people to teach us something we don’t already know.


Free Compliments Won’t Cost You a Thing

By Samantha McKenzie

It wasn’t until I got to high school that I truly learned how to give a genuine compliment. I learned it from watching my best friend Nikki who had a knack for offering small words of praise to anyone who she admired.

She’d notice your new hair cut, perfectly manicured nails, nicely fitted attire or your dazzling smile. It didn’t seem to matter what else was going on with you that day, you could have been having a bad hair day, but if she saw something exceptional in you that day, Nikki would be the first to give you a sincere compliment. She was only 16 years old.

complimentsI took this lesson into adulthood and made it a habit to give compliments away freely. I found that these little gifts of kindness could go a long way.

Like Ms. Little, who sits right outside my office and spends a big part of her day answering the telephones. She’s worked at the university for decades and has served as an executive assistant for several senior administrators, including the Chancellor.

I stopped her one day and said, “I just love your voice. It’s engaging and it makes people want to listen. You should have gone into radio.” Ms. Little smiled. She commenced to telling me that in her earlier years at the university, she was the host of a radio show. She said it was one of the most gratifying jobs she’s ever had. Her face lit up and she thanked me for the compliment. I learned so much more about her in that brief moment. She was flattered that someone noticed.


I think it’s especially important to compliment people as often as possible. Compliments build confidence and feelings of self-worth. They are reminders of who we are and give us permission to feel good about ourselves. They are equally gratifying for the giver and the receiver. And, they are completely contagious. People who receive compliments are more likely to share one.

Today, I gave a compliment to my co-worker who sends me encouraging text messages and really funny memes. They pop into my phone at the perfect time and they always make me feel better. I complimented my 11-year-old daughter on her new hair style on the car ride to school. She combed it herself for the first time and did a pretty awesome job. I could see the pride in her eyes.

It doesn’t matter what the compliment is, as long as it’s sincere.

Try giving out a few extra compliments per day. Those few words of praise, go along way.


Monsters Do Exist

Anthony Hopkins

“The real world is where the monsters are.” – Rick Riordan, The Lightning Thief


By Dawn Onley

A few times a week, my son and I have a ritual.

He’ll point outside his bedroom window at the dark sky and say:

“Mommy, there’s monsters out there.”

I’ll reassure him that there are no monsters outside.

“Monsters don’t exist,” I’ll say.

“Monsters don’t exist?” he’ll confirm.

“No, monsters don’t exist. They aren’t real.”

This is normally enough to convince him, and before long, he is off to sleep.

I’m dreading the day when I have to tell him that they do. Monsters do exist.

Not zombies or werewolves. Not the monsters with the gory, bulging heads and the three eyes depicted in scary movies. Not the bloodsucking vampires, dressed in black capes, who wait underneath the bed or in the closet for the perfect moment to attack. They are scary to watch on the TV, but oftentimes, they die in the end.

I’m talking about the real-life monsters, who live. The demons out there in the dark of night and the dawn of day – and every hour in between — who say and do the most atrocious things. Monsters who diligently plan and carry out their dastardly deeds. Monsters who shoot up a school, a movie theater, or a military base. Monsters who decapitate people in the name of religion or who blow themselves up in the middle of a marketplace or a hotel lobby, taking innocent bystanders along with them.

Monsters who prey on the innocence of children or the frailty of the elderly.

Cowardly monsters who use their physical advantage to assault women.

Monsters who hung innocent people from trees because of the color of their skin.

Throughout the history of civilization, monsters have existed.

Someday, dreadfully, I’ll have to prepare my son. Monsters do exist.

May the Force Be With You

By Samantha McKenzie

Well, the Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together.” Obi-Wan Kenobi, Star Wars

I won’t claim to be a Star Wars fan, but it was the movie of my generation and over time, certain one-liners have become a part of my dialect. “May the force be with you” is one of those phrases that stuck. Every time I hear myself whispering it, I feel empowered.


In the movie, it is used to wish the individual good will with hopes that the words will work in the favor of the traveler when he comes face-to-face with an impending challenge. It’s similar to your grandmother’s prayers before you headed out into the harsh world, or your father’s sage wisdom when he saw you going down a road he’s already traveled.

It’s been a reminder to me that I am a part of a larger universe that is full of living energy and that we all have access to this “force.” Like the Jedi, even in the darkest moments, we can call on this power to assist us. When we do, it opens up doors, takes us to newer heights and stretches our imaginations.

When we make our minds up to do something, we are using the forces of the universe to strengthen us. When our ideas grow from something small into something successful, we are pulling on the energy that surrounds us to make life better. When we pray, we are submitting ourselves to this same power. When we open ourselves up to believing we can…When we ask God to supply our needs…The force is with us.

buddhaThe truth is, the universe is filled with energy that awaits you and I. It can’t hold back. It wants to be used, to come to our aid, to fortify us.

When we stand up for ourselves, when we defend our honor, when we decide that enough is enough, we are gravitating to the force field that is there to protect us.

I am glad to be a part of a grandiose universe that binds us together. I like having an ample supply of energy and the power to move forward with zeal.

“May the force be with you.” Obi-Wan Kenobi

“Do. Or do not. There is no try.”  Yoda

“Always remember, your focus determines your reality.” Qui-Gon Jinn

and…God’s speed.

The Blessing in Being Underestimated

Tell Yourself

By Dawn Onley

Throughout life, we will meet people who will discourage us. There will be people who won’t believe in us and in our abilities to do what we say we’re going to do. There will also be people who we’ll support wholeheartedly but who won’t support us in return.

I know this is going to sound crazy, but one day you’ll thank them. If not directly, you’ll be thankful that you had detractors because it builds something inside of you that can’t come any other way. Sure, it’s hurtful. Yes, it may cause frustration and disappointment, even anger. But if we’re honest, it also motivates us to prove them wrong.

We are good enough. We are smart enough. The idea can work. We have what it takes.

I love being underestimated. I think it’s a blessing in disguise. When we are underestimated, it puts less pressure on us. We get to kind of fly under the radar. If we don’t succeed, the naysayers thought we wouldn’t anyway. No big deal. Shrug. If we do succeed, mouths drop. The naysayers didn’t see it coming. They are genuinely surprised.

See? Either way we win. And winning feels great.

Most Believe