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Making the right choices

By Rodney Davis

Continued form last week…

Fast-forward 2 years. I was 19. I made it into University and barely was able to pay tuition, but through work and deejaying, I made it work. January 17, 1987, my daughter’s mother sent me a letter saying she no longer wished to be a mother. It was getting in the way of her life. She made a choice. She planned to give Asha up for adoption. She needed me to sign the papers. That’s why she sent the letter. I had a choice to make. The easy choice was to sign the papers.

Who would have blamed me? I was 19 and a man, in my first year of university and I only had a part time job. How could I raise a 2-year-old girl?

Once again I had to go and face my mother. It was bad enough I was 19 and had an unplanned child, but now I needed to bring her home?

I made 2 choices. I was going to pick up my daughter and take legal custody of her. I did. And I was going to take full financial responsibility for her. No one was going to share my burden.
I increased my work hours to make more money but that was the least of it. It was 2 hours to the baby sitter; Half day at University; 2 hours to get home And then I had to go to work.

After a few months, my mom felt sorry for me and decided to help by dropping her off and picking her up. I guess she was surprised that I did this and still stayed in school and still kept up my grades. It was working. I was a single father making it work.

It was too good to be true. In my final year at University, my mother and I fell out. I had to leave. She said I could leave my daughter until I finished school. I had a choice to make. This was an important year. I wasn’t having it.
I moved out with my daughter and while still attending University, Got a full time job so I could properly support us both. I went to school full time and I worked full time. I graduated in 1989.

Following graduation, the company I was working with offered me a job as their financial controller which would have given me a very nice salary and a respectable job.

But I wanted to be a Chartered Accountant. This was the highest professional accounting designation and it was within my grasp, but it meant 2 more years of study at a much lower salary level during the internship.

A difficult choice, because it meant less money for me and less money for the things my daughter needed.

I have never regretted the choice.

So that’s it right. I have chosen to become a Chartered Accountant. I’m on my way. What else is there to worry about? Work hard, study for my exams and enjoy the good life of a professional accountant. Life is never so simple.

I thought it was. Did I mention I was slick back then? Weekly hair cuts, sharp clothes, proper. But there was a problem. It need not be my problem, but it was a problem nonetheless:

There was one barbershop serving thousands of West Indian residents in Mississauga where I lived. Each weekend we would herd like sardines into the shop and wait our turn to get a cut. I was there every Saturday at 2:00.

Problem was I would rarely leave before 6:00. The service was simply terrible and the proprietor would sit in the back and count money.

After a few months I mentioned it to him that there were things he could do to improve the experience for us the customers. I offered to help. He laughed. I was in my final year of study before I had to write the final.

It was May 24, 1990 I was on a bus on my way home from work like I did every day. I looked up and there was a sign, store for rent. I got off the bus. I called my buddy. We spoke. We were both broke. We opened Nappy’s Hair Shoppe on July 27, 1990.

My exams were September 4th. 4 days, 4 hours per day. I was supposed to be studying.

You have to understand, it was never my intention to open a barbershop. I had no previous interest nor had I given it any thought. I was simply irritated with the service level we were receiving and it was on my mind. But something happened that day on the bus. I made a choice. I was going to make a difference for customers like me.

Today Nappy’s Hair Shoppe is the largest chain of Black-owned barbershops in Canada. And we still offer great service.

Working in the community for the past 17 years at the ground level has made me a better man. I stay firmly in touch with my customers and I see first hand the good the bad and the ugly within our community as only a barbershop could give me insight.

Another key choice in my life.

And there were so many more. The choice to come back to Jamaica was a big one. I had been away for more than 30 years. Was this still my home? Would my wife and kids fit in? Would I fit in? Will I make a difference?

What I have tried to tell you this morning is that at every juncture in your life you will have choices to make that will impact your future. Some you will be aware of and you will be aware of the potential impact the choice might make to your life. In others you won’t even be aware you are making a choice. But you are. Choose wisely.

Also, I hope that you can see that even if you consider yourself one of the less fortunate, disadvantaged, there’s no reason you can’t make the right choices.

So what choices have you made in the last week?

What choices have you made today? It could be as simple as choosing to do your homework assignment. Or choosing not to be influenced to do something you know your parents would not approve of or that you know could get you into trouble with the law.

It could be about choosing to behave like a gentleman to the young women you encounter as opposed to letting peer pressure cause you to “dis? them.

I am still a work in progress, but at this stage I hope you can take some advice from an old man.

Simple - Choose to use your lives wisely, and try and make choices—in your personal and professional lives—that are carefully thought out.

Do not be too readily caught in the material trap of this society to get rich quick at all costs—you may not live long enough to enjoy it.
When you make choices, try to think about the other people who might be affected by the outcome. Your parents. Your friends. Your siblings. People you don’t even know. In some cases, the victims.
  • Do not be afraid to make some mistakes when you are young
  • Do not be afraid to try and fail early in your life
  • We often stumble towards the things we will end up doing best
  • The price of failure when you are young is much lower than when you are older.
  • It is better to have tried and failed than never to have tried at all
  • And choose also to do something you love

If you want to be an actor, teacher or nurse, marketer, journalist, policeman-- if that is what your heart tells you to do-- do not go to medical school just because it will get you to a higher level in society, or you'll make more money for a while, and then go on and do the things that you really wanted to do in the first place.

But remember, even if you love it, its not always going to be easy. The noted philosopher, basketball player and sports commentator Julius Erving—Dr J—once said, "Being a professional is doing the things you love to do on the days when you don't feel like doing them."

I suspect, as I hinted at the beginning, that you might look at me or — anyone else who has a successful career — and you think you see someone who has always succeeded.

I wish that were true. What you don’t see is the anxieties that people in my position experienced when we were your age. You don’t see the anxieties we face throughout our careers or at the times when —even in our own minds — we seemed to be on the edge of some new failure.

You wouldn’t have seen me at those times when I never knew where the rent was coming from in the middle of winter and facing the prospect of my daughter and I being evicted into the cold streets of Toronto. You don’t see the road I have travelled

I ask you to choose wisely in the days ahead, trust your heart, be aware of all around you, it is the simple things that make the difference. I wanted to share something with you that might give you reason to pause as you go through your everyday life. To pause to make deliberate choices.

You probably look at me and think as President of Cable & Wireless Jamaica I have a cushy job. Always had a privileged life. Can’t understand your circumstance.

I heard a quote the other day that I found really interesting. I can’t be specific, but it went something like this - You see me and you know where I am, but you don’t know the road I traveled to get here.

The author is president and CEO, Cable & Wireless Jamaica

read part one(1) of this story here..
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