What I Got From The Power of Habits by Charles Duhigg

Nkemdilim Chukwuma

Prepare Yourself for the Future with the Five Minds by: Howard Gardner

Nkemdilim Chukwuma

Frederick Douglass Distinguished Scholars at American University

Caasie and I on the terrace of the #Kennedycenter #yoyoma #beautifulnight #FDDS

Caasie and I on the terrace of the #Kennedycenter #yoyoma #beautifulnight #FDDS

// Awareness to Action//

For an American University student, it is very easy to find volunteer opportunities to get involved in around the DC area. I recently had a meeting with the Center for Community Engagement (CCES), and boy, were the helpful. As someone passionate about youth empowerment (through various forms of education), they directed me to several nonprofits in the area that focus on enriching the lives of those in underserved and under resourced communities. Of the hundreds I was encouraged to look at, some that caught my attention were MOMIE’s TLC (Mentors of Minorities in Education’s Total Learning Cis-tem), Bright Beginnings, Inc.,  and For Love of Children. These nonprofits focus on child development and providing at-risk youth from low income neighborhoods with a stable foundation to succeed despite the challenged they face. They provide anything from stable living situations for parents an young children struggling with homelessness to after school enrichment programs and one-on-one tutoring sessions.

                To be able to solve most of the world’s pressing issue, one must be acquainted with the issues people face in their community. That’s why I find it important to volunteer in the DC community because what is action without awareness? Useless — that’s what it is.  As a Business Administration major (with concentrations in Finance and Management), I hope to one day work in the nonprofit sector towards alleviating hardships commonly faced by today’s youth. 

Good Books Make for Good Learning

Final Blog Post of the Summer (2013)

Reflecting on Mastery and The Untethered Soul

// Practice Makes Perfect and Perfect = Mastery//

Describe an action that you practiced repeatedly over a long period of time and that you now do intuitively.  Identify how the methods you used to internalize this action are the steps necessary for developing a mastery of that action. Also describe a skill you hope to master in your lifetime. Identify why that skill is important to you and how you can apply your experiences, Robert Greene’s MASTERY and other FDDS reading to achieve a mastery in that skill. (500 word blog)

                This summer I’ve been hearing a lot about habits: breaking bad habits, starting good ones, etc. I was told that it takes roughly 21 (consecutive) days to develop a good habit but it only takes one day to break it. For bad habits it’s the opposite: it tends to be easier to build bad habits and much harder to break them.

                A good habit I recently got into is running early in the morning. And if you know me, you know this is a huge accomplishment because I am not particularly a morning person. I’m a night owl; I would rather stay up all night trying to complete a task than sleeping at what most would consider a reasonable time and then waking up early in the morning to accomplish the task.

                But, a while ago, I stumbled upon an article that reassured me of a fact I already knew (but occasionally try to deny): people are more productive in the mornings. So this summer I practiced, for lack of a better word, waking up early; I practiced being productive in the mornings.  

                In order to do this, I realized, I relied heavily on two point Greene identifies as steps to attaining mastery. “Step two: play to your strengths” and “step three: transform yourself through practice.” In order to guarantee that I’d actually get out of bed in the morning, I had to pick an activity that would actually make me want to leave the comfort of my bed. So I picked running, not because I actually enjoy it but because I’m disciplined enough to know that I need to work out. Then I’d cram the rest of the day with other things I needed to do so I had no time to run/exercise later in the day if I decided not to wake up. I practiced this for a good portion of the summer and began to notice after a little while that I’d start waking up before my alarm, alert and ready to start the day.

                A skill I am still in the process of mastering is my Spanish language skills. As a Business, Language and Cultural Studies (international business) major, learning a second language is very important. But lucky for me, I have been able to take Spanish courses at American University, attend Spanish meetups in Manhattan with others interested in mastering Spanish, and use Rosetta Stone. And, hopefully next year, I will be able to study abroad in a Spanish speaking country. Again, I attempt to play to my strength by participating in Spanish-centered activities that include others, since I am sort of a “social butterfly.” Hopefully, soon enough, I will be a master of the Spanish language. But until then, I’ll keep practicing.


Nkemdilim Chukwuma

She Believed She Could, So She Did: Arise, Dimensional Mind, Arise!


Outside of your formal education, how have you expanded your knowledge to related disciplines, giving your mind the fuel to make new associations between different ideas? How has it advanced your ability to examine a problem from all possible angles? How will your AU Education help you to…

// Arise, Dimensional Mind, Arise!//

Outside of your formal education, how have you expanded your knowledge to related disciplines, giving your mind the fuel to make new associations between different ideas? How has it advanced your ability to examine a problem from all possible angles? How will your AU Education help you to become increasingly dimensional? Please explain using Robert Greene’s 3 steps to awaken the dimensional mind. 

                 ”The human mind is naturally creative, constantly looking to make associations and connections between things and ideas. It wants to explore, to discover new aspects of the world, and to invent” (Greene 177). So let it.

                I know what you’re thinking: “easier said than done.” But after reading The Untethered Soul coupled with Mastery by Robert Greene, it doesn’t seem as hard as I once thought it was. According to Greene, “[t]o express this creative force is our greatest desire.” So why not embrace it since the “stifling of [this creative force is] the source of our misery” (Greene 177)?

                Wait, I know: because we are scared of failure, rejection, not fitting in, being different, etc. We become so comfortable with the structured form of learning that sometimes we may limit our association with learning to a classroom. Greene warns that although the path to mastery does include obtaining knowledge in your specific field (to accomplish your “life’s task”), masters are able to retain a large portion of their childhood spirit despite the demands of adulthood. As children, we were naturally curious and interested in learning a range of new things because we were quite inadequate when it came to real world experience. We didn’t need a teacher to lecture us but willingly asked everybody and anybody questions about anything.  

                I know when I was a child, and my family members would happily attest to this, I was the nosiest, most curious person in the world. And I still am today (to an extent) because I love learning new things. Yeah, I know I sound a little nerdy right now but I’m just being honest. The topic was always irrelevant but if you knew something I didn’t, I was adamant about finding out. I remember teaching myself times tables in the second grade because my sister had math homework that consisted of times tables and I wanted to know what she knew. I was much like an open window in my younger years, letting the winds of untainted knowledge rush in to spark my sense of wonder and curiosity. I listened to everyone, pondered everything, and delighted in simply knowing things. But now, I think a lot has changed.

                Don’t get me wrong, I still delight in knowing things but it seems I may have developed biases in how I receive and evaluate new knowledge. As a business major, I tend to take the information I learn and look at it through the lens of a business person which does not coincide with Greene’s three steps to awakening a dimensional mind.

                According to Greene, the first step to  arousing a dimensional mind is the creative task: this involves dropping any pre-existing notions of what it means to be creative and trying to see a problem/situation from a different lens. In other words, allow your mind to simply absorb new information without automatically trying to analyze it from a certain perspective.

                Step two consists of creative strategies. Humans are largely creatures of habit and so we often become complacent with the familiar. This negatively effects us because it limits the activity of our mind and narrows our ability to think in alternative ways. But in order to combat our natural habit, Green gives us five strategies to “loosen up our mind” (181) and progress in our creative task:

1.       Cultivate negative capabilities − “the ability to endure and even embrace mysteries and uncertainties”;

2.       Allow for serendipity − ” letting go of conscious control and allowing chance (or the occurrence of something we are not expecting) to enter into the process”;

3.       Alternate the mind through “the current” − “The current is like a mental electrical charge that gains its power through constant alternation…  [It] is a constant dialogue between our thoughts and reality”;

4.       Alter your perspective − We need to train our mind to “loosen itself up and move outside the grooves… We are not aware of how deeply our thoughts fall into the same narrow groves and the same categorizing shorthand.” Some examples of this “shorthand” include:

(1)    Looking at the “what” instead of the “how,

(2)    Rushing to generalities and ignoring the details,

(3)    Confirming paradigms and ignoring anomalies and,

(4)    Fixating on what is present, ignoring what is absent;

5.       Revert to primal forms of intelligence − “expand… your notion of thinking and creativity beyond the confines of words and intellectualizations.”

                And this leads us to the third and final step: the creative breakthrough − tension and insight; the moment in which the idea for completing a work just comes to you.

                After completing Mastery and reading and rereading Greene’s three steps to awaken  a dimensional mind, I have come to the realization that I am still in the beginning stage of step 1. I am open to new information but the manner in which I analyze and draw my own associations may not be the most conducive to developing my creativity.  However, at American University thankfully, I am required to take courses that will teach me to think and evaluate information in a more open minded way. These classes are called general education courses and they challenge students to challenge their preconceptions in areas such as the creative arts, and the natural and social sciences.

                By taking classes in various areas of studies at AU and re-exciting my childlike curiosity and sense of wonder, I have faith that my dimensional mind will soon arise within me.  Though currently in step 1, I do not plan to stay there for long. Mastery is a process and awaking the dimensional mind, a process within a process, is just part of the process. A process I gladly embark on and will continue steadfast on until I attain mastery.


Strength or Weakness: Social Intelligence?

FDDS Mastery Blog Post #2


// To Be, or Not to Be… Unique//

Mastery Blog Post #1

"The First move towards mastery is always introspection. What makes you unique and how will your uniqueness, coupled with a formal education, prepare you for the ideal apprenticeship? Please share any necessary skills, creative challenges and best practices that you should master to become secure in your independence."

According to author Robert Greene, “[a]ll of us are born unique.” So oddly enough, what seems to be our common ground is that we are all different. I can agree with that but let’s ponder this notion of being “born unique” for a moment. To say that each person has a unique trait inherently preserved in them is too great a compliment for anyone. I believe that we may have natural abilities but to be born unique?  This may be a little too much praise for the undeserving average Joe. However, in the proper environment and with the right exposure I’m sure everyone can uncover what makes them unique.

I for one am not someone who can easily pinpoint my unique qualities. And after reading part 1 and 2 of Mastery, I’m beginning to think that I may have allowed my “counterforces” to infect me with their vision for my life for too long that I now struggle to uncover, what Greene calls, “my destiny.” Many may know this already but I was convinced that accounting was my calling for a long time. I mean, math has always been my best subject, and my parents and older brother are all accountants so accounting was all I knew growing up. I mean, it is a sensible career choice (and my parents constantly reminded me that every time I thought up a new career path for myself.) But I finally realized last year, right before entering AU, that it wasn’t for me.  It may have took a while but better late than never right? I think so too.

Currently, I am a Business, Language and Cultural Studies major, specializing in the Spanish language, at American University with a finance minor and an interest in many things: youth empowerment, physical activity (sports), learning about other languages and different cultures, traveling and helping others. My ideal apprenticeship would have to be a combination of all (or at least most) of my interests. I’m thinking a career in international business working for a non-profit or social business that focuses on helping others rather than making a profit. Or something like that.

I still lack certainty in my career plans but, thankfully, I’m still a sophomore. A sophomore who is continuously working to discover her unique area of impact in her own unique way, but a sophomore nonetheless. I know my life’s task is not uniquely mine. As a Christian, I am assured that the Lord has a plan and purpose for me that fits into His plan, so I no longer stress as much as I use to about my life’s plan but am comforted that He will arrange all things concerning me for His plan.

But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been doing my own research in the mean time. Earlier this summer, I started a blog entitled “Uncovering My Future” where I reflect on different articles about careers in the business world. It has been both helpful and therapeutic for me to write everything out and with every post I feel like I’m that much closer to discovering my area of impact and rediscovering my uniqueness.  


Nkemdilim Chukwuma