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Vol. 4 Issue 1








Do not remember the former things, or ponder the things of the past. Listen carefully, I am about to do a new thing, now it will spring forth; will you not be aware of it? I will even put a road in the wilderness, rivers in the desert. - Isaiah 43:19-20 AMP

One of the main reasons that people say that they want to help someone is because they [themselves] came from a predicament in their life... - Niko Harbosky, Founder INSPIRED FOR GREATNESS STORY ON PG. 28

CONTENTS SPIRITUALITY P. 16 // Resolutions Motivated By Love P. 18 // Ignoring What They Said

LIFESTYLE P. 24 // The Man in the Room P. 28 // A Life Inspired for Greatness

CAREER & MONEY P. 36 // Re-Brand, Re-Invent, Re-Launch

MUSIC P. 42 // Most Anticipated Fall Album Releases



Evo • lu • tion. It’s a word that tends to get a bad rap in the Christian realm. I hear the word, ‘evolution’ and immediately my eye starts to twitch. My mind goes straight to Darwinism and any of the other -isms outside of the story told in Genesis (how dare scientists say that I was a descendant of a monkey!). Yes, the word evolution does have to do with animals evolving or developing into other things but it also has another meaning. Right under the above--and very paraphrased-definition I just mentioned, is another definition in the New Oxford Dictionary: “The gradual development of something, especially from a simple to a more complex form.” Boom. This is what I want to focus on. Every New Year we have the opportunity to make New Year’s Resolutions. These resolutions are full of tangible, aspirational dreams and goals. Plans to lose weight, plans to find love, plans to be more generous. These are all great things but unfortunately we usually don’t make it passed January 31 with these resolutions. Why is that? I think it’s because we’re hoping that we will change overnight. Somehow we think that between 11:59 on December 31 and midnight on January 1 that our lives will instantly be better...that somehow the New Year signals an instant change in us, a change for the better. There’s nothing wrong with better. We are wired for better.

But there’s a timing to better. Better takes time. Better requires evolution. Changing is painful and it also requires patience. That’s why most people don’t follow through on their resolutions. We don’t have the patience to go through the process to change. But I think ‘better’ can still occur if we change our focus from resolution to evolution. Evolution is gradual. It takes time to develop. It is not overnight but it does change. Nowhere in the definition of evolution is the opportunity to stay the same. God is good with this. He is good with better. He wants us to change, to evolve, into better sons and daughters, better friends, coworkers, significant others, leaders, business owners, etc. He wants us to go deeper in Him. He is also keenly aware that this process is not something that will happen between December 31 and January 1. It’s going to take time. We just have to learn to be alright with that and stop holding ourselves to these noble, but unrealistic expectations. I am writing this and once again, I’m preaching to myself. I am going through an evolution of my heart and it’s painful. Sometimes it’s uncomfortable and I want to give up, give in. Some days I do give in. But I want to grow and the Lord is so good and so merciful. I really am learning a whole new definition of grace right now. The beauty of this evolution process is that we are not alone in it. God, our Creator, knows who and what we will become. We just have to let Him show us. Won’t you let Him? Happy New Year’s Evolution.









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PA U L M E R C A R D O , C O N T R I B U T O R

Grab your shovel; we’re about to dig deep. Now, when we hear people talk about resolutions, it’s most often concentrated around the beginning of the New Year. But, just what is a resolution?


If you look it up in the dictionary, a resolution is defined as a firm decision to do or not to do something. And, based on that working definition, we conjure up these aspirations to evoke life changes. Consider your own goals for the coming year; maybe there are some that sound like: “I want to improve my GPA”, “I want to make more money”, or “I want to lose/gain weight”, etc. But, research shows that less than half of the American population actually succeeds in achieving their resolutions. So, basically, if you want to achieve your resolutions you’re going to have to find a strong and lasting motive. This brings us to introspection. Examine yourselves. What is your motive for your resolutions? Are you seeking worldly success motivated by a fear of lacking something? Are you striving to feel significant?

Or are you striving for Godly success fueled by the love of glorifying God for the perpetuation of His love to those around you?

James 4:1-3 is a perfect example of how the world is led by the wrong motives:

Essentially, the Bible indicates that there are two opposing forces that compel us to do what we do: love or fear. The Bible says that perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18) and our example of perfect love is Jesus Christ. Another thing to note from this verse is that love and fear are presented as opposing forces.

“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”

And finally take into account 1 John 4:8 where we are told that God is love. This frames God against fear. Or to put it more clearly: pits fear against God.

The world says “live for the day” while the Bible leads us to “live for God.” As Christians, not only do we live as if we were dying, we also plan as if we’ll live forever with Christ.

There are a lot of different fears: Fear of failure, fear of being alone, fear of being weak, etc. Fear almost always points to self and lack.

This means we value our time and know that our resolutions have eternal consequences. Godly success is something that God defines for you and usually results with his exaltation (because He is the author and finisher of our faith). So essentially it has a lot to do with your relationship with Him.

Some people that make a resolution to exercise more and get into better shape are seeking validation for their appearance rather than exercising because they know that their body is a temple for the Holy Spirit and they want to take care of it.

Meaning, purpose, and fulfillment in life begin when you look to God. Godly success should be motivated by love because well, as we cited earlier, God himself is love!

Some people want to make more money to accumulate flashier possessions. Or do you want to make more money to help the needy and the poor? These are just a few examples to help one consider the root of your motivation.

As Christians, Christ’s love should be the greatest of all motivators. It should cause Christ followers to live for Him and Him alone.

Motivation is a matter of purpose.

This is a good thing because when God’s love motivates us, our achievements have a butterfly effect on the people around us. Jesus didn’t fear what people thought, he helped people because he was motivated by love.

Now let’s take a look at the nature of love according to 1 Corinthians 4-7: “Love is patient, kind; does not envy, does not boast, it is not proud, does not dishonor others, is not self-seeking, is not easily angered, keeps no record of wrongs, does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth, always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

Likewise love should be the catalyst for our resolutions. As Romans 8:11 says, “The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. Therefore the SPIRIT of Love leads us. We offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God.”

In other words, true love shows meekness. It doesn’t have to prove itself.

So what should we do? How would you like to enter into the New Year? Can you see the light at the end of the tunnel? Hopefully after reading this, you’ll be able to discern the source of your motivation.

So, how do you feel when you accomplish your resolutions? What are you trying to prove? What are some of the factors that motivate you? Did you feel like God was in your efforts? Did your achievements have an effect on advancing the kingdom, or have a butterfly effect on positively impacting the people around you? Does it encourage you to pursue more challenges?

My prayer is that you choose love, not fear, and let’s see how much of an impact we can make on those around us. Let Christ’s love shape your decisions and actions. Just as God set eternity in the hearts of men, make your resolutions with an eye for eternity. Know that when you are in God’s will, you will find the most joy and lasting success.

Now, consider how you’ve felt when you’ve failed to fulfill those resolutions? Did your fear cause you to quit prematurely when you think you could have continued? Did you feel like your failure was a direct correlation to your self worth? Did you remain discouraged and fall back into old habits?

Let’s enter into the New Year with a newfound focus on our relationship with LOVE because everything we need is found in Jesus Christ our Lord!

If so, try redefining your definition of success. Worldly success is “pseudo success” because it’s generally motivated by fear. It strives toward prosperity, popularity, and profit for selfish reasons. And, because of this, it’s a standard that keeps changing, making it impossible to ever achieve. 17




IMAGINE YOURSELF IN THE FOLLOWING STORY... A man came to Jesus begging him to heal his dying daughter. This man was a synagogue leader – a group of people known to despise Jesus and His teachings. Yet, still he could not deny what he had seen Jesus do: heal.

First, Jesus began to throw out all the people who lacked faith. “Go away,” He said. But, they continued to laugh. So he put them out, “an emphatic, forceful expulsion which showed Christ’s authority”*. The people that were wailing, and the people that laughed at Him, Jesus threw out with authority! Their lack of faith, their hopelessness, their existential grip on only the seen reality all stood as a barrier for faith to work and healing to occur. So, He threw them out. Then Jesus entered the room of the girl, with only those who possessed the faith to see her healed. Jesus took the girl by the hand and said to her, “Little girl, arise.” Immediately the girl got up and walked around.

Jesus, his disciples and the man, Jairus, traveled through the crowds – which were gathered to hear and see Jesus – to Jairus’ home. On their way, not quite to the house yet, men from the house met Jairus and proclaimed, “Your daughter is dead. Why bother the teacher any more?”

Though this account occurred over two thousand years ago, is not this the same Jesus who we profess as our deliverer, our savior, and our healer? The Lord Jesus, who is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow?

“Your daughter is dead.”

Then, in light of His unchanging character, let us traverse the metaphorical channel leading us to relevant and personal application of this account.

“Why bother anymore.” It’s over and done with. You can’t deny the facts. There is no more hope. Destiny has spoken through this undeniable reality.

While we sing, “There is nothing my God cannot do,” with repetitive emphasis, do we really believe it?

She is dead.

Perhaps we believe there is nothing our God cannot do, but we fail to bridge the chasm between can and will. We don’t actually believe that He will do it. Rather we think: He can, but He won’t; He can, but He might not.

Done. The end. ...But, ignoring what they said, Jesus spoke to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”

Isn’t this what the disciples were thinking when they were on the sea, in the boat with Jesus, when a storm swept over the sea, nearly overtaking them? In panic and fear they furiously awakened Jesus – who, yes, was peacefully sleeping – pleading with him to save them.

Ignoring what they said. Aren’t they speaking the truth though? Aren’t they simply relaying the facts? Yes, however, they are speaking from a lack of confidence in the supremacy and sovereignty of Jesus’ ability to overpower even death itself. They did not believe that Jesus was transcendent above the seen reality and could defeat all obstacles – including death.

They woke Jesus up because they believe he could save them and were aware that they could not save themselves in this fierce of a storm. Yet, they were panicked and riddled with fear because they did not believe that Jesus would save them.

Jesus and Jairus proceeded anyway. Upon reaching the house, Jesus brought only his three closest disciples inside.

Had they believed fastidiously that Jesus not only could but also would save them they, too, might have been sleeping soundly through the storm, untried by the wind and the waves – mere circumstances still subject to the power of God Almighty.

The people inside were wailing loudly and crying out in despair because of the death of the girl. Then Jesus said, in the midst of the despondent commotion, “Why all this, the child is not dead but asleep.”

And Jesus asks his disciples after calming the storm, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

The people, in response, laughed in Jesus’ face. Some translations say that this laughter was scornful and aimed at humiliating Jesus. They believed Jesus’ statement to be absurd, defying reality, nonsensical. But, nevertheless, without skipping a beat, He progressed.

In other words, is your faith dictated by your current visage and your present, momentary feelings? Would you be afraid if you really believed that I would?

Perhaps we believe there is nothing our God cannot do, but we fail to bridge the chasm between can and will. We don’t actually believe that He will do it. 19


As the disciples in the storm battled with sights that seemed to contradict the power of God, Jairus also battled the same voices. Don’t we, too, hear the voices of those around us and, sometimes, plummet into agreement with them? The voices of the “realists” – so they like to call themselves – telling us “the facts.” The voices of those operating in a lack of faith mentality telling us “it’s too late.” The voices of the hopeless asking us “why bother?” Are we flung into crying, commotion and wailing - I know I am - by mere appearances, fueled by the voices of those around us – reiterating cause for fear? And is not Jesus saying to us, “Why this commotion, hubbub, crying, panic, despair and fear? Things are not as they appear. It’s not over.” Is Jesus saying, “Don’t be afraid; just believe?” Please note that Jesus ignores what these voices say! Despite the clamor the voices make - and they are loud, and howling, and screaming at us. These voices: the voices of our fathers, our mothers, our friends, our husbands, our brothers and our sisters, even our children. And, though I hate to ask – for I know the struggle it entails – Is Jesus imploring us to ignore what they say? Is Jesus exemplifying to us in this Biblical account, to tell some voices to “Go away!” and to throw them out? Are those voices, their influential remarks, and even their mere presence a barrier to walking in faith and witnessing profound healing? Yet, clarity must be established here for truth to be realized. Jairus was not engaging in wishful thinking, or banking on a “promise” he’d concocted in his own head or proclaimed was ‘from God’, when it was, in fact, from his own selfish desires. Rather, Jairus was following Jesus, who had agreed to go with him to his house to heal his daughter. For us, the promises of God’s Word, which always align with Scripture, and are found and fulfilled in following Jesus, are what we can firmly and confidently stand on. We cannot stand on the pseudo-promises – strong selfish desires that we claim as ‘promises’ -- with confidence. It is the Word of the Lord, alone, that stands true. And on it alone can we stand securely, knowing that God will. Let us be in agreement with God, ignoring what ‘they’ say, even at times ignoring what we seem to see, throwing out those whose voices project a barrier to faith and choosing to believe that not only God can, but God will. “Don’t be afraid; only believe.”


Don’t be afraid...just believe. - Jesus 21






A man sat in a room, alone for many, many years. One Sunday evening he heard an unexpected knock on the door...

“I know because your daughter told me last night, when I ran into her down at the old Suwanee Restaurant.” “Humph” was all Jerry could get out. “Want to know what else she said”? Bill didn’t wait for him to respond. “She said you haven’t left this room in years… Jerry.” Bill’s tone softened. “How does she know I haven’t left? She isn’t spying on me I hope.” Jerry cast a suspiciously playful eye in Bill’s direction. “Years, Jerry…” Bill restated with sorrowful emphasis. “Something about bugs she said”? “I can’t stand the bugs Bill, and they are everywhere,” said Jerry. The second I step outside they attack me, and in my condition, I can’t move fast enough to get away from them.”

“Who’s there”? The man shouted.

“What kind of bugs are you talking about”? Bill asked.

“Who could possibly be there,” he muttered under his breath.

“All of them. Any kind. Just bugs. I hate them”! Jerry emphatically stated.

“I came to see you, old friend,” came the reply, a familiar voice.

“You old fool. What sorts of damn bugs have gotten you into such [a] frenzy? You are a war vet for Christ’s sake. You have been through hell and back, and now you won’t leave the house because of bugs. For God’s sake, Jerry, you’re griping about bugs!”

“Humph,” grumbled the man from inside the room. “You didn’t answer my question. Who are you”? “Why, it’s me, Jerry,” said the voice outside the room.

There was stillness in the room, a tension.

“Jerry... Jerry.” The man muttered trying to remember who Jerry was. “Jerry who? I don’t know anyone named Jerry.”

Bill continued in a more soft-spoken manner, “You are going to dissolve into nothing if you stay up here much longer. Hell, you ain’t even got much room to move around, or do a little dance.”

“My, my old friend, you haven’t changed a bit; still a grouchy old fool,” said the voice. “Oh, damn. If it ain’t Bill Riley.” The man inside scrambled up to unlock the door. “I should have known it was you Bill. It sounded like your silly old voice.”

Bill grabbed an imaginary dance partner and began to dance with her illusory figure. He swayed back and forth, laughing slightly, trying to lighten the tense mood he’d mistakenly created.

The man inside the room slowly shuffled to the door with a hunched over back. His robe dragged on the ground and his slippers scraped across the floor with each crippled step.

He hoped to rekindle some sense of desire or passion that lay dormant in his old friend’s degenerating heart. “Psshh.” Jerry muttered, turning his face away from his old pal.

“What do you mean you don’t know anyone named Jerry? You’re Jerry, you old fool.” Bill said to his old friend as they stood face to face. “Well, I’ll be damned, you look awful Jerry, said Bill. “And why wouldn’t you; staying cooped up in the room all day and all night. You never do leave do you”?

“Jerry, I’m serious!” Bill suddenly stopped dancing and grabbed Jerry’s arm. Jerry looked up into Bill’s face like a child who had been caught red-handed. Then his eyes turned menacing. “She told you to come up here, didn’t she”? asked Jerry.

“Ahh, why should I, when I got fools like you trying to break down my door” Jerry replied.

“Who did”?

“You haven’t had a visitor in years!” Bill exclaimed. Jerry shot Bill a look as if to say, how would you know.

“Mary-Ellen asked you to come up here”? Jerry asked accusingly.

Reading the expression quite well, as old friends do, Bill replied, “Want to know how I know” ?

“No! She just told me you were up here, and hadn’t left in over six years,” Bill replied.

“You don’t know nothing”! Jerry grumped out. 25


“She told you to reason with me and try to convince me to go for a walk or something. I can’t go for a walk, damn it. I can’t move fast enough to avoid all those bugs. I don’t want to take a damn walk. Do you hear me”? Jerry vexed. There was a long pause as the two old friends stared at each other and then at the floor. Jerry’s face relaxed and Bill stood perplexed, pondering the true reason behind his friend’s isolation and reluctance to leave the room. Bill tried to travel into the depths of his old pals’ fears. Bill remembered high school, when Jerry’s first girlfriend crushed his heart and how depressed Jerry was afterwards. Jerry had moped around for months, not eating, not talking, and not laughing. Bill remembered that moment during the Vietnam War when he and Jerry witnessed a comrade being blown to smithereens from an enemy grenade blowing their naïve and innocent childhoods to smithereens along as well. Jerry was devastated and heart stricken. He treated everyone differently from that moment on. Jerry was more cautious and distant with everyone, even Bill. Then Bill recalled when Jerry’s wife died and how hard Jerry took it. After the funeral, Jerry went up to his hunting camp and disappeared from civilization. He never answered phone calls. Family members had to take turns driving eight hours one way just to make sure Jerry was still alive. Most of the time they found him not eating and wandering aimlessly around the cabin. Bill remembered his trip to the cabin, to try and persuade Jerry to come back home. But, Jerry didn’t want to leave. He didn’t want to face anything that reminded him of his wife. I know what the bugs are, Bill thought. “Jerry, you old fool. Tell me about these god-forsaken bugs. The ones you hate the most,” Bill said, half serious, half joking. “...They are a nuisance!” “Always buzzing in my ear, biting on my skin or catching me in their hidden webs. I can’t stand them bugs,” replied Jerry. “Well, what do these bugs look like”? This question caused Jerry to look at Bill with skepticism. “Are you messing with me, crazy old fool”? “Hell, no I’m not. I want to know what those damn bugs look like. Darn it. Answer the question, Jerry.” Bill had to keep the façade going. “They have big heads and sharp teeth.” Jerry scowled showing all of his teeth. “What happens when they bite you”? Bill asked.


“And when they bite you they inject a venom that can leave you powerless.” “No wonder you don’t want to go outside! Those are some damned bugs! So what happens when you get bit? Have you gotten bit before”? “Oh stop pulling my leg, Bill. I know you’re just egging me on right now. You don’t care about these bugs and you don’t care about me”! Jerry snapped. “Well, I’ll be damned. I show some darn interest in your madness and you can’t humor me”? Bill snapped back, continuing the façade he was projecting. Jerry’s expression changed. He looked helpless and entirely hopeless. “What do you want, Bill? Just leave me be. Go home.” Jerry waved Bill off and pointed towards the door. “I want to know what happens when these bugs bite you and inject their poisonous venom into your blood stream. I want to know why you are so gosh darn afraid of them Jerry!” Bill said with pointed tenacity. Jerry looked out the window and spotted a spider web hanging from the corner of the roof. “Do you see that”? Jerry pointed to the web. “Yes. Is that your bug”? Bill replied. Jerry’s eyes remained fixed on the web. “Wait for it, wait for it.” The two old men stared indiscriminately at the spider’s web. In a matter of minutes a small mosquito flew into the web and got tangled up. Quickly after, a spider came crawling out of a hidden location and began wrapping the caught specimen with her rapid spinning powers. “Do you see”? Jerry asked, as if Bill should now understand. Bill thought about the implications of this shared observation and how it applied to Jerry. When the significance occurred to him, Bill pondered how to approach it tactfully. He chose his words carefully. “What I see is a bug, a mosquito, with a long jeering needle sticking out of its mouth, buzzing around crazily, searching to pierce some warm breathing human with it’s needle and inject a poisonous venom that will cause a sore that swells up and starts to itch incessantly,” Bill said. “I see this no-good, downright pitiful creature, small but capable of so much damage; yet, it gets caught up in a web: A trap, created by another no-good, downright pitiful and yet smaller bug. And this bug, a spider, spins a beautiful web, almost unseen to the naked eye, yet, sticky and inescapable. This spider lurks in the shadows, unlike the frantic mosquito, and traps its victims by its carefully spun web. And the spider also has a fatal bite, rendering most of its victims powerless. I see a terrible cycle of eat to be eaten. And I see a man terribly fatigued and drained by that cycle.”

“This isn’t about me” Jerry interjected defensively.

“Other bugs are more discrete, they spin an invisible web and catch you in it. They wrap you up in warm, fuzzy feeling strings, only to deliver a bite and then devour you slowly. These are worst kinds Jerry. At least the hardest to deal with.”

“I’m not finished you old fool,” Bill said. Bill continued, “ I see bugs, capable of causing pain. And a fear of pain, causing a big, strong man to take great efforts to avoid these small creatures, yet still experiencing pain.” Jerry interrupted again, “This isn’t about me damn it, Bill!”

Bill himself started tearing up and his words got all choked up. He stopped talking and crumpled his face into his hands, weeping.

But Bill kept speaking, “Some bugs come and come and never stop coming and they are annoying and unpredictable and sting you for seemingly no reason. And it hurts. Yes, it hurts.

Jerry too was crying. Bill reached out and grabbed Jerry’s hand as their tears simultaneously fell, glistening their cheeks and noses.

These bugs are everywhere, sometimes you can see them coming from a long ways off and dodge the bite, other times you can’t and you get bit. But you don’t stop living after you get bit. It hurts for a while, it swells and itches, maybe you get a scar, but you keep breathing, you keep going, you keep living.”

“I hate bugs, Bill,” cried Jerry. “I hate the sting, Jerry,” cried Bill. “Oh, I miss her so much, Jerry. I miss her…” Bill’s voice trailed off drowned in sobs. The two old men wept, together.

“Stop talking!” Jerry was yelling at Bill while vigorously shaking his head.

For, they shared the same sorrows and the same stings. But while one grew afraid of bugs, and let the fear confine him to the room, the other old man held on to the fact that the same creatures capable of stinging were also capable of love. And love was not worth living without!

Ignoring Jerry’s irate behavior and escalating voice, Bill kept talking.





Niko Harbosky is from the fastpaced, diverse city of Fort Wayne, Indiana. Raised by a single mother, Niko had to face more challenges than any child should have experienced at his age.

a club. The guy said to him, “You touched something that’s precious to us and for that you’re marked. We’re going to put you in a casket.”

As a teenager, he found himself searching for what most people his age lacked: identity and purpose.

“Ultimately, it was God separating me,” Niko said. “By doing that he started to reveal to me their heart and he started to reveal to me my own heart.”

“I started turning to the streets, I started turning to my friends who I was out partying with…and becoming more gang involved,” Niko said. “It led me down a path of recklessness: smoking, drinking, fornicating…and really just searching for this love and [validation] at the same time.”

Niko asked the guy if they could continue their conversation at another time since he was at work. The guy refused and proceeded to lift his shirt revealing a gun. Thankfully there was a security guard in the store. As he came across Niko’s lane, he noticed the young man with the gun. He called out to him and was able to scare him away. “At that point, I began to realize just how precious life was,” Niko said. “It was like an awakening for me. I was kicked out of school, I’m homeless…At the time my home was, what I would consider, broken, and now I’m about to get my life taken.” When he told his so-called friends what happened, they laughed. Niko knew at that point that he had to separate himself from the unhealthy influences around him.

During this time, God’s voice started to become a lot louder than the voices that had tainted Niko his entire life. By some miracle he was able to return to the school so that he could finish his senior year.

That’s where most of his troubles over the next few years began.

He was still homeless and working two jobs but was somehow able to take on all of his final classes including two AP classes.

His junior year of high school Niko was expelled for drug use on campus and having a weapon.

He wanted to go to college.

Shortly after that, on a Sunday night, Niko was walking from getting high when he heard a cry coming from inside his house. It was one was his sisters. “My mom’s boyfriend (at that time) was screaming at her and dogging her father,” he said. “As he’s yelling and getting in her face, I put my arm around her and start to walk her out of the room. He came at me so I tried to defend my sister and myself.” Leaving the house that night Niko lost more than his pride… he lost his home. “As I came back to the house later that night—it was raining—I found my clothes in the mud.” Now homeless and expelled from school, Niko found himself living at a friend’s house. This friend had a drug problem and sticky fingers. “He would take my things to buy more of what he needed,” Niko said. The then 17-year-old Niko was working at a grocery store one day when trouble found him at work too. “I was speaking to this older lady, we were having a good conversation and I get a tap on my shoulder…and I’m pretty familiar with everyone who comes into the store so I’m just like, ‘hey, what’s up’. “Then I get another tap on my shoulder and I turn around.” It was a guy that Niko had gotten into an altercation with at


“I was a big dreamer, I wanted to be in New York, big city life,” he said. Niko would be accepted to Manchester University, a private school about an hour from Fort Wayne. However, he was unable to attend because he couldn’t afford the $10,000 tuition and his grades weren’t strong enough to earn him sufficient scholarships. “At that time I was broken. I was heartbroken,” Niko said. “I’m starting to turn my life around,” he told God. “I’m not trying to be the things that I used to be, I’m trying to get out of here.” He cried out to God for direction. It seemed like yet again, his dreams weren’t coming to fruition and he wasn’t sure where he was supposed go from here. He wasn’t sure how God expected him, a 19-year-old homeless teen, to do this on his own. But little did he know, Niko wasn’t alone at all. God was with him the whole time. “If you go back in scripture…it says when your father or mother forsake you, that [God] will take you in,” Niko said, referencing Psalm 27:10. He ended up applying to Vincennes University in a small town (which totally went against his big city dreams) and got in. He also didn’t want to make the same mistakes he did with his friendships in the past so Niko made a decision to stay focused and make better decisions about the relationships he allowed in his life.

It’s been a journey...and I’ve lost a lot of individuals along the way...but it’s been worth it...




You don’t know what an individual’s story is...where they come from or why they think the way they do. And I feel like we can be so narrow minded at times because we don’t understand...

During his first semester he was able to obtain a 3.7 GPA. But while his grades were good, his heart still wasn’t. Niko was still struggling with an addiction to smoking weed. Thinking that isolation would help, he would hide himself from people in an effort to do everything in his own strength to remain untainted by the wrong influences. Moving into his second semester, he started attending a church. It was a little different than what the more traditional church he attended growing up. “I’m just listening to this preacher and I’m looking around and people are standing up, with their hands up, eyes closed, shouting, crying and I’m like, ‘what the heck is going on; why are these people acting like this’”? Despite his discomfort and the distractions of his past, Niko continued to attend the church. One Sunday he made a decision that would change the trajectory of his life forever.

said to himself. Now he just had to figure out what exactly it was to be.

During the altar call Niko began to reflect on his life. He had just learned that one of his friends from high school had been shot and killed.

Always having an interest in apparel, Niko sought out graphic designers to put together a logo.

He says the message made him realize that it’s now or either hot or cold. “It was like the preacher was speaking to me,” Niko said.

The winning logo consists of the letters ‘IFG’ and inside of the letters is a boy overlooking a cityscape. Niko felt that the boy represented him.

“When people started to stand, I stood and at the end when they made that altar call, I had no hesitation and I went up there and I just started to break.”

The birds in the logo represent freedom. It represents his dreams and all the greatness he could see for himself and for others.

For the first time, Niko was truly able to let go of the weight of his past, the walls that he had built, and the burdens he had carried all of those years.

Even if my father and mother abandon me, the Lord will hold me close. - Psalm 27:10

From there, he started to design and sell shirts. Once he started to see that his shirts were becoming a source of encouragement for other students, Niko realized that he wasn’t the only one with a story.

“That was one of the first days that I had really let God do his work and intervene in my life and start to heal the battle wounds that I had been brought up with,” he said.

Every student who purchased the shirts also had a story to tell and needed to feel inspired. His apparel was providing that inspiration for greatness. “You don’t know what an individual’s story is…where they came from or why they think the way they do,” Niko said. “And, I feel like we can be so narrow minded at times because we don’t understand…and I feel that is when God intervenes the most in our spirits.”

With a new life found in Christ, Niko began to let God show him his true purpose.

Niko, now 23, will graduate from college in May (he’s still working a full-time job!). He is currently focused on developing Inspired for Greatness into a household name.

He had always liked helping people and while in college, he wanted to figure out ways to do that but wasn’t sure where to start.

Between photo shoots, approving designs, Niko and his team are working feverishly to get the brand ready for the masses.

“One of the main reasons that people say that they want to help someone is because they [themselves] came from a predicament in their life,” Niko said.

Later this year they plan to host a launch party for their website. They are also going to be hosting events at various high schools (they’re hoping to visit 50 schools this year). Niko is extremely excited about all of the great things that are to come and he now knows that his pain had an inspired purpose.

One Tuesday night around 2 or 3 in the morning, as he was sitting, jotting down ideas, he wrote out the words “Inspired for Greatness.”

“It’s been a journey…and I’ve lost a lot of individuals along the way and it’s a struggle,” he said. “But it’s been worth it…it’s been worth it.”

“After I read it, I said it out loud and I was like, ‘this is going to be something,’” he 33




Perhaps you’ve spent a few years working long and hard, sacrificing to build a solid career. All of a sudden, you’ve come to realize that your career has reached a pinnacle and you are at a crossroad trying to figure out what to do next. If we’re honest, most of us can admit that we’ve been there at some point or another. In fact, you may have found yourself wondering whether you’re still making a difference, whether you’re continuing to add value to your role or to the company; or even whether your skills are still relevant to do the job. No matter your age, status in life, your role or position on the job, these are all great questions, and ones that employers like to hear asked. In fact, it’s always a good practice to reevaluate your performance every once in a while, to ensure you are consistently aligning yourself with company expectations and business goals. By doing so you show that you are preparing yourself to take on new challenges; such as doing more meaningful work, which can eventually keep you on a progressive career path. Having said all that, it now begs the question: How does one put the ‘personal’ back in his or her brand? The answer ultimately lies within you, even though the process isn’t necessarily an easy one, but with a little persistence, perseverance and patience you can take (or regain) control of your personal brand! Yes, it is you who must decide and you who must act! I dare say no one else is going to do it for you. As you ponder this, keep in mind that you don’t want to have to take a job that can leave you unfulfilled, or leave others questioning what you are capable of doing. If you need help, here are a few suggestions: First, figure out where you want to go! If you have a carefully thought out plan, you will more than likely be successful. Ask yourself these questions – Am I being paid what I’m worth? Am I willing to take on more responsibilities? Do I want to move up in the company? Am I willing (able/ready) to relocate? Do I want to switch or swap roles? Think about where you want to place your focus and then make your next move...start your research. • Talk with others about your vision or goals. Set up meet and greets with people who may be working in a particular area where you might have an interest. Being able to clearly communicate your goals demonstrates that you have already completed half the journey. But no man is an island; so don’t be shy about asking others what they do. People love talking about themselves; ask questions like, ‘How did you get this role?’ for example.

• If you wish to learn a new or different skill, seek out someone with that skill and ask if you can “shadow” him or her for a few days. This is also a great way to cross-train for that new role you’ve been thinking about. • Network! Network! Network! This allows you to meet people and build relationships that can last a lifetime. Plus, you never know, perhaps one day you might end up working in the same place, or for one or the other. • Own your decision. If you say you’re going to do something, then own it! Stay true to yourself and commit to making that change you need. No one is going to do it for you. It is often said that ‘opportunity only knocks once.’

Nonetheless, there are other times when we eventually get ‘second chances’ in life, although that is never always a guarantee. What this means is that, the onus lies with you to make that move. 37


Taking ownership of your brand is the foundation for which you can build upon, with a little help from others like: 1. Your peers. It’s okay to ask for their input on what you can do better to enhance your own performance, or bolster your career. 2. Your leader/boss. Asking for your leader or boss to provide input about your job performance or career interests isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it could show them that your are forward-thinking about the company’s vision and goals, especially if you are asking for more responsibilities, which could potentially open more doors for your personal and professional advancement.

3. Your company. Having a better understanding of what others are doing in the organization, and learning more about its operations can open up ways for you to share your own ideas. Also, ask what skills you will need and how you can attain them. This will also show that you have taken a personal interest in the business and that you are committed to its growth and progress.

• ‘Color’ your brand. You will want people to remember who you are by the picture you ‘paint’ of yourself when sharing your story. So think about what you want to tell others about the newly invented you…what are those ‘selling points’ you will use to reposition yourself – your new brand. And, what are the unique characteristics that set you apart that you could use to your advantage and the company’s benefit. Think of this as if you were on a job interview.

You’ll want to leave a lasting impression, so be careful not to oversell yourself, for at the end of the day it’s all about what you are able to bring to the table. Be as honest, be transparent and keep it simple, yet ‘colorful’. For instance, you might choose to use statements like: • “I don’t know very much about . I’m hoping you might share a few details with me, as I have a deep interest in learning more about that area.” • “After many years of working as a , I realized I needed a career change but I didn’t have the required skills for that new position. And, since I wasn’t sure how to go about it, or which direction to take, I decided I would just start somewhere.” • “I’ve come to realize that I’m not very good with numbers, so I think moving into a different role, with less “number-crunching” will help me to be more productive. And so, to that end, I thought you might have some suggestions as to where to begin my search.” • Get them to see the new you. Rebranding one’s self is not easy and does not happen overnight, so you will want to maintain a positive, confident attitude and have lots of patience. • Take a genuine interest in what you hope to achieve and allow those around you to see the efforts you’re making to improve your brand, especially those who have given you advice during the journey. • Be strategic! Figure out how you wish to be noticed and let your story speak for your brand. • Connect with as many people as possible; invite them on the journey and prove your worth. Get them to appreciate your story and share your interests. Rebranding your self is not foolproof. There will be days when you won’t be happy with your progress and may second-guess your efforts, or even get frustrated. Therefore, you will want to take things one step at a time, day by day. Each accomplishment will motivate you to do more, so set small goals and follow simple rules. Following these suggestions will set you on the path in your rebranding approach. And, if you’re still not sure how to begin, seek out a mentor or a life coach who can give you the guidance and support you’ll need.








P H OTO S: A U D R E Y A S S A D, R A R A R I OT, S T E R E O G U M .C O M , S I A

Two thousand and fifteen was a year when music was dominated by pop memoirs. The year started with Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk,” looking to break the all-time record for weeks spent at No.1, to Drake and Future coming together to make a mixtape and a catch phrase, while Ryan Adams provided 12 more months of Taylor Swift’s 1989 in the news cycle, and ended with Adele’s return to the spotlight with 25. From surprise releases by Kendrick Lamar (To Pimp a Butterfly) and Jeremih (Late Nights: The Album) to impressive debut albums from Leon Bridges (Coming Home), Jamie XX (In Colour) and Vince Staples (Summertime ’06), 2015 provided music lovers with brilliant sounds of music neatly packaged into a record. With 2015 delivering on a number of excellent and surprise releases, fans are expecting the same thing for 2016.

Australian singer-songwriter has released two singles promoting the record “Alive” and “Bird Set Free.”

2. AUDREY ASSAD: INHERITANCE After producing her last album, Fortune Fall, in 2013, Audrey Assad is ready to release her next project, Inheritance. According to the singer songwriter, the record is hymn project and has involved her fans in shaping it from voting for their hymns to the cover of the album. So far, the album has been mixed and is looking to be release in January or February.

3. RA RA RIOT: NEED YOUR LIGHT The indie rock band from Syracuse, New York is looking to continue where they left off with the release of their fourth album, Need Your Light. The follow-up to 2013’s Beta Love is a 10-track effort, featuring collaboration with Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmanglij who produced two tracks on the record, “I Need Your Light” and the bubbly lead single “Water.” The record comes out on February 16 via Barsuk Records.

4. ELEVATION WORSHIP: HERE AS IN HEAVEN Contemporary Christian and worship band from Charlotte, NC, is set to release another live worship album. Produced by Time Warner Cable Arena, the 14-track effort is a recording of their July 31 show in their hometown and it features the lead single, “O Come to the Altar.” The album is set to release in February.

5. KANYE WEST: SWISH Back in late 2013, Kanye West announced he was working on a new album. Then, in 2014, he released a single featuring Paul McCartney tilted “Only One.”

1. SIA: THIS IS ACTING Sia had an impressive year in 2014. Her sixth studio record 1000 Forms of Fear debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 charts, won an ARIA Music Award for Album of the Year, and received Grammy Nominations for the single “Chandelier.”

After releasing a couple more singles in early 2015, West decided to call his Yezzus follow-up, So Help Me God. A few months later, the Chicago rapper tweeted he was changing it to Swish. With singles such as “Wolves” and “All Day” expecting to be on the record, it looks like it won’t come out until 2016. West has had listening parties for his new album and it’s been described as “Phenomenal.”

Now, she’s ready to release her seventh studio album, This is Acting. Due out January 29, the record is set to feature “more pop” content than her previous material. It’s also a record full of songs she wrote for other people. The 43


Adapt: January-March 2016  
Adapt: January-March 2016  

Forget about New Year's resolutions! 2016 is all about evolution...evolution of self that is. We all want to change but are we really willin...