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Blackwell's "9 essentials" will inspire everyone

Some devilish brownies sidetracked Michael C. Blackwell on way to a weight-loss goal he dearly desired. He tells how he eventually got there in Above the Clouds: 9 Essentials for Thriving at the Peak.

Blackwell shares the brownie story along with many of his other life lessons. Though the book is aimed at those who have reached the summit in their careers and other pursuits, he offers some useful advice – sweetened with humor and inspiration – for just about everyone.

Blackwell was just a teenager when he got a gig as a radio deejay. Later his resonant voice and a journalism degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill helped him move into radio and television broadcasting, but he felt a strong call to a deeper purpose. That drew him to Southeastern Theological Seminary, where he received three degrees. From there he pastored several churches in North Carolina and Virginia before settling into his current post at Baptist Children’s Homes (BCH), where he has devoted his time and energy for more than 33 years.

His “9 essentials” identify each chapter. They are: Purpose, Achievement, Relationships, Creativity, Health, Laughter, Security, Spirituality and Legacy. Here are some highlights from the book:

“Let’s not confuse career with purpose: Your life is bigger than your career,” Blackwell writes in chapter one. “If you are simply dedicating your waking hours to career to the neglect of your spirit, family, health, and healthy interests, you won’t find your purpose, no matter what career goals are reached.”

In order to find purpose, he says, one must pursue “internal passion.” He bares much of his soul to lead readers on their own journey of self-discovery. Spiritual depth is a necessity, he says, and that comes from “a conscious commitment to seek the heart and mind of God.” Look deep into the soul, he advises, “not in the shallows of performance and platitudes.”

The story of brownie temptation appears in the chapter focusing on Health. Blackwell relates other struggles in his years-long battle with weight and offers some meaty advice about the value of exercise and how to resist food temptation.

He writes, “...weight management affects everything about your health and well-being. Adopt this discipline early in your career and you won’t have to endure the yo-yo battle with weight that kept me wound up for so many years.”

If you are in need of laughter, Blackwell presents a few jokes in the Humor chapter and explains why humor also has a serious side. He writes: “If for no other reason, we need to laugh because it is literally good for us. Laughter boosts our immune system.”

His last chapter, with a focus on Legacy, concerns how we will be remembered when we have departed this life:

“Your legacy is the script you’re writing on the pages of history; the difference you make at some point in someone’s life will prompt a memory of you,” he writes, and you would prefer it to be positive.

“How do you leave a positive legacy? Ask yourself, ‘What can I do to make life better for others?’ ”

As for his own legacy, he says he still has much he wants to do at BCH. “But,” he says, “they’re not going to have to carry me out of my office. I want to have two or three weeks of retirement before I die!

“I want to end my tenure – in office and on earth – waving the checkered flag of victory. I want to cross the finish line still accelerating. I’ll reach for the flag and take my victory lap with shouts of joy.”

The art direction and design of Jim Edminson and sketches and illustrations by Darin Rhue and Michelle Hanks add richness to some good reading. I highly recommend Above the Clouds: 9 Essentials for Thriving at the Peak.

NOTE: Above the Clouds is available on – after you enjoy your copy, please consider sharing your review!

Karen Parker is a former career newspaper copy editor from Winston-Salem. She is a member of the NC Journalism Hall of Fame.

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