Bitter or Better

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Bitter or Better

Black Belt Leadership
Bitter or Better
John L. Terry, III - The Black Belt Leader

Chocolate has its origins in Southern Mexico. It is there the cacao tree flourishes. The ancient Aztecs believed the seeds from the cacao tree were a gift from Quetzalcoatl, the god of wisdom. The Mayans held a similar belief, paying homage to the god Ek Chuah, whom they believed gave these seeds to mankind.

At one point in early Mesoamerica (an area from Central Mexico to Northern Costa Rica), the seeds were so valued they were used as a form of currency.

The Aztecs originally served chocolate as a bitter drink, mixing the cacao seeds with spices or corn puree. It was believed to impart strength and vitality to the drinker. It was also considered an aphrodisiac to enhance sexual desire and arousal. The Mayans used this in religious rituals and official ceremonies such as weddings and funerals. Both Aztecs and Mayans used chocolate for medicinal purposes as well.

While some of the original consumers of chocolate may have used the sweet pulp within the sheaths that held the seeds, evidence exists that the seeds were at times fermented and served as an alcoholic beverage as early as 1400 B.C.

As European explorers made their way through Mesoamerica, they discovered the cacao seeds and brought them back to their homeland. The high alkaloid content of the seeds accounts for their bitter taste, which the Europeans found unattractive. Sugar or honey was added to counter the bitterness of the seeds, and this new iteration of chocolate swept throughout Europe.

By the 1800s, technology was used to turn cacao seeds into cacao butter, chocolate liquor, and ultimately a solid, known as "Dutch cocoa". Daniel Peter invented milk chocolate by replacing the commonly used water with powdered milk developed by Henri Nestle. The Swiss introduced their own refinements. The Cadbury and Hershey families joined Nestle and other chocolate manufacturers all introduced further refinements.

Chocolate transformed from a drink to a solid and today is a confectionary staple enjoyed around the world.

Bitter, or better? It depends on how you process the seed.

Life is like a cacao seed. There are seasons in life when we all will experience times when life isn't sweet. At times, life can be bitter. The current global Coronavirus pandemic is but one example. Watching how the vast majority of people around the world have responded to this crisis, it's evident that (at least for them) life has become a time of bitterness.

In response to this uncomfortable, difficult time in our lives, people are responding in one of two ways. One group of people, rather than caring for their fellow man, turns their attention inward and with reckless abandon, engaged in actions and behaviors that were totally self-serving. They allow the bitterness of this current crisis to create a limited (scarcity) mindset that reveals itself in certain behaviors.

One of the ways you see this manifested is through panic buying we've witnessed at grocery stores, pharmacies, and big-box retailers, making it impossible for many Americans to obtain needed essentials such as toilet paper, pain relievers, paper towels, meat, vegetables, and cleaning supplies. Bitterness often manifests itself in selfishness.

The second response, demonstrated by a smaller group of people, turns their attention outward to helping others in this time of crisis. This includes our amazing health care workers, who while experiencing the very same season of life, have chosen to make the lives of others better and turn the bitterness of COVID-19 into an opportunity to make a difference at a time when we need to make a difference. Others in this group are buying groceries for elderly neighbors, donating blood for those in hospitals, buying meals for healthcare workers and emergency services personnel who are on the front lines of battling this disease.

We also see corporate partners, churches and non[orift organizations, celebrities, and "plain ole American folks" who have also turned their attention outward, raising money for various causes, retooling manufacturing lines to make needed products and supplies, volunteering time to serve locally, reading stories to children online, or finding ways to inspire and uplift others.

This second group of people is identifying (and acting upon) the opportunities they are seeing in the midst of this crisis. They have made a conscious decision to be solution-focused and adopted an abundance mindset that is committed to adding value to others. These folks are choosing to make life better rather than settling for the bitter that life is currently bringing to bear.

This is LEADERSHIP IN ACTION. Leaders are the ones who experience the same difficulties as the rest of us, yet look for (and seize) the opportunities within. They look for ways to make a positive difference in the lives of others. They are also engaging in daily behaviors (habits) to grow themselves, stretch themselves, become a better version of who they are so they can become better at what they do.

In essence, they are adding figurative sugar or honey to life to make the situation more palatable for those going through it.

At the same time, leaders are looking for learning opportunities inside the difficulties we are experiencing to grow, stretch, and become a better version of themselves. How we come out of this pandemic will be determined in great part by the visionary leaders who look into these challenging times and see new, innovative ways to get people back to work, to find and implement the cure, and to identify as yet undiscovered opportunities and business ventures to prosper and see success.

In this time of global uncertainty, we need to see more leadership in action. We need men and women to BE THE EXAMPLE for those in our community. To speak up, speak out, and be visible as an example of leadership in action. To visibly grow and stretch themselves as leaders, to share with those who are following that they are learning, and issue a clarion call for others to join them in making a POSITIVE DIFFERENCE in our communities.

We need leaders to be adding "milk and sugar" to the bitterness of the COVID-19 pandemic and help others experience the sweetness of seeing the opportunities that are always found in the midst of adversity.

Life is like a cacao seed. There are seasons in life when we all will experience times when life isn't sweet. At times, life can be bitter.

Bitter, or better? It depends on how you process the seed.


2X martial arts Hall of Fame inductee, John Terry (The Black Belt Leader) is passionate about helping others become Black Belt Leaders in Life. He is a motivational speaker, leadership, sales & communication coach and trainer.   

Jessie Terry, John's daughter, is a Certified Speaker, Coach, and Trainer with the John Maxwell Team and is actively involved in the JMT Global Youth Initiative. She is also a Real-Life Management trained coach and a certified Women-Safe Self-Defense Instructor.

For more information, schedule John (or Jessie) to speak to your organization or to book a personal, group or corporate coaching session, visit our website at  

If you are a faith-based organization, learn more about John and Jessie's outreach to churches, para-church organizations or faith-based volunteer groups by visiting

John is an Executive Director with the John Maxwell Team and is passionate about helping others pursue excellence as they become "Leaders in Life". He is also a Master Coach & Trainer with Real Life Management, a human behavioral training organization helping people learn how to live "Real Life" and make better choices when it comes to relationships, money, health, and wellness. John is also a certified DISC Human Behavior Consultant.

John's newest book, Black Belt Leadership 101, released as a #1 New Seller on Amazon Kindle. Also available in paperback, this book highlights the 10 essential character traits necessary to live life as a Black Belt Leader in Life.

Why just be a leader, when you can be a Black Belt Leader?

This book includes a Discussion Guide for either your own personal growth and development or to facilitate a group discussion with your Team. Get your copy today.

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