top of page
  • Writer's pictureMichelle Henderson

Beyond Parenting: Nathaniel Turner's Vision for a Better World


Nathaniel Turner's Vision
Beyond Parenting

A Vision for a Better World

In the latest episode of "Inspire Your Essence," I had the immense pleasure of hosting Nathaniel Turner, a man whose mission and passion for humanity truly embody the essence of our show. Nathaniel, affectionately known as Nate, brings a unique perspective and an infectious energy that left me and our listeners inspired and motivated.

 

From the moment I read Nate’s profile, I knew he was someone special. As a former educator with nearly 30 years of experience, I have always felt a deep responsibility to advocate for children. Nate's dedication to this cause resonates deeply with me, as his life’s ambition is centered around propelling humanity forward. But what does he mean by calling himself a "Humanity Propulsion Engineer"?

 

Nate explains it beautifully: “Let’s break it down. Humanity refers to people and our compassion for one another. Propulsion is about moving forward or upward. And engineers are problem-solvers, creating tools and strategies to advance society positively. My objective is to combine these elements to help humanity progress.”

 

His journey to becoming a Humanity Propulsion Engineer is as profound as the title itself. Nate’s parents played a pivotal role in shaping his path. Named Nathaniel, which means "gift of God" in Hebrew, he carries the spiritual and revolutionary legacies of his parents' faiths. His mother and grandmothers instilled in him a deep spiritual faith, while his father admired the revolutionary spirit of Nat Turner, after whom Nate is named. This dual influence guided Nate towards a life committed to compassion, justice, and improvement.

 

A significant turning point in Nate's life came when his son, at 16, decided to chase his dream of playing professional soccer. His son's determination and belief in his father’s advice spurred Nate to revisit his own dreams and ambitions. This led to Nate’s self-affirmation as a Humanity Propulsion Engineer, a title he proudly adopted with his son's approval.

 

Throughout our conversation, Nate shared profound insights about life, parenting, and the power of self-reflection. When asked to describe what makes a good parent in five words, he thoughtfully chose: time, balance, model, legacy, and who. For Nate, "who" is the most critical word, representing the essence of a person’s impact on others. He elaborates on the "power of who," emphasizing that our true selves are reflected in the perceptions and interactions we have with those around us.

 

Nate’s literary journey is equally inspiring. His book "Raising Superman" is a heartfelt collection of letters written to his son, offering guidance and love. The letters, initially meant to support his son through life's challenges, became a beacon of wisdom for other families. The book’s most memorable chapter, "The Green Sea Turtle," uses symbolism to teach resilience and faith, reminding readers that life’s journey is filled with ups and downs.

 

Beyond writing, Nate is a dynamic speaker. His TED Talk, "We Owe Generation Z an Apology Today," challenges us to reflect on the legacy we’re leaving for future generations. He argues that many of the issues faced by Generation Z are a result of the actions and inactions of previous generations, urging us to take responsibility and make positive changes.

 

Nate’s creative pursuits continue with his daily journal practice, now shared as an audio cast. Each day, he writes with the intent to inspire, and his reflections have been compiled into a book with the help of Dr. Robin Henderson Wilson, further extending his impact.

 

In closing, Nate left us with a powerful message: “We constantly say tomorrow’s not promised, but we live as though tomorrow is guaranteed. Laugh today, love passionately, and live with joy on purpose.” His words encapsulate the spirit of living fully and purposefully, a testament to his role as a Humanity Propulsion Engineer.

 

I encourage you to connect with Nathaniel Turner on his various platforms – his website, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube. His work is a beacon of hope and a call to action for us all to be better, do better, and live better. Thank you, Nate, for sharing your incredible journey with us.



Transcript of Episode:


Michelle Henderson :

Because I can always, okay. I am so excited to have Nate on. Nate, thank you so much for being on the show. Whenever I saw your profile, I was really excited because I used to be an educator for almost 30 years and I felt like I was an advocate for the kids. And reading your profile, you really are. I mean, it's almost like your life's ambition. So how did you become, and this I love this too, humanity, propulsion, engineer. What does that exactly?


Nathaniel Turner :

Yes. Just like it sounds, so you said you're an educator, so you would probably say to your students, all right, let's look at every word on its own. Let's start with humanity. Well, what is humanity? That's pretty clear. That's people and our ability to be compassionate for other people on the planet. What is propulsion? Propulsion is to go forward or perhaps to go up. And how do we go forward as a species? How do we improve as in going up? And then what does engineering? Well engineers are people who come up with tools and techniques and strategies to help humans move forward positively. And that's my objective.


Michelle Henderson :

Wow. I love it because it's so technical. The people that go, I don't really understand. That is very specific and I absolutely love that. So when did you decide in your life that you wanted to become this? What really motivated you? What was your inspiration behind your objective?


Nathaniel Turner :

I think there are two perhaps central times in my life where that's most notable. Number one is my parents and who they decided to name me to be. I think it's really significant the names that we get. And my name is Nathaniel, which is in Hebrew, which means gift of God and my mother's a person of faith. So too is my grandmothers. All of my grandmothers certainly have that attribution. My father a different kind of faith. A faith that believed that people should be concerned more with their deeds than their words. And was not convinced that, for example, my mother's commitment to her faith understood that significance as much. And he wanted to name me after somebody he believed who put his words into action. And that person was Nat Turner. So my father wanted to name me after Nat Turner, the revolutionary. And my mother wanted to name me Nathaniel after the gift of God.

And that's real name was Nathaniel. And hence I was given the name Nathaniel. And given that name, then you have these two sets of people that are pulling on you to be the thing that they named you. Father wants me to be revolutionary, wants me to care about other people, to think about something more than myself, to fight other people's freedom except, and my mom wants me to be the best possible human that I can be. So that's where that begins. And then when my son was 16 and he decided that he wanted to go off on his journey, which was to chase his dream of playing professional soccer, he told me that he expected me to do more, that it wasn't enough that I had helped him, but he expected me to not only help other people, but to begin to dream about what I wanted to accomplish in my own life once again because I'd forgotten about all of that and to do more. And so he's an engineer. And when I came up with the ideal of calling myself a humanity propulsion engineer, first I had to get his approval that it was okay for me to call myself an engineer.


Michelle Henderson :

I absolutely love that. And you know, feel like we learn so much from our kids.


Nathaniel Turner :

Yes. I think it's interesting because, so I heard your previous guest talk about his faith walk, so to speak, that he was an ambassador. My grandmother would always say to me, talk to me about the tree and the fruit. I don't think I fully embraced and understand it. I understand it now perhaps more than I ever understood it, maybe sometimes more than I want to understand it. But I understand that I am a tree of a fruit. But the unique thing about thinking about trees and fruit is that one day your fruit becomes a tree and hopefully that tree that surpasses you and you find shade in a respite under the tree. So now my fruit is a tree that I find shade and respite who gives me encouragement, et cetera, and helps me to move forward. So if you don't do the right job with your inputs, then you're going to have some issues later on with the output.


Michelle Henderson :

Absolutely. I love that. All right, before we move on, I want to ask you a question. So give me five words. Okay. Just five words, and you can have more than that if you need to. It's not like you can't do that. Five words of what you feel makes a good parent.


Nathaniel Turner :

Five words, what makes sure. This is the next question. No one's ever asked me this, Michelle, you've got me stumped. It's okay. It's good. The first thing is five words. So I'm going to use time, balance, model legacy. Who


Michelle Henderson :

Let me ask you that. What do you mean by who?


Nathaniel Turner :

I think I figured I asked you that one. You might not remember all the other ones I had that one. So in my mind, who is the most important word in all human language? It is the most devalued word, but it's the most important word. For example, if Jesus was amongst us today, people would say who? And he'd say he'd give a response. I think who is the determinant of who we'll be when our time on this planet is up? I think who determines who we help serve and make sure others know that their lives matter. When my time on this planet is up, someone else, based upon who they believe me to be by my interactions with them will decide what is in my obituary and they'll decide for all eternity who I was in writing, who I am, someone will come to a viewing or some memorial or some site type, hopefully.

And they will eulogize me. And who I was to them will be who I am in spoken word for all eternity. And when my final days are and my family decides to put me wherever they put me in an earn in a box, in a garbage can, wherever, when the last final words are written, who I was will appear on that document. And so who I am to people, and I call it the power of who, which is that if you ask me who I am, I might tell you that I'm the greatest father in the history of the world. And you say, well, who does your son think you are because you are his father? And I'd say, I believe my son thinks I'm the greatest father in the history of the world. And then you might interview my son and he might say He's okay. So who am I? Am I the greatest Father in the history of the world that I think I am? Am I the greatest father in the history world that I think my son believes? No, I am exactly who the person I'm in the relationship with says that I am. And my son says, I'm just mediocre and that's who I will be, and that's what he'll probably write about me and say about me and put on my etch on my tomb or my urn when I'm gone.


Michelle Henderson :

Oh my goodness. And you know what, Nate, I am learning so much about you because I love how you express yourself in the words, and you are a wonderful writer. And I did read Raising Superman, and the reason why I chose that book is because it is your son is on your shoulders in a superman cape. And I'm all about superheroes, and I absolutely loved it. So tell us the inspiration and maybe a little bit summary of the book of why you decided to write it.


Nathaniel Turner :

So the genesis of it is this, I wanted to be a better father than my father. I am like a lot of people, I'm a broken, in fact, my wife and I, when we learned we were going to be parents called ourselves the misfits from, is it Santa Claus coming to town and the children, the toys from the island of the misfit toys. My wife had seven adverse childhood experiences or ACEs. I have eight of those. And collectively we have nine of the 10 that the CD says are things that may prevent you from having a productive life, living long, et cetera. So when I learned that I was going to be a father, I started taking notes about what I wanted to happen for my child's life. And one day the 2-year-old son of mine walks to the mailbox with me and reminds me about the notes that I'm taking.

And he does so by asking me for mail. So I'm going to get mail, and he says, daddy, where's my mail? And I'm trying to convince him that there's nothing good in the mailbox, but Daddy, where's my mail? I want mail. So long story short, I start writing him letters and the letters are what you see in raising Superman. I just would write him all the time. I would write and tell him how much I love him. I might write and tell 'em I'm disappointed. I might write. I saw something at the ocean that reminded me of something that he needs to remember to do. I just would write 'em all the time. And so when he's the 16-year-old and has done more than I could have ever imagined, but I shouldn't be surprised because I wrote notes about what I wanted him to accomplish.

He says, I don't want to go back to high school for my senior year. I've had enough of that. I've done what you all asked me to do. My grades are phenomenal. I've earned 33 college credits. I test into 1%. I speak four languages. I've started my own foundation, yada, yada, yada. But I want to go do what you've always talked about, dad, you talked about dreaming. I want to go chase my dream and I want to move out of the country to chase my dream of playing professional soccer. So he does. He moves to Brazil, and when I take him to Brazil to leave him at the academy, I take some of the letters that I'd written him because he's going to be 7,000 miles away. I don't know how we can afford, we can't afford to talk to him every day. So I say, Hey, here's the binder with some of the letters.

And I'll leave him. And I go to Rio for a few days by myself, and I would say every man should go to Rio by himself every once in his lap now. But while I'm there, my wife calls me, she says, you're going to have to go back to the academy. He's not doing well, and I think he's going to need to come home. I go back to the academy, and when I get there, I'm expecting him to have this look on his face and maybe his back's backing. He's got a big smile on his face. And I said, Hey, what's going on? He said, dad, I just got a question. I said, what's up? He said, I reread some of the letters. You put 'em in the binder. Did you put 'em in any particular order? And I said, no, why? He says, I read the first three.

I remember my purpose. I'm going to be fine, and I'm staying, but Dad, even better, whenever I come back, we're going to publish these letters. And I said, really? He said, yes, because dad, when you tell me I can do something, not only do I believe I can do it, I know it's going to happen. And I think other families need to have access to these letters. So that's a long answer to your short question. He's the reason that the letters exist. They were his letters. They weren't mine to publish. He said, we should publish them. And he did all the work to get the book to


Michelle Henderson :

Begin. Oh my gosh. Oh kids, I love them. I got to tell you which one's my favorite chapter. It was the Green, green Sea Turtle. It resonated with me. And I think because there's so many symbols in it, symbolism and just talking about the sea turtle, and it talks about the high tide, low tide, and the main thing was be bold and have faith. And also life's journey is never flat. It's always gone up and down. Now, that was what I got it from as a reader point of view. What was the theme of that? Do you remember? I know it's been so long since you wrote it.


Nathaniel Turner :

Yeah, no. So my thing was we'd gone to Brazil, and when I saw the turtles, what I wanted is to remind him one that I thought what he was doing was phenomenal. That life requires you. You can't live in a shell, you have to stick your head out and take some chances. And so I was like, you're doing that, but I don't want you to ever stop. I don't expect this time to be easy. Because one of the things he was concerned about going to Brazil, which is props the top country for producing professional soccer players, that it was going to be so challenging. And I'm like, yeah, but that's fine. But that's life. Life is about ebbs and flows. If all life was were peaks and there were no valleys, then the land would be flat. And if the land was, if all you were ever in valleys and there were no peaks, then the land would be flat and you would know the difference. So that's part of the journey. There's yin to yang all the time. So I guess I think that's pretty much what I wanted him to do, is just to live his life, understanding that whatever he wanted to accomplish is possible, but he's going to have to stick his head out and take some chances and not be focused on the outcome all the time, but be focused on the journey.


Michelle Henderson :

And we all have to do that. We all have to get out of our shell. And it is difficult. And I love how you said the shell is also important because if danger lurks, you have it to crawl back into, but not to stay there. And I think a lot of times we do tend to stay where it's comfortable. And when things come our way and it's like, God wants you to move on and you're going, no, I'm perfectly fine, something will happen and you'll have to come out of your shell. And I also love the questions at the very end of each chapter because I think it's a reflection. So whose idea was that?


Nathaniel Turner :

So it was not mine. It was not mine. So Na found a young lady, her name escapes me right now, and I apologized and she said to us, she was editing it. She said, it'd be really good if you had questions at the end. And I was like, well, but why? And she says, yeah, because you understand why you wrote it, but everybody may not understand what they could do with it. So put the questions at the end. So that was her ideal. And my son is responsible for finding the editor. I didn't find editor, honestly. He found a publisher, he found a designer for the book cover. That was all him.


Michelle Henderson :

And what's wonderful, because being an author, you do, you have people that believe in you and they're going to help you along the steps so that you can get it published. And to me, the questions are so important because a lot of people will use books and a book club and answer those questions along the way in discussion. So it really adds more to the book. So kudos to her for saying, Hey, you know what? We need questions in this book.


Nathaniel Turner :

Yes, yes, absolutely.


Michelle Henderson :

Okay, so not only are you a wonderful author, but you're also a wonderful speaker. So you've done a TED Talk and I absolutely loved it because to me it is timely. You know what I'm saying? So in the name of it is we owe Generation Z an apology today. So talk about what your inspiration behind that was and what the purpose of the speaking.


Nathaniel Turner :

Well, so I shouldn't say I have a good friend, his name. I do remember. His name is James Officer. And James invited me to apply for this TED talk. It was at a local high school, and oddly enough, it was a school that was only about 20 minutes away from where I grew up. So I said, yeah, absolutely. And then they told me the theme and they wanted to do something around Generation Z. And my son was on the cusp of that, and they've now moved it. We don't ever know when we want generations to be, so they moved it. But my thought was whenever I would talk to people about the current generation, people who were in an older generation would always complain about the younger generation. And I'm like, well, trees and fruit, so how dare we complain about the fruit? If you don't like it that it's a pear hanging up from a tree, well, perhaps you should take a look at yourself.

Maybe you're not the apple you thought you were. Maybe you're a pear after all. And so that's what I wanted to say. Let's stop complaining about what a generation is or isn't. Let's help them, because a lot of what they are, we're responsible for it. The kids didn't get themselves addicted to screen time. We created screens and then we gave them to 'em because we didn't want to do what we were supposed to do as parents. We wanted to outsource that. So you're mad at the children inattentive, well, you did that, or Kids are disrespectful, you say, well, a lot of the stuff that we complaining about in my estimation were things that we were responsible for. So that's what I wanted to convey.


Michelle Henderson :

And don't you think that every generation is like this? I know my grandparents would talk about, I can't believe he's wearing a leather jacket. I can't believe she's wearing jeans. She's such a rebel, right?


Nathaniel Turner :

Yeah. Every generation. Every generation.


Michelle Henderson :

And I can tell I'm getting older because whenever the younger generation talks, I'm going, okay, I don't know what that terminology is. So it's like the meeting of the minds. It's really good that we're completely different because like you said, humanity needs to move forward, and our greatest generation will do this. Well, is there anything that you want to make sure that we get into this conversation that we have not talked about?


Nathaniel Turner :

No. I'm just grateful. We had a little bit of technology snafu, so I'm grateful that you offered me grace and mercy for the snafu, so I really appreciate that. But no, mostly I'm just grateful that you saw fit to think me worthy enough to be able to share with your audience.


Michelle Henderson :

Oh, absolutely. We talked about one book, but you have what? Six Is there six? I have six. I have six. Okay. I know this is talking about children. Which one is your favorite book that you wrote?


Nathaniel Turner :

Well, so two things. The favorite book I wrote, I think has to be the first book because that is the book that encouraged me to continue to write. But I guess the favorite book, the book I most enjoy writing is writing the Amazing Role of stem, because I get to do that with my son, and it's loosely based on his life. And he and a young lady named Kiva Richardson, who was our illustrator, we get together weekly. We did get together weekly, but we strategize what it is we want to say in the story, which one of the 17 things that the UN says threatens the existence of the planet we want to cover. And then we try to figure out how we're going to tell this story through the lens of a child that hopefully when parents read it with their children, they realize that we all have a lot of work to do.

So those two books are probably my favorite. And then each day I now have a journal that I record and share, and it's called an audio Cast. So Michelle, each morning when I wake up, I do my best not to talk to anyone in my home, which could be feel a little disrespectful to people at time, but I'm waiting quietly because I realized that we get 60 to 70,000 thoughts each day, and 90% of those thoughts are about something that happened yesterday. And I really want to make the most out of the gift that is the present. So I listen to see what it is that I'm to receive, and then in a stream of consciousness, I write for 20 minutes and I write my life as I'd like it to be, not as it's


Michelle Henderson :

Oh, wow. I absolutely love that. Right?


Nathaniel Turner :

Yeah. I'm sorry, go ahead. And so I started doing it, and then people were asking me, well, what are you doing? You seem a little bit different. And I'm really working on, people talk about it being mindfulness or being present. And then I have a friend who's a minister, and she said, Hey, can I read 'em? And I let her read her, and her name is Dr. Robin Henderson Wilson. And Dr. Henderson Wilson said, Hey, this sounds like my daily bread that I read. It's a little bit different sometimes you sing in it and whatever, you say all kinds of crazy stuff and you look comedic. But she said, no, it's really good. I think you should take these and write reflections and action statements. And I said, that sounds like a really good idea, but I'm not doing it. So if you want to do it, I've added it in a few months.

She came back with 55 reflections. She picked her 55 favorite of these journals that I'd written over the past year. And then she wrote Reflections and we published them in a book. And then when Will Smith published his book, will, and most notably did the audio book, and folks so loved hearing his voice, she said, Hey, you should do the same thing. And so now it is a real thing. Every day I sent her the recording, she tells me each one she really likes. We have a guy who helps now edit it, and three times a week it appears on all of the podcast places, Spotify and iHeart and Apple, et cetera.


Michelle Henderson :

Oh, that is wonderful. And I really feel like you are so creative. I'm so glad that presently we have the technology. We have the means for you to share your creativity with the world. And I know that's important for a creative person.


Nathaniel Turner :

Yeah, I guess my son reminds me, he told me, he said, sometimes the greatest artists are not great while they're alive. Well, thanks, Zach. It's quite encouraging. He said, no, but you always tell me, don't be focused on the outcome. Just focus on the process. And the process is that you get up every day and you do something with a gift that you have every day. You listen and you get a word, and you find a way to creatively write about something that other people may not have ever thought about a certain way. And that's your gift. That's your art form. Now, whether or not people recognize it as something worthwhile today, don't worry about that. I was like, wow. Well, you told me that. I'm like, when I see myself the next time, I'm making sure I slap myself. I did.


Michelle Henderson :

I was going to say, your words are coming back to you. Oh my


Nathaniel Turner :

Goodness. All the time. I got a mouthful of them.


Michelle Henderson :

Yeah, you're using it against you. Okay, so let's go ahead. You ready for the last question? I am. All right. Let me share the screen and let me know if you do not see it. Okay. Okay. I think this is the one. All right. Do you see it?


Nathaniel Turner :

I see it. It says click to spin.


Michelle Henderson :

Okay, let's do it. Let's spin it.


Nathaniel Turner :

All right.


Michelle Henderson :

Oh my goodness. Oh my gosh. Okay.


Nathaniel Turner :

Secret talent.


Michelle Henderson :

Secret talent.


Nathaniel Turner :

Wow. What secret talent do I have? I don't really have any secrets. I'm really pretty much transparent, so my secret talent would be transparent. Maybe people don't realize that I'm being transparent, and maybe that's a secret. Yeah.


Michelle Henderson :

Yeah. I love it.


Nathaniel Turner :

I have this expression that naked don't lie, people do. So my secret is trying to find a way to be transparent. It's not always everyone's cup of tea, but I found it easier to be authentically or transparently me as opposed to trying to figure out who I was the last time you saw me.


Michelle Henderson :

Oh, I love it. Absolutely love it. And that is being your authentic cue, so we don't have to guess what you're thinking. No,

Nathaniel Turner :

You'll know it.


Michelle Henderson :

Okay. So Nate, where can people reach you? Where's your favorite form of social media?


Nathaniel Turner :

I don't have a favorite form of social media, sadly. You can find me on our website. I have a Facebook page and dive Instagram and LinkedIn and all the other, I'm not, I shouldn't say what I'm not. I'm on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and I have a website, so that's where you could find me and YouTube. Yes, I'm on YouTube now. So yes, I'm on YouTube as well.


Michelle Henderson :

Okay. Before we leave everybody, I really feel like you need to share and inspiration because you are so good with words. Instead of me giving any inspiration, what inspirational thought do you have for everybody?


Nathaniel Turner :

I would say that we constantly say tomorrow's not promised, but we live as though tomorrow is guaranteed. And I would encourage everyone to laugh today, gregarious to love as passionately as possible, and to live with joy on purpose, for the duration of the day.


Michelle Henderson :

All right. You heard it here. So I will see everybody next week for another episode. So everybody have a fabulous week and do exactly what Nay said. Have joyful things this week. Just really live in the present and know that you are worth it. All right, everybody. See you then.

 

Comments


bottom of page