Life Lessons:
Raphael James

Don’t let Raphael have all the fun. We’d love to see what Life Lessons you’d like to share with GEM Nation. Click here to email us for the questions. Now take it away, Raphael.

Are you happy at the moment?

Yes, at the moment I am happy. Life is good and getting better. I’m blessed with great family and friends, why wouldn’t I be happy?!

If you could go back and say anything to your 16-year-old self now – what would it be?

I would tell my 16-year old self to relax. I would tell him that those people he’s spending all of his time trying to impress aren’t worth that much energy. I would tell him that the girl who wouldn’t give him the time of day, the one he thought was so hot, really wasn’t that much. And 20 some years later, she didn’t age so well. I’d tell him to cheer up, because he eventually marries someone who is super-intelligent, with a witty personality…and that she’s smoking hot!

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned this year?

The most important thing I’ve learned this year is that things don’t always work out the way I want them to…and that’s okay. I may not like it initially, but if I honestly can’t do anything about it, it’s not worth worrying about. And if I can do something about it, why am I wasting my time worrying. I’ve learned that if I can take a breath and live in this very moment, the problems around me seem to shrink to a more manageable size.

What do you most want to achieve in the next 12 months?

My hopes and dreams for the next 12 months are too personal to share right now publicly. However, in a year hopefully you’ll be able to see what I’ve been up to.

What’s your secret to happiness?

I think generally, I remain in a state of happiness. I get frustrated and tired and discouraged at times, but even then I realize I’m never really more than a few seconds away from happy.

A conversation with my wife or playing with my children can take me to happy. Immersing myself into a new project, a new learning experience a favorite hobby brings my happy back. Those rare moments where I can sneak the time to read a book; I find enjoyable.

What one ritual or practice keeps you grounded?

I wouldn’t say it’s a ritual or a practice as much as it is a personality quirk. It’s something that I do instinctively. I am a perfectionist and those tendencies tend to keep me grounded. No matter how great the success, the flaws always jump out at me. I always see what I could have done better and that tends to keep me from getting the big head.

What’s your biggest regret?

I try not to focus on regrets, but if forced to name one I’d say I regret spending so much of my formulative years trying to please other people. One day in college, a button went off inside my head and I just really didn’t give a rip anymore what others thought of me. I began to see my own value. It was liberating. I said to myself, “The person you really are when no one is looking, is SOOOO much cooler than this guy you’re trying to be.”

Once that happened it’s like the haters disappeared…their opinion of who and what I was held no value.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve taught your kid(s)?

Don’t be afraid to be yourself. Each of my kids has phenomenal gifts and abilities. I want to make sure my wife and I nurture those talents. I need them to see and appreciate their beauty, not because someone else see’s it in them but because they see it in themselves.

There’s a song by Ne-yo “Let Me Love You (Until You Learn To Love Yourself)!” Thanks but “No, thanks, Dude!” I don’t want my kids to have to get affirmation from someone else. Hopefully, the most important lesson that we’ve taught them is that we love them and they SHOULD love themselves.

What bad habit would you most like to change about yourself?

Perfectionism. That obviously doesn’t mean that I am perfect or that I do everything to perfection. It means that it’s very difficult sometimes for me to be totally pleased with my efforts. I want to do everything perfectly, so it’s always a bit of a letdown when I realize that I too am just a mere mortal.

Aside from motherhood/fatherhood and marriage what are you most proud of in your life?

Aside from those things, I think I am most proud of what I have done to help others. Mentoring, volunteering, offering support, encouragement, a listening ear. I’m proud of those times when I have been able to bring awareness to a cause or an underdog through my position in broadcast journalism. Many of my friends have said that my way of presenting different thoughts has caused them to see things in another light.

When were you happiest?

I believe I was the happiest as a child spending time at my grandmother’s house in the country. We caught frogs. We counted tadpoles. We would play all day, and when it got dark we’d try to catch fireflies in mason jars. We pretended to drive cars. We made up storylines for our lives. We imagined that we were rich and famous. We played king of the mountain on Georgia red clay hills. We got so dirty that when one foot hit the water you couldn’t see the bottom of the tub. We played hide and seek. We ate popsicles. We spied on the adults and eavesdropped on conversations knowing that if we were caught it was switches for all. We talked and joked all night and pretended to be out cold if an adult cracked open the door. We slept with fans in the window. We went for walks in the woods. We were encouraged and allowed to be…kids.

What ten words best describe you?

Devil’s advocate (does that count for 2 words) – I am able to look at any situation from a variety of different angles before forming an opinion. Compassionate, friendly, resourceful – my heros are McGyver, James Bond and Jack Bauer (24) guys who can get out of any jam. Eager to learn, rebel, witty, persistent, loving, athletic.


Raphael James is a television news anchor in Charleston, SC at the CBS affiliate WCSC. He and his wife, Sarena, are proud parents to three children, one of which has been diagnosed with autism. With the encouragement from friend and mentor, GEM Rene Syler, he and his wife created a website The purpose of the site is to create a sense of understanding, perspective and sensitivity for families living with special needs.