Don’t Be Mad at the Comp…etition

I just got an e-mail from one of my numerous photography newsletters. The headline said “Social Media is Ruining Photography.”

Let’s face it: We have a love-hate relationship with technology. We enjoy the ease with which we can maneuver through the day but we abhor the fact that simple jobs can now be done without us, meaning we have to work harder to make ourselves valuable. I even catch myself hating on Siri and her smart-sounding self (I set mine to have a posh British accent). She has never touched an encyclopedia, yet she knows almost everything. And she’ll tell you a joke if you ask her to. It’s almost like we don’t need humans anymore for 87% of life’s functions.

But we do need humans. We need humans to be better. This morning, I pulled up on a deadly train accident and wanted to photograph all of the yellow tape and flashing lights that surrounded the intersection. Issue is, because it was raining heavily today, I had resolved to leave my camera at home. Big mistake. I refuse to take a photo I have an intentional vision for with my iPhone. Sure, it’s fast and the image will be decent but it will always leave me wondering what my own human ingenuity could’ve created without the automatic lighting adjustments iOS makes.

No one really feels like lighting candles every night. And I’m not trying to light a fire to cook my dinner. Technology makes life easier. But the touch we place on life makes it engaging. So, don’t blame social media or technology for ruining art or taking your jobs. Art is a derivative of emotion. Creativity and problem solving comes with human empathy. Without an emotional experience, those things are as good as a forgery.

 

Make being better than technology a priority.

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Fear of the Three C’s

Yesterday, after getting a great night’s rest, I woke up to my go to morning newsletter to find out that Amazon passed up on RDU for HQ2. With 20 finalist locations, Amazon opted to split the wealth between two finalists: Northern VA and Long Island, NY. That’s all well and good but, once again, North Carolina missed out on a major bid. Now, let’s talk about why.

Southern comfort is a thing. No, I’m not talking about the whiskey. I’m talking about the twang when (some) Carolinians talk and our hospitably sweet diabe-tea when you visit. But it’s cool, right? Folks come from up north and think our slower lifestyles and “fast” moving traffic is neat. Well, so do we. In fact, we love it so much that it’s become a hinderance.

According to a poll, only 43% of local citizens strongly supported Amazon HQ2 being located in the Raleigh area. So, you mean to tell me that you’re not in favor of 25,000 new jobs with an average salary of $150,000? Why is that? Sounds crazy to me. No, excuse me. It’s not crazy. It’s fear.

News flash Carolinians: A large number of us are afraid of the 3 C’s. You’ve never heard of them so you don’t know what they are. That’s ok. I just realized it this morning but I’ve known it my entire life (which is why, as much as I love home and will be back, I’m getting the hell out of here for a while so I can be around some less fearful people). The three 3’s are *drumroll* change, commute, and competition.

I’ll start with the most obvious, which is change. In the south, people fear the unknown because, it’s unknown. This is why Georgia gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp can run an openly racist campaign advertisement saying he’ll take the role of ICE into his own hands and still (almost) win an election. Non-white immigrants represent change and the south likes things slow, steady, and at it’s own pace. This is why they fought so hard to keep slavery, Jim Crow, and mandatory minimums that look like everything they have always known. Change is scary. Amazon represents progress that non-Southerners will bring and that progress will require North Carolinian culture to change. That’s C1.

C2 is the commute. In North Carolina, we like our cars. We like our trucks and our sedans and our sports cars and our nice cars (say it with a thick southern accent and you’ll see where that speedway in Charlotte got its name). Automobiles are status symbols. ‘Round here *Memphis Bleek voice*, we drive by people who stand at bus stops with our noses up in the sky. In more developed cities, that doesn’t happen. I’ve been on the subway in New York and LA and seen A- or B-list celebrities on there too. It’s normal. But, for some reason, N.C. would rather continue fixing our messed up, pothole-filled roads and destroying the atmosphere with gas guzzlers instead of figuring out a sustainable and reliable transit system.

Therefore, you know what another reason of those who weren’t strongly for Amazon being located here is? They say we don’t have the infrastructure to handle it. That’s code for they don’t want to deal with the traffic. I have family members in central NJ who catch a train to NYC daily for work and then back. We’ve been spoiled when it comes to our commutes and now we don’t want to forego that.

C3 is competition. For some reason, we don’t feel like competing with the outside world. We don’t want Amazon flying in their “foreign” (from other states but still American citizens) team to take jobs that North Carolinians should have. What sense does that make? Now the “foreigners” aren’t here and neither are the jobs, which means neither is the growth. When companies like Amazon come to places like Raleigh, multiple industries boom. But, when they over look us, professionals who would’ve come here and started new business go elsewhere. Students who would’ve come to one of the Triangle’s over ten colleges and universities will now look elsewhere to get their education. Homes that should be built by our construction workers are going to be built in Northern VA and on Long Island. When we don’t want to compete, what we’re really saying is that we don’t want to win. We don’t want to be the best. We just want to be left alone to live with our Southern comfort.

Folks, Carolinian or not, take this as a lesson. You don’t want to be like present-day North Carolina. Hopefully, losing this bid isn’t what wakes us up. Let’s be honest with ourselves: we probably would’ve lost to a bigger city either way. What should wake us up is our attitude to even being considered for the bid.

Oh, and since we’re talking about Amazon, go grab my long-time friend Joe‘s new book, #ClosingSZN. It just went live last week. I got mine in the mail from Amazon today (I’m a hardcopy kind of guy but you can get the digital version and dive in right now if you want).

 

Make embracing the 3 C’s a priority.

Less Screen, More Sleep

Last night, as I was in bed watching an Amazon Prime original on my computer and scrolling on Instagram simultaneously, I was determined to do two things: spend less time on the screen and more time sleeping at night. So, what did I do? I took advantage of the features of this expensive @** iPhone, which I’m sure I don’t get my money’s worth from. There is a bedtime feature in the clock application that allows you to set how much sleep you get. How does it know you’re sleep? It probably doesn’t but it reminds you when to go to bed and when to wake up. So, I said I wanted to get 6.5 hours of sleep per night, Monday through Friday (I probably should’ve set it Sunday through Thursday so I’ll adjust that before Friday night comes knocking). At 10:45, it reminded me that I have 15 minutes until it’s time for bed.

After I did that, I restricted screen time with the usual suspects. Actually, I restricted screen time almost all together. Between the hours of 11PM and 7AM, I will only have access to certain apps, such as the Bible application and the Harvard Business Tip, which I read first thing in the morning. That means no e-mails, no calls and text messages*, no Instagram. I also retain access to my fitness applications because I should be using them first thing in the morning.

Finally, the asterisk above is because I can be reached during these times via call and text by a select few people who, in the event of an emergency, I would be expected to respond.

My first night on this was fairly successful. At 10:52, I realized I needed to post to my photography Instagram page, so I was a few minutes late for bed (I am able to override the suggestion to put the addictive device down), but, all in all, I am pretty happy with this new commitment to a healthier schedule.

Oh, and if you don’t have an iPhone but do have a smartphone, search Google Play (or whatever other app stores are called) for iHome. I was using that for sleep regulation before iPhone developed these features.

 

Make taking care of yourself a priority.

Choose Depth

Today, I was reading a piece by a conservative political blogger who concluded that a candidate’s age combined with a non-threatening biological issue were good reasons for exclusion from the political process. No point of issues or integrity were made, simply the candidates rumored lack of bowel control.

A few minutes before, as I was working on my résumé, from which I had previously removed my home address because, at this point in time, it serves no functional purpose on a résumé (as it did in decades past). Actually, I am wrong. It does serve a function – It makes the reader comfortable with the fact that I do not live in abstract poverty, a shelter or under a bridge (which speaks to the point that we are more afraid of homelessness and poverty than of a megalomaniac running the USA but that is another topic for another day).

Now, whether running for office while supposedly wearing adult diapers or failing to put a place of residency on a résumé, my point is as follows: How many highly qualified individuals does our society toss by the wayside because they don’t live up to our superficial expectations of what success is? Because their body doesn’t function normally (but not in a way that will prevent them from performing exceptionally)? Because they don’t want you to Google the fact that they live in the “hood” (or wherever they live because it is inconsequential)? I vividly recall sitting on a university’s panel with an HR professional who said she Googles the addresses of job candidates because, if they cannot keep a home that looks respectable on the outside, chances are they cannot run a department. What message does this send to the first generation college student whose address on his résumé doesn’t reflect the wealth that he knows some of his peers’ do?

Whose standards of success are we, as Americans, subscribing to? Such schools of thought perpetuate the fallacy that you must look and live in accordance within a predetermined set of norms that were established by men and women who look nothing like me and whose culture worked violently to eradicate mine. So, in order to get ahead, I should make sure my body looks, functions, and operates like theirs? To succeed, my home, yard, and family should be mirror images of theirs?

There are some cultural concessions I choose to make for the sake of my family. Other things, I am working to actively unlearn and reprogram. I don’t want my spirit to model that of murderers, slavers, and rapists like America’s forefathers, no matter how much of an impact they had on the world. I am content with the peace that comes from knowing that my ancestors equipped me with the emotional, physical, and cultural fortitude to be myself and to offer depth over shallowness.

How about, at this moment in history, we begin to look past the superficial in order to find the substance? I am certain that it will take more time but, in the end, it will be worth it.

 

Make choosing depth a priority.

How Did We Get Here?

I’m sitting here catching up with a friend from high school about where we are in life right now and she said she’s still working on finding herself. We both are at the point where the world thinks we have our s*** together but we’re still figuring things out. Too many of us majored in things we don’t care about to get jobs we don’t want so we can buy cars and houses that don’t matter and raise kids who will continue that cycle. What the 🤬 for? So we can share it on Instagram? So our parents can brag on our superficial happiness at church once a week? I’d rather give my family something to be proud of than something to brag on. We have to begin to differentiate the two.

How did we get to the point, as a society, where we were expected to fake so much? We pretend to be someone when we’re dating, interviewing, parenting, and, sometimes, even reflecting, we make an attempt to seem perfect. Even in our imperfections, we want to seem like we’ve overcome whatever we were struggling with. Then we hit 30 and wonder why we only have surface level things together, if that. Or maybe America has always been like this and we’re just now realizing it. Either way, this has to change. It’s pointless to play the game.

Young folks, I implore you to start with honesty. First of all, be honest with yourselves. You spend 100% of your time with yourself. You can’t run from you and feel fulfilled. Secondly, be honest with those who you think you may one day care about. You’ll invest a lot of emotion in them (as you should). They deserve to know who they’re getting from the beginning as opposed to after a decade. And, lastly, be honest about your job. 4/9 of your waking weekday hours will occur there. Who wants to have to lie to get into a room that wouldn’t want the real them?

Be who you love. Be with someone who loves (the real) you. Do something that makes you feel like your existence matters. All of this is rooted in being honest from the beginning. Acting does nothing but get you awards that don’t give you true fulfillment (unless your passion in life is theatre).

As the great Curtis Cotton, III often said to my brothers of D.E.A.R. WINtE.R. that fateful Fall ten years ago, “Take an honest inventory of yourself.”

 

Make being honest in the process of discovering yourself a priority.

Taking a Loss

Yesterday, a divided nation decided that it would, in part, continue to go down a path that leads toward its demise. But, just because you’re going down the wrong path doesn’t mean you can’t pause, reflect, and commit to bettering yourself.

It’s time for us to demand more of our leaders. As I continue to prepare myself for elevated levels of leadership by taking on more roles and remaining a lifelong learner, I am adding more best practices to my arsenal. Today, as I was reading some of John Maxwell’s work, I was reminded that “(l)eaders lose the right to be selfish.”

We have to start holding our leaders, elected and otherwise, to a higher standard. Sometimes that means turning down campaign dollars from sources that lack integrity. Other times, it means foregoing a raise or rejecting a bonus so your support staff maintains its morale. Paying bills and engaging in self-care are not selfish. Shoot, even getting a bonus when everyone’s doing well is ok. But when, as a leader, you look out for yourself at the expense of those around you, you’re doing damage to the culture and community you’re suppose to be protecting.

Think of it like this: As a leader, if you do something selfish and stupid that jeopardizes your community’s reputation, you’re not only risking your job but also the jobs of everyone that supports you. Let’s look at all the companies that have gone down the drain because of poor leadership. The leaders were not the only ones affected. Their employees weren’t only affected. The employees’ families were affected. The generations that follow that employee are affected. Our decisions, as leaders, will have everlasting impacts on the world.

Yesterday’s election results, though some positive change took place, disappointed me on a large scale. The battle may be a wash but the war is far from over. Over the next two years (and long after that), let us, as follower-leaders, pledge to change the culture across political, economic, and social arenas. We have to get to a point where we can disagree without being mean-spirited and that starts with requiring our leaders to model that. We influence them by demanding more of them so that they can influence us. It’s a simple cycle.

 

Make selfless leadership a requirement.

Money Creates Change

I believe voting plays a role in the political process.

I believe money plays a bigger role. Money buys influence.

The quickest way to get the amount of money that can get you influence is to build a great brand.

I’m not saying money is everything. Voting is a thing too. But voting is a thing every so often. Money is an every day thing. So get money. Use it wisely. Purchase positive, objective, empathetic, inclusive influence (unlike the negative, subjective, selfish, exclusive influence rich white men are known to have). Change the world for the better. And, every time there’s an election, vote as well.

Vote with your dollars. Support politicians that openly back what is best for the entire community. Spend money in stores whose values align with yours. Let’s change America one street, town, county, and state at at time.

 

Make changing the brokenness a priority.