You Could’ve Done Better

Everyone makes mistakes. This post was not inspired by typographical errors or even poor sentence structure. It was written in response to the limited understanding of the English language that I see too frequently. Something sounding a certain way doesn’t mean that is how it is written. We aren’t supposed to record our thoughts on paper/screen in the accent with which we speak.

I’m not placing the blame on anyone. Parents, teachers, and students all share the weight of this. But, what I am doing is saying that, as an adult, you have to think more critically when you communicate. After seeing “would of” in one of my more educated group chats, I had to stop and think about the fact that we are not thinking about what we’re writing. While he “would have” done something differently, the failure to properly conjunct this makes me wonder where else he’s incorrectly written this or other comparable things.

Teachers, stop failing our kids. Parents, stop failing your children. And adults, stop failing yourselves by not thinking critically about this very particular language’s ins and outs. Use the tools (i.e. the internet and library) that are at your disposal. If you don’t, you’ll look crazy in a chatroom of young professionals who may or may not be in a position to recommend you one day. The choice is yours.

Brief sociopolitical statement: Maybe, instead of focusing on all the other things going on in the world that are tearing us apart, we should focus on improving the American educational system. We’re mad at immigrants who come to the United States and speak broken English but ours is not without regular flaws. As a matter of fact, having been to the United Kingdom twice in the past three years, I can say that our brand of English is far from the standard. But, I digress. Just start learning the basics like the difference between “a woman” and “those women.” Seemingly small things like that will take you far in life.

 

Make communicating intentionally a priority.

 

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What Are You Talking About?

When is the last time you had a thought-provoking conversation? These days, I find life happening so rapidly that I don’t know when my next good convo is coming nor who it will be with. I can usually count on between four and five a month (outside of home or work), between chatting with Sean, Maul, Vince, C.B.3, Juju, and Barry. While that’s more than many people I know have,  I miss undergrad and the think tank known as UNCG. I vividly recall going to the basements of Reynolds and Phillips-Hawkins to talk with other students from the wee hours of the morning until the sun came up. Or there were the countless times that the long hand on the clock hit the same spot two or three times as I sat in the cafeteria chatting with Devon or Jakiya.

Ideas flowed freely in college. We had time to think without the burdens that we would come to find accompany adulthood. We didn’t have to worry about bills. The only consequence to quitting jobs at that point for many was having to mooch for more hooch, a favor that would eventually be repaid when our generous friend quit his/her job and we were reemployed.

We have to create that free thought as (true) adults. Some people say childhood is the best time of lifetimes but I challenge that; College, for those of us who are privileged enough to go, is the best era. It is when we can be idealistic while having some semblance of control over our lives. No one can tell us when to go to bed, when to come home, or who to hang out with. We go into classrooms with people of all backgrounds and debate issues that actually matter but have been written off by the world because too much of the world doesn’t believe in happiness and change anymore. Life in college is inspiring.

My challenge to you is to make time to grab coffee or a drink with a friend who brings the best out of you sometime before the end of July. If you can’t get together because of distance, hop on the phone. Either way, without forcing it, make an effort to have an organic conversation with someone that you know feels comfortable challenging you and vice versa. Share what books you’re reading. Talk about politics, socioeconomics, and current events (without dwelling too long on the depressing state of affairs unless you’re figuring out a way to positively impact them). Discuss a business idea and have your friend shoot holes through it.

One of the many true things I learned from my fraternity is that, “college days swiftly pass, imbued with memories fond.” How can we keep those memories coming for years after?

Make free thought that stems from conversations a priority.

The Adventure Begins/International Communication

This is the first in a two-month series of blog posts on the time I will be spending outside of the United States. Desirée and I are on a journey to see parts of the world that I never thought I would have an opportunity to see. And, while it is a major blessing, it is one that comes along with great responsibility. As I am overseas, I will be navigating the tail end of a hiring process, maintaining my professional development business, and blogging more frequently than I have over the past month.

That’s enough about the plans though. Let’s catch you all up on this first day. I’ve spent about the past twenty-six hours on the move from Durham to London and I am currently on a two-hour train ride to Cardiff, Wales. Yesterday morning, my younger sister Aja dropped Desirée and me off at the Durham Transit Station where we caught the Megabus to Washington, D.C. In the District, we grabbed some food before heading to Dulles to catch an Icelandair flight to London, by way of Reykjavik. Of course, once we landed at Heathrow we had to go through Customs (consistently my least favorite part of international travel) and now I’m on this train ready to eat. Outside of a happy hour beer and wings special I was able to grab in D.C. and a personal pizza at IAD, I haven’t had a meal in the aforementioned 26 hours (if you want to call those meals). I’ll be diving into a plate of fish n’ chips the moment we arrive in Cardiff and set our luggage down.

In the hour since I stepped through Customs, I have noticed one thing: the English take better care of their public transit than we do, at least in the form of trains. From the Heathrow Express to the Great Western Railroad that I’m riding now, the comfort and cleanliness exceeds the standards set by any major rail system in the United States that I’ve ridden, be it Amtrak or a citywide transit rail. And, on top of comfortable seats, they have “trollies” (handcarts) of food that well dressed customer service associates push down the aisles offering snacks. I feel like I’m one of the three black kids on the Hogwarts Express right now, as I enjoy my crisps (look up the lingo). Since they took notes from our democracy, maybe we could borrow a few from their transportation experts. Just a thought…

*Fast forward a few hours*

OK, now that I’ve eaten, I can go ahead and write about what I didn’t feel like pulling together on an empty stomach: communicating overseas. I have a few tips and, while I’m no certified expert, I’ve done this enough to know what has worked for me and will likely work for most American travelers.

1) Not to come off as elitist but, if you’re traveling internationally frequently, I strongly suggest investing in an iPhone. Under most circumstances, I wouldn’t consider an iPhone an investment and, in a traditional sense, it never will be because it doesn’t appreciate but, when it comes to traveling, it’s a cost-effective way to stay in touch with others. Yes, I know that the sticker shock associated with iPhones is a real thing but you don’t need the newest edition to take advantage of the international benefits that come along with an iPhone. Because Desirée and I won’t have a consistent income while overseas, we needed to cut as many expenses as possible and one of those expenses was our phone bill while we were away. What’s cool is, between iMessage, FaceTime (video or audio), and What’s App, I can call or text everyone in my phone as long as I have a WiFi connection (another cool thing about transit here: there is a connection not only in each airport and train station but on the trains). So, though I’m not paying Verizon for these two months, I am still able to check in with friends and family in a way that doesn’t involve Facebook.

2) Social media is an awesome way to stay in touch. Though I’m on Facebook a lot less than I used to be, I still have strong presences on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat.  Social media serves a couple purposes for me: a) It allows me to maintain my brand and brand awareness while away and b) it lets me let people know I’m both alive and well without having to regularly reach out to those who know I’m away. All in all, it’s an easy way of maintaining an engaged community of followers.

3) E-mail is a must for me because communication is not a one way street. While Stateside, I have a few publications, such as the New York Times, and newsletters, such as Morning Brew and Blavity News, that I subscribe to. Not reading these is simply not an option for me, as a young professional who other young professionals come to for paid advice. Additionally, I have clients with whom I still must work. This afternoon (morning EST), I received an e-mail from one young lady who recently earned her master’s degree and needs work done on her résumé. Though I’m not overseas to work too much, I have people who rely on me to help them succeed and, because I care about the successes of those I work with, I’m glad to correspond via e-mail until she has dynamic document that allows her to take the next step in her career.

Those are the good things about e-mail. The terrible side of it is when you get behind in checking it. While I haven’t go through and cleaned it up yet today, I know I’ve gotten an ungodly number of e-mails over the past thirty hours. Now, imagine those days when I don’t check it. Most people I know have gotten the inevitable point of e-mail fatigue where they just stop checking for a couple days or even a week. Finally facing that e-mail inbox, overflowing with newsletters, advertisements,  and actual important communication is a challenge to say the least. My goal, while here, is to try to avoid that from getting out of hadn’t and missing no more than two days in a row.

4) You cannot go wrong with good old fashioned snail mail. I’ve got family members who have never left North Carolina. I’ve got friends who cannot legally leave North Carolina. I know some people who just don’t know how to make it fit into their lives. But, to all of these people, my postcard or letter will serve as a peek at a part of the world they may never see. I am my grandma’s eyes over here. I am my incarcerated homeboy’s international experience. The postcards I send out are pictures of a world I had only seen on television before this moment but they are reminders that, if I’m here, they can make it too if they want. Or, if they can’t, it’s letting them know that I wish I could bring them with me.

Communication is key to the human experience and, while here, I will communicate with those I care about, either through direct means or more general ones. Make sure that, when you decide to make the trek across the pond, you have a plan on how to communicate (and let those who you plan on communicating with know the plan).

Check out our journey on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook over the next two months by checking out the hashtag #EatPray10v3.

 

Make exploring the world a priority.

Don’t be a Very Good Writer… Be Exceptional

I’m not a fan of the word “very.” Sometimes it makes sense to use it but all it truly does is enhance another word. That being said, there are often more descriptive words that could be used in the place of “very _____.” But what are they? I’m glad you asked. I found this infographic created by Proofreading Services and wanted to share it with you all.

Very.jpg

 

Make developing a stronger vocabulary a priority.

Discerning the Urgent from the Important

Subject line: CRITICAL AND TIME SENSITIVE
Message body: Can someone cut on the coffee machine and start brewing a cup that will be hot when I walk in 30 minutes from now? I’m running late and need a cup before my first meeting. Please reply all.

Subject line: Conference Preparation
Message body: Hey team. Hope everyone had a great weekend. Let’s get together on Thursday and discuss how we want to proceed as relates to our organization’s presentation at the national conference. Please bring notes and come prepared to bounce ideas off others and to have them bounced off you. Thanks.

Which of these e-mails is urgent? Which is important?

We often get so caught up in the urgent that we miss out on the important. We get kept late at work for the immediate and don’t make it home in time to see the impactful. I heard a quote recently (unfortunately I can’t recall where from to cite the source) that said, in essence, “Urgent things shout. Important things whisper.” A traditional job is going to ride you until you get your work done. A traditional spouse is going to let things disengage slowly until the two of you are distant. The job’s shout drowned out the spouse’s whisper.

We have to start listening to and appreciating the whispers again. Everyone can hear the shouts but the whispers are meant for a select audience. When your instinct tells you something, that’s a whisper. When your spirit lights up when you see a job posting that speaks to your calling, that’s a whisper. When your spouse takes your plate to the sink, that’s a whisper. How often do we acknowledge the whispers?

I’m not saying that work isn’t important. It is. But, sometimes, before dropping everything, ask yourself, “Can it wait?” And, leaders, before asking people to drop everything for you, ask yourselves, “Can it wait? Is this thing that’s urgent in my eyes truly important or am I just being impatient?”

Oh, and don’t be afraid to tell folks that something can wait (respectfully, of course). Not only will it help you, but it will remind them that time is valuable and not something to be abused.

 

Make prioritization a priority. (Haha!)

#TrendingThursday 2.0 – Num. 16

10 Commonly Misused Phrases That Make You Sound Unprofessional by Lolly Daskal
Everyone makes grammatical mistakes but, just as one shouldn’t type “their” when “they’re” is what was meant, there are some commonly mistaken phrases that will have me second guessing your elementary school Language Arts teachers.

 

Why You Should Make Being Authentic A Priority by Deryle Daniels, Jr.
This is why I didn’t post yesterday. You should check it out. It’s transparent and heavy but very much how I feel about placing values ahead of image.

 

Make professional development a priority.