APPL’s Stock Struggles, NFLX’s Bandersnatch, and Where We Go From Here

Yesterday, Apple’s stock closed at a major deficit, causing the overall market to take a hit. If you want to know more about the stock side of things, check out the NYT or WSJ. They can explain it better than I can. What I’m here to talk about is the trajectory of American business and the role we, as young professionals and creative minds, need to be focused on playing.

Innovation is the name of the game but how do you innovate when everything you thought could be done is being done. Seriously, we just reached Ultima Thule (no, that’s not a car by Nissan) and a manned SpaceX rocket could take off as soon as 2019 (Oh s***! We’re in 2019!). Smartphones (or smartwatches or tablets or whatever other piece of tech you always have with you) are extensions of ourselves, essentially making us cyborgs, minus the inserted chip. It is an amazing time to be alive. But it’s also a confusing one. What is the final frontier? Where do we go from here? What are humans if we’re not continuing to push the society around us forward?

That is an issue that Apple is obviously struggling with. Yes, trade issues between the East and West were pinpointed as the reason for Apple’s terrible finish on the National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations (yes, I looked up what NASDAQ stood for so you wouldn’t have to). But, Apple users, let’s be honest: the advancements we’ve seen lately are disappointingly underwhelming and increasingly overpriced. Why does a new iPhone XS, at $999, cost 77% of what a Mac Book Pro does? (I intentionally chose the least expensive versions of these items. Bells and whistles cost more, of course.) I know, I know… I can do almost everything with an XS that I can with a MBP but it still doesn’t change the fact that I’m paying so much for cellular phone. And, not to mention, the new features to the phone aren’t that great. I wasn’t inclined to upgrade my phone this time and I probably won’t be unless A) some major changes come out or B) the updates stop working (which usually happens after a few generations).

What does this have to do with Bandersnatch? I’m glad you asked. Bandersnatch is Netflix’s movie version of the extremely popular show “Black Mirror,” a show that didn’t have enough episodes to satisfy my interest but hopefully they’ll bring it back. The good thing is I cannot give anything of substance away about Bandersnatch because I’ve only seen one scene so far but I will say this: even if the movie isn’t good, the concept is simultaneously out of this world and eerily nostalgic. Remember, as a kid, reading books where the ending was up to you? I want to say Goosebumps and Animorphs had some like this but I’m sure a ton of other series did as well. Bandersnatch is that in movie form. I can only imagine the planning and time spent in shooting, editing, and coding that had to go into making this movie work but, once again, Netflix has set a new standard. Only, this time, in order to look forward, it first had to look back.

Innovation is the name of the game but, as Netflix has shown us that the answers are sometimes behind us. Brands like Apple have spent so much time pushing the bar forward that they’re starting to hit a brick wall. So, why not look back at something pre-modern technology that changed an industry and reformat it to improve our modern lives? Just a thought for Apple, General Motors, and any other company that is having a hard time being innovative.

You may have a hard time teaching an old dog new tricks but maybe you can teach a new dog a few old ones.

 

Make innovation a priority.

Advertisements

Across the Aisle

This morning, I woke up around 4:30, lay in bed with my phone in hand, and found out that J. Cole has another feature with a trap rapper. While some fans may have been confused by it at the beginning, especially because the content many trap rappers put out is antithetical to Cole’s overlying message, I see what he’s doing and I love it.

As far as current messaging within mainstream hip-hop goes, J. Cole is arguably the dopest lyricist. He doesn’t appear to compromise his values to remain at the top of anyone’s charts and yet he remains in that #1 conversation. He’s done everything that every revolutionary hip-hop head needs him to. So why is he on songs with artists whose lyrics frequently fail to uplift black communities? Because that’s the only way he can continue making progress. J. Cole isn’t rapping to wake up the woke just like doctors aren’t here to heal the healthy. He has his fan base. We’re going to rock with him as long as he keeps coupling fire lyrics with complementary beats. But he has to reach across the aisle if he ever wants to have the impact on the nation that he can have.

Boom! Ok, now you’re asking when I became a music blogger. But there’s a point to this. As a young professional, you will hit a point where you have made all the waves possible in your own office. You’ll have gotten your numbers up and this and that. You’ll be good but that’s when it’s time to step into a leadership role. There are some in leadership roles who aren’t leaders. They sit in their corner offices and expect everyone in the building to know everything they do because they have access to it. But what if more managers took the J. Cole leadership route after they have become individually successful? What if they reached back to those who were least likely to succeed, put them on game, and helped them transform? Without touching 21 Savage’s or 6ix9ine’s bases, he’s just another dope conscious rapper. But now he’s a thought-leader because his thoughts are affecting change outside the room of other thought-leaders. That’s culture-changing influence.

 

Make stepping across the aisle 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.

Superhero Status

I’ll tell you my favorite thing about volunteering with young people: It enhances my superpowers. Inspiring children allows me to reach into the future and impact a generation I may never see born. That’s pretty dope.

Yesterday, I visited my old elementary school and spoke to a group of young brothers who are where I was 25 years ago. Talking to them about their aspirations reminded me of my own imagination at the time. I encouraged them to be there for one another because there are rooms in this world where, if we as black men don’t cheer for one another, no one will. I let them know we are one another’s tribe.

Find a way to inspire a kid between now and Monday morning. Even if it’s just a quick word of encouragement to the little girl sitting on the floor of Barnes & Noble reading. Let her know she matters. Or if it’s a little boy on the basketball court working on a certain move, let him know that, if he keeps practicing, he can perfect it. If it’s positive, encourage it and that positive mindset will spill over into other sections of their lives.

 

Make reaching into the future a priority.

Looking the Part

How do you prepare for big days?

I remember, as a boy, my dad taught me to take special care of my shoes. As a young man in the professional world, when I wore shoes to work every day, I polished them at least once a week. Now that I am able to wear sneakers and loafers on some days, I polish my hard bottoms less frequently but I still pay attention to their shine.

This post isn’t about shoes. It’s about being intentional in every aspect of your presentation. Press your shirts and trousers. Be able to select the appropriate socks. Have pen and paper that say, “I believe that what I am writing ought to be written with class.” Go into a meeting knowing you can not only meet with kings but also connect with them.

Life is too short not to be able to present yourself in a manner that commands respect. I’m not saying you always have to be in a full suit and tie but at least know how to do it and look comfortable and confident when you do.

 

Make looking the part a priority.

Every Level Isn’t For Everyone

“She has risen to the level of incompetence.” — Anon

I’m going to give you a tough pill to swallow: everyone isn’t meant to lead. That doesn’t mean you don’t have a calling/purpose and that doesn’t mean greatness doesn’t reside within you. But I do believe that everyone has a lane. That’s not saying everyone cannot lead someone else to greatness by way of mentoring. But everyone simply isn’t intended to take on the task of leading masses. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Shoot, as someone who often enters rooms and is asked to lead, I don’t always want the responsibility and am now at a stage in life where I will quite myself in certain settings in order to blend in (I learned the hard way not to stretch myself too thin and to helpfully say no instead of giving a harmful yes).

Know your strengths and pick a lane, ideally one that you can succeed in but one that will challenge you as you grow in it. And, if leading is something you want to do but something that doesn’t come naturally*, learn to do it.

 

Make knowing how you can best serve those around you a priority.

 

*I don’t believe in “natural” leaders. I believe some people may be more inclined to lead but everyone needs to learn to follow and everyone can improve on his/her leadership.

Options or Else

“Previous generations didn’t even know they wanted all these options. We’ve always known we have them.” — Deryle Daniels, Jr.

Newsflash: It’s not 1938 anymore. The generation that raised the generation who is managing/leading us taught our Baby Boomers  that the only option was to _____. Go ahead and fill in the blank. They were taught that there was an “only option,” which is no option at all and, if there was an option, it was a binary one: Do ____ or fail.”

Because of limited knowledge, opportunity, and vision (“Limited vision,” in this instance, is not a slight to them at all, just a reality. It’s very difficult for the mind to to envision that which it cannot even comprehend.), they didn’t know anything but what they knew. An imagination, at that time, was just that. Now, if I can imagine it, I’m sure I could see it happen over my life time. But I digress and am getting too philosophical. This post is about options.

For the past three decades (the entirety of my existence), there have been options. Abacus, calculator, pencil and paper, or mental math. Ross Perot, George H. Bush, or William J. Clinton. Video games, play outside, or read a book. Take this job, keep the one I have, or travel the world. HBCU, PWI, or community college. Electric toothbrush, manual tooth brush or… Actually, those are the only options unless you want a nickname like Yukmouth. As a leader of an organization, you have to recognize that people have options and you need to make them want to select yours. Why should they buy your product? Why should they work for your company? Why should they attend your educational institution? In 2018, a degree from UNCG can hold as much educational value as one from UNC and, if I play my cards right, can land me as good of a job.

In this day and age of information everywhere, it is a consumer’s market. You have to incentivize or you will lose customers, employees, and investors. Loyalty died when corporate America replaced the term “personnel” with “human resources” and when the bottom line began to grossly outweigh quality of product/service. Now that consumers know the power of their dollars, they will take those dollars to the lowest seller. Being aware of what they bring to the table, employees will take their talents to the highest bidder. Long lesson short, if you don’t show people that you value them enough to give them your all in hopes for the same from them, they will leave you.

I’m just trying to help you understand this before it’s too late. While most logical adults know nothing will ever be perfect, they also will hit a point where, if the bad outweighs the good, they’ll be headed out on the first thing smoking.

 

Make being the right option for your target market a priority.