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.
Five days ago, I posted a screenshot to Facebook about the fact that the President of South Africa is planning to confiscate land from whites in South Africa and redistribute it to black South Africans. The conversation since I posted it has been interesting, to say the least. I won’t get into the back and forth as much as I will say that, when posting things that could be offensive to some (which accounts for almost everything these days), don’t be afraid. The truth is the truth. If you believe that imperialism and colonialism are wrong, say that. If you believe that a culture that promotes rape (of enslaved people or anyone else) is wrong, say that. If you believe that any form of supremacy is wrong, say that. And, if you believe there are exceptions to those things, say that too. But, before you say any of these things, put yourself in your opposition’s shoes. While it is important to see where others are coming from, ask if they’re looking at the situation objectively or from a perspective of pride in their ancestors. Because, though there is value in seeing how someone could get to see things the wrong way, there is more value in helping them to see it correctly.
I’m doing both; seeing things objectively and with pride in my bloodline. Africans enslaving Africans was wrong and still is. But, in the words of Meek Mill, “it’s levels to this,” and Europeans enslaving Africans who had virtually no chance to return home and then carving up the continent like a Thanksgiving turkey was one of the most evil acts of literal and cultural genocide known to mankind. So, excuse me for not conceding to the generally accepted Western consensus that some kind of statute of limitations for the hell Africa and those in the diaspora still suffer from has passed. Actually, don’t excuse me. I don’t desire the respect of those who think reparations of some kind are not in order because, to see worth in your respect I would have to find value in your integrity.
I am an unapologetic, proud man of the Lost Tribe before I’m an American professional. No matter what, that will always be.
Make neutralizing the dominant narrative a priority.
Getting there, wherever “there” may be, is nowhere near as easy as staying there. You have to remain committed, steadfast, and focused. You have to read, reflect, and take action. Surround yourself with people who are better at what you do than you are.
Make professional development a priority.
On Saturday, I took a walk around the Denver Botanic Gardens and I snapped a certain photograph twice. On my camera, I changed the aperture, a function that determines how much light is let into the lens. The difference is evident in the picture above.
Now, seeing that photograph, I must ask you to take a look at your life and ask, “How much light am I allowing in my life?” Is your circle dimming your picture? If so, it may be time to allow more light in. More positivity never hurt anyone. You have a beautiful image to show the world. You just have to get your exposure right.
Make positivity a priority.
“Let these (people) know your worth. Ain’t no discounts.” — Fabolous
I don’t believe in asking my entrepreneur friends for discounts and you shouldn’t either. I would much rather get a discount from a major business like Amazon or Target, companies that can afford to give them. Most of my friends who own businesses are investing more resources into their businesses than they are getting out at this point so how could I ask for 33% off?
This doesn’t mean I don’t use coupon codes on my friends’ sites or accept free products they offer but asking for a hook up specific to me is wrong. This is their dream. It’s their livelihood. If you wouldn’t take a discount from your boss on your pay for a week, why would you ask them to?
Make supporting your circle a priority.
When is the last time you read a book about your craft? An article? How about a Pinterest infographic? Are you educating yourself on best practices? Going to conferences? Do you step into the room early to introduce yourself to presenters? Are you networking with others in your field? No one gets better by osmosis. We have to put in the effort. We have to seek out opportunities that will benefit both ourselves and the institutions we serve.
I’m in Denver at this CASE Senior Annual Giving Professionals Institute considering ways it can put me on a track to where I’d like to be professionally in ten years, assuming I stay in the field of development. I’m making connections with folks who may be interviewing me one day or who I may be interviewing (or, ideally, who I will be consulting for). I’m asking folks what books they’re reading and what newsletters they’re subscribed to. What I am not doing is sitting on my hind parts doing nothing.
A good number of my readers have been at home for the past two work days. In that time, what have you done to get closer to where you want to be, either professionally, financially, spiritually, or physically? The time is there. More often than not, we’re just not using it properly. I know I wasn’t for a long time. Now, I know there isn’t a second to waste.
Make professional development a priority.
Women shouldn’t be made to feel objectified in (or out of) the workplace.
Black people shouldn’t be made to feel like tokens in a room.
Gay people shouldn’t be ostracized in the church.
We should all be valued for the effort we put in but we don’t. Some feel used by their companies. Many feel unappreciated. And far more feel uncomfortable being themselves. If for no other reason than not wanting to get fired once you make it big, start developing good habits in the workplace. It matters.
Make inclusivity a priority.