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.

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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.

 

…And Be Comfortable With It

The first part of that title is “Charge What You’re Worth…”


Too often as new entrepreneurs, we want business and experience so much that we timidly charge the amount that we know our services are worth. (I know that goods can be equally difficult to price but factors such as inventory and shipping can help you stabilize that.) In my instance, as one of a heck of a lot of photographers, I started off with a sliding scale that really wasn’t a scale at all. Folks would ask me for a deal and I’d give it to them because I just wanted to shoot. And, as a hobbyist, that’s perfectly fine. As an entrepreneur, it’s not.


I have a former coworker who has a great eye but who doesn’t consider herself to be a photographer (I don’t know why and I know she’s reading this and could make shooting a GREAT additional source of income). She does favors for friends and family sometimes. Sometimes they thank her with a monetary gift and sometimes they don’t. The difference between the two of us is I invest in equipment to become better. I spend time daily practicing to become the best version of myself I can be.  So, when I do inform people that the cost of an hour shooting* is between $100 and $150, some are ok with it. Others aren’t. And that’s fine if it’s not in their budget right now. Everyone who wants to eat at Angus Barn can’t do it right now. But if they want to badly enough, they can put a bit away throughout the year and have a great holiday dinner. The same is true for the quality goods and services you offer. If they see value in it, they will find a way to pay for it.


Before I go, I’ll toss you another example: I have worked on résumés for hundreds of people. I started in college just proofreading them and then I began formatting them. To begin with, I was doing the work for free but, as I began to hone my skills and invest in more resources that would make me better, I knew it was time to start charging for professional development services. I let people know my price. Initially, I thought I was charging too much (mind you, at the time, I was charging half of what I do now) because people didn’t want to pay the amount. I found myself giving everyone discounts. Then, one day, I decided no more discounts. Sure, there are times of year (specifically at the end of a semester) when I may run a two-week special on professional development services but that’s more so marketing. If they want that first $35,000 or $45,000 or $150,000 job (yes, my work has opened all of those doors), it’s nothing to invest $100-$200. It’s all about what we’re willing to spend our money on.


Long story short, charge what you’re worth, be good at what you charge for, and someone will pay for it. Respect your time and others will respect it as well. As my guy Fabolous said, “let these (people) know your worth. Ain’t no discounts.”


*Price varies based on distance traveled and number of subjects in the photograph.




Make knowing your worth a priority.

Make Today the Day

You made it through the day. If no one else says it, I’m proud of you. And yes, I know it’s a holiday. Most of you aren’t working. You deserve a day off. But take some time this evening to do something, anything, that will make every tomorrow easier. Read a book. Start the first page of a book. Purchase that domain name.

For me, that something was starting my Patreon account. It is going to help me monetize my content going forward. Click here to see what comes with a monthly subscription. I hope you’ll invest in my words and photographs for less than the cost of a happy hour drink.

 

Make finding a way to live off your craft a priority.

Time to Start Being Weird

Ok, this weird that I’m talking about isn’t really weird. It’s just uncommon these days. I’m challenging you to start reading. I’m not talking about books and articles (though those are important). It’s time to start reading the fine print.

Insert dramatic pause.

I’ve got news for you: companies are out to make money. No matter how many say they want to offer great customer service and make sure you’re satisfied and this and that, money is the ultimate goal of every company from Amazon to Gucci. When your local grocery store takes back that product that they say can be returned at any time if you’re dissatisfied, it’s because they can damage the product out without losing money. If stores’ bottom lines were affected with every return, please believe there would be a system in place to minimize that. Don’t believe me? Look at how Nordstrom’s return policy has shifted over the past two years. Or L.L. Bean’s policy change. Bottom lines matter more than customer service at the end of the day. Yes, some companies will take short term losses for long term loyalty but that only goes so far, as was the case with Nordstrom.

Which brings me back to my initial point (and the purpose of this post): You have to be weird and read the fine print. I know no one does it but I’m not in my twenties anymore. I can’t say “I didn’t know” and have people feel bad for me. Yesterday, I came out of pocket for something that could’ve been replaced free of charge because my failure to read fine print voided my warranty. Not saying you have to read all the fine print in the world but, for those things that really matter (cars, homes, life insurance, etc.), make sure you’re aware of what will keep you from taking full advantage of everything you’re paying for.

It’s a part of adulting, people. It sucks but it is what it is.

 

Make reading the fine print a priority.

Saturday Morning Ritual

Over the past 26ish years, the way I move on Saturday mornings has shifted tremendously. Some of my earliest memories are of watching the MC Hammer or New Kids On The Block cartoons while eating cereal. At the time, I was probably hanging out in my favorite Knicks shirt and some UNC shorts. It was pretty cool after a hard week of doing whatever it is that three-year-olds do.

Looking back now, those were some great times. How I operate on Saturdays now, relaxed as it may be, is still about growth as much as my Mondays through Fridays are. Most Saturdays, I wake up to pull out my yoga mat and stretch (tip to my near/post-30 year olds: STRETCH!), after which I go into the kitchen and pour a cup of coffee, spread some cream cheese on a bagel (unless I feel like cooking), and head over to the NY Times website to see what’s going on in the world. Then it’s time to shower, shave, get to running a few errands, after which I can get to my crossword puzzles. I used to exercise on Saturdays but that’s been moved to my Sunday morning regimen.

Saturdays have changed and, as a kid, I would think of my current life as boring but this is fun. I’m learning, I’m growing, and I’m keeping myself sharp.

Construct a Saturday morning routine. Make it cathartic and enjoyable. And let it work for you.

 

Make professional development a priority.

Ummmm… I Didn’t Know You’d Be Here So Soon….

Ever have that friend who shows up right on time to hang out but you really weren’t expecting them to be there when they were supposed to be?

This year, that friend is August. I’m sitting here looking at my calendar and August is HERE. Here here. As in here right this moment. I’m looking at all I’ve accomplished and, while I am pretty proud with some of my forward steps, I’m behind the 8-ball on a couple things.

So, now that we’ve realized our awesome buddy Auggie is here to crash on my couch for the next 31 days (only to be followed by his sweet sister September), I’ve got some tips for both myself and you all that will help us fast-track our way to reaching our 2018 goals before the ball drops.

  1. Maximize your time. We all need rest (not just sleep but truly restful periods) to be healthy, happy, and productive people. That being said, some of us have been resting a lot during these first seven months. Shoot, I just took a whole two months away from the United States (but I was working on some major projects while I was gone, so don’t get it twisted). Use your lunch breaks to knock out some smaller tasks or to get a larger task done over the course of a few lunches. If you need to, pick a day out of the weekend to truly wind down but, if you’ve got goals and you’re far behind, you have to make up for time wasted by grinding on that other day.
  2. Pick an accountability partner. Yesterday, I had lunch with two of my closest friends. We had a running challenge while I was out of the country. I lost badly. They picked on me. The challenge required that the losers buy the winner lunch and the winner certainly didn’t let us off the hook. If you have a goal but you’re having a hard time reaching it, get someone who is going to be honest with you and set some consequences for yourself if you don’t reach it.
  3. Cut out the unnecessaries. Do you need that burger? How about that beer? You say you want to save money but you’re going out again this Friday? Netflix is cheap (or free for some of us whose families are generous). You set a financial goal at the beginning of the year. What will you need to sacrifice to get there before the end? If you need some help, click this link and check out what George Acheampong can do to help you get on the right track.
  4. Nike said it best: Just Do It! Apply for that job. Start reading some books. Fill out those incorporation papers. Enter an art competition. You have time and you said that, at the end of 2018, you won’t be in the same place you were at the beginning, but, many times, what stops us from reaching our goals is that we over plan. It would be nice if the stars all aligned and everything was perfect but, to be realistic, that will not be the case very often. Sometimes, you just have to look at the plan you have, say “Shoot, this’ll get me 75% of the way,” and figure the other 25% while you’re on the journey.

We have five more months. That’s almost half a year. You can do this. Put in 2.2x the work and you’ll hit the mark. I know we can do this.

 

Make achieving your goals a priority.