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.


But Did You Vote?

Tomorrow is it. It’s our opportunity to correct a tremendous blemish on this nation’s record. Whether we’re looking at legislative powers or impeachment and removal, tomorrow can be a turning point for America or it can continue down the same path it’s been on for centuries: One seeped in bigotry, hatred, and white patriarchy that is masked as progressive freedom.

Have you voted? If not, it’s ok. You still have a chance. If so, have you encouraged anyone else to? Cool. Well, encourage someone else.

Do I believe the process is flawed? Yes. But will not participating fix it? No. Participate and then, when it fails you, fight.


Make voting a priority.

Question Your Complacency

This has been an interesting last couple weeks. A lot of change. A lot of introspection. A lot of emotion. Entrepreneurially, I’ve been forced to question what and who motivates me. Professionally, I’ve had to take a look at my career and where I would like to be in ten years. Physically, I am evaluating my health and if I’m taking the best care of my body that I can. Personally, I’ve looked at where America is now and had to ask myself, “Is this a nation I would like to raise a family in or should I look at opportunities in other places in the world with the same/more freedoms and fewer instances of violence?” And, spiritually, I’ve questioned whether I am living in the purpose I was given or living in security.

Prior to moving back to Durham, my entire life had been a series of ebbs and flows. I find success in the fear of failure. Faith and hard work are all that I credit any of my accomplishments to. Staying true to that, I will continue questioning my complacency. Challenge any feeling in your gut that says you’re not where you know you could be. It’s not about where anyone else is. It’s about what you know to be true for yourself.


Make questioning your complacency a priority.

Who Are You Serving?

All companies, organizations, and brands should be working to improve the communities they serve. Whether you’re a freelance photographer or PepsiCo, your objective should be to strengthen those groups you provide a good or service.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, however, working to make them different at a foundational level is not only inadvisable; it is disrespectful. What if you got into a relationship and, from the start, your new significant other was working to make you change everything about you? Or what if you got a job and, on your first day, your boss said “Yeah, we didn’t say anything at the moment of hire but your hairstyle just doesn’t mesh well with the company. Change it.”

Know the community you’re there to serve and enjoy serving that community. I would not advise a person who doesn’t feel comfortable with homosexual people try to go work for GLAAD. At the same time, I don’t think a stereotypically conservative white southern man should take a job as lead counsel for the NAACP.

Work somewhere where you’ll be happy, where those you work with will be happy to see you walk into their office, and where the community you serve will grow in their own identity from your being around. Otherwise, you’re not serving anyone but yourself.


Make professional development a priority.

You Are Valuable

You’re not everyone else. You don’t have to do things like everyone else. Know that you have something unique of value to add to this point and time in history. Your story, ups and downs, successes and failures, are reminders to people that, if you don’t give up, you can improve the world around you. A simple smile or hello really could change the world but, if you’re not here to do it, you could ruin lives for generations to come.

Imagine if someone random had smiled at Adolf Hitler in 1918. What if, on the morning of the Oklahoma City bombings, a random person had paid for Timothy McVeigh’s breakfast? What if being a bit nicer every day to someone you’ll likely never see again turns out to be exactly what that person needs to keep going? We never know for certain which block pulled out or placed on the jenga stack will strengthen or weaken the structure. But we know that every movement will do one or the other.

I don’t believe that people are bad or evil. I believe that evil is a result of us not loving one another enough. Certainly, there is mental instability but, outside of chemical imbalances, I think even that can be combated with therapy and love.

You don’t have a responsibility to change the world like Barack Obama or Mother Teresa or JFK. But you do have to change it like (insert your name here). Bring your passion to the table every day. Live that passion out. Allow it to shine a light on the world.

A random act of kindness every day is all I ask. Can you commit to that?


Make being a good person a priority.

Logical Tradition or Traditional Logic?

I’m at a point in my life where I simply don’t want to do illogical things in relation to my professional life. Pointless tradition in families is entertained for nostalgia’s sake. In work settings, it can often be little more than an irritant.

Do we really need to wear elitist, cumbersome suits on days that are spent solely in the office? Are trousers and ties necessary on 90-degree summer days or are they simply decorative? Wouldn’t you want your employees to think more about how to improve the systems they work on than how pointlessly uncomfortable they are?

I believe there is a time and a place for business dress but, unless in an industry where you interact with external entities or individuals every day, the day of everyday business dress has passed. During the summer, if nothing else, casual Fridays should be the rule. A new generation is coming and it is a generation that is not only unimpressed by pretentious dress; it is one that is turned off by it when out of place. And that generation doesn’t want to work in those settings. A tie is no longer an indicator of success. You could just be a slave to a system that requires it.

I’m not advocating for complete dress code anarchy. Graphic tees and baseball caps aren’t for every environment. But a pair of khaki shorts during the summer is not going to offend any sensible person in this day and age.

Make professional development a priority.

Loving Yourself and Everyone Else

As Black History Month comes to a close, I want to remind you that, no matter who you are or what your background is, love yourself and don’t be afraid of others. Fear leads to hate and hate leads to evil. You can love yourself and your heritage without hating others. When I say “black power,” there is no history of hate behind that. The problem black and brown people have with those shouting “white power” is the history behind that saying. But what if we could all, regardless of race, could love our own culture and truly not look down at others? Wouldn’t that be amazing?

I challenge you, on this, the twenty-eighth day of the second month of 2017, to ask yourself “Why do I cross the road when I see a person who looks like this?” Or “What made me feel unsettled when so-and-so walked into the room? Was it his size? His race? His age? His dress? A combination of the three?” You see, all these things are about our levels of comfort and, though you crossing the street doesn’t directly impact anyone, it spills over into the people you hire and choose to promote. There is statistical evidence that managers are more likely to hire people they would be comfortable hanging out with outside of work. If you cross the street when you see a black man or you snicker when you hear a Latina in the grocery store speaking in her native tongue or you happen to feel a pang of terror when you get on a plane with a Middle Eastern man who says “As-salamu alaykum” as he hangs up the phone with his wife, it is safe to say you wouldn’t be comfortable hiring them, ultimately preventing them from being the best human being (or American if that’s more important to you) that they can be. So start questioning yourself. And, after you ask those questions, seek out opportunities to make the changes that need to be made. Because, after reading this, you can clearly see that your cultural incompetency can have a negative impact on the lives of those who just want to make this world a better place.


Make cultural competency a priority.