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.

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Raw Materials and Raw Potential

The paper that you sign your name to when you sign your work benefits or go to the bank and fill out a withdrawal slip or sign an agreement with a new client is, at it’s rawest form, no more than wood that has been cut down by an ax or a chainsaw or some other tool. Raw materials make everything we have from smartphones to notebook paper to nutrients to even our bodies. Whether manufactured or not, everything on this earth was made from things that have always been found on the planet. Raw materials are the foundation of everything that our world is. It’s hard to think of it on such a basic level when we look at the greatness that has been created after millennia of human interaction but it’s all just rocks, wood, water, dirt, oil, and mined metals that have been manipulated to make that gorgeous Maserati you see on the street. Oh, and let’s not neglect the cows that made the leather interior. Either way, the car wasn’t made from car. It didn’t become great on its own. It was is the culmination of developing and combining many raw materials.

Now, let’s take that concept and apply it to being a young professional. Everything created by a successful person (however you define success) was created with raw potential. I’m not speaking of things that were passed down or gained by less than ethical means. I’m saying that any successful person who pulled themselves up did so by developing the raw potential they had into greatness. I look at the stories of motivators like Eric Thomas (at an elevated point in his career) or Greg E. Hill (at a strong point in his early years) and think about both of them hitting what they both expressed as being rock bottom, only to use that as momentum to shoot up. Or I look at Vince Jamael, a barber from Fayetteville, NC who is now one of the premier groomers on the east coast and I think about the fact that, when I saw him come to UNCG, he had raw potential and now he himself is a brand that is strengthening the brands around him. Or Devon Smith, a young man I met during his freshman (my junior) year who had a desire to succeed but didn’t know what he wanted  to succeed in. With some honing and grooming, he worked his way up to New York and now works at Revolt, a major player in the millennial lifestyle industry, as well as has developed a brand of his own, Infinite Magazine, that is gaining notoriety around the country. I even look at my immediate past blog post, A Moment of Clarity, and I realize that my raw potential and hunger primed me to take the risks necessary to just go for greatness. So, whether you want to be the next Mark Zuckerberg, Bill and Melinda Gates, Mother Teresa, or Michelle Obama, you have to take your ideas, your passions, your skills, and your gifts and put them together to reach toward your potential and your purpose. And, if you didn’t know, you don’t have to do it alone. Your network is one of those raw materials that you have to develop. It may be the most important aspect of your success, especially in this day and age where one share from the right person can put you in a position to expand your brand’s reach exponentially. So take your most valuable resource (time), combine it with your most essential resource (faith), and go out grind, knowing that there is something better for you than what you have now.

 

Make professional development a priority.

The Eyes of the Line

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The young men above both began college one year after the other and both fell under my tutelage by happen stance. Mr. Reko Daye (top), also from Durham, was assigned to the hall I was the resident advisor over during the 2008-09 academic year. I still remember the day he moved in and began his college journey. A charismatic young man who needed some polishing and guidance to reach his potential. So I worked with him.

Then you have Mr. Devon T. Smith from Philadelphia by way of Fayetteville. He came the following academic year and was introduced to me because the business school assigned his class to interview an upperclassman in his field of study. Being that I was visible on campus through my fraternity and in the Bryan School of Business as the president of the Black Business Students Assoc., it was recommended that Devon interview me. I didn’t know him but after meeting him once, I knew he was ambitious and driven, he just needed a crash course in diplomacy. Who better to teach him than me? So I did.

Without my recommendation, both of these men decide to join my fraternity. Both decided to mentor other young people throughout the course of their college careers. Both took on the role of chapter president. Both were well-liked campus leaders who had grown in leaps and bounds over the years. Both graduated with jobs and are focused on starting their careers. Both have gone from mentees to true brothers and friends. And both are going to continue to do great things to make the world a better place. I’m excited for them and know that, when it’s all said and done, they’ll be right beside me at the top.

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