Don’t wait for someone else to validate your friend’s work to support him/her. Ask yourself, “If Kanye said my homie’s art was dope, would I start supporting?” If the answer is yes, don’t wait for ‘Ye or Kim or Barack or Cardi or LeBron or Beyoncé or Cole or anyone else to say it. Just support your people the same way you support ‘Ye or Kim or Barack or Cardi or LeBron or Beyoncé or Cole. Go to their shows. Rock their clothes. Hype them up on social media.
And, while money is ALWAYS nice for artists who pour our souls into our art forms, I get it: We don’t all have bread to spend on every little thing (I blame Sally Mae). But you can click a link. You can repost a piece of work or a web address. You can have their new track playing on your Instagram Story while you’re driving up I-95. You can go hard for your homie’s business like it’s yours every now and then. If you wouldn’t buy their stuff regardless of whether ‘Ye liked the work or not, that’s cool. But if (s)he is truly your friend, still repost because art is like food: everyone has different tastes.
In short, stop killing genuine art (and, ultimately, your friends’ livelihoods) with your apathy. It’s not 1984, it’s 2018. Supporting is as easy as tapping a touchscreen once or twice. If you don’t even do the bare minimum to support, don’t expect to get put on when your talented friends make it.
Make supporting your team a priority.
It is an empowering thing to see us breaking down society’s rules of what it means to be successful and, instead, define it as our happiness. Certainly, many of us stunt a bit on S.M. but we are making progress and that’s what matters. I love scrolling down my timeline and seeing my friends defining success and joy for themselves.
Whether they just got out the bing or started their own business or got a promotion or switched careers or decided to pursue dreams of spitting bars or finished reading a book or learned a new word or quit their job to travel the world, I’m happy for you. You may have just saved your first $100 or $100,000. I am happy for you. You may have just gotten engaged or announced you’re having a kid out of wedlock. I am happy for you. I am happy because I know that every step you take, even if it is a challenging one, is another step toward your destiny. You are going to be great and you’re getting greater each day you do something that causes love in and for yourself to grow.
Life is short. If you aren’t loving it, you’re wasting it.
This is the first in a two-month series of blog posts on the time I will be spending outside of the United States. Desirée and I are on a journey to see parts of the world that I never thought I would have an opportunity to see. And, while it is a major blessing, it is one that comes along with great responsibility. As I am overseas, I will be navigating the tail end of a hiring process, maintaining my professional development business, and blogging more frequently than I have over the past month.
That’s enough about the plans though. Let’s catch you all up on this first day. I’ve spent about the past twenty-six hours on the move from Durham to London and I am currently on a two-hour train ride to Cardiff, Wales. Yesterday morning, my younger sister Aja dropped Desirée and me off at the Durham Transit Station where we caught the Megabus to Washington, D.C. In the District, we grabbed some food before heading to Dulles to catch an Icelandair flight to London, by way of Reykjavik. Of course, once we landed at Heathrow we had to go through Customs (consistently my least favorite part of international travel) and now I’m on this train ready to eat. Outside of a happy hour beer and wings special I was able to grab in D.C. and a personal pizza at IAD, I haven’t had a meal in the aforementioned 26 hours (if you want to call those meals). I’ll be diving into a plate of fish n’ chips the moment we arrive in Cardiff and set our luggage down.
In the hour since I stepped through Customs, I have noticed one thing: the English take better care of their public transit than we do, at least in the form of trains. From the Heathrow Express to the Great Western Railroad that I’m riding now, the comfort and cleanliness exceeds the standards set by any major rail system in the United States that I’ve ridden, be it Amtrak or a citywide transit rail. And, on top of comfortable seats, they have “trollies” (handcarts) of food that well dressed customer service associates push down the aisles offering snacks. I feel like I’m one of the three black kids on the Hogwarts Express right now, as I enjoy my crisps (look up the lingo). Since they took notes from our democracy, maybe we could borrow a few from their transportation experts. Just a thought…
*Fast forward a few hours*
OK, now that I’ve eaten, I can go ahead and write about what I didn’t feel like pulling together on an empty stomach: communicating overseas. I have a few tips and, while I’m no certified expert, I’ve done this enough to know what has worked for me and will likely work for most American travelers.
1) Not to come off as elitist but, if you’re traveling internationally frequently, I strongly suggest investing in an iPhone. Under most circumstances, I wouldn’t consider an iPhone an investment and, in a traditional sense, it never will be because it doesn’t appreciate but, when it comes to traveling, it’s a cost-effective way to stay in touch with others. Yes, I know that the sticker shock associated with iPhones is a real thing but you don’t need the newest edition to take advantage of the international benefits that come along with an iPhone. Because Desirée and I won’t have a consistent income while overseas, we needed to cut as many expenses as possible and one of those expenses was our phone bill while we were away. What’s cool is, between iMessage, FaceTime (video or audio), and What’s App, I can call or text everyone in my phone as long as I have a WiFi connection (another cool thing about transit here: there is a connection not only in each airport and train station but on the trains). So, though I’m not paying Verizon for these two months, I am still able to check in with friends and family in a way that doesn’t involve Facebook.
2) Social media is an awesome way to stay in touch. Though I’m on Facebook a lot less than I used to be, I still have strong presences on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat. Social media serves a couple purposes for me: a) It allows me to maintain my brand and brand awareness while away and b) it lets me let people know I’m both alive and well without having to regularly reach out to those who know I’m away. All in all, it’s an easy way of maintaining an engaged community of followers.
3) E-mail is a must for me because communication is not a one way street. While Stateside, I have a few publications, such as the New York Times, and newsletters, such as Morning Brew and Blavity News, that I subscribe to. Not reading these is simply not an option for me, as a young professional who other young professionals come to for paid advice. Additionally, I have clients with whom I still must work. This afternoon (morning EST), I received an e-mail from one young lady who recently earned her master’s degree and needs work done on her résumé. Though I’m not overseas to work too much, I have people who rely on me to help them succeed and, because I care about the successes of those I work with, I’m glad to correspond via e-mail until she has dynamic document that allows her to take the next step in her career.
Those are the good things about e-mail. The terrible side of it is when you get behind in checking it. While I haven’t go through and cleaned it up yet today, I know I’ve gotten an ungodly number of e-mails over the past thirty hours. Now, imagine those days when I don’t check it. Most people I know have gotten the inevitable point of e-mail fatigue where they just stop checking for a couple days or even a week. Finally facing that e-mail inbox, overflowing with newsletters, advertisements, and actual important communication is a challenge to say the least. My goal, while here, is to try to avoid that from getting out of hadn’t and missing no more than two days in a row.
4) You cannot go wrong with good old fashioned snail mail. I’ve got family members who have never left North Carolina. I’ve got friends who cannot legally leave North Carolina. I know some people who just don’t know how to make it fit into their lives. But, to all of these people, my postcard or letter will serve as a peek at a part of the world they may never see. I am my grandma’s eyes over here. I am my incarcerated homeboy’s international experience. The postcards I send out are pictures of a world I had only seen on television before this moment but they are reminders that, if I’m here, they can make it too if they want. Or, if they can’t, it’s letting them know that I wish I could bring them with me.
Communication is key to the human experience and, while here, I will communicate with those I care about, either through direct means or more general ones. Make sure that, when you decide to make the trek across the pond, you have a plan on how to communicate (and let those who you plan on communicating with know the plan).
Make exploring the world a priority.
I don’t know what age people become “too old” to change so I’ll say this: You are young enough to change for the better. As I prepare for the next step in my career, I’ve gotten some great advice from a few seasoned professionals who each said, “Whatever the next step is, life is too short to do something you’re good at but that makes you unhappy.” It’s the truth. I’m not saying that I am unhappy but there are days where I ask myself “How can I make the most out of my talents?”
Don’t just jump without thinking about it but don’t not think about it. What really gets your wheels turning? What do you go to bed thinking about and then wake up with on your mind? Answer those questions and figure out how you can make a career out of it. It could be in working for yourself or you could work for an already established entity. While the point isn’t necessarily ownership, it is certainly happiness and it’s not being a slave to any place or person.
No matter what stage you’re at in life, you owe it to yourself to start your days with a smile. Figure out how you can do that and do it. Yesterday is a memory, tomorrow is a fantasty. All we have is now.
By the way, taking that dope photo above? That made me happy.
Make following your dreams a priority.
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.
“The emerging picture… is that ten thousand hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert – in anything. … No one has yet found a case in which true world-class expertise was accomplished in less time.” – Daniel Levitin, nuerologist.
Right now (December 29, 2017 at 9:31AM), I’m whizzing through Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers. As engaging of a book as it is proving to be, I had to take a minute to write this post, which just hit me as a great way to start off 2018. So, I must ask you a few questions: What have you been made an expert at? What are you becoming an expert at? What are you making yourself an expert at? How do these answers help you achieve your dreams?
What have you been made an expert in?
Looking at the lead quote of this post and believing it to be true, I was forced to look back at my life and ask “What have I truly put 10,000 hours towards?” Now, being that I enjoy math, I decided to write it out (how often as adults do we take time to do that anymore?) and I came to a pretty solid conclusion: we’ve all become experts twice over at listening to teachers, assuming we’re in class 7-hours a day 5 days a week for 180 days each year between kindergarten and bachelor’s degree. Now, let’s say that, as an adult, you spend 40 hours a week on a job you don’t care about with 2 weeks of vacation time, 1 week of sick leave, and 1 week of holiday time each year. After five years in that position, you’ve become an expert (we’ll round up the 9,600 hours that takes by assuming you put in some OT over the years). Ok. So, by 30, the average person is likely an expert at being a student and working for someone else.
What are you becoming an expert in?
You work 40 hours each week. Cool story. I understand. I work at least 40 hours a week too. Sleep is important. I understand. I get between 5 and 8 hours per night too (closer to 8 during the winter). Assuming you spend 2 hours a day traveling, you still have 78 hours. 78 hours!? Even if you spend half of that time doing nonsense (which is necessary at times), you have a full work week’s worth of time to grind it out. So, while you’re spending your five years making a salary at a job you don’t really care about, you could be sleeping enough, exercising enough, praying/meditating and STILL have time to spend 40 hours a week on perfecting that which you really want to be awesome at. Or, you could cut that 5 year time frame in half and by properly allocating your free time. But, instead, we spend our time becoming experts at texting, purposeless Instagramming, and TV subscription services like Netflix or Hulu.
What are you making yourself an expert in?
You love writing. How many hours a week are you developing your writing skills? You enjoy art but are you creating art daily? You want to be a motivational speaker but you haven’t been honing your speaking skills in the shower every morning and listening to speakers in the gym every evening. You’re making yourself an expert at mediocrity and that, my friends, is not what you want to do. Being an expert at basketball doesn’t mean you’re playing basketball every second of the day. Yes, most of it is the practical work out but also means you’re studying your own film, discussing strategy, and objectively studying those who are better than you. The same is true of writing, creating music, or leading effectively. Being an expert isn’t found only in the action but also in the development. No violinist comes into greatness without learning to read music. The development of that skill is a part of his/her 10,000 hours. How are you developing yourself professionally/creatively?
How can these answers help you achieve your dreams?
Today, take a look at where you are. And ask yourself on this first day of 2018 where you want to be in 2023. Or 2021, if you maximize your time. If I could choose to A) unhappily make $500,000 a year for the next 20 years by working an exhausting 60 hours a week or B) unhappily make $80,000 a year by working 40 hours a week and putting 40 hours toward developing a skillset that will lead me to happily making $200,000 per year five years from now, I’m choosing B. The problem is, many of us aren’t willing to make that sacrifice. We take the right now as opposed to the long term. In both situations, you’re working a job a job that is unfulfilling but the question is how long will you be living an unfulfilled life and is the money really worth the emptiness that you will undoubtedly look to fill in unhealthy ways?
Today is the day that you decide what to become an expert at.
Make becoming an expert a priority.