Stop Stealing

As I look across social media, I see plenty of people who call themselves entrepreneurs/brands/creatives taking content from those who created it. I’m not talking about reposting content. That’s cool. Honestly, I love seeing my stuff shared and reposted, especially by people I’ve never met. And, sure, I like being tagged in those instances but that doesn’t always happen, so I’m cool with that. What should never happen is my watermarks being removed from my work and the same goes for any artist. We’re not out here putting our time into creating branded work for the brand to be erased. We’re creating content for exposure so that we can live sustainable lifestyles putting quality out for the world. But, when I look at some profiles and see work that has obviously been cropped so that the poster can seem that much deeper or more talented than (s)he is, I lose some respect for that person. And, if I like some content that I see has been cropped, I at least work to find the original. That’s the least I can do to show appreciation to the creator. We’re too old to take stuff we didn’t come up with and try taking credit for it.

Grow up.

 

Make giving credit where credit is due.

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Ethics Still Matter

As human beings, we’ve all made decisions that we are not proud of. It’s inevitable; We decided to operate in grey areas instead of moving into more black-and-white territory. To be candid, people have done that for millennia with hopes of getting “away” with it (though I believe you always pay for it in one way or another). The problem (or maybe the good thing) about today is that there is a record of everything and people are out here with the goal of putting the pieces together.

As I do my daily read of the headlines in the WSJ (until my $0.99/month trial period ends) and NYT, the same glaring story jumped out at me: WeWork’s CEO is double dipping. He allegedly bought buildings and then rented the space to his own company. Now, as smart as that may seem, in the era of such tight fiscal oversight, I’d strongly recommend checking with both an attorney and business ethics expert before making such a move.

Now, I’m sure a lot of people would say, “Well, when he started this, he probably didn’t know WeWork wold get this big so he didn’t think it’d be an issue.” And, to those people, I say “You’re probably right.” No one who is immensely successful ever knows that their ideas will take off like they do. But they hope. And that hope/faith/belief is what should drive your ethical behavior. When you begin your business, act as if everyone is already watching you. Act as if your name is on the front page of the New York Times. If you’ve made poor bookkeeping/ethical decisions in the past, nip them in the bud immediately and move forward with integrity. Because that is exactly what happened to WeWork. Don’t tell me you’ll have to learn the hard way, too.

Here’s a tip: If people tell you that you have enough money/power and you’re going the extra mile to get more, take a step back and look at how you’re trying to get more. Then ask yourself, “Would someone else see this as greed?” If the answer is yes, STOP!

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Make learning from the mistakes of others a priority.

It’s Not About Money

“It’s never ’bout the money ‘cuz I burn bread. It’s the principalities like Big Worm said” — Fabolous

Some people get so caught up with the dollars. I couldn’t care less about what my bank account said if I knew I lived in a nation that cared enough to make sure that I didn’t ever lose it all. I’ve been there and I can say that pursuing happiness can be pretty tough when you can’t pay your rent/mortgage, don’t have health insurance, and are working a job you hate just to make ends meet.

Bankruptcy and poor credit don’t only affect those whose names they are attached to, but also the people attached to those names. Families get evicted, children lose memories as a result of going from home to home, and those things that could’ve grown to mean the world to a person end up in a storage auction never to be seen again. Or, worse, uninsured people enter a hospital only to be told they will be helped only to a certain level and, after that, they’re on their own. What makes any one human more or less deserving than another to receive quality medical care, housing, or nourishment?

America, if you take anything at all from this blog, know that it’s not about the money. It’s never been about the money. Money just provides security. But what if (imagine this…) community provided security? What if we didn’t let our neighbors slip through the cracks? Or if we buy things to fill the voids we created by not giving our family time? What if we taught integrity before integers? We shouldn’t be privatizing education. Actually, we should be doing the opposite and equally distributing the resources that elite institutions (private and public alike) have.

If we want to make America great in the truest sense, we have to teach love and empathy. Yes, we have to take care of our own households but who will really want to kill us when we show them love? Proposing a truce (within reason) isn’t weak in the eyes of anyone who doesn’t subscribe to a toxic school of thought. I am a vocal proponent of self-defense but let’s have a little faith in God’s ability to put the humanity in mankind. And, in our everyday lives, let’s exhibit that humanity. We should not let anyone be homeless or hungry. Our children ought not learn untruths that the school system teaches. We can change this world together, one neighbor at a time.

And if you think me telling you to love your neighbor is too political, you probably don’t understand the denotation of the word “politics.” But there’s a wonderful book someone put together once that’ll explain that to you if need be.

 

Make money an avenue to improve the world as opposed to a goal in and of itself.

Take the High Road: Grappling With Issues of Ethics

I’m not perfect. I used to claim to be working on being perfect and, eventually, I realized that’s all I’ll ever be doing: working on it. I was chatting with Aaron, one of the managers at Union, this afternoon and we were in agreement on the fact that perfection is not a destination but a lifelong journey.

That being said (and completely unrelated to my discussion with Aaron), there are some things that one cannot overlook. To willingly work for an institution whose values directly contradict your own is challenging. To do so and begin to side with the morally mistaken institution, however, is just plain ridiculous. We have to pay our bills but do we have to sell our souls? I just cannot do it. I cannot look my family in their eyes and say that I agreed to sell them out so that I could bring home the bacon.

I’m an effective team member who takes ownership over his own and his organization’s success. But I’m not going to sit silently and assist in propelling a M.A.G.A. agenda. And no one else should, either. America will not be great until it chooses to love everyone before it hates anyone, which it hasn’t done since it was first colonized.

I thought I was done but now I’m not. It sucks. So many institutions, from universities to fast food spots to the companies that sell caps and gowns use slave labor. If you have a mobile phone or computer (which you do), you’re supporting the privatized prison system. They’ve legalized human trafficking. People buy stocks in human beings being locked up. We all support it. In the United States, it’s impossible not to. But it is possible to speak out, to wake up, and to demand change.

The slavery isn’t just in the prison system though. It’s in paying people minimum wages. It’s in keep people shackled to student debt. It’s in poisoning us with McDonald’s and Burger King and all the preservatives in our foods so that we become too dependent on the jobs to say 🤬 the jobs. It’s in holding us hostage by forcing whites to believe that every Latinx is a member of MS13 and forcing blacks to believe that we are going to be killed by cops while forcing cops (who are just glorified elevated slaves) to believe that all blacks are looking to pull out a gun on an armed officer. The powers that be no longer need the whips. Our minds, regardless of race, have been colonized. The solution is choosing to take the hard road by loving others when it’s easier to embrace fear-inspired, self-serving hate. That is the greatest rebellion of all time.

Make maintaining your integrity a priority.

The (Real) Reason You Have Opportunity

We're not here to make ourselves rich… Well, that's not all. I want money just like anyone else because it's required for my survival. But there's more to money than surviving; there's success. Success, to me, isn't just having items or experiences. It's having the opportunities that lead you to be able to help others.

The past two days, I haven't been posting to the Reader because I needed to really enjoy my vacation and I have been. Desirée and I went snorkeling and hung out on the beach and went cave tubing. We explored the streets of Belize City, took a ferry out to the islands right off the coast of the country, and rode through the rural areas to see how people lived outside the urban centers. From all this, I took two major things: Belize is beautiful but Belize lacks opportunity.

Desirée and I had one driver from the time we got to the hotel until the time we arrived back at the airport. Mr. Luis Martin put us on to the great local spots to eat, hooked us up with a tour guide for our cave tubing, and was always on time to pick us up from wherever we were. He was so trill that, when I ended up having to stop at an ATM at night to get some more cash out, he stepped out of the car with me, stood guard behind me, and he had something on him to protect himself and me as well.

In America, Luis would've been a philanthropist. In Belize, he is a great philanthropist. He and his wife (whom Desirée and I had the pleasure of meeting) at one point had a community center for the kids of their neighborhood so that they wouldn't get caught up in the drug trafficking that is common here. He said he likes driving taxis because it allows him to know what’s going on around the city and then to use that information to help people who need opportunities.

When we said we wanted to go cave tubing, Luis contacted Alfredo, a freelance tour guide who not only knows the cave systems, he knows the geology that made them as awesome as they are. When it comes to earth science, no offense to any of my former teachers, I would put him up against anyone who studied geology at an undergraduate level and I bet he could teach them some things. But here, Alfredo takes tours from time to time, works odd jobs at odd hours, and enjoys a simpler life. Part of me envies his freedom. Another part of me wants more for him. Since I couldn’t give him more, in that sense, we tipped him pretty well. That gave him a smile. I hope it’s used as a down payment on a “one day” dream he told us about but I may never know.

This is why those of us in more developed nations have the opportunities we do. Certainly, it's to set ourselves and our children up for awesome lives. But it's also to be able to feed into the lives of others. We have to create opportunities for those in our communities, states, nation, and world. I shouldn't be better off simply because I was born to certain parents in a certain state in a certain country. And, if I am better off because of that alone, then I have a responsibility to help make my fellow (wo)man better. The problem is, we're so afraid of competition that we don't think of the possibility for collaboration. By helping the best minds of all nations succeed, we're helping humanity as a whole. Or are we so egotistical that we want America to be the greatest nation ever? Let's change our way of thinking. Let's acknowledge that, the real reason for privilege and opportunity is so that others can be helped. You have a responsibility to be the best you that you can be not for yourself but for the world that you are here to help.

Make philanthropy a priority.

I’m Your Pusher

 

Yes. I admit it. I’m guilty. I am a pusher. Not a pusher of illicit substances but of an unpopular point of view. I am a pusher of black positivity. I believe that, historically, barriers have been set up that force Americans of all races, black and otherwise, to look at people of African descent through less than favorable lenses. Negative or less-than-sophisticated images of black folks are spread across the world, affecting the global views of us. Often, at worst, we are stereotyped as violent, undisciplined deviants. At best, entertainers. Though portrayals have changed thanks to shows like Grey’s Anatomy, the black doctor, lawyer, and professional are still viewed as anomalies while the black prisoner or athlete is seen as the status quo.

There is nothing wrong with being a rapper, singer, or ball player. Nothing at all. I have respect for anyone who does these things and uses their talent to uplift the community. But there are other options. As a professional, it is sometimes challenging to walk into room after room after room and meeting after meeting after meeting where I don’t see anyone who looks like me. So I have to change the narrative. I have a responsibility to myself, my family, my community, and my nation to provide true facts of the positive impact that blacks have every day on America, as opposed to the alternative facts that we are all murderers, drug users, and dependents of the welfare system.

Yesterday, I went out of my way to make the point of associating positive image of with the hashtag #OmegaPsiPhi on each of my social media accounts. I didn’t do it because I have great friends that are Ques or because my football coach from high school is a Que or to go viral. I did it because they, like  Alpha Phi Alpha (my fraternity), are focused on doing positive things across this nation, specifically in the black community, and anyone feeding positivity into my life deserves to have me do the same.  Secondly, negativity associated with any historically black fraternity is not good for any of us. Hiring managers probably do not know Alpha Phi Alpha from Omega Psi Phi from Iota Phi Theta. They just know that Steve Stephens was apart of one of those black step groups and his organization got bad publicity as a result.

People of all races, we must change the narratives surrounding non-whites in America. All blacks are not here to either rob or entertain you. All Jewish people aren’t here to be your lawyers or manage your money. All Latinos aren’t here illegally and looking for migrant work. All Middle Easterners aren’t looking for an opportunity to commit acts of violence. This is the point in history where we have the most access to the most information but we are regressing as a society. So, just as all white domestic terrorists are categorized as either mentally unstable or “lone wolves”, let’s start placing the same designation on non-white individuals whose actions are not a depiction of love for all humankind. And, when we see a group being negatively stereotyped, whether members of that group or not, we have a responsibility as good individuals to say “Not all people from group x commit the act of y. John Doe was acting as an individual and not as a representative.”

You have a sphere of influence. Change the narrative.

As a starting point, type #BlackMenSmile in on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. As J. Cole said, “There’s beauty in the struggle.”

 

Make peace and love priorities.

Character Over Everything

I don’t care what you have or what social circles you frequent. The number of square feet in your home do not matter, nor do the businesses you own.

Hitler owned Maybachs. Hillary knew Donald long before either of the two knew they’d run for president. Slave owners had some of the largest homes in the nation of their time. And they owned the nation’s most lucrative businesses.

I don’t point all that out to say that these people are or are not unethical beings. Rather, I say it to say that I don’t care about the surface level things. I care about your character. A person with impeccable character could sit in a room with Adolf Hitler and stand firm in his/her conviction.

So, when I we meet, don’t tell me where you work or who you golf with. Let me know that you’re a good human being the best way you know how.

 

Make good character a priority.