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.

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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.

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.

The Steps

It is a new year (you can pretty much say that for the first month-ish of a year, right?). 2017 (Crazy that I was born 30 years ago). And, to me, that just means that this is a new day. But to some, that means resolutions. What resolutions have you made? What are you going to do differently today that you didn’t do three days ago? My good friend Greg E. Hill always says, every day’s goal should be to be 0.1% better. That should be your goal today, tomorrow, and for the rest of your life. Improve yourself bit by bit, day by day. Every day, I want to be a better disciple of Christ. A better husband. A better uncle (and one day, father). A better blogger. A better friend. A better family member. A better professional. A better steward of my body. And, if 1/1/2017 is the day that you date the beginning of that daily change, go for it.

But, to be better, you need benchmarks and a plan. So, whereas, I don‚Äôt do resolutions, I do believe that, whenever you decide to change, there must be defined steps. What steps will you take this week that you will thank yourself for next year? ¬†Though I don’t want to tell you what goals to set, I believe that, in this day and age, to be the best relies heavily on your base of knowledge so I’d strongly suggest that you find a book that will make you better at what you do. Make reading more one of your steps toward greatness.

It’s not about your resolutions, but your resolve.

 

Make professional development a priority.

The Name of the Game

Consistency.

That’s the name of the game.

Welcome to 2017. No one knows me for being a blogger exactly. My brand doesn’t rely on the fact that I have a professional development blog. There are millions of “bloggers” across the world. But I can’t think of many who are daily bloggers. Consistency is what keeps people consistently seeking me out for advice, speaking engagement, and professional development services. I have a track record that shows I’m always learning. Every day, you can learn bits and pieces of what I learn.

Now, consistency is usually seen as a good thing but it could be a bad thing too. The question is, “What are you known for on a consistent basis?” Are you known for keeping your word? For making good decisions? For being disciplined enough to do the tougher things? Or do you begin things and then quit? Do you give just enough effort to get by? Are you consistently inconsiderate?

This year, focus on being consistent in the right things and nonexistent in the wrong ones.

In each instance, consistency begins with a single action and, from there, it is continued.

 

Make professional development a priority.

 

There Are Two Types of Leaders

A few months ago, I tweeted “Don’t be independent enough to take credit when things go right but not strong enough to take criticism when they go wrong. #Leadership.” ¬†Too many people in positions of power lack the integrity necessary to share praise and to take responsibility. ¬†I’m not saying that you, as a leader, must take the blame for everything that occurs within your organization. ¬†I am, however, saying, when something goes right, share the credit with your team. ¬†When something goes wrong, before pointing the finger, look introspectively and acknowledge the role that you, as the leader, played in the shortcoming. ¬†Be a leader of integrity and vision, not just one of opportunity and visibility.

 

Make professional development a priority.