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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Is Your Blade Growing Dull?

When I was in undergrad, I intellectually stimulated almost every day. Sure, there were the Saturday nights when the most intellectual discussion was how fast can we finish the beers at the track team’s party (shoutout to the homie Devon Smith), but regular days consisted of my group tossing around ideas about how we would take over the world while either eating in the cafe, working off our cafe eating in the gym, or making sure we still had access to the cafe/gym next semester by sitting in the library to keep our scholarship dollars rolling in.

I miss those days — the days when we dreamt and planned more than we worked ourselves into an apathetic torpor. Whether the goal was entrepreneurship or figuring out how we would climb the corporate ladder or improving the quality of life for others, we used our minds in an unconventionally imaginative fashion.  Their iron sharpened mine and mine theirs.

I still talk to (but rarely see) many from my circle, as many of us have gotten bogged down in the mundane and monotonous movement from Monday to Friday, only to pray on Friday for the weekend to move in the slowest motion possible and, conversely, for Monday morning to prey on us as hard as we pray on Monday for Friday. This is week in and week out. We do it for the bills and the insurance, the 401(k) matches and the paid days of sick leave, benefits which ultimately catalyze the very mental health days that we end up taking and retirement we long for (because I am convinced that I will never truly want to retire from a passion but I’ll be in a hurry to leave a job). Security holds many of us hostage, which is ironic, because our “security” only secures the prison we have chosen for ourselves.

Instead of security, we should reach for risk, which lies in having those around you  keep you sharp and hungry and thinking outside of the box that would become a cell were you to think inside of it. To keep from being a prisoner of habit, you must have friends with whom you can toss ideas around over a glass of bourbon on the rocks or a good game of Spades. Those who remind you that you are not the smartest person in the room. A circle whose skill sets don’t mirror yours but, instead, complement them. People who specialize in various fields so that, when one of their clients/friends needs help in your field, you’re going to be the first to get the referral.

Today, I charge you to reconnect with an old friend who once inspired you. Whether they pushed you to strengthen yourself spiritually, financially, physically, professionally, or otherwise, give them a call or shoot them a text. See when you all can get together for coffee or lunch or a drink after work. If they’re in a different city, find a time when you all can meet somewhere just to catch up. While I love technology, there is something magical about tossing ideas across an actual table and working through a problem face to face. In short, allow their iron to sharpen yours and do the same for them. It’s the only way you’ll get out of this stagnant stupor that “security” supplies.

 

Make sharpening your sword a priority.

Built For This

Today, I was talking to a friend of mine who has an established business but she’s trying to continue to develop her brand. She and I talk frequently and, every time we speak, we’re sharing opportunities or articles.

She and I, like an increasing number of my friends, have lost a parent in recent years and that is one thing that motivates me the most. When I texted her today to see how things were going, she said she needs to get some things under control as it relates to her brand. I reminded her that we are built for this and that we both have parents who fed into us so we could do what we will do. Whether you’re motivated by legacy or income, know that you are good enough and you can succeed. The only question is “Are you going to ethically do what it takes to succeed?”

Oh, and, while I’m thinking about it, another takeaway from this whole post is to keep people in your circle who are going to push you as you push them. Birds of a feather flock together.

Make professional development a priority.

What’s Really Important

The three most important things in my life are God, love, and peace. Is money nice? Sure. But I’ve had (what I saw as) obscene amounts and I’ve had none. Funny thing is, I was least happy in my life when my checking account balance was the largest it ever was as a single man. And, one of my favorite memories came at a time when I had no job, no money and my dad gave me what he had because he knew I needed it.

Love and peace are key because you cannot buy either. No matter how much money you have, you cannot purchase peace. You have to practice tranquility so that, when life does happen, as it always does, you can maintain a level of calm.

Simultaneously, love cannot be bought. Eventually, the money and the stardom dissipate. That is the ebb and flow of things. Kanye West won’t always be on the front page of The Inquirer. Joe Blow won’t always be in the unemployment line. Love has to be built on more than the right here and now.

Now, can a bunch of other subcategories be placed in those three? Certainly. I, personally, cannot have peace without health so I have to continue eating better and working out. I’m investing now in my future peace by going through a controlled level of struggle in the gym day by day. And, even though money isn’t everything, do I need to be saving so that I can enjoy retirement? Yes. Once again, it is an investment in my peace and the peace of my family.

Figure out what three things are important to you and how those three can connect to the rest of your life. Let that push you day by day.

 

Make figuring out what’s important a priority.

Cutting Dead Weight

This morning, first thing I did was check out the new episode of one of my closest friends’ YouTube series. Motivational speaker and entrepreneur Natasha Nichole Lake is all about empowering millennials and women to follow their dreams and make themselves better versions of themselves. Check out her latest video, Smartest Person in the Room, below. It’s all about cutting people from your inner circle who aren’t helping you develop, which is something many young professionals struggle with.

Make professional development a priority.

A Little Thanks Goes a Long Way

As a young professional, you must always have an active list of people who can provide you with solid references. Now, in a best case scenario, your rĂ©sumĂ© gets through the computer system, you do great on the interviews, and whoever is hiring you says you’ve got the job as long as your references check out.

And, guess what? They check out. So you owe your new $35,000 or $350,000 or $3.5M job to who? Your wonderful references. And they did it out of the goodness of their hearts. They don’t expect a thing outside of a thank you. But how about you surprise them? Take your references out to lunch. In my case, one lives in New York and so I am sending him a Starbucks gift card. Now, you don’t have to spend $100 thanking the person but you should give them something that will put a smile on their faces.

References are professional contacts but, often, they’re also friends. I am a firm believer in giving people their flowers while they can smell them. So say thank you in a way that is sacrificial because this person’s reference just put you closer to your ultimate professional goal.

 

Make professional development a priority.

Success or Guilt By Association

“You hang out with nice people, you get nice friends, y’understand? You hang out with smart people, you get smart friends. You hang out with yo-yo people, you get yo-yo friends! Y’see, it’s simple mathematics.” — Rocky Balboa

Be selective about who you keep in your corner, professionally and socially.  The wrong person can have you in prison or worse.  The right person can motivate you to reach higher than you ever thought possible.  You can have success or guilt by association.  The choice is yours.

 

Make professional development a priority.