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.

Create 🤬 You’d Pay For

Today, I was at the Triangle’s dopest barbershop, Rock’s. Not only do I get a consistently phenomenal haircut from Jennifer but I also get a craft beer with every cut. Today, I chose a Founder’s IPA and, right under the can’s rim were the words, “BREWED FOR US.” I thought that was great. They brew the kind of beer they want to drink.

Some people say you should make products or provide services that your customers would like. While I agree with that, I also think that you should never create something that you, yourself, don’t consider dope enough to pay for. In the case of barbers, yes, there are people who want really weird cuts and stuff. But that’s ok. Just think of it this way: if I was that kind of person, would I pay me for this caliber of cut?

If it’s not quality, don’t do it. Every photo I give clients is a photograph I would love to put in my portfolio. Every résumé and cover letter I craft is one that I would provide an employer with myself.

Be proud enough of your work to never give anything that isn’t good enough for you. And, if they want something that you wouldn’t be proud to tell others you did, turn down the business. It’s not worth it.

 

Make creating 🤬 you like a priority.

The Get Back

“The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.” — Proverbs‬ ‭15:3

Have you ever been at a pivotal point in your life and realized that you have to refocus? No one will do it for you. Look in the mirror and make the changes necessary to reach for the stars that you know God put you here to reach for.That was me today. I’ve been doing well as of late in many ways. I’ve got a good job. I workout four or five days each week. I go to church. I’m eating better and drinking less. And I’m doing a better job of managing my money. But something was missing.

Last night, my best man and best friend Sean sent me a devotional he read. It was good advice but, at the time, I thought of it secularly and not spiritually. At 2:25 this morning, God woke me up and I sat and thought about what is missing from my days. I didn’t pick up my phone and scroll. I just thought. And I realized that, even with going to church weekly, leading Bible Study on Wednesdays, and working on the church’s social media team, I was neglecting my own relationship with God. I was doing enough to look like a good Christian but what was I sacrificing? I get up in the morning, do yoga, go to the gym, go to work, come home, watch Netflix and read books. Sure, I’d thank Him for waking me and for my food but that was the extent of my regular prayers.

After taking the time to recognize this, I prayed for healing. And after I prayed for healing, I decided I would read the Word. And you know what chapter I randomly came across? The one Sean sent me a few hours before. I didn’t realize it at first until I got to that verse. It was a reminder that, no matter how much I fall off, God is looking out for me and He has a plan to help me get back on the right track.

This has nothing to do with professional development or branding. As I said before, all of that looks good for me right now. It has to do with wholistic care. Are you, as a young professional, feeding your spirit the way you’re feeding your body and bank accounts? If the answer is no, consider how to start.

Make refocusing a priority.

Superhero Status

I’ll tell you my favorite thing about volunteering with young people: It enhances my superpowers. Inspiring children allows me to reach into the future and impact a generation I may never see born. That’s pretty dope.

Yesterday, I visited my old elementary school and spoke to a group of young brothers who are where I was 25 years ago. Talking to them about their aspirations reminded me of my own imagination at the time. I encouraged them to be there for one another because there are rooms in this world where, if we as black men don’t cheer for one another, no one will. I let them know we are one another’s tribe.

Find a way to inspire a kid between now and Monday morning. Even if it’s just a quick word of encouragement to the little girl sitting on the floor of Barnes & Noble reading. Let her know she matters. Or if it’s a little boy on the basketball court working on a certain move, let him know that, if he keeps practicing, he can perfect it. If it’s positive, encourage it and that positive mindset will spill over into other sections of their lives.

 

Make reaching into the future a priority.