The Connection

The older we get, the more difficult it is to break away from the hustle and bustle of every day life. That has always been the case; the more responsibility you take on, the less time you spend enjoying your days. Now, throw in technology and you have a real lack of necessary human interaction. Online social networks are virtually satisfying but they don’t fill the void many of us have by engaging in an authentic fashion with our companions on this journey called life. That lack of interaction plays heavily into the degeneration of our society. While we were once on trajectory to break down walls of inequality and bias, we have come so far that we have replaced the desire to connect with others outside of a virtual setting. But desire and need are two very different things. We still need one another. We need to shake hands, hug, and feel the warmth of another’s smile. While some of that can be maintained for briefly through a screen, none of it can be created in virtual spaces. We must look at one another, share a cup of coffee or whiskey or wine or whatever, and hear the other person’s stories.

Finding the right space for you is very much like dating (Haha… I have never dated as an adult but I understand it conceptually): sometimes, you hit a home run the first time to bat and, other times, you give the other pitcher a nine-inning no-hitter (I also never played baseball but I understand it conceptually). I’m somewhere in the middle. Since I moved back to Durham 4 years ago, I have looked for the right social group. Every one I’ve connected with, from the runners’ group to the young black professionals’ GroupMe, has offered a piece of what I needed but something has been missing. Last night, I think I found what I needed. I’ll let you all know when I know.

I say that to say, find what you need. Find a space where you can connect authentically with people who inspire you to continue developing yourself.

 

Make finding authentic connections 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.

Pick Your Battles

Whether I’m discussing the relationships between myself and my wife, boss, mother, or friends, picking my battles is one of the most important things I’ve learned since I graduated college (a lesson that I really began developing back in the first semester of my junior year).

Some things aren’t worth fighting over. And some things aren’t to be fought over. I don’t go to work and say what I won’t do (as long as it’s ethical and not degrading). I have a responsibility to do my job. I don’t tell DesirĂ©e that I’m not washing the dishes when it’s my night to wash. There are some battles that aren’t worth it (and that I probably won’t win).

Conversely, there are some that must be fought. When something isn’t that big of a deal, let it slide. Because, eventually, you’re going to have something that you have to speak up against and you don’t want to be pegged as someone whose always pushing every envelope you can.

Your pride is important. But know when you need to put it to the side and when you need to say “This is something I won’t budge on.” You cannot not budge on everything and everything cannot go your way. That is juvenile.

 

Make professional development a priority.

Maintaining Relationships

This past weekend, I had nothing to do and no one to hang out with (DesirĂ©e and her sorority sisters took a road trip), so I left work on Friday and hit the road for Charlotte. On my way there, I was posting periodically to my Instagram story and one of my friends of almost a decade, Bianca Payton of S&S Associates, shot me a message letting me know that one of her clients, Opera Carolina, would be having an early screening of “The Girl Of The West” that evening and she invited me to come as a “Tweet Seater” (blogger). I haven’t been to the opera in years but it is always nice to immerse yourself in settings that you aren’t regularly in. Not only did I get to see an awesome performance with spectacular music in an amazing venue (get tickets by clicking here), I was also able to meet some movers and shakers in the entrepreneurial and creative sphere, like photographer and re-branding consultant Josh Galloway and footwear designer La’Cario Sellers, owner of Customs by Cario. After the opera, my LB, author Brady S. Moore and I connected with our college friend, marketing specialist Brittany Maul.  Bianca and Josh met up with us there a bit later and we closed the bar.

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The next morning, after a 2+ mile run on the south side of Charlotte, I went to visit family and then took some time to catch up with my friend and the best barber in North Carolina, Tim Doe of No Grease Exclusive in uptown Charlotte. I had about 30 minutes to kill so I took my camera bag and shot around downtown before grabbing an awesome brunch w/ Brittany at Mimosa Grill. I closed out my trip by trying to catch an NBA playoff game with Sean Johnson of Toshiba Business Solutions, Cory Bennett of XChange NC, Branden Reid of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, and Tony McNeal of Bank of America (I say “trying” because we spent the time catching up and missed the game in its entirety).

Thing is, the game was just wishful thinking. That last chill session with friends is what the trip was about one thing: catching up. As those of you who’ve been rocking with me for a while know, I lived in Charlotte for four years after graduating from UNCG. I loved the city but ended up moving back to Durham to be closer to family. Though the Triangle will always have a place in my heart and it is great for DesirĂ©e and me right now, eventually, I hope we get the opportunity to move back to the greater Charlotte area. That being said, though it is years away, maintaining relationships in Charlotte will be key to my success as an entrepreneur. And, though phone calls and text messages are nice, there’s nothing like taking some time to go hang out with those in your circle who are in the physical area that you’re looking to be in. When I came to Charlotte the first time, I had an aesthetically appealing rĂ©sumĂ© with no experience and I was still developing my network. If I return, I will come with a network that opens doors and experience that closes deals. But to have those doors opened, you have to invest in your relationships on the front end.

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Make professional development a priority.

Meeting Ms. Issa Rae

This weekend, I had the opportunity to collaborate with LionsHead Media, a black tech company out of Durham, and photograph Issa Rae of HBO’s “Insecure” as she spoke to an auditorium full of students at North Carolina Central University. Kicking it backstage with Issa (like we’re best friends, right?) was nothing short of inspiring. This young lady is doing exactly what I want to do in a lane that’s different from my own, but the same principles are applicable. She has taken a corporate web platform (YouTube), created an unmarketed but very real aspect of black culture in “Awkward Black Girl”, and developed such a cult following that she was able to author a NYT bestseller, pen a deal with HBO, and take everything that she’s learned to an HBCU campus in order to inspire the next generation of young black creative minds.

It was super dope to be able to connect with her backstage chatting with her about her come up, getting an autograph for my wife, and listening to Corey Freeman, Creative Director at LionsHead Media, explain to her the impact that Durham’s Black Wall Street had on the United States. Additionally, I was able to create content off the personal interaction as well as capture some awesome photographs of her that I couldn’t have gotten without having the access I got through LionsHead. But the most powerful things I got from the conversation between NCCU student Christina Boyd-Clark of LionsHead Media and Issa were these five quotes that I was able to jot down in my notebook in between snapping. Take them and allow them to inspire you as you work to further your brand and your community.

“(The stereotypes that the media shows) are valid black experiences but not the only black experiences.”
“In this day and age, there’s no excuse not to create.”
“Where’s your content online?”
“I get a lot of inspiration just by living life.”
“(Success) depends on talent and consistency, but consistency more than anything else.”

All very simple concepts but I chose them as my top quotes because it shows that, in this day and age, the formula for success is not rocket science. It’s just about taking care of the basics and doing so consistently. You have to provide a different angle that isn’t already out there. You have to be putting yourself out there. You have to live life and interact with people in order to create. And you have to go hard regularly. So do it and maybe one day I’ll be photographing your speaking engagement.

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Once again, major shoutout to LionsHead Media for the opportunity to meet a young lady who is working to change the conversation around black lifestyle and what is seen as the norm within our culture. We’re not all gangstas, charismatic entertainers, welfare moms, and bad b_____es. Some of us are awkward and insecure and oddly funny folks who don’t like seeing the same person in the hall three times in a work day because how many times can you really say “Hello”?

 

Make professional development a priority.

Giving Back in the Right Places

At 6:15 AM yesterday, I walked out of my home an hour and a half before I usually do. Why? Because I had agreed to volunteer on the Bull City Breakfast for Scouting’s committee. Why? Two reasons. First, there are children who need assistance paying for programs like this and I believe that the dollars raised at the breakfast play a pivotal role in that. Secondly, experience on a rĂ©sumĂ© is not just professional experience. Outside of my 8-5, I volunteer in numerous capacities, from working with young people at my elementary school to doing marketing for my church to sitting on finance and fundraising committees for local organizations.

Gifts, both of time and treasure, are of the utmost importance to me. I don’t care what anyone says about the selflessness that goes into giving money and time away, it is one of the most selfish things I can do and do you know why? Not because of the connections I make or the token gifts that I receive for volunteering. I give back because the feeling that I get when I know what I’ve helped someone is one of the greatest feelings in the world.

We all have the capacity to give something. If you don’t have money, you have time. If you don’t have money or time, you have kindness.

 

Make giving back a priority.