Monday, August 11, 2014

Notes for a Young Black Man from an Older Black Man

Ramblings Post #267
I've been gone for a minute, now I'm back with the jump-off. I've been working on some projects, looking at some options and trying to find a gig, but this here just hadn't been it for a moment. I just need to get my feet back on the ground and get moving. But as I was working to get my mind right, doing some reading, this came to me so I wrote it down. This is the expanded version, I put it up somewhere else first, but it needed polish. 

There is a saying, that one should take the thing that they love to do, and figure out how to make money at it, and thus they will never have to work a day in their life. And it's true, however, to make the adage work one has to broaden one's horizons and realize that there is more to life than music and basketball. This is not to say that talent in those areas will not beget success but talent will only take you so far, popularity is fleeting and knees eventually give out. Our immediate history is littered with many talented rappers who found no success, and legendary schoolyard basketball players who have to arrange the early shift at the factory so that they can play when the sun is out. A wise person does not make the MOST difficult path their only path.

What I am saying is that the world is bigger. There are lots doctors, accountants, pharmacists and others whose personal and professional lives are contain all those things the media parades in front of us as the trappings of success, only not so grandiose. But we have a tendency to have our eye only on the top pedestal and soothe our soul by calling it "focus." I think all young black men, really all young men, should step outside their comfort zone and experience something different, if only to get perspective, but mostly because we've straight jacketed ourselves into narrow definitions of blackness, manhood, and expectation. I suggest this because despite what people tell you, much of our success lies in prepared for the opportunities when the arise, and what we're doing now isn't preparing us for much.

Read. Travel. Explore. Do those things not considered "black" in the colloquial sense and you may find out that you are more than just black.

Now, as an older black man, my hobbies are reading, writing, PC computer games, Console video games, some sports (as I said I'm older, but I'm also out of shape) and good conversation. I've been meaning to take up golf and cycling, but I'm not in that spot right now. Some of it is not exactly what you'd expect. But why those? And how do they help me achieve success, both professional and personal?

Well read people tend to appear knowledgeable, which is usually viewed as favorable. Plus regular reading broadens your knowledge base if you browse several subjects. I enjoy history, politics, news and investigative journalism, satire, and good fiction. Things outside the section of the bookstore people might normally expect someone of African descent to inquire about. Yes, read the Autobiography of Malcolm X, but also read something else. Anything else. Harry Potter if you must, but something else. And when I'm not reading novels I read Vanity Fair, the Atlantic, Slate, and a host of other titles online and in print to keep my mind tuned. A five minute article here. A brief blurb there. Frequent reading helps comprehension in all aspects of life and helps you to recognize and understand situations faster than lesser read counterparts, as you've seen them before. Most of work is the solving of problems, whether it be an oil change or figuring out construction project schedules. And most people when they need help turn to people they think of as knowledgeable.

People who write regularly have a tendency to gain skill at it. And writing becomes valuable in professional communication, such as applying for jobs or writing emails. A professional looking email between colleagues makes people wonder how much more you really know. It can help in evaluating the wording in contracts you might have to sign and other agreements. Because you will have this familiarity you know when something reads wrong, which may help you avoid future issues.

PC computer gaming usually isn't "twitch based" how fast can you press a button, but most times require thinking, planning and strategy. Consider it exercise for the brain, just like pushups and sprints are exercises for the other muscles. And while creating a virtual airplane empire or building imaginary pizzas may seem silly on the surface, the training can translate into real world application where planning and strategy become second nature. This rudimentary development of critical thinking skills can assist with the practical improvement and advancement, both personal and professional.

Console games. Well, I just like console games. But, the use of the games, especially in this modern age helps develop social skills. Okay, not really, but something had to go there. Currently I use them as ways not to waste money. I can spend $20 on a used game from Gamestop and it will fill a month of evenings I might otherwise be out wasting money I don't have on drinks and expensive food. It's a small investment with a pretty good return. I'm even thinking about renewing my Playstation Plus membership.

And good conversation. When I say good conversation, I don't mean the gossip of the day, which can be fun and informative. No, instead I mean politics, beliefs, world views. If you're well read, in areas outside those that are expected of you, you can develop better relationships. Which lead to more opportunity. Consider this, you have what you think is a good opportunity, but you're unsure, so whom do you have evaluate it? Someone whom you consider knowledgeable. Which leads you back to my first point, being well read. And if you broaden your circle of conversation, you get more opportunity.

Plain and simple, taking those things we know how to do and expounding on them, means learning to more things. Things Black...and not Black. We make a big deal about being black and proud, or staying "real." But the truth is while we are Black men, we are more than just Black, and all the stereotypes that go with it. And while these tools I use seem simple and crude, there is a method to the madness, in that they are flexible and prepare the mind for the broad. Starting here doesn't mean you'll finish here. Reading mentally takes you places and lets you peek in on new experiences. Writing lets you express yourself. Strategy is always valuable. It's not the tools, its how they're used.

My suggestion to the young black man is be black. And then be more than just black.

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