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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Why I Treat Negativity and Negative People Like a Plague


Negativity
I'm not sure how many of you read Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon. It's a great book about creativity and productivity. The lessons taught in this book can be applied to any discipline, industry, or skill. It's been one of my favorite books since 2012—when I first read it. Like most readers of good work or good art, you find yourself wanting to connect with the creator of the good work. I tried. I followed Austin Kleon on Twitter. I have also listened to several interviews featuring Mr. Kleon. In summary, I came away unimpressed and confused each time.
Today, I un-followed Mr. Kleon. Why? Well, the easiest way to explain why is to say that he's a jerk. I don't mean that disrespectfully, but as a honest opinion based on numerous observations. He didn't say anything negative to me, but it felt like every fourth tweet was negative or condescending.
I loathe negativity. It saps my energy. I don't like being angry. We have enough "angry Black men" in America, right? As I pondered why his tweets were so negative, I recalled a specific section in his book. Kleon writes the following:
"You're going to see a lot of stupid stuff out there and you're going to feel like you need to correct it. One time I was up late on my laptop and my wife yelled at me, 'Quit picking fights on Twitter and go make something!' She was right. But anger is one of my favorite create resources."
Ahhhh. It all makes sense now. He purposefully tweets negative things and comes off as a jack ass, because 1) He probably is a jack ass jerk, 2) He uses the negativity as fuel for his creativity. I respect the latter. I can relate. But there's something in my spirit, something that tells me that's not right—that's not the way to do things. Even in Kleon's own book, in chapter 8, it says "BE NICE. (The world is a small town). So why isn't this guy taking his own advice?
My problem is that I know the connection or correlation between having a successful business and connecting with people. I saw it firsthand with my grandfather. He woke up bright and early every morning. He came to pick his eldest grandson up—myself. I hopped in his jeep or his Volvo and we drove to Sam's Club, almost every morning. We grabbed donuts, big boxes of candy, coffee, water, chips, soda, and a copy of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Most of these items were for the vending machines. Grandpa would later remind me that the customers wouldn't get comfortable in a place of business without having access to some luxuries—such as snacks and beverages. The donuts and coffee were for the staff. He believed in keeping his barbers and beauticians fed. He made connections with his people in subtle ways. Additionally, grandpa helped his employees with their taxes, legal situations, and lives. He frequently met with his young staff to offer life advice. Despite his success, he never took any employee, vendor, or customer for granted.
Unsurprisingly, the thesis of Welcome to Black Excellence is connections. In order for the Black community in America to improve, we have to support one another. Ask any psychologist or sociologist, society is based on relationships and connections. There are no self-made millionaires or billionaires. Every human being needs someone. As an introvert, I  can credibly say that even introverts or "home bodies" need people. If you create art for a living like Austin Kleon, you need people to want to read, view, appreciate, share, and buy that art. That requires you to be likable.
In this social media dominant era, artists, writers, entrepreneurs, entertainers, athletes, and professionals need to be mindful of what we say and do online. I encourage everyone to be genuine. "Be yourself." By being yourself, you will be unmistakable and possibly remarkable. But regardless of your gifts and talents, your personality and how you interact with others determines your success. Your attitude determines your altitude. Now I personally recognize that some people didn't like the content of  My Flexibility Manifesto: Following Your Passion 2 Success. I used positive psychology and spirituality to advise readers how to find meaningful, purposeful work and their life's purpose. Anytime you talk about politics, religion, or spirituality, you are going to turn some people off. I was well aware. Thus, my approach for Welcome to Black Excellence is different.
As an African American intellect and creative, here's my conundrum. There are 4.6 million African Americans with bachelor's degrees. A quick Google or Twitter search with the words "Black Scholar" will result in many results that include myself. In creating Black Scholars LLC in December 2010, I have seen two sides of the coin. One side of Black scholarship is harsh, extremely political, anti-White, anti-Anglo Saxon, anti-European or Western influence. The rhetoric is unforgiving of this nation's ugly past. This type of Black scholarship borrows from Nat Turner's rebellion and Marcus Garvey's teachings. A clear example of this type of scholarship can be found on Tavis Smiley's and Cornel West's Facebook group based on their collaborative efforts against poverty (which is strange, because neither Tavis Smiley or Cornel West subscribe to this scholarship).
The other side of Black scholarship is positive, uplifting, and future-focused (I even started my own Facebook group that depicts that). This half of the dichotomy is cognizant of America's past and present, but it is not engulfed or handicapped by it. Although, I don't write much about slavery, America's true discovery, or African empiricism, I know that history well. I believe that history. I respect that history. But I didn't study African American cultural studies in college (independently I did examine many issues from the African American perspective). I studied psychology. I studied education. And now I'm studying professional and technical writing/communications. Combine all three, and you have me. A gifted writer that believes in the power of education and positive psychology. I recognize that our history books are inaccurate and mainly one-sided. But I can't change that bias. What I can change is the perspective that I write from and the perspective that some African Americans operate from. We can operate from a place of affluence, togetherness, and hope. Does that make me the ultimate scholar? No. But I'm learning.
Regardless of what side of Black scholarship I picked, inevitably I would piss some people off.
By being true to myself, I am creating the best art possible. I am focused on those that resonate with the future-focused paradigm of change in our communities. I am still being remarkable. I won't participate in racist antics or discriminatory practices against people who look different than myself. What's the purpose of the art if you delete the potential fans and viewers of the art? It's not about ME. It's about the people—all people—not just a small portion of the whole. Once we truly understand this, we will be successful as a society. Right now, we are not successful.
Consequently, teachers aren't teaching effectively in our nation's classrooms, because they still think it's about them. It's not! It's about the children. Businesses are failing one after another, because they think it's about them, their board of directors, their website, or their marketing plans. It's not! It's about the people, the consumers, the users, and the audience.
The reason why Apple and Oprah Winfrey are so successful  is caused by their authentic focus on the people. 
The goal for any creator, artist, entrepreneur, or professional is to SERVE the people. It's about enhancing and increasing the lives of your tribe. That's why I encourage Facebook users to comment on statuses and interact versus simply liking posts and pages. If Facebook is truly a social platform, then people should be socializing.
Think about it from this perspective, would you rather sell a million books and no one talks about how that book changed their lives for the better? Or would you rather sell 10 books and it dramatically impacts the lives of the readers to the point that they start opening their own businesses, falling in love, believing in God, and volunteering for non-profit organizations? For most of us, we want the gray area. We want to be commercially successful while impacting lives. And we can have both. But it starts with YOU focusing on your PEOPLE. It's not about you. It's about them. If you approach your art, your work, and your business, from a perspective of how you can add value to your audience's lives, you will not be able to hold the abundance of blessings that will come your way.
For the record, I admire Austin Kleon's work. I was only using him as an example to make my point. His book inspired my writing and creativity, but I don't like his personality.
If you liked this editorial, please comment below and share it with someone you love. Subscribe at the top (click the "Follow" button). Email me at Leonard.Wilson.Jr@gmail.com. Follow me at Twitter: @BlackScholaronl. And thank you for reading! I appreciate YOU.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Lost in Space


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Sunday, January 13, 2013

A new year = a renewed focus

1 John 2:7 "Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard." 

 We all enjoy the coming of a new year. It gives us a reason to celebrate life. That's why many of us party on New Year's Eve. A new calendar year becomes a fresh start. Many people become goal-oriented around this time of year. Promises of weight loss push us to join exercise gyms and count calories. Financially we strive to save more money and spend less. To improve our professional lives, we return to college, enroll in graduate school, and strategize our careers. However, the beginning of the new year does not mean that everything should be new.

I mean that if we are creating new goals year after year, what does that say about our previous goals? Did we accomplish them? If we did reach them, then why do we establish the same new goals every year?

During my teaching tenure, my goal was to meet my students where they were academically, and gradually raise their astuteness. Thus, I created a pattern within my lesson planning. Referencing Bloom's Taxonomy, there are different tiers of learning that are developed upon each tier. For example, a student learning about the Civil War is entry-level knowledge. Creating a play based on the Civil War requires a higher skill. Thus, I argue that we need to stop creating new goals every new year. 

Instead, we should push our goals to higher levels. Simple goals deserve complexity. For example, let's assume you possess a goal of losing five pounds. After reaching this goal, it should be heightened with taking cooking classes to eat healthier, jogging one mile every other day, buying organic foods weekly, etc.

A Chosen Path

Spartacus is driven by his purpose in life, which, pushes him beyond humanly limits and expectations.


Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

Proverbs 3:6 - In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. 


   I am a huge fan of the Starz network drama series Spartacus. During their escape from slavery, Spartacus and his fellow gladiators had an important decision to make. Having just killed their slave master (Lentulus Batiatus) and several key Roman leaders, they were free of bondage and servitude. They could leave Rome and try to rebuild the lives they previously enjoyed or they could join Spartacus. By joining Spartacus, they would be risking their lives to free other slaves and have to share food and living quarters with strangers. As Robert Frost romanticized, there arrives a time in each of our lives where we must choose a path to take. Despite their better judgment, many of the former slaves decided to join Spartacus in his cause.

   For us in modern society, that complicated decision may be between having children or traveling the world, attending law school or joining Teach for America, or dropping out of college or signing a recording contract. Regardless of the specifics, we all arrive at this point in our respective lives. As difficult as these decisions are, looking back, things work themselves out. We cringe change, but some how, some way, we adjust. We stay in jobs too long out of the fear of uncertainty. We stay in careers too long because of our fear of instability. We accept the status quo (I don't) because we fear being outcasted or criticized. 

   I challenge you to face your fears. Our lives are predestined by God. We were all created with purpose. Thus, we should live purposeful lives. Pray, meditate, participate in fellowship, and learn about God. Establishing a strong relationship with our Creator may en graph a spirit of prosperity, success, purpose, favor, entrepreneurship, and more. 

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Falling for Christ, I owe it to my brother Corey (part 2) - Commitment

Me, Big Wood, Matt Vasgersian, Corey, and Shady (in Detroit, MI)

“I took the road less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” - Robert Frost

"That is why your death is going to be so sad... You've never fully committed to anything." - Bishop T.D. Jakes
What is commitment? According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, commitment is defined as "an agreement or pledge to do something in the future; something pledged; the state or an instance of being obligated or emotionally impelled." 

When the circumstances of life become difficult, people disappear. Marriages are not long term, because we don't understand commitment.  Commitment is only realized through reciprocity. Do you give as good as you receive? Do you understand that any relationship requires reciprocity? To be committed to your dreams and goals is a relationship. It's a relationship that you have to constantly add to. 


Think of a relationship as if it's a front lawn of grass. If you don't water this grass, remove harmful materials from it, and feed it with the proper resources, that grass will die. Likewise, any relationship that lacks the proper attention and care will diminish. That's why many of us don't reach our full apex. That's why people talk about becoming this or becoming that, only to fall short years later.


The bible talks about commitment. 
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices... 
Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize...  
For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.  

Commitment is unusual in our society. When my best friend Corey found Christ, he realized that he had to fully emerge himself in God to reach his personal and professional apex. That required him to lose some friends. He stopped hanging around people who were negative, evil, and promiscuous.  He tried to persuade many of his friends (including myself) to develop spiritually. He did this as a high school student in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Milwaukee for many teens is all about sex, parties, alcohol, and drugs. Corey fought against that status quo. 



Why aren't we more committed?

  • It is costly. True commitment is an investment. To reach your apex in any area of your life, you have to invest everything. That means your time, energy, soul, body, money, and faith. 
  • It requires patience. In a technology-savvy society, we are able to obtain many things within a press of the button. As great as technology is, we have become impatient people. To reach the apex of your success, you must be able to delay gratification. Thus, if you need to go back to school to retrain for a specific career, that will take time. There are no shortcuts to holistic success.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Being a professional - Being positive

1 Corinthians 16:13-14  Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. Do everything in love.


"Why try to fit in when you're a stand out." - Joe Budden
My mother always told me that God does not like ugly. Somewhere in the Bible, it states that God knows us through our spirit. He knows who we really are. In his eyes, we are transparent. Thus regardless of our socioeconomic status, clothing, degrees, social status, etc., we cannot disguise ourselves from our Creator. 

That is refreshing to know. However, some people possess ugly attitudes, personalities, and traits. They think negatively, thus they act negatively towards others. This is evident in the work place. There is something about the work place that breeds envy, jealousy, negativity, and pessimism. 

That negativity is shared through human interaction. As company representatives interact with consumers, interactions get ugly. This fact is on display during the busy holiday season as shoppers show their frustration in the process of attempting to save money on various products. 

During this holiday season, it is understandable that workers are emotionally, physically, and mentally drained. Mandatory overtime hours combined with a lack of work-life balance leads to frustration. That frustration boils out in interactions with coworkers, consumers, and relatives. 

However, as we strive towards excellence. The onus is our responsibility to live like no one else. Living like no one else requires responding positively no matter how negative someone is. It requires responding not reacting.