Getting Your Own Stuff

I’m writing for a few reasons.  First, I enjoy it.  I imagine a painter feels as I do when I write in the sense that he expresses his creativity through his art.  My creativity comes out as I paint my thoughts by writing.  Just like the artist, there’s a certain satisfaction that’s felt as one sits back and looks at the finished product. Secondly, I’ve a few things on my mind.

I’m big on having my own stuff mainly because if you have your own stuff, an entire set of concerns is eliminated that you might otherwise have.  What, you may ask, do I mean by “having my own stuff?” Well, I’m referring to one being able to achieve a degree of economic independence whereby your ability to sustain yourself is not subject to someone else’s whim.  To my way of thinking, economic independence is a precursor for political independence and a host of other “freedoms” that can’t be enjoyed if you can’t speak for yourself without fear of losing a job or a ruining your chance for a position or promotion.   The main reason I’m in business is because of a very strong desire to have my own stuff.  That’s not a selfish desire so much as one born out of a strong inclination to have independence of action in whatever I choose to do. That is always of paramount importance to me.
I spent a few years in the corporate world prior to starting my own business some 25 years ago.  I found the corporate world not to my liking for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was the headwinds of racism that I encountered as an African-American male.  I just got tired of meetings where your work would be discussed, yet you couldn’t get a word in edgewise or sitting in a meeting where your superior would make eye contact with everyone in the room except you and basically act as if you were practically invisible.  I got tired of being put on the “slow track” because it was presumed that you were only there due to affirmative action. I got tired of other African-Americans colleagues being fearful of sitting together for lunch out of concern of others seeing “too many of us together.”  I got tired of seeing the rare instance where an African-American got promoted and the first thing he or she has to do is to prove they’re not biased by refusing to help another African-American while everyone else is using their position to help their friends.  For me, corporate America was an unnatural environment that’s burdensome under even the best conditions, but delivered an extra burden for me as an African-American male.   Perhaps things have changed in the 25 years since I left those environs or perhaps not.  I really can’t say, but I do know that I’m free of those concerns. 
Notwithstanding the above, I’m not one who likes to spend a bunch of time yelling racism so people can start scurrying around to defend themselves or give me something as a salve for the wound.  I’m not one who likes waste time convincing other people that they need to engage in moral reform.  I’m more concerned about my own moral reformation  and I’d much prefer to spend my time on getting my own stuff so as to mitigate the effect of someone else’s lack thereof  on my situation.  You see, it really gets down to a power play and I’m never prepared to allow anyone to have more power over me and mine than I do, so I just don’t position myself to allow someone’s attitude to control my situation.  You see, I believe as Frederick Douglass once said “the limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those they oppress.  Find what a people will willingly allow and you’ll find the exact measure of injustice that will be imposed upon them“.  I took Douglass’ admonishment to heart.  I don’t do “endure” very well at all and I needed my own stuff.
It occurs to me that many of the problems that we have in the African-American community stem from the fact that we collectively don’t have our own stuff (i.e. economic sustenance) and because we don’t, our position is greatly weakened.  Moreover, we’re generally positioned as victims, which means that there’s a perception that our ability to move forward is wholly contingent upon society removing the vestiges of racism. This sort of positioning begs a question; what if racism never dies, does that mean our progress as a people is held hostage?   In other words, is it impossible for us to do anything about our condition until “the man” decides he’s going to feel different about us?   I don’t know about you, but I reject that premise outright.  Besides, “the man” doesn’t have that sort of power anyway and I, for one, am not prepared to give it to him.  Let me let you in on a little secret, the existence of “the man” is a cruel fiction put forth by those who have an economic interest in your continued enslavement.  You see, most black people are not inclined to be hapless victims; we just lack the leadership and organization to move as free people.  I’ll have more to say about that later.
Entrepreneurship is not for everyone. Whether you’re a prospective entrepreneur or not, here are a few things that can help you “make a break for it” and get your own stuff:

  1.  Do not consume every dime that you earn.  Learn to live below your means.
  2. Where possible, avoid credit.  Paying debt is paying for yesterday.  Saving is for setting up your tomorrow.
  3. If anyone presents a “business opportunity” where they appeal to your greed rather than your logic, run as quickly as you can.  If it doesn’t involve real work, it’s a scam.
  4. Entertain business opportunities that are anchored to the public’s everyday wants and needs.
  5. Get an education in the “hard skills” that are needed for the society to function and stay away from faddish careers.  The hard skills generally involve medicine, law, accounting, actuarial sciences, teaching, nursing and etc. These fields are generally steady regardless of the ups and downs of the economy and some are the route for self employment as well. 
  6. If you don’t have “hard skills”, consider getting into a business that sells goods and services to businesses that provide “hard skill” services.   If they’re steady, you’ll be steady.
  7. Embrace technology and use it to learn and to do your work.
  8.  Observe what’s going on around you and do your own thinking.  Always listen to what others have to say, but do your own thinking.
  9. Learn to become your own self reference point and develop sources of positive affirmation independent of the workplace or other environment.  If you give others the power to approve you, they can easily deny you and thereby reinforce negative self perception.  Develop and keep your own approval stamp. This is very important.
  10. Pray for wisdom rather than wealth as the former is more than the latter.  When you obtain it, execute. Manna will not fall from heaven unless you execute.

Thanks for your indulgence.

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