Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Smart Money Tips With Dr. Boyce Watkins
Posted Jan 27th 2009 6:34PM by Alexis Stodghill
Filed under: Money Talks
By Alexis Garrett Stodghill, BlackVoices.com
Dr. Boyce Watkins is a renowned scholar and speaker in the area of finance. As an African-American financial expert, Dr. Watkins has made it his personal mission to educate our community through writing books and essays, making media appearances, public speaking and more -- so that we may become more empowered with knowledge when it comes to the all-mighty dollar. BlackVoices.com asked the doctor to share his wisdom and advice for folks seeking tips to successfully navigate the current economic storm. According to Dr. Watkins, it's still possible to get your finances in order -- in fact, it's imperative.
As a black finance expert, what is the most common problem you see in the black community when it comes to personal finance management?
The most common problem is that historically, African Americans have been excluded from the opportunity to build wealth. Money was made from our labor, but we never got much of it. That led to a laborer mentality in African-Americans that taught us how to go out and get jobs rather than learning the art of CREATING jobs. This problem was further exacerbated by the fact that building a company requires capital, which we typically don't have. Most African-Americans have far lower inheritance levels than whites, and this impacts your economic opportunities in life. Also, when you've never had much money, you are usually not very good at managing it, so we are as bad as the rest of America when it comes to our spending, saving, investing and borrowing habits.
How would you suggest that someone with little knowledge of personal finance get started on the road to financial stability?
First, get educated. Empower yourself with financial literacy. The greatest university in the world is called Google.com. You can research any topic you want. Secondly, start small. You don't have to conquer the world in two steps. Just start by saving 10% of your income. You might say you don't have money to save, but you actually do. If your boss came into your office and gave you a 10% paycut, you'd find a way to survive. Find a way to learn to save. Finally, get a "side hustle." Challenge yourself to find small ways to supplement your income. The riskiest thing to do in this economy is to get all of your personal income from one source.
You have two college degrees, a master's degree and a PhD. What would you say is the relationship between level of education and income?
Education not only gives you many opportunities to earn more money, you usually earn more money with less work, doing a job that you might actually like. Personally, education was the difference for me between being financially well off and living a life of poverty. Education also provides job security, which is often overlooked. Autoworkers, for example, were always able to make high wages with little education. But once the Big Three started to buckle, they were stuck with unskilled labor opportunities. Everyone should get as much education as they can get, since education can be a path to both a wealthy bank account and a wealthy life.
Would you share some tips for sound money management in 2009?
-First, keep investing, especially in the stock market. When the market is low, that's the best time to find cheap stocks. Then hold on to your investments in a well-diversified portfolio (meaning, keep your money spread out). Before you know it, the downturn will have put money in your pocket.
- Learn to adjust your financial habits. Part of the reason we are in this mess is because Americans were borrowing too much money and working hard to live paycheck to paycheck. Get out of that habit, because the government is not going to be able to save us for much longer.
- Cut the toxins out of your life. If you have any bad habits or bad people draining you of your resources (a relative, a friend, or even yourself), renegotiate that relationship from one that is financially destructive to one that can be productive. For example, you may have to cut the financial umbilical chord from a dependent child, or tell that brother that he can't borrow money from you anymore. Cut the toxic energy out of your life so you can rethink your way of seeing money.
You have written extensively on love and money issues. What is your advice for best blending marriage and finances?
In 'Financial Lovemaking,' I tell couples to "find a rhythm." Merging your money is the same as merging your body (ie. sex): No one can tell you how to do it, since we all enjoy different things. You find out what your partner needs, share your own needs and then find a way to make the process comfortable and fulfilling for both parties. If your partner is a saver, then you need to respect that. Given that there is usually a deeply psychological reason that your partner is a saver, you are in serious trouble if you have habits that create financial instability in your relationship. Also, MAKE SURE you know what you're getting into: Many couples focus solely on love, lust, and physical appearance and spend almost no time observing the financial disposition and habits of their partners before making this major commitment. That is a recipe for disaster.
Before you commit your life, your future, your children and your money to someone, remember that LOVING together means LIVING together. If someone is financially irresponsible or brings a set of (what I call) "financial venereal diseases" into your life, it is going to be hard to live with them. You should check the debt levels, income levels and credit score of anyone to whom you choose to commit. Make sure they don't have any financially destructive habits, like alcoholism, drug abuse, gambling, or even the shopaholic's disease. Make sure that your financial values are in line with your partner's: For example, don't marry a woman who needs a $40,000 engagement ring if you think that a $500 ring should do the trick.
If you don't ask the hard questions, you can be locked into something with someone who literally destroys your life later down the road.
What is your opinion of the current recession? What is the best way to weather it?
The current recession may very well be the tip of the iceberg. There are serious long-term problems with our economy, and the break down of our financial system is merely a symptom of bigger issues. Additionally, this recession has a deeper problem. It is occurring during a time in which our global financial markets are integrated unlike at any other time in world history. That means that we are dealing with a problem of historic proportions on a landscape on which we've never operated.
The best way to cope with the recession is, in part, through what the government is already doing: Utilizing massive fiscal stimulus plans and encouraging global cooperation. Two other things they could have done are a) to have not wasted 700 billion dollars persuading Americans that Wall Street Bankers need to be protected, and b) to have spent more time helping Americans adjust their expectations.
President Obama seems to be trying to manage expectations, but he has already set the bar very high with his long list of campaign promises. The economic problem for Obama is that it will be extremely difficult to boost our economy back to where it was before, particularly since much of our financial gains over the past 7 years were illusions created through easy access to credit and a poorly regulated financial system. It's similar to an athlete on steroids trying to get off the drugs and then regain old form. It's very difficult to do.
On an individual level, I encourage families to remember that the government may not be there to take care of you in retirement. If you are not saving for retirement, it is critical that you do so. You should also find ways to structure care for the elderly in your family so that they are going to be OK. Also, tighten your own belts and get out of the habit of living from paycheck to paycheck. This is not a secure economy, and seemingly financially stable companies are disappearing overnight. The riskiest thing you can do in this economy is to get all of your income from one source. Find a way to make money from multiple avenues.
What has inspired you to come this far with so much self-determination, as a black man who was born to a single teen mom, then becoming a teen parent yourself?
I wake up every single day with a purpose. Dr. King and Malcolm X died young, so I never knew how much time I will have. But I am absolutely determined not to waste a single day and do all I can to help reshape what it means to be a black scholar and black leader in America. When I get emails from young people telling me that I've inspired them to change their thinking, then I know I've done my work. I know that I am not going to be on this earth forever, but I love the idea that I can impact people in such a way that the spiritual influence can last for generations.
I realized that most black professors are scared into being quiet on social issues, due to heavy political ramifications for speaking up. I also realized that many of us would rather sit in the ivory tower than to take our knowledge to the world. I never wanted to do that, and I've always felt that the role of the Black scholar in America is to use his/her knowledge to enlighten the world and uplift his/her people. That is my mission, and it is something I will continue to do until the day I die.
I also learned that it is not enough to be intelligent. You must be courageous and also sure of who you are. If you seek your validation from your historical oppressors, you will always end up chasing your own tail. Additionally, there are a long list of problems that need to be solved within our community, and it's up to all of us to do whatever we can to try and solve them.
Are there any words of encouragement or wisdom that you would like to share with the BlackVoices.com audience?
I realized a few things long ago that carry me to this day:
1) Success doesn't happen by accident. You must be deliberate with your actions and think carefully about where you invest your life, your love, your energy and your time. Everything must be proactive.
2) Extraordinary outcomes only come through extraordinary efforts. In life, you get what you give. So, if you want more, you must sacrifice more. You must be willing to do things no one else is willing to do, if you want to have things that no one else has. Never waste one second choosing to be ordinary.
3) Education is everything. Get as much of it as you can. Don't just become a student, BE AN EXTRAORDINARY STUDENT. Never let anyone tell you what to think. Keep your mind liberated so you can find truth and meaning in your endeavors.
4) The best way to get "pimped" is to spend your life trying to work for somebody else. Even if you are the highest paid slave on the plantation, you're still a slave, and you're still on the plantation. Get off the plantation and find a way to true wealth and prosperity. But don't get into the habit of worshipping money. Your goal is to live a wealthy life instead.
5) Keep BS out of your life so you can focus on achieving your goals. Most of us don't do half of what we plan to do because we spend all our time on silly, wasteful activities. There are 8,760 hours in a year and 168 hours in a week. You should budget your time the way you budget your money and not let anybody waste it.
6) Never allow yourself to be without goals. It's not where you are that matters, it's where you're going that determines where you end up. Always be aware of where you are going, and what you need to do in order to get there.
Keep a life full of purpose, and that will make every day worth living.
Sunday, January 25, 2009
by: Lawrence Watkins
I remember it like it was yesterday. I’m sitting in Perkins Restaurant as we finished our Friday morning bible study class in Louisville, KY. With me was Carl Brazley, my closest and most creative mentor. We were about to start one of our usual mentoring sessions that we had about once per month. This session was special as he shared his wisdom about success that has become fundamental in my life philosophy.
Mr. Brazley asked me two questions right off the bat: “What does success mean to me?” and “How will I go about achieving it?” I shared with him my personal mission statement that I had recently developed at the LeaderShape program in Champaign, IL. It states that “I want to become a tycoon politically, socially, and economically so that I may have a positive impact on my community.” Mr. Brazley then said, “That’s great! Now how are you going to ACHIEVE your mission?” This was the question that I was still trying to figure out. I had seen ultra-successful all around me in person or on TV, but I found the process mystifying at times.
Mr. Brazley continued, “Lawrence, don’t believe the hype that you see on TV when it comes to people who you view as successful. The media loves stories about self mad millionaires and billionaires, but rarely are they self made.” What he said next changed my perspective, “Here is what they [the media and often the individual in question] don’t want you to know: Success is manufactured! Many successful people have other hidden influential people in the background guiding them on the right path. Giving them the connections that they need to accelerate their success. This is what I am going to do with you Lawrence.” Whoa!! Talk about some heavy material!
The Real Secret Sauce of Success
I researched the statement that Mr. Brazley made further and I started to read more about individuals who I view to be successful. I was very surprised at the results/trends that I found. Let’s start with Donald Trump, the King of the Self Made…His father had over $100 million in real estate by the time he was born. Warren Buffett (a major influence in my thinking), the Sage of Omaha… His father was a stockbroker and four-term congressman from the state of Nebraska. What about Bill Gates? His mother sat on the board of directors of a bank and his father was a prominent Seattle attorney. The more people that I researched, the more surprised I became. Then I started to feel apprehensive, “What do I need to become successful?”
There are two things that I don’t want to happen by sharing this story with you:
1. I do not want to relegate or belittle the accomplishments of successful people just because they come from a well connected family. The people mentioned above are all extremely intelligent and have a strong work ethic. It’s also important not to hide facts about people’s environment as if that doesn’t play a critical role in success.
2. I do not want you to feel like the situation is hopeless if you don’t come from a rich and powerful family. Throughout this article, I’m going to teach you how to create your own “synthetic power family.”
Your Synthetic Family of Networks
If you don’t come from a rich and well connected family, do not worry about it. It is not the end all, be all. In fact, I know many people who come from well-to-do families, but their lives are in shambles. Money and entitlement can be hindrances to living a WEALTHY LIFE just as much as they can be assets. I come from a solidly middle class family where my father was a high-ranking police official and my mother was a high school guidance counselor. I was able to use this base to expand even further and broaden my experiences to study at Phillips Academy Andover, Carnegie Mellon University, and now Cornell. The most beautiful part is that I have paid very little for my educational experience and it’s because I created a synthetic family to help me achieve my goals.
A synthetic family is not the family you were born with, but one that you created that helps provide the resources you need to accomplish goals. I’m not just talking about money, but also advice and connections as well. Having a synthetic family is not a substitute for your real family, proper planning, or an intelligent work ethic (see my Pareto and Parkinson article). I view the synthetic family as an accelerator of the success process. The great thing about the synthetic family is that it is easy to start and replicate.
Be Your Own Barack Obama
After President Obama (wow, that sounds great) won the election for United States President in November, he had to move his actions from campaigning mode to governing mode. Immediately, Obama selected Rahm Emanuel as his chief of staff and then dozens of other appointments were announced in the following weeks. President Obama surrounded himself with individuals who have a greater knowledge about different aspects of governance than he does. When President Obama and his advisors meet about the current economic situation, the advisors give their expert opinions about what Obama should do. After that, President Obama escorts them out of the room and then makes the decision he feels will be best for the country.
I ask, “What’s keeping you from being your own Barack Obama?” I urge you to assemble your own personal board of advisors to help you when you have a tough decision to make. There is not a human being on the face of the planet who knows everything. Seek out those individuals who have general wisdom as well as those who have specific expertise. Bring them into your family and achieve your goals more effectively.
The Early Bird Gets the Worm
One of the great myths of networking is that you start reaching out to others when you need something. The people who really succeed in building relationships know that you need to start building way BEFORE you need anything. This is especially true if you are thinking of opening your own business. Many people start the networking process too late in the game. Prospective entrepreneurs think about details like incorporating or the specific name of their company. Although those tasks are important, they have much less influence over your business success compared to relationship building.
Immediately after graduating from college I worked for my brother, Dr. Boyce Watkins. My job was to book him for speaking engagements and manage his growing national media profile. I knew long before I started to work for him that I wanted to start my own company and I took steps to achieve this goal. For example, when Boyce would appear on a national TV show, he was often on the show with other high profile guests. We would make sure to collect that person’s contact information and follow up with him/her right away. When I started Great Black Speakers Bureau, those were my first speakers. Make sure to always begin with an end in mind!
Overcome your Fear of Rejection
Bestselling author and networking guru Keith Ferrazzi calls this the “genius of audacity.” If you never ask for what you want, very rarely do you ever get what you want. The two major emotions that stop people from asking are the fear of rejection from the other person and a feeling that the other person is better than you. Question: What’s going to have a longer impact on your life? FEAR of rejection or FAILING to reach your goals? The answer to this question for me is not reaching the goals I set out to accomplish. In this scenario, rejection MIGHT happen but failure WILL happen.
Follow Up and Stay in Touch
If the yin is overcoming your fears and asking for what you want, then the yang is following up with your contacts. This is something that I have personally struggled with lately as my number of contacts has grown significantly. However, I have noticed a direct correlation between my rate of follow up and the amount of success I achieve over any period of time. It is funny how people spend so much time making new contacts and so little time following up with them. This reminds me of the local ladies man who is only interested in the chase of a woman. Once he gets her, he then loses interest. In business and in life, don’t be this person! It is much more expensive to attain a new client/contact/friend than to maintain the ones you already have. I am not telling you to not meet new people, just do right by them when you do meet them for long lasting business/personal relationships.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Brought to you by The Great Black Speakers Bureau, the #1 Black Speakers Bureau in the World.
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By Dr. Boyce Watkins
During my recent trip to New York, I was stunned after watching US Airways passengers standing on the icy wings of an airplane floating on the Hudson River. It was only after looking at my cancelled ticket that I realized I was scheduled to fly out of the same city, in the same airport, with the same airline on the same day, at the same time as the people on that flight. They were going to Charlotte and I wasn’t, but that’s still too close for comfort.
In spite of invitations I have to speak and live in big cities, I stay isolated here in Syracuse so I can search for my personal perception of truth within the deepest components of my heart. I seek ideology that is disconnected from hype, politics, financial compensation or other tools used for the tainting of souls and manipulation of minds. I chose not to go to the inauguration and I’ve rarely watched television, all because I wanted to figure out how I feel about recent events without allowing CNN or anyone else to tell me how I should feel.
This morning I watched a Black man….a real brother, Barack Obama, stand and take the oath as President of the United States. When I endorsed Barack long before he appeared to ever have a chance of winning, it was honestly just wishful thinking. I supported the campaigns of Barack, Jesse and Al, mainly because I never believed Bill Clinton to be (as some called him) the First Black President. I also saw something in Barack’s eyes and mannerisms that made me trust him. My “brother radar” gave security clearance, and I knew that only a real Black man would marry an amazing woman like Michelle Obama (the woman I came closest to marrying is actually a beautiful attorney who reminds me of Michelle). I also saw something in Obama’s poise and intelligence that made me believe that he would be good for our nation. My only concern was that I was not sure if a nation willing to elect incompetent men like George Bush would have the vision necessary to choose the best man or woman for the job.
I don’t do media appearances on Fox News anymore mainly because I was disappointed by their attacks on Barack Obama and Jeremiah Wright. I was even more upset with Bill O’Reilly’s statements about having a “lynching party” against Michelle Obama, and the light-hearted death threats made by Fox News Analyst Liz Trotter, who stated that she would “take (Obama) out if she could”. I love Barack Obama, and I was inspired by his ability to make the impossible possible. Like all of us, I was happy to sacrifice to help get him into the White House.
But while I support Barack Obama, I never let myself get into Obama-mania.
While I felt the need to show up and vote, I never chose to “Barack the Vote”.
My position has always been simple: Falling in love with a politician can be a very dangerous thing, and I simply wasn’t going to do it.
Like Barack Obama, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was another President who took over our country during a tough economic time. When Black leaders met with Roosevelt to discuss their justifiable indignation over Civil Rights abuses throughout the nation, Roosevelt simply told them, “I agree with you and I want to do it. Now go out and make me do it.”
The interpretation of Roosevelt’s words is that after the celebrations are over and we’ve come back to reality, we must be sure to do what is necessary to effectively utilize this opportunity. Barack Obama is a good man, I know this from speaking to my contacts on the South Side of Chicago. But we must work hard to ensure that Barack THE MAN aligns squarely and firmly with Barack THE POLITICIAN. We must always be aware of the difference between BARACK OBAMA and the OBAMA ADMINISTRATION.
BARACK OBAMA believes that public schools should get all the funding they need and that education is critically important.
The OBAMA ADMINISTRATION knows that children don’t vote or pay taxes.
BARACK OBAMA knows that 30 – 40% Black male unemployment is an economic tragedy.
The OBAMA ADMINISTRATION knows that being too closely aligned with issues effecting Black men is neither politically productive nor popular in a country that still doesn’t like Black people all that much, especially if they are poor.
BARACK OBAMA knows that, in spite of having a Black President, institutionalized racism in wealth and income levels, health care disparities and other areas will take at least another 100 years to eradicate. He is also intelligent enough to know that reparations are long overdue.
The OBAMA ADMINISTRATION knows that talking about racism using the same language as the United Nations (who states clearly that America continues to maintain a two-tiered society) is something that many Americans simply do not want to hear.
So, as we live in the bliss of “Obama-mania”, please consider this:
The dictionary defines “mania” as “A severe medical condition characterized by elevated moods, energy, unusual thought patterns and sometimes psychosis. Some symptoms are fixation, madness, compulsion, craving, craze, delirium, dementia, derangement, disorder, fad, fancy, fascination, fetish, insanity, lunacy and obsession.”
Like bottles of strong liquor, mania feels good. However, it should only be temporary. You also need designated drivers to keep the political house party under control and get everyone back home safely. Those who remain “high” and detached from reality are easy targets for emotionally void and disturbingly rational political administrations. Any good politician with constituents living in the midst of mania logically understands that there is very little work to do. No one campaigns in the regions they already control.
So, as Roosevelt explained in the example above, we can best show our love for President Obama by being politically intelligent, diligently resourceful, well-organized and focused on the issues. Political engines like the Obama Administration only understand those with the power to churn those engines. The easiest trick in the world is to make us think that racism is over because we have a Black President. Let’s keep our eyes on the prize.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Finance Professor at Syracuse University. He does regular commentary in national media, including CNN, BET, ESPN and CBS. For more information, please visit www.BoyceWatkins.com.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
Don't get it twisted, despite the watered-down, docile version of the man they show you on TV and in tributes around this time of year MLK was really a revolutionary. The reason he's not with us today is because those revolutionary tendencies were showing through with more force with regard to the war in Vietnam and the economic empowerment of poor people in this nation. He was truly a dangerous Negro, a Black man that defied that status quo and couldn't be controlled like some of his contemporaries that are still with us today.
The media likes to portray this religious-based, non-violent movement lead by the Civil Rights leaders of the day, but they don't tell you the true ramifications of MLK's movement and how dangerous it really was to the white businessmen that controlled (and still control) this country. Why was this non-violent movement so powerful? Why were sit-ins so effective? Non-violence may have been justified with scriptures from the Bible, but there were actually very practical reasons for this strategy:
1) We were in no position to go up against the government's military might. Don't fight a battle you can't win. Not resorting to violence gave us the moral advantage which is effective in getting PR and support from possible domestic and international allies. In a supposedly Christian nation "under God," it's hard not to see something wrong with armed men physically abusing unarmed women and children. It also showed how dishonorable and cowardly the police were, which is an embarrassment to national pride.
2) Sit-ins were more than just a mere annoyance for white business owners. It messed with their cash flow, and we know how these people get when you mess with their money. The reason these tactics don't work anymore is because they're old and played out and the leaders that use them either don't know the purpose behind them or don't really care. You have to find new and more disruptive ways to make a negative financial impact against these racist companies that are alive and well today in 2009. For example, go into a bank and fill up the lines with people opening up and closing bank account with the minimum deposit. Open an account with $25 at 9:00, make small deposits/withdrawals at the counter every 30 minutes or so, and repeat step 2 every day for as long as the protest lasts. Then at the end, close the account. Or send a ton of people to a store to buy the cheapest thing they have and return it. Anything to prevent real customers from patronizing the business for long periods of time is effective.
See Dr. King was only getting started with achieving political/civil rights. When they killed him he was starting to focus more on economic empowerment and building international alliances with other poor brown countries (because that's what Black America is in essence, having never really been accepted into the general population). The American intelligence agencies know how powerful a unified Black population is especially when they flex their economic muscles and they believe this could pose a national security risk (i.e. COINTELPRO). Any Black man that was capable leading this unified population was bought, coerced into submission, or killed. Like Nas said, "No revolutionary gets old, or so I'm told. You're left full of bullet holes when you tell the people go free."
On this day of remembrance for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., let us honor his name by remembering the man depicted by the mainstream media, but also the man they don't show you; the one you have to read about on your own. Honor him by reading and learning why he was so dangerous that they decided to prematurely end his life. Learn, and teach the children, about the life of a revolutionary; not some socially acceptable, passive shadow of the man he really was.
Friday, January 16, 2009
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
By: Lawrence Watkins
Great Black Speakers Bureau
The 2009 year is underway it it’s shaping up to be a great one. I’ve talked to many of my friends and I’ve heard THOUSANDS (Ok. I’m exaggerating) of New Year’s resolutions. Everything from losing 20 pounds, to being in bed by a certain time, to making straight A’s on their transcripts, to finding satisfying careers, to not eating meat, to etc… What is more surprising than this, is that a couple of people that I talked to have more than 10 resolutions. You may be wondering, “Lawrence, what are your New Year’s resolutions?” Is it to lose weight? (I have gained more than a couple of pounds since undergrad) Nope. Is it to make all A’s in school? Not this time.
My resolution is something much simpler, yet it is one of the most powerful forces known to human productivity. It is to implement Pareto’s Law and Parkinson’s Law into all facets of my life. Surely I need more goals than this to have a successful year, right? No, because of this ONE goal, I will have a MORE successful 2009 compared to any other year in my life!
Pareto’s Law states that a minority of causes, inputs, or efforts usually lead to a majority of the results, outputs, or rewards. Parkinson’s Law states that a task will swell up in perceived importance and complexity in relation to the time allotted for its completion. The Law’s are inverses of each other and when taken together, can drastically make you happier and more productive. This is a good time to give thanks to my friend Tim Ferris, author of “The 4-Hour Workweek.” I don’t actually know Tim, but I feel a Bromance going on between us since I’ve read his book 7 times. No other business book has influenced me as much as 4HWW and this is where I first learned of Pareto and Parkinson.
Pareto’s Law and my Life
Vilfredo Pareto was a controversial economist who lived from 1848 to 1943. He was an engineer by training and started his career managing coal mines. He later took a position at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland and explored the income distribution of 19th century England. He found that 80 percent of the wealth in England was controlled by 20% of the population. When Pareto started to explore this phenomenon more, he noticed that this pattern of imbalance was repeated consistently whenever he looked at data referring to different time periods and different countries.
The critical thing is not to look at the specific 80/20 relationship, but to focus on the main concept. There is an inherent level of imbalance between inputs and outputs. I experienced this phenomena many times throughout my time as head honcho of Great Black Speakers Bureau, a company dedicated to spreading African American thought to the masses. I remember the early days in January of 2007 when I was working to elevate the company off of the ground. I would put in 10-12 hour days/6 days per week personally building the website, making sales calls, emailing potential clients, getting contracts signed, mailing thank you cards, and pretty much anything else you could think of for a starting entrepreneur. Even though the company was growing at an extremely fast rate, I was always exhausted at the end of the day.
Then a life changing event happened in my life. The Lord blessed me with a scholarship to earn my MBA at Cornell University. After a couple of weeks of pure elation, reality started to sink in that I REALLY won’t be able to run my company and go to school at the same time. By this time, we had grown by about 900% since we started the company the year before. The problem is that much of this growth was directly related to my personal inputs. How on earth was Great Black Speakers going to grow, or even maintain, if I wasn’t there to run it? True, I wrote a good B.S. answer to this question in my business school applications, but now I HAD to come up with real solutions.
I now had to do some soul searching and heavy prioritizing. There was NO WAY that I would leave my baby GBS to dwindle and die. Over the course of two days, I turned off all communication with the world and I spent hours of laying out and analyzing every facet of GBS with a single question in mind that I learned from Mr. Ferris. What inputs in GBS generated the majority of the outputs? After the analysis, I wasn’t very happy with myself and I noticed major ineffectiveness in my process. I then made an vital decision to revive my company; I would go through a business liposuction process and cut off the fat that would cause GBS to die in the transition.
The first thing that I did was to start searching for a new director of GBS. I was looking for a highly organized person who was excellent at selling. I found both of these traits and more in my friend Diana, who I’ve known for many years since my childhood in Louisville, KY. In fact, Diana is an improvement over me in both of these areas. The next thing that I did was to look at the mundane, but essential tasks that consumed most of my time. Some of these tasks included makings cold calls, working on the website, writing thank you letters, filling out contracts. One by one, I started outsourcing these tasks to other companies that specialize in one or more of these areas. It was actually much less expensive than I thought it was going to be. In my next article, I will talk more about outsourcing your life.
The results have been outstanding in the 8 months since I started this process. I have increased my personal income by 250%, while decreasing my GBS workload from 55 – 70 hours per week down to 8 - 10 hours/week. Furthermore, most of the gains have happened AFTER I started business school. From this situation, I learned a couple of lessons:
1. You don’t have to work like crazy to generate sufficient income for yourself.
2. If you surround yourself with the right people and implement the right process, you can accomplish a lot with very little.
As stated earlier, Parkinson’s Law states that a task will swell in importance and complexity in relation to the time allotted for its completion. There are two major truisms that I’ve learned that accompany this law:
1. Doing something unimportant well does not make it important.
2. Requiring a lot of time does not make a task important.
The definition of true productivity is simple: Productivity is doing activities that get you closer to your goals. Unproductivity is doing activities that keep you stagnant or take you further away from your goals.
Many people suffer from a common form of laziness: it is called busyness, which is also a disease. This disease is so prevalent that it has brainwashed people to believe that business = busyness. A paradigm shift occurred in my life for me to know that this isn’t true. Working 9 – 5 is an archaic way of doing business. It’s funny how ALL jobs in America take the exact same amount of time to complete. It’s funny because it isn’t true.
Time compression is an important fundamental to manipulate Parkinson’s Law. The law isn’t inherently a good or bad thing, it is just what it is. Parkinson’s Law is similar to fire. Fire can be good when you are cooking, but it would be a terrible thing if your house burns up in flames. Time compression to complete tasks is harnessing the Parkinson’s Law power to help productivity. What I do is think about an aggressive timeline for a task and then I cut that time by a ½ or 1/3. THAT is my deadline. By doing this, I am forced to focus on the bare essentials ( 20% inputs) of a task and avoid the minutiae that often clutters projects. Time compression has been one of the hardest concepts to implement into my life and one in which I fail to implement often. But when I do, the results of my improvements are amazing.
Taking these two concepts together gives you one simple rule: Focus on the essentials of a task and work like crazy to get those tasks done as quick as possible. However, just because this rule is simple doesn’t mean it’s easy. People often interchange the words difficult and complex. These two words are NOT synonyms of each other. I struggle every day to avoid the laziness of business, and I often fail. I fail less when I ask one simple question: Am I inventing things to do to avoid the important? If I am, I immediately take self corrective measures to put me back on track.
I would like return to my opening statement on why this is my ONLY New Year’s resolution. The reason is that it would be contradictory for me to have 13 New Year’s resolutions and try to implement Pareto and Parkinson at the same time in my life. If I set my resolution as implementing The Law’s, other goals will follow as all encompassing improvements. I’m not against setting many goals for oneself; the exact opposite is true as I have many different personal and business goals. However, the point of The Law’s is to simplify and streamline life as much as possible, which is what I want to do for 2009. As Bruce Le once wrote, “One does not accumulate but eliminate. It is not the daily increase, but the daily decrease. The height of cultivation always runs to simplicity.” So with that, Happy and Fulfilled New Year’s!!!!
Monday, January 5, 2009
by Charlamagne Tha God
2009 (Intelligence is the new gangsta)
Intelligence is the new gangsta. In fact, intelligence is the old gangsta but it's the new gangsta to this generation because we have been dumbed down for so long that we either forgot, never knew or just didn't acknowledge being intelligent was the most gangsta way to be to begin with. 2009 is going to be the year of the righteous and the year of the thinker. 2009 begins an era where knowledge truly does reign supreme over almost everyone. (Word to KRS) in fact 09 is a divine year. If you are familiar with Supreme Mathematics then you know that nine is born. You are born once physically then you are born again mentally when you learn the true and proper knowledge of yourself. For example Malcolm Little was born physically May 19, 1925 but was reborn mentally some where between 1945 and 1952. This is when he was incarcerated and introduced to the Nation of Islam when he learned the true and proper knowledge of himself. He was mentally reborn El Hajj Malik Shabazz commonly known as Malcolm X.
I'm not saying that in 2009 everyone is going to convert to Islam and change their name but what I am saying is that nine symbolizes the highest level of change. Change is the basis of growth.Growth is the basis of life and if you are not constantly growing then you are dying. I say that all the time because I want people to really grasp that concept of thinking. The energy of change is all around us right now. Do you think it's a coincidence that Barack Obama's whole campaign was based on change? Is it just random he is called the "Agent of Change"? Hell no that's divine. God designed it that way. His administration starts this year and if you voted for him you are part of his government.
I voted for the first time ever last year. That alone is the direct reflection of the growth that change delivers but it doesn't stop there.
We have to continue the growth process. The way we do that is by educating ourselves. We have to be the bright, articulate, scholars gangstas and gentlemen that we where born to be. Education is sexy! Being smart is the shit! I know that last line wasn't the most eloquent way of putting it but I made my point to the people I was trying to reach. That is the beauty of hip hop and it's the exact reason that hip hop has been the most influential voice among the youth for the past three decades. It speaks right to us, in our lanquage in our voice.
The problem with hip hop today is most artists are not in tune with what is really going on out here in these streets. Some of them are too busy playing stupid to realize things are changing. People are growing and not trying to hear that murder, murder, gangbanging, drug selling, drug using, I will shoot everybody on your block twice, money is all I glorify bullshit they been kicking anymore. People are trying to be educated and informed not misguided and misled. Salute to all the rappers that encouraged the youth to vote last year. That sounded real cute at all the award shows, on 106 & Park and in in your interviews in XXL and Ozone but how many of you artist have really taken the time to educate yourselves on government? Obama is the president elect but the problems in our society didn't magically disappear when he won. We have to continue to encourage the youth to educate themselves on what's going on in these streets as well as government before they get discouraged.
They're going to start to wonder why Obama is in the white house but people still keep getting killed in our communites. Obama is in the White House but mama still complaining about money because of this thing called the recession. Educate the babies people add gas to the spark that has been lit in these young peoples minds. My TV stays on news and sports channels. These television executives wonder why shows like Real Chance of Love are suffering in ratings? You know why, because that demographic you thought was in to this mindless nonsense is in to Obama now. They are trying to figure out ways to work for their community not work for Diddy. 50 Cent's show Money and the Power got cancelled by MTV. Why? Declining viewership among 12-34 year olds. MTV wants to revamp their image. Brian Graden, President of Entertainment at MTV Network's music channels and President of logo says, "Our shows are going to focus less on loud and silly hooks and more on young people proving themselves." These are themes that are consistent with the Obama generation. Wow even MTV realizes change has come, even MTV realizes intelligence is the new gangsta.
Rappers, Radio Personalities, bloggers and anyone with a voice, we don't have to dumb down for our audiences. People want to be educated! Intelligence is the new gangsta. Dave Chappelle and the Boondocks are perfect examples of how you can educate and entertain. Killer Mike and Ice Cube are perfect examples of real gangsta rap. Why? Cause Saying fuck another rapper is easy but saying fuck George Bush takes balls. There is nothing wrong with worldstarhiphop and mediatakeout.com but your mental diet can not just consist of the bullshit content that's on those sites. Sure its entertaining to watch Max B clown Jim Jones for the 1000th time, and I love to see Tony Yayo talk shit about everybody but I love being enlightned more. Go to Finalcall.com and read Minister Farrakhan's True Role of Government. In it he says Education is not a privelage, education is a human right. It is knowledge that seperates the human from the beast, therefore, the best possible education should be given by government and gugovernment is not guaranteeing the unalienable right of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I say not only demand it from our government but demand it from ourselves. If you are not in school or college go to the library! Self education is like masterbation! I don't need to pay anybody to fuck me! The library got all the knowledge I need for free. Better yet I can google what it is I'm trying to learn about. Intelligence is the new gangsta.
Remember that old cartoon that showed the brother with the gun and his pants hanging off his ass and the bandana around his mouth and everybody was laughing at him? Doesn't that remind you of your favorite rapper? Well in the same cartoon it showed a brother in a graduation cap and gown with a degree in his hand and everybody was running and screaming scared to death. You know why because intelligence has always been gangsta! My little cousin is in 9th grade he's all caught up in SWAG. He says, "I got SWAG." "Check out my SWAG." I tried to explain to him that SWAG is corny and it is just away for a man to call another man sexy, but then I realized I have to speak to him in his language. That is when I let him know that SWAG means to Study, Work, and Graduate. Study hard and get that education that is your human right because you are a citizen of the US. Work hard, get a job, or a internship while your'e in school; get your hands dirty now so you can keep them clean later by being the boss. And for Christ sake please graduate!!! Take that jewel with you all through high school and college little homie. For those not in school SWAG means to Study, Work, and Grow! Study learn everything you can about God, government, life and business. Work hard at making your community a better place to live, work hard at raising your seeds the right way and getting your family straight, and don't be afraid to grow and become the kings and queens that we are destined to be. That is S.W.A.G!! Not skinny jeans, colorful sneakers, lip peircings and all that other bullshit Lil Wayne got going on.
Intelligence is the old Gangsta, Smart is the Old Sexy and 2009 is the rebirth of the thinker, don't be afraid to express your unique brilliance, and God given genius.This is the era that Knowledge will reign supreme over nearly everyone. Happy New Year America.
Charlamagne Tha God
I Bust Stupid Dope Moves!