#MentalNote, business, communication

Opportunity In Crisis: What Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Tesla and Alphabet

Hurricane Irma devastated Puerto and created a humanitarian disaster rarely seen in the United States. While the federal government’s response hasn’t been the best (based on infrastructure challenges, over stretched FEMA, leadership, etc), we’ve seen the private sector companies like Tesla and Alphabet step up to be partners in crisis response. While these projects are small in comparison to the larger needs, they are a step in the right direction and serve as models to how companies can work with customers in challenging times.

  1.  While crisis sucks for those who are involved, it’s a great opportunity for companies that have solutions ready to help. Natural disasters are an extreme example, but consumers, businesses, and governments all undergo crisis of varying magnitudes and need the help right away.
  2. Crisis often means the breakdown of barriers to entry for new participants. After destructive hurricanes in Puerto Rico, the normal distribution networks for electricity, internet, and water were destroyed. Not only was there a sense of urgency to get those services operating as quick as possible, the downtime provided an opportunity for distributed solutions like Alphabet’s stratospheric balloons nicknamed project loon, or Tesla’s powerpacks powering a rural hospital to jump in as a solution. As a founder, be on the lookout for key areas where an incumbent’s strength becomes an inherent weakness.
  3.  Understand the long term value when you successfully deliver a solution in a crisis situation. Compensation is important but the larger priority is proof of concept and a customer that’s fully invested in the success of your deployment. Crisis situations can be used as a transformational case study and will speak more within an industry than a clever advertising/ marketing campaign. Some short-sighted companies will look at a crisis situation as an opportunity to increase the cost of services or products. I believe the value derived from assisting customers in a crisis situation with a long term view in mind trumps the short term gain from exploiting crisis to drive revenue.

 

 

#MentalNote, Leadership, Self-Revelation

I’m My Sister’s Keeper

***Before reading, read Straight Black Men Are the White People of Black People***

I agree with Damon’s assessment but solutions are a key part missing in his essay. Maybe because he wanted to focus on identifying a problem some would argue doesn’t even exist. Maybe he was waiting for me to write a solutions article. (If that’s the case Damon, lets make this collab official shall we?)  Damon’s write up begged the question; What can black men do to be better for black women so I went on and made a list of things black men can do to help create a more supportive and nurturing environment for black women. It’s by no means exhaustive and I welcome more ideas.  Also, full disclosure, I have room for improvement as well. I can stand to drink a tall glass of my own Kool-aid.

We need to have the difficult conversations with other black men and women. There are a lot of black men who have traumatic experiences from their mothers or maybe those who’ve they’ve dated. We need to realize that condemning a whole group of people for those traumatic experiences is irrational and promotes an unhealthy environment between black men and women.

Black men need to also have conversations with the uncles, brothers, cousins, friends, who perpetuate misogynistic ideals and behaviors. This means being that voice of reason when your friend is cat calling a woman walking down the street, or having a conversation with a younger brother about the proper way to treat women. We have to be the first line of defense to call out behavior that is unhealthy and detrimental to black women.

Be extra critical about language- Lupe Fiasco gets at the core of the hypocrisy of language in hip hop in his song Hurt Me Soul:

“I used to hate hip-hop, yup, because the women degraded
But Too $hort made me laugh, like a hypocrite I played it
A hypocrite, I stated, though I only recited half
Omitting the word “bitch”, cursing – I wouldn’t say it
Me and dog couldn’t relate, till a bitch I dated
Forgive my favorite word for hers and hers alike
But I learned it from a song I heard and sort of liked….

As black men, we need to be aware of the way we socialize negative language toward black women. Bitches, thots, hoes, etc. Some may say, its just a word, what power does it have? Doesn’t that question sound familiar? And often times, hip hop is the primary mode for misogynistic, discriminatory, and down right disrespectful language. I’m not going to blame hip hop, the medium itself is like a mirror. We see and hear what’s going on around us.

Support black women in social and political struggles. There’s a whole bunch of political/social challenges that are outright destroying black women. For example, according to the Justice Department, slightly more than 40% of sex trafficking victims are Black, far outpacing White (25.6%), Hispanic (23.9%), Asian (4.3%) and Other (5.8%) victims and women are more than twice (68 percent) as likely as men (32 percent) to be trafficked for sex. (Human Trafficking By the Numbers 2017) Sex trafficking is disproportionately affecting black women and we’ve got to show up and ride for them in their struggles like they show up and ride for us. There’s so much to support; income inequality, healthcare laws, access to stem education, etc. Show up.

We need to deal with toxic masculinity. Toxic masculinity leads to a false narrative of what it actually means to be a man. A false narrative leads to a bunch of men seeking the wrong characteristics to validate their masculinity. Some chase patriarchal, self destructive and misogynistic ideals they believe are at the core of masculinity and it ends up demeaning and screwing over black women.  As black men, we need to re-evaluate what it means to be a man and make sure we approach masculinity from a healthy and pragmatic perspective.

Start a dialogue. It may seem a little counter-intuitive, but Facebook and Twitter are good places to have conversations around supporting black women. Yea, sometimes it can get out of control with the comments and trolls but it is a good place to continue the conversation.

Offline is another really important venue. Sit down and talk to black women about the challenges they face and identify ways you can leverage your position to support them.

#MentalNote, music, Uncategorized

1:48 Part II

When I initially started writing my thoughts around the new Jay-Z album, I was pretty set on what I wanted to say. ” 4:44 is a set of journal entries of a man that’s done a lot, made a lot of mistakes, seen success, but ultimately wonders how his actions, experiences, and family will be remembered.” Seems logical and sound based on the lyrics and explanation of each song. But there’s so much more, especially when you put 4:44 in the context of when it was released and the Jay-z that released it. We can over analyze it till kingdom come but I’m just going to focus on two areas that hit me based on other things I saw/read last week. (This ended being way longer than I thought it was going to be so I split it into two parts… this is part 2 of 2)

Dave McClure and Jay-Z defining masculinity? 

Earlier this week, Dave McClure, Co-Founder of 500 Startups, stepped down as GP due to multiple claims of sexual harassment from women founders and associates. As a huge fan of 500 Startups, their mission and outcomes, I was truly saddened by these allegations but not surprised. As most people know who’ve engaged with the Silicon Valley ecosystem, there’s a bro-ish culture still entrenched in how people do business which creates a sometimes hostile environment for women and minorities. Don’t get it twisted though, its not just Silicon Valley. I’ve heard similar stories from women in other sectors; the higher you go, the more questionable and outright disrespectful behavior you encounter. Why is it that some people in power, who often happen to be men, feel they are beyond moral and ethical parameters in how they engage with others? One of the key explanations I’ve heard in the recent week or so around sexual harassment in the VC space is there’s a “machismo/masculinity” problem that needs to be addressed and I agree. As a society, we have an outdated perspective on what masculinity encapsulates. Most men (and women) still operate on masculinity 1.0. As a result, we have guys chasing outdated ideas of masculinity that disenfranchises women and other men.

Masculinity 1.0 is purely focused on the three p’s; protection, providing, and pro-creation. Any student of history and biology understands the rationale and advantage in  providing the the three p’s to your family and tribe.  Make as many kids as you can, protect your lineage and your group, and provide food and shelter for those you are responsible for. Masculinity 1.0 got us to where we are now; 7 billion + people, weapons of mass destruction, and economic system allows us to trade currency for food and shelter.

Fortunately/ unfortunately (depending at how you look at it), we live in a time where we’ve built institutions to manage the key areas that define masculinity. For most in the developed world, the state takes care of security, you can go to the store and buy food instead of hunting, you don’t have to build your house, and sometimes men aren’t even needed for procreation. (Yes smarty pants, money has become an intermediary but hold off on that thought for now.)  What does masculinity look like now that we have most of the basic external threats covered?

4:44 surprisingly encompasses this same question but from Jay-z’s perspective. He’s experienced most of his life through the masculinity 1.0 lens. From his experience hustling, building his business empire, promiscuity…etc, he’s done what he’s done to get to what we see today. Will that take him to the next level though?  Kill Jay-Z kind of gets at this struggle between who his was and who he has to be now that he has a family and is focused on building legacy. What does masculinity 2.0 look like from Jay-Z’s perspective?

  1. Legacy – its an important theme throughout 4:44. I think Jay looks at providing from a societal and generational perspective. It’s less about his kids and more about his children’s children and lifting up those around him. Many would argue this is a function of his socioeconomic realities. I’d disagree.  The “7th generation” principle taught by many Native American tribes say that in every decision, be it personal, governmental or corporate, we must consider how it will affect our descendants seven generations into the future. Legacy is something everyone can think about.
  2. Courage- I don’t know if Jay-Z could have made this album earlier in his career. Outside of my feelings about spilling your own tea, it takes a lot of courage to open up about your shortcomings. I guess Beyonce may have given him some. Courage in the face of adversity and tough times is essential to being a modern man.
  3. Self Improvement/Expertise – Jay-Z shows us in 4:44 why he’s one of the G.O.A.Ts of the music industry. 13 albums in, he’s still making quality music. He’s perfected his craft overtime and become one of the best at it. Mastery and self improvement is at the core of masculinity 2.0. What are you doing every day to improve yourself and build mastery?
  4. Morality/ Predictable framework for how you operate – Jay, for better or worst ,lays out his sense of of morality and his perception on how he tries to live his life. Living by a code, set of rules, or framework helps de-risk relationships so people know you before they meet you. It also helps to navigate gray area situations.

Transitioning away from masculinity 1.0 to a more modern day appropriate definition of masculinity will provide a new set of traits, actions and characteristics for men to aspire to. I believe a transition will do its part to eradicate some of the toxic behavior and beliefs we see as common place.

#MentalNote, music

1:48 Part I

When I initially started writing my thoughts around the new Jay-Z album, I was pretty set on what I wanted to say. ” 4:44 is a set of journal entries of a man that’s done a lot, made a lot of mistakes, seen success, but ultimately wonders how his actions, experiences, and family will be remembered.” Seems logical and sound based on the lyrics and explanation of each song. But there’s so much more, especially when you put 4:44 in the context of when it was released and the Jay-z that released it. We can over analyze this till kingdom come but I’m just going to focus on two areas that hit me based on other things I saw/read last week. (This ended being way longer than I thought it was going to be so I split it into two parts..this is part 1 of 2)

Trauma/gossip sell for all the wrong reasons. 

My main man Vince Staples (I don’t know him like that but he’s definitely on my celebrity dinner invite list) did an interview with Ebro in the Morning last week. It’s a great interview ( I started it right in the middle but definitely watch the whole thing) but I want to focus on what he says early on. “For black people, we sell trauma. ” 

“I turned that 2 to a 4, 4 to an 8
I turned my life into a nice first week release date”

Jay-z The Story of OJ. 

Jay shared a lot of personal experiences that could definitely be described as traumatic for him or others in his life. He’s leveraged trauma and tea to go platinum in the first week on his own streaming music service and make a ton of money. He’s not the only artist that’s done it and won’t be the last, but there’s a certain air around the conversation especially with Beyonce’s miscarriages and his infidelity. I understand pain and tough times make for the best music, (Hello Mary J Blige) but there’s something about profiting from infidelity and the pain of others (even if they okay it) that doesn’t sit well with me. Somethings have to be out of bounds. But its for that exact reason 4:44 did so well. Yea, No I.D spazzed on the production and its nice to hear a rapper put some words together, but why do people find so much benefit from hearing about the worst parts of a celebrities life? Why do people like to see successful people fail or fall from grace?

 

 

#MentalNote

The Death of Oratory

 

Something to think about as we approach the 4th of July.

“Oratory is the parent of liberty. By the constitution of things it was ordained that eloquence should be the last stay and support of liberty, and that with her she is ever destined to live, to flourish, and to die. It is to the interest of tyrants to cripple and debilitate every species of eloquence. They have no other safety. It is then, the duty of free states to foster oratory.” -Henry Hardwicke

Henry wrote a book on oratory back in the day (1896) called The History of Oratory and Orators: A study of the influence of oratory upon politics and literature, with special reference to certain orators selected as representative of their several epochs, from the earliest Dawn of Grecian civilization down to the present day. (weeew…. talk about at title) I haven’t read all of it yet but slowly going through on my ipad.

I’ll do a full review once I’m finished, but the first sentence of the book sets the tone:  “Oratory is the parent of liberty.”

Taking a look at our current political discourse, we should be weary of people who overlook great orators for those who will overly simplify positions, policies, relationships, and negotiations.

#MentalNote, communication, Holiday Weekend

31 Day Writing Challenge

I’ve always enjoyed writing. It’s something I do casually via this blog and my personal journal. I’ve realized through conversation and interactions with colleagues that there’s ample benefit to writing consistently for professional reflection and synthesizing emergent trends.

Aside from professional/ personal goals, I really want to push myself this month to create and ship on a daily basis. A lot of my thoughts and ideas tend to stay in my brain. For this reason, I’m going on a creation spree in July. I’m challenging myself to publish one blog post a day for the whole of July. I’m most likely going to be talking about hip-hop, politics, vc, product management, education, emerging technology, and some random poems, Nigeria, Africa, International Development, current events, and anything else that comes up. 

Lets see how it goes.

#MentalNote, business

An Executive Story

A fellow had just been hired as the new CEO of a large high tech corporation. The CEO who was stepping down met with him privately and presented him with three numbered envelopes. “Open these if you run up against a problem you don’t think you can solve,” he said.
Well, things went along pretty smoothly, but six months later, sales took a downturn and he was really catching a lot of heat. About at his wit’s end, he remembered the envelopes. He went to his drawer and took out the first envelope. The message read, “Blame your predecessor.”
The new CEO called a press conference and tactfully laid the blame at the feet of the previous CEO. Satisfied with his comments, the press — and Wall Street – responded positively, sales began to pick up and the problem was soon behind him.
About a year later, the company was again experiencing a slight dip in sales, combined with serious product problems. Having learned from his previous experience, the CEO quickly opened the second envelope. The message read, “Reorganize.” This he did, and the company quickly rebounded.
After several consecutive profitable quarters, the company once again fell on difficult times. The CEO went to his office, closed the door and opened the third envelope.
The message said, “Prepare three envelopes.”
In the process of looking for the author to give credit. I heard it as a story during a network event.