Never give me a mic

05/12/2015 | Follow me on Twitterhere

…but if you do, know that I’m going to tell the truth.

This Friday in New York (in my very own Harlem, no less), I’ll be sitting on a panel as a part of Verizon’s Potential Of Us campaign. The event is called “The Big Payoff” and in addition to the panel, there will be live performances along with a meet and greet with the artists.

The other panelists (Michelle Nance, Noelle Llewellyn, Ryan Cross, RoseGold, Haithem Elembaby and Vy Higginsen) are way cooler than me, but I doubt they’re funnier (or more modest). The panel will be moderated by my namesake Kwame Jackson (of NBC Apprentice fame).

I’m probably most excited about the Melanie Fiona performance for reasons related to my gender and relationship status and sexual orientation and taste in women, but there are a number of other artists who will be “rocking the house” as the kids say.

Aside from the fact that it’s an honor to be asked to speak, I’m excited about meeting people and shamelessly plugging Abernathy to everyone within an earshot.

Here are the details:

When: Friday, May 15th at 6pm
Where: Madiba Harlem (46 W 116th St. New York, NY 10026)
Panel: 6pm — 8pm
Meet & Greet: 8pm — 8:30pm
Live Performances: 9pm — 11pm

The event is free when you RSVP thanks to Verizon, and you can do so here.

See you there.

PS There’s a nice guy that I’ve been coordinating with for logistics who will be very disappointed with me if I don’t include this graphic in the post.

Event Flyer

PPS I know you might not be able to make it, but maybe pass the link on to someone who can? Don’t be a blessing blocker.

Rookie Mistake

05/12/2015 | Follow me on Twitterhere

One of my first tasks as a bright-eyed consultant at Accenture was to order company business cards. I had just graduated from FSU with a degree in Information Technology. As I completed the order form, I had a bit of degree envy when I saw all the options to specify my education level — there were acronyms I has never seen before.

In a move that some of my friends remind me of occasionally (I’m looking at you, Alexis), I ordered cards that read Willie Jackson, BS. I’ll probably go to my grave laughing at myself. BS indeed.

Moving rapidly along…

Today, I’m happy to share a project I’ve been helping to build out. It’s Seth Godin’s latest project, and it’s ambitious. It’s called altMBA — an intense, month-long, virtual learning experience that’s six months in the making.

Seth is a pleasure to work with for a lot of reasons, but I particular appreciate his uncanny ability to make problems disappear by finding simple solutions. Getting emotionally invested in your art and business can be a great thing, but this must be in alignment with the end goal (rather than insecurities and grudges and vendettas…).

There were a number of decisions made along the way that seemed confusing in the moment, but make perfect sense when I see potential customers interacting with the information on the site. Seth and my colleague Winnie have been working on this every day for months, and I was charged with building it out.

The site is built in WordPress using the latest version Alex’s new WordPress Theme + Plugin suite called Marketer’s Delight. I haven’t developed a WordPress site in a little while, so the speed with which I was able to get altMBA up and running is a testament to Alex’s hard work.

The meat of the site will only be visible to enrolled students, and there’s a bit of custom development work that’s been done to facilitate this. As with every WordPress dev project I’ve touched since 2011 (or before), there were generous and invaluable contributions made by the peerless Andrew Norcross.

I’m excited to see how the months of hard work by Seth and Winnie (Director of altMBA) will change the lives of those who apply and are selected.

Maybe you?

Back in the day

04/21/2015 | Follow me on Twitterhere

My freelance career started in 2007.

The genesis was a class project in college that required us to build an Interactive Resume (personal website), and it went from there. I started building personal websites for other people, and then sites for small businesses. After I quit my job in 2010, I started freelancing full-time.

I wasn’t a particularly skilled designer or developer at the time, but I knew more than my clients (an important prerequisite…) and I was better at connecting with humans than my “competitors.” So my reputation grew, as did my client base.

I had no idea what I was doing, but I tried hard and I didn’t quit. The low cost of living in Atlanta helped, but that’s beside the point.

Looking back, I could have probably increased my income by a factor of five if I actually knew what I was doing. Many of the things that make my projects successful today are a result of the lessons I learned the hard way between 2007 and 2011.

I would not recommend learning how to freelance the hard way if you can help it.

There probably isn’t a human alive who has had a bigger impact on how I think about about business and connection and freelancing than Seth Godin. Seth is not available for consulting or coaching at any price, but the lessons he’s learned over 30 years of successful freelancing can be found in his new course for freelancers on Udemy.

Udemy is running a promotion through the end of April that lets you get the course at a considerable discount when you use the code MOVEUP, which makes this no-brainer even no-brainerer.

Mocha

04/08/2015 | Follow me on Twitterhere

A friend and I were discussing our preferences in women recently, and we inadvertently happened upon the topic of color(ism). My friend (who is white) explained that he was attracted to black women who were “mocha” in complexion.

Oh this is gonna be good, I thought to myself as I invited him to expound. I knew he was describing light-skinned women, but “mocha” tells me nothing since, well, it depends on how you take your coffee.

“Not like straight out of Africa, but…you know, mocha. Is that bad?”

Not like straight out of Africa. The ease with which these words rolled off his tongue still amazes me as I type these words.

What I explained to my AccidentallyIncrediblyRacist friend is that the problem with what he shared wasn’t his preference—you like what you like—but rather the subtext that there is something wrong with having dark skin.

Was his statement racist? Of course it was. Is he racist? I don’t think so, nor do I think that being quick to assign him this label is useful in any way.

What’s more important is that there are safe places to have important and uncomfortable conversations like this. That’s why I created Abernathy.

And boy oh boy, is he missing out.

Black is beautiful.

Photo of Lupita Nyong'o Lupita Nyong’o

An alternative to keeping someone posted

04/07/2015 | Follow me on Twitterhere

Just decide and propose something.

It’ll either work or it won’t, but you don’t have to default to postponing the only important part of the process.

Minimum Viable Peddling

04/06/2015 | Follow me on Twitterhere

His body language suggested that he was in the business of interrupting passers by.

This was indeed the case.

The gentleman in question had a bag ten yards behind him, propped against the wall, with a single piece of art perched on top.

In my mind (since I had no interest in Humans of New York-ing this guy (and because making eye contact with people in New York is sadly an invitation to participate in their particular brand of crazy)), he was an artist with one item to sell.

This was indeed the case.

Like clockwork, I watched him engage the unfortunate soul to my right and smiled smugly as the pitch unfolded.

But I also admired the guy. He was an artist. He was in the arena, taking his blows. He was trying.

He didn’t wait until his art was good enough to land him placement in a gallery, or to have enough art to fill up a table. He created one thing and he was pounding the pavement.

I respect that.

Of course, he could have been pulling the old Rice Krispies trick

Worthiness

04/03/2015 | Follow me on Twitterhere

Next time you’re afraid to

  1. ask for more money
  2. share your idea with the world
  3. give your dreams a shot
  4. help someone in need
  5. stand up for what you believe in

…just remember that evil people (some of whom might ostensibly be your “competition”) don’t talk themselves out of what they feel that they deserve.

Shoot for the stars, good people.

We need you.

A painful paradox

04/02/2015 | Follow me on Twitterhere

This goes against the way that we’re wired as humans, but despite our desire to feign strength and resilience when we’re most weak, people resonate with vulnerability and transparency.

Since putting up a front is a part of our social fabric, being courageously vulnerable and honest is something of a revolutionary act. We don’t need to see a live-stream of you crying, but there’s no need to pretend that you’ve never shed any tears on the way to your dreams.

Life is hard and everyone’s making it all up. That’s a fine starting point for the conversation. What’s next?

One of those days

04/01/2015 | Follow me on Twitterhere

When you miss your train or spill your coffee in the morning, it’s easy to project this misfortune onto the rest of your day, expecting a storm cloud of destruction to follow you until you crawl back into the sheets twelve hours later.

This is total nonsense of course, and you’re allowed to opt out of that harmful thinking. Maybe instead of feeding the dread and worry, you can rejoice that you’ve gotten the day’s misfortune out of the way.

Can’t hurt to try.

Know thyself

03/31/2015 | Follow me on Twitterhere

Self-awareness pays dividends.

No one can take it from you, and it acts as a baked in force-multiplier for your projects since after a while, you develop an understanding around how certain types of work affects you. You can then make better decisions about how (and whether) to spend your time (on certain projects).

Trouble is, honest self-reflection and self-inquiry require an extraordinary amount of courage.

And therein lies the rub.