A friend of mine went to New York City to have a meeting with a billionaire. One of the nice advantages of being an Ivy League graduate is that there are super-rich people in the alumni network who can hook you up with amazing opportunities. In fact, that’s why our entire Supreme Court went to either Harvard or Yale for law school (one of them left Harvard to graduate at Columbia). Elitist cronyism is bad for America, but it’s good for those who are allowed to take advantage of it.
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My friend, a young brother seeking to start his own business, said that he was shocked to find that there was nothing extraordinary about the billionaire: No Rolls Royce parked in front of the building, no secretary in a bikini serving him Martinis at work, no $10,000 suit, no office the size of Taj Mahal. Nothing.
The only thing extraordinary about the billionaire was that he was pretty intelligent when it came to his craft, he loved to work hard, he loved his family, and he wanted to make the world a better place. That’s it. In fact, he is planning to give half of his wealth to charity when he dies.
My friend concluded, after meeting with the man, that he’d obtained his massive fortune largely because he DID NOT spend his time “stuntin,” “flossin,” “shining,” and all the other stuff that a lot of people might do if they had that kind of money. Instead, he was focused on grinding and working hard to be successful. He wasn’t judgmental about other people who spent most of their time engaged in leisure, but he was the one in college burning the midnight oil while others were seeking out the latest party.
I think about this as I recall a recent story about NBA star Deshawn Stevenson, who actually installed an ATM machine in his house, just because he thought it was cool. I think about all the rappers who wear 100 pounds of jewelry, toss money in the air at the club, and feel that they need to have 15 cars in the driveway. The number of cars in the driveway, in many cases, is only exceeded by the number of baby mamas who will be sucking him dry once his economic opportunities run out.
The buffoonery is both sad and pathetic.
Mind you, not every person with money behaves in such a ridiculous way, but there is a culture that seems to influence young Black kids to believe that income should be used solely for irresponsible and counter-productive consumption. You are not here to build wealth, become captains of industry, or use your money to improve the world around you. Instead, you are meant to use your money to become like the “N*gga in Paris” (Jay-Z) who earned $63 million last year, gave only $6,000 to charity, and sings songs about private jets flying over your head. Jay-Z also engages in some principles of wealth-building, but what he teaches our youth will leave them broke – some might even call him a slumlord.
The bottom line is that running away from education and economic responsibility is the best way to run right back toward slavery.
You can’t complain about the White man having his foot on your neck if you laid on the ground and placed your neck right underneath him. All of us have to call out buffoonery when we see it and encourage one another to make better and more productive choices. It all starts with what you do with your time, your money, and your mind.
Perhaps it’s time for us to elevate our thinking.
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Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Finance Professor at Syracuse University and founder of the Your Black World Coalition. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.