The Standard #31

It is wise for a gentleman to avoid an ascension that leaves him amongst mountains of hubris; an ascension that betrays his remembrance of the ever distant valleys beneath his feet. Gentlemen, be not thoughtlessly mistaken, your climb towards success does not preclude the possibility of an agonizing fall. Depending upon the heights that one rises, arrogance may silently corrupt your character, and thus the descent could be resolutely sharp, steep and abrupt. This is not to say that a gentleman should not achieve or strive for the greatest heights of success or prosperity. To be certain, a gentleman can certainly ride amongst the highest clouds of accomplishment, and yet remain grounded in modesty and humility. It is the appreciation of the valleys that makes the view from above that much more beautiful. It is the appreciation of the valleys that assuage any fear of falling. Because, if a gentleman so finds himself in the midst of a certain plunge, his spirit is steeled with the knowledge that he will rise again. Conversely, a successful gentleman may never experience any affecting gravity upon his achievements. Nonetheless, the underlying message is consistent – never lose sight of your origins and appreciate the valleys of one’s life that have transformed into triumph. And if you are not there yet, don’t worry, you will be. See you at the top.

Daddy Diary – Ghosts of Christmas Past – How My Children Restored My Joy For the Holidays

I suspect that many family holiday gatherings – much like my own – center around a primary figure that shoulders the responsibility of bringing everyone together. My grandmother bore the responsibility for being that central, primary figure. And for the many years that encompassed my childhood and early adult years; 8882 Kimberly Court Detroit, Michigan 48204 was the hub for food, laughter, and overall joyous times. However, just a few months before I married my wife, that tradition ceased with the passing of our matriarch. She died, and in many respects so did my holiday spirit – especially during the Christmas season. Fractured; segments of my family splintered and celebrated the holidays with their own loved ones at various locales. We ceased to celebrate as one big family. And I fully understand what the real meaning of Christmas should be (as a matter of religious belief), but it is extremely difficult to divorce oneself from familial love and tradition. Sure, I participated in a superficial celebration of the holiday, nevertheless, I was helplessly ambivalent.

Approximately seven years after my grandmother’s passing, my daughter Ava was born. Two years thereafter my son Miles was born. As many parents can attest, the arrival of children marks a decided shift from yourself to little beings that are solely dependent upon you. And so, gradually throughout their young years, my attitude towards the holiday season began to positively change. In many ways, the death of my grandmother was the end of the first act of my young life. The second act was tough. The complexity of life will always offer varying degrees of adversity, but the struggle was about to get real. And life’s problems have a sly way of stripping happiness and joy.

I do not believe one simply moves on from the death of a loved one. No. The steady, deliberate passage time affords the necessary coping skills and rewarding life events to manage grief while building emotional and mental resiliency. The birth of my children was a blessing to both my mental and emotional state during the holidays. I am reminded of innocence. I am reminded of happiness absent preconditions. I am reminded of a wonderful ignorance of the grim realities of the world. And yes, my children love Santa Claus, Rudolph, Frosty, and even the Grinch. Undoubtedly, life awaits them, but for now, I will draw joy from the joy of their childhood. The second act (of my life) was a rough start but was eventually infused with hope. I wish my grandmother was still living to experience life with my children. Unfortunately, we don’t get everything we desire in life because, well, life is life. That part deeply saddens me. However, that sadness is balanced by the sheer joyous pandemonium that is going to ensue Christmas morning with gasps of excitement, flying wrapping paper, and screams of elation. I am a little compulsive, so tonight I will neatly arrange the gifts under the tree before that tornado touches down. I cannot wait. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your families!

Licensed to Ill…Behavior – A Simple Request For a Return to Decency, Manners, & Common Sense

The knowledgeable gentleman comprehends that his image does not begin with how society views him. Rather, the gentleman’s image begins with how he sees himself. He alone determines and dictates the manner in which he is presented to the world. Now, the first few sentences of this post may sound familiar because I penned those words back in 2013 as I was creating my ongoing Standard posts. It amazes me as those words are still true today. Image does matter. Image is sometimes dictated by personal behavior and choices. Now, I wholeheartedly admit that although I identify mostly as a liberal, I still maintain moderate views. That being said, I believe that as a collective, we must champion a standard of self-respect, dignity, and class. This is not sanctimony. This is not respectability politics; it is just plain respectability for oneself. Now, it has been approximately 25 years since I graduated high school, and in just a little over two decades, the cultural shift in principles and decency has been dramatic.

Perhaps it feels dramatic because I am older and this generation’s views regarding manners differ from my own. And perhaps being a father now has aged my way of thinking. However, shouldn’t certain standards be timeless? Can we all agree – using some honest common sense – that all behavior is not created equal? Some conduct is simply ill-mannered and disagreeable. Carrying oneself as a gentleman or as a lady should transcend generations. Yet, some individuals in our more famous population are absolved of any unseemly conduct that a normal person would be roundly criticized. Nevertheless, it feels as if more credence has been afforded some celebrities that don’t represent the best behavior that society has to offer. I fully understand that a celebrity represents a brand not necessarily intended to be a role model. Nonetheless, especially in this day and age, brands are built off a devout following.

Perched upon a pedestal that is supported by unwavering, unbiased devotion; celebrity should not inoculate an individual against a critique of ill behavior. To be sure, power and purpose are pillars of a prominent person’s platform. So there has to be some level of responsibility. Because, when your favorite personality (actor, politician, singer, etc.) is promoting crude behavior, please understand said behavior does not translate seamlessly to every aspect of life. Work. School. Home. There are a lot of impressionable people that emulate what they mistakenly deem as acceptable. Sadly, I feel that my fellow people of color are so angry and determined for representation, they accept the unacceptable and don’t object to the objectionable. So my responsibility as a parent, mentor, and leader is separating fantasy from reality for those that may have challenges discerning between the two. Call me a square, but I would not condone my daughter describing herself as a bad b*tch and showing all her business. Nor would I condone my son sagging his pants and describing himself as a thug n*gga. And this would include any other behavior that would otherwise be considered unbecoming, untoward, unethical, and unnecessary. We have to do better. We have to do better together.

The Standard #48

With absolute certainty, the mantle of leadership demands fidelity to integrity, responsibility, wisdom, and truth. Leadership is an exhausting exercise in guiding others, often thankless, yet undoubtedly needed. It requires a steadfast commitment to exemplifying a righteous standard, a model for all to glean its best virtues. However, do not be mistaken, a person charged with the supervision of others may not necessarily retain the aforementioned leadership prerequisites. Trust, regardless of an individual’s station in life, or designation of a title, everyone is not suited to be a leader. Someone that disseminates disinformation and displays a craven hunger for chaos cannot be considered a true leader. A leader’s actions are dictated not by what is popular, rather, a gentleman’s actions are guided by what is just, reasonable, and logical. In the midst of tumult and tribulation, a leader exudes calm and steadiness. Typified by cohesive communication and unambiguous direction, the servant leader is driven not by emotion. Ideally, he embraces a pragmatic approach based on informed, selfless decision-making in the service of others. He recognizes personal faults; and exhibits a willingness to improve, learn, and mature. His mind is open to differing ideology and thought; always ready to compromise on points that are sensible and rational, as serving others is never lost in his actions.

No More Mr. Nice Guy Misconceptions- 5 Effective Leadership Approaches For a Nice Guy

Broadly speaking, every gentleman has perhaps struggled with some form of insecurity at a particular juncture in life. And I am certainly not a beneficiary of any special exclusions. To be sure, I am not immune to episodes of uneasiness and internal distress with what I perceive as personal character flaws. I put forth the best effort to manage and suppress feelings of uncertainty and dissatisfaction; sometimes with success and other times falling short. In many ways, writing is very therapeutic, and it is always my hope that my musings serve as encouragement and empowerment to readers. A circumstance this week prompted some self-reflection regarding certain insecurities that are a source of a long-standing internal battle. This is going to sound odd, but I struggle with being a nice guy. I understand that may seem strange, but allow me to explain further in detail.

If I may make the assumption, I am quite confident that my family, friends, and associates would describe me as a nice guy. And in many instances, that designation would be a compliment. I consider myself respectful, pleasant, courteous, and kind. These should be considered noble traits. However, being classified as a nice guy also has a negative connotation. In addition to the aforementioned characteristics, I can also be described as a guy that is soft-spoken, quiet, and non-confrontational. All things combined, well, now the moniker of being a nice guy takes a turn for the worse. When some individuals have referred to me as a “nice guy”, I am intelligent enough to decipher the context. Weak. Passive. Soft. When I became a supervisor, there wasn’t a question of knowledge or work ethic, but some individuals questioned whether I possessed people management skills necessary to lead a team. After all, I was a nice guy, and nice guys are pushovers.

The prevailing and misguided philosophy regarding management is one has to lead with bluster, aggression, and micromanagement. Colleagues disdain those types of leaders, yet subconsciously, people tend to believe those traits get the job done – for better or for worse. This typifies toxic leadership, so it is usually worse. Now, those adjectives don’t describe my personality, as I am a laid-back and easy-going individual. Now what occurred recently (centered around a work issue) was a subtle implication that my nice personality prevented me from making hard decisions, especially when friends within the department are involved. Admittedly, this tapped into my insecurity of being perceived as the “nice guy”. In other words: passive, soft, hesitant, and weak. I am fully aware of the perceptions, and I would not be truthful if I were to say the perceptions didn’t irritate me and cause some second-guessing of my work skills.

However, you might find it interesting to know that perception does not necessarily align with reality. The reality is that amongst management, I am one of few with the most corrective actions, and unfortunately, I have had to separate a colleague from the company. This belies the perception of being a pushover, as theoretically I should not be able to address difficult colleagues or situations. Trust me as I tell you that my initial years being a supervisor were wrought with challenges that I never envisioned – it was insanity. Nevertheless, I was able to navigate the most problematic circumstances and colleagues, yet the perception of being a nice guy remained unchanged. How?

The label bothers me, regardless of the facts, and I even contemplate adopting a harder edge from time to time. I eventually regain my senses and dispel the silly idea. I cannot betray my character and integrity. And I suppose that it is a testimony to my leadership style that I have been able to deliver some unsavory actions, yet my name and reputation remain unsullied. I’ll probably continue to struggle with the nice guy moniker, going back and forth within myself in search of an imaginary solution. Nevertheless, if you find yourself in the same boat as me, here are a few tips to help you navigate rough waters and stay true to yourself.

5 Effective Leadership Approaches For a Nice Guy

  • A leader should never demean, disparage, or defame fellow colleagues. Good morale in the work environment is essential to the overall health and productivity of a business. If a leader is contributing to poor morale and a toxic work environment; that is definitely an issue. I ensure that treat every colleague with decency and dignity – even when delivering hard truths regarding work performance or behavior.
  • A leader must ensure that his or her management style is guided by company policies and regulations. I am confident in my decision-making because it is supported by company protocol. I make sure I am familiar with pertinent documentation offered up by human resources, and I seek clarity when it is necessary. Any accusations of shenanigans on my behalf will be hard to prove because I adhere strictly to company guidelines. Yes, I’m a square. But I don’t play favorites, as I am fair and just across the board.
  • A leader must be transparent. I will never ambush a colleague. If there are foreseeable issues on the horizon, I try my best to speak with a colleague to avoid any corrective actions. Confrontation makes me uneasy, so I attempt to avoid it. I am always honest with colleagues. I do not tell them what they want to hear. I tell them what they need to hear – no matter how uncomfortable the conversation.
  • Leaders must demonstrate follow through on their word. Declarations of punitive measures without the proper consequences are meaningless. No one will ever take you seriously because colleagues will conclude that you never enforce warnings. Trust, I still get butterflies in my stomach, but I cast away whatever emotional responses I have toward the situation, and address the issue (not the person) directly per company policy. Before a serious conversation, it is not unlike me to script out talking points the day before so I can stick to the subject and never stray off the designated topic. I maintain an even, measured tone and I keep the conversation streamlined to the subject at hand.
  • A leader must be willing to help their fellow colleagues. I am a strong believer in the growth and development of their careers. It is not unusual for me to undertake the task of performing a corrective action, yet later assist that same colleague with a resume or interview preparation. I believe everyone should be treated justly and fairly regardless of previous work indiscretions.

Black Thought

“The rich man who achieves a degree of greatness achieves it not because he hoards his wealth, but because he gives it away in the interest of good causes.”

-Benjamin Mays

A thoughtful gentleman clearly understands that his blessings are not of his own. His success is not a singular possession that lays clenched in miserly hands. He logically comprehends that he cannot exist as an insular entity-isolated from his community. No, his true greatness is predicated on charity and service to his community. His wealth, not necessarily in monetary terms, must be distributed to those who would definitely benefit the most. Blessed to be a blessing, a gentleman enjoys watching others thrive and succeed. He possesses no stock in watching others fail. Succeed as a collective, or fail separately. The choice is clear. It is imperative to use one’s wealth of knowledge, or wealth of finance to better those around you. Pay good fortune forward. Tutor. Volunteer. Donate some business clothes to someone in need. Today, someone is in need of your help. Heed the call. Give back!

The Standard #52

If I have gleaned any knowledge working within the confines of the corporate world, it would definitely be understanding the necessity of having a strong network in my selected area of employment. Undoubtedly naive, my entry into the corporate environment commenced with an incorrect belief; a trust that hard work alone would translate to acknowledgment and then advancement. I was seriously mistaken. The knowledge and work performance a gentleman wields within the workplace are just as important as the individuals a gentleman knows within the workplace. To be certain, deftly weaving a tight tapestry of professional connections can help progress a gentleman’s career and provide outlets to a myriad of opportunities that may nurture both professional and personal growth. I am quiet by nature, but being locked down in my cubicle studiously working under the radar was not doing me any favors. To provide my career with a much-needed injection of significant development, I needed a great deal more than labor alone.

Now, I can credit 4 colleagues – all in management – that encouraged me to stretch beyond my comfort zone and seriously consider advancing my career within the company. The first step was discovering my voice, volunteering for projects, and increasing my visibility within supply chain management. As I stated before, I am a natural introvert, so communicating my thoughts aloud to other individuals was challenging. Nevertheless, the more I spoke in open forums and collaborated with other people, I began to feel more at ease with being more vocal. If you want to advance your career in a meaningful fashion, I strongly encourage the exercise of extending yourself beyond your comfort level. A gentleman should identify individuals that will readily exchange valuable skills & insight, embrace stretch assignments, and actively collaborate with persons he wouldn’t necessarily engage with normally. Think of it as a human portfolio that boasts an intellectual diversification suited for professional and personal growth. Success is not procured within a vacuum, it is nurtured within an environment of varied thought, experience, and learned guidance.

Someone you know needs to read this, so share if you care. Empower and encourage someone today.

The Standard #37

Rest assured, the successful gentleman is never content with static movement in regard to his professional career. He continuously seeks opportunities for advanced growth that will cultivate and promote an ever-expanding, internal knowledge base. Moreover, rest assured, the successful gentleman is never an active participant in his own professional or personal limitations. Being average – at best – is never a standard that is tacitly sought or readily accepted. Eagerly accepting a personal challenge for greatness, he sets the standard by which all others will be measured against, as he is devoutly dedicated to adding value to his life. And empowered with a clearly defined purpose, he ensures that his education never succumbs to restriction and halts. Constantly learning, constantly evolving; this gentleman understands the sacrifice that is required. It may mean accepting projects foreign to his current job description. It may mean late evenings filled with laborious research and reading. It may mean forgoing some sleep or outings with friends. Nonetheless, your trade must be perfected and your personal best must be cultivated. Plying your craft, increasing one’s knowledge in a given profession is paramount. With each drifting day arrives another prime opportunity to learn anew. So, what have you learned today?

Someone you know needs to read this, so share if you care. Empower and encourage someone today.

The Standard #51

To be sure, the thoughtful gentleman understands that every moment of significance carries meaning. Moments matter. This is especially true for the gentleman that has embarked upon the journey of fatherhood. Understandably, the journey is an arduous one, replete with important occasions that beg the focused attention and participation of a father. This is non-negotiable. Hopefully, this active role fosters an intimate relationship between father and child grounded in an appreciation and love exclusive to both involved parties. For example, approximately three years ago, my daughter was experiencing respiratory distress that prompted an expeditious visit to the emergency room. My wife needed to be home with our newborn son since, ironically, a hospital isn’t the best spot for a newborn outside of the initial birth. So I stayed with my daughter through a series of evaluations and treatments until she was discharged.

During the entirety of the event, I provided a calming and reassuring presence for her, as you can expect the circumstances would be quite frightening to a two-year-old. Now, some may think it odd, but I took pictures and videos during our stay in the hospital. I wanted to capture this moment in time; this moment that further strengthened our bond as father and daughter.  To her, I was her protector – a source of depended comfort and safety. To me, she was my ward – simply my little baby girl. I had to be there for her. And every now and again – three years later – I still look at pictures and videos from those days we shared together. And upon viewing them, the emotions from that day come flooding back – in a positive way. Despite the circumstances, I cherish that time we shared together.

Now, I don’t assert that a father and child need to experience an extreme event to form a healthy, caring connection. However, I am asserting that a father should never shy away from moments with his kid(s), no matter how large or small. And he should embrace opportunity fully and make the most of it. Sure, a gentleman probably won’t engage in every waking event, but an honest effort is definitely demanded. There possibly can be a myriad of chances at a gentleman’s disposal: attending a recital, helping with homework, attending children’s school events, etc. Do not be mistaken, inaction is actually a conscious action. Gentlemen, as fathers, ensure the present-day with your kids isn’t a missed opportunity that becomes a distant past that you regret in the future. Make the most of your moments now!

Black Thought

“Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome.”

-Booker T. Washington

Sure, it would be easy enough to become enamored by the seemingly authoritative, accomplished status of a wildly successful individual. The mere presence of seductive visuals – such as expensive status symbols – has tremendous influence as they elicit, sometimes, misguided deference from the admirer. However, I challenge the reader to momentarily ignore such material objects. Instead, please divert your attention to the process that granted such accomplishment possible. What did that individual experience during their journey to success? Trust this: The strength of a gentleman’s character is forged on the anvil of adversity. Through weathering distress or difficulty, prosperity is procured by he who believes a challenge is an opportunity. An opportunity to steel your will and seize achievement despite any obstacles you might encounter. Don’t be impressed by person’s materialistic results. Those are nice and fine to look at. Nevertheless, be more impressed with the vanquished adversity that withered in the face of impending success. And then go forth and forge your own.

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