The Art Of Stealth, Part 5: Cultivating Personal Character As A Weapon And Shield

Character development is the most powerful weapon and shield you have in a competitive world. No externally generated advantage such as wealth or natural good looks will benefit you for very long without some measure of character development to accompany it. For example, a totally undisciplined person will destroy whatever advantage they are blessed with.

Contrary to popular assumption, character development is not automatically identical with becoming a better person. A villian can be patient, resourceful, and self-disciplined. Character development makes you a more skilled and more effective person. How you use those skills is up to you.

Modern African-Americans have a cultural bias that favors focusing on external factors and barriers to personal success. We don’t like to pay attention to the internal factors that are completely under our own control. For example, we don’t need a protest march or anybody else’s permission and cooperation to:

  • cultivate a spirit of adventure
  • cultivate healthy ambition
  • cultivate patience
  • develop our powers of awareness
  • develop our resourcefulness
  • increase our tolerance for self-discipline, and so on.

We often want things that our current collection of character traits can’t achieve or sustain. Many of us belittle and insult the people who cultivated the internal traits needed to achieve certain things. We do this by attributing their success solely to luck or connections. This came up during an earlier conversation. Several readers and I discussed a New York Times article about a recent Black writers’ conference.

A reader named DeStouet said,

Unfortunately I’ve found that it doesn’t help to read anything by African American authors, including those that are already published.

The New York Times just recently wrote an article http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/23/books/23writers.html?hpw
about how black writers would like to seek a wider audience, which is great. It is actually something I think about as a writer.

However, the article’s tone was still depressing and sad. On the way to the store last night I caught myself thinking, “Well, what if I can’t….?”

The thing about reading essays, articles and other material by most AA is that it has the ability to make you feel like there is a box that you MUST remain in despite your training, discipline and craft.

However, I am certain that is a lie!

Good for her that she hasn’t let others discourage her. I said the following in response,

**Warning: EXTREMELY Long Reply Comment {chuckling}**

DeStouet,

I’m responding to your comment separately and at length because the points you’ve raised, and the news story you linked to, touch on something that all AAs need to be clear about:

There’s really NO getting around having to assume the responsibility for ourselves. Most of AAs’ whining about various topics has the same root cause. The things we complain about are the logical, predictable, end result of our consistent refusal to build our own infrastructures—in other words, build our own businesses.

Instead, we whine about how others haven’t saved a spot for us in their endeavors. (Traditionally we’ve been complaining about Whites’ failure to include AAs in their stuff. But as others like Latinos and Asians increasingly join the elite—which they already have in the science, medical and computer-related fields—then AAs will be whining about the other folks’ refusal to let us in their stuff).

This is the 21st century. How many more centuries are AAs going to sing this “They won’t save a spot for us” song/lament? How many centuries does it take for us to catch the hint that others DON’T feel any obligation to us?

You said, “Unfortunately I’ve found that it doesn’t help to read anything by African American authors, including those that are already published. . . . The thing about reading essays, articles and other material by most AA is that it has the ability to make you feel like there is a box that you MUST remain in despite your training, discipline and craft.”

This is why I only take in materials produced by people who are powerfully moving forward on their goals and dreams. This criterion tends to exclude 99.99% of things said by AAs. Because most of us are still locked into the traditional conditioned responses of: (1) looking for others to create a way for us and include us in their agenda; and (2) whining when these other people don’t do this.

First, let me mention my reactions to various statements in the news story:

“The conference, expected to attract 2,000 people, is a chance for writers to study and celebrate one another and for readers to hear writers presenting their work and dissecting social and literary themes. Over four days of workshops and discussions, the participants can also grapple with issues like the value of black sections in bookstores, the paucity of black editors in publishing and how to expand the list of black writers taught in schools.”

This sounds like an near-total waste of time. They need to talk about strategies for increasing sales and creating new distribution outlets for their work. Also note the traditional AA emphasis on congratulatory back-slapping. BEFORE any real “battle” has been WON.

“But some in the book world worry that conference attendees end up talking mostly to themselves. “I respect the ability of the Medgar Evers conference to build community,” said Martha Southgate, a novelist whose most recent book, “Third Girl From the Left,” was published in 2005. “But what I struggle with is that it should be beyond our community.””

It’s okay to talk with like-minded people. The problem here is what they have their minds set on—looking for others to make it happen for them.

“In 2007 Ms. Southgate was part of a racially mixed group of writers, editors and booksellers who dreamed up theringshout.com, a Web site devoted to literary black writers and the idea that they belong at the center of the American literary tradition, with readers of all kinds.”

This sounds like it might be somewhat of an improvement. However, how does this serve to create new distribution channels for AA writers? I’ll have to take a look at this site.

““We need cross-pollination,”” said Lawrence Schiller, a film producer, director and writer who was a founder of the Norman Mailer Writers Colony in Provincetown, Mass. Mr. Schiller, who is white, asked Brenda M. Greene, the director of the conference and executive director of the Center for Black Literature at Medgar Evers, in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, for help in finding a black writer to teach at the Mailer colony.”

Ahhh, a White person going out of his way to include AA writers. This is NOT mainstream behavior, and AA writers shouldn’t be in the position of depending on somebody else to wake up one day and decide to do some outreach. What nobody in the article mentioned is that if a novelist’s book sales are big enough, then that writer automatically becomes known to others throughout the industry—starting with the money people—“the suits.” Success creates visibility and gives non-AAs in the industry a self-interested REASON to seek one out. Which is why these folks need to be talking about creative strategies for increasing their sales.

“The conference is a step in raising the visibility of black writers, Mr. Schiller said, but those writers also need to be ““part of the bigger picture””: better represented at other conferences, on the curriculums of graduate writing programs and community colleges and more widely read by young nonblacks. Ms. Greene said the conference, which she believed was the largest event of its kind in the country, helped achieve those goals.”

The conference ISN’T raising the visibility of these AA writers to the people who matter most in this equation—the consumers. Whatever awareness this sort of moaning, groaning and whining conference is creating among consumers is probably NOT favorable. Really now, who mentally associates this type of “they won’t cut us in” grumbling with an enjoyable fiction-reading experience? NOBODY.

“The wide-ranging conference includes tributes to Amiri Baraka and to Toni Cade Bambara, who died in 1995; panels on topics including “the black writer as literary activist” and “politics and satire in the literature of black writers”; and sessions exploring the influence of phenomena like hip-hop, war and the Internet on black writers. The conference also features writing workshops for students in elementary, middle school and high school.”

The traditional AA preoccupation with “tributes” BEFORE and often INSTEAD of handling the business.

“In addition to Ms. Morrison, who is to be honored at a reception on Saturday night, writers expected to take part include the novelists Colson Whitehead, Bernice McFadden, Victor LaValle and Breena Clarke; the poets Sonia Sanchez and Staceyann Chin; and authors whose work crosses genres, like James McBride, Thulani Davis, Kevin Powell and Touré.”

More self-congratulatory back-slapping. Instead of focusing on creating answers to the business problems of how to increase sales and create new ways of reaching potential consumers (new distribution channels).

“With all the changes and challenges in publishing, said the writer Linda Villarosa, a former executive editor of Essence Magazine who teaches writing and journalism at City College, this conference is needed now more than ever. “We need to get the heads of all the mainstream publishers there to explain —— and it doesn’t have to be angry —— how the business model works and how to get more of our books published,” she said. Among her concerns: the rise of racy “street lit” books, the small number of black editors at publishing houses and the way books by black authors are pigeonholed in stores.”

For those who don’t know, magazines are dying and soon to be mostly dead as a media form. It appears to be similar to what’s happening with newspapers. From what I’ve read, freelance writers who are depending on sales of articles to magazines are not doing well as they watch magazines fold and that kind of work dry up. Note that Ms. Villarosa left Messence . . . to teach . . . at City College.

“One reason getting attention can be hard is that “there are next to no African-Americans at influential publications reviewing theater and books on a regular basis,” Ms. Nottage said. “We are evaluated and critiqued by people outside the experience. Perhaps there is some resistance to penetrate the issues we’’re dealing with.””

Again, this boils down to AAs’ failure to create or buy “influential publications” that review theater and books on a regular basis.

What I found most striking—and not in a good way—is what I DIDN’T see in this news story:

I didn’t see any mention made of any of these AA writers taking the innovative steps that others have taken to create consumer awareness and demand for their fiction. Such as the strategy of doing (free or paid) podcasting of their novels to develop a base of readers and more importantly, book-buyers. At the earlier blog, I did a post about a (WM) science fiction/thriller author who did this (Scott Sigler).

There’s also an interview at Editor Unleashed with another (WM) author (crime novelist Seth Harwood) who used this strategy to generate exposure for his work. Another fiction writer who podcasted his work is the (WM) thriller writer, J.C. Hutchins, who wrote the 7th Son trilogy.

Note: These men didn’t just whip up a novel and toss it out there without some sort of plan for growing an audience for their work. In 2 of these cases, they used (iTunes) podcasting to create a VERIFIABLE audience for their fiction, and later leveraged these verifiable numbers into book contracts.

Now, I’m not saying that the podcasting one’s novel (freebie or paid) method always works—after all, we’re probably only hearing about the success stories with this technique. My point is that when I read news stories about (and essays by) AA authors I DON’T hear any of them brainstorming creative ideas like podcasting for generating exposure and consumer awareness of their work. Instead, I hear whining and waiting for White publishers and other White entities to make it happen for them.

The other thing that I believe AA novelists should factor in their plans is the sort of fiction they’re writing.

It seems to me that it’s probably easier to use the above sort of consumer awareness building/reader-building techniques when you’re writing in genres that have a subculture of voracious, book-hungry readers—such as science fiction and romance. The so-called “street lit” peddlers have created a genre that has a subculture of readers who are hungry for that trash.

Unfortunately, I haven’t read or heard many serious, legitimate AA writers do any sort of strategizing about any of the above. The one “strategy” seems to consist of whining about and to Whites in the industry.

As I said at the beginning of this very long comment, this boils down to our refusal to become more business-minded and create our own infrastructure.

Another reader named JaliliMaster pointed out the following,

I’ve noticed that whenever Black folks compare the fortunes of INDIVIDUAL WM to that of BM in the same professions, they always only look at his success, while ignoring the extra things he might have done that they didn’t. Looking at these 3 men, most Black folks would just dismiss it as them getting a ‘leg-up’ because they are White, ignoring the fact that these men didn’t do things the traditional way. The fact is, if you want to get something you’ve never had, you have to do something that you’ve never done. When Black folks get a clue, they’ll realise the benefits. Till then…oh well.

She’s absolutely right. Instead of considering some of the internal traits the others had to cultivate for their success (in these cases, resourcefulness), we’re quick to attribute their success purely to external factors. How convenient for a group of people who resist doing any sort of introspection or internal work.

POP QUIZ: FROM THE THINGS THEY SAID, WHAT CHARACTER TRAITS WOULD YOU GUESS ARE LACKING AMONG MANY OF THE CONFERENCE ATTENDEES?

This quiz might be an eye-opening experience. Replay the statements made by many of the Black writers quoted from the conference. And consider how these statements probably sound to other, more resourceful, people. Ask yourself . . . do you want to sound like these people?

REAL LIFE HAS MANY SILENT ENTRY REQUIREMENTS

Real life has a number of silent, but very real, entry requirements. As writer Steve Pavlina stated in his post Achieving Goals By Improving Your Character,

Often a change in character is a crucial part of shifting your identity to become more congruent with your goals and intentions. For example, suppose you want to become more successful in your career, and you set a goal to reach a certain position. Maybe the main reason you haven’t yet reached that position is that your character attributes are out of sync with it. Perhaps you aren’t disciplined enough, confident enough, or resourceful enough to get there.

Once you can identify the character qualities you’re missing, you can consciously develop them. But as long as you remain in the dark about these deficiencies, it will be tough to reach your goal because you won’t yet be the kind of person who can achieve it. It’s like trying to lift more weight than your muscles can manage.

Select one of your goals or intentions, especially one where your progress has been disappointing. Now ask yourself if a person with different character attributes would be more capable of achieving this goal than you are. What kind of person would find your goal easy to achieve?

He goes on to suggest various tools you can use to become that person. I highly recommend that you check them out.

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27 Responses to “The Art Of Stealth, Part 5: Cultivating Personal Character As A Weapon And Shield”

  1. Nathalie says:

    Timely. I just attended a black literary conference. It was frustrating an depressing to see what they focused on, but my takeaway is that therein lies plenty of opportunity if you can do what the whiners and the complacent are not; meet unmet demands and find your willing-to-pay audience and make them raving, buying fans. I heard a lot of complaining (from established, published authors) about why don’t (mostly white) mass market book buyers/sellers prioritize, set-aside space for and promote their work… {sigh}. When one whining author did share a marketing idea novel to the discussion that he and other authors were implementing collectively, another African America panelist jumped in to say why they would be met with resistance and failure. It was funny because it was an idea that I had been contemplating and had already expanded on to include even more avenues and was wondering why more authors didn’t do the same.

    And when I asked how to find an established, industry-wide respected up-to-date African American bestseller and recommended reading list for a VERY specific multi-million dollar market genre under discussion, the panel went blank, flatlined and the MC recommended I put that in “my google” on “my internet”. {Eye Roll}. When I asked for recommendations for contemporary work within a high demand subcategory within the genre, but beyond the heavily “woe is me, let me people go downtrodden African American” aspect that dominates the genre, I was met with “Whatchu talkin’ ’bout Willis” stares & shrugs.

    It seemed like the black conference panelists and audience were waiting for white people to prioritize them, and felt it was owed them. The discrimination they faced seemed to overwhelm their powers of discernment. The power brokers in the room–most of them white–kept giving away the “secret”: create work with consumer demand we can’t ignore, and then we’ll probably pay attention to you. The second “secret” was: when facing insurmountable yet unspecified resistance, get white people with authority and clout within the industry to vouch for you, both in word and in writing (a “secret” that has another “secret” key lying within). They admitted that the authors would still face barriers, including racial bias, as well as all the other barriers everyone in the industry is subject to, but that ultimately paying customers/money talks so loud that it could get anyone, including them, a seat at the table.

    What struck me as a missing element from the skill set in the room was course corrective resilience. People have taken resilience to mean the ability to endure more of the same while continuing to do more of the same–which is actually a variation on insanity. Given what I saw it strikes me that we need to expand our understanding and practice of resilience to include rational, ongoing course corrections in which nothing is sacred and everything is up for scrutiny and revision with success in mind.

    What strikes me as missing from these preaching to the similarly suffering choir conferences, is identifying what’s important, examples of success and lessons learned and creative problem solving where there are problems and barriers.

    • ZooPath says:

      @Nathalie: you said “People have taken resilience to mean the ability to endure more of the same while continuing to do more of the same–which is actually a variation on insanity.”

      That is an awesome tidbit that describes so much of the vain struggling AA leaders like to engage in.

    • Arthur says:

      “.. create work with consumer demand we can’t ignore,” ..

      Like Frank Yerby, writer of historical novels in the 1940s and 50s. He wrote dozens of books, many of them bestsellers, all of them good sellers. Even in those days, publishing houses cared more about the color of the money a writer could put in their pocket than the color of his skin.

  2. T says:

    Hi Khadija:

    The need to develop personal character for AA’s is important, indeed; unfortunately, many of us are still stuck in victim mode. We tend to make excuses (which, along with reasons, don’t matter) for failure, rather than make plans for success. Perhaps what is needed here is to do what marketing and management folks do to assess the health of their companies-perform a SWOT analysis. Assess strengths and weaknesses (the internal stuff you’re talking about) and identify opportunities and threats (the external stuff) to our well-being and advancement in the world around us. There’s not enough of that done, and to our detriment, we rely on others to pick up our slack and lead us by the hand. That’s unfortunate for us.

    The book fair that you mentioned is an example of AA’s collective failure to perform SWOT analysis. Yeah, it’s a painful process, but as they say “no pain, no gain.” We cannot move forward and gain anything if we don’t know what is hindering our progress. Further, we cannot make progress if we whine all the time and hate on people who are making progress. In that case, you’re stewing and not doing-and that’s not helpful either.

  3. Nathalie,

    You said, “I just attended a black literary conference. It was frustrating an depressing to see what they focused on, but my takeaway is that therein lies plenty of opportunity if you can do what the whiners and the complacent are not; meet unmet demands and find your willing-to-pay audience and make them raving, buying fans.”

    ITA. There’s plenty of opportunity that we can all create for ourselves if we do what the crybabies, the (curiously) uncreative-creative folks, and passive waiters won’t do.

    You said, “I heard a lot of complaining (from established, published authors) about why don’t (mostly white) mass market book buyers/sellers prioritize, set-aside space for and promote their work… {sigh}.”

    This crybaby routine seems to the be theme of almost all AA professional gatherings. Listening to that self-pitying mess is like nails screeching on a blackboard for me. I hear more than enough of that self-pitying whining from my clients at work. I can’t entertain that mess in my life away from work. Which is why I don’t bother to attend Black conferences/professional gatherings of any sort.

    The script for these Black gatherings is always the same and as you described it: (1) whining, and (2) “flatlining” and giving the “Whatchu talkin’ ’bout Willis” stares & shrugs in response to any innovative, proactive suggestions. I’m sick of that; and I don’t have any patience for that.
    ________________________________________

    T,

    You said, “The need to develop personal character for AA’s is important, indeed; unfortunately, many of us are still stuck in victim mode. We tend to make excuses (which, along with reasons, don’t matter) for failure, rather than make plans for success.”

    Oh yeah, reasons/excuses don’t matter in the scheme of things. And too many of us are totally addicted to victimology. There’s a difference between being under attack and being a victim.

    You said, “Further, we cannot make progress if we whine all the time and hate on people who are making progress. In that case, you’re stewing and not doing-and that’s not helpful either.”

    Lately, I’ve been noticing how so many AAs are inclined toward the same type of behavior displayed by online trolls: unproductive; focused on ‘hating on’ others; repetitive; no original thoughts of their own except how angry they are at X,Y,Z persons, and so on. It’s crazy.

    Expect Success!

  4. Karen says:

    T,

    Thank you for mentioning SWOT analysis. I have used it quite often with regards to my professional development and when I started my business.

    When I was much younger before I knew that I was actually utilizing SWOT, I used it even then as it was necessary for be to take a cold hard look at my options given the hand that fate had dealt me. I was at a crossroads at that time where I could allow myself to be crushed by the circumstances of my immediate family (they put the ‘D’ in Dysfunctional) or take the road less traveled; I chose to dust myself off, look at my “SWOT” and took my first steps on that other road.

    Throughout my life I have made course corrections and made adjustments to my character. There are some things that are “hard coded” which will not change and depending on the circumstances have been either a strength or a weakeness (upon which I was fully cognizant), other parts of my character I have consciously worked on to improve my chances in this world.

    Although there have been situations early in my life where I have been a victim, I have never embraced the “victim mentality”. I also acknowledge the mistakes I have made and have taken corrective action.

    All of this is character building and of course at times painful, but the saying “no pain, no gain” is still true.

    To tie in to Nathalie’s comment, I only associate with professional groups where I bring something to the table and they have something of interest to offer. This pretty much excludes many AA gatherings as I have no patience or time for “woe is me”. As Roslyn stated in a previous post “Reasons don’t matter”. This is the world we live in. Instead of focusing on what won’t work, I focus on what could/can work by acting as if…which means that I always act as if I belong in the space that I occupy instead of “a begger asking for scraps”.

    At first it was difficult to “act as if” but then I realized I had nothing to lose and those people did not know me from Adam. I could “create my reality” the moment of the first interaction.

    @Khadija,

    Sorry, if my post is going off on a tangent a bit…

    • Karen,

      Oh no, it’s not a tangent. 🙂 It’s all connected.
      ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

      **Audience Note**

      What Karen is referring to with the “act as if” is something that came up recently in another conversation where I mentioned:

      I hate to give credit to the “Name it and claim it/Blab it and grab it” meme, but there IS some validity to it. I prefer the version of the idea that the Ben Affleck character in the movie “Boiler Room” stated to his underlings:

      “Jim Young:’There’s an important phrase that we use here, and think it’s time that you all learned it. Act as if. You understand what that means? Act as if you are the f*****g President of this firm. Act as if you got a 9″ c**k. Okay? Act as if.'”

      I’ve found “acting as if” to be EXTREMELY helpful, motivating, and energizing. The moment I started actually thinking of myself as a business owner is the moment I started making progress with my business. This was before I formed my limited liability company.

      The same thing happened when I decided that I was already a writer. A writer who just hasn’t finished her first novel yet! LOL! Suddenly, I started coming across information and people that have been extremely helpful in this regard.

      I’ve found that once I make what I want part of my inner identity, the path gets smoother.

      Expect Success!

  5. We used to call this “fake it ’til you make it.” Coming from the background that I did, I rarely knew anyone who had accomplished what I wanted to do. So I would essentially find someone who had and read everything I could find on that person. When I first started writing I had no idea how to be published or how to do promotion, so I found people who had successfully done that and copied what they’d done.

  6. Roslyn,

    You said, “Coming from the background that I did, I rarely knew anyone who had accomplished what I wanted to do. So I would essentially find someone who had and read everything I could find on that person. When I first started writing I had no idea how to be published or how to do promotion, so I found people who had successfully done that and copied what they’d done.”

    Yep, that’s what active seekers do. Too many AAs are waiting for somebody to come along and hold their hand. That sort of hand-holding isn’t always available. Sometimes we have to be bold enough to learn how to forge our own way.

    Expect Success!

  7. lunanoire says:

    As a person who is still trying to work within a particular sector, “act as if” has helped.

    It also helps to figure out how to leverage the resources you have to get where you want to go. Though times were lean during a period of forced unpaid leave at a former job, that period coincided with a flurry of activity- luncheons, conferences, awards dinners, etc.- in the field I want to work in. Because it is a broad field, traveling for over 2 hours on public transit each way was worth it to get a book listing most of the local industry businesses and organizations, especially in a tri-state-area. I would not have had that opportunity without the furlough.

    Strategic volunteering is also a useful tactic. These days, I volunteer in environments in order to learn something, meet professional or social contacts, or both.

  8. Nikita says:

    AA’s often become to caught up in being a part of a collective – whether it is being a bougie, or the ABC crew etc. and forget about their individuality. Often, the people that they seek to emulate is someone on a TV screen who has shown time and time again that their character and morals are lacking. A good deal of us are the first folks out the gate to earn a degree or to even think about moving beyond a 9 to 5 job. However, we often get stuck there because we don’t consider how we move on or beyond the generations who have come before us. Usually we carry on following in the footsteps of others who have come before us not bothering to push on to something new. We place ourselves in a box and anyone who tries to move out of it is usually looked upon as being strange. We often do not follow our passions but follow money and are miserable in our jobs. Moving on from the miserable job looks impossible because AA’s have acquired so many things and debt trying to keep up with each other. You gotta have rims, gotta have the latest car, gotta have the latest gadgets, but it always seems to me that the folks are looking for approval and not joy/happiness within their lives. If you are not going after genuine things, authentic things then fake things matter and well, real character can’t be created by persuing outward exhibits of success. All that is gained by persuing those outward things is debt.

    There is a truism that states do what you love and the money will follow. I love books. I have worked at bookstores and libraries all of my life. I love what I do. I admire Toni Morrison, J California Cooper, Richard Wright, James Baldwin and the like – none of my s/heroes are on anybody’s stamps. I admire a woman who was the first AA to wk in the ATL public library – I had the pleasure to wk with her – Ms. Elaine Hughes. These are the kind of folks I try to emulate. The character traits they possess I truly admire.

    I regularly do introspection to check out where I am and where I am trying to go. It is not easy facing painful truths or even asking yourself to grow in real ways, but it is more than neccessary if you want to move forward. Honest personal assessments builds character. Right now I am reading a book about how being NICE/KIND works for you in the business world. The title of it is The Power of Nice: How to Conquer the Business World With Kindness. I can be firmly assertive, I am working on being a bit more kind and friendly. I keep working on ME, building a new world and experience for myself one. brick. at. a. time. And it DOES take time AND in the process builds character.

    THIS ant is going on with her work!

  9. Lunanoire,

    You said, “Strategic volunteering is also a useful tactic. These days, I volunteer in environments in order to learn something, meet professional or social contacts, or both.”

    That’s something else that more AAs need to explore. Often, we’re so fixated on the immediate monetary equation that we miss the long-term benefits that can come from strategic volunteering. You already know this (otherwise you wouldn’t have used the modifying term “strategic”), but let me emphasize: There’s a universe of difference between blind, mule volunteering (which too many AA women do too much of) and strategic volunteering (where the volunteer work is serving some personal goal).

    It’s good to be able to get experience doing something on somebody else’s “responsibility dime”—meaning learn while somebody else is ultimately responsibile. I do that at work when I want to learn unfamiliar areas of the law. I volunteer to “2nd chair” somebody else’s trials in that unfamiliar area. This means that the 1st chair is still ultimately responsible for what happens. I’m just working under the 1st chair’s direction. This way, I get to learn things without having to be totally responsible for them.
    ___________________________

    Nikita,

    Guurl, you’ve said a mouthful of things that folks would do well to ponder.

    You said, “AA’s often become to caught up in being a part of a collective – whether it is being a bougie, or the ABC crew etc. and forget about their individuality.”

    Black folks in real life get angry when I make this observation, but mass, modern AA culture is as “hive-mind”-oriented as the Koreans I’ve observed up close. AAs have this false collective self-image of ourselves as “rebels,” when actually most AAs are extreme conformists. More of us need to cultivate the ability to stand alone when necessary.

    You said, “We often do not follow our passions but follow money and are miserable in our jobs. Moving on from the miserable job looks impossible because AA’s have acquired so many things and debt trying to keep up with each other. You gotta have rims, gotta have the latest car, gotta have the latest gadgets, but it always seems to me that the folks are looking for approval and not joy/happiness within their lives.”

    Yep. And the trick bag is there’s usually NOT going to be any approval—at least not from other AAs. The entire thing is a bad-faith scam to try to keep other people in check. I recently had a conversation with a coworker about how disgusted I have been to find myself having the same, idiotic conversations from high school about “Why don’t you have X?”

    In high school, it was “Why don’t you have Calvin Klein jeans?” Now, it’s “Why don’t you drive a Mercedes, Jaguar, BMW, Lexus?” Certain folks disapprove of me rolling around in a Hyundai—especially because I’m an attorney. {insert eye roll}

    You said, “There is a truism that states do what you love and the money will follow.”

    I’m not so sure about that. I suspect that success is more likely when there’s an intersection between what you love/like to do AND what other people are willing to pay for. 🙂

    You said, “Right now I am reading a book about how being NICE/KIND works for you in the business world. The title of it is The Power of Nice: How to Conquer the Business World With Kindness. I can be firmly assertive, I am working on being a bit more kind and friendly. I keep working on ME, building a new world and experience for myself one. brick. at. a. time. And it DOES take time AND in the process builds character.”

    Thanks for mentioning that book; I’ll look into it.

    You closed with, “THIS ant is going on with her work!”

    {chuckling}I love it!

    Expect Success!

  10. Truth P. says:

    Khadija I thank you for this post.It reminded me that I have alot of reading to do.I need more books mostly for learning purposes,but also for entertainment purposes.I will be buying myself a new book or two within the next week so i’m kinda giddy about that.I really like to read and learn new things.

  11. smh says:

    “They won’t save a spot for us”

    Oddly enough that syndrome is the reason most feminist groups are of little interest to me. Many of the memebers sing this song endlessly to WOC and society at large and fail to take responsibility for their own well being. Therefore my focus is on doing what works for me and mine in terms of serving the best interests of optimization rather than whining to and about men and male dominated society instead of learning the game and the currency needed to compete and competing and assume the responsibility for themselves.

    Excellent post a needed voice of sanity in a clue and sanity starved world.

    Thank you.

    SMH

    • Magenta says:

      Funny you mentioned this, because I too have found myself spending less and less time on feminist blogs. I really can’t deal with protracted whining about “patriarchy” and “male privilege.” Just from reading a few of their rants, I can see why some of these women are so unsuccessful in work, relationships, etc. I think people get so caught up in juvenile “f**k the system!” thinking that it prevents their growth. I see this a lot with AAs as well. How can anyone progress is they see themselves as victims??? How can any group expect to be respected when they are constantly whining that other groups (usually dominated by white males) will not “save a space for us?”

      Because so many people have this victim mindset, I have to limit my time with them because that attitude is contagious.

  12. Karen R. says:

    Great post!

    I am reminded of the quote that Mary Kay Ash always used (not original to her) and that is “we are what we repeatedly do,excellence then is not an act but a habit.”

    In terms of character development we do in fact need to “act as if” because fundamentally, our actions need to line up with our words. We need to be people of our words if in fact what we say that we want is indeed true. I think about this in terms of weight loss and fitness. If I say that I want to lose weight yet continue to eat foods that are inconsistent with being fit and trim, I have a character issue. This also applies to the woman who wants to be a best-selling author. Acting as if means that she belives she has something important to say. Secondarily, her character requires that she do the things that are in keeping with being a best-selling author, which means she writes daily.

    If I say that I want certain things, my actions must be in line with that. “Be a person of your word” as found in The Four Agreements is simple, yet profound.

    As AA women “ants” we must continue to be about our work. The collective of most AA’s is about either watching things happen or asking ‘what happened?’ when instead we are about ‘making things happen.’

  13. TruthP.,

    You’re welcome!
    _____________________________________

    SMH,

    You’re welcome!
    _____________________________________

    KarenR.,

    You said, “In terms of character development we do in fact need to “act as if” because fundamentally, our actions need to line up with our words. We need to be people of our words if in fact what we say that we want is indeed true. I think about this in terms of weight loss and fitness. If I say that I want to lose weight yet continue to eat foods that are inconsistent with being fit and trim, I have a character issue.”

    I think it’s a “character” or “character PLUS emotional issue” thing. For some people, simply exercising greater commitment and willpower is sufficient to deal with their (usually relatively minor) excess weight.

    For other people, there are some deep-seated emotional problems underlying the excess weight. Things like traumatic personal histories; and/or high levels of environmental stress (work or family-related); and/or major unmet needs. Willpower and commitment are NOT sufficient for dealing with the excess weight for people dealing with these sorts of challenges. They need counseling and/or a weight management program that ALSO deals with the emotional issues that are often involved in excess weight.

    There’s a really good blog specifically geared toward addressing the mind-body connection as it impacts weight called Healthy Mind, Fit Body.

    You said, “As AA women “ants” we must continue to be about our work. The collective of most AA’s is about either watching things happen or asking ‘what happened?’ when instead we are about ‘making things happen.’”

    Indeed!

    Expect Success!

  14. Nicole says:

    Great post. And I am certain that I do NOT want to sound like any of those people. Complaining, making excuses and playing the victim are not good looks. Yeah, I too cringe a bit every time I hear an AA cry about the system, knowing that the AA has not utilized all available tools, resources, innovations, etc. As noted, many blacks don’t mind paying exorbitant amounts for the symbols of success (faking it till they’re making it FAIL) meanwhile investing little to nothing in behavior modification and tools needed to reach real success. It’s a welfare mentality all around.

    I’m a writer and full of business ideas. But I’m pretty inconsistent and quickly bored and self-doubting. Those are my reasons why…no one or system to blame. So I’m working on fixing those parts of myself by cultivating habits that are conducive to success as I define it.

  15. Nicole,

    Thank you for your kind words about the post; I truly appreciate it.

    You said, “And I am certain that I do NOT want to sound like any of those people.”

    That’s exactly how I feel! 🙁

    You said, “Complaining, making excuses and playing the victim are not good looks. Yeah, I too cringe a bit every time I hear an AA cry about the system, knowing that the AA has not utilized all available tools, resources, innovations, etc.”

    What I find so fascinating (in a morbid, gawk at the car crash sort of way) is how AAs almost never notice how our constant whining is being received by others. [Poorly, although some nonblacks choose to somewhat mask their negative reactions to our traditional whining.] We also never stop to think, “Is what I’m doing right now—whining about how others won’t make a spot for me—an attractive, engaging look?” We seem to honestly believe that other people are obligated to feel sorry for us. It’s…peculiar, to say the least.

    You said, “As noted, many blacks don’t mind paying exorbitant amounts for the symbols of success (faking it till they’re making it FAIL) meanwhile investing little to nothing in behavior modification and tools needed to reach real success. It’s a welfare mentality all around.”

    Indeed. {chuckling at the “faking it till they’re making it fail”}

    You said, “I’m a writer and full of business ideas. But I’m pretty inconsistent and quickly bored and self-doubting. Those are my reasons why…no one or system to blame. So I’m working on fixing those parts of myself by cultivating habits that are conducive to success as I define it.”

    Good for you. I’m looking at some undone things that I want to have accomplished. The reasons/excuses why these things aren’t already done are all about me, not about “systems” or any other external factor.

    Expect Success!

  16. ak says:

    I had a background in admin and in the tv broadcast sector of media and now I’m studying for my degree in Accounting and just like Nicole I too can be pretty inconsistent and quickly bored and self-doubting.

    I never cultivated resourcefulness or self-discipline and now it’s ruined my life; debt being one example, although my debt isn’t into the tens of thousands or anything like that. I also have insecurity and boundary issues to work on but I’ll be starting therapy a week from now and I’ll have to be very honest and bring up all of those issues with the therapist.

    • Nathalie says:

      I think the fact that you are aware of your problems, want to change for the better and have gotten professional help is awesome! Most people don’t even bother to constructively critique and evaluate themselves. I appreciate your honesty and self awareness about how not having certain skills/character traits has held you back. Something about how you phrased it made me see it as a parent and reaffirmed for me how valuable it is to persist in doing this character development with my child (it takes a lot of energy) and how he may see this later in life. Plus your words remind me to stay on the path, that it does make a difference (also that children do what we do, not what we say..)! Wishing you the best ak 🙂

  17. Hodan says:

    sorry for the double post, I checked the link/blog, love the old school design and excellent yet different advices/tips. By the way on a shallow point, the guy who co-author’s it with his wife, he is HOT from what I saw on his youtube videos.

    “Roslyn Holcomb says:We used to call this “fake it ’til you make it.” Coming from the background that I did, I rarely knew anyone who had accomplished what I wanted to do. So I would essentially find someone who had and read everything I could find on that person. When I first started writing I had no idea how to be published or how to do promotion, so I found people who had successfully done that and copied what they’d done.”

    Hodan: That is a great advice, love it.

  18. Hodan says:

    I think I posted an earlier comment on this thread, but I intended it rather for the ‘Art of Manliness’ post, so my apology for that.

    Anyway, I love this quote by Pavlina: “Maybe the main reason you haven’t yet reached that position is that your character attributes are out of sync with it. Perhaps you aren’t disciplined enough, confident enough, or resourceful enough to get there.”

    Hodan: I can honestly relate to it because it forced me to take a hard look at myself and examine what I need to do to achieve what I am ultimately seeking. Very helpful techniques he is offering and I will used in my own life for sure.

  19. AK,

    Like Nathalie, I admire your courage, self-awareness, and willingness to take action to improve certain things. Good for you—onward and forward!
    _______________________________________

    Hodan,

    Oh yeah, the blog host of The Art of Manliness IS good-looking! I noticed that also. {smile} And he’s done an excellent job of “branding” his blog with its own vintage look. Anyhoo, there’s lots of good food for thought over at Steve Pavlina’s blog.

    Expect Success!

  20. ***Note to Readers***

    In making this new site the kind of project that’s sustainable for me over the long-run, I’ve had to streamline how I handle certain things. The comments section is one of them. What this means is that I’ll give substantive responses to those folks who enter the conversations early (as I did across the board at the previous blog).

    After each post is a couple of days old, I’ll generally continue to publish new comments from readers. (That meet the commenting guidelines as set forth at the previous blog—those who are unfamiliar can read the comment “box” at the previous blog.)

    But, after a each post is a couple of days old, I generally WON’T continue responding to new comments.

    In other words, I’ll continue to publish comments to this post, but I’m not going to reply to any more comments in this thread. FYI. Please feel free to talk among yourselves!

    Expect Success!

  21. […] for innovation. There are countless other possibilities for making heroic accomplishments. During The Art Of Stealth, Part 5: Cultivating Personal Character As A Weapon And Shield, I discussed the contrast between some African-American writers who were whining at a conference […]