Going against the grain is often the most efficient path to your destiny. Reflecting on my journey made me conceptualize that I was molded to fight the inevitable until I went against the grain.
My first year of elementary school deemed itself to be the springboard when I jumped off the porch in life. That was the first year I began playing organized sports, made friends in my neighborhood, experienced a tragedy, and began working with my father.
The innocent childhood ambitions of becoming a Power Ranger or another fictional character died along with the person I watched lose his life while I was in first grade. Often, we miss the message in the mishap when we only view occurrences from a one-sided point of view. Once the innocent stage of my childhood vanished, my vision for the future became clear.
At a young age, I knew that I wanted to leverage sports after high school, become the leader of a major company, and impact the culture. Conversations with my dad, while we worked in the disrespectful New Orleans summer heat doing landscape and construction work, developed those ambitions.
Unsurprisingly, storytelling became my profession because my dad has a new story every time the sun rises. His passages instantly become the life of the party, priceless stories, quoatables, and laughs that are everlasting. My father was 41 years old when I was born. Therefore, many of our neverending conversations are about the segregation era, the civil rights era, his interactions with Malcolm X and Dick Gregory, and other historical figures from that era. Those conversations, coupled with racial instances that I elaborated on in Crabs In A Barrel, always kept impacting the culture at the front of my mind.
Go to college and get a good job is unarguably the most popular blueprint preached to most millennials during their upbringing. Many didn't become defensive about that approach until student loans began financially crippling the masses, and degrees often only led to decoration on the wall. It wasn't until recently that I stopped questioning if obtaining my college degree from Tulane University was worth it. My network, college-related experiences inside and outside of the classroom, added credential to my legacy, and social currency that my degree holds, made me forgo reconsidering the accomplishment.
Making my parents proud was what kept me passionately pushing at a lifelong dream that I rarely thought twice about accomplishing. The next step was to get a good job, but thankfully, that led me to discover the balance of living for yourself and others. When I reached my breaking point in corporate America, I deciphered where to draw the thin line.
Instead of chasing the dreams that my loved ones laid out for me, I let them be my motivation, rather than my dream dictators. We often take it personally when others don't see our vision, but life would be boring if we all thought the same way. The people that love me the most told me to get a job, even after my gift became exposed to the world, and my books reached the top charts amongst celebrities and famous authors that poured thousands of dollars into marketing their books.
We often confuse our loved ones' best wishes and goals for us as dream killing statements. Many millennials' parents preach that universal sermon to their children because they want a stable life for their next generation, but the receivers of those messages must be bold enough to go against the grain respectfully.
Striving to make my dad proud has remained a consistent mission throughout my entire life. I assumed that achievements such as playing sports in college, obtaining my bachelor's degree, or a professional accomplishment would serve as the way I made him the proudest. I often wondered which specific achievement made him feel that way, but it was easy to recognize that feat shortly after brainstorming.
When I was ten years old, two of my father’s employees flaked on the final day of an important project. Until that day, my job duties consisted of general landscaping duties, such as pulling weeds, raking, and other tasks that didn’t take much grit to accomplish. My responsibilities on the final day of the project consisted of breaking up concrete with a maul, carrying filled wheelbarrows of dirt and grass, and planting grass that covered an oversized backyard. When we made it to the job site at 7:30 am on a Saturday, he mapped out the instructions for the day.
My dad is a major factor for my high confidence, but his eyes were filled with uncertainty as he laid out the plans for the day. His doubt was washed away after we worked side by side in 100-degree heat, and I kept up with my assigned job duties. The dark skies threatened to wash away our progress as we transitioned into the afternoon.
As the clouds covered the 9th ward of New Orleans, the uncertainty crept back into my father's eyes. The look on his face intensified as the rain attempted to disrupt our project. When the rain, which was initially confused as hail, began rapidly falling, my dad stepped back into his client’s driveway. I saw him retreat out the corner of my eye. We were already soaked from the scorching summer sun, and I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to show my father that I had his back under any condition. A fire was ignited under me to come through for my dad when he needed me the most. That sense of urgency is applied to each project I work on, and when the opportunity presents itself to come through for others.
I casually asked my father which of my achievements made him the proudest before writing this article. He instantly told me this story I just shared, as if I never heard it before, and I smiled simultaneously. That moment made me realize that his DNA is deeply rooted in my business. Aside from watching my father go all out professionally by busting his butt in any weather on a daily basis to live out his passion and carry on his father’s business, his efforts to be a father figure to a countless amount of kids throughout Louisiana impacted me the most.
My dad spent several decades coaching, feeding, transporting, and most of his income and money (that he didn’t have) on pouring into thousands of kids. Him changing the lives of so many others is what made me the proudest of him. Many of the kids he coached even received preferential treatment over me, but his undying love and impact on so many people taught me that life is bigger than self. That’s the mindset I have when going the extra mile and providing value for others. I leveraged one of my dad’s talents to continually remind me of my business’s value and DNA. My father drew the logo for Williams Commerce.
Every time I look at the logo he designed for my company, I am constantly reminded that my purpose for starting a business was to provide value, go the extra mile for others, and make my loved ones proud.
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