Saturday, January 31, 2009
Dr. Boyce Watkins, a Finance Professor at Syracuse University is planning to speak with Rev. Jesse Jackson on Keep Hope Alive Radio to discuss the stimulus plan recently released by President Barack Obama. The $819 Billion dollar plan just passed in Congress and is set to be presented to the Senate for final approval.
Dr. Watkins is a Financial expert and prominent Black Speaker, and will also appear with Dr. Julianne Malveaux, President of Bennett College for women, to discuss the plan. Watkins has written extensively about the Obama economic plan and finding ways to ensure that African Americans can get their piece of the economic pie.
"Obama might be a Black President, but he honestly can't say the word "black" within 100 feet of the White House," says Dr. Watkins, who is authoring a book on African American Wealth Building. "The truth of the matter is that Black people and poor people must ensure that they get a piece of this pie."
By Dr. Boyce Watkins
I hate being the doctor who has to tell the patient he has cancer, but the truth usually sets you free (or so my mother told me): We are in the midst of an economic bloodbath. It’s tough to argue that an economy which shrinks by an annualized rate of 5% is still healthy. It’s hard to tell someone that 7.2% unemployment, with the most job losses since 1945, is a good thing. A 4,000 point drop in the Dow is nothing to sneeze at, even if you have plenty of tissue. Times are tough, we know that.
But if we focus hard enough, we might be able to find a few bright sides to all this. With hopes that no one chooses to kill the messenger, I am going to give it a shot.
1) It could always be much worse.
The United States has, according to some, the strongest economy in the world. Our economy could shrink like Rush Limbaugh’s body on drugs and still be disgustingly rich compared to the rest of the world. Don’t believe me? Consider the “fast-growing” Chinese economy, the one that everyone thinks is going to outpace the United States in the next few years. Our annual tax revenues are nearly 4 times greater than China’s ($2.5 Trillion vs. $670 Billion) and they have over 4 times more people than we do (300 million vs. 1.3 Billion). In other words, our per capita tax receipts are over 16 times greater than China’s. So, we’re far better off than most of the world, even when we’re broke.
2) If there were ever an argument for getting out of Iraq, this might be it.
It’s hard to declare war on random countries if you don’t have the money to do it. War is big business and attacking other countries is a huge financial investment. If you don’t think war is about money, then you may want to take a couple of Political Science and History classes. Perhaps these troubles at home will keep us from creating trouble abroad, since Americans have lost patience with irresponsible, arrogant war-mongering. The Obama stimulus plan is asking for over $800 Billion dollars to boost our economy. We’ve already spent nearly $600 Billion in Iraq. Rather than declaring War on Terror, President Obama has declared War on the Recession, which seems to be a far better investment.
3) If you want to buy cheap stocks or real estate, this is the time to do it.
When the market rises, everyone wants to buy stocks. People forget that you shouldn’t buy stocks when prices are high, you buy when the prices are low. Companies with plenty of cash are grabbing investment and real estate bargains that were hardly available a year ago. You should be doing the same if you can afford to do it. Investors who purchases stocks after major market declines tend to do much better than those who buy during booms. You hear me Warren Buffet?
4) Struggle makes us FOCUSED.
Although I tend to be a hardcore capitalist, a part of me misses the activism of the 1960s, when people cared about more than making a dollar. OK, I wasn’t around in the 1960s, but I’ve watched enough old movies. Going through tough times not only teaches one to pursue a higher purpose in life, it also leads individuals to more carefully scrutinize the state of affairs in our government. In fact, I dare to argue that the financial crisis was just what Barack Obama needed to secure his election over John McCain. Economic prosperity allows us the luxury of choosing our politicians based on silly issues, like gay marriage (as we did in 2004). When we are worried about putting food on the table, we look beyond the silliness and choose the most qualified and most intelligent person for the job (after ensuring that he knows Africa really is a continent). Finally, tough economic times make you more responsible in your own money management, as the threat of financial insecurity keeps us all on high alert.
Those are my points, so again, please don’t kill the messenger. I certainly do not celebrate a weak economy, but I am a firm believer that focusing too much on the door that shuts keeps us from appreciating the ones that just opened. There’s always light at the end of the tunnel, a pot of gold at the end of every rainbow, and….well, you get the point. It’s the toughness of tough times that make the good times good. Keep hanging in there, it’ll be ok.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Finance Professor at Syracuse University and author of “Financial Lovemaking 101: Merging Assets with Your Partner in ways that Feel Good.” For more information, please visit www.BoyceWatkins.com.
The country tumbled deeper into recession and probably logged its worst economic performance in a quarter-century during the final three months of last year as battered consumers and businesses throttled back spending.
The U.S. economy is deteriorating at an alarming clip as the housing, credit and financial crises — the worst since the 1930s — feed on each other in a vicious cycle that has proven difficult for Washington policymakers to break.
The Commerce Department is set to release a report Friday expected to show the economy shrank at a pace of 5.4 percent in the October-December period, a much faster descent than the 0.5 percent decline logged in the prior quarter. If economists’ forecasts are correct, it would mark the weakest quarterly showing since an annualized drop of 6.4 percent in the first quarter of 1982, when the country was suffering through a severe recession.
“It was a bloodbath,” said Richard
Click to read.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Smart Money Tips With Dr. Boyce Watkins
Posted Jan 27th 2009 6:34PM by Alexis Stodghill
Filed under: Money Talks
By Alexis Garrett Stodghill, BlackVoices.com
Dr. Boyce Watkins is a renowned scholar and speaker in the area of finance. As an African-American financial expert, Dr. Watkins has made it his personal mission to educate our community through writing books and essays, making media appearances, public speaking and more -- so that we may become more empowered with knowledge when it comes to the all-mighty dollar. BlackVoices.com asked the doctor to share his wisdom and advice for folks seeking tips to successfully navigate the current economic storm. According to Dr. Watkins, it's still possible to get your finances in order -- in fact, it's imperative.
As a black finance expert, what is the most common problem you see in the black community when it comes to personal finance management?
The most common problem is that historically, African Americans have been excluded from the opportunity to build wealth. Money was made from our labor, but we never got much of it. That led to a laborer mentality in African-Americans that taught us how to go out and get jobs rather than learning the art of CREATING jobs. This problem was further exacerbated by the fact that building a company requires capital, which we typically don't have. Most African-Americans have far lower inheritance levels than whites, and this impacts your economic opportunities in life. Also, when you've never had much money, you are usually not very good at managing it, so we are as bad as the rest of America when it comes to our spending, saving, investing and borrowing habits.
How would you suggest that someone with little knowledge of personal finance get started on the road to financial stability?
First, get educated. Empower yourself with financial literacy. The greatest university in the world is called Google.com. You can research any topic you want. Secondly, start small. You don't have to conquer the world in two steps. Just start by saving 10% of your income. You might say you don't have money to save, but you actually do. If your boss came into your office and gave you a 10% paycut, you'd find a way to survive. Find a way to learn to save. Finally, get a "side hustle." Challenge yourself to find small ways to supplement your income. The riskiest thing to do in this economy is to get all of your personal income from one source.
You have two college degrees, a master's degree and a PhD. What would you say is the relationship between level of education and income?
Education not only gives you many opportunities to earn more money, you usually earn more money with less work, doing a job that you might actually like. Personally, education was the difference for me between being financially well off and living a life of poverty. Education also provides job security, which is often overlooked. Autoworkers, for example, were always able to make high wages with little education. But once the Big Three started to buckle, they were stuck with unskilled labor opportunities. Everyone should get as much education as they can get, since education can be a path to both a wealthy bank account and a wealthy life.
Would you share some tips for sound money management in 2009?
-First, keep investing, especially in the stock market. When the market is low, that's the best time to find cheap stocks. Then hold on to your investments in a well-diversified portfolio (meaning, keep your money spread out). Before you know it, the downturn will have put money in your pocket.
- Learn to adjust your financial habits. Part of the reason we are in this mess is because Americans were borrowing too much money and working hard to live paycheck to paycheck. Get out of that habit, because the government is not going to be able to save us for much longer.
- Cut the toxins out of your life. If you have any bad habits or bad people draining you of your resources (a relative, a friend, or even yourself), renegotiate that relationship from one that is financially destructive to one that can be productive. For example, you may have to cut the financial umbilical chord from a dependent child, or tell that brother that he can't borrow money from you anymore. Cut the toxic energy out of your life so you can rethink your way of seeing money.
You have written extensively on love and money issues. What is your advice for best blending marriage and finances?
In 'Financial Lovemaking,' I tell couples to "find a rhythm." Merging your money is the same as merging your body (ie. sex): No one can tell you how to do it, since we all enjoy different things. You find out what your partner needs, share your own needs and then find a way to make the process comfortable and fulfilling for both parties. If your partner is a saver, then you need to respect that. Given that there is usually a deeply psychological reason that your partner is a saver, you are in serious trouble if you have habits that create financial instability in your relationship. Also, MAKE SURE you know what you're getting into: Many couples focus solely on love, lust, and physical appearance and spend almost no time observing the financial disposition and habits of their partners before making this major commitment. That is a recipe for disaster.
Before you commit your life, your future, your children and your money to someone, remember that LOVING together means LIVING together. If someone is financially irresponsible or brings a set of (what I call) "financial venereal diseases" into your life, it is going to be hard to live with them. You should check the debt levels, income levels and credit score of anyone to whom you choose to commit. Make sure they don't have any financially destructive habits, like alcoholism, drug abuse, gambling, or even the shopaholic's disease. Make sure that your financial values are in line with your partner's: For example, don't marry a woman who needs a $40,000 engagement ring if you think that a $500 ring should do the trick.
If you don't ask the hard questions, you can be locked into something with someone who literally destroys your life later down the road.
What is your opinion of the current recession? What is the best way to weather it?
The current recession may very well be the tip of the iceberg. There are serious long-term problems with our economy, and the break down of our financial system is merely a symptom of bigger issues. Additionally, this recession has a deeper problem. It is occurring during a time in which our global financial markets are integrated unlike at any other time in world history. That means that we are dealing with a problem of historic proportions on a landscape on which we've never operated.
The best way to cope with the recession is, in part, through what the government is already doing: Utilizing massive fiscal stimulus plans and encouraging global cooperation. Two other things they could have done are a) to have not wasted 700 billion dollars persuading Americans that Wall Street Bankers need to be protected, and b) to have spent more time helping Americans adjust their expectations.
President Obama seems to be trying to manage expectations, but he has already set the bar very high with his long list of campaign promises. The economic problem for Obama is that it will be extremely difficult to boost our economy back to where it was before, particularly since much of our financial gains over the past 7 years were illusions created through easy access to credit and a poorly regulated financial system. It's similar to an athlete on steroids trying to get off the drugs and then regain old form. It's very difficult to do.
On an individual level, I encourage families to remember that the government may not be there to take care of you in retirement. If you are not saving for retirement, it is critical that you do so. You should also find ways to structure care for the elderly in your family so that they are going to be OK. Also, tighten your own belts and get out of the habit of living from paycheck to paycheck. This is not a secure economy, and seemingly financially stable companies are disappearing overnight. The riskiest thing you can do in this economy is to get all of your income from one source. Find a way to make money from multiple avenues.
What has inspired you to come this far with so much self-determination, as a black man who was born to a single teen mom, then becoming a teen parent yourself?
I wake up every single day with a purpose. Dr. King and Malcolm X died young, so I never knew how much time I will have. But I am absolutely determined not to waste a single day and do all I can to help reshape what it means to be a black scholar and black leader in America. When I get emails from young people telling me that I've inspired them to change their thinking, then I know I've done my work. I know that I am not going to be on this earth forever, but I love the idea that I can impact people in such a way that the spiritual influence can last for generations.
I realized that most black professors are scared into being quiet on social issues, due to heavy political ramifications for speaking up. I also realized that many of us would rather sit in the ivory tower than to take our knowledge to the world. I never wanted to do that, and I've always felt that the role of the Black scholar in America is to use his/her knowledge to enlighten the world and uplift his/her people. That is my mission, and it is something I will continue to do until the day I die.
I also learned that it is not enough to be intelligent. You must be courageous and also sure of who you are. If you seek your validation from your historical oppressors, you will always end up chasing your own tail. Additionally, there are a long list of problems that need to be solved within our community, and it's up to all of us to do whatever we can to try and solve them.
Are there any words of encouragement or wisdom that you would like to share with the BlackVoices.com audience?
I realized a few things long ago that carry me to this day:
1) Success doesn't happen by accident. You must be deliberate with your actions and think carefully about where you invest your life, your love, your energy and your time. Everything must be proactive.
2) Extraordinary outcomes only come through extraordinary efforts. In life, you get what you give. So, if you want more, you must sacrifice more. You must be willing to do things no one else is willing to do, if you want to have things that no one else has. Never waste one second choosing to be ordinary.
3) Education is everything. Get as much of it as you can. Don't just become a student, BE AN EXTRAORDINARY STUDENT. Never let anyone tell you what to think. Keep your mind liberated so you can find truth and meaning in your endeavors.
4) The best way to get "pimped" is to spend your life trying to work for somebody else. Even if you are the highest paid slave on the plantation, you're still a slave, and you're still on the plantation. Get off the plantation and find a way to true wealth and prosperity. But don't get into the habit of worshipping money. Your goal is to live a wealthy life instead.
5) Keep BS out of your life so you can focus on achieving your goals. Most of us don't do half of what we plan to do because we spend all our time on silly, wasteful activities. There are 8,760 hours in a year and 168 hours in a week. You should budget your time the way you budget your money and not let anybody waste it.
6) Never allow yourself to be without goals. It's not where you are that matters, it's where you're going that determines where you end up. Always be aware of where you are going, and what you need to do in order to get there.
Keep a life full of purpose, and that will make every day worth living.
Sunday, January 25, 2009
by: Lawrence Watkins
I remember it like it was yesterday. I’m sitting in Perkins Restaurant as we finished our Friday morning bible study class in Louisville, KY. With me was Carl Brazley, my closest and most creative mentor. We were about to start one of our usual mentoring sessions that we had about once per month. This session was special as he shared his wisdom about success that has become fundamental in my life philosophy.
Mr. Brazley asked me two questions right off the bat: “What does success mean to me?” and “How will I go about achieving it?” I shared with him my personal mission statement that I had recently developed at the LeaderShape program in Champaign, IL. It states that “I want to become a tycoon politically, socially, and economically so that I may have a positive impact on my community.” Mr. Brazley then said, “That’s great! Now how are you going to ACHIEVE your mission?” This was the question that I was still trying to figure out. I had seen ultra-successful all around me in person or on TV, but I found the process mystifying at times.
Mr. Brazley continued, “Lawrence, don’t believe the hype that you see on TV when it comes to people who you view as successful. The media loves stories about self mad millionaires and billionaires, but rarely are they self made.” What he said next changed my perspective, “Here is what they [the media and often the individual in question] don’t want you to know: Success is manufactured! Many successful people have other hidden influential people in the background guiding them on the right path. Giving them the connections that they need to accelerate their success. This is what I am going to do with you Lawrence.” Whoa!! Talk about some heavy material!
The Real Secret Sauce of Success
I researched the statement that Mr. Brazley made further and I started to read more about individuals who I view to be successful. I was very surprised at the results/trends that I found. Let’s start with Donald Trump, the King of the Self Made…His father had over $100 million in real estate by the time he was born. Warren Buffett (a major influence in my thinking), the Sage of Omaha… His father was a stockbroker and four-term congressman from the state of Nebraska. What about Bill Gates? His mother sat on the board of directors of a bank and his father was a prominent Seattle attorney. The more people that I researched, the more surprised I became. Then I started to feel apprehensive, “What do I need to become successful?”
There are two things that I don’t want to happen by sharing this story with you:
1. I do not want to relegate or belittle the accomplishments of successful people just because they come from a well connected family. The people mentioned above are all extremely intelligent and have a strong work ethic. It’s also important not to hide facts about people’s environment as if that doesn’t play a critical role in success.
2. I do not want you to feel like the situation is hopeless if you don’t come from a rich and powerful family. Throughout this article, I’m going to teach you how to create your own “synthetic power family.”
Your Synthetic Family of Networks
If you don’t come from a rich and well connected family, do not worry about it. It is not the end all, be all. In fact, I know many people who come from well-to-do families, but their lives are in shambles. Money and entitlement can be hindrances to living a WEALTHY LIFE just as much as they can be assets. I come from a solidly middle class family where my father was a high-ranking police official and my mother was a high school guidance counselor. I was able to use this base to expand even further and broaden my experiences to study at Phillips Academy Andover, Carnegie Mellon University, and now Cornell. The most beautiful part is that I have paid very little for my educational experience and it’s because I created a synthetic family to help me achieve my goals.
A synthetic family is not the family you were born with, but one that you created that helps provide the resources you need to accomplish goals. I’m not just talking about money, but also advice and connections as well. Having a synthetic family is not a substitute for your real family, proper planning, or an intelligent work ethic (see my Pareto and Parkinson article). I view the synthetic family as an accelerator of the success process. The great thing about the synthetic family is that it is easy to start and replicate.
Be Your Own Barack Obama
After President Obama (wow, that sounds great) won the election for United States President in November, he had to move his actions from campaigning mode to governing mode. Immediately, Obama selected Rahm Emanuel as his chief of staff and then dozens of other appointments were announced in the following weeks. President Obama surrounded himself with individuals who have a greater knowledge about different aspects of governance than he does. When President Obama and his advisors meet about the current economic situation, the advisors give their expert opinions about what Obama should do. After that, President Obama escorts them out of the room and then makes the decision he feels will be best for the country.
I ask, “What’s keeping you from being your own Barack Obama?” I urge you to assemble your own personal board of advisors to help you when you have a tough decision to make. There is not a human being on the face of the planet who knows everything. Seek out those individuals who have general wisdom as well as those who have specific expertise. Bring them into your family and achieve your goals more effectively.
The Early Bird Gets the Worm
One of the great myths of networking is that you start reaching out to others when you need something. The people who really succeed in building relationships know that you need to start building way BEFORE you need anything. This is especially true if you are thinking of opening your own business. Many people start the networking process too late in the game. Prospective entrepreneurs think about details like incorporating or the specific name of their company. Although those tasks are important, they have much less influence over your business success compared to relationship building.
Immediately after graduating from college I worked for my brother, Dr. Boyce Watkins. My job was to book him for speaking engagements and manage his growing national media profile. I knew long before I started to work for him that I wanted to start my own company and I took steps to achieve this goal. For example, when Boyce would appear on a national TV show, he was often on the show with other high profile guests. We would make sure to collect that person’s contact information and follow up with him/her right away. When I started Great Black Speakers Bureau, those were my first speakers. Make sure to always begin with an end in mind!
Overcome your Fear of Rejection
Bestselling author and networking guru Keith Ferrazzi calls this the “genius of audacity.” If you never ask for what you want, very rarely do you ever get what you want. The two major emotions that stop people from asking are the fear of rejection from the other person and a feeling that the other person is better than you. Question: What’s going to have a longer impact on your life? FEAR of rejection or FAILING to reach your goals? The answer to this question for me is not reaching the goals I set out to accomplish. In this scenario, rejection MIGHT happen but failure WILL happen.
Follow Up and Stay in Touch
If the yin is overcoming your fears and asking for what you want, then the yang is following up with your contacts. This is something that I have personally struggled with lately as my number of contacts has grown significantly. However, I have noticed a direct correlation between my rate of follow up and the amount of success I achieve over any period of time. It is funny how people spend so much time making new contacts and so little time following up with them. This reminds me of the local ladies man who is only interested in the chase of a woman. Once he gets her, he then loses interest. In business and in life, don’t be this person! It is much more expensive to attain a new client/contact/friend than to maintain the ones you already have. I am not telling you to not meet new people, just do right by them when you do meet them for long lasting business/personal relationships.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
By: Dr. Boyce Watkins
One of the groups that was not bailed out during the recent financial crisis has been the American consumer. Congress took care of the firms on Wall Street, but they didn’t take care of the millions of Americans forced to confront the realities of bankruptcy, foreclosure and uncomfortable confrontations with menacing bill collectors. It appears, sadly, that every man and woman must find their own way through this financial tragedy.
Bill Collectors really want their money, like the rest of us. Some of them seem to feel that it’s O.K. to resort to flat out thuggish intimidation to get their money back. That might work on The Sopranos, but it shouldn't work in real life.
Part of the reason abusive bill collectors can have their way with the public is because many citizens do not know their rights. Bill collectors prey on the uninformed in a terrible way: They may threaten to have you arrested, harass your relatives, call all hours of the night, and engage in other types of atrocious behavior to get their money out of your hide.
One woman successfully sued a rogue bill collector after he called her repeatedly with threatening language. The woman, a senior citizen, was told by the man to "Stop with the sob stories and pay your god d*m bill!" This kind of behavior is not acceptable, and bill collector harassment doesn’t have to keep you up at night.
The Federal Trade Commission states that complaints against bill collectors are rising, reaching the highest level they've seen in the past 3 years. Most of the complaints focus on vulgar language, trying to collect more than the amount of the true debt, and extra fees, such as court costs.
You have rights that can protect you from bad and malicious bill collectors. You want to keep these in mind as you work yourself out of debt:
1) There is something called "The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act". If you are not familiar with this document, get familiar with it. You can read it by clicking here.
2) A bill collector cannot contact you at work if your employer does not approve of the contact. Let the bill collector know that this is the case and they must legally stop contacting you at your job.
3) Bill collectors cannot call you before 8 am or after 9 pm. The only exception is if you give them permission to do so.
4) A bill collector can only contact your friends and family if they are trying to find a way to get in touch with you. However, some of them may do this in order to harass or embarrass you. If that is the case, you may want to tell your friends to tell the bill collector, "She does not live here and I do not know how to get in touch with her. Please don't call here anymore." Then, get the bill collector's information from your friend and reach out to them when you can.
5) You can get bill collectors to stop contacting you altogether by sending them a letter telling them to stop. You still must pay the debt, but they won't be calling you during dinner.
6) The bill collector cannot curse at you or use foul language and they must tell the truth about how much you owe. They cannot threaten to sue unless they are serious about it, and they can't touch your 401k or IRA.
7) If the bill collectors call you, you can demand that they send you a written notice of the amount you owe and who you owe the money to. If you do not believe that the debt is yours, you can write a letter to them stating that this is not your debt. They must then send you proof that the debt is actually yours.
If you feel that a debt collector has violated any of these rules, you can contact the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov. Remember that you are not powerless in this situation.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Finance Professor at Syracuse University and author of Financial Lovemaking 101: Merging Asset with Your Partner in Ways that Feel Good. He does regular commentary in national media, including CNN, CBS, NBC and BET. For more information, please visit www.BoyceWatkins.com. This information does not constitute legal advice. For legal advice, please consult your attorney.
By: Dr. Boyce Watkins
1) Pay less interest by putting your high interest accounts on a low interest one.
2) Give yourself a cash allowance and reduce yourself down to just one card. When the cash is spent, then you stop spending.
3) Only use your credit card for emergencies and large purchases. Rule of thumb: If you can’t look at your credit card statements and have something to show for what you spent, then it was not a good thing to spend money on. For example: using credit cards for a washer/dryer could be ok, but using it for food, gas and other stuff is not.
4) Keep it simple – cut em up. You’ll soon get used to not having them.
5) Never use the credit card to buy anything if you’ve got the cash for it in your pocket. Remember that buying something on a credit card and paying for it over the course of a year means you are paying as much as 15% - 25% more for that item than you think you’re paying. So, add 25% to the price and see how quickly that good deal becomes a bad one.
For more information, go to my site: www.FinancialLipo.com
Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Finance Professor at Syracuse University and author of Financial Lovemaking 101: Merging Asset with Your Partner in Ways that Feel Good. He does regular commentary in national media, including CNN, CBS, NBC and BET. For more information, please visit www.BoyceWatkins.com. This information does not constitute legal advice. For legal advice, please consult your attorney.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
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By Dr. Boyce Watkins
During my recent trip to New York, I was stunned after watching US Airways passengers standing on the icy wings of an airplane floating on the Hudson River. It was only after looking at my cancelled ticket that I realized I was scheduled to fly out of the same city, in the same airport, with the same airline on the same day, at the same time as the people on that flight. They were going to Charlotte and I wasn’t, but that’s still too close for comfort.
In spite of invitations I have to speak and live in big cities, I stay isolated here in Syracuse so I can search for my personal perception of truth within the deepest components of my heart. I seek ideology that is disconnected from hype, politics, financial compensation or other tools used for the tainting of souls and manipulation of minds. I chose not to go to the inauguration and I’ve rarely watched television, all because I wanted to figure out how I feel about recent events without allowing CNN or anyone else to tell me how I should feel.
This morning I watched a Black man….a real brother, Barack Obama, stand and take the oath as President of the United States. When I endorsed Barack long before he appeared to ever have a chance of winning, it was honestly just wishful thinking. I supported the campaigns of Barack, Jesse and Al, mainly because I never believed Bill Clinton to be (as some called him) the First Black President. I also saw something in Barack’s eyes and mannerisms that made me trust him. My “brother radar” gave security clearance, and I knew that only a real Black man would marry an amazing woman like Michelle Obama (the woman I came closest to marrying is actually a beautiful attorney who reminds me of Michelle). I also saw something in Obama’s poise and intelligence that made me believe that he would be good for our nation. My only concern was that I was not sure if a nation willing to elect incompetent men like George Bush would have the vision necessary to choose the best man or woman for the job.
I don’t do media appearances on Fox News anymore mainly because I was disappointed by their attacks on Barack Obama and Jeremiah Wright. I was even more upset with Bill O’Reilly’s statements about having a “lynching party” against Michelle Obama, and the light-hearted death threats made by Fox News Analyst Liz Trotter, who stated that she would “take (Obama) out if she could”. I love Barack Obama, and I was inspired by his ability to make the impossible possible. Like all of us, I was happy to sacrifice to help get him into the White House.
But while I support Barack Obama, I never let myself get into Obama-mania.
While I felt the need to show up and vote, I never chose to “Barack the Vote”.
My position has always been simple: Falling in love with a politician can be a very dangerous thing, and I simply wasn’t going to do it.
Like Barack Obama, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was another President who took over our country during a tough economic time. When Black leaders met with Roosevelt to discuss their justifiable indignation over Civil Rights abuses throughout the nation, Roosevelt simply told them, “I agree with you and I want to do it. Now go out and make me do it.”
The interpretation of Roosevelt’s words is that after the celebrations are over and we’ve come back to reality, we must be sure to do what is necessary to effectively utilize this opportunity. Barack Obama is a good man, I know this from speaking to my contacts on the South Side of Chicago. But we must work hard to ensure that Barack THE MAN aligns squarely and firmly with Barack THE POLITICIAN. We must always be aware of the difference between BARACK OBAMA and the OBAMA ADMINISTRATION.
BARACK OBAMA believes that public schools should get all the funding they need and that education is critically important.
The OBAMA ADMINISTRATION knows that children don’t vote or pay taxes.
BARACK OBAMA knows that 30 – 40% Black male unemployment is an economic tragedy.
The OBAMA ADMINISTRATION knows that being too closely aligned with issues effecting Black men is neither politically productive nor popular in a country that still doesn’t like Black people all that much, especially if they are poor.
BARACK OBAMA knows that, in spite of having a Black President, institutionalized racism in wealth and income levels, health care disparities and other areas will take at least another 100 years to eradicate. He is also intelligent enough to know that reparations are long overdue.
The OBAMA ADMINISTRATION knows that talking about racism using the same language as the United Nations (who states clearly that America continues to maintain a two-tiered society) is something that many Americans simply do not want to hear.
So, as we live in the bliss of “Obama-mania”, please consider this:
The dictionary defines “mania” as “A severe medical condition characterized by elevated moods, energy, unusual thought patterns and sometimes psychosis. Some symptoms are fixation, madness, compulsion, craving, craze, delirium, dementia, derangement, disorder, fad, fancy, fascination, fetish, insanity, lunacy and obsession.”
Like bottles of strong liquor, mania feels good. However, it should only be temporary. You also need designated drivers to keep the political house party under control and get everyone back home safely. Those who remain “high” and detached from reality are easy targets for emotionally void and disturbingly rational political administrations. Any good politician with constituents living in the midst of mania logically understands that there is very little work to do. No one campaigns in the regions they already control.
So, as Roosevelt explained in the example above, we can best show our love for President Obama by being politically intelligent, diligently resourceful, well-organized and focused on the issues. Political engines like the Obama Administration only understand those with the power to churn those engines. The easiest trick in the world is to make us think that racism is over because we have a Black President. Let’s keep our eyes on the prize.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Finance Professor at Syracuse University. He does regular commentary in national media, including CNN, BET, ESPN and CBS. For more information, please visit www.BoyceWatkins.com.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
Friday, January 16, 2009
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
By: Lawrence Watkins
Great Black Speakers Bureau
The 2009 year is underway it it’s shaping up to be a great one. I’ve talked to many of my friends and I’ve heard THOUSANDS (Ok. I’m exaggerating) of New Year’s resolutions. Everything from losing 20 pounds, to being in bed by a certain time, to making straight A’s on their transcripts, to finding satisfying careers, to not eating meat, to etc… What is more surprising than this, is that a couple of people that I talked to have more than 10 resolutions. You may be wondering, “Lawrence, what are your New Year’s resolutions?” Is it to lose weight? (I have gained more than a couple of pounds since undergrad) Nope. Is it to make all A’s in school? Not this time.
My resolution is something much simpler, yet it is one of the most powerful forces known to human productivity. It is to implement Pareto’s Law and Parkinson’s Law into all facets of my life. Surely I need more goals than this to have a successful year, right? No, because of this ONE goal, I will have a MORE successful 2009 compared to any other year in my life!
Pareto’s Law states that a minority of causes, inputs, or efforts usually lead to a majority of the results, outputs, or rewards. Parkinson’s Law states that a task will swell up in perceived importance and complexity in relation to the time allotted for its completion. The Law’s are inverses of each other and when taken together, can drastically make you happier and more productive. This is a good time to give thanks to my friend Tim Ferris, author of “The 4-Hour Workweek.” I don’t actually know Tim, but I feel a Bromance going on between us since I’ve read his book 7 times. No other business book has influenced me as much as 4HWW and this is where I first learned of Pareto and Parkinson.
Pareto’s Law and my Life
Vilfredo Pareto was a controversial economist who lived from 1848 to 1943. He was an engineer by training and started his career managing coal mines. He later took a position at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland and explored the income distribution of 19th century England. He found that 80 percent of the wealth in England was controlled by 20% of the population. When Pareto started to explore this phenomenon more, he noticed that this pattern of imbalance was repeated consistently whenever he looked at data referring to different time periods and different countries.
The critical thing is not to look at the specific 80/20 relationship, but to focus on the main concept. There is an inherent level of imbalance between inputs and outputs. I experienced this phenomena many times throughout my time as head honcho of Great Black Speakers Bureau, a company dedicated to spreading African American thought to the masses. I remember the early days in January of 2007 when I was working to elevate the company off of the ground. I would put in 10-12 hour days/6 days per week personally building the website, making sales calls, emailing potential clients, getting contracts signed, mailing thank you cards, and pretty much anything else you could think of for a starting entrepreneur. Even though the company was growing at an extremely fast rate, I was always exhausted at the end of the day.
Then a life changing event happened in my life. The Lord blessed me with a scholarship to earn my MBA at Cornell University. After a couple of weeks of pure elation, reality started to sink in that I REALLY won’t be able to run my company and go to school at the same time. By this time, we had grown by about 900% since we started the company the year before. The problem is that much of this growth was directly related to my personal inputs. How on earth was Great Black Speakers going to grow, or even maintain, if I wasn’t there to run it? True, I wrote a good B.S. answer to this question in my business school applications, but now I HAD to come up with real solutions.
I now had to do some soul searching and heavy prioritizing. There was NO WAY that I would leave my baby GBS to dwindle and die. Over the course of two days, I turned off all communication with the world and I spent hours of laying out and analyzing every facet of GBS with a single question in mind that I learned from Mr. Ferris. What inputs in GBS generated the majority of the outputs? After the analysis, I wasn’t very happy with myself and I noticed major ineffectiveness in my process. I then made an vital decision to revive my company; I would go through a business liposuction process and cut off the fat that would cause GBS to die in the transition.
The first thing that I did was to start searching for a new director of GBS. I was looking for a highly organized person who was excellent at selling. I found both of these traits and more in my friend Diana, who I’ve known for many years since my childhood in Louisville, KY. In fact, Diana is an improvement over me in both of these areas. The next thing that I did was to look at the mundane, but essential tasks that consumed most of my time. Some of these tasks included makings cold calls, working on the website, writing thank you letters, filling out contracts. One by one, I started outsourcing these tasks to other companies that specialize in one or more of these areas. It was actually much less expensive than I thought it was going to be. In my next article, I will talk more about outsourcing your life.
The results have been outstanding in the 8 months since I started this process. I have increased my personal income by 250%, while decreasing my GBS workload from 55 – 70 hours per week down to 8 - 10 hours/week. Furthermore, most of the gains have happened AFTER I started business school. From this situation, I learned a couple of lessons:
1. You don’t have to work like crazy to generate sufficient income for yourself.
2. If you surround yourself with the right people and implement the right process, you can accomplish a lot with very little.
As stated earlier, Parkinson’s Law states that a task will swell in importance and complexity in relation to the time allotted for its completion. There are two major truisms that I’ve learned that accompany this law:
1. Doing something unimportant well does not make it important.
2. Requiring a lot of time does not make a task important.
The definition of true productivity is simple: Productivity is doing activities that get you closer to your goals. Unproductivity is doing activities that keep you stagnant or take you further away from your goals.
Many people suffer from a common form of laziness: it is called busyness, which is also a disease. This disease is so prevalent that it has brainwashed people to believe that business = busyness. A paradigm shift occurred in my life for me to know that this isn’t true. Working 9 – 5 is an archaic way of doing business. It’s funny how ALL jobs in America take the exact same amount of time to complete. It’s funny because it isn’t true.
Time compression is an important fundamental to manipulate Parkinson’s Law. The law isn’t inherently a good or bad thing, it is just what it is. Parkinson’s Law is similar to fire. Fire can be good when you are cooking, but it would be a terrible thing if your house burns up in flames. Time compression to complete tasks is harnessing the Parkinson’s Law power to help productivity. What I do is think about an aggressive timeline for a task and then I cut that time by a ½ or 1/3. THAT is my deadline. By doing this, I am forced to focus on the bare essentials ( 20% inputs) of a task and avoid the minutiae that often clutters projects. Time compression has been one of the hardest concepts to implement into my life and one in which I fail to implement often. But when I do, the results of my improvements are amazing.
Taking these two concepts together gives you one simple rule: Focus on the essentials of a task and work like crazy to get those tasks done as quick as possible. However, just because this rule is simple doesn’t mean it’s easy. People often interchange the words difficult and complex. These two words are NOT synonyms of each other. I struggle every day to avoid the laziness of business, and I often fail. I fail less when I ask one simple question: Am I inventing things to do to avoid the important? If I am, I immediately take self corrective measures to put me back on track.
I would like return to my opening statement on why this is my ONLY New Year’s resolution. The reason is that it would be contradictory for me to have 13 New Year’s resolutions and try to implement Pareto and Parkinson at the same time in my life. If I set my resolution as implementing The Law’s, other goals will follow as all encompassing improvements. I’m not against setting many goals for oneself; the exact opposite is true as I have many different personal and business goals. However, the point of The Law’s is to simplify and streamline life as much as possible, which is what I want to do for 2009. As Bruce Le once wrote, “One does not accumulate but eliminate. It is not the daily increase, but the daily decrease. The height of cultivation always runs to simplicity.” So with that, Happy and Fulfilled New Year’s!!!!
Friday, January 9, 2009
By Hakim Shahid, Ph.D.
Because of the self-appointed status of mainstream society’s ideologies being the standard of “true American values,” some of its members began to acquire a certain mentality that validated their position in American life. Dr. Peggy McIntosh termed this mentality “White Privilege” in her article, White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, written in 1993. According to McIntosh, as a result of White Privilege, most people of Euro-Anglo descent are afforded rights and Privileges that are not enjoyed by people of color. The mystery of White Privilege lies in the fact that many of the members of mainstream society are not aware of this phenomenon. To further illustrate this point, McIntosh stated her shock when realization came upon her based on the advantages of her “whiteness.”
As a White person, I realized I had been taught about racism as something that puts others at a disadvantage, but had been taught not to see of its corollary aspects, White Privilege, which puts me at an advantage (Pg. 1).
Although McIntosh came to grips with understanding and acknowledging her racial group’s advantages based on their heritage, others in her group are not so reluctant to concede acknowledgement of this self-actualization. According to Janet E. Helms in her article titled, “Reaction: I also said, "White racial identity influences white
Researchers", In The Counseling Psychologist in 1993, mainstream White America is not aware of itself as being the benefactors of racism. Instead they deny, distort, and repress the overwhelming realities they are presented with in cohabitating in a region with other cultural groups. Helms states, “I argue that Whites must become consciously aware of the ways in which racism works to their advantage and make a deliberate effort to abandon it in favor of positive non-racist definitions of Whiteness (page 241).”
Though Helm’s point is important, some White people are reluctant to acknowledge the unequal practices people of color are subjected to. This would mean they must educate themselves on the major contributions made by people of color to this country. I saw this reluctance firsthand in my years as a middle school science teacher when I asked my administrators and educational superiors why do we still teach science as a Greek and European-inspired discipline when we have scientific and scholarly evidence that Africans introduced the study of science to the world? In response to my inquiry, I was given weak excuses like, “Well, we know the truth,” “You know they (mainstream society) won’t allow that,” and my personal favorite, “Boy, are you a trouble-maker?”
White Privilege is dynamic in its presence in the psyche of some Whites. Because of this, some Whites view cultural scholarship as important when it encompasses the perspectives of White America. In other words, the more comfortable they are with their Privileges, the more they gauge people of color’s scholarship contributions by their own cultural standards. This ideology plays a huge part in the type of scholarship American students receive in the educational institutions across the country. Helms posited six components of White identity development to explain how the White Privilege mentality is nurtured in the mindsets of whites and how it can be alleviated for the introduction of a true multicultural society.
1. Contact- is mainstream society’s ignorance to the social, economic, and political plight of other races in this country.
2. Disintegration- refers to mainstream’s consciousness of the despair of other races.
3. Reintegration- is the conscious or unconscious glorification of the White cultural while belittling every culture that is not part of the White race.
4. Pseudo-Independence- the premise that other cultures would do well to adopt the standards and ideals of White culture.
5. Immersion-Emersion- this calls for the realization of Whites to reeducate themselves of the inequality of their own whiteness and educate others in their race.
6. Autonomy- this ensures that Whites do away with all racist behaviors and assumptions.
Impact On Literacy
White Privilege and the accepted identity that controls it is the underlying theme of classroom instruction and assessment development. To the advantage of mainstream children, it is expected that they will succeed in learning to read, speak, and write. This rings true for any people who receive an education based on their own cultural perspective. This means that white children are taught to read using a curriculum based on their cultural experiences, and in it, they master the art of “appropriately speaking” because usually their home language is synonymous with the school language. I have to ask if this is the case, using an analogy, how would a person know if it was day if they never witnessed night?
This is what has happened to education. It only teaches “day” and never acknowledges “night.” It only teaches “dry” and never teaches “wet”. The content areas are the teaching of skills for the student to acquire in order to become literate.
Because the skills that white children receive are encrypted with bias premises and notions while celebrating their cultural thought, they could grow into adults who view the rest of the world around them as primitive to their own culture and intelligence (Hilliard, 1998). This may cause them to assess other cultures by their own language and educational approaches without venturing out of their own comfort zone.
Furthermore, the White Privilege phenomenon has far more consequences than only those acknowledged in Whites. In this phenomenon, Whites have the choice to either choose to correct this horrendous practice of enjoying the perks of racist superiority or chose to ignore it and their lives would not be affected in the least. On the other hand, people of color are mentally, economically, socially, and politically affected by either conscious road they decide to venture down.
Dr. Hakim Shahid is the Science/Social Studies Curriculum Coordinator for Detroit Edison Public School Academy District and an adjunct professor at Marygrove College. He holds a Ph.D. in Reading Education; a M.Ed. in Educational Administration; and a B.S. in Biology and Chemistry. He has presented at national education conferences and lectured at universities across the United States and abroad. For inquiries regarding availability for presentations and workshops, contact Dr. Shahid at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Monday, January 5, 2009
Dr. Boyce Watkins
Brought to you by The Great Black Speakers Bureau - The #1 Speakers Bureau in the world.
I thought you guys might want to hear Barack Obama's latest pitch as he works to solve one of the greatest economic crises since The Great Depression. It is here if you'd like to take a look. I agree with the President that bold moves by our government are necessary. Where we differ is that I do not believe it to be reasonable to think that our economy, stock market, economic growth or employment numbers are going to reach prior levels any time soon. That's because much of our economy one year ago was an illusion....a mirage created by easy access to credit sparked by a poorly regulated financial system. We are effectively the great athlete trying to compete after his steroids have been taken away: The athlete might be good, but his natural talent will likely never match his performance when it has been enhanced by doping.
More importantly, it is critical that each of us seriously considers the long-term financial damage that has been done to our economy. Even worse than our financial system, our political system is one that promotes the kind of short-sighted behavior that will surely cause serious financial problems for our children and grand children. I apologize for sounding like an alarmist, but I must be blunt: Get your money together RIGHT NOW, or there may be hell to pay in the long-term. The data from my research show that this is simply the beginning of very serious long-term financial problems in our great nation.
Our money advice email list is here, feel free to join. If there is a way that my training in Finance can help you or your family overcome financial challenges, I'd be happy to share what I know.
The Scary Side of Our National Debt
By Dr. Boyce Watkins
As a finance professor, I become nervous when listening to the numbers being tossed around by our federal government. I hear “700 billion for this and 800 billion for that” mentioned as casually as a man tossing dollar bills at a strip club. Our government officials have been wasteful, incompetent and incredibly myopic in the way they’ve managed our money. Even conservative Republicans are spending like financially illiterate rap stars, and the Obama-mania train doesn’t seem interested in taking a different track.
Added to the $400 - $700 Billion that President Elect Obama wishes to spend on a stimulus package (not to mention bail-outs for automakers and other parts of the economy), the total amount of money our government has seriously considered allocating to solve the financial crisis has approached the $2 Trillion dollar mark. In case you’re wondering, that is A LOT of money, even for government officials who think that money grows on trees.
The truth is that, like the star quarterback who thinks his money will never run out, our country is going to wake up one morning, only to realize that we are no longer financially secure. We are going to be alarmed by the prospect that our government securities are no longer considered risk-free investments. Like the worried mother who notices she is one paycheck away from being homeless, we will see that we are one terrorist attack away from being stripped of our vast economic power.
To put the $2 Trillion dollar problem into context, consider this:
- Our government’s annual income (IRS receipts coming from money you and I pay in taxes) is about $2.5 Trillion dollars.
- Our national debt has reached the $10 Trillion dollar mark. That is like a man earning $250,000 per year, and sitting on a million dollars in debt, with full intention of obtaining more debt because he believes he is too rich to go broke.
- Roughly 42% of the Federal budget goes toward entitlements: Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Another 20% goes to making sure we can arbitrarily “liberate” other countries who happen to have plenty of oil (the military), and another 9 – 10% goes toward paying the interest on the national debt.
- Our population is aging – this implies that our productivity as a nation is going to drop over the next 30 years, and our real Gross National Product is likely to drop with it. In conjunction with our decline in productivity, our obligations for the "Big Government 3" (Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security) are going to grow. So, the guy I mentioned above with a million dollars in debt is also going to see his income decline, while watching his expenses go up.
Translation: our country is in serious financial trouble. Trickle down economics (as proposed by these bailout plans) almost never works. I am amazed that we live in a country in which the same irresponsible men who caused the crisis are the first to be rewarded with a government bailout. The next time someone attempts to argue that Black males or young single mothers lack personal responsibility, I am going to point to the bankers on Wall Street and our government officials as being far more damaging to our nation. The real welfare recipients live on Wall Street, Capitol Hill and in executive suites, as they beg and plead for government assistance that is being granted at will. All the while, I hear politicians (even the great Black man in the White House) tell Black males with nearly 50% unemployment that they just “need to be more responsible”.
What are the solutions to this problem? There really are no quick solutions, but this might be where President Elect Obama can start:
First, stop declaring expensive wars that don’t make any sense. The Iraq War costs our nation roughly $340 million dollars per day and a combined total of half a trillion dollars. That’s enough to send over 10 million kids to college or to pay a year’s worth of health insurance for 100 million people. You could also provide $100,000 dollars worth of mortgage relief to 5 million American families.
Second, stop electing incompetent people to the most challenging office in the land. Choosing President Bush to run our country means that we deserve whatever consequences come from allowing arrogant Ivy League privilege to override the importance of competence, intelligence and solid leadership. With all the bogus and racist claims that Black youth are crippled by anti-intellectualism, it’s funny that nearly 50% of our nation planned to elect a Vice President who doesn’t know that Africa is a continent.
Third, stop throwing our children’s futures into the garbage. Millions of powerful minds are being wasted each year by a horrible inner city educational system. The money spent on the war in Iraq could have saved the lives of these youth and turned them into productive Americans. Instead, many of them are only going to be prepared to milk the economy for more costly entitlements.
Fourth, stop incarcerating many of our most productive citizens. We pay roughly $23,000 per year to incarcerate criminals, plus an average of $24,000 per year/per inmate for community corrections officers and other supervisory officials. Spending that money to educate and rehabilitate these individuals would not only increase our nation’s productivity, it would further reduce reliance on government support given to those who’ve been marginalized or had their families destroyed by our barbaric system of incarceration. This doesn’t count the impact on health effects that would come by simply stopping the prevalence of prison rape and transmission of disease within many communities across America. All chickens eventually come home to roost, even when they’ve been given 25 to life. The incarceration of productive Americans is an inter-generational loss, since their ill-nurtured children then become society’s worst nightmares.
Finally, our elected officials must stop thinking that they have a blank check. Sorry Senators, but you don’t. Money is finite, and when you keep piling up debt like MC Hammer, you’ll find yourself broke after your next album. Around the world, massive wealth appears and disappears in a flash, and by continuing our irresponsibility, we are setting the stage for the twilight of our great nation. Our officials must be more responsible and the American people must demand limitations on the use of federal debt.
Every great empire has a sunset. Many successful individuals and entities are brought down by a crippling vice, addiction or series of poor choices. America's love of debt, arrogance in leadership and unwillingness to plan for the future may be the poisons it has picked to undermine our global prominence. Protect yourself and your family, for there are bumpy times ahead.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Finance Professor at Syracuse University. He does regular commentary in national media, including CNN, ESPN, BET and CBS Sports. For more information, please visit www.BoyceWatkins.com.
Friday, January 2, 2009
Name: Lawrence Watkins
Current Gig/Occupation: Owner of Great Black Speakers Bureau and MBA student at Cornell University
Motto: “Success is manufactured”
Favorite Quote: In order for God to direct you, you have to be moving.
Q: What makes you one to watch in your opinion?
I am very ambitious and I want to make a positive impact on my community politically, socially, and economically. Also, I have a business that is growing and that will soon be a powerhouse within the speaking industry.
Q: What’s the most important lesson you learned so far?
Always approach task and people with humility, yet still have the confidence inside that you know you will achieve.
Q: What or who are your inspirations?
Warren Buffet, Google, The Wire, my parents, my brother Dr. Boyce Watkins, John Wooden (Former UCLA basketball coach), Tim Ferris Author of the 4-hour Workweek.
Q: If you could meet anyone dead or alive who would it be?
John Wooden. His books on leadership have changed my life.
Q: Describe a typical day.
I wake up about 7:20 a.m. in the morning and take my shower and get ready for school. On the bus, I listen to a motivational audiobook on my iPod. From 8:40 – 1:10 p.m. I am in my finance, strategy, and statistics classes. After that I take a break and review my financial and advertising numbers for Great Black Speakers. The company’s director gives me a call and an update on the daily activities for the last 24 hours. From 3:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m., I am preparing for class/tests. Lastly, I hang out with my friends on another successful day.
Q: What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?
I am extremely silly under the right circumstances.
Q: What do you bring that hasn’t been brought to your craft?
I sense of purpose and passion in what I do to help the African-American community. Also, analytical skills that most people do not have.
Q: Where do you hope to be in five years?
I hope to be a tycoon of many different companies related to speaking, public relations, and event planning. I hope to travel the world speaking to organizations about productivity and entrepreneurship.
Q: What’s the one thing you are still trying to overcome or master?
I am trying to become more consistent in my work ethic.
Q: What three words describe your attitude?
Positive, Laid-back, Cerebral
Q: What do you want to be remembered for?
I want to be remembered by the people who loved me and the people that I loved.
By: Tolu Olorunda
Lisa Powell is the mother of Caitlin Powell. Caitlin, as you many know, is a YourBlackWorld.com family member, whose exceptional talent is inspiring thousands of kids and parents across the country. At just 10-years of age, Caitlin Powell is a role-model, motivational speaker, writer, telecaster and singer. Alongside taking advanced-courses in school, she is also the host of her nationally-syndicated webcast, “Caitlin’s Corner TV,” which helps motivate students toward academic success. Caitlin has a rare gift, and her mom is the first to acknowledge that; but it takes the diligence, skill, dedication and patience of a parent, to help nurture raw talent into a resource of enlightenment and inspiration. Lisa Powell, a social worker, took the initiative of employing her occupational skills in the home, and help craft Caitlin into the jewel she is today. As a mother of three, Powell has also had to face the challenges that child-rearing can incur.
Lisa Powell says she first noticed an “excitement” in Caitlin at a very young age, which always took everything she did “to the next level.” Being her first child, she always “set goals” for Caitlin, because she wanted to see her “be the best that she could be.” As an experienced social worker, Powell knows the dangers of “pushing kids too hard,” or not “pushing them hard enough.” Finding the right balance, between those two tangents, was the key to success in raising Caitlin. At a young age, Powell remembers how Caitlin was very interested in a lot of things, but had to be more specific in her interests. “She [Caitlin] would ask a lot of questions,” and this being the “key to a critical mind,” led Powell to “dedicate” her “life and time to seeing my daughter attain the best [that she could be].” Powell sees it as very important for parents to “tune in” to the characters and interests of children, instead of trying to impose certain qualities upon them.
When it came to setting goals for Caitlin, Powell was very concerned with the school-choice for her daughter. Deciding to take the public school route was not easy, but Powell found a way to work within the public school system. By sacrificing financially, though hard at the time, Powell was able to spend more time with Caitlin and mentor/tutor her, as she navigated the, often turbulent, terrain of the Public School system. “When she was younger, I worked full time, but when my second daughter was born, I had to step back – I now work from home – to make sure that I was at the school, making close contact with the personnel and things like that,” she says. “My first goal was to make sure that if we [Lisa and her husband] could get her into the advanced-placement program, we got her that route.” This would take “advocacy, and [Caitlin’s] high test scores” to earn that spot in advanced-placement.
As Lisa Powell sees it, a healthy self-esteem also goes a long way in achieving educational achievement for children. “I talk to my girls about the things that they like,” she says. “I don’t push them into anything that would put them down, or make them feel less than what they are.” Powell says that children are capable of learning from birth, and it is the responsibility of parents to begin the process of “bonding with them and letting them know they’re special,” from the date of conception. “For instance, my middle daughter was able to skip kindergarten, because she was so far ahead of the game – partly because of some of the things that I’m doing at home,” she says. “A lot of times, parents think that schools are the sole-responsible entity for educating our children, and it definitely starts at home, first.” As Powell sees it, every child is distinct, and only a parent knows the emotional soft-spots of a child. Teachers are not paid to parent, and are therefore limited in their abilities to reach children.
Powell believes that another element that plays a key-role in the mental development of young students is, communication. “Generations ago, when children were raised by the community, there was a neighbor involved with the children, – somebody was involved with the school – while holding the child accountable,” she says. “For me, I found that being at the school, and being a voice and an advocate for my children” has played a large role in their successes, “because they tend to fall through the cracks [if that voice is missing].”
Lisa Powell also believes that planning ahead helps one remain grounded and ready for the challenges that come with raising a child. Powell, who took a temporary retirement, to spend more time with her kids, understands, firsthand, how financially-challenging such a decision might be. Nevertheless, the future of the next generation must be protected at all costs, and “critical-thinking” can help parents strategize on the most feasibly successful plan to accomplish that objective.