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November 19, 2003

Flip It & Reverse It

In the past few weeks I've met a couple of extraordinary cats who are helping me rearrange my world.

In the big discussion with David last week vis a vis The Dirty Little Secret, one of the things that came up was the ambition of black MBA candidates. It's an old argument because it came up in the wake of the LA Riots. My generation wanted the corporate life. This is a very important thing when you consider class interests, integration and racial identity. The bottom line argument is that nobody from the hood ever wanted to earn their business degree to own a 7-11 or a grocery store. So the young, gifted and black were never interested in being measly merchants, they had their eyes on a more mainstream prize. In the 80s, Corporate America was the Promised Land. And back in those days you heard, if you were listening, hushed and reverent voices of millions of young blackfolks talking about Corporate America. When you get a chance, rent Boomerang or Strictly Business. This was what we were all hyped up on, no question. So a lot of us have been there, and done that. I know I have.

What you'll probably hear from the Jill Nelson's of the world, and I don't mean to suggest that she's wrong - just not isolated, is that there is a glass cieling and dealing with it is a royal pain. We are driven to be first blacks, but baby the thrill is gone. So there's a few ways to go. One is the way I think of my girl T who moves and shakes over at Toyota. It is the very respectable "I'm just a poor black child from the hood; look at me now - American Dream." Straight middle class integration with dignity, respect and pride. 70k/year ain't hay. So you go girl. The second way is, the the way of my boy DF. DF is what I would call a nouveau negro. He's just unleashed, globetrotting and off the hook. Too big to be contained in the corporate coop, ready to do things on his own. Nobody knows what to do with a man like DF anyway. He's either going to become fabulously rich, arrested for fraud or die broke in Costa Rica. Me, I'm on a third way.

The third way is the way my new associates are helping me discover. That is how to be a businessman. The difference? It doesn't matter what business, and whatever business it ends up being, it will be unglamorous and downscale. This is about learning how to be the guy who sells nuts to the guy who has bolts. It's about networking a dozen little things that require a $20,000 investment and yeilds $1,500 a month for three years starting six months down the line. It's about making a whole lot of little piles as contrasted to Shaft's Big Score. It's not a new idea, just new to my generation.

When I was doing my housepainting and listening to Tupac and generally getting into the downscale swing of things, I kept lamenting those things everyone in the investor class knows. Corporate spending is down and IT professionals are getting squeezed. Everybody in the investor class knows this, but what do they do about it? They do the same thing I've been doing, holding out and hoping that my world class and highly refined skills will come back into demand, meanwhile making a few milliliters of Pellegrino raspberry lemonade out of life's lemons. Hell, I should have been making regular old lemonade. And now that I've scraped for a while, I'm ready to give up the dinner party china and am content to shop at Wal-Mart. But it won't be for the way of my friend T, rather I'm going to take down scores. A little bit here, a little bit there. No grand schemes, no master plans, just raw, honest, entreprenuerial opportunism.

I know several other folks who have been thinking like this, not least of all the man who hired me to paint his house. I think I'm on to something.

Posted by mbowen at November 19, 2003 08:41 PM

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He gets it from idols of the marketplace
Even though he didn't know it, Cobb explains why my blogging has been light lately.... [Read More]

Tracked on November 20, 2003 12:02 AM