Sade & @theBisforBoss

Life is all about the people we meet.

My God-sister, Sade, is a source of inspiration and information that I am very grateful for. Our families have known each other since before I was born. And over the years, I have spent summers with her family and we have gone years without seeing each other. It’s great because even after we have gone months (or years) without talking, we then picked back up seamlessly. Thankfully, I don’t think the large lapses in time will be happening anymore.

Over the past couple years, I have been watching her work on her career and grow her own brand. Being able to sit down and talk with her about life, her business, and issues in our communities has been particularly insightful. Those conversations have also led to the project we are currently working on together. (I’m super excited about it and I’ll leave it at that!) I have been learning so much from her during this short time.

Sade, thank you for your friendship, candor, initiative, and resources. I value your intelligence, focus, action, authenticity (and most of your jokes). I am truly excited to see where 2018 takes you and takes our team! I don’t know if this is a word, but I consider you a friendtor (friend+mentor).

LADIES: If you are looking to start building your business, or if you are looking to take your business to the next level, I recommend checking out @theBisforBoss and seeing if the resources she has built can work for you. I believe they will. I have already used some of her strategies in my own projects and preparation for the upcoming year.

I must also shout out Juliet and Drew, her siblings and two of my God-siblings. They, along with their parents, have been a wonderful support system to me and my family over the years. I am truly grateful that God placed them in my life.

I love the fact that some of my closest friends and family members are doing big things! It is both humbling and encouraging to be able to call Sade a teammate and family.

My challenge to you reading this is to let someone who has impacted you know the impact they have had on you. I hope everyone’s 2017 ends on a positive note and sets the tone for all that 2018 has in store.

-David A. Brown-Dawson, 11 December 2017

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Getting The Memo with John Hope Bryant

Getting The Memo with John Hope Bryant

Life is all about the people we meet. Sometimes we meet them in person; sometimes we meet them through a video; other times we meet them through a book. Such is the case now: I would like to introduce you to Mr. John Hope Bryant and his book The Memo. I came across this book while browsing in a Barnes & Noble, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

I enjoyed the book even more as I researched Operation HOPE and learned of the work he has been doing over the past two decades. It is one thing to present information; it is even better when that information is coupled with wisdom and practical advice from experience.

This is a book review and book report combined. I have begun doing this for books that I read for two reasons. First, it helps me fully digest the information and wisdom in the book. Second, it allows me to capture my thoughts on the book so that I can return later and see what the major takeaways were and remember how the book impacted me. If you can use any of the questions below for your own book digestion, feel free.

I recommend you read his book and check out the work that he does with his organization, Operation HOPE! And if you need financial literacy assistance, I recommend checking out his website at www.operationhope.org and seeing if there is a local branch. I have not worked with him or his team directly (yet), but I believe investing in his book will be worth it.

 

Question to Answer before you read:

 

What were your thoughts/expectations prior to starting this book?

I had no real expectations prior to reading this book. I had not heard of John Hope Bryant or his Operation HOPE or anything else. I purchased the book because of the title and the idea of economic liberation. I also purchased the book because he was a black man in a suit, and he looked like he had some great information to share. (In this instance, initially judging a book by its cover may have paid off.)

Questions to answer after you read:

Did the book meet your expectations?

The book exceeded any preconceived notions that I had. After reading Ong Hean-Tatt’s Secrets of Ancient Chinese Art of Motivation, this book seemed to be a perfect next step. Mr. Bryant illustrated the breakdown of The HOPE Doctrine of Wealth & Poverty. The way he captured the wealth mindset, and the factors, was fascinating and it was great to see how it lined up with the Secrets of Ancient Chinese Art of Motivation.

50% = Self-Esteem (Positive Self-worth) and Confidence (Belief in oneself)

25% = Role models (Positive examples lead to brighter outlook) and Environment (Positive and nurturing friends and family)

25% = Aspiration (A life full of hope) and Opportunity (Equal access)

This breakdown is insightful as he discusses how having these areas fulfilled leads to wealth and how the opposite induces poverty.

What were your favorite/most meaningful quotes (and why)?

  1. Preface xvii – Your power comes from economic independence, which is also what protects you against social injustice, economic manipulation, and profiling on all levels. Nobody is going to give you that power. You must gain it for yourself. Don’t waste time on anger; instead, use your inner capital to level the playing field.
  2. Preface xx – I wrote this book because it sticks in my brain that the wealthiest eighty-five individuals have more wealth than 3.5 billion people on the planet, and this is simply not sustainable. It is immoral. It is not good – even for the wealthy that belong to the club of eighty-five. Even more troubling to me, in the United States, the wealthiest 1 percent captured 95 percent of the post-financial crisis growth since 2009, while the bottom 90 percent became poorer.
  3. 27 – I believe that fully half of modern poverty – beyond basic issues of sustenance of course – is tied to a poor mind-set, to low self-esteem and a lack of confidence…This is why I hammer so hard on the issue of self-esteem and confidence. Because it is the beginning of everything.
  4. 30 – True wealth, like true poverty, has nothing to do with money.

What is your biggest take away after reading this book?

“There is no more important relationship than the one you have with yourself.  Everything else in your life pivots off that relationship.” (P. 41) In a recent interview with Pastor Steven Furtick, Bishop T.D. Jakes talked about how he is more in tune with himself than most people. I have no doubt that his self-awareness contributes to his effectiveness as a leader, teacher, and writer. Part of what he shared included his parents, grandparents, and his ancestors from the Igbo Tribe in Nigeria. His knowledge of where in Africa his family came from and that they are known as the Black Jews for their resourcefulness was a major point in his statement. This leads me to understand that a major part of knowing and being in tune with yourself is knowing from where you came. Knowledge of one’s self is directly linked to their self-confidence and self-esteem.

From Page 27, it is tough to see the value of education without seeing the value of oneself. It is important to provide information, encouragement, and examples to children, so they are aware of their potential and pursue their purpose. Education is exposure. Exposing people to their family history (for black people, that means going beyond slavery and back to the African empires and tribes) can build that confidence and self-esteem. In turn, that enables children to be more willing to learn and not be ashamed of their intelligence and willingly stifle it.

Preface xix: The Invisible Class is people who are experiencing a twenty-first century crisis of confidence and personal faith, which is impacting their self-esteem. People in the group are giving in to fear and giving up hope that they can realize their dreams. They don’t even think that their children will do better than they have. Truth be told, they are pretty confident that their children will do worse. People in the Invisible Class don’t feel seen, and, this I know for sure, everyone wants to be seen. Everyone wants to know that they count. They want to know that they matter and that what they believe, do, and think is important. This group equals more than 150 million people in the United States of America, and more than five billion people of the world’s seven billion population around the world. These are people – black, white, brown, red, or yellow – who never got the Memo.

The people in this group have a lot in common (despite racial differences), but they have been pitted against each other.

“Someone (other than me) has to be the one to blame for the mess called my life,” goes the narrative, which plays on deep fears of a class environment and standards of living in constant decline. This narrative is offensive to the soul, as it gets each subgroup further and further from the essential truths about their respective lives, truths needed for a reawakening of their potential.

I think this is the most powerful section of the book; it may explain why President Trump was elected (he was able to tap into this group and make them feel seen) and why churches like Life Church, Elevation, and others are booming (they are reaching out to this demographic that feels unseen). 150 million people is a vast and seemingly limitless group to help. I am curious how that number breaks down by state, and which communities need the most injection of hope.

“The people in this group have a lot in common (despite racial differences), but they have been pitted against each other.” Again, this quote within the larger quote speaks to the need for unity but makes a great case as to why certain people may want to maintain a level of separation and disunity; if we as the Invisible Class recognize what has happened and come together, change will happen. Amazing things will happen when we choose to unify despite our differences; when we choose to focus on our similarities as we use our diverse backgrounds to create the best, comprehensive solutions.

Please write any additional thoughts you had while reading this book or after finishing it that you would like to capture in this review.

I believe that this book is directly in line with Bishop T.D. Jakes’ book SOAR, even though I have yet to read it. In the same interview with Pastor Furtick, Bishop Jakes talks about writing SOAR for the people that don’t have access to all the other business tools. He did not use the term specifically, but it sounds like SOAR was written for the Invisible Class, to help them gain confidence and tools to move forward in the pursuit of their dreams and goals. To encourage them to take personal responsibility for their lives, their futures, and their children’s futures.

I believe this book will lead to me meeting Mr. John Hope Bryant and working with him and possibly his publishing company. I almost didn’t write the previous sentence. However, I believe it and I really am impressed with the work he has done and the example he has set as an African-American leader, entrepreneur, and man of action. This book gave me a chance to see what good work is already being done. It is encouraging to see how much of an impact he has made since beginning Operation HOPE twenty years ago. It excites me to think about where DICEi and other projects will be twenty years from now.

 

-David A. Brown-Dawson, 20 November 2017

A Time for Reflection: My Interview of Myself

IMG_1782I understand you are taking the month of November as your time of reflection. Why is that and what is your plan for the month of December?

I decided to try a different approach to closing out the year and getting an early jump on next year. In line with Thanksgiving, I am using this month to reflect on the year and be grateful for all that God has blessed me with and the people he has allowed me to meet. Along with that is mapping out the next year and preparing myself spiritually, mentally, and emotionally to make the most of every opportunity that I am blessed with.

The second part is prioritizing my projects and using the month of December to get a jump on the work that needs to be done. 2017 has been a year of preparation and intake; I feel that 2017 has been preparing me for all that 2018 is going to bring. I am excited and humbled by the thought of all that may come. But, as Angela Duckworth said in her book, Grit, “Potential is one thing. What we choose to do with it is another.” I know a lot of work is required. I also know some of my habits need to change to maximize my time and effectiveness and December will be my chance to start implementing those changes.

Think back to January 1, 2017…Where were you?

January 1 of this year I was in Tokyo bringing in the New Year with some friends. It was a blast! That is the literal response. Figuratively, I was hungry for knowledge, wisdom, and the courage to act on that wisdom. That is still true today, and I have added discernment to that prayer.

I was also struggling in my personal life to be content with where I was. I would say that has been one of the biggest blessings of the year; being comfortable on my own and being thankful for the time I have with friends and family.

How do you think 2017 has gone for you?

Better than I could have asked for. A lot has happened, good and bad. But when I look at the totality of evidence, I can only call myself blessed.

Have you faced any trials or tough times in 2017?

Losing two grandparents in a week was tough for two reasons. One, not being able to be by my dad’s side as he grieved the loss of his parents was the worst. The second was admittedly more selfish: I have desired to travel back to Sierra Leone (and Nigeria) and visit my grandparents and learn about them and our family for the past few years. Losing them made me feel that part of our family history and memories were gone forever.

Being away from my family during surgeries, deaths, or celebrations is tough for reasons that I would assume are obvious, but I’ll explain a bit. I love my family and absolutely cherish the time I can spend in their physical presence. Don’t get me wrong, I am very thankful for the technology and the apps we can use to video chat or instant message. But I think this year was the one in which being away from them hit me the hardest.

I would say one of the toughest times was somewhat self-imposed but also a great indicator of my personal growth and faith. It was also an indication of the lengths people will go to help. I was playing football and a portion of my cornea was scratched (this after my corrective-eye surgery). The immediate aftermath was complete with pain, dread, and disbelief. But as I was grabbing my stuff to be driven to the hospital, a calm voice came over me and let me know that my eye would heal completely, but that it would be a slow and painful process. Thanks to God and my optometrist, my vision was restored completely.

Transitioning a bit. You talk about reading a lot. Why is reading so important?

Reading exposes me to new ideas, perspectives, and information that I may not have otherwise come across. I enjoy learning, and reading is one avenue from which I am able to learn and grow. I believe that knowledge and wisdom come in how we process and use those ideas, perspectives, and information in our own lives and to benefit others. I have learned something from every book that I have read this year, and I want to share some of that knowledge and wisdom with anyone who wants to learn.

What book has had the largest impact on you this year?  

The one I am currently reading, and I’ll answer the same way regardless of when you ask me. It is amazing how books that may not have any connection on the surface come together to produce these brilliant ideas and patterns. So, with each book that I read, I see connections and messages that tie in to books that I have previously read. The knowledge builds, exponentially in my opinion.

If I must say one book, I would have to say Linchpin by Seth Godin. My close friend Jon gave it to me and it punched me in the face multiple times. The book contains information more people should be exposed to and a mindset more people – young and old – should embody. I highly recommend it.

Are you faithfully stewarding what you have and where you are right now?

No, I cannot say that I have been. There has been some much knowledge and wisdom that I have been exposed to and gained in the past year. While I have shared a lot with my friends, I have not been as quick about sharing it in public partially because I was unsure what the response would be. That is changing, with this interview and with some of the projects we are working on.

I think the most important part is understanding the right way to package and share things. But then, that may simply be an excuse for my procrastination. What it boils down to is I have asked God to make me effective, and He cannot do that if I am not taking action and helping people so that He can improve my process and increase my effectiveness in the service of others.

“We don’t wait for people to come to God then we serve them, we serve them because God uses our service as a means for them to come to God” -Dharius Daniels

Who do you chase?

Myself in ten years. I heard Matthew McConaughey say that in an award speech a few years ago and it resonated with me. The whole speech is great but in particular he said, “Every day, every week, every month, and every year of my life, my hero is always 10 years away. I am never gonna be my hero… and that’s just fine with me, because it keeps me with somebody to keep on chasing.” I have since adopted this idea as I believe it fits perfectly with the idea of constantly learning, growing, and improving because you want to be your best self.

 Are you working on any projects that you care to talk about?

I won’t talk about them all but it has been a blessing to see the progress made with DICEi. I am excited to see where 2018 takes us as we continue to grow our team and build relationships, and action on some initiatives. There are others, but I will wait to talk about them.

What or who has been your biggest impactor in 2017?

Books and podcasts. I am okay with not completely meeting my goal of 50 books in the calendar year (yet) because I have gained some much knowledge, wisdom, and encouragement from the various podcasts that I have listened to.

What are your favorite ones (podcasts)?

EntreLeadership, How I Built This, Black History Podcast, Elevation Church Podcast, Revisionist History

Looking forward to Thanksgiving of 2018 when you are doing this again, what do you want to be able to say?

I want to be able to say that I was effective. I want to be able to say that I made the most of each day in pursuit of my purpose. I want to be able to say that I poured into the lives of others, and I allowed God to pour into others using me. I want to say I improved many of my relationships with friends and family. I want to say I built new relationships with people who prior to 2018 I looked up to, people I dreamt of meeting & working with, and people I was unaware of.

Three goals that we will hold you to?

I’ll give you five:

Make each day effective. Relentlessly pursue God’s purpose for my life each and every day.

Grow in knowledge, wisdom, discernment, and courage to act on wisdom and discernment.

More action and improvement. I believe the result of the first two goals will be an increase in action. As I act, I will learn, apply those lessons, and improve. Hopefully, my actions will help improve other people’s lives.

Not feel guilty about rest; view rest as a positive goal as well.

Be debt free.

Any final thoughts?

I am truly grateful to God to be where I am in life right now. I have been blessed to know some amazing people and to have some awesome opportunities. This time of reflection has been wonderful; I have been able to count my blessings and map out my next moves. I am ecstatic for this new year of action and growth.

-David A. Brown-Dawson, 13 November 17

Dan Newton – The Man Behind the Jersey

Life is all about the people we meet.

As an incoming freshman at Elk Grove High School, I remember seeing some upperclassmen wearing these cool baseball jerseys. I found out they were members of the Associated Student Body (ASB) team. It was at that moment I decided I wanted to wear one of those jersey. I wanted to wear that jersey because of the dedication, energy, and excellence that I saw from those who were wearing the jersey. I wanted to wear that jersey because those who wore it led by serving. And, I wanted to wear that jersey because they looked cool. I found out through my friends the man behind the jerseys – our student government adviser – was Mr. Dan Newton. I later learned first-hand that he was also the force behind the dedication, energy, and excellence.

One of my earliest encounters with Mr. Newton was when I ran for the Athletic Chair on ASB leading into my junior year. I lost. However, Mr. Newton called me in and discussed an open position as a School Board Representative. That second chance enabled me to spend my junior year working with a great team of juniors and seniors. My buddy Elliott and I were the sole guys on a team of twenty-four. Being a School Board Rep meant preparing speeches with my teammate Jamie by working with students, teachers, and our principal then delivering those speeches in front of the school board and community leaders. The public speaking and interaction with leaders of the community were priceless. So too were the incredible relationships that I formed both at Elk Grove and across the state of California with other young high school leaders.

Mr. Newton allowed us to make our own decisions as young leaders, which meant that there would inevitably be mistakes. I would like to say everything was perfect during my senior year as student body president, but I made my share of mistakes. We had an amazing team. We would discuss the choices and then the mistakes, and he would offer insight, wisdom, and ways to improve. Newt-Dogg never wanted us to fear trying something new or making a mistake. If we were putting forth our best effort, we had his complete support.

One of the best decisions we made as a leadership team was to purchase and implement the “Wisdom Minute” as part of the morning announcements. It was a short story with a quote and always ended with, “Make it a great day, or not. The choice is yours.” Mr. Newton brought the idea to our team then left it up to us to decide whether we wanted to move forward with it. We eventually decided to go for it and though at times it seemed cheesy, the Wisdom Minute became a fun and encouraging staple to our morning announcement. He presented us with an opportunity and then allowed us to make an adult decision.

Thank you, Mr. Newton, for your dedication, encouragement, life lessons, energy, and commitment to excellence. Please know that your spirit of selfless service lives on in the lives of your students who are spread out across the country and around the world. And thank you for the opportunity to learn from you and grow as a leader.

In Service,

David A. Brown-Dawson, 27 September 2017

What Would You Do?

Life is all about the people we meet. Over the past few years an idea has been growing in my heart. It took time and friends to develop it into a tangible plan of action. It began with a simple idea: if I could do anything in the world, and money wasn’t a concern, what would I do? After reflecting, the answer was clear. I would get together with a group of friends, select issues from our communities, and work to solve them. (I would also be an astronaut; we’ll save that for another time.) Initially, it sounded a bit far-fetched and so I did not move forward with it. The passion behind this desire grew inside me and inside some friends while the divisiveness grew across our varying communities, it was clear that this initiative could wait no longer. Sitting on the sidelines is no longer an option. The first step to achieving this dream of working with friends, selecting issues that we are passionate about, and working towards tangible actions and solutions is simple: Assemble our team.

In the coming weeks, we will be introducing you to The DICE Initiative, or DICEi. We are a group of young leaders dedicated to collaborating and acting to improve our communities. At the heart of this team is service and the idea that we can do so much more together than we can separately. It’s not a new idea, but it is one that we as a society tend to disregard at times. It is exciting to see how the people I have met thus far in my life have led me to this point. And I am ecstatic when I envision the many new people I will meet, interact with, collaborate with, and hopefully help in the coming months and years.

I am unsure how far we will go with this initiative, and I am energized by the possibilities. I understand this will take time. The hope is our team will grow organically as we build authentic relationships with the many young leaders who we connect with and who join DICEi. This may not be the perfect solution, which is okay. It will improve as we move forward. I believe we can affect positive change by bringing leaders from diverse communities and professions together that may not have otherwise connected with each other. This diversity of knowledge and experience, focused through a unity of purpose will enable us to have meaningful collaborations and lasting improvements.

I welcome you to follow us on this journey to improve our communities and our world, one collaboration at a time. Lastly, I will pose the question to you: If you could do anything in the world, and money wasn’t a concern, what would you do?

-David A. Brown-Dawson, 8 September 2017

Two Sisters and a Basketball

Life is all about the people we meet. The summer of 2004 was my first in California. I was adjusting to life in a new state with my family to include my “new mom”! We were settling into our house in the cul-de-sac, and I was preparing to start eighth grade in a few weeks. I was at home one day and decided to go outside and play basketball on the hoop. (There was a basketball on the ground so I used it.) I figured it belonged to the neighbors but hadn’t seen them much since being there.  I had been shooting for a few minutes when I noticed the window blinds on the neighbor’s house kept shifting. I tried to ignore it but it continued to happen every few minutes, alternating upstairs and downstairs. I was a bit confused but went on shooting. After a while, two girls around my age came out of the house and introduced themselves- Megan and Chelsea.

Once we had covered where I was from, our ages, what schools we were heading to, and what sports we enjoyed, Chelsea excused herself and ran into the house. As soon as the door closed, Megan turned to me and asked, “Do you like my sister?” I was caught off guard and I’m sure she could see my surprised look. I stammered something like, “She seems cool,” and we went on talking. Literally a minute later Chelsea ran back out. As soon as she joined us, they smiled at each other, Megan excused herself and ran into the house. The moment the door closed, Chelsea turned to me and asked, “Do you like my sister?” At this point I was a bit more prepared so laughed and responded the same way I had before. Megan eventually came back out and we proceeded to play basketball and talk. That was the beginning.

Since then, we’ve gone through quite a bit of life together. Middle school and high school, with some of the normal teenage drama included. And major life events as well. It has been fun to see them accomplish the goals they had years ago.

Quick side story: I had the opportunity to watch them play each other in AAU softball during high school. They were on opposing teams and it was exciting to watch. The play that stood out the most? Chelsea was on second base, there was a hit to the outfield where Megan was. Chelsea was rounding third and stopped on a dime when she realized Megan had the ball and was ready to gun her out at the plate! It was a fun time with their family.

Here’s why I tell this story about Meg and Chels: it is now thirteen years later and our friendship is still intact. We don’t talk every day, but when we are in the same city and are able to get together, we do. And the relationship doesn’t skip a beat. Back then, I didn’t know many people. They were in fact the first two friends I made in California.

Megan, it is amazing that you have managed to simultaneously raise a family of four children, support your husband who serves the community as an officer, and build your business “Hands Full Full Heart”. Congratulations on surpassing 4,000 sales! The best is yet to come!

Chels, you continue to amaze me with your work ethic and your passion for sports. To see all you have overcome to get where you are now both in softball and in life is truly inspiring. Congratulations on being named to the 2017 International All-Star Softball Team; no doubt it was well-deserved!

You can’t buy relationships like this. So, I will acknowledge them and share them as a way of saying thank you. I have many friends that are doing amazing things right now and it is exciting and encouraging to see them building! I am so thankful that these two ladies spied on me, let me use their basketball and hoop, and then came outside to talk to me all those years ago.

-David A. Brown-Dawson, 22 August 2017

Rich, John, and a Tale of Two Acronyms

Life is all about the people we meet. During my first few weeks on active duty, I was told that I would be the new ADR OIC. I knew what OIC stood for (Officer-in-Charge), but had no idea what ADR was. (Airfield Damage Repair.) My buddy gave me some places to look for information and the names of two gentlemen who were ADR subject matter experts. After reading up on the basics of the process, I called one of the guys, Rich, and he told me to come on over and we would discuss it. Over the ensuing two hours, they proceeded to explain the entire process to me and answer all my questions, no matter how basic or outlandish. I walked out of the office feeling confident and excited about my new position.

Over the next year and a half in that position, I had the honor and opportunity to work with Navy Seabees, Marine combat engineers, and Japanese Air Self-Defense Force engineers. I am grateful for the foundation that was built during those first two hours with Rich and John. I made mistakes during the training scenarios but I have no doubt that many errors were avoided as a result of our conversation and their investment in me.

I shared this story at my going away celebration and I share it now because the experience left a lasting impact on me and reinforced some valuable lessons: one, I do not know everything. Two, I need to do my own research and put effort in to see if I can figure things out.  Three, if I am willing to admit that I do not know everything and ask questions, people will go above and beyond to help me. This is the approach that I take to learning and life. And this was the perfect lesson to begin my military career and set the foundation of my professional leadership and learning style. Time and time again over the last three years, this same process has played out with other teammates and they have stepped up to help me problem solve and produce the best product. It is amazing that people have been so willing to take time out of their days to invest in me, mentor me, and grow me as a young leader.

My goal is to pay it forward to others in a similar fashion.

Rich and John, thank you for taking time out to invest in me. And thank you for your service. I truly appreciate it.

-David A. Brown-Dawson, 7 August 2017