I recently spoke that the Collegiate 100 Leadership Conference, hosted by 100 Black Men of Metropolitan Houston. I was excited to accept this opportunity as their theme, Black Excellence: Be Intentional About Your Success, connects to the way I approach life. It’s always an honor to be invited to speak at events, especially when I get the chance to speak to others about building their legacies, but as a mother to three Black boys, this opportunity was especially appreciated.
Below you will find my written remarks, which I hope inspire you to think about your own legacy.
Each of our lived experiences have provided us with struggles, as well an triumphs, but we must also recognize that we are here, at this moment in time, for a reason. In addition to respecting yourself , the best way to respect those that have come before you, as well as those that will come after you is to take control of your legacy. If you’ve ever attempted to research your ancestors you likely found that your searches were limited to census records and death notices in newspapers. In fact, most, most of us don’t have the luxury of researching our linage prior to the 1900’s and that’s being generous. While I recognize that technology has advanced, I still challenge you to think about the footprint you are leaving in the world. Every interaction you have is a pen mark on the legacy you are building, including those that occur through social media. With an overabundance of information available to you, have you ever taken the time to stop and think about how intentional are you about the content you like, share, and contribute? How thoughtful are you about the connections you make and how you invest your time? And how are you ensuring that you remain in control in a world where algorithms and engineers have the tools to influence your world view. Unlike any generation before, you have the ability to develop a brand that amplifies the legacy you hope to leave behind. You’re young, so you don’t have to have it all figured out now, but you are wise enough to know how you want others to see you.
As I see it, this session is titled Stop Drinking the Kool-Aid for two main reasons. The first is that you know there is tons of bad information available to us. Stop consuming it and stop being triggered by it. Remember that even when things are true, they may not be the truth, but it is your responsibility to protect your peace and figure out how you want to engage in the world around you. It’s not enough to be busy, we have to ask ourselves what are we busy about? Some work on the front lines, being a voice for the voiceless, while others create change by challenging process and dismantling broken systems from within. Either way, don’t let the enormous amount of distractions make you lose sight of what is important you and the positive change you hope to see.
The title of this session also reference the 1978 Jonestown mass suicide of nearly 918 people who drank a cyanide laced Kool-Aid to partake in Jim Jones revolutionary suicide. I share this remind you to be cautious of circles you keep. I’ve always hated the analogy that birds of a feather flock together, but in some it is relevant to the way information is cultivated for us. If you only engage with people that have one perspective you miss the opportunity to expand your knowledge base. Additionally, controversy with civility is healthy because there is so much to be gained when we have the opportunity to challenge our own views. You either reaffirm what you already believe or you consider and new perspective that you may have not previously considered.
So with all of this said, you may be wondering where should you start?
- Begin with a quick self-assessment. Open your preferred social media platform and look at the first 10 posts available to you. What themes appear, who do you see, why are you seeing this information, and how have you influenced it? Now visit the last 10 posts you’re shared and ask the same questions. Who themes appear, who do you see, and what does this say about you? Once you’ve had some time to reflect, think of three things that are important to you ad figure out how to better align your actions and personal brand with these values. Every small step counts, so whether you start by deleting posts or being intentional about the next thing you share, make the decision to start beining more intentional about building your legacy.
- Also remember to honor the space between no longer and not yet. You’ll never stop learning and you’ll never stop discovering who you are so be thankful for these moments and use them to build your legacy. What will people find when they search for you 100 years from now? Will they find questions like the one I started today’s session with about turn signals or will they find information that clearly identifies what your valued?
- And to that point, as I come to a close, think of your social media, as well as your legacy, as real estate and don’t fill it with junk.