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Is College the Answer for Black People? | Reflections on College & Race

No, I do not believe that college is a magic bullet for black people. Is education the answer? Yes, it always is. But education does not equal school and fewer things are more self-stultifying than the belief that it does.

I recently had a conversation with an Uber driver, an older black man, who went on and on for the first 10 minutes of our ride complaining about the behavior of young black men. It was the usual “they need to pull up their pants and stop talking ghetto” type stuff that makes my eyes glaze over.

So I asked him what he thought the solution was and he said “college.” “If our people are ever going to get it together,’ he said, “it starts with education.” So I said “Truer words have never been spoken, but what does education have to do with the notion that college is the solution for our people?” A conversation ensued where I challenged one of the most common talking points that gets lazily presented as gospel truth in discussions about what’s best for black people: “school = education.”

I not only regard this as a logically flawed idea, but I regard it as a dangerous idea that stifles the entrepreneurial spirit that I observe in nearly every young black person I meet. Black people are among the most creative people on the planet and I do not believe that traditional schooling is the best place to harness that creativity. I don’t believe that college is the answer any more than I believe that compulsory schooling is the answer.

To hear some of my initial thoughts on this topic, listen to this below clip from the latest episode of Office Hours with Isaac M. Morehouse and myself.

That’s How You Know

Power is like love: once you experience the real thing, you can’t fully enjoy it without trying to share it with others.

When you’ve tasted true love, you want others to taste true love as well. The same is true not only of power, but also of wealth, friendship, opportunity, and everything else that has any value.

And that’s exactly how you know you’ve found something that’s worth holding on to. If it doesn’t inspire you to be more generous, it’s probably not the real thing.

Mission of the Possible: Infecting the World With the Entrepreneurial Virus

As the Education Director of Praxis, my mission is to help our participants develop a sense of agency and autonomy in their professional lives. I’m not just involved in helping people acquire jobs. I’m involved in helping them develop a mindset that’s conducive to creating value in any context. At Praxis we believe that the best opportunities are created, not discovered. And as software continues to eat the world, as Marc Andreessen observed, this will only become more and more true.

The kind of thinking it will take to thrive in this world is what I refer to as “entrepreneurial thinking.” And it’s no longer a sustainable strategy for people to treat entrepreneurial thinking as if it’s the unique province of start-up founders. It is now becoming a necessary condition for creating and experiencing freedom at any level.

The Foundation for Economic Education made an announcement today that I’m being designated as the Director of Entrepreneurial Education. In plain terms, that means I will be drawing from my experience as an entrepreneur and an educator to help FEE popularize the entrepreneurial way of thinking.

The ongoing daily work that I do with Praxis is critical to the contributions I will be making at FEE. Praxis is not a hobby for me. It’s my very life. It’s my calling. It’s my daily way of living out a philosophy I’ve always espoused: “criticize by creating.” When I give talks about the power of entrepreneurship, the value of free markets, and the role of personal creativity in the making of a freer society, I am able to speak with such unapologetic conviction precisely because I know that I am eating, drinking, and sleeping this stuff every single day as I grind it out in the marketplace solving very hard problems and serving a wide range of customers with diverse needs.

The things I talk about are not a game for me. It’s literally my business. I’m not here to sell the dream. I’m here to be an example of what it means to get out there on the front lines and fight for the dream at an individual level. That is a work I will continue doing and that is an attitude that I fully intend to represent at FEE.

Praxis has been a business partner with FEE for the past five years and I’ve worked closely with FEE at it’s seminars and workshops for just as long. So I see this collaboration as the logical outworking and natural extension of a work that’s already been in progress for quite some time. I will continue to grow my business as a lifelong “Praxian” (that’s a fun term one of our participants made up to give Praxis participants/alumns a team name) and I will combine my talents, my experiences, and my voice with the resources and team at FEE to help bring the entrepreneurial mindset and the philosophy of freedom to a wider audience.

My agenda hasn’t changed: I’m still on a mission to convince as many people as I can that they have the permission and the power to be the predominant creative force in their own lives. And my specific focus of helping people adopt this mindset in their professional lives through Praxis is more intense than it’s ever been. And herein lies the true power of the work I do with FEE:

I am a speaker second, entrepreneur first. I am a talker second, doer first. I don’t merely preach about the free market, I practice the free market. I’m not here to ask anyone to take a chance on something that I am not willing to stake my life and reputation on every single day. I’m not merely interested in arguing for the theoretical beauty of profits. I’m committed to keeping my feet firmly grounded in the unsafe space of earning my paycheck in the for-profit realm. I have skin in the game. I’m playing for fun AND profit. And my goal is to continue infecting the freedom movement with the virus of that very mindset.

Regret, Remorse, & Resistance

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Could you have taken a different path? Of course, but that would still be true had you taken a different path.

No matter what you choose to do, it’s possible to get stuck in the trap of believing you would have been much happier, healthier, and richer if you had taken the other path.

We usually work very hard to avoid regret before making big decisions. “I could do this really practical thing over here, but I’ll regret it forever if I don’t try that really artistic thing over there.”

The real work, however, begins after you’ve ran all those calculations. The real work begins when you’ve made it halfway down the path that wears your name and you hear a voice that says “Would I have been better off had I just stayed in my comfort zone?”

When (not if) you have those moments, here’s a distinction you may find useful: remorse versus resistance.

Remorse is when you know you’ve done something that contradicts your principles and you feel genuine moral conviction about it. It’s the sound of your conscience calling you back home.

Resistance is when you find yourself lost in unfalsifiable speculation about how much happier you could be in some theoretical world where challenges, uncertainties, and risks don’t exist. It’s the sound of your lizard brain calling you back to your comfort zone.

Remorse sounds like “I know that I don’t like this. Therefore, I need to change something about my life.”

Resistance sounds like “I don’t know how this is going to turn out. Therefore, I was probably better off doing that other thing.”

Remorse appeals to your conscience. It says “I’m not in agreement with myself about how I’m living.”

Resistance appeals to your convenience. It says “it’s probably better to not rock the boat.”

Remorse is about how much better your life will be if you look in the mirror, face the truth, and make things right.

Resistance is about how much better your life will be if you sit down, shut up, and stay in your place.

Your sense of remorse is there to keep you grounded. The voice of resistance is there to hold you back.

When it comes to your dreams, stay grounded but don’t hold back.

There’s always another path. Happiness, however, doesn’t come from hypothetical scenarios about other paths. It comes from honoring your principles, taking one step at a time, and realizing that the best path is the one you create by following your convictions past the point of your resistance.

At least that’s the way I see it.

How to Rise Above the Fear of Getting Stuck

The people who get to have the most exciting jobs are the ones who are willing to do the boring things no one else wants to do.

The professional athlete, musician, writer, actor, freelancer, entrepreneur, you name the title and the principle holds. If it’s the kind of job that lots of people would love to have, it’s also the kind of job that’s going to require some choices that lots of people are scared to make.

In today’s episode of Praxis Daily, a series of daily videos where one of my Praxis teammates riffs on a concept for ten minutes or less, I talk about the fear of getting stuck in an unpleasant job and how that actually leads to behaviors that usually result in more patterns of getting stuck.

I’ve often said that the best way to get where you want to be is by embracing and respecting the possibilities of the present moment. Check out this video where I expand on this theme and make a case for bringing your best self to every moment.

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