Preparation and Habits Leave an Imprint on Your Life – [Written by: Glenn D. Andrews]
My success in life has not been because I was the smartest, fastest or I was a genius. It was due to preparation and habits. When I was in the sixth grade, I had straight A’s, played baseball and football and had a job working in a dry cleaner. A teacher by the name of Mr. Freeman taught outside of the box but it was my parents who set the tone. Mr. Freeman at the time was in his late thirties, married and Caucasian. I do not know if his path was to teach predominantly African American and Latino students in Southeast San Diego. But, during this time and even today S.E. San Diego, Logan Heights was considered the hood. Mr. Freeman made us study, work hard and had high expectations for his class. I learned how to play chess in his class, and later when I was at Morehouse College and I was reading the Dr. Frances Cress Welsing’s, The Isis Papers, learning the game of chess and good study habits took on a new meaning. I thanked Mr. Freeman for what he taught me and my classmates, but I know now it was the canvas or product my parents gave Mr. Freeman that made a difference.
My parents grew up Jim Crow south and lived through the civil rights movement. As much as they respected and honored Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., my parents have a Black Panther and Malcolm X mentality and this also set a tone. More than anything in this world they value reading and education. So for as long as I can remember, I could read and write and as matter a fact, I read from A-Z the Encyclopedia over a three year period. For those who may not know, the Encyclopedia is a set of books that contained articles, topics and current information of the time on everything. There was a time when reading a Sunday paper was a ritual, just like reading Ebony and Jet. For me, reading made me a better listener and a better judge of character. This essence of reading is not that you become the expert with the opinion, but you realize how logic, truth and bad information intersect.
It is often quoted or mis-quoted that if you want to hide valuable information from African –Americans put it in a book. This may be true on some level but if you want to hinder intellectual and professional growth you control habits. When I went to college I had habits, and those habits carried over into corporate America and now as an entrepreneur. My parents set the tone and the conditions of the habits. These habits were patterns of good behavior, work ethics, and you represent the family name. Then these three breakdown into your decision making every second, minute and hour. There was a time when we had to do this to survive and now police brutality, civilian attacks and what we do to each other is being documented ( the attacks and crime never stopped cell phones and social media record it now). Opportunity comes around once, but disappointment like Satan is working all the time. Let me state this again, disappointment like Satan is working all the time. Never miss the little things and the small details that make you extraordinary. My parents focused on the details and this is what made me invaluable as a friend, teammate and employee. However, as an African –American these same details make you a threat and this where my lessons from my parents, Mr. Freeman, chess and reading coming into play.
I have never code-switched, but I have always been courteous and professional. I have a comprehension of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, Darwin’s theory of evolution; Malcolm X and a bible; I have no patience for disrespect or nonsense. The obstacle you face on your job, career and with some individuals may seem like on the surface an insult to your race and intellect, but on a deeper level it is insult to your humanity and common sense. Our ( my ) first instinct is to prepare for war, but life experiences tells me these battles are a waste of time and again this is where chess comes into play. Like chess, always put yourself in a position to make moves of growth and impact. This is done by getting into the habit of reading and researching. I am book reader by nature, but I did a quick Google search of How to be better….” and fill in the blank and it gave me 2, 550,000,000 results in .32 seconds! The information is all around and often free, but you have to look for it and you cannot quit or let your self be denied. Moreover, do not waste your time in toxic places with toxic people it will just poison you and you will become toxic.
In one career situation I was put to the test morally, professionally and ethically. In both situations I walked away leaving money and a title on the table. I was once a manager in one the largest banks in the country and I managed a$100 million warehouse lending line to the penny. My manager was not liked and many of the regional managers did not like to work with him due to his southern, I would say even “redneck’ way of doing business. I knew he was a closet bigot, but I was young, right of college, climbing the corporate ladder and making big money. When it comes to mortgage banking, because my area of expertise in quality control, efficiency and process implementation I could “clean up” loans and departments. But, this was done through my relationships with my staff, attorneys and investors. Krispy Kreme donuts and being polite can turn a bad situation into minor problem that can is rectified. The senior managers noticed how I got things done and my manager despite his “closet bigotry” took care of me financially. The turning for me on how gangster corporate America can be was when I was on vacation in the Virgin Islands, and I got a call that my manager had a heart attack. Only three of us in our branch had sign off authority on loans $250,000.00 or greater, so I had to cut my vacation short. Once, I got back to the office and was meeting regional and corporate managers to come with an operations plan, they were immediately trying to figure out ways to get my manager out fair or unfair. I was wined and dined and realized they wanted information from me on the day to day operations. I knew how my manager bent the rules, but here I am at dinner with “white business men” planning the removal of my manager who was a “white business man”. I said nothing and at that point began thinking about chess again. I managed the branches until my manager got back, and the other managers failed to remove him. But, I knew that eventually the tactics my manager used would eventually be a stain on my resume if he really broke some laws so I resigned and walked away. About two years later the federal government showed up to my home with briefcases of loans, navy blue suits, badges and guns and they wanted to discuss my time at Wells Fargo. They asked me questions knowing the answer and I answered truthfully because some of the early documents had my name on it. Wells Fargo is paying fines to this day. Had I stayed I would have put at risk my reputation, my finances and possibly going to jail. Those chess games and habits of reading always seem to rise to the occasion.
My mentality has not changed much since I was 12 years old; I am just older and wiser. We are all works of art some with a little more or less detail than others and that is alright. My parents were challenged by Jim Crow and it did not stop them from their goals, aspirations and their expectations of me. You may be faced by challenges but know a generation before you faced Satan every day and a generation before them faced hell. The habit of reading and the tactics of chess taught me how to plan and execute each and every decision in my life. Yes, there will be challenges and threats and in the business world you conduct what is called an S.W.O.T analysis to define what they are. You have to do this personally and S.W.O.T stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Your life has details, characteristics and gifts that no one else has, it is your lane and no one can take it away from you. This is the gift from the higher power, don’t waste it.
About the Author: Glenn D. Andrews is a graduate of Morehouse College who holds an M.B.A. He credits Morehouse for instilling the knowledge, character, honor, confidence, and leadership that has enabled him to define his existence. He operates two successful blogs, www.gamchronicles.com and www.fitnessppliance.com. Glenn has also authored several books. One of his most recent publications is Crumpled Paper: The Black Boys Journal. The book is a view of history and racism from a young boy’s perspective to that of a grown man’s.