10 Things Young Black Men Should Know

I often speak at various high schools and colleges across the nation on the subjects of success and overcoming obstacles. While I have a passion for all youth and young adults determined to succeed, I have a deep connection with young men of color as a result of my own struggles and trials growing up. Often during my presentations, I share things that I wish someone would have shared with me in my early years as I obliviously navigated my way through life. 

For young men in high school, college, or for those who have already begun treading their way through life, here are a few things I’ve learned that will hopefully help you along your way:

10. Set Goals For Yourself – Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “The world makes way for those who know where they are going.” Yet, too many times young men find themselves lost, following the crowd trying to keep up with the status quo. The only vague resemblance of a goal is their aspiration to be successful, often defined by monetary achievements. Success is not about becoming a millionaire. Success is about achieving clear and concise goals that maximize your true potential. It is about performing in the very essence of your capabilities and enjoying a life that is fulfilling. Set goals for yourself – personally and professionally. Recognize the natural talents you possess. Work hard at developing those talents into skills and utilize those skills to accomplish your predetermined goals.

9. Develop An Appetite For Learning – It has often been said, “What I don’t know won’t hurt me.” The harsh reality is that what you don’t know hurts you every day. Therefore, you must learn to develop an appetite for knowledge. As knowledge is acquired, it must be applied. You must go to the library, to the bookstores, to the seminars, to the classes, to the training. Knowledge is not solely confined to the classroom, but is also in your everyday experiences. As you seek knowledge, you will begin to discover ideas, inspiration, and opportunities. You will find the answer to the questions you have been asking, as well as the answers to the questions you didn’t know to ask.

8. Handle Your Business – Successful women are turned off by a man with a life full of drama and unfinished business. However, a man who has himself together and knows where he is going is an attractive prize. Spend less time chasing women and more time focused on handling your business and you will begin to notice women focusing on and pursuing you.

7. Ask For Help – A man’s pride can be the cause of his refusal to ask for help. We will drive around in circles lost for hours before eventually swallowing our pride and asking someone for directions. When it comes to navigating through life, you do not have time to let foolish pride stand in the way of you obtaining your goals. Understand that there is no such thing as a self-made man. Anyone who has achieved any significant level of success did so as a result of someone or many people preparing them for and/or providing them with an opportunity. Remember, a closed mouth doesn’t get feed.

6. Never Give Up – The history books are full of individuals who have defied the odds and overcome numerous obstacles to succeed in life. While they all had many different personalities, one characteristic they all possessed was their ability to persevere despite their unfavorable situations and circumstances. You must understand that nothing in life worth having will come easy. It will be your ability to persist through difficult times that will separate you from those who only dream of success.

5. Choose Your Friends Wisely – Be careful who you associate yourself with. People will judge you by the company you keep. Your friends will also play a large role in the things you achieve in life. Good friends with goals of their own will encourage you and stretch you further than you ever believed your abilities would take you. Bad friends with no goals of their own and no concrete plans for their life will take great pride in talking you out of yours. Meet new people, explore new things, think for yourself, and surround yourself with positive people who want the most out of life.

4. Own At Least One Suit – Every man should own at least one suit – whether it is black or blue. There are occasions where you can try pulling off a shirt and tie, but there is still nothing as powerful, timeless, and well received as a well-dressed man in a suit for events such as job interviews, weddings, funerals and dinners, etc. T-shirts are fine when you are at play, but nothing beats a suit when it’s time to handle business.

3. Give Respect To Get Respect – Look a person in the eye as you firmly shake their hand. Learn to use words like ‘thank you’. Open doors and let the lady go through first, pull out the chair for the woman/women you’re with, refer to older men and women as ‘sir’ and ‘ma’am’, walk tall, and speak in a pleasant tone. It’s okay to apologize and admit the times when you are wrong. Don’t call a woman out of her name, even if she is not acting like a true lady. And most of all, respect you. If you want to be respected, you must first be respectable. If your pants have belt loops, you should wear a belt that keeps your pants above your waist. It may not feel cool to you, but it’s respectable worldwide.

2. Listen – Learn to listen. You can learn a lot by listening and people can learn a lot about you. Many people talk as an effort to convince others of their intellect. Ironically, it is the ones who say very little that often times possess true wisdom. The art of listening also involves knowing when and when not to speak. Understand that some things are better left unsaid. Perhaps novelist Carlos Ruiz Zafón said it best with his quote, “Fools talk, cowards are silent, wise men listen.”

1. Learn Your History – So many young men find themselves lost simply because they are not fully aware of who they are. While Dr. Martin Luther King, Marcus Garvey, and Malcolm X played a significant role in the advancement of the African American race, there are so many others who made similar contributions and sacrifices, but did not receive much of the glory. You must take time to study your lineage. Study the stories and history of the individuals whose blood flows through your veins. You must understand that you come from the strongest, smartest, most creative, and most passionate people. Your ancestors have endured much more than you could ever imagine so you can have more opportunities then you ever conceived. Learn your history and it will inspire you to create your own.

There are so many more things I want to share with you young brothers, but if you at least start with these 10, you will be well on your way to becoming the next generation of strong, powerful men, fathers, and leaders. And remember to also strive to RYSE to the top because the bottom is simply too crowded.

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