by Dr Boyce Watkins
I’ve often heard people tell me that I am overly ambitious in my quest to convince black people to consider starting their own businesses. These people, whom I refer to as “negro naysayers” are the ones who seem to find a problem for every solution. While it’s easy to convince them that every black person can go to church, play a sport, learn how to dance, or get a job, it’s harder to convince them that every black person has the ability to own a business and even start one.
The reason every black person must learn the tools for starting (or at least owning) a business is because you might have to do it one day in order to survive. If you have no job, and your kids need to eat, you’re going to have to do whatever is necessary in order to provide for them. This might include the “impossible” task of learning how to start a business. Jobs haven’t always been available for our people, we’ve always been able to make a way.
At any rate, I heard a story recently that might help us to remember at least one more important reason that we should at least own a business at some point in our lives. The 100,000 hours of your life that you spend on the corporate plantation means little to most of us other than the fact that the corporation is giving you just enough money to avoid being homeless. As a result of giving so much time to perfect strangers just to have the money to survive, we often miss out on some of the most important events in our lives: Conversations with our kids, time with our spouse, time for ourselves, a chance to travel the world, the list goes on and on.
A friend of mine called me and said that she’d finally figured out why she wishes she’d learned to start a business. Her mother had been diagnosed with late stage cancer and given only a few months to live. After hearing this devastating news, my friend did what any normal person would do: Spend as much time with her mother before she passes on.
Unfortunately, my friend had a job that required her to work nearly every single day of the year, with few vacation days. She was being punished like a child for being late, and although the company shared superficial sympathy for the fact that her mother is dying, they refused to give her much additional time off in order to spend time with her dying mother.
So, her mother was on her way to heaven, and this woman could only see her mom a few hours each week because she had to go to work. The worst part is that the job didn’t even pay her enough to stay caught up on her mortgage. Yes, she was dealing with foreclosure while also dealing with a dying mom.
This is a damn shame. Of course she was furious. This is enough to make any of us go crazy.
I don’t want to think about the day that the doctor gives my parents bad news, but I know that day is probably coming. Parents don’t last forever, and death is a natural part of life. But when that day comes, I am going to do all I can to spend as much time as possible by my parents’ side until one of us takes our last breathe.
I can do this because I don’t have a boss, and you shouldn’t have one either. All I can do is provide some tools, encourage you and push you to do your best. But it’s up to you to decide if you want to shift the trajectory of your life and make decisions for your family that will create options rather than traps.
As for my friend, she asked me to tell others about her story and encourage them to make critical decisions before it’s too late. The fact is that your mother loves you, and these corporations do not. Never leave yourself without options.
Dr Boyce Watkins is a Finance PhD who has taught at The University of Kentucky, Indiana University, Syracuse University and The Ohio State University. He is also the founder of The Black Wealth Bootcamp. To learn more, please visit BlackFinancialLiteracy.com