1. Establish a strong identity and purpose.
Your ethnic and cultural identity is a great asset. Amplify it as a competitive advantage. A strong identity reflects an appreciation of your uniqueness and its value. A strong identity grounds you; a well-defined purpose gives you the self-confidence to know you can choose your own path, rather than follow society. Start by asking yourself, “What does it mean to be Black or African American?”
2. Obtain broad exposure.
Seek out different experiences, perspectives, places, and people that bring about a healthy level of discomfort. Moving beyond your comfort zone will expand your worldview and sense of possibilities, contribute to how you construct your identity and define your purpose, and enable you to develop and grow.
3. Demonstrate excellence.
Being good at what you do is not enough. You must be excellent. Achieving excellence takes combining the gifts and passion you naturally possess with discipline (the time, effort, and hard work you are willing to put forth) and your beliefs (the translation of your thoughts into empowering actions and outcomes).
4. Build diverse and solid relationships.
Historically, African Americans have had to adapt to the codes of the white majority. But in a global marketplace and a United States where minorities are the majority, code switching encompasses a wide array of standards and norms. Reach out and network with the aim of creating a culture where everyone sees the value in learning more about one another.
5. Seek the wisdom of others.
There is always something you can learn from others, whether younger, older, less experienced, or more capable. Learn from others’ mistakes as well as their successes. When you seek the wisdom of others, you develop your own. Learn from your peers. Find a mentor, and be one, too. The best way to learn is to teach.
6. Find strength in numbers.
Surround yourself with people who share your perspective, affirm your values, and support your goals. Cultivate an inner circle whose members are all comfortable with each other, trust each other, and watch out for each other. (The key isn’t necessarily ethnicity, but compatibility.) Get involved in collaborative organizations, which range from Black Greek-lettered fraternities and sororities to the NAACP.
7. Think and act intrapreneurially.
Apply an entrepreneurial mindset within an established organization to effect institutional change. You must maintain a strong sense of self-determination and work within the system to make a big impact.
8. Think and act entrepreneurially.
You must take control of your career; you must dare to be in the driver’s seat of your destiny; and you must be in a position to pursue your economic prosperity. The entrepreneurial mindset of passion, creativity, resourcefulness, courage, and resilience is mandatory for success in the twenty-first century. Work outside the system to build wealth for yourself and the community as a whole.
9. Synergize and reach scale.
To redefine the game you must create mutually beneficial connections between people and between organizations to fulfill their collective purpose — and then amplify their collaborative actions to have the broadest or deepest possible impact in a way that levels the playing field for everyone.
10. Give back generously.
Each and every one of us represents the continuation of a countless number of legacies and we can blaze trails for others to follow. Today, African-American giving is no longer only about survival or even helping each other; it is about empowerment and collective self-determination. To address the many challenges in our community, we must leverage our combined efforts through organizations and businesses to reach as many people as possible.
© 2010 Randal Pinkett & Jeffrey Robinson, authors of Black Faces in White Places: 10 Game-Changing Strategies to Achieve Success and Find Greatness
Randal Pinkett, Ph.D., coauthor of Black Faces in White Places: 10 Game-Changing Strategies to Achieve Success and Find Greatness, was the winner of season four of The Apprentice and the show’s first minority winner. He is the co-founder, chairman, and CEO of BCT Partners, an information technology and management consulting firm. Dr. Pinkett is based in Somerset, New Jersey. For more information please visit www.randalpinkett.com and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter.
Jeffrey Robinson, Ph.D., coauthor of Black Faces in White Places: 10 Game-Changing Strategies to Achieve Success and Find Greatness, is a leading business scholar at Rutgers Business School and lives in Piscataway, New Jersey.