Oseye Boyd

You can’t just let life happen. Well, not if you want to be successful. I define success as achieving the goals you determine for yourself. 

Success doesn’t have to be monetary. A goal could be as simple as cooking dinner by 6 p.m. or getting an hour in at the gym. Or, it could be as big as owning a business or becoming the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. If the goal is accomplished, that’s success. Whether it’s big or small, you plan, strategize and work to make that goal happen. 

Goals are personal and so is success. Too often we base our success off of someone else’s ideas or think of it only as monetary. When you think about it, money probably isn’t a factor in some of your proudest moments. 

You must be intentional to be successful. 

I think this is true for everyone, but especially true for African Americans or anyone else who has the deck stacked against him or her. We have so many obstacles in our path that you have to be intentional almost from the womb to achieve success. Day after day we’re bombarded with macro and micro aggressions, conscious and unconscious bias and so on and so on.

However, that doesn’t mean we can’t achieve success. We continuously prove we can whether it’s athletics, business, civic leadership or philanthropy. African Americans are leaders in every facet of American life. This is where personal responsibility comes into play. You can’t wait on “the man” to make things happen for you. You have to make it happen for yourself  “in spite of” your circumstances. 

Discussions about the importance of personal responsibility and self-reliance vs. systemic oppression often lead to serious debate between my dad and me. He often, mistakenly, thinks when I discuss systemic racism and white supremacy, I’m removing personal responsibility from the equation. The two aren’t mutually exclusive. 

I think my dad’s point of view is one held by many Black people. He thinks if we constantly talk about the obstacles in place, then we’re giving people an excuse to not try.

I don’t see it that way. My view is that the only way we can remove the obstacles of racism and white supremacy, which shouldn’t be there in the first place, is to acknowledge them and work to remove them (because the obstacles shouldn’t be there in the first place). In no way do I think we should wait around for someone to save us or take care of us. Now, giving us what we’re owed isn’t saving or taking care of us. It’s compensation, not a handout. We pay taxes. We are a part of the system even though just about every institution in the system works against us. 

We must instill in our children and each other a refusal to lose. We can’t accept mediocrity. Too much depends on our success. Yes, we have so many needs. It’s like the house is on fire and we don’t know who to save first. But circumstances can’t stop us from achieving our goals — as individuals and a collective. If our ancestors could create a Black Wall Street and thriving neighborhoods, what’s stopping us from doing so? We say we have more resources and opportunities. If we believe this to be true, why are we squandering the resources and opportunities, and why are we OK with it? 

Although it’s called personal responsibility, it affects more than one person. Parents who teach this value to their children create a culture in that family that will last for generations. You don’t need money to create a legacy of achievement.

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