Pay Me What I’m Worth: a Black Man’s Journey to $100,000+
A reflection of one Black man’s journey from dropping out of Grad School, being broke, terrified and finally taking personal accountability.
Paychecks and Balanced Efforts
At some point, any Job will do!
I’d like to start by saying, “Personal Accountability is not a bad word.”
Growing up watching fictional characters, it was easier for me to attribute success with effort.
The Bad guys created obstacles and the Good guys learned something along the way and defeated the obstacles.
Over time, like many other Black boys transitioning to Manhood, I forgot about these stories. Better yet, I never knew how to implement them in the first place.
Knowledge is useless if it’s not transformed.
I didn’t have the drive or the focus.
In truth, this lack of purpose stems from not having a father nor an active father figure in my life. While I didn’t notice it at first; my life became aimless. Having no goal or objective is not the default setting for being a man.
My future Marine Corps drill instructor — despite my successes — analyzed me and would later say, “ Gonzalez, you got no heart.”
He was spot on. He meant that I wasn’t giving it my all. I’ve been subconsciously holding back. As if life had a do-over button.
The words echo in me still today.
I played video games, fostered loose friendships that added no value and spent more than enough time chasing the opposite sex. It wasn’t until I stopped mastering wasting my life that I went on the journey to becoming a Black Millionaire.
Worth the Effort
With no mastery of my own time, I became a master of nothing. As if an act of self sabotage, my mind and body betrayed me on every test. I was 28 on a mountain of over $80,000 in graduate student loans with no job. On the contrary, I had a near certain understanding that the world was merely against Black men.
Somewhere along the way, I convinced myself that I was not worth the effort.
Like a lot of people, I simply began to believe in empty unsolvable narratives. I didn’t snap out of it until a Black woman from a Historically Black college told me in conversation that “if Brad and I walked into the same room; Brad would always be more valuable.”
Wait, who the F* is Brad?
Her statement was a cosmic joke.
Here stood in front of me, a person that attended an HBCU convinced that just because I walked into the room that I would automatically be deemed the lesser. All because I was Black.
I’m not sure how we started repeating these narratives until we shaped walls to resemble our mental prison. Every failure for us, is now a recurring echo of the fables we turned into dogma. While others are allow to err, change and improve; these mistakes were now the proof of concept that in some way, shape, or form — Black men are somehow unworthy.
First undo your own mental bondage.
There are good and bad people in the world. You won’t ever know most of them on a personal level. They don’t wake up thinking of you and they don’t go to sleep thinking of you. The first person that should think of you is YOU!
Building Confidence for the Next Opportunity on the Journey
In summer of 2012, I went on interview after interview. Doors closing in front of me. It was rough but I had to revamp my resume and brought the 3 page monstrosity to a lean 1 page document. As funds ran low, I took the next opportunity.
Most don’t understand that to be a Black man is to be accountable for the actions of all black men.
My salary was $23k with no annual bonus. The job paid once a month and after taxes, it was on average $1,195 per month. It was a struggle to pull through. Ultimately, the experience taught me how to better manage money and to be grateful for any opportunity that came with it.
My then-girlfriend, all but stated that I couldn’t afford her and that she had a lot of suitors. I would say that I was disappointed, but in truth, I was tired of having to spend money that I didn’t have — all trying to keep someone that really didn’t want me in favor of someone else.
I leaned into the challenges, and poured back my efforts into my own personal growth.
Lean into the challenges. Cut closer toward the hammer and be refined by the moment.
As you age, most of the characters in the story fall off the chapter until you are left with the core cast and even some new characters.
From that first job, six months later I was able to pivot into a new role making $32k per year. It was a lot more than last time. So I was beyond thankful.
In fall 2013, I was offered a job to move to DC. Get this, they wanted to pay me $64,000. I didn’t bother to negotiate. The salary was double what I was making. Unlike other people, I didn’t need more. I was determined to make it work.
A far cry from South Florida and colder than I thought the end of December would be. In my innocence, I thought spring started in January. That was a mythical lie. I didn’t have money for the first month. To top that, I slept on the floor because I only had enough for the first month payment and the deposit.
Struggling with the cold, I was tapped out until my first paycheck. God rewarded my faith and by February, I was on track to understanding Financial Literacy and all its benefits.
By the end of year 5 (Fall 2017), I was making $100,000. What I can say is that you see who believed in you when you had nothing and you remember that.
You see who didn’t have faith in you or didn’t care for you in the way you needed most; and to be honest, it feels you with sadness. In the end, our community needs one resource — courage. The ability to move beyond fear and to have boundless faith in each other.
Five years after confronting myself, I hit the coveted salary mark of $100,000. All of which would not have been possible if I didn’t take the first job. Sometimes any job would do to give you a leg up. The rest is how you move and adjust to the challenges.
There will be plenty ahead. If you still don’t think Black Wealth is achievable, check out this article in the link.
No two people are born alike. Even twins leave the womb, one at a time. And each will go on to view the world from a different perspective. This is why siblings can go on to have different outcomes.
In the modern day, through the sacrifice of many, we all get to rise to the value of our priorities. My journey thought me that every man needs to work. Beyond that, we need to develop our soft skills to address the challenges of the world. And, we need to plan.
Success can be a finish line if you make it. To be Black in this world will challenge you. However, you will need to run this relay race and exchange the baton. We need to earn our wealth.
I’ll leave you with this.
From a page of Plato’s Allegory of a Cave: “I’ve been outside. To those inside who refuse to see the light, just admit that you don’t want to change. Or maybe you actually like the darkness. You might just be content with the shadows on the wall, the entertainment.”
Not everyone wants to change. For those who do, there are solutions. In the end, a high-value man isn’t defined by the salary he makes. He is defined by the journey he undertook to make him a man of principle, character, understanding, perseverance and grit.
Originally published at https://theneighborhoodfinanceguy.com on August 11, 2021.