Written the morning of 3/16/2015:
This morning, I start a new position as Chief Executive Officer of Mission Bit, a San Francisco based nonprofit that teaches coding in public schools. It's not often you wake up to start the opportunity of a lifetime, but in a way I feel like I've been here before: like the morning I set out to spend a semester in Paris during college, the morning I returned to my high school (Thurgood Marshall) to work as an academic advisor, the morning I got on a bicycle and set off on a solo 600 mile bike trip to San Diego, and the morning I launched my campaign for school board in San Francisco.
This morning marks a beginning of a new journey. Similar to my experiences in the past, I have no idea the challenges that I'm going to face or the growth that I'm going to experience. As I start this day, I carry feelings of doubt and hope. There is real purpose behind the services we're providing to youth and real challenges to staying a float as a new nonprofit. Past mornings have led to failures and successes. I've learned that as long as I have the gift of time, there will be opportunities for new mornings to try again.
"Rejection is better than regret."
African American males born into poverty and raised in broken homes don't go to colleges like Williams College, run for office at the age of 28, or become CEO's of organizations at the age of 29. I understand that my experience is somewhat out of the norm. I'm often asked to share my story with young people. I love those opportunities, but I'm also well aware of the limitations of those interactions. I can't help but think about our youth living in similar circumstances to the one I grew up in as I start this job today. I plan to use this role to continue to connect with them to share a message of opportunity, hope, and progress.
Today, my message to young people isn't, "If I did it, you can do it too." That's a bit too simple for me. What I want more for our youth is to be captured and fully submersed in something that they are completely passionate about. I want them to be so passionate that they are willing to experience rejection after rejection after rejection to make their dreams a reality.
My job as Chief Executive Officer is to produce results for my organization, which ultimately means we're improving outcomes for our students and the communities we serve. I also have a responsibility to my staff, board and funders to be responsive to their needs and to ensure we're all moving in the right direction. My platform as a young black man in a high level position is to actively participate in the work of expanding options for youth of color and girls and to encourage them to tackle issues they care about, be creative, build things, and embrace discomfort. I want them to understand that failure is a key component on the way to success. I want them to fail, get rejected, ask for help, and try again.
This morning, I have an opportunity to be a living testament of that lesson. It's time to go to work. I have important work to do.