I never hate on anyone who makes a move in order to try to improve his or her station in life. When I’m asked to do commencement speeches each year, I urge the graduates to feel free to move away from their hometowns if another part of the state, country or the world has something better to offer them. I think too many times, people are shackled by the belief that they’re being disloyal or even bourgeois if they leave their roots when, in reality, you can do better and be better if you’re able to spread your wings and become exposed to different people, places and things.
I would never deny the benefits of having been born and raised in Tuskegee, Alabama. I owe most of what I’ve learned about hard work, giving back and the unlimited capabilities of black folks to that town, anchored by the historically black Tuskegee University. But I’ve been able to put what I learned to the test by leaving Tuskegee and living in and visiting several other places throughout my life. There are all kinds of ways for us to stay connected and be supportive of our roots without being physically tied to them.
The people who make up our company have come from all over the country, but mostly from predominantly black cities and towns. They come from all kinds of economic backgrounds, from poor to upper middle class. Some were educated in not-so-great public schools; others attended exclusive private schools. And everyone brings something unique to the table because of where they come from and the various places they’ve been.
It’s not only about having the courage and adventurous spirit it sometimes takes to leave a situation, though – it’s also about having a solid exit plan that allows you to move on with dignity.
Last week, the world watched as LeBron James announced he was “taking his talents to South Beach” to join the Miami Heat. Here’s a guy who was raised in Akron, Ohio, where he was a star basketball player, starting in elementary school. He was later drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers …and anointed “King.” That’s a lot for a kid to handle.
He’s earned millions of dollars and made much more for the city of Cleveland, and now, at the ripe old age of 25, he has the audacity to want to move to – of all places – Miami, Florida.
How anyone could want to deny him that chance is crazy to me. If Miami turns out not to be all that LeBron thought it would be, he will learn a valuable lesson, one that millions of people learn each year when they take a job, attend a college or follow someone they love to a new city. It’s a gamble for any of us, and if it doesn’t work out, we take another chance.
The difference between LeBron and most of us is that when we make a life-changing decision, we don’t announce our intentions on an hour-long special, and thousands of people aren’t cursing us and threatening to kill us if we return. What we do have in common with LeBron is that we are on a quest for happiness, a better life and new and exciting opportunities.
The cooler move for LeBron may have been to quietly and humbly announce to the city of Cleveland that he had chosen to join the Miami Heat and to thank the city for all it’s given him. But that’s hindsight. He’s young and, after all, he is a king.
The city of Cleveland has lost a lot, and my heart goes out to all the people who will feel not just an emotional loss but a financial one too. I don’t agree with Cavaliers’ owner Dan Gilbert’s angry words against LeBron James, but I understand them. Dan Gilbert had probably done everything except move mountains for LeBron. But people are not property. Him guaranteeing that the Cavs will win a championship before the “self-proclaimed King” is as crazy as LeBron, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh promising to win at least seven NBA championships in Miami. All four of them have gotten caught up in the moment and are putting emotions ahead of the business at hand.
When you’re in business, it’s your role to seek talent, invest in it and to find a way for you all to make each other better. The fact that someone you’ve chosen may eventually choose to move on is all part of the game. The world is very small, and there’s a good chance that you’ll find your way back into each other’s lives someday. So, at the end of the day, all we can really hope is that when we part ways, we do it with a certain amount of style and grace. We all want lots of rings and lots of money, but more importantly, we want to be able to go back home if we want to.
Good Luck to LeBron and to Sheryl.