Category Archives: books

Take the Steak. Be fearless. Insight from Social Triggers.

newbrain

I was listening to an interview this morning with Adam Braun, the author of “The Promise of a Pencil.”

Braun is a philanthropist who left Bain Capital to start Pencils of Promise, a not for profit organization that builds schools and increases access to education for children in the developing world.

In the course of four years, Pencils of Promise has broken ground on over 200 schools and provided educational opportunities for more than 20,000 children.

A friend of mine put me up on this podcast, Social Triggers, and this interview is one of the episodes.

If you’re not up on Social Triggers, let me school you.

Social Triggers is a blog founded by Derek Halpern, an online and web traffic expert.

It’s also the title of his podcast series which provides advice on building and growing your brand online.

Halpern publishes a blog with over 100,000 subscribers and produces one of the most popular podcasts on iTunes.

So the interview with Adam Braun was one of the many he offers to his listeners to help them be more successful.

Anywho, as I’m listening to the podcast, I’m struck by one story that Braun shares from his book.

Apparently, when he was being courted by Bain Capital, they took he (or is it “him”?), and the other Bain prospects, to an expensive dinner, where they were treated to Kobe steaks.

Having backpacked through the third world two months prior, subsisting on communal meals and charity, having a 2 pound steak all to himself was heaven.

He was seated next to a female partner who barely touched her steak, and she asked the waiter to take it away when she was done.

Rather than wait for the plate and steak to be bussed away (and after two months of “waste not want not”), he surreptitiously spirited the steak off of her plate onto his.

Needless to say he was not quite that surreptitious.

The partner noticed – as did the rest of the table.

And he became known as the guy who would “take your steak.”

At first glance, this incident seems embarrassing.

I mean, who takes a partially eaten steak off another’s plate?

A savage clearly.

But there is another way to see this.

And my rather long retelling is really meant to emphasize your one takeaway for today: Be fearless.

If you want something, go after it.

Boldly.

Take the steak off the plate.

Adam Braun wasn’t concerned about what people thought of him when he took the steak.

The partner was done with it and was going to send it back to the kitchen, where it was invariably going to be thrown away.

He wanted the steak.

Two months backpacking through developing nations, eating crickets and grass will do that to ya.

And so he took it.

No harm. No foul.

I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

Well it’s true.

You’ll never get anywhere sitting on your ass waiting for opportunity to find you.

You’ve got to create opportunities for yourself.

My friend D says that you should never couch things in terms of fear.

It’s a negative emotion.

But being fearless means that you are devoid of that negative emotion which holds many of us back.

Being fearless means that you make opportunities for yourself.

Being fearless means that you dive into the abyss.

Being fearless means that you start where conventional wisdom stops.

You take the steak.

If you’re about self-improvement, or simply want to learn more about Adam Braun’s experiences I’d definitely recommend his book “The Promise of a Pencil.”

And the next time you find yourself confronted with a situation and you’re unsure of what to do, think of Adam and take the steak.

Note: For my vegetarian readership, please replace “steak” with “eggplant.”

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Chapter 1: The Walkie Talkie Incident

walkie talkies

As you all know, I’m writing a book chronicling my journey as a certified digerati.

It’s been a minute since I’ve updated you, so I felt it appropriate to devote today’s post to my non-blog related rambling.

I shared my intro in my last exercise, and I’ve got the first chapter in the works.

I’ve been messing around with various opening chapters for The Life Digital, and have settled on this:

Chapter 1: The Walkie Talkie Incident.

Here goes.

My earliest recollection of being gadget obsessed was 1976, when I was in the first grade.  Sean Leary brought in a brand new walkie talkie for show-and-tell.

I had never seen such a beautiful piece of technology.  It was sleek, black and shiny.  There were buttons, dials and a long silver antenna, which expanded and collapsed into itself.  It was a thing to behold.

It crackled to life when he turned it on.  It’s shiny newness would have been enough for me, but then I heard it’s Siren song and it took me over the edge.  The clean crisp sound of disembodied voices (interference) floated from its speaker.  He turned a dial, adjusted the channel, and lowered the volume to an obedient hum.

Right then and there I had to have it.  The exact details are still a bit sketchy, but before the end of the day, the walkie talkie was mine.  I had liberated my precious from Sean’s sweaty palmed brutish tyranny.  The power of the crackling voice box was mine!

In the fleeting moments that passed, I imagined myself in all kinds of adventures with my prize.

“Mrs. Williams is pulling out of her driveway. Over.”

“Roger that. What’s your 20? Over.”

“Three clicks to the North. Over and out.”

Did I even know what a “click” was?

No matter. Me and my disembodied voice, inseparable forever.  It never occurred to the six-year-old me that you need two walkie talkies for the adventures I imagined in my future to occur.  Or that the device’s owner was not as daft as I.

I don’t know how or when, but by the end of the day, Sean Leary discovered his beautiful walkie talkie missing.

And alerted the authorities a/k/a our jailer – Sister Brian.  Oh wait, did I mention I went to a Catholic school?

Nigerians looooovvveee Jesus.

Anywho, Sister Brian enlisted us all to help Sean find his walkie talkie.  We were all asked to look under our desks.  Back in the day, your desk was a chair, tabletop, and cubby (underneath your seat) in one.  The undercarriage was used to store your texts and notebooks.

One by one, we got out of our seats and checked our respective cubbies for the walkie talkie.

Nada.

Then, Sister Brian asked us to check our backpacks and jackets in the closets, in the event that one of us had inadvertently placed the walkie talkie with our belongings.

Again, one by one, we filed to the back of the class and furtively searched for the walkie talkie.

Nothing.

Ha! I was going to get away with this!

Fantasies of sending clandestine messages to unknown compadres flashed through my mind.

“Blue Falcon, what’s your twenty? Over.”

“Gold Leader, I’m twenty clicks to the south bearing down on your position. Over.”

“Roger that Blue Falcon. Over and out.”

Again with the “clicks.”

My daydreaming was interrupted by a voice.

“Stephen? Can you help me?”

“Yes, Sister Brian.”

Together Sister Brian and I walk out of the classroom.

Mind you, I was Sister Brian’s assistant and routinely helped her with the odd task now and again.  It never occurred to six-year-old Stephen that the jig was up and my malfeasance had been discovered.

When we arrived in the hall a few feet away from the classroom door, Sister Brian proceeded to pat me down NYC stop-n-frisk style.

I was shocked!

With the aplomb of a beat cop discovering contraband on a suspect, Sister Brian calmly retrieved my Sean’s walkie talkie from inside of my pants.

The bulge in my pants must have been painfully obvious.  To everyone but me, of course.

Damn Toughskins!

Thankfully, the shame of my crime was mitigated by Sister Brian’s tact.

We returned to the room, with Sister Brian crediting me for the walkie talkie’s discovery, and The Walkie Talkie Incident ended without incident.

Until I got home, of course.  Where Uneze tanned my hide.

It was then, nursing my bruised ass – and ego – that my lifelong digital journey began.

Inauspiciously, I’ll admit.

But a start’s a start.

I had the bug and things could only get better.

Thoughts?

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Stephen Chukumba. How I became a Digital Kung Fu Master.

CAUTION_kung_fu_master_by_whopper1989Remember how I told you I was writing a book?

The Life Digital. Atari to iPad: Growing Up In the Digital Age.

I even gave you a brief intro.

Well, I had an epiphany the other day: I’m full of shit.

My book’s title is full of shit, actually.

It’s so boring.

It is.

I bore myself just thinking about it.

And I bore myself anew every time I read it.

The Life Digital.

Where do I get off?

Atari to iPad.

Just go for the most obvious crap why dontcha?

Growing Up In A Digital Age.

Just hitting puberty Stephen?

It’s descriptive, sure.

I mean, if you read that title, you can figure out what’s between the covers.

But would you really read it?

I wouldn’t.

Well maybe I would, but I’m biased.

The point is, every time I sat down to write, I looked at the title and it gave me writer’s ED.

I just couldn’t get it up.

No amount of mental Viagra could help me.

I simply couldn’t muster the desire to write.

I was flaccid and needed a boost.

And then it came to me.

Stephen, you’re not just some dude who lived in a digital age.

You’re a walking embodiment of it.

The Don Dada, in fact!

Maybe you don’t have Bill Gates money – yet.

But you know that shit is coming.

So you better re-title your as-yet-unwritten memoirs better than The Life Digital.

Rename the book?

Eureka!

I’ll rename the book!

I’ll make that shit sexy!

Give it a title I’d wanna read.

And write.

So this weekend, I did some soul searching.

Who am I?

Tall. Check.

Handsome. Check.

Intelligent. Check.

Well endowed. Check.

But that’s besides the point.

Who am I?

Digital.

Ok. Now we’re getting somewhere.

Mobile.

That’s right, I eat cell phones for breakfast.

Tech.

Damn skippy I’m tech!

And right then, I found my voice – and my new title.

Walk with me, now, and tell me you think I’ve struck gold:

Stephen Chukumba. How I became a Digital Kung Fu Master.

Has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?

I know, thanks.

I mean, who wouldn’t want to read about my life?

Especially when it’s chock full of the interesting tidbits that made me – me.

Oh! The places I’ve been.

The things I’ve seen!

The dude calls himself a kung fu master!

Yes. I’m referring to myself in the third person.

For all you would-be entrepreneurs, DKFM will be a rags-to-riches story from someone still in the ‘rags’ stage.

DKFM?

It’s the acronym for Digital Kung Fu Master.

The short title.

Please don’t let the absence of riches fool you.

I am a master of this digital shit.

I’ve just been wearing the garb and trappings of a plebe as cover.

Think Shaolin monk begging among the townspeople.

Oh, he looks shabby.

But he’ll bust that ass if shit gets too hot.

Ya dig?

That’s me.

Shaolin.

I don’t wear my digital kung fu on my sleeve.

I let it seep out in my little blog posts here and there.

A few know I’m a digital black belt, but they don’t let on – do they bugs?

Anywho, that’s my new title, and I should be able to crank out some chapters.

Now that I got my mojo back!

Hiiiyyya! (said making a karate chop in the air)

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Dark Side of Grace. Undercover Urban Thriller

Trees like this feature prominently in Dark Side of Grace. Spooky right?

My girl Melissa Cooper-Caraballo just let me read her manuscript for Dark Side of Grace, a novel she just penned.

Dark Side is a fictional tale which follows the heroine, Asha Davidson, an African American social worker, who runs a center putting ex-cons back to work.

Set in Newark and South Carolina, Asha is called upon by her ancestors, to break the curse that has caused all the female members of her family to appear to go crazy towards their later years.

Her great great grandmother Grace, a slave on a plantation several generations ago, killed the master of the plantation, Massa Henry, to protect her daughter from his lechery.

In doing so, she unleashed a curse which took the lives of Asha’s great grandmother Jessie Mae and her great aunt Emma, as well as her great uncle, Little (Reverend) Jimmy.

The curse was now threatening to befall her grandmother, Nancy (who sees he departed sister, Emma, and the evil Massa Henry torments her daily) as well as her mother, Francis, and sisters, Nzinga and Imani.

Asha, fearing for her family’s safety (and sanity), undertakes the unenviable task of traveling to South Carolina to attempt to free the family of the curse and bring closure.

The book moves quickly, as we follow Asha’s trials and travails throughout the story.

We meet her best friend Lourdes, whose family is practiced in the spiritual arts, and her man Rahman, with whom she has a taboo relationship (since he’s an ex-con from her job, the New Day Program, and someone her family-especially her mother-wouldn’t approve of).

If you’re a fan of thriller novels and stories with supernatural elements to them, then Dark Side is for you.

With disembodied spirits, voodoo and black magic, Dark Side has enough otherworldly stuff to satisfy even the most discerning horror-genre junkie.

But the story is written with such pace that you’re inextricably drawn in and quickly find yourself consumed with it.

And the characters have such realism that you relate to them like they’re everyday people you know.

I devoured the manuscript in two days, and we’re going to be working on her strategy to self-publish and release the book.

She’s currently working on her second novel, which follows Rahman, one of the principle characters, in Dark Side.

I’ve gotten her permission to give my seven readers a taste of the novel, so please do enjoy:

Asha’s head was pounding and her stomach was spinning. She could taste the bitter contents of her stomach rushing to escape her body. She ran up the steps as fast as she could, swung the bathroom door open and dashed to the toilet. The warm rancid vomit practically flew out of her mouth in waves. She could scarcely catch her breath before the next wave pushed her mouth open.

She was gasping for air when she felt her locks being pulled back away from her face and a cold hand passing gently over her forehead. She was thankful that Rahman hadn’t left. She imagined that this small sympathetic gesture meant that their relationship hadn’t been too badly damaged by their first fight. She took a few deep breaths. Asha felt her locks fall back to their normal position around her face.

She turned around to face Rahman and found the bathroom empty. Her heart raced. She pulled back the shower curtain and found it empty as well. She was alone. She ran down stairs and discovered Rahman sitting on the same spot on the couch where she had left him moments before, it looked as if he hadn’t moved at all. He was nursing a cigarette between his lips and was pointing the remote control at the television.

“Damn girl, I thought puking was supposed to make you feel better. You look worse now than you did when you ran upstairs.” Rahman didn’t want to continue fighting.

“You weren’t upstairs in the bathroom with me?” Asha was still panting when she asked the question.

“No, why?” Rahman was confused and disturbed by the wild look on Asha’s face.

“Rahman, please be serious! When I was throwing up, you pulled my hair back for me and stroked my forehead. Today is not the day for practical jokes!” She realized that she was screaming. She looked around the room for evidence of anything out of the ordinary but didn’t find anything.

At first Rahman thought that Asha might be more intoxicated than he realized. He calmly explained to her that she probably held her own hair back and didn’t remember it. He even suggested that she had passed out for a minute or two and dreamed that someone had touched her hair.

Asha’s chest rose and fell at a rapid rate. Rahman could tell that she was really freaked out. He began to get the feeling that she had not told him something. His instincts were good. He had a keen ability to read people and situations. He knew that it was his instincts that kept him alive on the streets and in prison. Now, his gut told him that there was more to the look on Asha’s face.

That was just a taste.

I’ve recommended that Melissa release the first chapter to her book online, so you can get even more Dark Side prior to it’s release.

And I’m definitely going to put you on when she does drop it. Of that you can be sure.

And since we’re talking books, you need to pick up Aliya King’s second novel, Diamond Life, and get your read on!

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