When my good friend Harriette Cole invited me to be a part of her DREAMLEAPERS talk series at Ginny's Supper Club last night, I didn't realize what an inspirational evening it would prove to be. Harriette began the night by reciting one of her favorite poems:
Come to the edge. We can't. We're afraid. Come to the edge. We can't. We will fall! Come to the edge. And they came. And he pushed them. And they flew. - Christopher Logue
What followed was an engaging discussion about how to dedicate yourself to your dreams and how the past shapes the way you approach your journey. Throughout the night Harriette challenged me with questions about my past and present that made me say "wow" multiple times during the hour long program. It made me think about what my dreams have been and what my dreams are now.
If you've read my memoir, Yes Chef, you know that one of my first dreams was to be a soccer player. Failing at this dream made me realize that your first dream may not be your last dream or the one that defines you. From playing soccer, I learned discipline, team work, and work ethic; no matter how hard you work, someone else is working harder. It was a very humbling experience. To be a soccer player was more of a hope then a dream.
My true dream was to open a restaurant in the United States. I wrote it down and hung it up on the wall so I could see it every day. Every action I did was targeted, and I became minutely focused on achieving this dream. A mentor of mine told me it was impossible, that he had never seen any black man open a restaurant, and it was painful to hear him say that. However, he also let slide the hint that maybe in America, I could achieve my dream. Maybe in New York City. Harriette and I talked about when you are faced with an obstacle that makes your dream seemingly unattainable, and you don't take that leap. Those that do, those that thrive on friction and the ability to articulate what they want and work for it, those are the ones that succeed. I don't see being successful as how much money you have, rather it's how you complete the small tasks you've given yourself. Look at your progress after three months and critically examine where you started, where you are now, and where you are going.
Today my dream is for Harlem. You often hear people say that Harlem is a food desert, but Harlem wasn't always this way! It flourished in the 40's and 50's, and we now are restoring what should've been here thriving all along. Harriette asked me how we can inspire those young black males with "clouds over their eyes." I believe that restaurants, with their unique ability to source completely locally, have room for all types of people from all backgrounds. "Restaurant" means "to restore the community," and even in the roughest areas, the restaurants are often on the cleanest part of the street. Now I just need to continue to work to overcome the stigma in the black community against working in the service industry. As a black man, there are very few opportunities to do something wrong. You don't get as many chances. This reality has always pressured me to be number one and to work hard. There's been a lot of progress of getting things "in" Harlem, now we need to focus on making things "of" Harlem.
The evening with Harriette was a great success with an engaged audience that made me feel so fortunate to have reached some of my dreams and eager to continue to work and move forward. If you are interested in learning more about achieving your owns entrepreneurial goals, I encourage you to sign up for Harriette's DREAMLEAPERS Retreat on April 2nd.