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Higher Learning. A publication from Medium for the interested man.


In LEVEL. More on Medium.

There’s a difference between being practical and killing dreams

Photo: Getty Images

My father gave me two pieces of advice when I was very young. First, never dig a pile of dirt from the middle. (Shovel at the bottom, so the dirt falls into the blade.) And second, always live in a ranch-style home. (So you can still get around all of it when you’re old).

I was not raised by my father. My parents divorced when I was an infant, leaving my mother to raise four sons by herself. That’s why his advice didn’t involve anything time-consuming or with multiple steps, like how to shave or barbecue ribs. What I gleaned…


Yes, they’re basically indentured servitude, but that doesn’t mean we should shame students who pursue them

Illustration: Michael Kennedy for LEVEL

The summer before my senior year in college, I landed an internship in New York City at a company where I’d always wanted to work. I still remember that experience like it was yesterday: subway rides to the office, chopping it up with people whose LinkedIn accounts I’d stalked as a junior, soaking up all the game I could. I was living the dream — aside from the fact that my only compensation was fist bumps and the occasional extra scone from a Starbucks run.

These memories came to mind recently last week after a perennial Twitter topic trended once…

Photo: Josefina Santos

The LEVEL Man at 40

Daniel Baker developed his gifts. Desus Nice gave them to the world. Now it’s time to expand.

When your moniker is Desus Nice, you can’t afford to be mediocre. You’ve got to be quicker, wittier, more aware of and conversant with the surrounding world. You’ve got to be able to distill information, to disseminate your born knowledge to those not as learned or perceptive. You have to speak the language of your audience while raising their bar. A high-wattage smile doesn’t hurt either.

These are the attributes Daniel “Desus Nice” Baker had to accrue in order to make a living being himself. …

The Only Black Guy in the Office

You may not be in person, but you’ve still gotta come correct

Illustration by Michael Kennedy for LEVEL

For the first time in a long time, I’m happy with my current job. I have support from my higher-ups, a good deal of responsibility, and room for improvement, word to Drake. Still, at least once every year, I browse the job opportunities on LinkedIn to see what else is out there. I’ve done so ever since a friend who works in HR suggested making an effort to interview elsewhere annually — especially while I’m employed. For whatever reason, she said, many companies find poaching a prospect preferable to hiring someone who is unemployed. (It’s human nature, I guess, to…


Turning 40 doesn’t mean you retire — it means you’ve got nothing left to prove

Photos: Lester Cohen/John Shearer/Scott Gries/Getty Images

Clifford “T.I.” Harris always had a crown hovering above his head, even before he rocked it with a tilt. Like his extensive vocabulary, the Atlanta rapper/thespian/entrepreneur is continuously growing, expanding, and coming up with new ways in which to make his mark on the world. Today he turns 40, and he’s set to build a grown-man blueprint for his younger peers to follow — one he’s been crafting since 2001, when he dropped his first studio album, I’m Serious.

As music editor at The Source at the time, I received an advance copy (a relic from a bygone era) that…

When I betrayed my fiancée, I destroyed my relationship. But the shadow stretches over the rest of my life as well.

Photo: Johnnyhetfield/Getty

There’s nowhere to start but at the beginning, so let’s do that. Last year, my fiancée discovered that I had been unfaithful to her. She called the wedding off and ended our relationship for good. I made no attempts to reconcile. Four months later, on the June Sunday we’d planned to get married, she shared her story in a post on our onetime wedding website, describing in excruciating detail the pain I caused her, showing the graphic text messages I sent to another woman, and generally reading me for filth. The post, as well as her tweet about it, went…

The icon paved the way for generations, even if he wasn’t as hands-on as some of us wished

André Leon Talley. Photo: Cindy Ord/Getty Images

“It’s tough being a big Black man in the world,” André Leon Talley told me in 2017. It was the day after a documentary about the fashion icon, The Gospel According to André, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), and he was referencing the racism he’d experienced in the fashion industry. “But you can get through it,” he continued, tilting his head high, as if to say he’d been to the Promised Land.

That memory comes rushing back to me now as I speak to Talley about today’s release of The Chiffon Trenches: A Memoir, his second (and…

The Only Black Guy in the Office

When steam tables and free cocktails just don’t cut it

Illustration: Richard A. Chance

When I took my current job, I wasn’t planning on much camaraderie within the workspace. I’ve kind of become accustomed to expect otherwise — a handful of Brown faces in the office to share head nods with is a bonus more valuable than the company’s gym membership reimbursement. It’d be great to have an outlet for encouragement, feedback, and insight from people climbing the corporate ladder who actually look like me.

Between my first job working in the tech space and my current one, I’ve made connections with a few Black colleagues who have kept in touch and introduced me…

The Only Black Guy in the Office

You can’t put a price on self-worth, but you can definitely value yourself when talking compensation

Illustration: Richard A. Chance

I never expected to land my current job. But it wasn’t for lack of relevant experience or work ethic. Thing is, I was coming off a series of fruitless interviews with other companies, and after nearly two months, it seemed like this recruitment process would fizzle out just like the others. I’d already started looking elsewhere when I got word that I landed the position. My first reaction was shock, then elation, then both were wiped away by the anxiety that descended when I realized I’d need to have the salary conversation — the most dreaded of special cloth talks.

When sports is the only model of success presented to young Black boys, it sets up a framework of failure

Stars of the Netflix show “Last Chance U” Marcel Andry and Ronald Ollie. Photo: Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

Imagine if we expected people to choose their careers in sixth grade. If we regularly required 12-year-olds to make decisions that would dictate the rest of their lives. The thought makes little sense, yet for athletes, that’s essentially what happens. In order to become competitive at the college level — let alone the professional level — they have to start building those skills in childhood. Intrinsic talent and biology come into play, but few things build skills better than time and repetition.

Now imagine yourself in a room full of 12-year-old Black boys and ask them what they want to…


Higher Learning. A publication from Medium for the interested man.

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