Anthony Frasier, an African-American Millennial, once dreamed of becoming a politician to positively impact the world. But he changed his mind after reading the story of a group of black entrepreneurs in the early 20th century in Tulsa, Okla., known as “Black Wall Street,” including a woman named Mabel Little, who rose from poverty to create a thriving business community.
“The Black Wall Street and Mabel’s story, it inspired me, and it convinced me that politics isn’t the only thing that can make change in the community,” Frasier said. “It’s economic empowerment.”
From there, Frasier embarked on a 10-year career in entrepreneurship; media and technology have led him from the crime-ridden streets of Newark, N.J. to elite circles of Silicon Valley and technology startups. Frasier’s work has been featured in media outlets like Fast Company, BET, CNN Black In America, CNN Money, and USA Today.
The title of Frasier’s new book Don’t Dumb Down Your Greatness: A Young Entrepreneur’s Guide to Thinking & Being Great is just like its contents: straightforward, instructive, cheeky, encompassing. He wrote the book for young entrepreneurs of color, and the book is a fascinating blend of eclectic wisdom. It’s Albert Einstein references alongside Kanye West rap lyrics, Bill Gates’ thoughts meeting the parables of rapper Ice Cube in the 1990s black comedy film Friday. You’ll find Aristotle mixed in with the lessons of Snapchat icon DJ Khaled and the aphorisms of hip hop record executive Monte Lipman.
The book’s a culturally-relevant narrative on how to bring capitalism, entrepreneurship, and innovation into communities of color. Frasier starts by telling why he wrote the book: to encourage other African-Americans to move beyond consumption into ownership and investing.
“We aren’t using our gifts, we are just buying gifts,” Frasier writes. “According to research by Nielsen, African-American buying power was $1 trillion in 2015. Yet, our money is going out of our community at an exponentially faster rate than it is being deposited. It’s time to invest in ourselves through consciousness and currency.”
Don’t Dumb Down Your Greatness gives tangible, street-smart advice on how to distinguish between a “friend” vs. someone you’re “friendly” with in business.
“Ever heard the term ‘business is never personal?’ You’ll experience that many times as an entrepreneur,” he writes. “It’s hard not to take things personal when your livelihood, future, and money is on the line. But you have to practice being stoic. Or like I like to say … be cool.”
Frasier references stoic thinker Marcus Aurelius, an ancient Roman emperor, who he cites as an influential figure on how Frasier has been able to withstand the rough-and-tumble “Wild West” of startups. Frasier said Aurelius’ stoic approach to meditation and processing emotion changed his life.
“I discovered these practices about three years ago,” Frasier said. “Ever since then, my life has changed. I would not be writing these words you are reading right now if I didn’t find a way to love myself and get my mind right in the morning. This truly helped me to focus my energy positively and not concern myself with the progress of others. The thoughts I’m able to create in the morning fuel every decision I’ve made to get to this point. I have made mistakes, but my thoughts turned them into lessons. Because of this, I wake up rich every single day… Some of us spend a lot of time stressing over things and circumstances that we have very little power over. For example, the opinions of others that we have no control over. The only thing you have control over is how much effort you will put into what you want to create. Do your best to deliver the best value in your hustle.”
Hustle is a central theme of Don’t Dumb Down Your Greatness, as is the need to persistently and patiently pursue goals rather than seeking instant gratification.
“No matter how hard we try, we can’t microwave success,” he advises, contrasting a quick-fix cooking solution with a high-quality, labor intensive meal. “Besides, the food that takes longer to cook usually tastes the best. Many people focus on making a good first impression and ignore what it means to make a lasting impression.”
In a discussion about Sheena Allen, a young African-American woman who has created apps with more than two million downloads, he argues that Allen’s lack of financial resources, including Silicon Valley venture capital money, made her more resourceful, and ultimately, more successful.
“Open your mind to the possible resources you do have available to replace the ones you don’t,” he says. “If the door is shut find a window… By doing this, you foster the most underrated skill in business today: Creativity. Creativity lives in that gap between what you want and what you don’t have, forcing you to find ways to make things happen without the resources you need.”
Frasier writes how as a young boy he was overweight and often felt ostracized and hated by his fellow students. He fell into a depression until he fell into his loves of gaming and coding, which brought him new friends and confidence.
“Being cool means you validate yourself,” Frasier advises. “You don’t need anyone to cosign you or whatever you are working on. You know that you are great. Never stress about getting accolades, and recognition that you see so many others receive. If you seek others to validate you, you will become a hater over time. Being cool is freedom. It’s your way of detaching yourself from drama or overreaction.”
Above all else, Don’t Dumb Down Your Greatness is a call to work. And he argues that by working, you then bring about luck.
“Luck is not about laziness, it’s not about sitting on the sidelines and expecting a handout,” Frasier writes. “Luck is a hustler’s secret weapon. It’s the fruit of his labor. Uncross your fingers, and get to work.”
Carrie Sheffield is the founder of Bold. She is passionate about storytelling to empower and connect others. A founding POLITICO reporter, Carrie contributed on political economy at Forbes and wrote editorials for The Washington Times. After earning a master’s in public policy from Harvard University, she managed credit risk at Goldman Sachs and researched for Edward Conard, Bain Capital founding partner and American Enterprise Institute scholar. She earned a B.A. in communications at Brigham Young University and completed a Fulbright fellowship in Berlin.