New York – Agenda Emerge – (11/22 – 11/26)

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First and foremost you’re going to have to pardon my horrible photography skills. I did the best I could with my Iphone 4 (I know, prehistoric right?) dangling over the edge of the GE building and Empire State Building. All I could think about was the crater my phone was going to leave on the sidewalk 1,000 feet below us. Or the crater it would leave on somebody’s head. Or what my body would look like if I fell. Thoughts like: would I die before I hit the ground or on impact crossed my mind. I started getting dizzy. A bit woozy. And then I said, “OK, let’s keep it moving”. Hence, I didn’t take many pictures from the top of these great landmarks. I didn’t really take many outdoor pictures at all. It was too brick for all that.. TOO COLD. FREEZING, in fact.

Moving on, by now I’m guessing that you’ve figured out where I was a little over a week ago. If you didn’t get it after reading the title that’s kind of sketchy. If you still didn’t get it after I wrote about my phone dangling over the edge of the Empire State Building then SHAME ON YOU. Anyway, I traveled to New York to attend Agenda Emerge, a fantastic speaker series hosted by Group Y that brings moguls from  the streetwear/retail industry together to bestow their knowledge on whoever is lucky enough to purchase tickets. The event I attended had a success-studded lineup that included: Bobby Hundreds, Johnny Cupcakes, Jeff Staple, and Marc Ecko (in order of presentation). It was amazing. So amazing I blogged about it right when I got back to my cousins house- you can read my response to it HERE.

However, Agenda was on Thursday and I stayed in New York until Sunday.  Which meant I had plenty of time to reminisce. Plenty of time to wander the streets I used to loiter on. And plenty of time to sight see, becoming a tourist in the city I once called home . Correction- becoming a tourist in the city I STILL call home.

At first it felt like I was a stranger in my own town. It had been 6 years since the last time I saw the park I used to frequent on 85th and 30th. 8 years since I moved to Florida. I was a stranger.

I took a nostalgic stroll around Queens. Walked by my old house. Passed the bodega I used to frequent. Bought Tims at the Modell’s I sometimes copped my Js. Took my old route to 82nd street and Roosevelt, passing the elementary/middle school I attended (St. Joan of Arc). I also walked by City Jeans (another place I used to harass for Js back in the day on 82nd street and 37th ave). And then hopped on the 7 train I used almost every weekday for two years to get to my high school (School of the Future).

As I walked the streets of Manhattan I was hit with an influx of beautiful memories. Memories of taking the subway to school every day. Memories of great times I had with my friends. Of the laughs we had. The crushes I had. The dumb sh!t I did. It was a great feeling to be back in the city that raised me.

The walls I used to tag up with my paint marker looked completely different. But the feeling was the same. I was home.

The day after Agenda Emerge my girlfriend got to town and we immediately set out to Manhattan so I could give her a tour of New York City. Turns out I’m not that great of a tour guide. My sense of direction stinks. And after not navigating the trains for 8 years I was more than rusty. It was funny at times as I pretended to know where I was going, got lost, and luckily ran into something I could point out. But these “somethings” we ran into were great “somethings”, like the New York Public Library. I have been in that library numerous times in my life and was never as happy to see it as I was that day when we ran into it.

It’s crazy how when you live in New York you can easily take everything for granted. I’ve been to Rockefeller Center countless times in my life. My mother brought my siblings and I to see the Christmas tree there almost every year. Yet up until last week I knew close to nothing about all the art out in the open for people to see. Or the history behind it. We learned these things by taking a guided tour around Rockefeller Center that concluded with a trip to the Top of the Rock, an observatory deck at the top of the GE building that is absolutely breathtaking. The picture up above was taken as I was half crapping bricks / half acting as a professional photographer.

We visited St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Ate at a burger joint around the area. And then hit Moma (blog pending- the art needs a blog post of it’s own).

The following morning we visited the 9/11 Memorial to pay our respects to the lives lost that fateful day. We briefly walked by Wall Street afterwards and then headed back to Queens to spend some time with my family. We got to see my little cousin’s basketball game, ate lunch as a family, and watched a movie. When the sun went down we decided it was time to see the main event of our weekend, the Empire State Building. The wind chill felt as if it could pierce through skin. And my girlfriend and I felt like the weather was catching up to us-  the coughs, sneezing, and mucus running down our noses evidence of our bodies attempt to keep us healthy. But we worked our way through the cold and eventually got to the top of the Empire State Building where, due to the freezing cold weather, we spent nearly 45 minutes attempting to see New York from every side of the building.

The weekend in New York was a great getaway. A learning experience that furthered my resolve to keep building my brand. It validated my goals and made me realize that starting my own business is the only route that would make me truly happy with my professional career. Having my girlfriend there to share the experience with me was also unforgettable. We had a great time taking guided tours and sightseeing (something I never thought I’d do in New York). And as always we nerded out at a museum.

Anyway, till next time…Be Cool. Stay Fresh. Live REAL.

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http://www.GULLYSTEEZ.com

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Got Purpose?

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When I first moved to Tampa I was upset. Maybe even depressed.

I wanted to be back home.

I wanted to go to my old school.

See my old friends.

I wanted to go to 85th and play handball till the sun went down.

But life had a different plan for me.

A plan that required me to be in Tampa to realize what I wanted to do with my life.

Fresh out of New York I took an entrepreneurship class my first semester of junior year at Wharton high school.

That entrepreneurship class changed my life by opening my eyes and making me think about the possibilities of building my own business.

It required me to write out a business plan and it was that plan that ended up being my first draft for what I’m doing now.

It was a plan for a retail store that would sell the dopest sneakers and clothes.

And I’m trying to execute that plan with Gully Steez, my blog network and aspiring retail outlet for All Things Dope.

I truly believe that I was placed in this city for a reason and I’m not leaving or claiming I’m solely from NY when we succeed.

It’s NY – FL. Queens – Tampa. Always.

This is because I feel like Tampa gave me a sense of purpose that staying in New York may have never provided.

Moving here was truly life changing.

If I had stayed in New York my life’s trajectory would have been very different.

I had aspirations to go to law school or climb up the corporate ladder. But I never felt passionate about those aspirations.

I only had them because they were the “SMART” goals to have. The goals that would most likely lead me to success.

The entrepreneurship class changed all that though. It was like it validated something I had known deep inside all along.

I don’t want to work for somebody else for the next 30-40 years of my life.

And my mission, my purpose, my main goal is to build a company that lives forever.

I don’t know how I’m going to do it. And I’ve made countless mistakes in the past three years since I registered my company.

But my resolve has never been stronger.

My drive has never been stronger.

And my goals only keep growing.

I found my purpose and I’m shaping my destiny.

I implore you to do the same.

And remember…Be cool, Stay fresh, Live REAL.

Progress Takes Sacrifices

It’s unwanted.

We avoid it.

Yet, the reality is that it is a necessity in order to progress.

Just in case you’re wondering what the hell I’m talking about and completely disregarded the non catchy title; I’m referring to sacrifice.

Not the “Im about to kill my son to give him up to the Lord” type sacrifice either.

Rather, I’m referring to the little sacrifices you should be making to progress in your personal life.

Like a person’s pledge to cut pizza out of their diet in an attempt to eat healthy.

Or a pledge to stop going out on weekends in an attempt to save money for a vacation.

It can be any type of sacrifice that is made for your personal growth.

At first these sacrifices may seem unnecessary. And you may try to make excuses as to why you don’t need to change anything. Or give up anything. But once you take that leap and reach your goal the feeling is unexplainable.

In order to succeed in life I believe it takes hard work, dedication, and a good deal of sacrifice.

And even though I am by no means successful yet I am no stranger to this truth.

From a young age I’ve been a sneakerhead, buying my first pair of Jordans on my own at the age of thirteen. After that pivotal moment my young adult life revolved around saving every penny to go spend $180 on a pair of sneakers, just for the perk of having them two weeks early.

I never thought that I was paying a ridiculously high price for a pair of shoes that cost a couple cents to make. I was enamored with the styles, the colors, the dopeness. I was on a mission to be THE MAN. And I was. I amassed a collection of sneakers so vast I built a wall from the floor to the ceiling with my sneaker boxes. Every dollar I made tutoring went to sneakers. I even made sacrifices for the shoes. A little less food ordered at McDonalds . Not going out to play pool a certain night with my cousins. Whatever it took to make that money before release date.

By the time I was 20 I had probably circulated through more than 100 pairs. And was still just as addicted to collecting precious sneakers. I still kind of am. Something had happened in those couple of years though. My love for the sneaker culture had led me to a want to make clothes to rock with them. And just like that the idea of Gully Steez was born. I saved some money and got my first batch of tshirts. After dealing with the screenprinting company and taking a tour of their vicinity I came to the conclusion that I could do the same thing they were doing. I could buy a printer and print my own tshirts. However, with a low paying job the idea of saving up 2,000 seemed impossible. And I was desperate to get started.

One morning I got up and was going through my daily routine of choosing what sneakers to wear when it hit me. My screenprinter and all the supplies I needed were in my closet. If I sold all my sneakers I could buy the printer and enough supplies to get me started. But it would mean getting rid of my entire collection. Letting go of some of the rarest sneakers around…for a dream. It was a sacrifice I wasn’t sure I could make. And it took me a week to pull the trigger.

After the first pair sold on eBay I went on a selling spree and eventually got rid of all my sneakers. With the couple thousand I made I had my part of the investment ready and bought the screenprinter with my partners.

When it got to my house I built it with my mother and looked over it after we were done. I was thinking about what I had given up for it. I didn’t even know how to use the printer. What if I never got the hang of it? It wasn’t like I could sell it and buy all my sneakers back. I was in this for the long haul.

After watching tutorial after tutorial and trouble shooting day after day we finally got the hang of how to print a tshirt. When the first tshirt was printed it was probably the proudest moment I’ve ever had. It was something small. But it meant the world to me. Everything I had given up had culminated to the creation of the printed tshirt that lay before me and it symbolized what the future held. It meant more prints. A business to call my own. It meant I was closer to living out my dream.

And it all started with a decision to sacrifice something I thought I couldn’t live without.

It’s time for you to make your own sacrifice. And progress.

Wynwood, Miami (4/13/2013)

Since she knows me so well my girlfriend took me to Wynwood, Miami this past weekend so I could gape at the GULLY graffiti they got in the area.

And I must admit the art scene in Wynwood is dope.

Every 2nd Saturday they got like 50 food trucks parked in a field to serve the hundreds of people who come in droves to bask in all things art related. Vendors sell random stuff across the street from the food trucks. The walking strip is full of art exhibits with work by artists of many different styles. And while you walk to each exhibit you can’t help but be enamored by the street art all around you.

The artistry found around almost every corner, on every wall, makes the label of vandalism seem unfair as it is clear that it breathes life into the area. And adds appeal to the actual exhibits.

That’s enough writing about it…enjoy scrolling:

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I took way more pictures and I know how much you guys love scrolling so I’ll be uploading the rest of my Wynwood, Miami pictures on http://www.TheDailySteez.com later on tonight or tomorrow if I get to procrastinating (which I have a black belt in).

Little Kenny

Sometimes I put my pen to pad and a short story comes out…sometimes the beginning of a novel that I never finish comes out.

Today…a poem came out…I call it “Little Kenny” for lack of a better title:

Little Kenny found a pistol in his daddy’s closet.

He was only three years old but old enough to hold the handle.

Pick the pistol up, stare into the barrel.

The sorrow is he pulled.

Red on his apparel now he laying in a pool of his own blood as the shot rang ’round the room.

On the floor is where his nanny found him.

On the phone, 911, she dialing.

Mother crying, dad distraught cuz he’s at fault.

A year later, talks about divorce, of fucking course.

In the middle of debacle there’s still trouble with their teen.

Who lost his little brother and mourned by smoking weed.

Got a PhD in heroin, became a petty fiend.

Robbing dealers with a kitchen knife, becoming just a bum.

A slave to heavy drugs.

They found him in a hotel room, syringe still in his arm.

His heart wasn’t beating.

But the pain? It lived on.

This a story ’bout some carelessness and what it can do.

Heed the warnings in this poem or it can happen to you.

THE END.

A little demented but like I said…I let my pen write for me. What comes out, comes out.

So it goes.

CHANGES…they happen. Adapt to them.

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Changes, they’re all around us. In our personal lives. And in our day to day lives.

Changes can come small, such as encountering a detour sign on your way to work and having to take a different route.

Or they can be a bit more substantial.

Like your loved one is moving away and you’ll have less contact than before.

Whatever the change may be, you adapt to it. You move on. And if you don’t move on, time moves on. So you, my friend, might as well.

The worst thing a person can do is refuse inevitable change. Or lose their composure in the midst of it.

If you encountered that detour sign and refused to follow it where would you go?

Nowhere.

The best way to look at change is to view it as an opportunity to redefine yourself.

To grow.

Lost your job? You’ll find a better job you’re more passionate about. You can get a job in a different market. You can start your own business. Or go back to school. You have plenty of options. And most importantly, you can learn from your experiences.

You should welcome change and be optimistic about what the future holds.

By resisting change, the stress you create for yourself is unhealthy. And unnecessary.

I urge you to look at the changes you encounter and take them in stride. Look at how you can use them to your advantage. And you will come out of every major change a stronger person than you were before.

Stay Gully my friends.

http://www.GullySteez.com

Dare The Impossible, Live The Vision

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I’m 23 years old. Nearing the end of my tenure in college. And lately I’ve been getting the infamous “what are you gunna do after?” question.

When people ask me this question I guess they expect to hear something about advancing my career in the area of my study. Or about a certain company I want to work for to start my climb up the corporate ladder. But I can’t tell them that.

Some people pursue a job in the field of their study. Some people don’t. Some people are crazy enough to try and pave their own path as entrepreneurs.

I think most graduates want to get a good job and love it. We’re taught to want to climb up a corporate ladder. But for some crazy reason I want to build my own ladder. I’m not looking for a regular career. I’m not playing it safe. For now I’m pursuing my dreams. And all I want to do is follow my vision.

 

I tell people that truth. In regards to what I’m going to do with my International Studies degree; I don’t know. Maybe nothing. I tell them I want to build my own business. And that I’ll do so by printing t-shirts. And of course most people think I’m absurd. Some have actually told me that what I want to do is impossible. But I don’t let that phase me. Because when you have a vision for something you should never let anybody stray you from your goal.

The thing that drives me the most when contemplating people’s doubtful reactions is my elementary/middle school’s slogan: Dare The Impossible, Live The Vision.

That slogan has brought me strength every time I encounter someone’s doubt. It has guided me ever since I decided I wanted to be an entrepreneur. It guides me now when I’m warned of entering a saturated streetwear market. And told that the learning curve of screenprinting might not be worth operating a print shop.

To me living by that slogan means setting the highest standards for yourself in whatever it is you are most passionate about.

It’s realizing that no goal is unreachable if you get up and do something to achieve what you want.

So I implore anybody reading this, no matter how high the odds are stacked against you…DARE THE IMPOSSIBLE AND LIVE THAT VISION.

You are an unstoppable force. Don’t doubt yourself.