MUCK*RAKE
"I have been over into the future, and it works." - Lincoln Steffens (1921)

Follow LincolnSteffens on Twitter

About Face. About Bevel.

I remember about a year or so ago talking to Tristan Walker about a new venture that he was starting. He described his deep passion for developing a company and brands that would create solutions for grooming challenges that communities of color face. I was excited to hear about the interest mainly because of the passion that I have for entrepreneurship as well as grooming. Fast forward to today and I am inspired by what this gentleman has created. When I first saw the launch activity around Walker & Company’s first product, Bevel, my immediate reaction was quite simply, WOW! As a fan of design, the aesthetic of the brand from the logo to the website and the accompanying grooming and style magazine, BevelCode.com was tremendously well executed. 

I immediately took to the site to pre-order the Bevel shaving system. I have been shaving my head since 1995, so I am extremely familiar with the complex challenges that as men of color potentially face with the ritual of shaving.  

When the product arrived on my doorstep less than a week ago I knew that this would be a brand that would quickly become a staple in my grooming practice. Once I took the time to ritualize my first Bevel shave there was actually a great deal of positive emotion that I experienced. The most prevalent was that of pride. Not the type of pride that comes before a fall, but the type of pride that a soldier has fighting for his nation. 

The military command “about face” came to mind as I took the first glide of the well crafted stainless steel blade across my skin. I literally thought, “this is going to be a 180 degree pivot in the way that men consider shaving, as well as entrepreneurs consider brand building.”  I wasn’t surprised that my skin did not break out into a hive of razor bumps.  

I expected for Bevel to live up to its promise and it did.  As a gentleman that has of late rocked a beard of varying lengths, the fresh shave was an about face to my personal aesthetic.  “I didn’t even recognize you,” suggested a friend on Instagram.   Many of us, as civilians are familiar with the “about face” command and would probably also expect the next command to be “forward march.” 

After having spent a part of my Friday morning talking to Mr. Walker live, my “command” to him is #forwardmarch. Keep going Bevel and team. The product that you have developed from the pre shave oil, to the brush, aftershave and razor is exceptional. It is going to reimagine shaving, but also reintroduce the well groomed gentlemen to a new generation. The fear and angst of the process is going to be solved by the bold approach of the Bevel brand. A new code of style and grooming is going to be ushered in by the work in establishing a high quality shaving system. Thank you for creating Bevel. A new code has been established. The response to the brand from the public is genuine because of the innovate approach that the team is taking. Keep moving forward. 

Signed,

A Bevel Man




 



As I looked at my Facebook page today and noticed my profile photo looking at my cover photo, I was reminded of one of my favorite quotes.  In April of 1919, the father of muckraking journalism and liberal, Lincoln Steffens, wrote in a letter the quote, “I have seen the future and it works.”  In this letter he is after having visited the Soviet Union and coming to conclusion and opinion that a Socialist system would be good for the majority of citizens and should be adopted by other countries.   I have my own thoughts and views about the pros and cons (mostly pros) about socialism, but what I really am interested in is the quote of this visionary write, of which I share a similar name.  For background, for those who truly did not know this (and there are many), my birth name is actually spelled Stephens.  After having attended the first journalism school in the world, the University of Missouri – Columbia and learning about Lincoln Steffens and his interested in uncovering political, social, economic corruption and challenges, I decided to use out similar name and pay homage to his legacy by changing my last name as a social media moniker.  Though much of his work focused more on politics, and mine now on workforce development in the advertising and media industry, I share the same belief, though in a different context.  I have seen the future and it works.  
 
Every year that the Marcus Graham Project, brings a new class of recruits into our summer boot camp, I am increasingly excited (and concerned) about our future.   I am excited because there is so much amazing talent (cultivated and uncultivated) in this country and around the globe.  There is the thirst to learn.  There is passion for finding purpose and there is also the pursuit of it.  This summer we have been blessed to have 14 individuals participate in our summer boot camp and I am more than impressed by the talent, perspective, cohesiveness, and cultural intellect of this group.  Someone asked me the other day, “How do you all find this talent?” I responded that they found us on twitter.  Accident, happenstance or divine destination, I am incredibly glad that they have found us.  They are showing me that this quote from this pseudo namesake is true. I am spending every day looking into the face of the future and Oh my, I see it working.  I see an industry of black and brown faces, learning from one another, as well as sharing their cultural difference with and industry who has been as white as milk since its inception.  (I know that reference might give some of you pause, but as a journalist, writer and truth seeker, we have to get honest, even if it makes us uncomfortable). My excitement is incredibly high, but my concern is that we have to do more to make this evolution into our future stick.  We have to dig deeply and determine what can we do to advance talent development, workforce development and culture forward.  Are we spending more money on award shows (i.e. Cannes and the One Show) celebrating, when we could be investing resources into a failed education in the U.S. and a youth culture that is yearning to be led and to lead.  How much do WE spend on private planes, parties, award shows, car service, and the spoils of our perceived luxury vs. the luxury that we cannot afford to lose – investing in our future. Schools are failing us.  Middle schools.  High schools.  Colleges.  Advertising portfolio schools. They are failing us.  The innovative programs that are advancing our next generation in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math are making impact.  But we need MORE.  MORE. MORE. MORE.   That is the concern.  We just are not doing enough.  And if we are honest with ourselves about what and were we allocate dollars and time, then we can see it more clearly.  And if our honesty translated into action instead of lip service, than we can do more.   When we started the Marcus Graham Project, we were focused on “diversity in advertising.”  I would like to decree that we abolish the notion of the old rhetoric of the word “diversity”.  Our future, if it going to work, is naturally diverse.  Look at the changing cultural landscape of our country.   It is diverse.  When we say diversity, at least in our industry, it becomes, how do you say this, one of those “things.”  The 80-pound polka dotted elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about.  Let’s advance the conversation and have a pseudo funeral for the phrase “diversity in advertising” and transfer it to the notion of a future at work.  R.I.P Diversity.  Happy Born Day Future. 

As I looked at my Facebook page today and noticed my profile photo looking at my cover photo, I was reminded of one of my favorite quotes.  In April of 1919, the father of muckraking journalism and liberal, Lincoln Steffens, wrote in a letter the quote, “I have seen the future and it works.”  In this letter he is after having visited the Soviet Union and coming to conclusion and opinion that a Socialist system would be good for the majority of citizens and should be adopted by other countries.   I have my own thoughts and views about the pros and cons (mostly pros) about socialism, but what I really am interested in is the quote of this visionary write, of which I share a similar name.  For background, for those who truly did not know this (and there are many), my birth name is actually spelled Stephens.  After having attended the first journalism school in the world, the University of Missouri – Columbia and learning about Lincoln Steffens and his interested in uncovering political, social, economic corruption and challenges, I decided to use out similar name and pay homage to his legacy by changing my last name as a social media moniker.  Though much of his work focused more on politics, and mine now on workforce development in the advertising and media industry, I share the same belief, though in a different context.  I have seen the future and it works. 

 

Every year that the Marcus Graham Project, brings a new class of recruits into our summer boot camp, I am increasingly excited (and concerned) about our future.   I am excited because there is so much amazing talent (cultivated and uncultivated) in this country and around the globe.  There is the thirst to learn.  There is passion for finding purpose and there is also the pursuit of it.  This summer we have been blessed to have 14 individuals participate in our summer boot camp and I am more than impressed by the talent, perspective, cohesiveness, and cultural intellect of this group.  Someone asked me the other day, “How do you all find this talent?” I responded that they found us on twitter.  Accident, happenstance or divine destination, I am incredibly glad that they have found us.  They are showing me that this quote from this pseudo namesake is true. I am spending every day looking into the face of the future and Oh my, I see it working.  I see an industry of black and brown faces, learning from one another, as well as sharing their cultural difference with and industry who has been as white as milk since its inception.  (I know that reference might give some of you pause, but as a journalist, writer and truth seeker, we have to get honest, even if it makes us uncomfortable). My excitement is incredibly high, but my concern is that we have to do more to make this evolution into our future stick.  We have to dig deeply and determine what can we do to advance talent development, workforce development and culture forward.  Are we spending more money on award shows (i.e. Cannes and the One Show) celebrating, when we could be investing resources into a failed education in the U.S. and a youth culture that is yearning to be led and to lead.  How much do WE spend on private planes, parties, award shows, car service, and the spoils of our perceived luxury vs. the luxury that we cannot afford to lose – investing in our future. Schools are failing us.  Middle schools.  High schools.  Colleges.  Advertising portfolio schools. They are failing us.  The innovative programs that are advancing our next generation in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math are making impact.  But we need MORE.  MORE. MORE. MORE.   That is the concern.  We just are not doing enough.  And if we are honest with ourselves about what and were we allocate dollars and time, then we can see it more clearly.  And if our honesty translated into action instead of lip service, than we can do more.   When we started the Marcus Graham Project, we were focused on “diversity in advertising.”  I would like to decree that we abolish the notion of the old rhetoric of the word “diversity”.  Our future, if it going to work, is naturally diverse.  Look at the changing cultural landscape of our country.   It is diverse.  When we say diversity, at least in our industry, it becomes, how do you say this, one of those “things.”  The 80-pound polka dotted elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about.  Let’s advance the conversation and have a pseudo funeral for the phrase “diversity in advertising” and transfer it to the notion of a future at work.  R.I.P Diversity.  Happy Born Day Future. 

ageofsagittarius:

Everything you need is at the table #MGPlan #writethevision #faithwalk (at Marcus Graham Project)

ageofsagittarius:

Everything you need is at the table #MGPlan #writethevision #faithwalk (at Marcus Graham Project)

ageofsagittarius:

Happy birthday to my grandfather Abraham Lincoln Stephens and to our 16th President. #namesake

ageofsagittarius:

Happy birthday to my grandfather Abraham Lincoln Stephens and to our 16th President. #namesake

ageofsagittarius:

Sol to Seoul (at Korean Airlines Lounge)

ageofsagittarius:

Sol to Seoul (at Korean Airlines Lounge)

ageofsagittarius:

Channeling @fatbellybella: “Can I get a window seat….” #middleseat #stillblessed #taking off (at Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT))

ageofsagittarius:

Channeling @fatbellybella: “Can I get a window seat….” #middleseat #stillblessed #taking off (at Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT))

ageofsagittarius:

Shout out to @hfdavis for gifting me with this vintage book #LincolnSteffens #Muckraker

ageofsagittarius:

Shout out to @hfdavis for gifting me with this vintage book #LincolnSteffens #Muckraker

ageofsagittarius:

The #mgupfront is about to start with Budwesier Black Crown in hand #tasteis (at 4A’s | American Association of Advertising Agencies)

ageofsagittarius:

The #mgupfront is about to start with Budwesier Black Crown in hand #tasteis (at 4A’s | American Association of Advertising Agencies)

Season of Thanks!

So, yesterday was my birthday.  Birthdays are generally a time when most of us are looking extremely introspectively into our lives.  We think back over where we have been and we anticipate where we would like for our lives to go.  My birthday is always some where around the Thanksgiving holiday, so I am generally around lots of family and friends who’ve traveled home to be with their families as well.    Yesterday, I shared with a few friends at brunch that this year I had so much to be thankful for and in fact I was the most thankful this year than I ever have before.  As many know, Nov. 25th was the day four years ago that I hopped on a plane to travel back to Dallas to get my non-profit organization moving forward.   It is truly amazing that in the same week four years later, that God would allow for our organization to be featured on CNN.  The day that the story aired, I received so many text messages, Facebook posts, calls and Tweets.  All I could do in response to the positive feedback was to say thank you to the friends, family and strangers that were commenting on our coverage. 

As I shared with family and friends at brunch, I spent the entire day saying thank you to all of these messages.  As I responded, “Thank you!” “Thank you so much” “I appreciate you.”  I recognized that though I was responding to man, I was actually responding to God.  And once I recognized that I was saying thank you to God, the level of thanks and gratitude became so much deeper.  I understood what we say in church, “If I had 10,000 tongues, I could not thank the Lord enough.”  In this case over the last few days, due to both the CNN coverage, the Thanksgiving holiday as well as my birthday, I literally could not give enough thanks to God.  He is so worthy of all of the praise, adoration and honor, not for what he has done but for who He really is. 

My God is masterful.  He has organized the calendar of my life such that I could never deny His work in my life and the power of His will.   I also recognize that perhaps I have not said thank you enough to God for what He has done.  It is easy for us to say thank you to God when we get major media coverage or a meeting goes extremely well, but are we thankful for the people that He has placed around us.  Are we thankful for our friends and family and the small gestures of love that they show to us?  Are we thankful for the individual that checks us out at the grocery store?  Are we thankful for the fact that we have the ability to even go to the grocery, both in our financial ability as well as our physical ability?  Are we thankful for life in general?  Or to personalize it, am I, Lincoln Christopher Stephens thankful for ALL that God has blessed me with?  And am I showing God gratitude by my actions and how I live my life.  If I were to be honest with myself, I would have to answer and say no.  But what I do know in this season, especially, is that I have an increased knowledge of the responsibility and stewardship of the blessings.  It is how you treat both the gift and more importantly the giver that is important. 

And as I learned yesterday in an amazing sermon from my pastor, Bishop T.D. Jakes, it is about focusing more attention on giving love (#TheUltimateGift) rather than receiving love. Here are a few highlights from that sermon:

  • A gifted person has a tendency to define themselves by their gift.
  • You cannot help people that are not willing to understand.
  • God will it make you love against your will you have a choice. 
  • You cannot fast away a decision that you have to make 
  • You keep failing at life because of it but keep on doing it. Attitude.
  • What will last the longest is not what you gave to them but what you put into them.
  • We are all experts in what we want, but have you put energy in what you give. 
  • We all know the language of how we want to receive love. 
  • If I ask you to write an essay on how you give love are you as articulate with how you give it as you are in how you receive it.
  • If you see a love giver you will always see a crowd!
  • You can’t spend what I have for you until I give it to you. 
  • Love only works when you give it. 
  • You have to be strong to love!
  • If you don’t understand His authority, all revelation stops. 

It could be easy for one to take all of the love that has been received in someone saying Happy Birthday to you, but what do you do when it is their birthday?  It is easy for someone to do a favor for you, but do your return it?  

As I looked back introspectively, and truly got honest with myself yesterday, I realized some points of selfishness in my own behavior.  I recognized that though I thought that I was living the bulk of my day giving back, that perhaps I was not giving enough love, or enough love to the right people.   How do you treat your family when the going gets tough for you?  How do you treat your family when things are going better than you can imagine?  Do you make the same amount of time for your friends as they make for you?  How much time do you spend on the phone talking versus listening?  How much love do you give and show to strangers?  All of these questions came into play as I was celebrating my day yesterday.  The answer.  First and foremost my birthday was not my day, it was God’s day.  Everyday is God’s day.  Now onto showing more appreciation and gratitude to God through my actions, language and the way I GIVE l-o-v-e.  

With thanksgiving in my heart. 

lcs

Feelings

So I have been away from writing down my feelings for a while. Mainly because I wasn’t completely sure of how I felt. Not that I was out of touch with my feelings but mainly because I recognize that feelings are only but a small percentage of how we actually feel. We share how we feel with our facial expressions, our personal interactions, as well as our internal thoughts. But none of them compare to our purpose.

Our purpose guides us into the space or the sandbox that God wants us to play in. But when we get there - to our purpose - we have to examine and recognize that we have an incomparable destination to appreciate and give a level of stewardship towards. 


Stewardship is one of the most fundamental components of our growth! Why? Because, without an appreciation of what we have already, we will never have an appreciation of where we have the ability to go. God is so good to be able to give us a glimpse of the possibilities to show us what we have the fundamental potential to achieve. Our fundamentals?

Well, potential! Potential is the most fundamental element! Potential is faith! Potential is thinking or imaging what we can do. Faith is knowing what we have to do, despite what we have in front of us!