Richard Pryor

July 8, 1979 was my 16th birthday. One of the presents I received was a cassette of Bicentennial Nigger by Richard Pryor. I’d asked for it. My high school classmates had said it was funny, and of course the name is cool.

Is it funny? It’s hilarious. I played it so many times that I inadvertently memorized it. In the next few years, I’d enjoy finding everything he made before Bicentennial Nigger, and buying each new album after Bicentennial Nigger. As luck would have it, I memorized them as well. I had the entire Richard Pryor catalog in my brain.

1981 through 1983, I attended a predominately black college in a ghetto of Tampa, Florida. I learned a lot about myself, since I’d always thought of myself as an enlightened whitey.

I don’t remember the details, but presumably somebody said something that reminded me of a bit by Richard Pryor, and I repeated it. I love Richard’s insight and humor, and I’ve been known to share it when it’s appropriate.

And so it begins.

Picture half a dozen black teenagers piling onto a city bus and taking over the back rows. We like the back of the bus, okay? More room. Now picture them saying things to the little white boy like “Do the dearly departed” or “Do the goodnight kiss.” The goodnight kiss was their favorite.

“Wake up your mamma too.”

I recited every one they asked for, over and over again, before class or after class or between classes or in public or wherever, using Richard’s brilliant comic timing and in a fair approximation of his voice. I did say nigger, same as I did every other word Richard used. It was okay with my classmates. My friends.

Richard’s material means a lot to me. It always did. But for those two special years, he took on an additional meaning in my life. Without my college life, I wouldn’t have the sense and sensitivity to relate to people of various and sundry races the way that I do. It’s an ability that served me well in college, while managing hog farms that employed only Mexicans and Hondurans, and in China. Thanks, Rich.


 

This is an excerpt from Who Moved My Rice?

The Nine Laws of Enlightened Self-Interest

Make A Difference: From Being Successful to Being Significant

  1. The Law of Enlightened Self-Interest: It’s okay to be selfish. In fact, it’s good to be selfish, provided that it’s the right kind of selfish.
  2. The Law of Total Ownership: Take total ownership for where you are in your business and your life. If you don’t own it, you can’t change it.
  3. The Law of Measurable Results: Measure all results and implement what works so others can take the same actions. We tend to notice what we can measure and ignore what we can’t measure.
  4. The Law of Ideas: The problem is never a shortage of ideas. The problem is that we have too many ideas. By evaluating them against our enlightened self-interest, we will know which ideas to keep and which ideas to eliminate.
  5. The Law of Focus: Stay focused on what is important. Without focus we just stumble into the future.
  6. The Law of Self-Discipline: Be disciplined on doing what works, no matter how difficult it gets. If it isn’t working, there’s no reason to keep doing it.
  7. The Law of Persistence: Be persistent. When you implement something new, your performance will suffer until you have mastered this new behavior.
  8. The Law of People: Always strive to help others. This will bring you satisfaction and give your life meaning. Surround yourself with people and resources who can help you with inspired ideas that take you deeper into your enlightened self-interest. Whenever someone or something can help you achieve your goals, there is no reason not to use them. Be equally helpful when others want your help to achieve their enlightened self-interest.
  9. The Law of Action: Success is action and failure is feedback. Take action to achieve your enlightened self-interest, and learn from both the actions that work and the actions that fail.

Learn more about applying the Nine Laws to your own life in Make A Difference: From Being Successful to Being Significant by Ron Finklestein and Michael LaRocca

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