The Carr Report: You have to do better if you want better

by Damon Carr, For New Pittsburgh Courier

“When you know better you do better.” I first heard this quote from Oprah Winfrey. I later learned it was a quote popularized by the late, great Maya Angelou. The full quote reads this way, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, you do better.”

On the week of this writing, I was in attendance watching my son play in a high school basketball game. Great game! The score was tied at 59 with only 18 seconds left to go in the game. Long story short, my son made a buzzer beater 3-point field goal. The crowd went nuts!  That was a proud daddy moment! I’m smiling as I reminisce and type this story. However, this big play moment for him isn’t the focal point of this article.  During halftime, one of my son’s friends came up to me and said hi. He was with two other young men whom I didn’t know. They walked out of the gym. Before halftime was over, they came back into the gym. The three young men walked past me. As they walked by me, the aroma of marijuana was so intense, I think I caught a contact high. I’m being facetious when I say I think I caught a contact high. I don’t know if one or all of these young men took a smoke break at halftime. However, It was readily apparent that at least one of them did.

After the game, I gave my son a moment to enjoy the thrill of his team winning the game. Shortly thereafter, I had the talk. I expressed to him what I observed. Then I asked him, does his friend smoke weed? He responded, no. I asked him if he smoked weed? Again he responded no. He nor his friend ever gave me a reason to expect that they may be experimenting with marijuana. As a result, I didn’t grill him on the subject. I instead told him, I understand weed seems like a cool thing to do but it is in fact a drug. It’s the gateway drug. Young adults start with marijuana then they graduate to a more potent substance.

Last week I attended another high school basketball game. I ran into two young men whom I coached in basketball when they were younger. They are both currently in college. I asked them what they were majoring in. One said business, the other said marketing. During our conversation, I noticed both of these young men had huge tattoos on their necks. I thought to myself, why would these young men get these large tattoos on their necks? These tattoos are very visible and will be hard to cover during a job interview. Even with college degrees, I fear that with these large tattoos on their neck, these young men will be passed up on various job opportunities.

I recently saw a meme on Facebook. The meme read, “Job applications be like, ‘not that it matters but are you Black?’”  The meme received a lot of laughing out loud reactions. The meme is funny because there’s always a hint of truth in jest. The reality is, Black people—Black men in particular—have a harder time finding gainful employment, maintaining gainful employment and moving up the corporate ladder than any other ethnic group. We as a people cannot afford to give anyone a reason not to give us a viable opportunity to make a respectable, decent living for ourselves and our families. It’s going to be hard to make it, PERIOD! It’s going to be harder to make it if you’re walking around reeking of weed and adoring a colossal-size tattoo on your neck. 

When I got home from the game where my son hit the buzzer beater, I started reflecting on how marijuana and tattoos have become a cultural phenomenon within popular culture. I shared what was on my mind with my wife, Lashan Carr. Her response was a matter of fact, “If you want better, you have to do better!” I looked at her and said, that sounds like a catchy title for an article. I asked her to give me a few bullet points on what she was saying and I’ll craft an article. Below are her bullet points along with my commentary.

Set goals: If you aim for nothing, you’ll hit it every time! The fact that these young men are in college tells me they have goals, dreams and ambition. I’d encourage them to look at people who are working in the job they want to do and seek to model them. The problem is they’re trying to model rappers and athletes where having your entire body covered in tattoos and smoking weed are glamorized. That’s not the case with regular 9-to-5 jobs.

Stay away from drugs: Growing up in an impoverished community, I witnessed plenty of people become addicted to drugs. Nothing positive came from it. They aged fast, were always broke, and made life harder for people who loved them.

Educate yourself: To get ahead in life, you have to continuously increase your knowledge and your know-how (skill). You have to have the knowledge or skill to become marketable to earn a living. You have to also have knowledge to make good decisions for you and your family.

Listen before you speak: We have two ears and one mouth for a reason. We should listen twice as much as we speak. They say there’s no such thing as a dumb question. There is such a thing as a dumb statement.

Work hard—two jobs when necessary: Money doesn’t grow on trees. Work creates money. As you begin to work hard and work extra you’ll notice the people that’s asking you, “why are you always working” are the same people that’s “always asking you for money.”

No kids before you can take care of yourself: How can you justify having a dependent when you’re a dependent? Children are cute and cuddly but they’re expensive little rascals that will stay in your pockets.

Save and invest your hard-earned dollars: Saving is the cornerstone of sound money management. Investing is how you build wealth over time. If you want to be financially stable and financially free, do both. The younger you start saving and investing, the better!

Feed your mind, body, and spirit: Exercise, eat right, read, and be mindful of what you deposit into your mind, body and spirit. 

This article is written for teenagers. You are at a pivotal moment in their life. The decisions you make today will affect you for a lifetime. Now that you know better, go and do better!

(Damon Carr, Money Coach can be reached @ 412-216-1013 or visit his website @

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