Zach has the honor of speaking with James H. Lowry, the first African-American consultant for global consulting firm McKinsey & Company in 1968. They chat about his incredibly unique experience in the space at that time, how the consulting field and corporate America in general has shifted since, and James talks a bit about his book – check the links in the show notes to find out more about it!
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You can connect with James on LinkedIn.
Read more about him here.
Learn about his book, Change Agent: A Life Dedicated to Creating Wealth for Minorities, on Amazon.
Zach: What’s up, y’all? It’s Zach with Living Corporate, and, you know, we’re back, right? Every single week–for those who don’t know, right, because every episode is someone’s first episode, Living Corporate is a platform, a digital media network that creates content that centers and amplifies Black and brown people in the workplace, and we do that by having incredible conversations and just really creating material and media that pushes past white-centric narratives that lionize the majority and over-extend grace to those who have shown historic propensity to harm us. So this does not mean that we are anti-white, more so we are pro-humanity, and we show that by affirming the humanity of all people and by giving voice, voice and voice and voice and voice to perspectives that often go unheard, or, frankly, just ignored. And, you know, it’s with that I come to you all. I’m recording this in a fairly pensive mood as I think about the role of different generations and what role folks play, right? So, like, I’m a millennial, I’m 31 years old. So I’m young. I’m not young, right? Like, millennials are no longer the young kids on the block, despite what mainstream media would say. There’s a whole generation under us that are entering the workforce in droves, and that is Gen Z, right? We are now the ones with kids, the ones thinking about how we’re going to take care of our parents. We’re the ones perhaps buying our first or second home, right? And for some of us, you know, because a lot of us are just entering our 30s, we’re thinking about what we’re trying to do with our lives. Like, what legacy are we trying to really leave? What are we trying to build? What are we trying to create? What are we trying to do that’s going to outlive us? That’s what some of us are thinking about. The friends and the people I’ve been blessed to know, those are the things that we talk about, right, as we’re, you know, really getting into that grown grown phase of life, right? Out of college. You know, you’ve been working for seven, eight years. You’re grown. You’re 21 and then some. And it’s with that that I continue to think about just, you know, the nuanced discussion, but the one that still needs to happen, as challenging as it may be, is what do we do with the generational tension that we have within the corporate space? Right? There are folks who have been here before us. There are Black and brown leaders who are in very senior positions. And it’s not malicious. It’s not always, again, like, negative. But there is a reality that different generations experience the workplace differently, have different expectations and carry different traumas and frustrations and, again, I’ll say it, expectations on what the workplace should provide to them, right? I can think about my parents, and my parent are more likely to be like, “Look, you just need to get in there and get your money and leave,” right? And that’s common within, like, the Gen X, baby boomer space, right, to say, “Look, don’t get anybody too upset. Get your money and you can change things on your own, change things from the inside, but you got to play the game,” you know? “Play the game.” They say that a lot. That phrase is tired. And I say that with love, but it is. But there’s these conversations that we have, right? And then you have this younger generation that’s more of an activist generation. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying all Black millennials are worker activists. Quite more so the opposite, but there is a healthy contingency of Black professionals who are millennials who simply will not put up with the nonsense. And, you know, for those who are anxious or nervous about Black millennials, Black and brown Gen Z’ers are going to be even worse, right? Quote unquote “worse.” This is probably one of the most socially conscious and educated, or at least aware, people groups coming into the workforce, and so then, like, the question is, like, “Okay, what do we do? What do we do, and how do we collectively organize and have discussions and share knowledge and impart wisdom and progress, right, for the sake of equity and human dignity in a space that hasn’t been inclusive to us but has seen progress and change in the past 60 years?” Right? Because, like, I think it would be foolish if we don’t engage those who have been here before us or who are still here and talk to them and learn from them and ask questions, and challenge them respectfully and also be willing to be challenged. And so it’s with that I’m really excited about the discussion that I was able to have and the person that we have on Living Corporate today, James Lowry. And so, you know, we’re gonna get into our discussion with James, but just really quick, James Lowry is really, like, the first Black consultant in America for, like, you know, a major firm. He was a consultant for McKinsey in 1968. Right? Like, as I say that out loud–I’ma say it again. He was a consultant for McKinsey in 1968, and he’s still alive, and he’s still imparting incredible wisdom. And so I’m really excited about the conversation you’re going to hear from he and I. It went really long, but I’m hoping that you’ll take the time and you’ll hang with us and listen, because I tell you, he dropped a lot of gems, and I’m thankful for that, and I’m thankful for the fact that, you know, we were able to capture this and bring it to y’all. But before we do that, I want to go ahead and make sure that we TAP in with Tristan for his latest career tip.
Tristan: What’s going on, Living Corporate? It’s Tristan, and I want to thank you for tapping back in with me as I provide some tips and advice for professionals. This week let’s talk about why you should take a break. According to the U.S Travel Association, in 2018, 55% of Americans did not use all of their vacation time. In that same year, the U.S. Travel Association reported that American workers accumulated 768 million unused vacation days. That’s wild and probably one of the reasons why burnout was recognized by the World Health Organization as an occupational phenomenon. There are so many reasons why people don’t use their PTO or create breaks for themselves but by far the biggest one is guilt. More than half of U.S. workers ― around 54 percent — reported feeling guilty about taking vacation time either sometimes, often or always, according to a survey of more than 2,000 full-time workers in the United States by TurnKey Vacation Rentals. With more people working from home and staying indoors due to the coronavirus, it has become increasingly difficult for people to unplug and most have begun working even longer hours. It is hard to draw a distinction between work and personal time when you’re working from home which can increase your stress levels. Many of us think well I’m at home or I will be at home, why would I take PTO? Well, let me answer that, according to a study looking at the work habits of more than 600,000 people in the US, UK, and Australia, people who work more than 55 hours a week are 33% more likely to suffer a stroke and have a 13% greater risk of heart attack than those who work 35-40 hours weekly. Now I’m sure you’re like, “Well, since I can’t take an actual vacation, what should I do?” Maybe you simply take a day to devote to yourself, read book, or watch a movie. Maybe you take a day to devote to spending time with your kids so you can feel better later in the week when you’re not able to be 100% present. You could go hiking, learn a new skill, or even get to some of those home projects you’ve been wanting to do. Whatever it is, just make sure to be mindful in the moment and shut out thoughts about work. Look, this year has been a crazy one. Between the pandemic, racial injustice, and the contentious election we have been living in a state of perpetual stress and anxiety. Take some time to yourself. I know sometimes it can feel easier said than done, but taking a break is worth it. Everyone around you will benefit and believe me, the work will still be there. Thanks for tapping in with me this week. I look forward to talking to you next week! This tip was brought to you by Tristan of Layfield Resume Consulting. Check us out on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook @LayfieldResume or connect with me, Tristan Layfield, on LinkedIn.
Zach: Mr. Lowry, welcome to the show. How are you doing?
James: I’m doing great, man. Nothing brings me greater joy than talking to young people like yourself, because I have the utmost confidence by sharing whatever wisdom I have and whatever wisdom you have, we can make the world a better place, so.
Zach: I’m honored by that. I really want to get into it, right? So, you know, I have a mentor of mine, his name is Matamba Austin, and he was one of the first Black consultants at McKinsey in, like, 1994, but you were the first Black consultant at McKinsey in 1968, and I’m trying to get an understanding of like–so just for context, right, like, I was born in 1989, right? Okay, and so my parents were born in 1964. So, like, I’m trying to wrap my mind around what it was like just for you to be a Black consultant in 1968. Give me an overview of just that experience was like as you look back.
James: Well, in anticipation of your first question I said, “What was it like?” I said it was more [?] exciting. It was challenging and enlightening. Now, what do I mean by that? I think it was exciting because I was going to be working on Park Avenue, 245 Park Avenue, and although my experience had been with the Peace Corps and in Bed-Stuy, I had never lived and worked in corporate America. So it was–not only was I going to go into corporate America, but, you know, I was gonna be with one of the most prestigious consulting firms in the world. So it was just very exciting. So, you know, I’m a pretty positive mental attitude kind of guy. It was challenging, though, because my degree was in international economics and not business, and in my class, you know, where the top students from the top business schools in America, and in 1968, the vast majority of McKinsey consultants came from three schools. They came from Harvard, Wharton and Stanford, and then they would let others in if they were outstanding from Dartmouth and maybe Northwestern University in Chicago, places like that. The majority of the students were from Harvard, Wharton and Stanford, and many of the people from Harvard–there was a disproportionate number of people from Harvard–most of them were were efficient scholars. So they were efficient scholars, and so there was a top of the class, a Lou Gerstner, who later became the president of IBM and American Express and then IBM was in my class. So that was very challenging. And then many of them, because they had gone to Harvard, had been trained in the case method. So the case method was what they’ve been trained on at Harvard. It was now taken to McKinsey, and they use basically the same kind of approach in perfecting the art of problem solving. And so that was all new to me, too. And then in addition to having to quickly learn the art of problem solving ala Harvard and ala McKinsey, I had to learn to write that way to be able to be effective as a consultant. But it was also enlightening because I quickly learned how leaders in major corporations and governments made decisions. So, you know, you learn about stuff, you read about stuff academically and you hear about it third hand, but you’re in big meetings with big dogs making big decisions, and then you learn how they made them and what were the things that influence leaders and what do we do at McKinsey to make that decision making that much easier and hopefully correct it correctly so that, you know, they would keep calling us back. So that’s why I said it was also very enlightening.
Zach: I mean, at what point in 1968, as the only Black consultant, were you trusted to actually give advice to white leaders, both at the client and internally?
James: Well, there are three parts of that one. One, I had the confidence, so I was pretty cocky, you know? But, you know, and I say this, you know, sincerely because I think it’s important, you know, I went to eighth grade with white people, so then I went to Grinnell College was a big man on campus and I was a big [athlete?], then I went to Tanzania. Now, that was different, because I was still talking to white people, but they were British. So it was a different kind of group, it was a different kind of reaction, but it didn’t stop me from being who I was. And then when Peace Corps and later on [?], and when I saw all these very important people coming from the East Side of New York, coming to look at what they call Bobby’s project, I wasn’t intimidated by him. So it didn’t, you know– I was dealing with him the whole time. Now, when did they accept it? You know, I tell this–this is a real story. You know, when I was, you know, with McKinsey back in the day–and we’re gonna talk about it later, about ’68 and how ’68 was different than now, you know, part of it was the leadership of that time. So you had–many of your leaders in many of the top corporations had been there 20, 30 years. They had worked their way up, so they got to the corner office, you know, they had their jets. But many of them were older people, and I remember using my McKinsey, you know, approach and knowledge in one of those meetings with a very important CEO of a major corporation in, you know–I think it was probably 1970 or something like that–and he had nerve enough to say, “You know, Jim, that sounds good, but your advice on this issue… you know, you’re not really Black.”
Zach: Wait, what?
James: Yeah, that’s what he said. Back in the day, the more you came out of the ghetto and sounded like the ghetto and dressed like the ghetto, the people in the corner offices in major corporations would say, “Those are the people we gotta listen to, ’cause they got the answers.” Well, as I wrote in my book, I said “They might have defined the problem, but they sure as hell didn’t know how to solve the problem.” But that was what was happening in the ’60s, the late ’60s and early ’70s. There was this mindset. So I was still gonna be who I was, and then the further I got up at McKinsey, the people behind me had to listen to me anyway, but I would say honestly–and that’s why I have a very strong relationship with all the former people at McKinsey. You know, they respected me, and many of the clients did as well, but it wasn’t easy. It wasn’t easy. I mean, we had to dress the part, look the part, you know, clearly enunciate our vowels and all those kinds of things. So they would say, “Okay, this brother’s okay.” But no, it was all what we had to go through.
Zach: I mean, I think about the politics of the time, right? Like, so, you know, when you think about the movement of the [Black?] Panthers then, like, were there similar critiques or tensions and attitudes in the workplace, right? I don’t know, right? I think about how now talking about political leanings or even, like, just bringing those things up is a little less taboo than I imagine that it was back then, but I guess I ask because I think about how prominent the Panthers were and just where the civil rights movement was at that moment. Did you ever have situations where you had white colleagues–or just colleagues I mean, because by default they were all white–were folks ever asking you questions about your political leanings or how you felt about the the happenings of the time?
James: Yeah, but I think–and this really tells you about the times too. I think during those times you had Park Avenue, and you had Bedford-Stuyvesant, and so for a while I lived in Bedford-Stuyvesant, taking the transfers around to 245 Park Avenue. They were like two different worlds. I mean, so they kind of knew about the Black Panthers, and then once you–if I could take you back in time, okay, at that time there were only three major TV stations, okay? CBS, NBC, ABC. We didn’t have social media, and we didn’t have cable. So that was it, and so what you even had there, you had two different groups of Black spokesmen, and you could define leaders anyway you wanted to, and then you had on one hand on one day, you might have somebody like Rap talking about “Burn the place down, burn, baby, burn,” and then you would have the older guard, like Whitney Young and Wilkins and John Lewis and others, you know, who we would say were more moderate and tempered in their approaches, so they got a lot of good press for trying to do the right thing. So even within a corporation like BCG, they were inquisitive, but they really didn’t spend that much time because everything was so segregated in terms of mindset, in terms of geographical location. So when the people were burning down stuff in Los Angeles, it didn’t really touch the partners at BCG or the partners at McKinsey or partners at [?]. It really didn’t affect them. It was something they saw on television, but it wasn’t close, and I think you’re seeing a different kind of thing there. So if you look at the national leadership, you know, it was Kennedy, but Kennedys were short lived. I mean, they were short lived. So you had a shift, you know, and that’s when–you know, that was my impetus, you know, Peace Corps and all that kind of good stuff. You know, so we were really progressive, before our times, enlightened before our times, and then Johnson came in. [The media?] didn’t know what was gonna happen when Johnson came in, but Johnson was a political animal, and he did leverage, you know, the times and his Southern background and his IOUs within the Senate to be able to get laws passed. Okay? That was a turning point. But I think what most people, probably in your generation, don’t realize there was a major, major turning point in corporate leadership around the United States, and I would characterize–the leadership was basically Eastern Ivy League Republican leadership in the Republican Party, you know? You had Nixon, and then Carter got in there for four years, then you got Reagan, then you got Bush. So that was your leadership coming out of [?]. And then because of what Johnson did, and Jimmy Carter was able to be probably–and then Clinton kind of did it as well, but be a Southern boy with a Southern accent to get a fair, representative vote in Southern states to become president. After that, the whole thing shifted from a Republican-led Ivy League leadership cadre to a southern Western leadership cadre, and that’s what we have now, and I don’t think most people realize what happened, you know, in the late 60s and then the late 70s and early 80s in terms of how the nation changed to a different Republican Party, as we’re seeing right now, then the Republican Party that I knew doing my McKinsey days.
Zach: That’s for sure. I wouldn’t debate you one second on that. I mean, like, if you were to compare, like, the Republican platform to the late 60s, early 70s. To the Democratic platform today, frankly, I mean, of course you’d see differences, but the dissonance is not as–
James: Basically [?]. But even in my day, I mean, we would have Republicans like Percy in Illinois, [?] in New York. There was very little difference between those and Democrats, you know, [?]. I mean, it wasn’t very different. I mean, many of them went to the same school and thought the same thing. They just happened to be part of the Republican Party on campus and [?], but very different then. The other thing we had too, which is part and parcel to change, is that our communities were different, and diversity was defined differently, and then our elected officials were different. So you had a smaller group of elected Congressmen who were Black and brown, and it made a difference, but now you got a larger number, and then the communities–I mean, we have to understand the good and the bad about the poverty program. The poverty program came out of Lyndon Johnson and his war on poverty, and the good news about that, you know, with all the money that supposedly went into urban areas, you saw many of your leaders coming out of that funded by federal government to be community organizers and community leaders. Like, you know, Marion Barry out of D.C. He was a community organizer, and then you had Ernie Green who was part of the Little Rock Group and, you know, he became kind of a union guy. He became the secretary. So you had people like that coming out of the poverty program, and I think the poverty program, the good news about it is it gave money to the community. It did kind of chill him out over that time period instead of rioting, but it also created a new [cadre?], and so that’s very powerful. But now, you know, we’re at another place, and we got to look at what’s different, and you’re asking the right questions, what’s different between 1968 and the year 2020 right now, you know? And then we have [?]. So you went through that leadership with Stokely, Rap, John Lewis, Wilkins, and [?] was fine as a leader, but he wasn’t a leader at the core. Then you had Jesse and Andy coming behind that, and now you got an old Jesse and a young Al Sharpton. So the question you got to ask, you and all the people that are going to be listening to this and reading this, is what do we do next? I mean, do you really [?] another Jesse coming on a white horse and gonna save Black people? Personally, I don’t think that gonna happen.
Zach: No, I don’t think so. So, you know, what I personally envision is–I was just talking to a mentor about this. Man, I really hope, similarly to how–you look at the NBA right now. The Milwaukee Bucks decided to, you know, sit out a game, right, in light of Jacob Blake being, you know, shot in the back seven times [?], and what I fantasize about is on the corporate level that there’s some type of boycott, that Black and brown people either collectively take, you know, a bunch of time off or all go on leave at the same time and demand certain things be met, you know? I think for me when I think about, like, you know, generation to generation, I would imagine, Mr. Lowry, that, like, the younger generation should probably do things that push the older generation maybe that they may not agree with, right? I feel like if I do things that you fully agree with, then I’m probably not pushing hard enough, right? Like, the same tactics don’t work, won’t work generation to generation. There needs to be wrinkles and shifts and changes. That doesn’t mean that we don’t learn. We stand on the shoulders of those who came before us, but to your point, no, I don’t think it’s going to be one individual. I think it’s going to have to be a collective–it has to be a collective movement, and it needs to be really, like, drastic. That probably to many is going to come across really extreme and sacrificial, but, you know, I think in this moment, right, like, we’re still seeing some of the same shuffling from corporate America, where they’re putting out the same statements. To your point, I’m 30 years old, right? I literally have not seen half of what you’ve seen. So I really want to talk a little bit more about in 1981, you went back. You know, you left McKinsey, you started your own practice, and then you went back to McKinsey in 1981. Not to go back to work for them, but to address and talk to him about the lack of representation. I’m curious about what that journey looked like in you transitioning away, how you came back, and then I’m curious, really, how do you feel about representation, specifically Black representation, at McKinsey today?
James: Well, I’m gonna touch on each one of those. But I think I didn’t want to leave that other piece, because what you were saying is very interesting and very powerful, and I really want you to help me, and I think we all, as you say, gotta be a cohesive collective, what I would say, intergenerational kind of approach. And I watch basketball, and I watched the response of Kenny, Shaq and Charles, and they were talking Kenosha, they were talking about the response of the basketball players. And Shaq, you know, his father was in the military, and he wanted to be in the police. And Shaq said, “Look, we can get all emotional and we can have, you know, Black Lives Matter, and we can tear down statues, but what’s going to be our strategy?” Now I’m quoting him.
Zach: Right, right.
James: “What’s going to be our strategy?” So I’m not saying yes or no in terms of how [radical?], you know, the 30s to 50s should be, but I think what you have to be very, very, you know, analytical about is the whole issue of structural racism. What does it look like? What does it smell like? How does it permeate at all levels of our society? And so you have probably been–there’s very powerful people meeting probably every other day at the business roundtable saying, “What should we do about structural racism?” This idea of well-intentioned–and then they got people behind them, you know, trying to give them guidance, you know, but we’re dealing with the reality, whether you’ve been there five years, 10 years, 20 years, white people still control the power. I mean, and you know, and I say that–you just gotta deal with [?].
Zach: It’s the reality.
James: And it doesn’t matter on this continent or the other continents. They’re still controlling even, you know, [?] sometimes they really deal with it on the continent of Africa. The British and the French still have tremendous amounts of power. So I’m just saying that’s a given, okay? So how do you attack this? Then you got the other extreme where the polices are really setting up Black people to be shot by young white kids. So you have these two extremes in America, okay? How do we–and I’ll put you at the at the front of this–the Black intelligentsia, well-intentioned, definitely [?] to be a change agent, but to what degree are you gonna analyze all these elements–I’m sounding like a consultant–all these elements with alll the givens and ages and say, “What are we going to do on Monday morning? And what kind of impact do we want to have? And what routes are we going to use or what will be our strategy to be a winning strategy?” So hopefully–in my age, after being in this for 50 years, it ain’t worse. So that’s what I say. I mean, I’m just saying, I agree with you, and on several of these these Zooms and podcasts I say, “Look, [if change?] occurred in the Black community, it wouldn’t have happened if it hadn’t been Black youths. I mean, it’s true all over the world.
Zach: And Black women specifically. You right.
James: It’s true in China. It’s true in England, I mean, so you guys are gonna be the ones that are going to galvanize and motivate and inspire. But what I say in the book, and I strongly feel, that we all have to work together. So I started a foundation, and it was called The Third Generation, and the whole idea I had, and I’d love to get your responses, was to have Black people from all different generations. You got a pyramid. You would have me at the top with all these old people, and they gonna be dying, but we have wisdom, we have context, we have money, we have values, we have relationships. We have experiences that should be shared. And then there are other people who would benefit–who have benefited, “we were the first in this and the first in that,” “we got into the right schools and got into corporate America,” where it was–and my parents, they were postal workers, right? They couldn’t get into corporate America. So you have a much larger group, and even coming behind them is this large group of very talented, you know, inspired young Black people, you know, from historically Black colleges, you know? You guys are the one they’re going to make the difference. But all I would say is lean on us, learn from our mistakes, and have a game plan, and that’s the only reason I did in my book, was to put in “Here are the 10 things I think Black people do differently in order to [?] where we are,” and everybody could have their own 10. I don’t care. Maybe it’s a discussion, but I’m saying… we can’t just tear down statues and march and even get shot if we ain’t got [?].
Zach: You asked for my reaction–yeah, I agree with you Mr. Lowry. Like, you know, it has to be both and. Like, when you study like the movements, Black liberation movements, it was never, like, the destruction or the tearing down of, like, physical monuments and things was always paired with, like, a very intentional, like, critique and attack on systems and structures. And so to your point around, like, intergenerational organizational strategies, right, I agree. Like, so when you think about it–I love the pyramid example, because you’re absolutely right in the context you provided. The oldest generation is at the top, and they should be leveraged and engaged and honored because they do have the network, the wisdom, the experience, the capital, both social and financial. And then when you think about, like, the youth, like, the youth are really responsible for pushing things forward. So them being at the base makes sense because they have the energy, they have the benefit of youth and, like, the ones that are there for the right reasons, they have the current context. They understand the technology. They understand the strategy that works in today’s societal frame, right? So I 100% agree with you. I think the biggest mistake that we make, especially–out of respect to activists, I would not say I’m an activist. I think that all of us practice activism in our respective ways by just simply being authentically Black in our spaces. But I would say that, like, a mistake that youth can often make is dismissing our predecessors and those who came before us, because, like, I mean, you’re here for a reason, right? So I think about–as a Christian, like, I definitely believe in honoring your elders because, like, Mr. Lowry, you’re here. You’ve been here longer than me, and you’ve been around and you’re living on this planet for a reason. Like, there are plenty of people in your generation who are not here and you’re still here. So it would be unwise to not seek wisdom and insight from you. And even if we disagree on principle, like, 80% of the time, it doesn’t matter, because there’s still value in your insight. And so no, I’m right there with you. I’m really curious, like, so as we’ve been having this conversation, something that’s been in the back of my mind is–you tell me if it’s, like, personality or if it’s, like, something you’ve learned over time, ’cause, like, you don’t seem really ruffled. Like, is that just a product of you seeing so much and, like, seeing things kind of happen in a more cyclical nature? I’m curious about, like, your temperament now and [today] compared to your temperament maybe when you were, like, my age in your 30s?
James: Oh, that’s a good question. And I’m smiling–you can’t see it, but I’m smiling because I have somebody staying with me who’s really kind of taking care of me, but just a good friend, and she’s much younger, and she says the same thing. She says, “I’m exposed to so much now. You’re educating me on so much, and I see even today how these things are really even directed at you personally, but you don’t seem ruffled. You just don’t seem ruffled, and I would be so angry.” And I was angry, to answer your question. I was very angry, and I was angry at my people. I was angry at white people. But not all white people. I’ve never been that way because of the way I grew up and the friends that I had and the mentors I had I could never be angry, but I was angry at–really what we were talking about–structural racism, and when I got about 45 to 50, I did a very deep introspection about myself, and I said, “Being angry and blaming people, it doesn’t make me healthy. It doesn’t make me productive.” And, I’ll say it, “It don’t make me profitable.” So once I started to say, “Let me go inside and see what I got to fix first. Let me fix this first, then I’ll be better able to be a change agent and be an advocate for economic change in minority business.” There was this kind of calmness that came over me, because I knew where I wanted to go. That’s something. When you get to be my age now, you just say “I’m gonna take each day at a time and do as much as I can ’cause the Good Lord might take me, but that’s one of the reasons–and we’ll talk about that later, but I just have to be calm, I have to be wise, and I have to be supportive. And I think that’s my role, and once you start seeing that that approach, working with others in this very, very complex and challenging world we live in, brings you the kind of [?] that you aspire to have and the impact you want to have. You’re saying, “Okay, this is the right way to be.” You’re feeling very good about yourself, you know? And I tell everybody, “It’s better to light the candle than to curse the darkness.” So me, you know, when you said you wanted to talk to me, I said, “Yeah, maybe if I can light one more candle for one other person, or 10 people or 15, that’s what the Good Lord put me on this earth to do, and as much as I can do it in the time I have remaining, that’s how I’m gonna dedicate my life. And I say that in the last chapter in my book. Yeah, but you want to get back to McKinsey. Yeah, I’ll get back to that. I would say… Why did I leave? I think–you know, I started the whole conversation about my–I wouldn’t say insecurity, but, you know, questioning, you know, if I didn’t have a Harvard degree, was [?] as hard as the guy in office next door [?]. And so when I came back [?] a very, very successful two year engagement where I was leading a team to decentralize government in Tanzania, I was kind of like a hero. Got [?] and they said, “What do you want to do?” I said, “I want to [?], but I think I want to leave New York and try to start a public practice in Chicago, and I want to go to the executive program at Harvard.” So they said, “You want to go to the executive program?” I said yes. So it was a four month program, and it’s still in existence, you know? And I went to Harvard for four months, and it was another one of those kind of enlightening experience, because once I got there and started taking the case method, you know, and I started knocking the ball out of the park, I said to myself, you know–it’s like going backwards, because after being–I think at the time I was four and a half years at McKinsey, you know, I was, like, going back to graduate school, and so it was kind of embarrassing because after a while professionals wouldn’t call on me or they would call on me when they didn’t feel like they were getting the right answers, and I love that kind of role. But that was the final thing I needed. I had done well in McKinsey. I had put money on the table for McKinsey. I’d saved McKinsey in a difficult situation. I made a lot of friends at McKinsey, then at Harvard. I was able to go to Harvard. I said, “Okay, is this what it’s all about? I put on my pants just like they do and I solve cases just like other people did,” and that’s when I said, you know, “I think [?].” But I felt in all honesty–and maybe people don’t do this anymore–I will be forever grateful that McKinsey let me go to Africa and go back to Africa and to pay for, you know, four months at Harvard. [?] I was elected president of my class, and I never will forget it. This guy, who was a big honcho with Harvard, came running. He said, “Lowry, you’re our first!” And I’m thinking I was the first Black president. He said, “You were the first person elected who wasn’t an astronaut.” Every astronaut was in this program and elected president, whether they deserved it or not, but back in those days the astronauts walked on water. So, you know, I said, “[?],” you know? “I can do anything I want to.” I said, “I’m gonna do it.” And so I did. So when I went back it was kind of like I had a game plan–maybe–and it was always in the back of my mind that I wanted to start my own firm. I wanted it to be James H. Lowry dash McKinsey. I wanted to use the knowledge that I have to train other people of color, and I wanted to make money, but I really wanted to foster the whole concept of minority business [?]. So that’s when I decided I wanted to do that, and so I was very clear on why I was doing it. I was very happy. I didn’t lose any sleep over leaving McKinsey. I think, you know, we had a great, great relationship. They said, “You sure you want to do this?” I said, “Yep, I wanna do it.” And between me and you, I kind of think back, you know, being the only–the first Black at McKinsey going into corporate America, I probably could have been a superstar, but, you know, corporate America was not as receptive to Black people as it is now, and we definitely were not getting P&L responsibilities. They were putting us in administrative positions. I said, “No, I’d rather be an entrepreneur.”
Zach: Yes. So even today, right, like, I’ve been at Accenture, I’ve been at Capgemini. I’m currently in a big four audit firm, and I think I can count on one hand the number of Black folks that I’ve met who are partners with P&L responsibilities, and so I can’t imagine what it was like back then. And then on top of that, the partners and stuff that I typically meet who are Black, they’re, like, in the, like, tactical, transactional roles. Like, typically they’re selling, like, a tool or a product. They’re not the ones, like, in front doing deals or M&As or whatever. Like, they’re not in the client facing. They’re in some type of, like, tech securities type role, right? And so I’m curious about that. Like, do you see that same trend? Do you feel like–am I oversimplifying that, or would you say that I’m accurate?
James: Well, let’s look at that. I mean, you talked about 1981 going back to McKinsey. And you said, “How’d you do that? You know, did you [?]” I said, “No, I picked up the phone and I just called the guy.” It turned out the guy was my, you know, mentor in the New York office, who I had a very strong relationship with, and when I went to Africa he was the one that sent me there. And, you know, I tried to tell him what was happening in Africa, and he heard me but he didn’t, and he all he could say was, “Yeah, I understand what we’re not doing,” but it’s a British contract, and the partner in charge is out of the UK office, and I said, “You’re gonna mess up.” So when he messed up, I saved the firm. I really did, because by the time I was established with [?] I knew all the people, because I knew him before so these were the same people [?], but I called him up and–you know, because of this, I’m writing all this stuff out that I’ma talk to you about. I actually called him and he’s still alive. He’s still around. He’s a few years older than I am. I called him up and I said, you know, “Ryan, you know, you play a very significant part in my life.] It was a voicemail. Hopefully he’ll call me back. But he was my friend, he’s been my friend. And so it wasn’t that he was in my cloud, it was just my relationship, and I think that the message I leave for young, young professionals, like yourself–and you said you have left–you’ve left two firms. You’ve probably left more, but I’m just saying leave your company on a positive relationship. Leave your company with many close relationships, because in the firms that you’re working, you know, many of these young guys beside you are gonna be big dogs, and so you gotta– and try and have as many good memories as bad memories. The bad memories will fuel you to be a change agent to change your life, but the good memories can kind of soften the blow. And accept that, you know, whether it’s right or wrong, but Accenture, they’re gonna be calling Accenture about you and other people like you for the rest of your lives, and I was very cognizant of that. So I left. I was not bitter. It was my decision. I could have probably made around [?] or made partner, but they didn’t ask me to leave. It was my decision. But when I started my firm, and it was really supported–many of my people in the New York office and other offices I knew when I became an entrepreneur. I mean, many of my first contracts were ex-McKinsey guys running major corporations. So, you know, I made them proud. They all took pride in me being the first Black and I did this and “Look at Jim Lowry. He’s out there. He’s an entrepreneur.” So that was very, very important. But the big question, you know, and when you asked when I went back, this is sad, but when I went back in the ’80s with the help of another guy, who’s a dear, dear friend of mine, we increased the number of Blacks at McKinsey from 4 to 104 in two years. Two years. And I will share this with you, one of them was Susan Rice. And then I had this Zoom, and it was interesting. They wanted to talk about my book and [?]. So I’m there, and this guy said, “Well, I [?].” I said, “Why?” He says, “Because I went to McKinsey, and I was a partner for 11 years, but I wouldn’t have been partner if it hadn’t been for you. And he says, “I was part of that 104.” Now this brother [?] in Trinidad, and he does over $3 billion in revenue, and they’re 12,000 employees. So when you start looking back on your life, you say “Wow.” That’s why you did it. But during that two year period… so the question is, why are they more professional service managers? It’s not just McKinsey. It ain’t just consulting. It is financial services. It’s accounting. Any professional service firm that you name, I can tell you the number of partners is less than 1% in any firm.
Zach: 100%. I mean, a prominent consulting firm just dropped their diversity and inclusion data today, and less than 2% of their partners were Black.
James: Yeah, and how many were senior partners?
Zach: Oh, zero.
James: So it gets back to what you were saying before. Yeah, you got partners, but are they really partners?
Zach: 100%. And that’s what I’m saying, right, is, like–and let me take that back. With the seniors, it’s two of ’em. It’s literally two who are senior, and there’s arguments, just like there’s a lot of arguments, like, “How much authority do they even really have despite what you think they have on paper,” right?
James: Well, they’re making money. So if you’re making money for the firm, you’re gonna get power.
Zach: It’s super real. We got to talk about that, because I’ve also had conversations with Black partners who do make the firms they work at money, but there’s political shenanigans that happen and they still don’t get the authority and recognition that they should, right? That’s a different conversation, but let’s talk about your book, “Change Agent: A Life Dedicated to Creating Wealth for Minorities.” I really want to understand your impetus for writing this book. Like, what was the draw?
James: There’s several. I mean, okay. So I went back–I told you I went to a little private school, right? And it was one of those progressive. You think about–at the time I was in eighth grade, and you talk about your father, you talk about [?]. Think about this. That was 1953, okay? One of the top private schools in Chicago. Only reason we got in was because the Jewish community was not accepted into the other private school. There were three distinguished high schools in Chicago. One of them was the University of Chicago Lab School, which is different because it’s different community, different everything. [?] North, where [?], and there was a Jewish power structure who said, “We got to have our own school.” Let me put it like this, “It’s not gonna be all Jewish, but we’re gonna play a major role in financing it, growing it and controlling it.” So we had this very powerful Jewish guy who was on the first board with McDonald’s, okay? That tells you something, right? That’s big back in the day, and he says “We should have more Blacks at our school.” So that’s how I got in. So in eighth grade coming from the South side, I thought I was middle class. I wasn’t middle class. I was lower class. But, you know, in the Black community–
Zach: It’s all relative, right?
James: It’s all relative. I mean, my father wasn’t [?], but we had food for clothing, but I saw limousines come up there. I saw people’s parents getting named in the paper. I saw this. I saw that. I said, “Oh, this is another game.” And once I saw the power of money, it set me on a track– a personal track and a Black track, and the personal track was “I’m gonna be a multimillionaire.” I made that decision up in eighth grade. So nothing–money has never been my number one, never my number one objective, but I was wise enough to know the more money you have, the bigger seat at the table you get, okay? So it was a means, but it’s also an ends, and it also allowed me to live my lifestyle. You know, but I watched other groups, and I took this interest in the Jewish group and [?] him historically, and there was a book called “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill, and he started talking about, you know, wealth and creating wealth. I said, “Man, that’s it.” Then I started [?], and then I started looking into other groups, and even now, I mean, I think about the Cubans. It’s only been 50 years. The Cubans down in Miami, they came across on the boat. They had no money. They’ve taken over Miami. They’ve taken over the state, okay? So I said, “Look, people, we can march, we can fight, we can scream, and now I can tear down [?].” And I said this in the book. The first thing I said in my recommendations on Black people, I said, “Look, you got to accept in our communities we don’t have capital, right? And because we don’t have capital, we ain’t got no power, and because we ain’t got no power, the problems that beset Black people are gonna get worse. So that’s why I’ve always been dedicated. I’ve spent my whole life writing reports. I wrote another book before this called Minority Business Success, and really I did with professors from [?] and Stanford [?], so it was an academic book, but it was kind of a tutorial on how you can grow your businesses. And when we wrote it, you know, about seven years ago, you started seeing more people of color leaving corporate America because they were not in the C suite, and many of the people wanted to be entrepreneurs. And I’ll always give Jimmy Carter credit and Parin Mitchell. When they started talking about it in the 80s, we increased the number of Black entrepreneurs dramatically, because we had laws being put on the books–and many of them are still there–because we were fostering a mindset in the Black community. It’s our right to be an entrepreneur. It is our right to [?]. It’s what the hell you do what you do with your money and what you do with your power.
Zach: It’s interesting, too. So like, so we’re talking about, again, like, the late 1960s. And, like, there was a time, like, when you think about like Black liberation, Black struggle, like, political theory or just, like, political thought leadership, that the capital was a means to a certain end., but then, like, as time went on, as we talk about, like, liberation today, a lot of times we really just kind of talk about, like, Black group economics. Like, in your model, as you think about Black capitalism, is there any element of that that is then tied to some type of like, upheaval or restructuring or, like, revolution? Or do you see the building of wealth as the end?
James: Okay, let me ask this question. Going back into history books, even before Hollywood stopped supporting the civil rights movement because of Harry Belafonte and others, who was the hero of the civil rights movement and supported the civil rights movement with money?
James: Gaskin, G-A-S-K-I-N. He owned motels, hotels, things like that, restaurants, big time wrestling. When [Maynard?] got in, he allowed the guy who’s had this–and that’s what they used to plot and plan his restaurant in Atlanta, and when [Maynard?] got in he allowed him–get this–to leave the ghetto to take his restaurant to the airport. Then Gaskin could write bigger checks for the civil rights [movement]. So there would’ve never been a movement without money there.
Zach: I’m right there with you, and you right, so I’ll give you an example of what I mean. So Living Corporate is a startup, you know? Like, we built this, like, straight bootstrap, right? Like, I didn’t come into this thinking about how it’s gonna make money. I bought in from the purpose and mission, and now I’m at a point where I’m doing fundraising for Living Corporate, and, you know, we’re raising money, and you’re 100% right that, like, right now when I talk to people and they’re like, “How can I support you?” I don’t say, “Can you pray for me? I don’t say, “Can you write me a letter?” ‘Cause I’m trying to raise capital, so I get that. I get that. I think that’s helpful for me, because as I hear this, I was curious about–I think what I’m hearing from you is different. Like, sometimes when I talk to folks, it’s almost like the capital is the end. It’s not the means to an end, it is the end.
James: No, it’s the means. And I say this in the book, you know, simple stuff–my 10 points, pretty simple, but, you know, I mentioned the Black diaspora, and one guy in Trinidad, [?]. Last week he said, “Oh, Mr. Lowry, can I have a book signing for you? In Trinidad. He organized this thing. It was amazing. I’ll send you a link. And what I’m saying is that now we’re talking about [?] another one and connecting Africa and the Caribbean. So I think for you young guys. And this is where, you know, I think the intergenerational stuff, you know, have your dreams, but be realistic in your dreams. Understand that you gotta have big money to do big things. Here I am in my late 70–and I’m preparing my lectures at Kellogg because I got this program, which I’m very proud of and had since 96, where I bring in the top minority entrepreneurs on the campus for a whole week, and some of my people, one just became a billionaire. A billionaire. You don’t even know who he is. It’s Jimmy John. Did you know Jimmy John’s Black?
Zach: What? No.
James: Well, see, you’re learning something. [both laugh]
Zach: Well, that’s why we got you here. I know you educated me. That’s incredible. Okay.
James: He’s Black. His daddy was Black. Down in Louisiana they [look white?], but they Black. [Janice] Howard came out of my class. Now, Janice Howard was one of the panelists on my thing last Thursday. Janice is worth a half a billion dollars. And Janice thinks big, but when you start dealing with people you gotta do your homework, and your people should do their homework. What does Janice do with their money? Do you know what she’s doing with their money? What she’s supporting? She’s from North Carolina A&T. How much money is she giving North Carolina A&T? She started a special program of training Black kids in STEM. How many people know that? So it’s not so much making the money, it is what are you doing with the money, and how are you helping people less fortunate than yourself? That’s what I’ve been doing all my life, and I’m just saying that’s what we all have to think. And this is true, and I’ll tell you because you should know this, you know, I’m doing my studying and I’m saying, “Wait a minute, 7 out of 10?” I’ma give you another test. What do 7 out of the 10 richest Americans in the world have in common?
Zach: I mean, they’re white men.
James: They’re all white men, yeah. What else? That’s a given too, man. Come on. What else?
Zach: Okay, what else? Um, they start with some capital, like, some seed capital.
James: You’re getting close. 7 out of 10 are owners of tech companies. So I’m saying–here I am, old Jim Lowry–if Black people want to take a major jump–because the other things I thought you were leaning for, a lot of these people got money because they had something that a venture capitalist said, “Okay, I can finance this young guy, and he gonna make me money and I’m gonna make money.” He can blow it up. So if you look at those firms–and Bezos is the richest man world, right? He didn’t inherit money. Gates didn’t inherit money. Okay? So but they came up with approaches and technology, and many of these young guys, the guy from Uber and others like that, they didn’t have any money, and a couple guys I could name, they were living in their momma’s living room.
James: You know, the same thing with Steve Wozniak and Apple. So where are Black people doing that? So what I did, I said “I got to go to the West Coast. I got to understand this.” Fortunately the West Coast came to me, and these young guys came and said, “We’re starting this company.” And that’s the difference between West Coast and East Coast. West Coast culture, man, he said, “I’m part of a $2 billion venture fund.” He was a brother, $2 billion [?]. “And I went to my partner, and I had a concept, and they gave me $2 million.” They gave him 2 million. Okay, now, obviously this boy made money as an equity partner in the venture fund, so he had some kudos he could play. He got some chips to play, okay? And so he gets 2 million dollars. So one of the young guys said, “You know, I think that we gotta bring in Mr. Lowry. He’s wise, he’s connected, and he can help us. You know, we’re only talking about a year, man, a year and a half. I went out and got connected ’cause I want to understand tech, venture capital, because I want to grow a lot of you guys fast. You know, we started doing it, we’re doing different things. First thing was get the tech, to get the platform up, because the whole vision that he had and I had is connect all you people across the United States who are Black. We don’t know each other. Okay, that’s the reason I wrote the book, because people knew me, but they didn’t really know me. Certain people did, you know? Some very important people knew it, but most people didn’t. But anyway, I said, “Wow, this is different. I’m part of the whoel game now.” Do you know we got another $5 million? So we [?] a tech platform, okay? So that’s an example of how you think big. Even in my late age, I can’t do what–I told you I started this foundation, and then they step over. I had [?] 60 people. It was getting too big. I couldn’t handle it. It was just too much on people like yourself wanting to come to my house and listen to me [?], so I’m gonna do it through technology. You’re gonna be reading about this stuff on this platform. We got 10,000 members. We’re shooting for 20,000. We can grow our own. We’re gonna do it. But I think what we gotta do is find out where the brothers are and where the sisters are and make this a collective–the thing I said at the very start of the of the interview, we ain’t got time to do everything on our own. The worst thing that Black people could do is have [silos?].
Zach: I agree with that. So I recognize the need for money, right? But, like, what I think sometimes is that people are so obsessed with being a quote-unquote boss they don’t want to cede power or control in the name of something bigger, and the reality is, because we don’t have the same historical access to capital that our white counterparts have, we don’t have the privilege of, you know, sequestering and not working together. And everybody can’t work together or whatever, but you know what I mean. Like, we have to do better. So let’s talk a little bit more about this book, right? And you’ve been talking through a bit about why you wrote the book and what you hope people get out of it. You know, I’d like to get an understanding, you know, when you look at these folks [?] today, like, there’s a renewed push for equity, inclusion, for organizations to really strive to create true belonging in really tangible ways, and when I think about where you started–and you made mention of the 104 folks and that group now going on to create even more impact and, like, you know, the seeds have sprouted, grown trees and grow more trees. I’m sure that even as you look at your life you probably can’t even connect and count all the different ways and lives that you’ve impacted because of your work at McKinsey. So with respect to your work and the lack of diversity and inclusion and belonging and equity that you experienced in 1968, you know, what advice do you have for this new generation of Black and brown consultants specifically, or just folks in the service industry, seeking to speak truth to power, seeking to create more than what they see in front of them? Like, you know, is there ever a point where you look around and you say, “We’ve gotten enough.”? Like, how do you keep yourself–’cause I don’t get the sense that you’re satisfied. I feel like if you were satisfied you wouldn’t be writing books, you wouldn’t be talking to me. Talk to me about how you’re feeling about this moment. Talk to me about your perspective on this moment. And, you know, if you could give advice to, like, the young consultants in this space today, what would it be?
James: You know, I think part and parcel of the answer would be why I do it is you got to have a positive mental attitude however bad things are. That’s why I keep doing what I do where I do it, and I sincerely believe that by opening the doors for all these other people coming in after me–and there is a rippling effect–that I’m affecting change in the industry. Now, the good news about the industry is the number of you coming in and being in these professional services firms have increased dramatically. The number of partners has not. And why is that? So you got to ask yourself, “Why is that?” So I think, you know, you got to be analytical, you’ve been trained as a consultant. The first thing I’d say is who really makes the decisions on partnerships? You know, I’m sure it changes from–you know, Deloitte, Chicago is different from Deloitte, Houston, they’re different, but you got to understand who’s on top and what, where they go. What synagogue, what church they go to, because at the end of the day, they ain’t nothing but people, and if we kind of generalize and not deal with the [?]–Ron, who gave me the opportunity to come back to McKinsey and increase it from 404. So you got to deal with that. Now, the leadership now is different, because there was guilt when people in the south were, you know, being killed. And so what the difference is, and I don’t mean in a negative way, but when I was there in 68, it was all [?]. Now it’s military. Now it’s physically challenged. Now [?]. So everybody’s under the tent now. And the biggest difference is white women. And once again, I don’t have anything against white women, but the same guy who lives in, you know, the upscale community in Houston, he goes home to white women. His daughter’s going to TCU or MSU, you know, Southern Methodist, you know? She’s a white woman. So it’s a whole different comfortability. I think the other thing too, whether it’s right or wrong or it’s not even correct, that, you know, we’ve been fighting to try and get all these Black people in and it ain’t working, so let’s try something else. I think that’s an element of it. I’m saying, I don’t think that’s working. [?] So I think that’s an element of it, and then I think the things that you face, I face–and it doesn’t matter if you went to Harvard or if you went to [?]–we still Black, and we still have certain challenges within our home, our family, our communities, that people just don’t understand and probably don’t care to understand. But we are different, and we have different challenges, and if they’re really going to be serious about it they have to open up their mind. Now, assuming all that stuff happens, then the flip side is what do we do when we get into these situations. So the advice I would give is very clearly. First thing is play the game to win and not play the game not to lose. I’ve seen too many Blacks come into these situations. Maybe looking at the history, looking at the numbers, looking at the scarcity of Black people in higher positions and saying “Ah, Hell, I ain’t gonna make it, and I know I ain’t gonna make it because of this and that.” And I give them advice, and I’m very sincere. I do it at BCG every year. “Play the game to win to become a partner.” Even if you don’t become a partner, if you play the game to be in a partner, you will get more out of the experience, you will get strong people who will strongly recommend you. You might even [?] potential partners out of the experience to do that. But play the game to be a partner. Thirdly, know the difference between a coach, a mentor and a sponsor. A coach is there to give you the rudiments of being a good consultant. A mentor is somebody you can trust, who will give you honest feedback when you need it. Okay? And learn, even with that mentor, if he’s good or she’s good, she’s gonna make you flinch on hearing [BLEEP] you don’t want to hear, okay? You got to be strong and trust that person and say, “They’re in my corner, and it didn’t feel good what they said, but if I can learn from that…” So that’s the mentor. But as you move up, three years later, you got to start developing who’s gonna sponsor you. That’s when it gets back to when I said “Who’s at the top of this pyramid?” And at the end of the day, if you ain’t got no sponsor, you gotta say, “I want Joe Blow to be a partner in this firm.” You ain’t getting in. I don’t care what kind of evaluation you’re gonna have. You ain’t getting in. So these are the things you have to do, and then the only other quick kind of thing, what I did I would highly recommend you guys. You find out who is the smartest guy in the office. Who’s writing the articles for the Harvard Business Review? Who’s getting all the right assignments? Who’s the guy all the partners want on their team,” okay? Study that person. See how they write. See how they analyze. See what the charts they even produce? Okay? See how they present, you know, how they use language, how they use language to write, to do decks. Study that son of a gun like anything you’ve ever done. Every office has got two or three superstars, and if you can, get close to them.
Zach: You know, Mr. Lowry, this has been an incredible conversation. Before we let you go, you know, typically we ask if anybody has any, you know, shout outs or anything. You’ve been giving us so many gems this entire conversation, but before I let you go, I didn’t know if there was anybody, any org, any group, any individuals that you wanted to show some love to.
James: Yeah, I want to show my love to all my beautiful, beautiful people, white, Black, and brown, at BCG, who really make me feel so good and so respected and so appreciated. I drag into that office–not now, but I dedicate my life to them, because the more that I can bring in, the more I can help become partner, and one of mine is–not only she left as a partner, the first Black female [?], she’s now the president of a major corporation, and I remember talking her to join BCG, now to lead BCG and support her when she became a partner at BCG. And now she’s the president at McCormick. So that’s awesome. [?] I reach out to all the young people that you’re going to connect me to, because I really feel that I do have things to share. I’ve learned a lot. I mean, read the book. I mean, most of the stuff you don’t even see. Some of the examples that I mentioned, you’ll see in the book. Learn from the book, ask me questions about the book, and if you really liked the book and you got a lot out of it, recommend it to other people. That would make a difference. And, you know, [?] my people at Valence. I mean, Valence is for me the hope, the future. We’re gonna get it together, we’re going to set the model, and, you know, in our community–because I was on on the board [?], once we went public, everybody and their mother had a hair product company [?] and gotten rich. You know, they said, “Well, we can do it if George did it.” So we have to create big models. You’re creating a big model. You got to grow your big model, get with people who can help you grow it, but think big. Don’t ever let anybody deter you from thinking big.
Zach: Man, I appreciate it. Y’all, you know what we’re doing every single week. We’re having these conversations with incredible people. I’m just so honored and so thankful to have Mr. James Lowry on our podcast. Make sure you check out his book. It’s in the show notes, as well as more information about just the story and history, frankly, of a civil rights legend. I mean, shout out to you, Mr. Lowry. Until next time, y’all, this has been Zach. We’ll catch y’all next time. Peace.
Zach: And we’re back. You know, I was thinking about this. I was thinking, like, “What roles do we play?” And I was talking to a mentor of mine who is firmly Gen X, right? He’s firmly Generation X. And he said, “Look, Zach, like, you’ve pushed me more and more to consider younger perspectives, and, you know, I genuinely love the person I’m talking about because they really model to me what the older generation should be doing with the younger generations, right? So he engages me with curiosity. He pushes back, he tells me to slow down, he’ll tell me to speed up, but mostly he’s telling me to slow down, and I think that’s good. I think it’s good that he is telling me to slow down or that he’s telling me to calm down or telling me to ease up or change my methods. And I don’t always listen, I don’t always agree, but I think therein lies, like, the healthy tension that should exist. And lowkey I kind of got this from Joe Budden randomly, ’cause he was talking about it in the context of hip hop, but I’m gonna, like, flip it and talk about it from the context of just, like, corporate America, professional progression, development, all of that. The reality is is that if the younger generation isn’t doing things to make the older generations a little uncomfortable, they’re probably not acting at the top of their generational license. Right? Like, the younger generations should be creating a healthy amount of disruption and chaos. Like, that’s what we’re here for, because we have the energy to do it, right? We should definitely be listening to the older generations, but the main thing that the youngest generation should be doing is building and moving and progressing things. They should be pushing things. You need that. And then the older generations should be a little uncomfortable and not always agree, and provide wisdom and just share what they did when they were the younger generation, right? And just impart that wisdom and, frankly, support and fund and sponsor the younger generation. Because the older generation has capital. They have the social capital, they have the financial capital, they have the political capital. So the oldest ones, right, of the living generations should be in a more and more sponsorship and impartation role, while the younger generations should be in the progressive pushing pressure, healthy chaos, good trouble mode, right? And when all of these groups operate at the top of the generational licenses, that’s when we continue to create healthy change and, frankly, liberation, and so I found it so incredible in my discussion with Mr. Lowry that he was talking about the fact that he’s been pivoting and trying to figure out what does it look like to make himself more accessible to people, right? You didn’t hear him talking about him trying to, like, build the most innovative thing. He’s trying to create digital platforms and use and get upskilled on tools so that he can make connections and leverage his network to help people. That’s what Mr. Lowry wants to do, And that’s perfect. Like, that’s exactly what we need. If you listened to the discussion, like, he and I did not agree on everything, and his definition of things are different than mine, as they should be, because he was working in 1968. Like, he was a young man in 1968. And so my hope is, you know, as I talk to folks who are of various ages, that you will consider that and ask yourself where you sit, right, in this pyramid or whatever shape you want to use, but where do you sit in this, and what role are you playing, and are you operating at the top of your generational license? With that being said, look, there are plenty of ways to support Living Corporate. The first thing is you can just tell your friends about us. This is a great episode. Mr. Lowry really birthed hundreds and hundreds, and actually thousands, of careers through his legacy that he’s built at McKinsey and now BCG. He has done incredible work, and there are so many people that you can tangibly point to today that were a part of his work and his coalition building. So my hope is that if you know anybody that is in consulting or who has been in consulting that you would forward this episode to them, especially if they’re Black and brown, because this is actually American history. We were able to talk to an icon who was responsible for, frankly, the diversification of the consulting space. In fact, the mentor that I was alluding to earlier, he was the second generation of Black consultants at McKinsey, and he wouldn’t have been there without Mr. Lowry, and without my mentor, I might not be where I am. Right? So trust me, it’s important. The things that we do are important. The things that we’re trying to–you know, your time matters, right? That’s what I’m trying to say, your time matters. It’s important to use it effectively and use it wisely, because you’re making an impact, and people are seeing and hearing you whether you know it or not. And so use that time effectively, be purposeful and intentional with your time, and–so yeah, you know, tell folks about this episode. I’m sorry. I’m passionate because I’m just thinking about all of the seeds and the things that he’s grown and he’s built here. It’s incredible. Anyway, tell somebody about the episode, and the other thing you can do is give us five stars. Give us five stars on Apple Podcasts. It’s a great way to let folks know that we exist. It’s also just a great way to to grow and build our community. Until next time, y’all, this has been Zach. Check us out at living-corporate.com. Until next time, y’all. Peace.