Who Am I and What Do I Do? The Kyle Phoenix Bio by Kyle Phoenix
My Amazon Author's Page by Kyle Phoenix
My Amazon Author's Page
Kyle Phoenix in Emporio Armani,
I'm particularly proud of all of my work being pulled together into an Amazon.com Author's page---you'd be surprised at the things that hit you as touching during your work. I've presented to thousands of people over the years, in person, online, through Skype even---in multiple countries! but when I was asked to compile and contribute to this Author's page, I was tickled beyond reason. For years I've always clicked onto other Author's pages and though I was never envious, when I finally received one, I realized how valuable I thought they were. How encouraging. This is one of the moments when I finally felt like an author, after years of being published in multiple venues, again all over the world, this and when I arrived for a book presentation and a member of the audience had a copy of one of my books---and it was well worn/read and dog-eared---that hit me in the emotional breadbasket!
My Amazon Author's Page
I keep getting emails that are basically iterations of the question: what exactly do you do, Kyle? In my eyes, I don't do enough but in some other ways I do a lot. I hope in sharing this it won't simply be a blueprint on me but it will also help you see how to map yourself, deal with adversity and shape your life rather than just exist in it.
As I've written before I LOVE business which is why I went and got an MBA, with a heavy focus on Entrepreneurship. I've owned and operated a business since I was 7 years old and keep experimenting with various incarnations of what interests me from publishing to now media with the TV show, books, online videos, online university blogs, etc.. I'm in the process of editing classes onto the YouTube channels around strategic planning, entrepreneurship, finance, investing to make it a real useful endeavor.
The focus on race and identity/sexual identity came about by my non-profit work at several agencies and it's natural tie-in to education. I've done probably over a thousand workshops on every conceivable topic around relationships, sexuality, sex, identity, etc.. That's been fun. I'm really interested in creating a platform that offers to men (and women) particularly of color a resource for personal growth and evolution.
Me at Columbia 2013
I'm closing in on about 30,000 hours of active teaching. I'm pretty good at it. I feel kind of Luke Skywalker in Return of the Jedi, which is why I have dragged, pulled yanked, starved myself to return to school at Columbia University for Master Jedi training. So far I've found the joint is packed with Master Jedi teachers so I'm in the first 3 year trimester of what I envision to be a decade long learning cycle. Why so long? The longer I sit there, the more interesting something that's related to education and business pops up and I explore that tract. The original plan was simply Adult Learning then Law school for a JD and Doctorate in Educational Policy. Now I'm also interested in doubling up some time frames and maybe getting another MBA and then eventually using another decade for Masters in Music, Biology-Psychology and Physics/Quantum Mechanics.
My own teaching at Columbia as an Instructor has really brought me up a level because it forced me into a level of diversity where I had to absorb the mechanics of environmental science, computers, vocational training, adult education and media usage. That has demanded that I be able to flexibly immerse myself into new fields and be prepared to present, cogently, them to students seeking everything from a GED to Masters degree, It's really ramped up the demands on my teaching skills.
I see it that I have one life and the campus is full of some of the smartest instructional professionals I've ever met so I want to satisfy my curiosities and interests In that environment that's measured by degrees.
21st Century, The Kyle Phoenix Show
I just broadcast the 181th episode of my TV show! Yayness! And I think I'm finally into the curve of now knowing how to design and produce a television show. I actually repeated shows this season to give myself some educational time with production, computers, editing, on-air skills, show design, so that I can ramp that up another level. My current contract is for another 6 1/2 years, 3 1/2 years at this format level of a weekly 30 minute show with an option on the back end for another 3 1/2 years with format changes so I think I'll really hit my true groove in about 3 years.
I've been really fortunate to be able to take time by broadcasting through public airwaves to not have the pressure of perfection right out the box. It's a little known fact but I was offered a television show, not once but twice by the State University of New York system. Once as a public safety format and the second time have my classes recorded and distributed/syndicated. Both times I turned them down for two different but related reasons: Control and Ownership.
Ironically Oprah Winfrey through her company Harpo, Inc. taught me how to view the show and about not maintaining shackles of mental slavery on what was possible. She also taught me the value of one's show catalog/library and designing a show with intentionality to a core mission statement that is a direct manifestation of my own beliefs. Nothing goes into or onto the show that I don't approve of and I wholly own it. My one concession of control has been the YouTube videos (once uploaded, one doesn't actually own the videos any longer but in a convoluted way co-owns them with YouTube/Google.) I had to make some adjustments on video production and putting the TV shows online because of that consideration but after some wrangling and negotiation I'm happy with the YouTube partnership and have started to produce and upload more videos. Yeah, I think it that deep even on something like YouTube. That depth of consideration allows me to have spread out the videos to 22 other sites (Hi5, Metacafe, Sclipo, etc.) and that level of saturation has given me an international viewership.
I've been slowly building and now ready to launch into production on expanding the TV show around the world and that's slowly coming to fruition. Oprah also taught me to take my time, not chase money and slowly build rather than try to burn hot too quick. It's getting bigger but in a deliberate way, with a clean intention around itself and to be a tool of education. I look at it as longevity work with current base viewership of 550,000 but in alignment with the blog, the podcasts, the online videos it can average a couple of million a week. And I'll be honest with you, I'm not really putting my foot to the metal with it. I've been slowly building and learning and re-tooling. I'm excited by what it will be in a few years, what options I'll be entertaining and how I'll have expanded it. But primarily I look at it's educational value and consider that between that media work, my own workshops and teaching, in the next 50 years, just chugging along like this and allowing for having a deep impact on only 1 or 2% of the audience, I could "teach" 2 million students. That makes me happy. But I take the responsibility of these platforms and their impact seriously.
Years ago when I had a fleeting moment of fame around my writing, I was given the option, literally of choosing one of two paths with my creative work. And I chose an Oprah model of ownership and control with integrity and intentionality.
Publishing, From Newspapers to Books,Then and Now
I was just visiting with my parents and we were discussing stuff and my mother offered to give me lock, stock and barrel a non-profit company she started up but now she's looking to retire. I flashed back to when I was 7 and then when I was 14. When I was 7 years old I wanted to buy more comic books and action figures but my allowance wasn't enough so my mother suggested I start a business. I came up with delivering newspapers in the building we lived in on Staten Island. The deal was I would purchase the Sunday paper for 50 cents and resell it to the neighbors for 75 cents, making a quarter off of each paper. I needed start up capital so my mother drew up a contract with terms of repayment, we both signed it and she invested $5 in my first business. I repaid her after two weeks of selling papers and a few weeks later hired the babysitter's children to cover other buildings. A month or so after that I had to fire them (yes, I fired my first employees at 7) because they wanted a third of the entire businesses profits not half of their own sales. I did it for awhile longer and then time went on and in middle school I discovered that the comic craze extended to merchandising.
At first it was trading comics and then selling them back to stores for a few cents more then it became tagging along with my mother to her job at AT&T and using their industrial photocopier and making enlargements of heroes and scenes. Then it became buying and copying role playing games and selling them at half the store price. Then it became hiring other student artists for special requests and getting a cut of those sales as the broker. That lead to my trying to figure out ways to expand from simply a singular school to the neighborhood or dare I dream, the city....or larger? I started a small comic book company gathering together talented young people and adults, forging together comic books/a large print magazine as the Editor In Chief and President. The kicker was a membership few of $20 a year for the members (I got thousands of addresses from the letters fans sent into comic books that were printed in the back.) Unfortunately after a few years of development, the time consumption, workload, having to fire other people who were staff, the lack of computer graphic design sophistication and doing everything by mail (this was right before the internet blew up) took it's toll. But it was fun. And most importantly this is what I was doing while I was only 14, only the staff, not the membership knew my true age, and my mother rewarded me for this great idea
Carlene Hatcher Polite
Wisely I played around with writing and publishing in college, chap books, magazines, newspapers and was published all throughout the university and in the South, Colorado, California, Texas, Washington, France, Italy, etc.. Heady stuff when one is in one's early 20s. I worked diligently for several years on manuscripts and was fortunate enough to win some prizes, get selected and published. But I was still drawn to business and I was concerned that I would become not only a starving artist but someone who only got 10% royalties for his work. Back to control and ownership.
I count Reginald Lewis, Oprah Winfrey, John D. Rockefeller, AG Gaston, Warren Buffet and Kimora Lee Simmons with teaching me big business. I credit my mentors Carlene Hatcher Polite, Raymond Federman, Irving Feldman (who've all since passed one) and indirect mentorship from Toni Morrison, Geoffrey Canada, Stephen Brookfield and Reuven Feuerstein with teaching me the art of writing and teaching. My parents taught me a lot about small business ownership and encouraged me to go further, into the real world where I've worked for banks, real estate tycoons, investment firms, law firms, energy and gas conglomerates, technology start ups, schools, non-profits and finally a restaurant because I am insatiably curious about businesses.
I walk down streets calculating what kind of business could, would and should survive or not in neighborhoods. Black Enterprise and Forbes magazine are like pornography to me I enjoy it so much. I watch Shark Tank and the originator Dragon's Den, both the Canadian and UK versions. I used to be fascinated by CNBC. I've been lucky to be able to bring all my interests to degrees and bear at work situations. I generally take positions off to the side, assistants to the VIPs, so that I'm not bogged down in crabs in a barrel competitions but still get access to the top people. I like finance, the law and business, A lot.
And I also love teaching. And writing. And media to some degree in creation of this blog, the online videos, the television show, the podcasts, a magazine from the show and one or two film ideas I have. I've directed some music videos in college and written and directed one feature length film. The TV show is a natural re-iteration of that work ten years later.
Recently it's morphed even further into starting a school for adults, The Omni Institute, to accelerate their educational levels. I worked at the Harlem Children's Zone for years and was offered a $100,000 a year position at a hedge fund afterwards but I had a strange, the strangest interview ever. The HR lady interviewing me said that all my business skills were perfect to manage things for a group of attorneys but there were two hiccups. One, they weren't interested in someone who ever intended to go to law school so I would have to curtail that dream for at least 4 to 7 years and two, she personally felt I was a teacher. The second point stuck and we literally negotiated that for an hour. My resume was of course tightly business, focusing on my MBA skills, my legal skills, my business background and development experience, HCZ being the only educational thing on there. My Teacher's Asst. work at SUNY was sort of a one line fleshing out of days a decade past. But she said no, she instinctively felt I was a teacher. We could go further and because they'd had me up to the compound in Connecticut, I was a shoe-in for the job but she wasn't sure if I was going to be happy. She wanted me to think about it for the weekend before accepting the position.
I did and took it as a major sign from the Universe and instead accepted a position as a Youth Coordinator at a non-profit I'd been volunteering at....and then started the application and preparation process for law school at COlumbia University. I took a 50% pay cut but it was worth it. A couple years later another non-profit had heard of my work that they wooed me away from a sinking ship by doubling my salary and then I skipped from that job to Columbia University.
I decided on Columbia (where I met another great mentor Stephen Brookfield who transformed and accelerated my teaching career/ability) because I had years of teaching experience but I didn't feel like I knew how to use the Force (Brookfield is like a Master Jedi, Yoda at teaching!) properly, that so much of my lauded skill was instinctual and I wanted some concrete back up to it. Both the school and the results from it have done wonders. Between the school and the TV show I got appointed to a political position on my local Community Board and learned an immense amount about politics and community. I've worked with another half dozen firms through the university sponsorship/relationship/aegis that has allowed me to see what works, what doesn't and put my new skills into action with better results. And did I mention that it's like being at Jedi Mental Summer Camp. It's delightful to be somewhere where no one is a mental slouch. In someways race dissipates and in others it becomes more pronounced but that's for another blog.
I always had manuscripts, short stories, articles, essays and they've published for close to twenty years---ever since Genesis, the small press comic book company---so publishing for me lacks a blast of excitement---it's all about the work for me. In 2013 I was looking to tackle another project---to create so more challenges and work and mesh together as always my business interest and creative interests. So I started a publishing company and so far have published 29 books in both paperback and E Book formats. The year end goal is 140 books that I will have written on everything from sexuality, identity, education, race, youth education, GED reinvention, the Common Core curriculum in schools, fictitious novels, short stories and a compilation of essays. and they've been selling like hotcakes all over the world. That's been exciting. The next step is more print, online and televised marketing and an E Newsletter and Magazine (are you seeing that Oprah model at play again, hmmmmm?)
I burn the midnight oil. I'm a night person---probably writing most of this after midnight.
There is no such thing as multi-tasking---you start out with 100% and you sub-divide---so I'm sub-dividing do this as I listen to a TV show on Netflix, post marketing "flyers" online, clean up the blog, write this blog, scan manuscript pages in to the computer to put into a book template format, and look up random bits and pieces of info and thoughts that hit me on the multiple screen---Swordfish-like computer system I have set up.
I date a lot. lol
I was most touched by my mother, being presented with my line of books in her hospital bed recently, looking them over and immediately launching into a series of questions about distribution, ownership, copyright, E Books, international distribution, printing costs, mark ups, sales, royalties, taxes---show her the business model that would show her the money! Her business acumen and ambition has always made me understand that I had to understand the bottom line even though my deepest investment isn't simply for money.
My mother said, "Holy shit! You're really doing it!"
I felt deeply gratified by that compliment.
So I write this to show you I've been pushing my windmill for over 20 years now in so many iterations that Beyonce (I know I was shocked too) illustrated that if you're in the Flow of your life and look back you can see the pieces, the steps and start to see forward as well. My Godmother told me to pursue Columbia, about Brookfield, about all of the other personal things I thought were maybe just dreams. So I write this not simply as a record of me but as a pattern, plan, outline for you.
- Chart your life.
- Examine it closely.
- Stick to your odd guns.
- Get in person mentors and cultural/business mentors.
- Know how to do business. Period.
- Date a lot.
Eat well. (I love a good steak. A friend just too me to Bobby Van's for a celebration dinner for all the books, book clubs I was the focus of, book signings---I felt special!)
Treat yourself (with my first royalty payment I bought myself a steak. I always buy myself a little something with 10% before I use the money.)
USE money. (I've always worked but used money to create business ideas (I had Ebay and Amazon stores for years online---sitting at home in my PJs earning an outrageous salary). If you go to work and make money and use that money to pay bills---you're in a cycle of maybe happiness, probably not. use money to create things, fund things, start things. (I do a lot of anonymous funding on Kickstarter. Pass it around. I'm also scouting investments in real estate now that some of my family had been successful in---again another aligned Oprah lesson---real estate is the one thing that they can't make more of. Buy it now! Barbara Cochran on the Today Show a few years ago said find any piece of crap house you can for whatever you afford, buy it, rent it out---with positive cashflow (Robert Kiyosaki is another mentor---and viciously smart and hilarious in person---I use his books as my own library of lessons and his game Cashflow 101 with all of my students to teach them about money, financial management, investment and advancement) coming back in. I'm using one hand, one work, one profit to do that too.
Why am I doing all of this?
For a husband and children one day (and myself) to pass it on to them----and because I had a lot of friends (and honestly some family) and fellow students undergrad in Buffalo who wanted to be writers, artists, creative. They have nice, safe, fat ass desk jobs where they fear the words recession and lay offs and such. Only one (Jennifer Karmin) has stuck their creative guns.
Stick to your guns.
My Amazon Author's Page
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