December, 2019, it’s one of those years and month I will never forget. I was talking to a bunch of friends and family, they all had the same thing, “2020 is going to be their year”, everyone, 20, 20, 20, 20. Even my mom called me. She says, “Son, Jesus Christ Hallelujah. 2020 is going to be a great year”. I chuckled a little because 20 years prior to that, my mom had called me 1999. I don’t know if you guys remember?
Remember “Y2K? The planes going to fall off from the sky?” Well, my mom is a devoted Christian. She called me, she says, “Son, December 31st, Jesus Christ is coming. When the clock strike 12, he’s taking all his children with him. And I would love for you to come with me in Jesus Christ to heaven”. We know what happened after that, right?
So anyway, so I’m thinking about 2020. I’m not really a social media guy. I go on Instagram and I’m seeing. everyone posting memes and posts about ’20, 20, 20'. I don’t know what it is about 2020. I don’t know the 2020 vision thing, the numbers. I decided, I’m not going to go away. I’m going to stay home. I’m going to atone myself and take 2020 peacefully. Because I never understood this whole new year’s resolution thing. Right? How do you just take one day to change your life? “Oh, I’m going to lose a lot of weight”. But what happened for the last 12 months? Right?
So anyway, I go into 2020, December 31st, 2020 came in, felt like any other year. Couple weeks into January, I decided to go breakfast in one of my favorite places in LA, microbiotic place, eat my buck with pancakes. I get a call from a friend. He says, “Yo, did you hear what happened?” I said “What?” “They said Kobe died”. I said, “Kobe, who?” He said, “Bryant”. So, I go on Instagram. I go on Google. I don’t see anything. Now, I don’t on about you guys, but you know how, there’s some people you just believe just won’t ever die. Right? Like I remember Christopher Reeds, “Superman”, felt like he would never die. Or Morgan Stanley. I mean I’m 48 years old. I remember watching Morgan Stanley when I was three years old Sesame Street and he’s live and kicking to this day. He’s like god, you just don’t believe some people would die. It’s almost like they conquer immortality.
40 minutes later, all the news outlet reported, “Kobe tragically had passed away”. Now, it hit a little bit hard for me, because a month prior to that, I was with him at Diddy’s 50th year anniversary, and it hit hard. Now, while that was happening, in far, far, far east, there was rumblings and whispers about something. Walking through February, these whispers started to get louder. Something about a virus.
Now, we as Americans in recent memory, we’ve seen a couple viruses come, right, Sars, Ebola.
Remember the kid who got on a plane to come to America. They switched the plane back, quarantined the dude for like 20 days. So, we always thought, “Oh, it’s like any other virus”. Geographically speaking, they always seem to contain it where these viruses emerged from. But, there was a word that they used that made all of us say, “Whoa, lockdown, lockdown”.
I remember thinking to myself, “What does that mean?” Because, we never witnessed it. There was no historical reference to it. I mean, when you think about it, the turn of the last century, 1918 to 1920 Spanish flu, no lockdown. World War I World War 11, no lockdown. Great depression no lockdown. Cuban missile crisis, no lockdown. Vietnam war, no lockdown. Civil rights riot, no lockdown. Seventies, eighties, nineties, no lockdown. 09/11, no lockdown. The great recession, no lockdown. So, what does a lockdown means?
One Sunday morning, March 15th, I fly to New York with a friend of mine. We get to New York, about three o’clock we land. I decided to go take a nap. Got up at seven, starving. There’s this restaurant I love right down the street from me. I go to the restaurant. The restaurant is closed. Okay. I go to Bond Street, that’s closed. I try to go to my Jamaican spot, that’s closed. I call my assistant Kim, “Order me some Noble. I’m going to go pick it up”. She calls me back, “Noble 57th. Noble downtown is closed. Oh, by the way, your favorite Cuban restaurant in Midtown is closed”. Now, I didn’t put two and two together, because you know, I’m in my space, I’m in my world, I don’t know what’s going on, so I’m like, “I got to eat something”. I’m standing right in front of Wendy’s. I don’t like fast food. I’m a [inaudible 05:46] type of guy, to be honest with you.
So, I said, “I’m going to get the best of the worst. There’s a restaurant. I know no matter what’s going on on this planet, it always stays open. I don’t care if there’s an alien ship hovering around New York City, it’s going to stay open. It might even send some food to the aliens”. I walk 20 blocks. I get there and subway is closed. I called several other subways and they’re all closed. I have to tell you, ladies and gentlemen, I was sincerely concerned. It was just around eight o’clock at night, Sunday, about 74 , but it was eerily quiet. So I’m like, “You know what? I mean, I am used to fasting”.
I go home. I deal with it with the next morning. I get up. I have somewhere to go, an appointment. I go to my appointment. When I get there, everyone was like in the mayhem. New York city just said “They’re going into a lockdown”. I said, “Whoa”. Book me the next flight back to LA. Because, if there is a lockdown, I think I’m better situated to navigate in LA. So, I fly to LA. As I get to LA and I get home, it just Dawn upon me. It was like I had an epiphany.
What have happened now is the planet it’s about to teach us the word reset. Reset is one of the most understated, underappreciated, undervalued word. It’s a characteristic that we don’t attribute to us like courage, endurance, resilience. When we think of reset, we think of setting your clock. You reset your clock or your watch, right? We don’t think of it like, it’s a natural progression in life that you need to. Because, what is reset? Reset is you rethink, you reanalyze, recalibrate, revalue, re-adjust, rebrand, redefine, all of those are the subtext of reset.
So, I get home in LA. I didn’t want to do what everyone else I think was going to do. Stay locked down.
Hope for the best. Eat, Netflix, Amazon prime. My partner out of London, we got a startup. We decided we’re going to continuously work. Call strategic partnership, fortune 500 companies, because we want to be ready for when this does open, we was continuously working. So, for the better part of March, April, May, we was home doing our work. May I decided to start traveling, go back to New York. But unfortunately a tragic happened in May that almost pinned down the country, the killing of George Floyd.
We started to see the whole country protest, more than 40 states. We’ve never seen protest unrest like this, not even during the civil war. And it wasn’t just here in the states, it was 60 othercountries, Europe, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, May, June, July, protests. I witnessed it in LA, New York, Miami.
I get a call from a friend of mine, Dave Chappelle in August. He said, “Hey Pras, I’m doing a birthday party. Love for you to come and celebrated with me”. I said, “No problem”. The timing was kind of perfect because I was heading to LA, anyway. So, I said, “Let me stop in Columbus”. He said, “By the way, you think the Foogies could come and perform?” I said, “Come on Dave. That’s never going to happen”.
So, I get to Columbus, drop my bags to the hotel. Now, Dave, he doesn’t want anyone around him until you first get tested. So, he’s actually the first person that I saw had a COVID testing facility. I went and got tested. I was clear. So, I meet with Dave. I say, “What’s this thing with this party? It is going by at the house?” He said, “No, you know, I do shows six days a week and my party’s going to be part of the show”. I said, “What do you mean, show, I thought country’s on lockdown?” He said, “No, I spoke to governor. He allowed me to do shows in a corn field”. “In a corn field?” But everybody practiced social distancing. So, Dave Chappelle said, “Man, I don’t want to just sit around home. I’m able to just perform every day and every other week. I invite my friends to do something special. Like last week Chris Rock was there”.
So Dave Chappelle understood he had to reset. So, now he readjusted. Bill Moore came that week. Kevin Hart came. We had a great time. Fly back to LA with Kevin. We get to LA, Kevin say, “Hey listen man, if you are around, I’m doing this rehearsal at the hotel for my next special. Could you come down just let me know what you think. You know? I invite about 20 people. They don’t know what’s what’s going on.
They just come and I just do my gig and see how people feel”. I am like, “Oh, okay”. He readjusted. Now, by that time, we’re going towards the end of August. I think this point we all realized 2020, it’s not the year we thought it was going to be, right? It’s pretty much a dodge. But, we are going into the fall. I think most of us is like, “Man, I just want to get this year over with”.. We’re hearing about second wave, third wave. “Let’s try to get out of this peacefully and then get to 21”. But there’s an elephant in the room. It’s an election year. It doesn’t matter what your political affiliation is. The incumbent is either going to get back in or ex vice president is going to make history with a woman vice president. We knew what happened.
I’m back in December, 2020. Now, the irony of a year ago compare to this year, all my friends, all the posting, all the memes, now one person said 21 is going to be their year. So, I decided I’m going to do a repeat. I’m going to go back and atone myself, get prepared for 21. The same thing happen. The year came in like any other year, we had a little bump in January, but now we in real time, we in May.
Remember everybody said “New York is dead. New York will never come back again”. I don’t know about you guys, looks like it’s live right now to me. There’s traffic, people walking down the streets, right?
We’re New Yorkers, we’re resilient. That’s what we do. But I’m going to say this. The few of us that saw what transpired in the last 18 months, what we understand is this: to continuously pursue your goals, to continuously pursue greatness, there’s a couple things that you have to know and understand. The main thing is this, no matter what happened, moving forward, we know in a couple months from now, country’s going to be completely open. I think it’s going to be one of the greatest summers in our lives.
They’re comparing it to the rolling twenties. But you know how we are. We tend to forget things as we move on. But the few of us who understood what happened.
Because, if the planet was speeding at a thousand miles per hour and the pandemic made it suddenly stop, it’s like speeding on the highway, going 150 miles an hour. You see a police officer, you pump the brakes, right? It’s what happened with this planet. It happened because, for the first time when it stopped the Pacific Ocean, you start to see all these dolphins swimming now because we weren’t tempering with the ocean. China for the first time, the skies were blue. Even in India, they were able to see the Himalaya because everyone was home.
I don’t know if we all took advantage of this reset, but the ones who understood or understand what that meant, it means we just mastered the art and the philosophy of reset it.
Thank you very much, ladies, gentlemen!
More about TEDxWaterStreet
TEDxWaterStreet brings together like-minded individuals who are intentional about resetting as thinkers, leaders, friends and community members to bring about a new perspective on how we press forward. The event aims to challenge human discomfort with obstacles and instead celebrate the strength that accompanies curiosity and the ability to dream. TEDxWaterStreet leaders will speak the language of possibility and foster a rediscovery of what the future holds for our shared humanity. Speakers are chosen through a highly-curated process by a select team that takes into consideration the best ideas. Founded in 2019, TEDxWaterStreet aims to put the NYC community onto a new type of global activity map that is being watched, shared, and talked about by the world’s top thought leaders.
This talk was given at a TEDxWaterStreet event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community.
Watch the full talk below: