“A worldly professional who has mastered the power of duality.”
Jeff grew up a talented only child from Chicago, Illinois. Growing up near the south side, Jeff endured the cold weather as well as the inner challenges of the Windy City. He attested that sports and music were instrumental in his journey to becoming the accomplished attorney-slash-entrepreneur that he is today. The power of duality.
Jeff is a magna cum laude graduate of Howard University with a degree in Legal Communication. Jeff is also a graduate of The George Washington University Law School, where he felt compelled to start The MusicianShip with Dianne Grainger, and her father, Gregory Grainger. In April 2014, Jeffery completed Georgetown’s Nonprofit Executive Leadership Program.As a result of Jeffery’s work with The MusicianShip, he has received five civic awards in the past three years alone, including being named one of “DC’s Top 30 Under 30” by WKYS, “Magic Johnson’s Top 32 Under 32” and a Black Enterprise Modern Man. Jeffery serves as the President of The MusicianShip and plays the drums every Sunday at his local DC church. We pin point on the unique building blocks that have equipped Jeff to flourish in this weeks #ShineHard Conversation.
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What was growing up like for you?
Jeff: I grew up on the south side of Chicago and whenever people think of that part of Chicago they always get this negative connotation. I was really blessed to have grown up in a good home but even in a good home there’s not enough socio-economical distance to have you far away from the craziness. I was able to surface from that environment by my involvement with music. I earned a music scholarship to go to Howard and that’s how it started.
Who did you look up to as a kid?
Jeff: My father. He’s a seminary professor and an engineer by trade. He’s a family man and I aspire to be a family man. Just the duality of life successes is really attractive to me. Michael Jordan too. Which is interesting because as we talk about success and what it means, my affinity for MJ is beginning to wane a little bit because of his community service and lack there of. As musicians, Aaron Spears, Dennis Chambers.
What’s your passion and when did you know?
Jeff: At this point I have several passions. But music is my first passion. Just having played since I was 3 years old, both my parents are musicians. I started playing in church as a kid at 7. It’s always been instilled with me. I fell In love with music in college when I realized I wasn’t gonna make it to the NBA (laughs). Music is a powerful tool and I wanted to become a social engineer in some way.Which leads to my second passion in wanting to help people and develop our youth. My third passion is travel. It’s just a blessing.
Tell me about your non-profit, The MusicianShip? What’s the Mission?
Jeff: The MusicianShip is a non-profit organization that facilitates music lessons and opportunities for at risk youth. We do after school programs and Summer programs. We started off with only 2 students and I was the first instructor. What’s really exciting is that this year we’ll work with close to 400 kids!
So you also have a Law Degree from George Washington, are you doing anything with that?
Jeff: So full time I review and negotiate contracts for an Inc 500 company called Microsystems automation group. I backed my way into that position from my work with the MusicianShip. I got my foot in the door because the owner of the company is on the board of The MusicianShip. They got a big contract and asked me to start the next day. At the time I had less than 100 dollars in my bank account, I was unemployed and at that point is was a no brainier. They’ve afforded me the ability to do both concurrently. It’s a blessing.
Whats been the biggest challenge in your career thus far?
Jeff: I can’t think of any particular thing, but I will say just a universal challenge is consistency. You have to ask yourself, what can I do and for how long? Just to be able to do something consistently well for an extended period of time is always a challenge.
What inspires you to succeed?
Jeff: Growing up on the south side of Chicago I don’t think I’m uniquely different from any other kid in urban America. From watching music videos to just wanting to be a part of something special. As I got older and acquired different mentors, one attorney mentor in particular employed me. He had a full time job and his own business and that was the first time I saw that. That kind of gave me the blueprint as an Entrepreneur, not knowing that in two years I would be doing something very similar. Seeing that example and knowing what’s possible is something that really inspires me.
So traveling seems to be an avid hobby of yours, Whats Been the most memorable experience?
Jeff: I have a lot. Memorable from the good to the bad. From losing my wallet in Germany to getting bit by a German Shepard. I got denied entry to Vietnam at the border of Ho Chi Minh. That was interesting (laughs). They had me in the airport for like 8 hours. I was supposed to be visiting my homeboy and his wife in Singapore. It was nightmare but it was a pretty dope learning experience.
What would you say is the #1 attribute behind your success?
Jeff: Well I wouldn’t just say one, it’s more like 3. One my faith, which helps in my decision making. I’m not perfect but to aspire to be a person of high character and have a higher being that you’re responsible to is definitely a contributing factor. Also, the support that I’ve received from my family and friends throughout my whole journey. Lastly, Hard Work. There is just no substitute for hard work. I didn’t make that up but it’s true.
There’s a lot going on in 2016 with our millennial generation, What frustrates you the most about today’s culture?
Jeff: When I think about social media, I think of a tool that’s useful for people like ourselves who are looking to get a message out there. I also think about how it feeds our self defeating mentalities. Particularly for young people, I can’t imagine what it’s like to grow up in these times. I mean there are moments when I’m still insecure about certain things, but our young people are using social media as their measuring stick in a lot of ways. It’s just really tough to not compare when everything is in your face, especially for our youth.
What is your end goal professionally?
Jeff: Serial Entrepreneurship. I have a few business ideas waiting in the wings so we’ll see what happens with it. Of course, continuing to grow The MusicianShip. There really isn’t anything better than being able to marry your passions.
What advice do you have for people who want to leave their day job and turn their passion into profit?
Jeff: Well I haven’t left my full time day job so I can only speak from my perspective. But in regards to making a living from your passion, I didn’t make any money [with my idea] until two years ago. So that’s something you have to ask yourself, “Can you pour yourself into this idea for four or five years without any financial return on your investment?” If you can and your idea is sustainable then you’ve found something special. If you’re blessed enough to do your full time and your passion at the same time then you’ve found a sweet spot. It’s primarily a question of hard work and financial readiness.