Stand for something. It may seem simple enough but movements are founded on a cause; usually, one that people feel passionate about. In the age of political correctness, the line between diplomacy and apathy to a cause gets blurred. When people aren’t clear about what you stand for it’s hard to rally behind your articulated movement.
As part of my series about “How to write a book that sparks a movement” I had the pleasure of interviewing Rahkim Sabree.
Rahkim is a TEDx speaker, 2x author, and co-founder of the non-profit An Extended Hand, Inc. Visit his website at RahkimSabree.com to find his recent best-seller “Financially Irresponsible” and subscribe to his weekly newsletter.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share the “backstory” about how you grew up?
I grew up in Mount Vernon, NY. My grandfather was hugely influential on my “charge” to share the knowledge and experiences I gain for the betterment of people spiritually, mentally, and physically through cultural awareness. I’ve always known that I wanted to help people but wasn’t quite sure how I’d do it. I thought I wanted to be a psychiatrist for many years, however, I love being an author and speaker.
When you were younger, was there a book that you read that inspired you to take action or changed your life? Can you share a story?
Honestly, yes. I read the book “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” by Roberty Kiyosaki shortly after starting a career in banking. It laid out financial principles that would challenge me to explore investing and business ownership over consumerism and being a highly paid employee. After reading the book I became obsessed with anything about financial literacy. I went to seminars, participated in virtual training events, got into heavy networking, even filed for an LLC to start my own business.
What was the moment or series of events that made you decide to bring your message to the greater world? Can you share a story about that?
It was always in me to share my knowledge and experiences as I had mentioned with my upbringing. However, I had always been someone who wanted to remain behind the scenes. I knew I wanted to help people but I never thought of myself in the light of being “famous” for it. It wasn’t until I wrote my first book that I had to step away from the “behind the scenes” mentality by choosing to put my face on the book’s cover. From then on my focus became building my brand so that I was not only recognized as credible but as someone who would constantly be providing value.
What impact did you hope to make when you wrote this book?
When I wrote “Financially Irresponsible” I knew that the market was saturated with financial literacy content. So I decided to focus on the things that made me unique. I realized that my experience was relatable, but that it was MY experience. I knew that black authors in personal finance were underrepresented. I knew that most people like to tell their success story AFTER they’ve already achieved success. I knew that I was not the millionaire living in their ivory tower but that I was someone who was navigating my way through the trenches. I needed to be distinct and I needed to hit a nerve. I remember while I was writing I kept thinking that I wanted this book to have an impact on others that “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” had on me. I wanted to change the way people looked at their habits and relationships with money in a truly authentic and transparent way.
Did the actual results align with your expectations? Can you explain?
100%. I like to describe my book as a self-help book disguised as a financial literacy book. What I mean by that is that when someone reads it, particularly a person of color, they are faced with acknowledging the barriers to financial success on a systemic level, on a psychological level, and even on a spiritual level. Then they are empowered with ways to navigate those barriers. They can see themselves in me and my failures, but they can also see themselves in me and my success. It is the greatest compliment to me when someone finds me on social media or sends me an email to tell me how they have been inspired and how much this text is needed in underserved communities. I love seeing the photos people take of either them reading the book, or the highlights, underlines, and notes they’ve taken to better their financial circumstances.
What moment let you know that your book had started a movement? Please share a story.
At the height of the social unrest stemming from years of marginalization and reaching a boiling point with the murder of George Floyd, Robert Kiyosaki made a tweet that condemned protesters by calling them “losers”. At that moment I had to examine my feelings about the author and his words vs the impact his book had on my life. I then thought about the many others who would have similar feelings of hurt, frustration, and betrayal. I knew this was an opportunity to highlight my book as a means to teach financial education from the perspective of someone who can relate to their struggles. That I could underscore the importance of a black voice teaching not only financial literacy but focusing on financial empowerment. In the span of a month, my book became a bestseller for the second time since being released 6 months prior. Total sales for the month surpassed what is considered average for a self-published author over the course of a book’s lifetime.
What kinds of things did you hear right away from readers? What are the most frequent things you hear from readers about your book now? Are they the same? Different?
Most of the feedback I’ve gotten has been consistent. That the book is easy to read, relatable, simplifies financial concepts, and that it inspires action. Of the responses, I think what has most surprised me was the wide range of age demographics that resonate with the work. I had a specific age group in mind when I was writing the book, however many people outside of that age group seem to appreciate the content in ways that they can then apply to their own circumstances wherever they are in their financial journey.
What is the most moving or fulfilling experience you’ve had as a result of writing this book? Can you share a story?
There are many! However one involved a young person on Instagram who mentioned in the comments of one of my posts that they were interested in buying my book and was waiting to get paid so that they could purchase it. A stranger replied to their comment telling them to send a DM with their email because they wanted to provide them with a credit so that they could buy the book immediately. I was so moved. This let me know that I had done more than put out a product, but that I was forming a community. People see value in the work and want to sponsor sharing the work with others.
Have you experienced anything negative? Do you feel there are drawbacks to writing a book that starts such colossal conversation and change?
I think there will always be someone who has something to say, or who will try to change or control your narrative. I’ve had people point out the fact that Robert Kiyosaki is much more known than I and that I could never compete with him or his audiences. That he was too big even to notice me. The thing is, I’m not attempting to compete with him or his audience. I’m simply building my own. People are going to gravitate to my content because it is going to relate to their experience. Some people will replace his content with mine and others are going to supplement his content with mine. My goal is simply to empower financially and share my experiences. I think many people forget that I wrote the book 6 months before I even knew about his statement. My mission and movement lie entirely with the people. My book also discusses the role race plays in financial disparities. There are those who would refuse to acknowledge this fact and thus attempt to discredit me. I think in terms of drawbacks, it comes with the territory. Whenever you make someone uncomfortable they are going to fight you to maintain their comfort.
Can you articulate why you think books in particular have the power to create movements, revolutions, and true change?
Books have the power to create movements, revolutions and true change ONLY if people read them. However, I think the act of writing a book is revolutionary in and of itself. As an author, you are making a public declaration that you will be heard and that you will be heard long after you physically leave this plane of existence. When I think about books that are considered classics or literary works that are studied and dissected in classrooms, I doubt the authors knew just how far-reaching and impactful their work would end up being.
What is the one habit you believe contributed the most to you becoming a bestselling writer? (i.e. perseverance, discipline, play, craft study) Can you share a story or example?
An unwavering belief in my product. My book is still relatively new as books go, however, I’ve hit bestseller status twice with 6 months in between. What is not seen is the gap between month 1 and month 6 where sales would trickle in by the 1 and 2 (or 0) sales a month. Most people would probably at that point stop trying. Stop talking about it, stop promoting it, and certainly stop paying for marketing around it. Becoming a bestselling writer is all about marketing. It says nothing about the quality of your work. I knew that I had quality content but you know who didn’t? Everyone else. I just knew that if the right person got their hands on my book that it would change everything. I also knew That I couldn’t wait for that right person to find it. I sent out copies of my book for free to celebrities and micro-influencers hoping that they would respond or share it with someone else. I’ve spent more money on the creation and marketing of the book than I think I could reasonably expect to make back any time soon; and I’m ok with that. Again, my intent is to educate and empower so whichever losses I take is just a labor of love.
What challenge or failure did you learn the most from in your writing career? Can you share the lesson(s) that you learned?
The biggest challenge that I’ve learned from is recognizing and understanding that your product is not for everyone. Some of the first sales of my books certainly came from friends/family who wanted to support me whether they intended on reading my books or not, however, the greater majority of sales have come from people I’ve never met and will likely never meet. There are those friends/family members however who haven’t and likely won’t purchase or even promote my books, and that’s ok. I’ve had to learn not to take it personally and that other people’s belief or disbelief in the success of my books should not have an impact on what my belief in the success of my books look like.
Many aspiring authors would love to make an impact similar to what you have done. What are the 5 things writers need to know if they want to spark a movement with a book? (please include a story or example for each)
- Be authentic. If it ever came to light that the foundation of your movement is based on anything but the truth, the backlash from your supporters can be catastrophic. In the book “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” Robert Kiyosaki discusses how he had a rich dad who taught him the ways of the wealthy, and a poor dad who wanted him to get an education and go to work. The whole story around the battle of influence between the two dads is what drives the storyline and makes the book so great. Imagine the surprise of readers when they found out that the whole story was fabricated to be an allegorical account. Authenticity in your movement is crucial.
- Stand for something. It may seem simple enough but movements are founded on a cause; usually, one that people feel passionate about. In the age of political correctness, the line between diplomacy and apathy to a cause gets blurred. When people aren’t clear about what you stand for it’s hard to rally behind your articulated movement.
- Provide a solution. It is so easy for someone to point out a problem and complain about it. In fact, it actually feels good! However, the stirring of emotions is a volatile mix that can result in disaster if not guided or directed by a call to action or a solution to that problem. Your movement should have a clear aim and a roadmap to accomplishing that aim.
- Control your narrative. As an author, your work is on public display to be critiqued and dissected by any and everyone. When you leave too many unchecked boxes people will gladly fill them in for you to fit their agenda. I think a great example of this is how religious books have been used to start wars, justify slavery, or anything else deemed appropriate by those interpreting the texts. You want to be clear in your purpose and continue to clarify your stance in every instance you get a chance to.
- Champion your movement. Whether your movement is a party of 1 or a party of thousands if your movement is something you believe in you should champion it until you no longer believe in it. This forces the author to really put thought into what they are writing, why they are writing it, and who they want to hear their message. You never know, your book might become required reading in someone’s classroom hundreds of years after your death.
The world, of course, needs progress in many areas. What movement do you hope someone (or you!) starts next? Can you explain why that is so important?
A movement that reemphasizes reading books! Like actual physical books. Earlier I mentioned that a book’s power to create change exists only in having someone read it. I’ve always read books growing up and I have to admit that these days it’s simply easier to consume content via video, or audio than it is to sit down with dedicated time toward actually turning the pages of a physical book. In examining this practice it does a few things: it forces you to be in the moment, It forces you to concentrate on one thing, and it encourages you to actually READ. These things are important in today’s world simply because the average attention span is trending to that of a goldfish (could be less at this point!). If you can’t focus for an extended period of time on 1 book, how can you focus for any extended period of time on any movement?
How can our readers follow you on social media?
I’m active on all social media @RahkimSabree.
Thank you so much for these insights. It was a true pleasure to do this with you.
It was a true pleasure to share! Thank you.