Name: Byron V. Garrett
Profession: Corporate Executive, Education Advocate, Author & Fashion Designer
Chairman of the National Family Engagement Alliance (NFEA); Director of Educational Leadership & Policy for Microsoft; consulting author for Scholastic
One Word That Describes You: Humanitarian
What does being one of the BEMM 100 Men of Distinction mean to you?
Absolutely humbled and honored to be recognized by BE for the work I’m doing to advance education and ensure every student gets access to a quality education.
What are you doing as a BEMM to help support black male achievement now or in the future?
I spend much of my time working in schools and communities helping students understand what opportunities are available to them while sharing worthwhile strategies to aid them on their journey to reach their full potential. In addition, I speak and train adults (educators and families) on how to make education not only relevant to students but also to unearth their respective biases in hopes of better equipping them to deal with the youth of today.
What are some examples of how you turned struggle into success?
When I authored my first book, The ABC’s of Life, in 1995, no publisher was interested in printing the book. However, I self-published the book and then in 2013, Scholastic approached me to do a special school-oriented printing of the book which demonstrates that hard work, perseverance, and persistence pay off. Success does not happen overnight but happens over time. And this past April, Scholastic released the Byron V. Garrett Empowerment Collection focused on social-emotional learning and designed to equip students with the tools they need to excel in life.
As a serial entrepreneur, I’ve had gazillion ideas never come to fruition but that did not deter me. While I care greatly about fashion, it’s not what I’ve studied nor spent my career focused on. However, I did not allow my lack of knowledge or experience to prevent me from launching the Valdecio Collection at L.A. Fashion Week in 2016. If the mind can conceive it and the heart can believe it, then the hands can achieve it.
How do you ordinarily impact?
By building out a dream team to complete my skills and talents which allows me to have broader collective impact leveraging the work of others rather than solely what I can do as an individual. In addition, I stay focused on things within my control where I can see and measure the impact of my engagement across sectors and/or industries. There is nothing more powerful than helping a young person understand their purpose and craft a road map to make their dreams come true.
What is an important quality you look for in your relationships with others?
Authenticity, passion, positive energy, potential to improve the human condition.
What are some immediate projects you are working on?
At present, I’m preparing for my fall back-to-school tour that will take us to 15 states, reaching educators, families, and students. I’m in the process of launching my loungewear as part of the Valdecio Collection as well as my fragrance, complete with essential oil, luxury butter, and shower oil. And of course, I’m steadily writing to introducing new inspirational products to accompany my messages including a line of inspirational tees, a journal, and other products.
What is the best advice you ever received?
Be willing to do today what others won’t do to have a tomorrow what others never will.
What is some advice you have for other men who want to make a difference?
Find something in life that you love doing that you’d do for free but do it so well you get paid for it. Also, know that being a man or a woman is a matter of birth but being a woman or man who makes a difference is a matter of choice. Choose wisely.
How do you prep for an important business meeting and/or event?
I gather details including the who, what, when, where, and why and research each of them to have a full understanding of what’s forthcoming. In addition, I research attendees to ensure I have a solid view of the background, interests, special projects, etc., which helps me position my commentary and message in a way to aligns with their respective interests.
As a busy Modern Man, how do you unwind on vacation?
I vacation by unplugging and spending quality time with friends/family, or FRAMILY as I say, to just be present with the people I love and care about. It provides a great window of time to recharge my batteries and renew prior to whatever is next. For years, I had visited the Cayman Islands and always noticed this place called the Cayman Castle. I said, one day I’m going to stay there. So, last year, I reached out to friends and said who’s up for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Many responded, we went in together to cover the costs, and to this day agree that it’s one of the best vacays ever—complete with private chef, day trips on yachts to Stingray City, and a glow party. Absolutely tons of fun and a true break from the norm. Traveling with the right people made the trip that much better.
If you could travel and stay anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
I’m a huge fan of tropical locations. Soon, I plan to journey to Maldives or Fiji to explore the remote areas that I’ve only heard about or seen in a TV program or magazine. It’s the ultimate height of relaxation and self-indulgence to simply go away and focus on you for a concentrated period, disconnecting from everyone and everything to get renewed.
Anything else you’d like to say?
Strive to be the best you … you only fail in life when you try to be someone that you’re not. The best investment you can make is in yourself so take that class, volunteer to lead the project, or get that certification to further enhance and upgrade your skill set and ability. It’s my quest to live greatly and pursue greatness in all that I do.
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Come celebrate the BE Modern Man 100 Men of Distinction at the first-ever Black Men XCEL Summit, Aug. 30 – Sept. 3, at the PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.