Who hasn't groaned over having too much to do? And while a to-do list is a great organizing tool for a lot of tasks, what I learned on my drop the ball journey is that what you do is far less important than the difference you make. Plus, to-do lists don't take into account the constraint of a 24-hour day. Here's a tip: Stop using a to-do list and start using your calendar as an organizing tool. It helps you to be successful in scheduling your day.
This is the most inspirational time of year for me because I love watching commencement addresses. Graduation speakers tend to refer to this moment as the beginning of the rest of your life. But, what I've realized, is that you don't have to just be graduating from high school or college to seize this moment. Anyone can reimagine their future or pivot their path. Watch and learn.
I had the privilege of working with Daisy Khan years ago when she served on the board of a non-profit I ran. She's one of my sages, a staunch advocate for women's rights, and has risen as one of the most prominent Muslim voices in America. Her new memoir, Born With Wings: The Spiritual Journey of a Modern Muslim Woman, chronicles her ascent with beautiful intimacy. Throughout her journey—from her upbringing in the Himalayan mountains, her climb up the corporate ladder in New York City, her marriage to an imam, to her birth as an activist—you become first-hand witness to the emergence of a global leader. What's most fascinating is that while Khan is a force of nature, the book reads like a whisper in your ear.
It's the perfect book for any woman struggling to find her purpose or reconcile that purpose with her ambition. And in a world where ugly stereotypes about Muslims are rampantly fueled through animated sitcoms, advertising, and tweets from the Oval Office, Born with Wings breaks through the noise. Khan writes, "All Islam requires is that people believe in God; abide in truth, patience, and humility; give alms; observe the fast; guard their chastity; and remember God." I will always remember this touching account of one woman's journey to find hers.
When entrepreneurs send a bat signal, attorney Candice Cook answers the call. She launched her private practice as a corporate litigator and has since expanded to include intellectual property, digital media, technology, mobile, and entertainment. Not only is she keen on legality, she supports business owners with the strategy they need to soar. She's won many awards and has been featured in the American Bar Association Journal, O Magazine, Elle Magazine, and The Today Show. She's also a wife and mother of an infant.
When I asked Candice what she's had to #droptheball on in order to respond to the needs of herself, her family, and her clients, her answer resonated with me: "I have dropped the ball on having a 'picture perfect' home and instead have a 'lived in,' 'mismatched' home that will probably never be worthy of the pages of Architecture Digest or an Instagram post. My focus is on my health, family, doing great work, and advocating for a better world. The fabulous curtains and mind-blowing artwork will have to wait." You can follow Candice's non-interior decorating posts on Instagram at @CandiceSC1of1 and her insights on Twitter at @CandiceSC1.
Women often have a hard time advocating for themselves. In fact, not being comfortable to negotiate is one of the biggest factors in the gender pay gap. That's why it's so important to help pay it forward for other women. Small tiny acts can help advance women in the workplace, whether it's telling a restaurant manager what a great job your waitress did or promoting a female colleagues work in front of everyone at a staff meeting. Watch and find out how else you can help support other women.
This week I was cleaning out my nine-year-old daughter's backpack when I found a poster for a group project she had completed with other kids in her class. The first thing I noticed was that one of the kid's names had been cut out of the poster. When I confronted my daughter about it she admitted that she was the one who had cut out her classmate's name, though she swore the child hadn't seen it. When I asked my daughter why she had committed such an intentionally mean act, she said that she was mad at the child for doing something mean to her. For too many reasons to explain in one blog post, my heart shattered.
"So you believe that her cruelty justifies yours?" I asked her.
As soon as the question left my lips, I thought about Samantha Bee. This week she's getting backlash after calling Ivanka Trump a "feckless c***" on her hit comedy show Full Frontal. It was a vile reference that she made out of disgust for Ms. Trump's seeming insensitivity to the plight of migrant children. Bee later apologized for her words, but two major advertisers, State Farm and Autotrader, have already pulled their advertising. Most of the ensuing media flurry centered around predictable "Who is worse?" comparisons: Samantha Bee or Roseanne Barr, sexism or racism, liberals or conservatives, Democrats or Republicans. But my biggest concern is the plummeting of our public discourse and its negative impact on our ability to see each other's humanity. I personally abhor many of Ms. Trump's policies and actions, but she is still a person.
In her speech at the 2016 Democratic Convention, Michelle Obama offered champions of democracy the same advice that she teaches her daughters: When they go low, we go high. In reflecting on Samantha Bee's track record for using her show to inspire social change, it hit me that we should go high not just because it's the righteous thing to do, but because going low undermines our own integrity and subsequently our ability to create impact in the world. As I'm painfully learning, it's a tough concept to teach our children. It's easier to lash out when we're angry. But as Brene Brown writes about in this brilliant piece, dehumanization always starts with language and it's a slippery slope.
As tempting as it is, we won't be able to move our nation forward by simply cutting people out.
As I was reading the book Campfire Mallory with my daughter, I had this epiphany: Breakthrough requires confrontation. In the book, Mallory's bunkmate experiences disaster after disaster to the detriment of Mallory's time at camp. It made me realize, women and girls are taught to endure the things that happen to them, rather than confront them to change it. Stop the cycle: Here are three steps to having difficult conversations.
Samantha Fuentes. She's 18 years old and survived being shot at Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine's Day, but she's my new shero for an entirely different reason. This week I attended the annual PEN America Literary Gala where Samantha and two of her fellow student gun control advocates were recognized with the Freedom of Expression Courage Award. Samantha took the courage part to an entirely new level.
The room went aghast when Samantha threw up during the middle of her remarks and ran off of the podium. You could hear her sobbing from backstage. But minutes later she walked back out, flanked by her mom, and delivered her remarks again—this time flawlessly. The crowd of stiff high-brow publishing executives went bonkers. More than one of them screamed at the top of their lungs, "We love you!!!" like they were prepubescent girls at a Justin Bieber concert. As unlikely as this story already was, it was the second time Samantha had become ill in front of a large crowd. The first was during her speech at the March for Our Lives rally on March 24. And, just like in that moment, Samantha demonstrated enormous bravery. This young woman, still in the process of her own physical healing, is teaching us all the true meaning of recovery.
I've been so busy this past week with the launch of The Cru, I had to #droptheball on this week's video. Luckily, I have a guest host who was eager to take over: My daughter, Ekua! After reading a book about Stevie Wonder, Ekua learned that Stevie's first album was a failure. This shocked her because she loves Stevie's music. Ekua had this epiphany: If you want something, you need to practice and work hard for it. I couldn't have said it better myself.
For the past few years I've been reading an entry from Oprah Winfrey's book, What I Know For Sure, every morning. After I finish the last entry, I go back to the first one and start again. I've read the book 13 times. My favorite passage is right in the middle: "Time is fleeting. Those of you with children are ever cognizant of this fact—because your children keep growing out of and into themselves...The whole point of being alive is to become the person you were intended to be, to grow out of and into yourself again and again."
This week I launched a new venture. In doing so, I grew out of and into myself again.
The company is called The Cru, because every woman needs one. It's a peer coaching service for women looking to accelerate their professional and personal growth. I had the vision for it last May, but like a typical human I let my fears prevent me from fully making it reality. I can't because I don't have an MBA. I can't because I don't have business partners. I can't because my family is dependent on my income. I can't because...you get the picture. Fortunately, I have a life philosophy that forced the timeline for this week's launch. I firmly believe that if you're blessed with something, whether it's new shoes or a business idea, and you don't act on it in 12 months—you have a responsibility to throw it back to the universe. Those unworn shoes should be donated and you can't be a hater when another entrepreneur announces a new product that was "your" idea.
Four weeks ago, the one-year anniversary of my vision of The Cru was fast approaching. I knew I needed to birth it into the world, but one of my fears was paralyzing me. I don't have a team to execute the launch. Thankfully, one morning Oprah's wisdom reminded me that in order to grow, my thinking would need to evolve. I may not have employees, but I have a Cru and I have people in my life who are deeply invested in my success. So I spent a couple hours one afternoon creating a spreadsheet that outlined everything I felt needed to happen to launch The Cru on May 14th. Then I filled the "Who" column with people who were skilled in each area and added deadlines for each task. I shared the spreadsheet with each person and asked them if they'd be able to complete their assigned task by the deadline. Every person said yes.
The Cru launch was incredible. We exceeded our application goal for the first round in just three days and women from 25 states have already answered the call. The most humbling press was this piece from Refinery29. There is no way I could have achieved these results without the following individuals who stepped up when I needed them: Amanda Schumacher, Carmen Rita Wong, Damali Elliott, Gabi Tudin, Jasmine Lawrence, Jenny Groza, Kathleen Harris, Kojo Dufu, Maia Gantcheva, Nathan Bjornberg, Tasha Eurich, Candice Cook, and Trinity Crigler. I'm sharing their names to say THANK YOU and also because I want everyone to know that behind every successful woman is a village of support.
Each of us has been blessed with something we're holding onto. It could be a book inside of us, a beautiful singing voice, an app, or our gift of enabling others. If a twelve month deadline for acting on your blessing would create too much anxiety for you, please #droptheball on that philosophy. But know this: time is fleeting and the universe conspires to buoy people who make the leap. Don't let your fears prevent you from experiencing the point of being alive.