Sometimes in life we get frustrated when things don't unfold exactly the way we want them to. When that happens, the most important thing to do is explore the root of your intention. Is this goal really what you're working toward, or do you have an ulterior motive? The universe only delivers when you're ready for the right reasons. Ask yourself these three questions to find out.
Between the Serena showdown at the US Open, the latest hurricane devastation, and the President denying the death toll from the last one, this was a week of storms. So I was particularly grateful for a small moment that felt like a break in the clouds. Yesterday, out of the blue, my 9-year-old daughter asked me, "Mom, do you ever think about how far you've come?"
Her question immediately took me back to the end of 2012, when I was devastated in the midst of closing a non-profit that I ran. One day I was alone in the office packing up when I received a visit from a woman that turned out to be an angel. Patti Dobrowolski had scheduled a meeting with me months earlier, but in the swirl of layoffs and stakeholder calls I had completely forgotten to cancel it. As soon as she saw the office filled with boxes and scattered balls of Kleenex from my crying she ditched her agenda and led me through a visualization exercise in which I described my current state and envisioned a future one while she sketched on a white board.
At the time my current state was bleak. I was consumed by grief and guilt, and paralyzed by the feeling that I had let everyone down. I indulged Patti in trying to imagine a positive future but deep down I knew it would never materialize. My dream future included having a career that was aligned with my passion for advancing women, feeling like I was a good parent and partner, and being joyful. It included being comfortable with my brand, being authentic and accessible and feeling abundant.
When Ekua asked me, "Do you ever think about how far you've come?" I immediately thought of Patti and the fact that the vision I had for my future in 2012 is now my current reality. I dug up the picture of the white board that I had captured with my phone that day and shared it with Ekua (see it below). "Wow, mom," she said, "You should be really proud."
You try it. Reflect back upon a time when you were lost, devastated, or suffering. Think about where you are today. If that doesn't provoke gratitude, visualize a positive future-desired reality. And if you need a creative genius to capture it in picture on a white board, just call Patti. Even in the eye of the storm there is comfort in knowing that the waters will recede and that eventually the sun will break through.
After speaking at countless corporate organizations, I've realized that many people put up a facade at work that everything is great because they don't want their coworkers or bosses to think they can't handle their job. But the truth is, if the people who work for you can't be honest and vulnerable, you can't maximize their talent. One of the most important things managers can do is to create an environment in which people can be more human -- where they can admit they made a mistake or admit they're drowning, so that you can drive them to solutions to those challenges instead of driving them to burnout.
Women are so diverse that there are few books I feel should be required reading for half the population. UNTRUE by Wednesday Martin is one of them. It belongs in the feminist canon right alongside Riane Eisler's The Chalice and the Blade.
Martin's subtitle is provocative and ambitious: Why Nearly Everything We Believe About Women, Lust, and Infidelity Is Wrong and How the New Science Can Set Us Free. If there's one thing I know about women it's that we don't like to be told what to do, let alone what we believe. But Martin's research, which takes the reader from the Middle East twelve thousand years ago to Namibia today, along with her vivid writing, delivers on every word.
In the spirit of skipping the foreplay and getting right to it, Martin argues that women who have voracious libidos and fulfill their god-given (or nature-given if that helps the truth "go down" easier) desires by having sex with multiple people are actually normal. In fact, straight women who have been duped by more recent patriarchal trickery into sticking it out night after night...year after year...(and even more unfortunately) decade after decade having sex with the same man are out of sync with the natural order. Whether this is upsetting or freeing news to you, stop and order the book now. Regardless of how you feel about women who "cheat," Martin's accessibility, vulnerability, and authority will lure you under the sheets and tempt your reasoning into going places it's never gone before. UNTRUE, which comes out on September 18, is a book that only an expert on the history of psychoanalysis, anthropologist, pop cultural critic, feminist, wife, and mother with a doctorate in comparative literature could write. But it's most definitely a book every woman should read.
The first time I sat down with Yetta Banks I was struck by her unassuming demeanor. It seemed at odds with her rockstar corporate and creative status. I quickly learned that her fierce quiet isn't an oxymoron. It's how she harnesses her instinct—for people and for design. Yetta is an architect, interior designer, and Vice President at Viacom, where she has been curating the design and construction of spaces, whether on camera or off, for nearly two decades. A proud Atlanta native, she earned degrees from the Georgia Institute of Technology and the Intercontinental University in Los Angeles, spending her final year of architectural studies at Ecole de la Villette in Paris.
When I asked Yetta what she's had to #droptheball on in order to stay on top of a game in which there are so few women of color, she said, "The thrill of constant exploration and learning. I have given all that I have to my work, which I love." Fortunately, when your work feeds your soul, it's easy to be devoured by it. But if you find yourself needing to refuel your tank feel free to follow Yetta's prescription, which includes "more people, summits, podcasts, webinars, books, and research." Not everyone can have Yetta's style. But all of us can design a life we're passionate about.
Entrepreneurship is an experience like no other. Recently, I launched my new company, The Cru, and what I realized is that to start any business you need a village of support and gobs of relentlessness. There are countless decisions to be made at every moment and my saving grace is surrounding myself with industry leaders and experts who can help guide me. Here's what else you need to succeed.
In honor of this week's paperback release of Drop the Ball, here's your Cliffs Notes to the book. People always ask me," What balls can I drop immediately?" My full answer is that you need to take time to get clear about what matters most to you, what's your highest and best use, and think about how you can engage others to get it all done. But some women are so overwhelmed they can't even find the time to do this. Sometimes you need to take a shortcut to see the bigger picture. Here's an exercise to get you there.
This week was the toughest for me as an entrepreneur. I was trying to advance multiple verticals for The Cru simultaneously: the membership experience, social media and newsletter marketing, fundraising, and technology. I needed to do some promotion for my #droptheball paperback release that's happening next week. Plus, I still had to be a wife and mom. No matter how late I stayed up to work and no matter how many times I followed my own advice and got help, it still felt overwhelming. In order to lower my anxiety, I needed to employ a strategy that I learned from my friend, Tasha Eurich. Last year she released an incredible book called Insight. It's about how 90 percent of us think that we're self-aware, but aren't, and what we can all do to actually achieve self-awareness.
In the book, Tasha defines self-awareness as the ability to see ourselves clearly. People who are self-aware have better relationships and perform better in all facets of their life. Most people believe that the key to self-awareness is introspection, but as Tasha writes, "Thinking about ourselves isn't the same thing as knowing about ourselves." One of my own introspection fallacies is constantly asking myself why: Why didn't I plan my day better? Why am I so stressed? Why am I doing this?? But what Tasha taught me is that it's better to ask what instead of why: What really needs to happen today in order for me to move forward? What can I do to get the help I need? By the end of the week, I was asking myself "What?" questions every hour.
It worked. By Friday I had found a superstar to help me coordinate the launch events, reviewed the social content and delivered the newsletter outline to my designer, punched out the first draft of a pitch deck, and reviewed the membership portal mock up. Since she's also a member of my Cru, Tasha helped me out even more by helping me find a venue for the Denver launch and recommended some awesome women for membership.
The next time you're feeling overwhelmed, don't look in the rearview mirror and get fixated on why you're in your current situation, ask yourself a "What?" question and keep moving forward. Tasha's book is now out in paperback and if you need a quick fix of Insight check out her TedTalk.
After reading my friend Wednesday Martin's new book Untrue, I had this epiphany: We make time for the things we want most in life. When people learn that I'm a voracious reader, I'm often asked, "How do you find the time?" The answer isn't some secret scheduling hack. For me, reading is essential and I will sacrifice other entertainment (like watching TV) to make it happen. We are all busy but must reframe how we think about time. If you want to do something bad enough, you will make time for it. So when you're feeling like there simply aren't enough hours in the day, take a look at how you're spending your free time and make sure it's on things that matter most to you.
This week I'm most indebted to Aretha Franklin who, through her death, reminded our nation of its enduring spirit. Born in Memphis, Tennessee in 1942 to a Baptist minister and an accomplished piano player and vocalist, Aretha Franklin became a bestselling recording artist and the undisputed Queen of Soul. In 1987 she made history by becoming the first female performer inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Franklin's life was marked by struggle and pain. Her mother died of a heart attack when she was nine, she gave birth to her first child when she was only twelve years old, and she was a victim of domestic violence. But Franklin channeled her emotions through her music, which was healing for anyone who heard it. Her range was fierce. She breathed life into gospel, jazz, the blues, and opera. She treated us to a jaw-dropping performance in 1998 when she sang "Nessun Dorma" at the Grammys with mere minutes notice after opera star Luciano Pavoratti fell ill.
Aretha Franklin's career took off under the direction of producer Jerry Wexler. Their collaboration produced her first gold hit, "I Never Loved a Man The Way that I Loved You," along with "Chain of Fools," "Think," and "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman." When asked about his influence on Franklin's chart-topping success, Wexler said that the only thing he did was put Franklin back at the piano to play for herself. Franklin's voice was indeed matched by her skill at the piano, which she learned to play by ear as a child. Her indelible contribution to this world is evidence that when we control our own keys in life, anything is possible.
Thank you, Ms. Franklin, for ministering the world through your music, your style, your resiliency, and your truth. Much respect.