Think about the conversations you're having right now with people you trust about sexual harassment, LGBTQ rights, race, our democracy. In the future, these conversations will be played back to us. History has its eyes on each and every one of us. What will your time capsule say?
Earlier this year I had the pleasure of meeting the historian Erica Armstrong Dunbar. More than twenty years ago, while researching 19th-century black women in Philadelphia, she discovered a fugitive advertisement for an enslaved woman who had run away from the President's house— as in George Washington.
Never Caught chronicles the incredible life of Ona Judge, who freed herself from the bondage of the most powerful family in the nation and thwarted capture for decades, despite their relentless pursuit of her. She outlived both Martha and George Washington, and in her seventies, she boldly agreed to be interviewed by an abolitionist newspaper reporter. Her story appeared in the Granite Freeman on May 22, 1845, just a week before Fredrick Douglass published his famous autobiography. It's taken over 170 years for us to hear Ona's story, but she was intent on owning it. Above Erica's signature in my copy of the book she scribbled: "Find strength in Ona's journey." I found that, and so much more. Congrats Erica on being a National Book Award Finalist.
I've always felt that artists were more liberated than the general population. So knowing Elsa Mehary has been a breath of fresh air. She's an editorial art director at Time Inc. and I was introduced to her work when I spoke at their company's women's event. All of the sistahs from ESSENCE were wearing her gold "woke" necklace, and I had to have one (as should any conscious woman on your holiday gift list).
When I asked Elsa what she's had to #droptheball on in order to slay at juggling both a full-time job and a side hustle, I learned about a beauty strategy that is one of my secrets, too. "I've dropped the ball on having the perfect coif so most days I wear a hat. As a Black woman hair is power and mine was always perfection, but since starting a business a few years ago I have had to prioritize inner work, self care, hot yoga, meditation, and being an entrepreneur! The sacrifice is worth it." I can't slay in a hat like Elsa, but I cut my hair 20 years ago to save time too. Fortunately, she reassures us that the most important headpiece to wear is "your invisible crown."
A few years ago, I was completely stressing out about a potential job offer that would relocate my family. I asked my mentors for advice, and you know what they said? Don't even think about it until you have the offer in hand. I know I'm not the only women who overanalyzes all my options and gets stressed out decisions I don't even have to make. Here's what I learned: Spend all that thinking time generating options and not stressing out over them.
I've spent a lot of energy trying to #droptheball on unrealistic expectations of myself, but one of the things I still struggle with is the pressure to be positive. As a girl, I discovered I had the ability to uplift and inspire people. Now, I feel I have a responsibility to do so. But the recent news cycle has provoked so much frustration, anger, and sadness (the secret button under Matt Lauer's desk that allowed him to lock his office door?!) that I even stopped posting on social media a few days ago because I couldn't think of anything positive to say.
Someone else's words made a difference for me, though. After listening to this week's round of half-ass apologies by men consumed by power and ego, I was riveted by this video interview of Jay-Z. "You can't sacrifice others for your life [fame/fortune/success]. There's a karmic debt that has to be paid...People are chasing the white hot space. But at the end of the day we're gonna find out that it's not about the white hot space. It's about finding the truth." I hope so.
During the process of selling my book, Drop the Ball, I learned one very important lesson: Don't oversell your book. Meeting after meeting, I realized that the more you let other people talk, the more you can learn what's most important to them. This, in the end, is the best secret to selling anything, especially a book. Watch and learn more tricks to prep for any big meeting.
I keep watching this clip of Oprah Winfrey being interviewed by the late Mike Wallace in 1986, just two months after The Oprah Show first aired nationally. Born into poverty in rural Mississippi, she's become one of the most influential people in the world. In 2017 her net worth is 3.1 billion. In the interview she shares the key to her success: "I am where I am because I always believed I could get here."
Her self-assuredness is so striking it's bordering on audaciousness. And her insecurities—she jokes about her weight fluctuations—haven't negatively impacted her strong sense of her own value. I keep playing the video over and over because Winfrey's autonomy and self-confidence in this interview are such a departure from most of the conversations I have with women. More often than not, we are riddled with confusion and self-doubt.
These days I spend most of my time coaching women to change the stories we tell about ourselves and to shift our self-perception. There are a lot of things I'm grateful for this Thanksgiving. My all-in partner, Kojo, and my kids have been my biggest cheerleaders this year as I released #droptheball into the world. My car is paid for. I have my health and a stock pile of my most life-altering products, LUSH bath bombs and the Paul Mitchell foaming pomade I use to twist my hair. I have friends who love me unconditionally and hold me accountable. But after watching this video, what I'm most grateful for right now is that I've finally arrived at believing in myself. It's been a long journey, but one well worth the travel. Now I've just got to be like Oprah...and figure out how to take it to the bank.
The relationships you cultivate can certainly boost your career. Many women in the workplace have specific expectations from a mentor relationship—and sometimes, they're not met. The root of the problem, I've found, is that these women are actually looking for a sponsor. Here's the gist: Mentors give advice, sponsors give capital. Watch to better understand the difference.
When I was away on book tour, my husband was in charge of getting our kids out the door in the morning. I worried the craziness of the morning routine was going to be too much, but to my surprise, he was totally fine. In fact, it seemed to go even better than when I am there! It made me realize this: our well-intentioned sacrifices can sometimes stunt other people's growth. We all have a lot on our plates. Delegating can actually give someone the opportunity to grow and learn! Find out how.
This week was the one-year anniversary of Trump's election, Clinton's defeat, and women's collective inhale. As Tuesday's election results rolled in, I was heartened by the number of women who won their races after running for the first time, particularly those who did so in direct response to the wave of bigotry that has reared an ugly new head in the Trump era. Ashley Bennett, offended by a male politicians question about whether the Women's March would be over in enough time for them to cook dinner, unseated him in New Jersey. And Danica Roem, the first openly transgender woman to run for state representative in Virginia beat a male incumbent who proudly identified as being the "chief homophobe." These wins don't erase the fact that we have a long fight ahead of us. But they did allow me to to the one thing I hadn't done in twelve months: exhale.