Most people are terrified of being on a stage—even I get butterflies every time I get up there. Here's a secret: Everyone in the audience wants you to do a phenomenal job. You just need to learn how to thrive off that positive energy.
A popular and profitable co-working company (which must not be named) has recently moved up to my Harlem neighborhood. This week, I was invited to join as part of the influencer set but happily declined because of one woman: Sharlene Khan. Before Harlem was sexy enough for the Dark Lord to arrive, Sharlene knew there was a need for people in her community to have a place to work and collaborate. To fill that need, she leveraged her real estate background and founded TEEM CoWorking, which has become an important part of my ecosystem.
I write and work at TEEM when I'm not on the road. And one of the things I love about Sharlene is the scaffolding she provides for working mothers. When we had a member that was nursing, Sharlene made sure that a private room was available for her to pump. Once, when I didn't have a location for my daughter's 7th birthday party, Sharlene saved me by letting me host an art party in the conference room. I have encouraged her to #droptheball on changing light bulbs, but as all badass women entrepreneurs know, it's taking care of the little things that sometimes make the biggest difference. Thank you for taking care of me, Sharlene. I'm here for you, too.
Have you ever noticed that when you're miserable, your family is miserable? No matter what you're doing outside of the house, the fact is, mom reigns and her mood impacts everyone. Here's how I learned this and why I'll never forget it.
The requests for my physical presence have increased exponentially since my book launch in February. It's humbling but overwhelming because I can't be in more than one place at once. I've had to be even more relentless about what I say yes to. This week I was thrilled to accept an invitation to the spring benefit for A Better Balance, a nonprofit that provides pro bono legal services and advocacy to help low-income working parents. Two important members of my village were honored at the event: Shifra Bronznick, Founding President of Advancing Women Professionals and the Jewish Community, and Jennifer Allyn, Diversity Strategy Leader at PwC. Both Shifra and Jennifer have provided me invaluable insight and sponsorship throughout my career. I couldn't imagine missing their recognition. There are lots of things I encourage women to let go of in order to flourish at work and in life. Dropping the ball on the people who have invested in you isn't one of them.
A shaving accident + an unexpected injury led to this realization: It's a shame so many women feel so guilty when we are just trying to help other people in our lives. Here's how to remind yourself about the true source of this powerful emotion.
Two Saturdays ago I woke up with a vibrant vision of me and four other women I know sitting on a pink couch with tea mugs, laughing and learning together. I got up and asked my 8-year-old daughter to draw it for me so that I wouldn't forget it. Then I did something I normally wouldn't do: I sent all of the women a text message telling them that they were in a vision I just had and invited them to a dinner. I had no strategy. I had no plan. I simply took action. I wouldn't have done this except for the fact that I've been reading my friend Nilofer Merchant's forthcoming book, The Power of Onlyness: Make Your Wild Ideas Mighty Enough to Dent the World. It's about how, if you can tap into your purpose and engage other people who are equally passionate, you can create enormous impact. And one of the things I've learned from Nilofer is the importance of not thinking too hard before taking action. This week I hosted an incredible dinner with the women in my vision. It was beautiful and there is more to come. But in the meantime I'm dittoing the most popular adage ever: Just Do It.
When asked to donate to an environmental organization—a cause I believe in—I had to pass and explain how I'm helping Mother Earth in my own way. It was hard to say no, but I knew I had to stay true to my highest and best use. Here's why.
As I've said, my village means everything to me. I have only gotten to where I am because of the sage mentors, mentees, sponsors, peers, friends, and family who surround me and help raise me up. Every month, I will be highlighting one of these incredible women, my fellow drop the ballers, who are achieving more and recognizing the need to do less.
One of my Peer Mentors is New York Times-bestselling author Michelle Burford. She was on the the founding team of O, The Oprah Magazine and has written for several others including ESSENCE and Good Housekeeping. As a celebrity ghostwriter, she's the "story surgeon" that curates the memoirs of powerhouse women like Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, and Amy Purdy.
Recently, I was talking to Michelle about the next step on her meteoric rise and what she said she's dropping the ball on surprised me: "I'm not accepting any new projects for the next few months. There are two people I'll say yes to if they come to me. Except for them, I'm taking the time to focus on me."
This kind of self-care takes a lot of courage from a freelancer whose livelihood is project based. And it takes courage for women who are conditioned to prioritize others, often at our own expense. If you're struggling with carving out the time for yourself, get coaching from Christine Carter, who I interviewed for my book. And make women like Michelle Burford your new sheros. If ball dropping were a sport, Michelle would have her own Olympic medal.
Right now I'm poring over the newly released Option B by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant. I had the opportunity to read a galley copy earlier this year when a major women's magazine invited me to interview Sheryl for an upcoming issue. When I got the word, my first response was self-doubt—ironic for a women's leadership expert who had served on the launch team for Lean In. I thought, Why do they want me to do it? I'm not a journalist. But of course the universe conspires to send us exactly what we need at just the right moment.
In the overwhelming spiral of my own book tour, reading Sheryl's breathtaking journey navigating the pain, isolation, and growth after the devastating loss of her husband put my own life into sharp focus. I learned that self-confidence is the prerequisite for resiliency. And one of the most important things we can do is nurture confidence in ourselves and in others. Sure enough when I got on the phone with Sheryl and told her this story she began by gifting me with the reassurance all of us need to hear regardless of whether our doubt is triggered by tragedy or nervous butterflies: "Well, you're gonna do a great job."
One year ago this week my life changed forever when Beyoncé dropped Lemonade. It's more than an album. It's a worldview that I dance to, run to, and live by. She commemorated the anniversary by announcing four $25K scholarships for female students for the 2017-2018 academic year. The former non-profit fundraiser in me is disappointed with the $100K gift, given she and her husband have a combined net worth of nearly $1 billion. But the feminist in me is feeling gratitude that during a moment when Beyoncé could have just raised a glass, she chose to raise up young women by investing in their education. Soon they'll be raising their diplomas while repeating her anthem: Always stay gracious/best revenge is your papers.