When you are having one of those days when it feels like everything is piling up on you, you have too much to do, and can't seem to calm down and focus on anything -- just stop for a moment. Think about what you would tell your best friend or colleague if she was having a similar stress attack. Then, take your own advice. No surprise, we are much better at coaching others than ourselves. Watch and learn what you should do next.
My thoughts for this week can be summed up in three words: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Hopefully by now you've heard her name, because this 28-year-old Latina just pulled off one of the biggest upsets in political history. She beat Joseph Crowley, who had been a U.S. Representative for nearly two decades, in a near landslide. The next day, the New York Times ran a headline that announced, "Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Emerges as a Political Star." I chuckled. Cleary Ms. Ocasio-Cortez had already been a supernova—the world was just now noticing. She took no corporate money and was outspent by her opponent ten times over. Her secret strategy? Know who you are and meet the people where they are.
Any American who cares deeply about the advancement of social justice was dealt multiple blows this week: the Muslim ban being upheld by the Supreme Court, their backing of anti-abortion pregnancy centers, the lack of a plan to reunite children taken from their parents at our southern border, the Capital Gazette shooting and Justice Kennedy stepping down, just to name a few. But we were also gifted a ray of hope: a young woman from the Bronx. She's the most poignant reminder that in a democracy the government is the people, and that when we exercise our responsibility to choose our leaders we can do so loud and clear. Sometimes our choices are devastating. Sometimes our choices are euphoric. Either way, who is leading us is still our choice.
Photo: Corey Torpie
Are you receptive to feedback? Your answer to this question will impact your future success. My mother-in-law likes to say, "If things are getting easier, it's probably because you're headed downhill." Real growth is hard. A mentor can guide you and help provide clarity, but self-awareness is what will help you grow. Are you ready for it? Try this exercise.
This was a week of highs and lows. I spent most of it doing one of three things: Interviewing women who have applied to The Cru (inspiring high); taking action on the separation of families at our southern border (heartbreaking low); and devouring The Carter's "Everything Is Love" album (ethereal high), which they released in surprise Lemonade fashion last Saturday.
I'm a die hard Beyonce fan so it took a little while for me to adjust to Jay Z's equal billing on an album I downloaded in reverence to her highness. But by the time I got to the final "LoveHappy" melody, my thighs were aching from dancing for nearly an hour and I had officially crowned The Carters the greatest love duo of all time.
"Everything Is Love" is a powerful testament to the fact that even though Beyonce has redefined her craft, the heights of her artistry have been achieved in collaboration with her husband— sometimes painfully. I'd always held onto the theory that she truly upgraded him with their marriage, but listening to the tracks, each one progressively pulsing with their dual heartbeats, I get it now. His imprint on the texture of her womanhood has delivered a Beyonce who is more fierce, has more street cred, and has had to dig deeper to define herself. We all benefit through the music.
The album is a lens into the couple's relationship through the prism of social consciousness, and it is a defiant anthem to black love. Listening provoked flashbacks to my college courtship with Kojo, who was an international student from Ghana. We were syrupy idealistic back then, convinced our union represented diasporic Africa coming together to advance our people. The Carters are clear about their responsibility to advance theirs, too, and the album oozes communal mindfulness. In "Boss," Jay Z raps We measure success by how many people successful next to you. The chorus of "Black Effect" loops I'm good on any MLK Boulevard. In other words, we haven't forgotten where we came from and who we're here for.
In my book, Drop the Ball, I wrote that the greatest privilege men in the workplace have had isn't a corporate or public policy—it's a partner at home. I'm thinking Jay Z doesn't do many dishes, but if "Everything Is Love" is any indication of The Carter's all-in partnership, then Queen B will continue to reign with his wind at her sails. What I respected the most about them, and what is most evident from this latest collaboration, is that they are two people who have dropped the ball on being the perfect couple. As Beyonce sings in the chorus to the final song: We're flawed but we're still perfect for each other.
I hope this insight is just as true for the citizens of this nation as it is for The Carters. It might be the only thing that gets us through all of these highs and lows. Marriage is an evolving experiment, and so is democracy.
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.