Drop the Ballers

A Peek Inside My Village: Dorie Clark

My dad used to tell me that "you should only speak when you have something to say." The first time I met Dorie Clark at an author's lunch it felt like she lived by this credo. Every word that came out of her mouth was brilliant. This is partly explained by her legit genius. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Smith College when she was only 18 years old. But her brilliance is also due to her generosity in sharing her light and insight with others. It's no surprise that she's built a healthy following of people who are clamoring to listen to her.

Dorie is a marketing strategy consultant, professional speaker, and frequent contributor to the Harvard Business review. She's a "branding expert," which basically means that she's really good at helping people figure out how to position themselves for success. I've been recommending Dorie's latest book, Entrepreneurial You, to every woman who's dying to leave her day job and monetize her personal platform. When I asked Dorie what she's had to #droptheball on in order to build her own branding empire she kept it real: email and dating. On the former she says, "I've had to make peace with oftentimes being really remiss in responding to my messages." On the latter, "It takes sheer force of will to push myself to meet up with strangers for first dates, and—though I may meet someone amazing— statistically I'm likely to have a much better time if I hang out with friends, instead...so I tend to do that." One of the things I love about Dorie, and that I think makes her so successful, is her courage in defining herself on her own terms. Knowing what matters most to you is one thing. Aligning your life with your priorities is another. Thankfully we all have Dorie as a teacher.

A Peek Inside My Village: Kim Keating

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I first learned about Kim Keating as a launch team member to Lean In. Kim is a Lean In board member and, as everyone told me, an incredible ally and business leader. She earned her MBA from Harvard and, before pivoting to human resources, was the Chief Financial Officer at Teach for America. But it wasn't until I attended one of her workshops a few years later that I came to appreciate her formidable role as a salary negotiation slayer.

Kim is the CEO and Founder of Keating Strategies, which helps companies to develop effective talent strategies and also advises professionals on how to negotiate equitable pay. Most recently, Kim's become the new Chief Human Resources Officer at Y of Central Maryland. When I asked Kim what she's dropped the ball on in order to support so many women with getting more money she mentioned a task I used to be obsessed with but have long since abandoned: spring cleaning. "I start out the season with the best of intentions to check all the boxes on Martha Stewart’s cleaning list. But inevitably, 6 to 7 weeks later, I’ve done maybe 10% and by then it’s almost summer and who wants to be inside cleaning." Exactly! Now see, you don't have to be Marie Kondo to make an impact in the world.

A Peek Inside My Village: Minda Harts

I declared myself Minda Harts’ mentor the same day I met her. She didn’t ask for this. I just wanted to secure my seat on her skyrocketing journey, and oh what a ride it’s been. Minda has blazed her own path from being the first in her family to attend college to founder & CEO of The Memo, a platform devoted to helping women of color take control of their careers by providing access to boot camps, thriving community events, and inspiring leader. On top of this she has her #SecureTheSeat podcast and a book coming out in the fall of 2019, also called The Memo, that shares much-needed career advice for women of color.

When I asked her what she’s had to drop the ball on in order to be an entrepreneurial superstar, she admits she wishes she spent more quality time with her girlfriends: “I am so busy building my business that I drop the ball on having girl talk and just hanging out with my Cru!” While she might not have a ton of free time, Minda is helping thousands of women on their professional journeys and encouraging them to grab their rightful seat at the table. Technically, she’s building the biggest Cru of all.

A Peek Inside My Village: Keli Goff

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My first book would not have been a bestseller without the writing prowess of Keli Goff, who published the fiercest review on the day of its release. In addition to being a columnist for The Daily Beast and writer for the TV series Black Lightning, Keli is a producer of the new Netflix documentary "Reversing Roe," which chronicles the history of America's political and legal battles over abortion. Keli was inspired to begin working on "Reversing Roe" nearly five years ago when she became frustrated with the lack of nuance that colored most coverage of reproductive rights issues.

When I asked Keli what she's had to drop the ball on in order to manage so many projects, she mentioned that this year she missed not one, but two, close friends' birthdays. "They are both like sisters to me and I was mortified. But they showed me such grace and understanding, for which I am eternally grateful," she says. Their generosity allowed Keli to drop the ball on her guilt, which is one of the most difficult things for a woman to do. Even if we don't have friends as forgiving as Keli's, it's so important that we be forgiving of ourselves. It's how we embrace our full potential.

A Peek Inside My Village: Barbara Clark Ruiz

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Barbara Clark Ruiz has always marched to her own beat. A Pratt Institute alum, she skyrocketed early as an activewear designer. Her first job out of college was with Adidas, where her designs quickly became top-sellers. Eventually Barbara launched her own firm, designing for top brands that included Nike, Fila, Speedo, Hanes, Asics, and Disney. In 2011 she landed the coveted role as design director for tennis star Venus Williams' apparel collection, ELEVEN by Venus.

Most recently, Barbara has pivoted her talent for brand development to an entirely new industry: pets. She's the Founder and CEO of Lick You Silly, a line of dog food treats and products that includes a chicken-flavored dog food seasoning. Thanks to Barbara, now even Toto can have "hot sauce" in her bag. When I asked Barbara what she's had to #droptheball on in order to keep both her design and dog enterprises moving forward she mentioned a to-do that's been on her list for awhile: completing her registration for minority-owned business status. Part of her procrastination is due to unfamiliarity with the process, so if anyone reading this can help out please reply so that I can make the introduction. One of the best parts of dropping the ball is getting support from your community to pick some of them up.

A Peek Inside My Village: Tiffany Hall

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By day Tiffany Hall is Vice President and Senior Managing Counsel for U.S. Markets at MasterCard. By nights and weekends she's the Founder & CEO of Empower Cocktails, the first of which is a refreshing Cosmopolitan Martini made with Sweet Potato Vodka, triple sec, white cranberry, and lime. It was featured in the MTV Video Music Awards gift bags and was also the official cocktail at the NAACP Image Awards and the Writers Guild Awards.

The brand's success can be attributed to Tiffany's willingness to leverage her own power as a multi-industry executive—she formerly worked at Atlantic Records—and her relentlessness as an entrepreneur. When I asked Tiffany how she's managed to advance two careers simultaneously, she admitted that she's dropped the ball on enjoying vacations. "Each time I travel for relaxation, I work almost every day on either my business or my day job." If you can relate to this dilemma I encourage you not to beat yourself up over it. It could be an indication that you're a workaholic, but it could also be proof that your work is fueled by your passion and purpose, which is a beautiful problem to toast to. 

A Peek Inside My Village: Aisha McShaw

A month ago I was in need of a dress for an all-white wedding I'm officiating. After spending a frustrating hour online, unable to find anything simple, elegant, and timeless, I had one thought: I need Aisha McShaw.

Aisha and I met a few years ago at BET's Leading Women Defined Summit and I have since been captivated by two things. 1) Her warm and generous spirit and 2) Her mic drop style. Because most of our conversations have centered around parenting, it was only this year that I discovered her style secret: She's designed everything I've seen her wear. After a career in banking, Aisha finally said yes to her calling and launched her own design company that delivers timeless elegance for the modern woman.

When I asked her what she's had to #droptheball on in order to fully live her purpose she didn't miss a beat: "Being the 'perfect' mom." Aisha used to feel that being there for her daughter meant her constant physical presence, but she's had to learn to let that go. Now, she feels that she's teaching her teenage daughter to pursue her dreams by modeling what it looks like to prioritize them. Luckily for all of us, Aisha's dreams are jaw dropping. She'll be debuting her Fall 2018 line at the ESSENCE festival later this week. Her theme? Empowered by Fashion. Unfortunately I won't be there to give Aisha a congratulatory hug, but thanks to her artistry I'll be looking fabulous at the wedding.

A Peek Inside My Village: Candice Cook

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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.

A Peek Inside My Village: Carmen Rita Wong

Carmen Rita Wong is a writer, producer, and investor. She gets the May shout out because she's the first investor in my new venture, THE CRU, which I'm launching this month. But let's make it clear—there are at least 365 reasons to celebrate her awesomeness every single day.

As the former co-creator and host of CNBC's "On The Money," professor of behavioral economics, and author of two best-selling finance books, Carmen knows a lot about where to put her money. She also cares about where she puts her time, serving on the boards of Planned Parenthood, Dress For Success, and Futuro Media Group. Her novels are also my guilty pleasure.

When I asked Carmen what she's had to drop the ball on in order to fuel her entrepreneurial endeavors, and those of so many others, and be an engaged mom, she shared the challenge of slowing down. “I drop the ball on taking a minute. Smell flowers, watch a show, soak in rays—those little breaks don't happen but one day I’ll schedule them on the regular.” I found this ironic because Carmen is the first person to take a minute to brighten someone else's day. Ask any of her countless friends who regularly receive texts that begin, "Hola mama!" But I know a lot of other women struggle with this, too. The key is to #droptheball on scheduling "taking a minute" and just engage another source to remind you, whether it's an affirmation app or someone you love. The concept that being successful requires flawless self-care is a myth we should bust, especially when, like Carmen, we're busy busting barriers.

A Peek Inside My Village: Meredith Fineman

Meredith Fineman is a writer, an entrepreneur, and a media expert. She's also a staunch believer in women supporting women and has the track record to prove it.

She hosted an incredible #droptheball book event for me in DC last year, and it was clear that the room was packed because she's one of those powerhouses who everyone shows up for (Susan McPherson, who introduced us, is one of those, too!). Meredith runs FinePoint, a communications and leadership company that leverages public relations tactics to empower professionals. Her speciality? Teaching women how to brag and self-promote.

When I asked Meredith what she's had to #droptheball on in order to become a master at empowering other women to toot their own horns, I learned that she had to take a dose of her own medicine. She had to drop her nagging inner critic and become kinder to herself. "Now, I work very hard to counter any negative thoughts I have about myself when I'm being unnecessarily tough - from work to personal life. It's a total work in progress."

Clearly, the work is paying off. Last month she released her first book, Microtrends Squared: The New Small Forces Driving Today's Big Disruptions. I can't wait to see what Meredith does next to crush the status quo.