Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Family, Love, Acceptance: Relearned on A Beach Retreat




The power and intensity around these words for me personally is practically indescribable. Each one a trigger of all kinds of emotions and deep seeded beliefs. As a person whose life work revolves around relationships and how to best grow and leverage them for good, I am intimately familiar with the contradictions that can accompany each word.

We all have family.

We all crave, want and need love.

We all deeply desire acceptance but know it's not always available so we can live without it.

I am deeply moved and forever changed by my experience with a "client", no less,  who showed me in a very real way that all those things are possible even in places where we least expect it.

This past Spring, a dear sister friend invited me to use my talents at a retreat for Black women executives who in work in philanthropy. Based on their desires, I created two workshops and quickly got the "thumbs up" from the planning committee. This event weighed heavily on my schedule as its confirmation fully booked my September 2015 calendar rendering me not one additional billable hour in May.  From day one, I knew this would be a history making event for me and my business, even if that the time I had not true idea why.

Fast forward to September 24 - my arrival day at the event. You could say I skidded to this event after 30 days of relentless travel. There were 9 workshops, 3 TED-style talks, 2 seminars in 5 cities touching countless people with my message of Engage, Collaborate, Lead in one form or another. The trip itself pushed me into American Airlines Gold status which was huge for me back in my days of corporate marketing travel on someone else's dime. I was exhausted yet completely stoked to lead and learn with a group of my peers - outstanding Black women executives. Don't even mention that the week was a great one for talented Black women in general. Even though I was on a plane, I did not miss the 2015 Emmy buzz around amazing Black actresses taking home statues  - Regina King, Viola Davis and Uzo Aduba.

Little did I know, that my contribution to the weekend would be the least impactful memory I'd have. From allowing me full participation in the planned weekend activities, to my divinely appointed work group Friday afternoon - every aspect of the ABFE Women in Philanthropy 2015 Leadership Retreat deeply touched me and renewed my faith in family, love and acceptance.

Family is a complicated matter with me. My family of origin is a complex and messy tale. Until recently, my marriage and family I built was my refuge and saving grace for the very word "family." While it is still together, many uncertainties abound about its future.

Love. Boy, do I struggle with this concept. See my Mother's Day post here, if you don't believe me. I have no problem giving love but receiving it is my achilles.

Acceptance is quite another story. I have learned to live without acceptance for much of my life. While I have always wanted it, especially from women who look like me, rarely was it extended to me. I've always been too different. Too loud. Too outspoken. Too smart. Too daring. Too driven. And now that I am well into my 40s, I simply don't give a damn if I am accepted or not. I have learned to live in that tension without diminishing who I am.

Imagine my sheer shock at getting all of these things - family, love and acceptance from a group of women who barely knew me.  Imagine feeling completely at home being who I am, delivering my best talents, sharing my heart and soul for a few days in paradise.  Imagine days later continuing to build those connections virtually and feeling the sense that someone - lots of someones - close to 30 someones HAVE MY BACK in all corners of this great country.

Thank you, ladies.

Thank you for sharing yourselves with me.

Thank you for allowing me to serve you.

Thank you for showing me that family, love and acceptance can be extended and shared in our community.

See you at the next retreat!


Your new ABFE sister

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

How To Enjoy Unprecedented Peace In Turmoil

A mighty lighthouse - the beacon in the storm
When life unravels and keeps unraveling with no end in sight, it is critical to maintain a sense of peace. Instinctively, this makes sense but in practice, it appears elusive.

We all experience seasons of life that toss us like the boats on a turbulent sea. Some of those seasons are quick and dirty while others are long and arduous.

You never know which will be the case - a short and ugly or a long and painful but equipping yourself either way is key to coming through turbulent times with your peace of mind intact. Here are three strategies I use to keep my peace during crazy times:

Stop Measuring Time

It is very important that you look realistically at time as it relates to the trouble. It's human nature to measure things in days, months, etc. During adverse times - you must push yourself away from this tendency.  When it's short acknowledge that and allow yourself the space to feel the discomfort without exaggeration.  When troubled times are long, still keep perspective and allow space for the discomfort without wishing it away. My family is currently in a yearlong ordeal that has an another 8 month stretch before we will be "normal" again. Well, framing it has helped. One year versus 15 years of my family's existence is really short and while it be almost 2 years before it normalizes - that is still a short amount of time for discomfort. Don't believe the hype, America. With our sitcom society, we expect complexity to be wrapped in in 22 minutes, 51 tops. Sometimes things wrap up fast but most often they do not. Look realistically as how the timing is impacting you and give yourself real breaks about it.  Set small non-time sensitive goals to allow for small wins to build momentum. Stop counting the days. Start living moment to moment and find enjoyment and peace on a minute-by-minute basis. Let go of time as it relates to the trouble so you can make room for the rest of your life.

Take Breaks From Your Trouble

The easiest and simplest of all the strategies - stop thinking and talking about it. Like the time issue, this is another re-framing that goes against natural human nature. We like to discuss stuff. Some of us like to analyze and over analyze stuff again and again with different people. Stop. Resist. Get a therapist and vow to speak only to him/her and MAYBE one other close friend. Being consumed by your trouble robs you of peace. Catch yourself thinking about it and redirect your thoughts - that will stunt your conversation. Make notes and journal about it but don't do so more than once per day. Even writing and thinking about it constantly eats into the mental breaks we need from our trouble. Further, I have noticed that the more time and space I have in between dwelling on my trouble opens me up to more creative solutions for coping. Can't cope with something you never step away from. Step away. Back away slowly. Do whatever you can to take true breaks from your trouble.

Help Another in Trouble

Have you ever noticed that shitty stuff travels in groups? Rarely, are you in a turbulent moment alone. When you stop and listen to those around you, you discover that other people have adversity as well. Open yourself up to being a resource for others and it will do wonders on your own trouble. Why? First, it allows you the break we just discussed. Two, helping someone else troubleshoot their challenges opens your mind to your own trouble but from a different light. You may find better strategies as you speak to others about how they manage. Finally, it helps you feel better about yourself when you hear that others are struggling, too. Especially when they are wildly different challenges. Beware when they are similar challenges - don't fall into the comparison trap. Keep your focus on your friend or co-worker and resist the tendency to bring it back to you.

Peace does not mean that there is no trouble, it merely means that you can be yourself and move forward in spite of it. Employ a few or all of these strategies to keep your peace as you navigate hard times.  You will need it to push through to the other side.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Act On Truth, Not Your Story

Very rarely are these things aligned.

When was the last time you challenged yourself to move forward in factual evidence versus what you believe? When did you last examine your life for truth versus the story you tell yourself?

I struggle with this often.

We live in an era where we can find "facts" to back any position so it's a legitimate question. And one I am asking for a very important reason.

Too many of us are walking around in our own heads.

We make decisions based on narratives that play out in our heads and hearts daily. Narratives and story lines that keep repeating themselves because of our thoughts, beliefs and behaviors. When was the last time you stopped to see things for what they really were versus what you believe them to be?

As a person in a very challenging season in my marriage, I am working hard to break down the narrative that plays out between my husband and I in my head. I'm working to see things for the way they really are.  I'm working to look at factual evidence versus what I want to see or what I am striving to believe. I am seeking truth in our interactions and particularly my actions and behaviors toward him.

That is hard work, folks.

Fortunately for me, I enlisted the support of an amazingly honest (brutally so at times) therapist who is challenging me every week and helping me see myself, my relationships and my business in ways I've never looked before. She is helping me see truth in spite of my story.

This narrative piece plays out in work situations as well. As an entrepreneur approaching my 5th year of hanging the shingles out full-time, I see clearly the opposite phenomena. Almost 100% of my decisions are based on reality with a healthy dose of faith and belief.  Calculated risks and opportunistic moves abound but all based in factual data from month-to-month. I have no problem seeing things for the way they are without prejudice. As a fairly new business owner, I don't have a solid narrative built, in fact, I see my business' narrative forming and morphing daily.

So how can that be - same woman, different approach personally and professionally?

If I had the answer, trust me that would be my new business. But I can say this, I challenge everyone to step back and look at your life - all aspects of your life and do the following:

1.   Look for and root out patterns that stifle you.
2.   Enlist help, this work is not easy and will need accountability as it gets tough.
3.   Open your mind and heart to a new perspective where ever needed.
4.   Communicate your journey to those you do life with.

When you stop acting in accordance with your story and start acting on truth, you will see a huge difference in how your life plays out.