Monday, December 27, 2010

Out With The Old...In With The New!

This is the last week of 2010.  How will you spend it?  I plan to spend the time cleaning out my space and my life to make room for the new things that I want to receive in 2011.  My issues with clutter usually have to do with my clothes and my linens.  I buy new things, but I continue to hang on to the old things even if the quality is poor, things don’t fit, I never wear or use them or if I have several of the same thing.  So what’s my attachment to these things?  Why can’t I just let go?

This practice is similar to how we live our lives. We hold on to people and things that may not necessarily serve a purpose. In essence, they are really just taking up space. It forces me to wonder, what other more useful, valuable and meaningful thing could be in that space that is already taken?

Every household should have staple items.  If we narrow it down to just looking at clothing and linens one major thing comes to mind for me in each category.  With the weather getting colder, especially here in Michigan and other places with similar climates, there are a few items that are mandatory at this time of year.  Let’s take a literal look at two items: a comforter and a pair of boots.  After we look at them literally, then we can liken them to the people and things that we choose to have in our lives.

The primary purpose of a comforter is to keep us warm, but it may also be a security blanket for many.  When we personify this, I believe that it is good for us to have one or two people that we can turn to when we feel the need to be comforted.  The problem lies in having several people that are comforters in your life. What does this say about you?  Are they enabling you? Are you dependent upon them?

Just like with real comforters, one or two good ones will do. Having many more than that means that you probably just use them for show, or they are taking up lots of extra space in your closet.  When you have too many people that are comforters, those extra ones are usually ‘yes men’ or ‘yes women’.  If someone is always agreeing with you and telling you what you want to hear, how will you ever grow?  A true friend or comforter will be caring and kind, but will also always be honest with you and have your best interest in mind.

The purpose of a good pair of boots is to protect your feet by keeping them warm and dry.  I have a pair of leather, knee high, kitten heeled boots that I absolutely adore.  They are cute, comfortable and they keep my feet warm and dry.  The problem is that I wear them so much that I’ve worn both of the heels off.  When I walk on hard surfaces it sounds like I have on tap shoes because where there should be heels on my boots, only exposed metal screws remain.

My mother HATES when I wear shoes that have gotten to that point. She’ll say, “How can I say this nicely?” Then she will pause and continue on by saying, “Don’t ever wear those boots again.”  I’m not sure how nice that delivery was, but I can understand where she is coming from.

Since boots cover and protect one of the most important parts of our body, I like to think that they represent integrity.  This analogy leads to two important questions…

“What do you stand for?”  And “What do you walk in?”  Your answers to each are unique to you, but I’ll give you my thoughts and or answers for each question. 

One of my favorite quotes says, “If you don’t’ stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”  There are several things that I stand for and tests of my resolve constantly come my way in those areas.  Therefore it is important that I stand strong in my beliefs no matter what.  My answer to the second question is simple. I walk in faith.  If you are walking in anything else, say fear for instance, then perhaps it’s time to get a new pair of boots.

This final week of the year, I challenge you to think about what old things and people you need to let go of, and what new things and people you want to attract into your life.  Spend this week wisely; it just may set the tone for your new year.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Holidays!


Christmas 1984 with my young brother Ron

Spoiler Alert: 
If you still believe in Santa Claus, stop reading this now.








One Christmas long ago I decided to do an experiment.  I wanted to find out if Santa Claus was real.  We usually leave cookies and milk or other delicious treats out for Santa, but this time I had a plan for something different.  Somehow, every year we had a box of chocolate covered cherries.  In our family this was equivalent to the dreaded fruit cake. No one liked the chocolate covered cherries.  I opened the lonely little box of untouched cherries that sat under the tree and put two of them on a small plate for Santa on Christmas Eve.  I reasoned that if my older brother or mother were posing as Santa, they would not eat the chocolate covered cherries and I would finally know the truth.

New Years Eve 2010 with my Younger Brother Ron
The next morning I woke up and the chocolate covered cherries were gone!  Instead of diving into opening gifts as I had really wanted to, I opened the box of chocolate covered cherries first.  The findings of my experiment were conclusive.  No longer were there two empty spaces where I had taken the chocolate covered cherries for Santa. Now it appeared to be that same untouched box with the two candies neatly tucked back in their original places.  It was official, Santa Claus was not real.

Now I believe in a higher power that I know is real. There is no experiment that can prove otherwise. I’ve only had constant signs and confirmations that He does exist.  He is the real reason that we celebrate this season.  That reason is God.   Since we focus a whole lot on gifts this season, I’d like to share a quote with you that I read last night.

“Creativity is God’s gift to us. Using our creativity is our gift back to God.”
–Julia Cameron, Author of The Artist’s Way
So this holiday season I encourage you to use your creativity, just as I did when I was a little girl, and unleash all of the wonderful gifts that God has given us. Use it in the gifts that you give for the holidays, use it in your work, use it in your play, and use it for your purpose.  In the midst of our giving, let’s give back to God.

Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Proceed With Confidence

It is our natural human tendency to proceed with caution.  This might be necessary when it comes to blatant safety issues such as slippery floors or poorly lit roads, but what is our excuse for proceeding cautiously when it comes to the things that will improve the quality of our lives?

What do you want or need?  Is it a new home? A better car? Employment? A mate? Now think about your approach to that thing that you hope for.  Are you aggressively and assertively preparing for and or pursuing it, or are you tip toeing around it timidly hoping that it might happen,  but secretly sabotaging yourself by not believing that you’ll ever truly get it. Or even worse, settling for less than what you really want.

Let’s combat this by changing our thinking and our language.  Instead of thinking it as simply a want or a need, think of it as something that you believe for. Once you are able to wrap your head around that, begin to visualize yourself in that desired situation.

Now that you’ve got your mind right, it’s time to take a look at how you talk.  It may simply be a matter of switching out the word “if” for the word “when”, for example, “When I get a new car, I’m going to pay for full coverage insurance six months in advance.”  Isn’t that so much more powerful than saying,  “If I get a new car I’m going to try to pay for full coverage insurance, but I might just get no fault insurance at first, because I’m broke.”  In one simple sentence, you’ve already defeated yourself before you began.

I don’t think we realize just how powerful our words are.  What is in our mind comes out of our mouth, and then goes into our ears and right back into our mind. Now if that message is filled with negativity, self-doubt and fear, then look at the sad self-induced cycle that we get caught up in.

Sometimes our hesitance to speak confidently is a result of our worries about how others view us.  Don’t be driven by what other people might think if your vision doesn’t come to pass. It’s not about them, but you never know how hearing your strong faith may encourage or inspire them, so you very well may be doing them an injustice by not believing for what you want to receive and speaking accordingly.

I’ve told my mother the things that I’m going to do for her “WHEN I become a millionaire…” so many times, that when she got her last job she told her co-worker, “I’m only working here until my daughter becomes a millionaire.”  You see, the boldness and the confidence that is infused in your words and your thoughts is contagious.  You are not only setting up your life to receive the things that you believe for, but you are simultaneously motivating other people to have that same unwavering faith. So today I encourage you to mentally and verbally claim what is yours.  Stop proceeding with caution and begin to proceed with confidence.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Trust The Process

I’ve always tried to control my life.  I would subconsciously manipulate situations to work in my favor. I didn’t realize that I was doing it until recently.  What I found was that while I might have gotten my way for a moment, my master plans often back fired or failed. 

For example, when I am a facilitating Youth Work Professional training, I always have one participant that’s eager to get to the point of it all right away.  What they don’t understand is that each workshop agenda has been specifically designed to teach them the new concept or skill in such a way that breaks down and then reveals the pieces in manageable chunks that build upon one another.  It’s a process often referred to as scaffolding.  This method of teaching and learning makes a far more powerful impact than if I had just dumped all of the information on the students at once.

Initially they don’t understand why I do things the way that I do, but in the end, a light bulb goes off and it all makes sense to them.  When I come across a student like this, I have to remind them to ‘trust the process.’  My mother always said, “Everything happens for a reason” and I’ve found that this has always rung true.

Things happen along our journey that are meant to teach us, prepare us, strengthen us and humble us.  Let’s take relationships for instance.  When we meet someone that we are interested in, we try to pour it on thick right up front.   We try to make them notice us, like us or even love us.  If they don’t, we’ll take another approach like trying to play the best friend role in hopes that they will then see how awesome we are and automatically fall in love with us.  (I’m speaking from experience of things that I know I am guilty of.)  Situations like this don’t always end in disaster, but here we are again trying to manipulate a situation instead of just relaxing, having faith and trusting that things will happen the way that they are meant to. Perhaps that person was only placed in our lives for a specific reason.  That reason may have not been a relationship at all.

The same is the case with our careers, our circumstances…or even when bad things happen.  We have to trust the process as opposed to trying to control the situation and manipulate our desired result.  In doing this we often miss a very valuable lesson or even a blessing that was supposed to come out of the situation. Think about how much more fulfilling an experience would be if we allowed it to run its natural course.  We could truly sit back and savor the benefits knowing that they are ours authentically, not because we manufactured or manipulated the outcome.

Today I challenge you to take a deep restorative breath, sit back, relax, let go and enjoy the ride.  Take things one day, one hour, or even one moment at a time. Savor the journey.  Allow your life to lead for a change.  Surrender to faith and trust the process.

Monday, December 6, 2010

There is Success in Sitting Down

We are always on the go. Multi-tasking has gone from a useful skill to use every now and then, to becoming a way of life.  Before we are done with one thing, we are already on to another.    Well, I’m sure that we’ve all encountered a situation that has proven to us that sometimes life has a way of sitting us right on down.

After graduate school I struggled to find full time employment despite my experience and qualifications.  Against my will, it was the first time that I had literary and figuratively been forced to sit down in years.  It was at that time that I wrote my first book.

You may have lost something dear to you such as a job, your health, an opportunity, or even a loved one.  It knocked you right off of your feet and left you asking, “Why me?”  Instead of focusing on what went wrong, clear your head and allow for the space and room in your mind and heart that is necessary to receive the gift that is to come out of the sit down situation.

At the last Essence of Motown Literary Jam and Conference hosted by the Motown Writers Network I had the pleasure of hearing bestselling author, Relentless Aaron, give the key note address.  He shared how he had been sent to prison for seven years. Most people would have looked at that as the end, but he treated it as a new beginning and during his time of ‘sitting down’, he wrote thirty books.  When he was released, he was offered his first of many opportunities…a fourteen book deal for a quarter of a million dollars.

It’s all about how we look at things.  Let me use an activity that we do in one of the trainings that I facilitate to drive my point home.  I’m going to list a phrase below and I want you to say that first thing that comes to mind based on what you see…


OPPORTUNITYISNOWHERE



What did you see, honestly?  The first thing that many people tend to blurt out is “Opportunity is nowhere.” But if we simply change our perspective ever so slightly we will see, “Opportunity is NOW  HERE.”

In essence, it’s important that we don’t look at setbacks that sit us down as the end. These situations may very well  have happened for the specific reason of catapulting us farther than we have ever been before.  So the next time life sits you down, embrace it and explore the possibilities that you might not otherwise have considered if you were still on the go.   There is success in sitting down.


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

An Attitude of Expectation

What do you want? What do you need? Now that you've answered those questions, answer this one, Do you believe that you will get those things?

I'll never forget the day that I auditioned to be a backup dancer for Gospel Recording artist, Kierra 'Ki Ki Sheard'. We'd just found out from her choreographer that she was going to do a ten, day three city tour in Japan and she was looking for one more dancer. No sooner than the words had come out of our choreographer's mouth, I was already visualizing myself dancing in Japan. Just before we began I walked over to him and said. "I want to go to Japan."

We performed a series of dances for her and I danced, not as if I was auditioning, but as if I was already her dancer on that stage in Japan. Several factors could have made my belief in myself and my ability waver. I wasn't the size that most dancers are. I was nine years older than her and ten years older than the other backup dancer, and I had absolutely no idea where in the world my passport was. I could have defeated myself before I even began.
She watched us intently with a poker face and whispered back and forth with her existing dancer. When we were done she whispered back and forth with our choreographer. The suspense was intense! When she left, he pulled me to the side and said, "I hope that you have your passport, because you're going to Japan!" Needless to say, the next day I re-applied for my passport and then a few months later I went on that tour which ended up being an awesome and life changing experience.

This may sound cocky, but I believe that I deserve great things. Each morning I walk to my mail box and my post office box thanking God for the good news that's going to be inside before I even open it. This is actually an accomplishment for me because there was a time where I operated in fear and self-doubt, only focusing on the punishments and karma that I thought would come my way for doing things wrong. I'm sure I wasn't alone and I'm also sure that many of you still think and feel this way.

We don't get what we want because we don't believe that we deserve it.

I've come to the conclusion that the only person that can sabotage or foil any of the plans that I have for what I want to achieve is me. The quickest way for me to do that is by not believing in myself. Everything I want, I constantly visualize as already mine. And slowly but surely, and sometimes quickly those things begin to manifest in my life.

Let's not confuse expectation with entitlement. I am grateful for and take great care to maintain and sustain the things that I am blessed with by putting in the necessary work to support my faith. It is also important to be aware that when you ask for something, you put it in writing, or you speak it verbally, you just might get it, so be prepared. We often get what we ask for then don't know what to do with it because we aren't ready for it.

As you work to improve your attitude of expectation make sure that you are simultaneously in a state of preparation. If you want a good mate, work to make yourself great. If you want more money, work to strengthen your financial literacy, reduce or eliminate your debt and be a good steward over what you do have. If you want a new job, start investing in new professional attire now. It's all about your attitude. We attract what we give off. It's the same on the flipside so if you are negative or fearful, prepare to receive just that.

This week I challenge you to change your thoughts, actions and attitudes in such a way that you expect amazing opportunities, relationships, experiences and gifts. Believe that great things are yours to be taken... they are just waiting for you to realize it.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Let It Marinate

Life is like a piece of meat.  In order to get the most out of it, there are certain things that need to be done in order to ensure the best possible flavor, texture and satisfaction.  Flavor is all about taste.  When you taste something you experience it and life is all about experiences.  The challenge is making them high quality and meaningful.  Texture is all about the feel of something.  In order to live a fulfilled life, we must tend to our feelings in a healthy way as opposed to ignoring, disregarding them or acting on them before we truly understand them.  Satisfaction is the culmination of everything because at the end of the day, you want to get the most out of every experience which will lead to you feeling great about yourself and your life.  So the question is, how do we make these things happen?  Let’s look at how we prepare a piece of meat.

Step One: Clean the meat. 
Cleaning out your mind and your life can be as simple as making the time to take a deep, cleansing and restorative breath more than once a day, or as complex as clearing out things and people that may be harmful.

Step Two: Season the meat.
Spice things up!  This directly relates to a question that I like to ask myself and others.  Are you just living your life, going through the basic every day motions to get by? Or are you experiencing life to the fullest by savoring every moment?  Add some variety.  If your level of living is on mild, kick things up a notch or two to medium or hot!  Have you been wearing your hair straight with a part on the side for years? Adding the seasoning is as simple as adding some curls or cutting in some layers.  Seasoning is about change.  What can you do to mix things up?

Step Three: Let it marinate.
One of my signature statements when I teach, speak or facilitate a training is, “Let it marinate”.  This basically means to take some time to let it sink in so that you can process your thoughts, reactions and ideas about a particular statement or experience. Too often we go through life without stopping to take the time to reflect on our experiences.  Reflection is a powerful tool because it helps us to learn and grow by thinking about what went well and what we would change or do differently next time. It also gives us an opportunity to celebrate our successes. 

Step Four: Cook the meat.
Cooking the meat represents the actions that we take once we have cleansed, contemplated change, and reflected upon previous experiences. Your cooking, or actions must be well planned and timed.  For instance, if we cook meat too long it burns or comes out tough.  I liken this to when we spend too much time worrying about things that we cannot change or things that are beyond our control.  Or when we sit on an idea or talent too long that we know that we should have released by now to make the world a better place.  If we don’t cook meat long enough or at the proper temperature, it may come out raw and ultimately make us sick.  This parallels our tendency to make decisions and take actions prematurely.  It’s all about timing. There must be a balance.

I could go on and take this as far as eating, digestion and beyond, but I’ll stop at having you consider what the necessary tools are for you to enjoy your dish that is your life.  With meat, you’ll need a fork and a sharp knife.  What utensils will help you to dig in to your life and cut through the literal and figurative clutter? 

This week, my challenge to you is to ask yourself the following questions…

What needs to be cleaned up in my life?
What needs to be changed in my life?
What do I need to spend some time mentally processing?
What is my plan of action?
What tools do I need?

Now let that marinate!


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A New Day

Recently I was talking to a friend and fellow motivator who shared how at his job Monday morning is the absolute worst time of the week due to the fact that everyone is upset and depressed because they don’t want to be there.  As positive as he is, one can’t help but be affected by such negative energy as it is contagious.  Finally he told me that when my Monday Morning Motivation message pops up in his inbox, it ends up turning his whole day around.

When I decided to do these messages I never could have imagined the impact that they would make. More than one person has told me how research shows that suicide occurs more often on Mondays than any other day of the week because of that sense of dread and depression that is often referred to as the “Monday Morning Blues.”

I look at Monday in an entirely different way.  I truly believe that our health, wealth and how we feel about our self depends heavily upon how we perceive things. For example, when I hear the term, Monday Morning Blues, I think of how beautiful a blue sky is or that blue is my favorite color as opposed to the negative connotation that the word blue usually holds.  Instead of looking at Monday in a dreadful way, I look at it as a new day and an opportunity for a new beginning that is a gift which we are given each week.

I remember when I was a child, I wanted to ask my mother for something, I can’t recall what it was, but I prefaced it with, “Mom, when it’s 1984 again can I….”  She laughed and let me know that years don’t come back around like months and days do.

Every day is a new day and an opportunity to start all over again, but I feel that Monday is the most powerful because it is the beginning.

How often do we think or say that we wish we had the opportunity to do something all over again? Monday gives us that.  Today I challenge you to think about ways to make the most of Mondays.  I’ll start you off with a few, but the rest is up to you…
  • Re-commit to a life-style change. - Notice that I didn’t say diet.  Focus on fitness in a way that is manageable and realistic enough for you to maintain for life.
  • Do something differently than you did last week. - Use the weekend as a time of reflection on issues that came up throughout the week then use Monday as a day to learn from your mistakes by leaving them behind and moving forward with new goals and action steps.
  • Begin the journey of letting something go that is not good for you.- Perhaps you want to quit smoking or give up sweets. Monday is a great day to begin and even if you slip up during the week, that’s OK because another Monday is on the way for you to give it another try.
So let’s make this Monday a new day and if you find yourself getting off track as the week progresses just remember…another Monday is only 7 days away.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Pyramid of Purpose

I love supporting entrepreneurs, but to be completely honest I’ve always been slightly irritated with the pyramid scheme business model.  To my understanding, the basic premise is that the CEO sits at the top and makes all of his/her money by getting people to sign on under them.  Those people make their money by getting even more people to sign up as well.  I’m sure this method works for many, but I’ve never been impressed.

So you can imagine my surprise when someone said that my business of motivating reminded them of a pyramid scheme business model. They pointed out a specific example of how I motivated one person who then went on to motivate another person.  In essence, they believe that I have a group of people that I motivate, who then go on to motivate others, and so on. I’d never looked at it that way, but once I was forced to, it didn’t seem quite as bad.

In my early years as an educator and social worker, my goal was to save the world.  I quickly realized that this was an unrealistic goal.  So I took a step back because I found myself getting far too emotionally attached to and involved in the lives of the children and families that I served.    Many nights I’d cry myself to sleep at the mere thought of some of the things that my students had to deal with.

In my mind, saving the world may be unrealistic, but it’s not impossible.  I had to re-evaluate how I could accomplish this without expending so much emotional energy and ultimately burning myself out. This is what brought me to being an author and a “Motivator.” (I think that might be my new title now since that’s what they called Iyanla Vanzant when they honored her on the Black Girls Rock special on BET.)

When you share your gift with the world, you have no idea how far the reach and how powerful the impact can be.  Think of yourself as the CEO at the top of your own pyramid of purpose.  Whether your audience is your family, your co-workers, your clients, or the masses like me, know that you are making an impact that reaches farther than you can see.  With this being the case we must operate with integrity, because when you are a person of influence, negativity spreads even more rapidly.

This week, I challenge you to ask yourself a couple of important questions…

“What am I passing down from the peak of my pyramid?”

“Are people genuinely benefiting from what I am offering, or is it ultimately all about me?”

As you answer these questions and begin to pass on positivity, keep in mind that a pyramid is nothing without its base or foundation and that the foundation must be strong in order to get to the top.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

B Day

On November 1st, 32 years ago, at Cook County Lying -In Hospital in Chicago, at 1:44 am, I was born to write these Monday Morning Motivational messages for you. 

Birthdays are so much more than just a day to celebrate with gifts and loved ones.  Birthdays are our own personal New Year's Day.  It's a day to reflect and refresh.  A time to think about where we've been and where we want to go. Within that context, I've decided to declare today my B Day, with the letter b standing for far more than just the word birthday.  I want to share this day with you by breaking down a few things that I want to focus on for my personal new year as I am sure that you will be able to benefit from focusing on these things too...

"B" stand for...

Balance.
Having an even work-life balance is key for mental and physical health.  You may have heard the term, "Work hard, play hard."  This is one mantra that I make sure to adhere too.  Often times we spend far too much energy on one side of the spectrum or the other.  As a result, other things in our life begin to fall out of balance too.  I remember hearing someone speak about how a very prominent Pastor schedules his vacation and locks the date in before he schedules any speaking engagements or anything else at the beginning of the year. This is something that we should all do.  Don't make play an after thought. Play is an equally important part of the human experience.  Making time to play will rejuvenate you and give you the motivation that you need to give it your all when you get back down to business.

Boldness.
One of my new phrases that I like to say is, "Confidence is the new black."  When you wear it, it's a really good look.  Confidence is not something that you can literally wear externally. You put it on on the inside and it's so powerful that it shines right through you and surrounds you with an amazing aura wherever you go.  That state of confidence then translates into the action and attitude of boldness.  We need to stop walking around here acting like we don't know that we deserve the best in life.  With that being the case, we need to know what it is that we want, then not be afraid to ask for it.  We need to open our mouths, speak up, and be more assertive. Everything we've ever wanted, is already ours, it just needs to be taken.  But to get it, we must be bold.

Boundaries.
When we don't set boundaries, other will set them for us, and I can guarantee that the one's that others set will not be in our best interest.  We need to begin to set healthy boundaries when it comes to work, family and friends.  If we continue to over extend ourselves we will be of no good to anyone and we will be particularly harmful to ourselves. A few years back I wrote a blog in January called, "Happy NO Year" because the best way to begin to set boundaries is by learning to say "No." Even beyond that, we must realize that when we say "No" that we don't have to follow it with an explanation.  Simply saying "No" is enough. 

Today I challenge you to live a balanced life boldly within healthy boundaries.  Happy B Day!!!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Harvest Time!

Many seeds are edible. Therefore they serve a dual purpose.  They can be eaten and they can be planted.  If we eat them they give us satisfaction for a moment, some nourishment, and a limited supply of energy.  If we plant or sow them, they will multiply and reap an abundant harvest. 

Now think about the seeds that are in your life.  What do you do with them?  Are you looking for a quick fix or long term benefit? 

Photo by Nicole Ashley Allen
The seeds in our lives are our money, time, talents, and energy.  Figuratively eating those seeds translates to things like get rich quick schemes, rapid weight loss, and other means of instant gratification.  We don’t want to wait. We want it all now.  What we fail to realize is that by indulging in the small pleasure now, we are actually taking a huge loss in the long run.

Imagine how much more we could have if we planted those seeds. Imagine how infinite the possibilities would be if we invested our money, time, energy and talents into things that would cause them to grow and flourish as opposed to dead end situations, things and people that reap no harvest.

Here is an example of eating the seed versus planting the seed that I want you to consider.  Think about which side of the spectrum you are currently operating in, and then think about where you want to be…

You spent $500 in a weekend on an outfit, some shoes, eating out at restaurants, buying drinks, paying cover charges, and parking fees.  You looked good, had a funky good time, ate well, and drank well.  The next morning you have a headache, perhaps a temporary one from a hangover, or maybe the start of a lingering one from a consequence that was a result of your actions. The fun is over.  You ate the seed.

You invested $500 in real estate by placing a bid, or going in with a partner to acquire a low cost property in your city.  Once you own the property, you rehabilitate it, and sell it for three times more than what you invested, which is still be affordable.  Now you have simultaneously improved your community, created an opportunity for a family to be home owners and made a profit that you can now invest into something else.  You planted the seed.

Eating the seed is easy because we believe that it’s safe, secure and it feels good right now.  Planting the seed is scary because it feels like a risk.  Like faith, once we plant that seed, it becomes something that we cannot see immediately.  But just because we can’t see it, does that mean that it’s not there?  Taking the planting route may be difficult at times.  Things may occur in the process that knock us down or beat us down to the ground, but remember, it is from the ground where all things grow and there is nowhere to go from there but up.

Before this year comes to an end, I challenge you to plant a seed that you might have otherwise eaten.  If you want the harvest, you must sow the seed.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Wardrobe Malfunction

When I was in college, I was a member of the Phi Sigma Pi Co-ed National Honor Fraternity.  Each year we would travel to a different state to attend the annual convention.  A few friends and I were in the hallway of our hotel waiting for everyone to finish getting ready for a social event that evening when I decided to break out into an impromptu free style dance routine.  I decided to do a little move that we might refer to as dropping it like it’s hot which basically entailed dropping down into a deep squat and coming back up rather quickly, then repeating that over and over again.  While I was doing this move I was singing a line from the song, Tootsie Roll.  “Dip baby dip! Dip baby dip!”  Two dips in, the crotch of my jeans ripped from knee to knee.  Yes…you read that correctly, I said knee to knee because it burst wide open at the seam in an arc that spanned from one of my knees to the other.  When it ripped, it made a popping sound that was so loud that someone came out of the hotel room and said, “What was that noise?”  They had heard the sound inside the room even though the door was closed!  Needless to say, from that point on my nick name was “Rip baby rip! Rip baby rip!”

There are three major wardrobe malfunctions that might occur that can turn a lovely day into a devastating one.  In addition to a ripped crotch I’d say that the other two most common ones would be a broken heel or a major stain.  In my little overactive imagination our wardrobe, or what we wear represents our life or our business.  We come up against setbacks which can be embarrassing or debilitating as well as a major blow to our confidence.

Our heels represent our platform or what we stand for.  It reminds me of a powerful quote, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” In business and in life it is imperative that we know what our foundation is and that we stand firmly and strongly upon it.  If it is weak, like the broken heel, we will be thrown off balance. We want be able to walk tall but with one broken heel, that will be hard to do. Depending on when, where and how our heel breaks, we may even get hurt.   These three things translate to the fact that we must be consistent (balance), operate with integrity (walking tall), and have an intentional plan for maintaining physical and psychological safety (because we might get hurt).

The rip in the crotch represents being exposed.  Unfortunately, when it comes to business and life, the better that we do, the more people try to find things that are wrong with us.  Now we can try to tie a coat around our waist, which represents hiding, but that won’t change the fact that our crotch is still wide open.  For that reason, the approach that I’ve found to be most effective is transparency.  “Hey ya’ll, would you believe I just ripped my crotch!”  When I train and teach, I’ve found that people appreciate and relate to honesty.  We are not all perfect and we don’t always have all of the answers and that’s okay. Therefore I recommend authenticity at all times. 
I also believe that if anyone is going to drop a big story on me, it’s going to be me.  You can’t blackmail me if I willingly share the information, and if I’m planning on engaging in something that I’m too ashamed to willingly share…then perhaps, I should consider another route.  Even if what you’ve been through carries a stigma or is looked down upon, you never know how you are being a blessing to someone else who needs to know that they are not alone.

Finally, a stain or your clothing represents a mistake.  As much as we try to avoid them, we all make them and just like certain substances that we soil our clothing with, they are often hard to simply wash away.  In such a case we must look at it as an opportunity to learn.  For example, if I know that my colleague often animatedly talks with his hands, then I know not drink red wine near him when I have on a white shirt.  If we look at that from a real life and business perspective it simply means that we try new things, and if they don’t work, we use that knowledge to inform our future choices and decisions.  Don’t waste a moment wallowing in guilt or shame.  Take that mistake and count it as a necessary test or trial that was a mandatory prerequisite to your inevitable success.

This week I challenge you to answer the following questions.  What do I stand for?  How can I effectively deal with being exposed (talked about or criticized) in a way that is meaningful for me?  How can I turn my mistakes into opportunities for learning?  
Wardrobe malfunctions are a part of life.  Plan accordingly.

You've Got Me, Who's Got You?

I'll never forget the scene from one of the old Superman movies where Lois Lane was falling through the sky when Superman swooped down, seemingly from out of nowhere, to save her. What was most memorable about that scene for me was what she said,
"You’ve got me...Who’s got you?"  
Basically, she wanted know, if he was saving her, then who was saving him?  That makes me think about many of us who have a tendency to try to save the world at the expense of ourselves.  We do this without any super powers and believe that we can come out unscathed. The truth of the matter is that we may not only be hindering the growth of those that we love, but we may also be harming ourselves in the process.

The same is the case with athletic icons. People idolize Michael Jordan, Lebron James, Kobe Bryant and the like, but those men as individuals would not be able to go up against the opposing team to win the game alone. There is a team of people behind them, whose names we may not even know, that support them on the path to victory.

Are you a self-appointed superman or a superwoman, always flying to the rescue of those in need around you? If so, who is looking out for you? Even the man of steel has a weakness...kyrptonite.  Kryptonite is the only thing that can weaken and ultimately kill the otherwise invincible man.  If this seemingly invulnerable man has something that can take him out, then why do we feel that we are exempt?  Your kryptonite may come in the form of physical or mental illness, loss or grief, or unexpected hardships that come your way. Or, quite simply, life and all of the responsibilities that you’ve take on will eventually wear you down.  With this being the case it is important that you have someone or something to rescue you too.

So, the question is...Who's got you?

The first step is simple.  Let God do His work. You may think you can save the world, but the first thing that I quickly learned as a social worker is that you can't. Of course we can make a difference and an impact in many major ways, but we must face and accept the fact that no matter how hard we may try, we cannot save the world.  If you truly want God to move in your life and the lives of others...then get out of His way.

The next step is to identify a sturdy support system.  This is a network of people that serve as a safety net that can catch you when you fall or a scaffold that can assist you in reaching higher heights.  This can vary from an army of one, to a starting lineup of five or an all-star dream team of twelve or more.  Find people that add value to your life in that they have strengths in areas where you are weak.  These are people that have the strength and wisdom to steer or pull you away from substances and situations that might destroy you.

So this week I challenge you to take a step back and observer your behaviors and habits when it comes to trying to be everyone’s everything.  The next time you are in the midst of saving someone imagine them turning to you and saying, “You’ve got me…who’s got you?”


Monday, October 4, 2010

Beyond The Advance


As soon as trouble comes, we want to be rescued right away. When we are working at something, we want the payment before the work has been completed.  Therefore, it is safe to say that most of the time we want all of the rewards, answers and solutions for our problems and our work right up front.  We settle for Mr. or Misses Right Now.  We take credit cards and loans with high interest rates.  We want to lose ten pounds in ten days.  We devour fast food while on the go. What we often fail to think about is what this obsession with expediting our life, experiences and allowances might actually cost us.  If you are going through some type of trial right now, you probably want the answer, the victory, or you just plain old want things to get better right now…but sometimes, waiting until after the storm to see the sunshine and the rainbow makes it worth the wait.

Talented authors and musicians often get hefty monetary advances for book and record deals.  This means that they get a lump sum of money up front, which will be made back once their books or records begin to sell.  It seems like a sweet deal, and quite often is, but, if the advance is not made back in sales, then the artist does not receive anything above and beyond it.  They do not get the overflow.

An advance may sound like the best things since sliced bread, but let’s look at it from another angle…

When I visited the "And Still We Rise" exhibit at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, the charismatic tour guide led us through each area and taught us tons of interesting tid bits that confirmed for me how much our history informs our present state of being. 

In 1862 the current president, Abraham Lincoln, issued an executive order to free slaves.  It was called the Emancipation Proclamation. Sad to say, many slaves never experienced true freedom because their owners had another plan in mind.  Most of the slaves were held because of the debt that they owed to their master's.  The owners had the audacity to say that since they provided food, clothing and shelter for the slaves, that they had to work off that debt before they were truly allowed to be free.
Upon hearing this I made an immediate correlation between the happenings around the Emancipation Proclamation then, and the music industry now.  Artists are given weighty advances, fancy cars, clothing and jewelry upon signing a record deal.  The allure of it all prompts eager singers and rappers to sign thick contracts without reading the fine print.  Once the record drops and millions of copies are sold, the rising star is left wondering why they are seeing little to no profit from all of their hard work.

What they fail to realize is that they are in fact paying for all that they were afforded in advance.  The company deducts the advances and expenses from the profits made from the units sold.

So very similar to the situation with the slaves, we may think that we have made it big time by getting big things quickly, but what we are really faced with is a big time disappointment as we work to repay a debt that we never asked for in the first place. This might also correlate to authors who sign major book deals.  All of this goes to show that in many instances, up front advances, quick fixes and easy answers come at a much higher cost.

Now that I’ve got you thinking, I want you to relate this to your life.  I want you to think about how when we have a problem, we want the solution right away.  We may get that answer or incentive, and it may be good, but what we don’t realize is that what we could have gotten on the other end is far more valuable.  We don’t go through anything in vain. Everything that we experience is for a reason. As soon as things go wrong, we run to God and want him to fix it on the spot.  If He does not, we get upset and feel that He does not hear our cries.  We don’t trust Him, so we look for that quick fix instead.

If we just trust Him and wait to get through something, then we will come out in the end equipped with strength, patience and knowledge in addition to a desired income that will exceed our expectations. Since we’ve put in the hard work, the sweat and the tears, the payment that we receive, or the solution to our problem is so much more savory.  Sometimes we just have to wait patiently to see what is beyond the advance. Why settle for good when you can have great?

If the answer to your problem is not coming as quickly as you would like, it’s ok!  Know that an even sweeter deal is on the way.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Shed The Skin You're In

Every now and then there comes a time where we need to leave old things behind. Comfort makes it so that we don’t want to let go, but sometimes letting go is necessary in order for us to grow. 

Think about that pair of jeans that you love.   It may be too big, it may be too small, it may be worn and tattered...either way it’s beyond time to get a new pair.  We hold on to it because it’s what we know and it fits us, or at least used to fit us just the way we like it. Jeans that are too tight sometimes even stretch with us as we grow because we wear them so much.  We think that new jeans just wouldn’t be the same.  Then one day, you’re out in public and the button pops off, or the zipper breaks, or the crotch or inseam rips.  We wait until some major upheaval occurs before we finally give in and say, it’s time for a new pair.

This is much like our lives.  Many times we stay in a situation because it’s comfortable, it’s what we know, and it seems safe.  But the truth is, if we stay in that same place...how will we ever grow?  It makes me think about snakes.  According to wisegeek.com, “Snakes shed their skin to allow for growth, as well as to remove parasites along with their old skin.”   Think about that for a moment.
If we are trying to symbolically stay in our old skin, it binds us so that we cannot grow.  Our old skin has also accumulated parasites and other harmful things which we need to rid our system of.  Those parasites could represent things like bad habits or behaviors that we need to turn away from.

Once a snake goes through the shedding process, its old worn scales are replaced with new healthy skin.  This can occur anywhere from every few weeks to once a year.  When you think of the skin that you need to shed, it can range from simple to complex.  It may mean donating all of the old clothes that you no longer wear and replacing them with new clothes. Or it may mean walking away from a very comfortable yet stagnant or difficult situation.

In order to successfully shed the skin you’re in, it’s important to be honest with yourself.  We often make excuses and try to convince ourselves that we are just fine where we are, but if we look at the situation truthfully and honestly we will find that we may in fact be hanging on to layers upon layers of old skin.  We also tend to wait for something to happen (Like the jeans ripping that I mentioned earlier) to give us that push or that reason.  We don’t need an excuse to grow. The fact that it’s just due time should be reason enough.   

Once the old skin has been shed...leave it behind.  When snakes leave their skin behind, it is still intact, but you don’t see them turning back to try to squeeze back into their old set of scales, do you?  They move on and continue going through life with the new healthy skin.

When was the last time you shed the skin you were in?  This week, I encourage you to take a good hard look at yourself and determine if there are some layers that need to be shed.


Monday, September 20, 2010

Take Your Medicine

Monica Marie Jones with Eric Jerome Dickey
Last week I made a spur of the moment decision to attend a literary conference in Kansas City, Missouri. I immediately paid for the conference and my hotel room in advance to make sure that I didn’t change my mind. After researching the price of flights I’d decided that I’d rent a car and drive the thirteen plus hours all on my own. On the day of the trip, I realized that based on how busy my week leading up to the trip was and how demanding my week after the trip would be, that I’d gotten myself into a pretty ambitious undertaking.

I must admit that as the trip neared, worry and anxiety began to set in as I faced the reality of finances, time and the fact that I was tired and trying to beat a cold. As much as I am a cheerleader for faith, I began to waver and I wasn’t quite sure how I would pull this trip off if I could make it happen at all. All the while I prayed and in response I simply heard, “Trust Me.”

A concerned friend began to go back and forth with me about how it wasn’t safe for me to drive that long distance alone. So after arguing that I was a trooper because I had driven that distance and longer on my own several times, I decided to at least check to see if there were any good deals on last minute flights. As I looked over all of the outrageous prices, it occurred to me to check on the status of my frequent flyer miles to see if I was eligible for a reward flight.

A reward flight to Kansas City would cost me 25, 000 frequent flyer miles. I had 25, 009. On the day that I was schedule to hit the road, I was able to book a FREE, non-stop, round trip flight that was only two hours in duration as opposed to the thirteen plus hours that I would have had to drive one way. It was clear to me that this leap of faith was one that I was meant to take.

This particular conference was filled with some of my favorite authors. These were famous authors that I’d grown up reading, authors that have made the New York Times and Essence Bestsellers list on multiple occasions. I whisked in and greeted them all personally as if they had been family that I hadn’t seen in a while and they embraced me equally so. Well into the long Saturday full of workshops, panels and intense conversations, I realized that I was so engaged, that not a single worry had crossed my mind.

I was so into what I was doing that the things that usually occupy my thoughts such as finances, relationships, responsibilities, and concern for family had not even attempted to enter my mind. It was at that very moment that I came to understand a simple truth that can help and heal us all of the toxic feelings of worry, fear and anxiety.

Being immersed in what you love makes you forget about the things that aren’t right in your life. It erases your worries and allows you, if only for a moment...to be free. It’s like the serum to personal freedom. It is a feeling like no other...one that we should be intentional about making happen in our lives on a regular basis.


The remedy is simple.

Identify It

Identify the thing or things that you truly love and are passionate about.

Create It

Create regular experiences or opportunities for yourself where you are immersed in that thing that you love.

Capture It

Savor the experience while you are in it, and capture it so that you can revisit it if you need to. This can be done through taking notes, journaling, taking pictures or reflecting on the experience afterward.

~

This week I challenge you to set aside some time to immerse yourself in that hobby, that project, that class....Take that trip...Spend time with that person...Whatever it is for you, make it happen, if only for a moment, and watch how you will be almost instantly alleviated of the day to day woes that often plague your heart and your mind.

Worry, fear and anxiety are the illness. The antidote is immersing yourself in what you love. Get health. Get happy. Get whole.

Monday, September 13, 2010

You Are The Boss Of You

Monica Marie Jones

We have a tendency to torture ourselves.  We over book ourselves.  We take on more than we can handle.  We help other people more than we help ourselves.  Do any of these behaviors sound familiar? 

What I have eventually come to realize is that in the past I made my life a lot harder than it had to be.  Sometimes we take our lives and ourselves way too seriously.  As an entrepreneur, I am my own boss.  But as people, we are all the bosses of our own lives.  Therefore, we have the power to make our lives work for us. 

How can you readjust your day to day routine to reduce unnecessary stress?  Here are a couple of simple suggestions...

Pay Yourself First

When I say this, I don't just mean money. Time and energy are just as valuable as money.   Do something for yourself first, before you begin to think about what needs to be done for the children, what needs to be done around the house, or what you need to do for work.  Each day, I exercise first, which sets a nice tone for the rest of my day and helps me to have more energy, less stress, and peace of mind in knowing that I took care of myself first.

It doesn't have to take two hours.  It may just be that you spend the first five minutes of your day in prayer, enjoying your favorite breakfast, or reading a chapter of a juicy novel.  When we neglect ourselves and put all of our energy into others, resentment begins to creep in and take over our joy.  When you put yourself first, if only for a moment, you will feel much better about the things that you do for everyone else.

Make Time For Fun

Some people play too much, but most people don't play enough.  Play is an integral part of the human experience.  So make some time for fun, or those things that you've always wanted to do.  Reintroduce spontaneity into your life.

Go to a carnival, arcade or movie with your mate. Read a book for enjoyment instead of business or school.  Make a spur of the moment decision, throw caution to the wind and just do it!  This week I made a last minute decision to attend an out of town literary event next weekend where some of the biggest authors in the business will be in attendance.  I figure that since I want to be the best, then I'd better surround myself with the best.  So I've decided to embark upon this adventure before I begin to create a thousand reasons why I shouldn't go. Now that I've registered for the conference and booked my room, I feel so excited!  I'm excited not only about the experience, which I know will be awesome, but I am excited about taking such a huge leap of faith and doing something that I know that I will enjoy.


This week I challenge you to come up with a simple and manageable plan to make your life work for you.  You are the boss of you, so take charge and adjust accordingly.