lessons in entrepreneurship from haiti #bloggers4haiti

Time flies when you’re dealing with work, snow days and wifi outages. I can’t believe it’s been over a month since I traveled to Haiti with #bloggers4haiti to visit the artisans involved in the Macy’s Heart of Haiti initiative.  There’s just so much to share that it’s hard to decide where to start, so I thought I’d begin with some of the lessons in entrepreneurship that stood out to me during my time there.  What I love about blogging is that each of us can enjoy the same experience, but because we filter everything through our own lenses, the takeaways will be vastly different.  For example, Leticia of TechSavvyMama and her daughter, Emily, were my travel companions and their experience centered around global citizenship; Nicole of ThirdEyeMom joined us as well and recognized the important role of women in Haitian society, and the country’s future.  And I, with my entrepreneur hat always perched on my head, couldn’t help but notice the work ethic, passion and craft mastery that was present at every turn.

Here are some of my takeaways:

1. Be Resourceful.

Art is everywhere in Haiti. And I mean everywhere. What stood out to me right away was the Tap-Tap buses that were colorfully painted and decorated with flashing lights and blasting festive music.  What a better way to add a spot of cheer to the streets than to make public transportation works of art? Such a small thing, but it spoke magnitudes to me. And the art of the Tap-Taps isn’t garden variety artwork – it’s vibrant and funny and creative; we saw everything from portraits of Justin Bieber to Jesus…and everything in between!
TapTap Collage

Image Credit: ThirdEyeMom.com

The very first day of our trip, we visited the town of Croix-des-Bouquets, a community famous for its metalwork.  The pieces are stunning.  Everything from wall hangings to masks to storefront signage and lampposts and jewelry are hand crafted from discarded oil barrels that have been sanitized by controlled burning and then hammered flat.  The artisans – almost exclusively men for this kind of artwork – then craft the pieces using a hammer and chisel on a metal work area while sitting on the dirt floor and turn out gorgeous pieces like you wouldn’t believe.

Croix Des Bouquets

Image Credit: TechSavvyMama.com

So the next time someone tells you they have writer’s block or have run out of ideas or can’t move forward in their business without this or that, you remind them of the metalwork artisans in Cros-des-Bouquets. Because #noexcuses. Be resourceful.

2. Master Your Craft.

Haiti is a country of artists. I’ve never been anywhere like it.  The people take such pride in their craft and are either naturally gifted or are exceptional apprentices – or both! In Croix-des-Bouquets (above) the skill is metalwork; in the beach town of Jacmel, the skill is papier-mâché; in yet another area, the skill is horn and bone; and then there’s soapstone, beading, soap making, card making, and painting on canvas, and on and on.  It was so lovely to see the pride in ownership in a particular craft in each area; it’s clear that the art forms are cherished and taught and passed down to generations.  Focusing on one specialty allows the artisans to master their craft – and it shows.

Artforms

Image Credit: TechSavvyMama.com

It can be so tempting to position yourself as an expert in multiple areas – we all think that more is better; but consider owning your niche.  Being a Jack of All Trades and master of none is success suicide for a business owner.  If you’re great at graphic design, be GREAT at that – don’t try to also be a life coach and a beauty vlogger, as tempting as it all may be.  And this is not to say that you can’t be multipassionate, because I’m THE proponent of that mindset – what I’m saying is that you should achieve a certain level of mastery of each before piling on another. Master your craft.

3. Honor Yourself.

Each piece of Haitian artwork reflects the culture of the island.  From the colors to the symbols, you can see and feel the spirit of Haiti in each vase, wall hanging and mask.  The lesson in this for me is to honor yourself in all that you do.  Whether you’re a baker who makes cakes and uses a family recipe or if you’re a software developer who sees the world in black and white and is able to problem solve easily because of it, you can and should honor yourself and your heritage in your work.  Not only will your pride in your work shine through, you’ll also be sharing a little bit of your gift with all those who cross paths with it.

No one personified this concept for me more than Pascale Théard, a Haitian-born artisan who honed her leatherwork and beading craftsmanship abroad in Paris.  Her pieces are to-die-for! I drooled over the fun and fashionable sandals that were creatively displayed in picture frames in her workshop, and equally at the buttery leather totebags that were calling my name. I brought home a braided leather cuff to take piece of the luxury with me, but my heart is back at her studio.  Her time spent in Paris learning from the greats is apparent in her work, however she is decidedly committed to showcasing Haitian culture in each piece.  I asked her what made her return to Haiti after spending so much time in Paris, which I imagine to be a mecca for anyone in fashion, and she said: “Because it’s home.”  Her mission is to show the world that Haitian art can be stylish and upscale and wearable.

PascaleTheard

Image Credit: ThirdEyeMom.com

Honor yourself in your work, friends.  It is your gift to the world.

4. Teach.

“Each one, teach one.” Right? The culture of apprenticeships in the U.S. has dwindled significantly – at least until the recent growth of the Maker Movement.  I’m here to say that apprenticeships are alive and well in Haiti!  The more experienced artisans in the community make it their mission to teach the younger generations about the craft; and the students are willing and more than able.  I found this to be particularly meaningful given the state of the education system in Haiti.  The schools are privately owned and run and therefore costs to attend – even basic costs like uniforms and books – place education far out of reach for most.  That the youth have art to pursue as a potential means of survival is crucial.  At each workshop we visited, we saw the students working under the direction of the master artisans and I was reminded that we all have the responsibility to mentor and reach back in our entrepreneurial endeavors.  In fact, this year I made a personal commitment to be more intentional about providing value to my mentees, so I whittled down my group to 2 and came up with a solid plan.  Mattie and Nikki are fireworks in their own right, but if I can support their journeys in any way and share my learnings in the blogger media space, I’m more than happy to do so.

Teach.

HaitiTeach

Image Credit: ThirdEyeMom

Disclosure: The lovelies at Everywhere helped to cover much of my trip expenses to Haiti to visit Artisan Business Network artists who create products for the Macy’s Heart of Haiti line.  All opinions are my own!

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On Passing Down Pieces of Me: French, Sorrel, and a Side of Guilt

Disclosure: This post is part of a sponsored series commissioned by Wells Fargo as part of its #MyUntold Story Campaign. Learn more HERE.

This past week I took a trip to Haiti to visit local artisans focused on rebuilding their communities through economic growth.  Because French is the official second language (Kreyol is the first), I got a chance to brush up on my long-forgotten French from my childhood. It was amazing to me how quickly it came flooding back.  By the end of the 4-day trip, I was remembering words that I hadn’t spoken in ages.  When I got back home, I remarked to my husband that it really was true that recalling a second language was like riding a bike – to which he replied something to the effect of: “except you never taught our kids to ride.” Ouch. And point taken. The fact that I haven’t taught our kids to speak French has always irked him because, hello? The ability to speak a second language is a gift.  I think it would be different if French were my first language – I could take the approach of one of our neighbor’s friends who only speaks to her daughter in French – but because I only learned it in school, it’s not necessarily natural for me and it does feel a little bit like work.  Once I got to college and took the required Spanish classes (which were easy because, romance language), my brain shifted over to Español and my French was left neglected, collecting dust, in a corner of my brain. A couple of years ago, I attempted to recommit to singing and reading to my kiddos in French, but, I admittedly have not held to it.

Paris Is Always a Good Idea

I learned to speak French growing up in Quebec, as part of the French Immersion program at school, and, well, living in a French-speaking province.  It was never easy, but I did become fluent by the time I moved to the States in 1995 for college. The immersion piece is crucial, of course, for learning a language, as evidenced by my 4 days in Haiti. I’m trying to figure out how I can create this immersive experience for my kids so that it’s not a random word or phrase here and there, but an actual leap into the language. It sounds like a trip to Paris is in order! I jest, but in truth, I do carry some guilt about not teaching them.

Speaking of guilt, did I tell you about the time my 8-year-old asked for a “Caribbean Burrito”? I almost fainted. She was referring to Roti, Trini-style, and at that moment, I knew I had failed my 2nd Generation Caribbean children.  How could a culture so deeply ingrained in me have missed them? Oh. It’s my fault.   I grew up listening to Calypso on Saturday mornings – my Dad would play Mighty Sparrow and the music became the soundtrack of my childhood. We traveled often to the Caribbean: Jamaica, Barbados, St. Vincent and more; I even lived in Trinidad as a toddler.  Pelau and Peanut Punch weren’t foreign to me and I could never, ever tire of a good roti.  In college, I was First Runner Up in the Miss CARIBSA Pageant and on the Executive Board for years.  Buju Banton is remains one of my favorite artists and I treat myself to a Doubles when I get my hair done across the street from Teddy’s Roti Shop. So who are these Americanized kids who only want to eat crab legs and  listen to T.I.?  The answer it….they are the kids that my husband and I created. I’m always preaching about being intentional, but this is an area where I’ve come up short. I will say that my husband’s family has done an excellent job of celebrating their Bahamian heritage, such that when you ask my kids where their family is from, they say “The Bahamas!” But the voice inside of me screams: “But what about Trinidad? Or Guyana? Or Barbados? All of the places that your maternal grandparents are from!”

Kurma-1200x800Trinidadian Kurma {image credit: UncommonCaribbean.com}

Over the Christmas break my mom came to visit us in Maryland. We wanted to make fish, so we trekked to the Caribbean market and brought the kids along. They. Were. In. Awe. You know the sights and sounds of a Caribbean market, right? Pigs feet, exotic fruits and spices galore. They had a field day asking: “What’s that?” or “OMG did you see this?” or just “Ewwww!” and squealing with delight.  I showed them all of the things I used to love to eat (and filled my cart with a slew of them): Milo, Crix, kurma, bake and my mom got Salt Cod to make Saltfish for breakfast the next day.  She also got dried sorrel flowers to make the drink.  Before we left, we ordered Rotis, patties and Doubles to go. Once we got home, we feasted. And I was kicking myself that the Caribbean Market was literally 15 minutes away from our house and I hadn’t taken them more often.

They’ve been to Nassau twice – does Atlantis even count?? – but that’s it. I want them to know what it’s like to not want for air-conditioning because the house is designed to let the breeze flow through; to want to turn the radio ALL THE WAY UP when dancehall reggae comes on; to crave Mauby or coconut candy, instead of Slurpees and Sour Patch Kids. To hear the sing song of a Caribbean accent and to feel comforted. Home.

Disclosure: This post is part of a sponsored series commissioned by Wells Fargo as part of its #MyUntold Story Campaign. Learn more HEREI would love to hear your untold stories. Share them on social media with the hashtag #MyUntold, and tag me so I’m sure to see them!

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Things To Do: February

{whoops. this post has been in draft mode since February 3rd. better late than never, right?}

February To Do

 

I have the smartest mentees.  Mattie James over at Mattieologie is one of them and I always chuckle to myself at the irony of it all because I constantly sweat her steez.  Take this Things To Do template, for example.  I love the idea of accountability AND I’m always game for a pretty piece of stationery – paper or digital.  I’m hoping that by sharing my monthly goals here, that you will help keep me on track because – it takes a village.

Re-launch Strategy Magic Newsletters.  The plan was to kick these off in January, but I swear those 4 weeks felt like 4 days! So February it is.  Over the past few weeks, I’ve seen a surge of newsletter signups – I need to give y’all the goods!  Of course I always have ideas about what topics and projects I want to cover with you, but if there’s something you want me to cover or address, definitely drop me a note in the comments.

Read 4 Books.  This is in line with my #booksies virtual book club and mission to read A Book A Week in 2015.  Last week (I told you! January!) was tough but I’m back on the horse this week. So far, I’ve read 2 books, so I’ve got 2 more to go in the next 7 days! I just realized February is a short month – no fair. But I have a cross-country flight coming up this week, so I should be able to knock out a book on the plane.

Create a Vision Board.  I’m so stoked to say that this one is DONE! Two weeks ago, my mom’s group had a Vision Boarding Session as our monthly Mom’s Night Out. We had a fantastic facilitator and, after years of wanting for a vision board, I finally have one. I’ll share it in another post! But it was so much fun to do and I love looking at it everyday. Yay me.

Hire a Full-Time Assistant.  IT’S DONE Y’ALL. I am in disbelief. And It is wonderful.  Ashlee is officially on-board as my full-time assistant and, at the risk of sounding like a cliche, I can’t believe that I didn’t do it sooner.  Just think of allllll of those little nagging tasks that weigh on your chest on a daily basis; having someone who can take them off of your plate and take care of them, and hand them back to you, all done, wrapped in a pretty bow? It’s golden.

Go for a Weekly Walk Outside.  Oh, how nice this idea sounded back in the beginning of the month. I went for a walk that first week and it was invigorating and calming and got my blood pumping. Then the snow hit. And so ended my outdoor walking story.  I do see committed folks in my neighborhood braving the snowbanks and slush and covered sidewalks. Um, no thanks. I did however walk a ton in Haiti last weekend! So much so that I came back with ankles swollen to the size of small grapefruits. But that’s another story for another post.

How’s your February To Do List coming along?

 

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live richly recommendation no. 3: never stop learning {sponsored}

SpongeBob

One day last spring I wrote a Facebook post something to the effect of: “There’s this mom in the parent waiting area at the Tae Kwon Do studio sharing information with other parents about everything from family friendly neighborhoods to kid-friendly hair salons to what blogs to read for information on easy dinner ideas. She’s so annoying.”  Of course, I was talking about me.

I’m THAT chick.

The definition of a sponge. Constantly reading things, talking to an assortment of people, watching random documentaries and trying out different experiences – all with the subconscious goal of learning more.  I like to think that the diversity of knowledge makes me a more interesting, successful person (or at least damn near impossible to beat at Jeopardy!).  We’ve all heard the saying: “Knowledge Is Power” and I couldn’t agree more. Here’s a look at some of the ways that that concept plays out in my life:

Knowledge Is Power…In Your Work

This one’s a no-brainer. We study while in school; some of us do continuing education if we’re in a profession that requires it – I took several CLE courses while I was still practicing law; professionals attend conferences and workshops to stay up on the developments in their industries (hello Blogalicious!); we all read certain books and articles that we hope will help us gain an edge in our careers – all aimed at gathering that knowledge to make us better at what we do.  Just this afternoon, I sent out an email to the Blogalicious community entitled: Work Smarter, Not Harder.  The idea behind it was to encourage those interested to register for a webinar we are hosting on how to pitch and secure sponsorships successfully. I’m a true believer that re-inventing the wheel is a waste of time and valuable energy! Why not cozy up to someone who has the knowledge you need and soak it up for your advantage.  Whenever I have the opportunity to learn from someone who knows what I need to know or who is where I want to be, I don’t hesitate to jump on it. On a daily basis, I get my fill from Fast Company and smart blogs like Marie Forleo‘s.  The professional knowledge you need is at your fingertips.

Knowledge Is Power…In Your Relationships

Three kids later, I’ve read all kinds of parenting books. I’ll admit that my stack of books about early childhood is collecting a bit of dust as I start to subscribe more and more to the: “eh, what doesn’t kill ‘em will make ‘em stronger philosophy’ as many parents of multiple kids often do – but I definitely read my fair share of expert advice when I was a new mom looking for answers.  Now that I officially have a tween (Lord help me), there’s a whole new set of knowledge that I’m seeking. Last week, I gifted my girls with The Care And Keeping of You, because, well, it’s TIME, and it came highly recommended from mom friends who know the deal.  We’ve been reading it together and not only is that helpful for my young ladies, it’s helping me to remember what it was like to be 10 and for every.single.thing. to be worthy of major dramatics. (re)Learning that together, is strengthening our Mother-Daughter relationship. I also have The Drama Years on my nightstand, taunting me and both giving me comfort at the same time.  And since Valentine’s Day is around the corner, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention romantic relationships! Knowing your partner’s Love Language, is so powerful for your intimate relationship because it can mean the difference between struggling with communication and feelings of value and being totally in sync.

Knowledge Is Power…In Your Personal Development

Just ask Oprah.  I wrote a blog post last year about the 3 questions Oprah asks herself everyday: Am I On Track? Am I In Balance? Am I In Flow? Checking in with herself like this lets Mama O gain knowledge about her current state and allows her to adjust accordingly.  Apparently she’s mastered this because = ROCKSTAR.  Similarly, I’m learning that I need to create space in my life in order to decrease my stress levels (which is wreaking all kinds of havoc in my life). Recognizing signs based on what I learn, hearing others tell their stories, and getting familiar with different tools and resources all contribute to my goal of bettering myself.  Because I love connecting with people in fun settings, I naturally enjoy hosting events.  In 2012, I hosted a retreat for busy mothers to give them the knowledge and resources to streamline their lives. I brought together a lineup of expert speakers, each sharing best practices, tips and tricks for the modern woman.  I’m still so proud of that event because I like to think that the knowledge the women gained from attending helped them to develop personally, with far-reaching effects.

It’s no mistake that I landed in this crazy thing called The Blogosphere. Thousands, no millions, of subject matter experts, storytellers and entertainers all sharing knowledge in interesting and engaging ways.  There’s no shortage of mediums to learn about WHATEVER topic your heart desires. It’s a beautiful thing.  Soak it up as often as you can – just try to refrain from being that annoying chick at Tae Kwon Do.

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by author T. A. Barron and was inspired by his upcoming gift book “The Wisdom of Merlin: 7 Magical Words for a Meaningful Life.” This book is the wizard Merlin’s answer to the question “What is the meaning of life?” Surprisingly, the answer has only seven words — including, knowledge. But they are the most powerful words of all. The Wisdom of Merlin is available for preorder now, and will be available wherever books are sold on March 23, 2015.  

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One Lovely Blog Award (and 2 lovely ladies)

This past November was the first year that we had a Junior Social Squad at Blogalicious Weekend.  The idea wasn’t even on our radar until we received a submission from Elisha and Elyssa at WhollyART who plead their case and impressed our Team and made us figure out a way to have these ladies participate.  When we got to the event, they were the most polite, bright, inquisitive and warm young ladies you ever did meet.  I can say, without a doubt, that they are going places! And so, imagine my smile when I received an email this week from them, awarding me the One Lovely Blog Award – thanks ladies!! It means a lot coming from you!

Per the award instructions: here are 7 facts about myself:

  1. I despise Arial font. It makes me twitchy.
  2. I love Sour Coke Bottle gummy candy. Or any gummy candy for that matter.
  3. My hair is natural. (Dominican blowouts are magic).
  4. I don’t drink coffee. Let’s just say it doesn’t agree with me.
  5. I broke my ring finger playing field hockey in high school.
  6. Cigarette smoke gives me a headache.
  7. I carry the trait from my maternal side of the family of having a crooked front, bottom tooth. Luckily my smile doesn’t give it away.

One Lovely Blog Award

Now it’s my turn. Here are my nominees!

  1. Jonez
  2. Still Dating My Spouse
  3. Brotha Tech
  4. Ashlee Laughlin
  5. Blueprint for Style
  6. Teach Mama
  7. A Parent In America
  8. Live Do Grow
  9. Tech Savvy Mama
  10. Teen Lit Rocks
  11. Nikki In the City
  12. Mattieologie
  13. Chewsy Lovers
  14. I’m Not the Nanny
  15. Inspired by Beatrice Clay

When you’re nominated for the One Lovely Blog Award, follow these rules:

Thank and link back to the person who nominated you. Share 7 facts about yourself. Nominate 15 other bloggers you admire and comment on their blogs to let them know.

Thanks again E&E!!

 

 

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The Special Privilege of Attending an HBCU

Tracking Pixel

Disclosure: This post is part of a sponsored series commissioned by Wells Fargo as part of its #MyUntold Story Campaign. Learn more HERE.

It’s been 17 years, but I still remember the royal blue package and colorful African emblem on the Howard University School of Law (HUSL) application.  Something about just the application itself let me know that this place was special and was where I was meant to go.  Following the prudent advice that I was given, I applied to half a dozen other law schools, but deep down, I knew I wanted to go to Howard.  After growing up in a suburb in Canada and spending 3 years in North Florida at a college where only 2,000 of the 52,000 students were African-American, I was ready for some diversity.  More than that, I was ready to be in an environment where my skin color and rich heritage was honored and not an afterthought.  While on the tour of the law school, I was bowled over by the friendliness of the student body, the faculty and the history that was woven into every turn, including the murals on the walls. Everything about it screamed “PRIDE” and it was love at first sight.

HUSL Mural

Historical Mural in the Moot Courtroom Foyer at HUSL

The first week of class was not what you’d expect.  Instead of diving right into the substantive material that we had to cover (and my WORD was there a lot), we spent hours watching the PBS series from the late 80s Eyes on the Prize, an award-winning, 14-hour television series that tells the story of the civil rights era through historical footage and contemporary interviews. Being the excited, anxious and somewhat naive first-year law students that we were, there was some eye rolling and eyebrow raising when we learned of our agenda for that week. But let me tell you – by the end of the series, we were all emotional, fired up, resolute and clear on our mission and purpose for being in that place and what was sacrificed for our privilege to sit there.  I’ll never forget it.

My mother has been in education as a teacher, admissions officer and associate dean for decades. During the law school application process, she advised me on the importance of selecting an institution that would not only challenge me academically, but that would support me emotionally. We’ve all heard the horror stories of the cutthroat law schools where students hide books from each other or rip pages out of textbooks that others need to complete an assignment (I’m guessing a lot of that is gone now that everything is digital!). I knew that I needed a place where I would feel nurtured; law school is hard enough without any drama.  I knew I had made the right decision when, at the end of that first week, one of the faculty members said to us: “Look to your left and look to your right.  At other law schools, they will say that one of those people won’t be there when you graduate.  At Howard, it’s your responsibility to make sure those colleagues graduate with you.”  And that’s the best way that I know how to communicate what it was like to be at that school.

By now, you can feel the sense of community, sacredness and responsibility that was an integral part of my 3 years there.  I felt it in the study groups – I stuck with the same study group from Day One. We looked out for each other, lifted up one another and challenged ourselves.  One of my study group colleagues is one of my closest friends and was a bridesmaid at my wedding. I felt it the week before classes began, when I learned my apartment wasn’t going to be ready for another 2 weeks, and a 3rd year law student (Hi Tsahay!) let me crash on her couch.  As a student body, we felt bonded together, and I had the opportunity to experience everything from my very first march for justice – in support of Mumia Abu Jamal - in front of the U.S. Supreme Court with them, to feeding the homeless in Washington, DC with them (we spent hours making as many bag lunches as we could!).  The social component was, I think, what sets HUSL apart from other law schools.  I guarantee you that every single student who graduated from there can recite this quote from civil rights activist, legal strategist, mentor to Thurgood Marshall, and former dean of HUSL: “A lawyer’s either a social engineer or he’s a parasite on society.”  Charles Hamilton Houston’s credo guides the Howard University School of Law’s mission to this day.

20150127_100337 Me and Hubby on My Graduation Day

 

Here’s why Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are so special:

  • You stand out because of your abilities and personality, not because of your color. This is huge, because you are immediately a person from Day 1, instead of: That Black Girl In My Contracts Class.
  • You’re immediately a part of a family.  If a family is considered as a group of things related by common characteristics or a group of persons of common ancestry (as defined by Merriam-Webster), then sharing a life experience as unique as law school, with people to whom you are culturally, ethnically and historically linked, is a genuine familial experience.
  • There is a larger purpose at stake.  We were not there “just” to study and get good grades or land a respectable job. Because we represent a specific people who have faced and continue to face specific challenges, we were there, and are still here, to effect change in our communities, society and, the world.

Of course, attending an HBCU isn’t all roses, but I know I’m better for it.  It’s the reason why I was able to begin my career at an Am Law 100 firm; to transition to a top federal agency where I honed my expertise; and why I have The Best Teach Ever to thank for my blogging, social media and community leadership career.  I always knew deep down that the security of our little bubble wouldn’t last, and what (mis)perceptions others might have of our education (i.e. “Howard Law? Do you guys learn law for black people there?” – true story), but when you’ve been at your law firm for 2 years and a partner calls you “Wanda” because he mistakes you for the secretary (even though there is exactly ONE African-American female attorney in the entire office, and that’s you), you can brush it off and think of those faces on the mural in Houston Hall and know that what you are doing, is being a social engineer.

Disclosure: This post is part of a sponsored series commissioned by Wells Fargo as part of its #MyUntold Story Campaign. Learn more HERE.

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announcing life is the party :: #booksies ~ an unconventional book club

never-stop-learning

Tell the truth! Is your nightstand (or Amazon shopping cart) overflowing with books that you’re dying to read “when you find the time”? It took an ultimatum from my husband to clear off the avalanche of books on my nightstand that have been accumulating for about 2 years before I actually decided to go through them and create a “To Read” bag (everything else was donated).  The thing is I love to read. And I love learning new things and getting lost in stories, whether fact or fiction. But lately, finding time for reading has been nearly impossible…because I haven’t been intentional about it.  I was lamenting my situation to a friend of mine who mentioned that this article on HuffPo inspired him to read an entire book each week in 2014.

I’m about that life!

And because I don’t like to do anything by myself, I want to invite you to read along with me. This is going to be an unconventional book club in that we don’t even all need to be reading the same book at the same time (or ever for that matter).  The point is that we are all encouraging each other read whatever it is that floats our boat. The only guideline is that the books be related to the goal of Living Richly (my blog tagline!).  Each month we’ll have a different Action Item: it might be a blog post or a Hangout chat or creative exercise to bring our learnings to life.

We still have a week left in January so there’s plenty of time for us to get one book in before the month is over!  Don’t think about it too hard, just reach over to that stack of books that have been collecting dust and pick one out.  Drop me a comment below to let me know that you’re in and request to be added to our #booksies discussion group on Goodreads.  And, if you’re on Pinterest, let’s each pin the titles that we’re reading on a group board. {just request to be added to the board to pin}

This past week I read The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau*. It was really great for anyone starting out in the entrepreneurship game, and I highly recommend it.  Starting tomorrow, I’ll be reading How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are: Love, Style and Bad Habits

 

How to Be Parisian

Don’t forget to join our discussion group HERE.

*affiliate link

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5 Days to More Revenue, Impact & Purpose Telesummit: 1/19 – 1/23

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I’m declaring 2015 the year for clarity and expansion in my entrepreneur community. As I’ve grown my own purposeful business and platform I understand how imperative creating new habits and implementing new strategies are to my business. I’ve teamed up with my sister in success, Aprille Franks-Hunt in her 5 Day Revenue, Impact & Purpose TeleSummit that starts on Monday (1/19).

You can have the success you’ve been dreaming about – you just need to know what you don’t know and what few tweaks you can make to change the trajectory of your future. We’re here to help you increase your brand profile, create more possibilities with your purpose and learn how to make more money than ever before!

Sign up today
 and I’ll see you next week :) Lock in the details below.

Event: Revenue, Impact & Purpose TeleSummit
Dates: January 19-23
Times: 2 per day | 12pm cst / 1pm est AND 8pm cst / 9pm est

What we’ll be discussing over the entire week:

  • Lining up your purpose to create more possibilities
  • How to add a ZERO to your bank account every month on a consistent basis
  • Importance of your sales funnel & how to build it
  • Two methods to increasing your FOLLOWING by thousands within 30 days (without breaking the bank)
  • How to attract and keep the right coaching clients
  • Gaining more speaking engagements that pay
  • and many more tools, nuggets and strategies you can use immediately!

Reserve your seat here!

This is the last year you’ll claim this year as “your year” to make radical changes. This year, it’s real and we’re leading the charge. See you on the summit!

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my “get right” plan to kick off 2015

2015

It’s the first full week of the new year and the Internet streetz are all abuzz with motivational quotes and inspiring images and the usual rah-rah-rah. Here’s the thing – I’m determined to make this year different.  I haven’t come up with resolutions or my One Word for the year or Personal Theme, not because there’s anything wrong with those approaches but, because, I know me and, at the the end of the day, my number one obstacle is consistency.  I start off strong but taper off, as many probably do, within weeks.  My change has to be internal and it has to run deep.  To that end, I’ve embarked on transformational journeys in three areas of my life:

Mental Health and Wellness

Thanks to my friend, Kailei Carr, I’ve committed to being intentional about my morning routine  - which I have struggled with for years! – because I know it will help with so many things: productivity, anxiety, time management, mood and so on.  As part of Kailei’s Goal Crushing Morning Masters group, I’ll be take the 30-day Morning Miracle challenge along with 200+ accountability partners.  Today was my first Day on the challenge and I can already feel a difference in my day.  My mood was definitely better than my typical morning cranky, and I feel like I got a jump on the day by not flying out the door to get a kid to school while in my pajamas.  Because I was actually showered and dressed, I was able to stop at the grocery store and get that errand out of the way. I learned that I likely often wake up with a headache because I’m dehydrated from my slumber and perhaps the dry heat of the furnace too.  Also? I have trouble breathing. Not in a medical, alarming sense, but in a rhythmic sense.  During the meditation part of my morning, it took me several minutes of shallow, jagged breathing to finally get to a place where it wasn’t labored or erratic.  It all sounds real crunch granola, I know, but starting my day with quiet thoughts, exercise and positive affirmations actually has me looking forward to all that awaits.

Business Success

Thanks to 3 friends of mine: Monica Barnett, Lamar Tyler and Cheryl Wood, I’ve committed to be intentional about my business revenue goals.  I’ve always worked hard and had the blessing of being able to grow my businesses by leaps and bounds, but for the past couple of years, I’ve not achieved the revenue goals that I would like – or that my family needs – for lack of measurable deliverables and diversity of business strategy. I’m so glad to have these minds as accountability partners and have already seen the benefits of strategic planning and not-so-gentle pushes outside of my comfort zone pay off!  I also am formalizing my mentorship role and limiting my attention to two wonderful mentees with a formal structure and gameplan. All of these things are aided by the fact that I FINALLY HIRED AN ASSISTANT!! After way too long wishing for one, and countless remarks from people in disbelief that I didn’t have one, I’m ecstatic to say that now I do.  She’s already helped to create a weekly work schedule for me that regulates my calls and meetings (halleleujah!) and carves out 1 day devoted to creativity and 1 morning devoted to personal development. It feels good.

Relationships

This is the next frontier of my 2015 plan.  I miss my friends. I want to make sure that my husband feels special.  I want to spend quality time with my kids.  There has to be a way to do all of these things, and not to the detriment of others.  And there has to be a way to unplug and spend time with those I love without having the constant feeling of guilt or anxiety that I should be working or that I’m wasting time or being a slacker.  If anyone has any suggestions or tools to help on this front, I am all ears.  For starters, Hubby and I are scheduling in monthly date nights and I’m taking copious notes from my friend Pamela and her husband Stephon and their Still Dating My Spouse brand.  As far as friendships go, I’m going to make sure that my besties and I actually schedule that Girls Weekend we’ve been talking about for at least 3 years.  I also have had “Friendkeeping” in my Amazon shopping cart for months and need to go ahead and read it. It occurs to me as I write this that maybe making the time for Kid QT is as simple as scheduling it, the way I am for the other folks in my life.  Mommy Date Days on deck!

And so maybe what I do  have for 2015 are areas of focus. Here’s to maintaining that focus for 12 entire months.

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An Encore of ‘Justice Fergie’s Happy Holiday Countdown’ #HolidayResponsibly

Keep Calm Countdown

It truly doesn’t make any sense that, for many, The Holidays are synonymous with Stress.  I mean, isn’t it the time of year when we come together with family and celebrate love and peace? Several years ago, after being caught up in the holiday frenzy, I realized that our condition is largely self-inflicted.  Personally, my stress stemmed from my desire to recreate The Perfect Christmas from my childhood, which probably never actually existed anywhere but in my head.  The baking, the annual trips to see The Nutcracker, gift exchanges, the decorations, and a Santa Claus who does not disappoint — these were all December staples in my mind, that had to get done, by hook or by crook.  And so, since my children were born, it’s been Operation Holly Jolly starting right after Thanksgiving.

Until I realized we could celebrate Christmas without going overboard.

That’s when I decided to enlighten those around me with “Justice Fergie’s Happy Holiday Countdown” – a weekly guide to simplifying the holiday season, right in line with my blog motto of living richly. It’s been a couple of years since I created my Countdown, so I thought I’d share them again this year, in the event it might save someone from being driven to drink.

Speaking of which.

Responsibility.org conducted a national survey on parents, the holidays and stress and found that Americans, especially parents with kids ages 18 and younger, report higher levels of stress during the holiday season. Fifty-one percent of parents with kids ages 18 and younger report stress due to holidays, which isn’t surprising because: Class Parties! Teacher Gifts! Santa!  The survey revealed that 22% of us drink to cope with holiday stress, with over 1/4 of dads reported managing stress with alcohol.  Since, for 60% of us, alcohol is a part of our family traditions around the holidays, it’s important to remember that our kids are watching us and taking cues on what it means to celebrate and how to cope with stress.

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So have the occasional glass of bubbly to toast the year behind you and the year ahead, and even take advantage of Eggnog Season by spiking your mug, but if it’s stress driving you in that direction, consider some other ways to handle it.  In fact, I’ll break down some of the most common stressors and what quick and simple strategies you can implement over the next couple of weeks:

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To start, compile your Chanukah or Christmas or Kwanzaa or New Year’s Dinner recipes and create a menu board. This should be quick and easy – not a major project.  I’ve been doing a mix of tearing out recipes from my fave food mags and gathering some on my Gourmandine and Fete boards on Pinterest.  Now it’s time to pull them all together.  It will help us see what gaps need to be filled, whether everything we had in mind actually goes together, and let us know if we need to pare down some (much to my dismay, we probably don’t need 4 potato dishes. Haterz.).  Read on here.

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This week, find a half a dozen (or more if you’re popular like that), gifts that you can quickly grab and take with you to the slew of holiday gatherings in your future. You could even use these to give to unexpected visitors or invited guests as they’re leaving your place to send them on their way with some holiday cheer.  Remember, it’s the thought that counts! These gifts don’t have to be expensive or one-of-a-kind; the best gifts are those that are thoughtful.  Seeing as how we’re trying to simplify and streamline our holidays, it’s totally ok if you get 6 of the same item – just choose something that has wide appeal.  And, if you’re up to it, you could even make the gifts yourself. Then again, if you’re making your gifts, then you’re one of those completely organized types who has it all together and you probably don’t need these tips at all. I love you anyway.  Read on here.

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TIP NO. 1: PARE DOWN YOUR LIST OF GIFT RECIPIENTS

This is hard, I know.  But just think about it for a moment: if you didn’t get a gift from everybody you knew, or even everyone in your family, you’d probably not mind one bit.  Before we get swept up in the materialistic madness, let’s remind ourselves what the season is all about. Love and family and kindness…and those can all be shown in ways beyond a wrapped package.  So take a moment to think about who you really and truly need or want to purchase a gift for (as opposed to bake some cookies for or send a card with a thoughtful note or treat to lunch) and write their names on a list. Read on here.

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Pull Out Your Calendar and Take Stock.  Perhaps you’ve already committed to some events.  Take note of those.  Then, take a look at the invitations you might have received but have not yet RSVP’d to.  Choose only those events that you would really love going to.  Hopefully that will help you whittle the list down a smidge.  And, if you realize that you’ve already said “yes” to an event that isn’t on your Would Love To Attend list, no worries.  You can always decline, politely. Explain that you’ve had a change in plans and that you are sorry to miss it. You could even send over a bottle of wine or a seasonal bouquet for the event.  Party hosts at this time of year understand that folks are overloaded and they’ll understand if you aren’t able to make it.  Trust me, that 30-second feeling of guilt for turning down an invitation will be instantly outshined by the feeling of joy now that you’ve freed up an evening or two to take time for you and/or your family. Read on here.

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Admit it. The cutesy cards from friends and family have been landing in your mailbox since darn near after Thanksgiving. And it makes you feel…pathetic. December was here before you had a chance to throw away the leftover Halloween candy and you fully intended to have your family’s holiday photo taken – with the kids in matching outfits against a seasonally appropriate background – but you had to reschedule the photo session more than once and eventually gave up.  But now you wish you hadn’t! The truth is, a part of you actually likes mailing out holiday cards and you know how much your family members across the globe like receiving them.  Read on here.


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What a concept! But sometimes even the best of us need to be reminded.  Most of us social media types, moms, entrepreneurs and what have you are highly productive overachievers who take advantage of every waking moment to “get stuff done.”

This holiday season, please please please take a day or two – or more if you can swing it – to give it all a rest.

Even if you’re not miles away from home on a sunny beach (like I may or may not be, ahem), you can still use this down time to relax, rejuvenate and reconnect with yourself.  Here’s a few ideas on how you can capture that vacation feeling amidst the holiday hustle and bustle: Read on here.

Hopefully these tips can provide a little relief to what can be a crazy, crazy time of year.  Even if you just try three of these strategies, I guarantee you’ll feel a little lighter – fruitcake notwithstanding.

This post is part of a #TalkEarly series sponsored by Responsibility.org.  To learn more about the #HolidayResponsibly initiative visit them online.

It’s not too late to join an important and ongoing discussion about alcohol responsibility by sharing your thoughts and opinions about how to have or start conversations with your children around alcohol responsibility.  Participants will be entered into a drawing for more than $5K in prizes.  Click HERE to get started.

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