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Stop Shining So Bright

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Know-it-all, cocky, arrogant, always trying to be number one and the center of attention…

If you’ve ever been told that you display one or all of these behaviors, depending where you are on the confidence and maturity scale, those words can hurt and do some serious damage to your confidence. When you are told that you are a “know-it-all” and 99.9% of the time you really do know the answer and the answers solves challenges for others and it is done with good intentions…it might be difficult for you to comprehend how and why it is viewed negatively. It’s a triple-edged sword. If you share information, you are a know-it-all. If you keep the information to yourself, then you aren’t a team player. If you play dumb, then you are doing an injustice to the natural skills and abilities that you were blessed with. So what do you do? The desire to help everyone unfortunately can be viewed as an attempt to steal the shine from others and there will come a day when you will be told to stop shining because it’s offending others and making them uncomfortable. If you are waiting for me to tell you to turn off your light so that other people can be comfortable, keep waiting. That’s not going to happen. Not. Ever. Your light is yours and yours alone. Don’t you dare turn it off.

I want you to think of your “shine” as the various lights you find on a car. Depending on the time of day or weather, you have to use different lights while you are on the road towards your destination. Your daytime lights for the everyday, routine stuff, the stuff that you can do without much thought. Your headlights are for when you need to provide unorthodox suggestions to resolve a problem. Throw on the high beams when you are pushed out of your comfort zone and have been asked to lead a major project. Your fog lights are when you need to weather the storm of adversity, ignore the naysayers, listen to the little birdie and achieve a goal that you might think is impossible. Use the interior lights when you need to take a moment to step away and focus on yourself. Change the type of light you use, sweetheart, but never..ever..turn it off.

With love,

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Be Proud of Your Battle Scars

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In Dr. Brene Brown’s New York Times best-seller book, “Daring Greatly” she opens the book with one of the most poignant passages I’ve ever read. Taken from Theodore Roosevelt’s speech “Citizenship in a Republic” which was delivered at the Sorbonne in Paris, France on April 23, 1910, the passage reads:

It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again,

because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause;

who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

The book “Daring Greatly” is all about how the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent and lead. There are joys and pitfalls of being vulnerable. The joy is that you feel free to be yourself, imperfections and all and present them to people around you hope will accept them and love you anyway. Or to paraphrase Dr. Brown, “be able to carry the weight of your story”. The pitfalls include being judged, ridiculed, ostracized and talked about based on presumptuous assumptions based on hearsay.

The one thing I have found to be true is folks will talk about you and they have never been in the arena. Hell, they have never been on the block of the arena or better yet don’t know the name of the arena. They criticize you but they have never done what you are trying to do. Your critics don’t matter. Your critics do not know what defeat feels like because they don’t have the courage to go into the arena.

If you are in the arena, I applaud you. Continue to shine bright even when others wish, hope and pray for you to dim your light to make them comfortable. While there are naysayers standing on the outside of the arena criticizing you, there are also people watching you go in and fight, come out battered and go back in the very next day who are inspired by your determination and focus. To quote a wise friend, it doesn’t matter if you throw glitter or shade, there are some people will never like you. And that’s okay. Your purpose and achievements do not require applause or the approval of people who never have and probably never will step one foot into the arena.

With love,

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My Haters Are My Motivators

Haters are my motivators

The MOST ridiculous phrase ever created. Usually said by self-absorbed, self-centered, arrogant, cocky and insecure people that have the nerve to say that foolishness with pride. I’m going to pause right here….Are you kidding me? Let’s get something straight, everyone who doesn’t agree with you, congratulate you on your achievements or jump on your bandwagon is a hater. They just aren’t buying what you are selling and see you for who you are. And if your motivator is negative energy and people hating you, I feel sorry for you. Would you still be motivated to do something extraordinary if you were respected and admired?

If you can’t be real with yourself, you can’t be real with anyone else and you are setting yourself up to be alone and therefore continue to perpetuate this nonsense that you have “haters”.  Here’s a newsflash, no one wants to be around narcissistic opportunists. No one wants to be around a someone who uses other people to get  ahead and constantly changes alliances depending on the benefits that may come by association. People can smell unauthentic actions and words a mile away. If you find yourself without meaningful and soul-nourishing relationships and you are constantly using  that pathetic phrase to explain why, then it’s not them, is you. If one person tells you that you have a green tail, that person is crazy. If two people tell you, then is may be a conspiracy. Honey, if seven people tell you, I need you to go find a mirror and go look at your tail.

Genuine actions yield genuine results and relationships. Don’t try to fool others by saying you are genuine. Words mean nothing when your actions are contradictory.

With love,

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Masks Are For Masquerade Balls

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I have a secret. I’m an avid people watcher. Not the creepy, stalker type of watcher but the observant, “I don’t miss much” type of people watcher. Do you know what I’ve noticed? The old saying “fake it until to you make it” has trapped a lot of us into wearing a mask 24 hours a day. Oh, you don’t know what I’m talking about? I’m talking about the mask that says, “Everything is great!”. The mask that says you have it all together. You know, the mask that tells everyone your family is perfect, your finances are stellar, your job is amazing and your company is thriving. But in reality…

…you wish you could run away from home

…you are one paycheck away from not being able to pay your mortgage

…you and your significant other are fighting like cats and dogs

…there isn’t a day you don’t mumble under your breath “I hate this job” at least five times

…the amazing idea you had to start your own business is starting to feel like the dumbest thing you’ve ever done 

Sounds familiar?

There are two huge disadvantages to wearing a mask. Remember when you wore a mask for Halloween when you were a kid? Remember how the holes that were cut out for your eyes never lined up properly and your vision was impaired? The same thing happens when you wear the “everything is perfect” mask. Your vision of others become blurry. So instead of seeing circumstances for what they really are, you try to make them into what they should be based on the mask you are wearing. Secondly, when you are wearing a mask it is impossible for people to have an authentic relationship with you.  Two people trying to have any type of relationship while either one of them is wearing a mask can be catastrophic. It is essential to meet people exactly where they are. When you don’t show up as who you really are, the other person may feel the need to pick up a mask they had no intention of wearing. They feel obligated to put one because you were wearing yours and the deception continues back and forth until…

Communication breaks down…

Trust is broken and lost…

Relationships are damaged…

Amazing opportunities are missed…

All because of the stupid masks we wear because we are afraid to show the world who we really are.

Take the mask off.  Someone needs to see your real emotions, pain, struggles and success. Your journey has the power to inspire someone move beyond accepting a mediocre life and propel them to being absolutely extraordinary. You never know who you might encourage to take off their mask when you show the courage to remove your mask first.

 

With love,

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I’m Freaking Out!

The 2nd Annual Work Your Package Women’s Conference is less than 80 days away and I have to tell you, my nerves are shot! I’m being 100% honest with you. The risk of putting your own money on the table to host a conference and then plan, pray, hope, pray some more, network, market and then pray again to get people to attend is nerve wracking. If you ever meet someone who hosts their own conference and they tell you it’s easy…turn around and walk away because they are lying. You are probably saying, “If it’s so nerve wracking, Ayanna, why are you doing it?” Well, I’m glad you asked. I’m hosting this conference and embracing all of the angst that goes along with planning a successful event because I truly believe that everyone has the capacity to be extraordinary when they are given the right tools. I’m not an expert on all of the different facets that make the “total package” but I have some pretty good connections who are experts and it’s that expertise I want to share with the attendees. I’m a serial conference attendee and I know what it’s like to feel like you are nothing more than a badge or registration number. I’ve decided to purposely keep the attendee/speaker ratio low because I want the attendees to have an opportunity to have meaningful interaction with each other and the speakers. That is what drives me, that is what inspires me to commit to hosting this conference year after year and soon…city after city.

Working Your Package™ is the act of making a conscious decision to acknowledge you are unique and only you can deliver the special gift you were created to share with others. Are you headed in the direction of fulfilling your purpose or do you need to make some changes so that you can live your life authentically? Register today at www.workyourpackage2015.eventbrite.com

With love,

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Ambition is AWESOME…but Get Your Priorities In Order

Imagine this, you are standing on the proverbial corner of opportunity and “holy-cow-this-is-amazing”. The opportunity is so amazing you can’t believe it just dropped in your lap. You are in the process of fulfilling your dreams and then…you see your child crying.

Welcome to my reality. I was offered an opportunity to host a talk show on a local television cable station and I was beyond excited. I’m talking excited like it was network television with syndication and I was one step closer to being the next Oprah. Then a series of obstacles began to appear: the studio hours for taping weren’t conducive to my 9 to 5 job with benefits, sites to shoot on-location interviews were hard to come by and it took forever for my volunteer camera person to get trained. I came up with a plan to work around them. And then…I saw my baby girl crying because she didn’t “have a troop with her people”. Don’t jump off the deep end, she wasn’t referring to race or color, she was referring to other 2nd grade girls who are Girl Scout Brownies. So as much as I want to be on television, my child’s happiness is more important. So guess who has signed up to be a Brownie Trooper Leader? Yup, that would be me. The OCD Planner in me has already set up a Pinterest board to capture ideas for meetings and activities.

Fact is, I’m already pulled in multiple directions and quite frankly I wondered what the added the pressure of scouting for talent, writing scripts, taping and editing two shows per month would do to my already packed schedule. I would have been stretched to the point of being transparent. It has always been my hope that everything I do helps me to be a positive role model for my children and I also need them to know that I love them and that they are a priority.  No, I’m not abandoning my dream of being on television and sharing my message with the world. I’m managing my priorities and my children are one of them. Ambition is awesome and ten years from now I don’t want to be successful and filled with heartbreaking regret because I’ve missed out on some of the most important years of my daughters lives. Girl Scout Cookies anyone?

With love,

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Practicing What You Preach

It’s very easy to give advice to others. It is not easy to follow the same advice when the same situation and possible solution applies to you. Giving advice, unsolicited or requested, is a privilege and you shouldn’t give it halfheartedly or without thought.

When I decided to write “Work Your Package – A Guide to Being the Total Package”, I was going through what most people would call a “rough time”. There were challenges at home and at work that would have frustrated a saint and I was elbow deep in the planning of my first conference. It was crazy of me to take on the additional responsibility of writing a book but then I thought about what I would have told someone else in the same situation. Why not do it? If not now, when? Obstacles show up in everyday life and have we have two choices…complain about them or overcome them. The driving force behind finishing my book was knowing that people were watching me and wondering “Does she really practice what she preach? Is she really “working” her package?” Do I do what I do for public approval? Heck no. But I am a woman of my word. When I posted on Facebook that the book would be released soon, I gave the power of accountability to more than 600 people. I knew that if it took too long to release the book, there would have been at least 50 people asking, “Hey, when is your book going to be released?” 

There is a level of authenticity you earn with others when your words are congruent to your actions. If you are telling people how to eat healthy, you shouldn’t be eating fast food everyday. If you are telling people how to be financially responsible, your personal finances should be in order. Whatever it is you are giving advice about, you should be doing your absolute best to live the advice that you give.

 

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Everything is not for Everybody

I have a tendency to second guess myself. Not just my actions but my non-action as well. When I have great ideas in my head and do nothing with them I am my greatest critic and begin to fall into what I call Success Envy. Envious of the people who seem to have it all together. Envious of the people who can plan and execute the ideas in their head without a hiccup or pause. In the midst of this Success Envy, I lose sight of my accomplishments and my skill set and totally forget that everything isn’t for everybody.

Everywhere you look someone is starting their own business, losing 50 pounds or making a drastic life change. And there you are, working in Corporate America, craving a Big Mac and resisting the urge to run away from home. Facebook is the biggest culprit and enabler of Success Envy. Perfectly curated photos and status updates depict flawless lives far removed from the reality of day to day life. When I find myself questioning my own happiness and success based on the social media presence of others, I do a reality check. Two healthy kids. Check. Lovable husband. Check. Silly, neurotic old dog. Check. A roof over my head, a job with benefits, friends, and family that love me. Check. Check. Check.

Everything is not for everybody. Appreciation for what you have doesn’t mean turning away from your dreams. It means focusing on what is best for you while you work towards them.

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The Ugly Side of Celebrating of Motherhood

Yesterday was Mother’s Day and women all over the country received gifts, cards and flowers from their children. Adult children made reservations for spa treatments and brunch at their mother’s favorite restaurants. It’s the one day out of the year when Mom’s can put their feet up and take a break.

But somewhere, there were women who have been battling infertility and yesterday was yet another reminder that they do not have a child to call their own. The weeks leading up to yesterday were not joyous or filled with anticipation. It was heartbreaking and depressing. I can speak about that from personal experience because I too dealt with infertility. I realize that I’m one of the lucky ones who was able to conceive on the first try with IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) but I also know the disappointment of two failed IUI’s (Intrauterine insemination). I know how it feels to buy yet another baby shower gift and fighting the urge to pass judgement on the conditions in which a child was conceived and the relationship the parents have. I’m not a jealous woman but motherhood was something that I coveted more than anything. I know what it’s like to have well-meaning members of the church tell you to just have faith the size of a mustard seed. Trust me, when a woman is going to through infertility, she has a relationship with God that you can’t even begin to comprehend. I know that without a shadow of a doubt that I had I listened to “well meaning” family and friends and not to the whispering of God, I would probably still be childless. As I explained to someone prior to starting treatments, if God can create the sun, moon and stars surely creating a doctor with specialty in infertility is within of His realm of expertise.

I did not write this to chastise those who are insensitive to or don’t have a clue about infertility. However, if you have a friend who is dealing with infertility, there are some things you just do not say. I wrote this post as voice of understanding and compassion and support to women who are still dealing with it. I have friends who have also suffered with infertility and were able to conceive, some that are still battling and some that have given up hope. I’ve watched them tirelessly raise other people’s children and work in professions where they can influence young minds. My hope is that yesterday was a beautiful day for them. I pray that they were treated like the beautiful queens that they are and they were surrounded with love and admiration.

Every Mother’s Day I’m thankful to Shady Grove Fertility Clinic in Rockville, MD, specifically Dr. Robert Stillman, who assisted me through my infertility journey. Dr. Stillman and his staff consoled me when I was at my absolute worse and laughed along with me when I used humor to diffuse hurt, pain and disappointment. I believe modern medicine does not trump God. I believe God leads you to where you need to go so that He can answer your prayer.

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Epic Failure (Well at Least in My Mind)

There are times when I feel like a complete and utter failure. This morning is a perfect example. I didn’t prepare lunches last night so while I was making breakfast and coffee for my husband, I was also making breakfast for my girls as well as their lunch. Usually I’m okay with multi-tasking in the morning but this morning there was a nagging voice that kept saying “You are so unorganized, no wonder your house doesn’t run smoothly”. This voice continued and added some other things that I don’t even want to repeat. The louder the voice became, the more irritated I got. I had my “boom” moment when I yelled at my oldest daughter for not getting in the car…RIGHT NOW.  Epic, huge, magnanimous fail for me. I don’t like yelling, especially at my kids. Especially when they had nothing to do with the way I am feeling at that moment. I was silent for the majority of the time as I drove them to school. I made sure to tell them that I loved them and I wanted them to do their best today. When they got out the car, I wanted to cry.

I’ve come to believe that all my past failure and frustration were actually laying the foundation for the understandings that have created the new level of living I now enjoy. – Tony Robbins

I’m still learning to give myself some credit for the things I do right and to have patience with myself when things go haywire. One day I will look back on this morning and realize that I’m not a failure as a mother, wife or household manager. Why? Because there will be other days that surpass this one with greater significance.