blackpeopleHi ladies.

I haven’t been blogging much these days because I have a lot going on with new exciting projects that I’m bringing to all of you throughout this year. The past few Sundays I’ve been watching Tavis Smiley’s State of the Black Union on TV One. I always watch these with a conflicted heart because each year we have this State of the Union and there’s always a lot of encouraging speech, praise and calls to action. But it seems like after all the fanfare, the Black Community falls back to where they were. Then we do it all again the next year. That saddens me. We’ve got to do better.

Now don’t view this as me dismissing this event, because I’m not. I think it is vital that we keep these going, but it got me thinking.  What I’d like to see is the same people on the panels, not only put out a call to action, but DO SOMETHING to get things moving. Holding an event is not enough. We can talk about it all day long, but if there is no real effort being made outside of showing up on tv, nothing will ever get better. Now it’s not fair for me to put it on others. Doing better starts within each one of us. We have to take a long hard look at ourselves, individually, and do an assessment. Are we living up to our potential? Are we pushing our kids to live up to their potential? Are we encouraging ourselves to take action? If the answer to any of these is “no”, then we need to take action. People, Black Women in particular, can come up with a zillion reasons why we can’t make it or why we feel things are against us. I’m here to tell you life is rough. But just like they say “it’s not what you’re called but what you answer to”, it’s not your circumstance but how you react and move on from it to prosper that counts. If you don’t instill positive thoughts in your mind, you have no chance to succeed. If you don’t take positive actions to improve your life, you can’t succeed. If you don’t start moving yourself out of negative environments and circles, you cannot succeed.

Self accountability and hard work is the starting point. We cannot continue to blame others for our misfortunes. Education and knowledge is power. It starts with you. If you have children, you can’t even get their lives straight until you get yours straight first. Kids follow by example. If you’re not setting that example of excellence, they will have a harder road. Let them know and understand that being smart and focused is not a crime. Keep them interested in always learning. It breaks my heart to see some women say “I can’t. I’m stuck with no way out”. I don’t believe that in even the most extreme cases. Education and knowledge is the great equalizer. We have way too much access these days to have excuses to fall back on. The internet has a wealth of information, mostly for free. Pick up a book. Talk to people. If you can’t afford traditional education, get a non-traditional education. You can self-educate. Just because your education isn’t from a prestigious university doesn’t mean the education or knowledge is an less valuable. Look for programs, grants and scholarships and apply if you are determined to get a traditional education. There is money out there, you just have to look. Connect with successful people you admire. Surrounding yourself with successful people is sure to put you in a positive mindset. It can be as simple as sending an email or picking up the phone to reach out. Don’t think of people in terms of being untouchable. Everyone is accessible somehow, some way. If you don’t ask, you’ll never get.

Upgrade your relationships. We all have different types of friends. The ones you go shopping with. The ones you can discuss world issues with. The ones you had from childhood. But all friendships aren’t meant to last forever. At some point we all experience a friend who is overly negative and adds nothing of value to your friendship. You dread having conversations with her because you know how they’ll turn out. These are the friends you prune from your inner circle. I know there is a lot to be said for loyalty and friendship. But you can’t allow negativity to invade your space. If you’re in a circle where you’re the smartest one, it’s time to find some smarter friends. If you’re in a circle where all they do is bitch about men and problems, it’s time to find happier friends. If you’re in a circle where all they do is cry over money woes or robs peter to pay paul with no plan to get out of the situation, it’s time to find savvier friends. You cannot allow others, no matter how long you’ve known them, to bring you down. Even the strongest of women will succomb to this negaitvity if exposed to it enough. Don’t be afraid to start over.

If you feel you cannot pull yourself up by yourself, get help. There are support groups and mentors out there willing to help. Now be careful though. If you join a support group, make sure it’s not a pity party but a group with goals on helping one another to succeed. Also be careful in choosing a mentor. Not everyone is meant to mentor people. Make sure there is good synergy between you and get at least two or three people to mentor you. Create an encouragement board. Some people call them vision boards. Cut out powerful words, affirmations, phrases and captions and put them on the board. You can also add images of what you wish to succeed. Keep it in a prominent place where you’ll constantly see it. Refer to it often, especially when you feel down.

Immerse yourself in things other than celebrity gossip or entertainment. Get politically active.  Get involved in empowering conversations. Get dialog going within your own household and talk to your kids. It has always bugged the hell out of me how women will blow up a conversation thread about Beyonce’s weave or last night’s episode of Grey’s Anatomy, hair & makeup, or the Chris Brown/Rhianna saga. You’ll find threads online 40 pages deep. But throw out a conversation about goal setting, starting a business, helping one another, or anything work related, and it gets ignored. People, we’ve got to do better. I’m not saying entertainment doesn’t have it’s place. But have an opinion about something other than idle gossip! We need more intelligent dialog.

If you are a person who has achieved success, this blog is for you too. What have you done to uplift another person? Do you mentor or otherwise give your time? What are you willing to do, as your part, in helping our community? You cannot make the mistake so many have made. You cannot get into the upper echelon then cocoon yourself away from the world saying “not my problem”. I’m not saying you have to single-handedly save the entire world or Black Community. But don’t shut yourself off. The biggest complaint I hear from women, especially Black Women is that the sisters who made it turn their backs and are unwilling to reach back to help. Let’s work to dispel this notion. Get involved and give back. Remember, you once needed a hand. If someone gave it to you, consider it paying it forward. If nobody helped you, remember that feeling and work to help others as you wised someone would have helped you.

If you want something bad enough, go out and fight for it. Nothing is given in this life. You have to fight and sweat for it. Don’t let anyone or anything keep you from achieving it. If the election of President Obama has taught us anything, it’s that anything is possible. Say it with me again ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE. It’s up to you to level the playing field. Not President Obama, Black “Leaders”, the government, your boss, nobody. Only YOU. Decide what you want to do and go for it with full force. Find out what you do best and work to refine those skills and create your brand. Be confident in what you do so others will believe in you. Remember, if you don’t believe in you nobody else will. What do you want to be synonymous with? What do you want your legacy to be? What do you want your message to the world to be?  Show up, be accountable, and start talking! Most importantly, start DOING.

Til next time.

Adrienne Graham

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Black Business WomanAll of us have a similar common goal….to be empowered and have control over our professional destiny.  To have true empowerment, you must take responsibility for who you are, what you do, and what course you chart for yourself. It would be nice to have someone do it all for you.  I would have loved to have someone give me a road map to plotting my professional life.  But alas, it doesn’t work that way in the real world. At best, you can surround yourself with mentors and associates who will guide you along your journey. But in the end, it’s up to you to make the decisions and changes that need to be made to reach empowerment.

Here are a few steps you can take to True Empowerment:

1. Let go of past baggage. We have a tendency of holding on to what does us no good. Remembering a fight, worrying about bills, being upset about how someone else lives their life, holding a grudge because someone else took credit for a project we worked hard on. All of this is negative energy that takes up space in your world of positivity.  In order for positive blessings to come your way, you must get rid of the old negative feelings and thoughts.  Let go and let them fuel you to push even harder to achieve your goals. Come to new situations with a free and clear mind and heart.  Baggage keeps you from bringing your “A” game and from experiencing true success.

2. Get educated. Now I don’t just mean go to school. Education comes in many forms.  Yes, a college education is a good foundation, but continuing to learn well after you’ve earned your degree comes back to you ten-fold.  You can take continuing education courses.  Find topics that interest you and can help boost your career.  You’ll even get credit units for taking them.  Attend seminars, workshops and conferences.  Some organizations give you continuing education credits by simply attending.  Take advantage of events to leverage new relationships and show off what you know (and what you learn).  Read a book or three.  Trade journals, magazines, newspapers, online content and of course books help to continue the flow of knowledge.  Create a binder of important articles that are beneficial to your career or industry.  The internet is right at your fingertips.  Do your research and reading.

3. Find mentors. Notice I didn’t say find “A” mentor.  Mentors are all around you.  They don’t have to be a specific age, gender, position title or even in the same industry.  Study people whom you admire.  What makes them tick?  What paths have they blazed in their industries?  Reach out to them and ask if they would be open to being your mentor.  Don’t limit yourself to just one.  There’s a lot to be learned out there.  Don’t be afraid to reach out and connect with people.  More often than not, they are willing to share their knowledge.  But be careful not to monopolize their time, and definitely make it a value added relationship for both of you. I’m sure there is a way you can give back to your mentors.

4. Polish your image. You’ve got to look the part.  There was an article I read about dressing like a CEO.  I believe that no matter what level you are in your career, you absolutely must dress to impress.  Don’t go out to buy the Georgio Armani suit so quickly.  Buy classic tailored pieces that are timeless.  Have a couple of good staples in your wardrobe that you can mix and match with the Target wear.  Be sure to bring your own flair to your image.  But follow the tone set by those who are where you want to be.  Even law firms are slightly relaxing their corporate attire…but not too much.  Everything from your hairstyle to your accessories say something about you.  Are you portraying the appropriate image?  Invest in some classic shoes, handbags, jewelry and scarves.  Depending on what field you are in, a stunning briefcase can add value to your look.  And most importantly, buy a dress coat that is professional and classic. You must always be cognizant of your outward appearance. Confidence attracts confidence (and opportunity).

5. Build a solid network and use it. There are so many people who tell me “I can’t network. I don’t know what to say to people.” Well I usually tell them to get over it.  You cannot succeed in the business world without interacting with people.  You don’t necessarily have to become best friends forever. But you must have the ability to strike up conversations and the timing skills to know when to strike or move on.  As much as I hate to admit it, there is still an unspoken truth that it’s all in who you know, not what you know.  Learn how to network online, but don’t let that be your end all be all.  Use it as a starting point to building relationships.  The internet is a wonderful thing and I am grateful that I have it to make my job a little easier.  But it can make you lazy.  You must cultivate your business relationships that you form online.  Let’s say you meet someone on Linked In or Viadeo, or any other online professional networking tool.  Immediately suggest a phone conversation.  Take the time to introduce yourself and let the person know how you see them networking with you.  And then continue the dialog.  You don’t have to speak every week, or every month for that matter.  But you do want them to keep you in the forefront of their minds.  Don’t approach your relationships with a “set it and forget it” mentality.  It takes real work.

True empowerment is there within your reach.  Whether you are a college student, entrepreneur, or corporate riser, these principles will work for you.  Education + Action = TRUE EMPOWERMENT(tm).

Til next time.
Adrienne Graham