So I went to a fabulous leadership conference held at Columbia University by an excellent group of NY-based go-getters called Rising Affluent.
There were a number of speakers and panel presentations that were geared toward inspiring folks to step their game up either in their current profession, or if they want to completely change directions and do something else.
No matter what you were there for, there were a number of recurring themes that popped up throughout the day that stuck with me and was totally worth the price of admission, and then some.
I met wonderful people who were highly intelligent, driven and just downright interesting, from a variety of backgrounds. It was repeated throughout the day that it takes a special kind of person to get up early and spend an entire Saturday talking business and self-improvement. So the folks who showed up did have something special about them and we all had a common goal.
Even the wildly successful people leading the panels and keynote speakers were personable, fun, and brutally honest about their challenges and setbacks.
So, I’m going to quickly breakdown some of the most valuable themes that I’ve still been thinking about in terms of my career and small business. My brain has been going full throttle, and I’ve been scribbling new ideas all weekend long. It’s time for some new vision boards. It’s going to take me no time at all to fill them up after getting so much info and inspiration this weekend.
Honesty: You shouldn’t be fudging your credentials or your skill set. Pump up what you know, learn more about what you don’t know, or have people on your team who know what you don’t know well to help propel you, your project, business or mission forward.
Connection to community: How is what you are doing connecting to the greater good? What are you doing to help others either through your professional life, or in your personal life just to feed your soul and serve others? Derek Fleming, who is the director of business development for the Marcus Samuelsson Group said keeping the community, culture and residents of Harlem in mind at all times was crucial as he and his partners brought fine dining restaurant Red Rooster into the rapidly evolving (i.e. gentrifying) neighborhood.
Networking: This one was huge, well because it was a networking event. Don’t look to gain something from everyone you meet, what do YOU have to offer them?
Sponsors: This one was a funny one, because the joke was to find a powerful, older, white man (the folks who are usually in power) to align yourself with and mentor you. But it doesn’t always have to be an older, powerful, white man. You just have to align yourself with people who are where you want to be and get them to like you so much, that they want to bring you along for the ride to the top.
Support: You need a support system of like-minded people who will say, “yes you can do this and how can I help you?” These people can be family, friends and mentors. Some of these people may even help you raise funds for your endeavors and you shouldn’t overlook that even if you want to do everything on your own. Author and global spokesperson for LinkedIn, Lindsey Pollak said “It takes a village to be successful.” And sometimes that village has to include a life/career coach and or therapist. Get the support you need professionally, mentally, spiritually and for your health and fitness.
Hard work: You can smooze all you want to and make friends with the big boys, but you have to be a hard worker, you have to be knowledgeable, prepared and confident in order for everything to truly come together. Fleming said if you’ve put in the time, the hard work, the research and you are over prepared, no one can deny you when your opportunities do arrive.
Patience: It’s not all going to happen right away. I was particularly impressed with panelist Tricia Lee Riley, the owner of Polish Bar. She was grinding for years with makeup giant MAC, and then it still took her six years to get from business plan to opening her first Polish Bar store. That entire time, she was grinding, planning and saving and sacrificing to make her dream happen.
Risk: Sometimes you have to leave a comfortable situation to go for whatever it is that is pulling and tugging at your heart. Demetria L. Lucas of the Belle in Brooklyn blog/book fame walked away from a full-time glamorous gig with Essence Magazine to write her own destiny as a writer, t.v. personality, advice columnist and life coach. Riley probably could have stayed with MAC, continuing to build their brand and make it better, but she knew it was time to do her own thing and she did it.
The last that really resonated with me is to take my side hustle seriously and not to apologize for it. It hit me like a ton of bricks with Pollak gave this advice to a person asking her a question.
She said to stop saying, “I do this but I do this too. Say I do this and this.”
I was totally doing that all the time. I was downplaying my small business because it hasn’t officially launched yet, and well because it’s scary. It’s time to own it, after all I’m putting so much time and effort into it. Why not?
So I’m retraining myself to say AND!
I’m a journalist AND tee-shirt designer launching a website devoted to women’s empowerment. Whoo hoo!
Now, I need a nap.