For many of you, I’m sure your cap and gown (and/or hood) are all packed away, and you’re patiently waiting for your degree to arrive in the mail. You made it! You should be proud of yourself, but these feelings are fleeting away. Your bank account and the bevy of emails from Sallie Mae serve as a reminder that you're not quite out of the woods yet. Now comes the hard part….finding a job! I know, I know, you’ve sent out tons of applications, networked your little heart out and still nothing. Now you’re in a funk because you’re dreading summer visits back home where you’ll have to answer the incessant questions about your state of employment from your family, friends and associates who saw your graduation pics posted on Facebook. To top it all off, no one can seem to stop talking about the state of the economy (blame the pending election) or how lazy, shallow and self-serving we millennials are.
I'm here to offer you some advice: Purchase or stream track 10, entitled “Freedom” from Beyoncé’s critically acclaimed album Lemonade. This song will lift your spirits and remind you why you should keep fighting the good fight. The lyrics “I’mma keep running 'cause a winner don’t quit on themselves,” stand out tremendously. These prophetic words dance around my ears and throughout my mind long after the song has finished playing. Those anthemic words inspire me to keep trying and never give up despite the challenges I may face along the way.
Think about it, how many times did Michael Jordan miss the game winning shot? Many! How many times did Oprah hear 'no?' Plenty! How many times have you heard 'no?' I’m sure enough to fill your studio apartment. Don’t focus on the 'no'’s, concentrate on carving a path to your 'yes.' All of your efforts will pay off, but you will only know the value of the 'yes' once you've heard a few 'no'’s.
I moved from rural North Carolina to the D.C. area six years ago after securing an opportunity — after a year of applying/interviewing — in the area and have been doing well ever since. Like you, I took the plunge and went back to school. Now I’m a post-grad anticipating what is to come. We all have down days, but don’t dwell on the negative or give up. Life's a journey, so keep running. Who knows, you might just be a black Bill Gates in the making...
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Successful: It's what everyone wants to be, regardless of how they define what success looks like for them. When you're having a difficult time making your definition of success come to life and your friends all seem to be successful personally, professionally, or in both regards, it can be disheartening. You might become depressed, close yourself off from your friends, or stick around but become bitter. It's easy to slip into a mentality of negativity when things aren't going your way, but I would encourage anyone in this predicament to take these reminders into account:
Your path to success is custom made
The path to whatever you're trying to accomplish will not look like anyone else's. For example: If you're an entrepreneur, you should know that it's a marathon out here. Starting your own business takes more time and energy than having traditional employment. Understand, own and embrace that it might take longer, there might be twists and turns, and that as long as you're trying, you're not failing.
Comparison is the thief of joy
This is one of my favorite quotes (by Theodore Roosevelt). It encourages us not to lose ourselves by comparing our lives to that of others. Are you chronically single, and it seems like all of your friends are getting boo'd up or married? It might be difficult not to compare, but ask yourself how your relationship with you is going. Keep setting personal goals specific to yourself, and maintain eye contact with those goals.
Success is not a checkbox
It's not like you set a goal, accomplish it and BAM! You're successful. I know I have to constantly remind myself that success is both an idea and a journey. Of course, I set markers for myself — landmarks, if you will — to help measure my progress. Another favorite quote of mine is by George Bernard Shaw, who says: "Life is not about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself." You are your greatest masterpiece, your most challenging and important work of art, so celebrate the small victories as steps toward creating the success you want.
Everyone has challenges, you just might not be privy
Your girl has a good man, they have a cute little toddler, just bought a house and she's been promoted at her job. It looks fantastic from the outside. Little do you know, her promotion came just in time because he was just laid off, their cute little toddler has been diagnosed with a learning disability, and she just found out she can't have more kids. I'm being extreme here, but we really don't know every single challenge our perceived 'successful'
friends are facing.
You will get there if you keep going
Opportunity favors the prepared. This is a mantra of mine. I believe that every moment I spend preparing myself for the opportunities I'm working toward will make me ready when they arise. BELIEVE IN YOURSELF, because belief is the first step toward manifestation. After that, it's about doing the thing that you say you want to do. Want to be a singer? Start writing your own songs or build your production skills. Want to be in graphic design? Start designing for your dream companies. It's not about nailing the dream gig now or finding the right relationship now, it's about preparing yourself for that inevitable moment (or those inevitable moments, because there will be more than one) of glory.
Ultimately, I know it sucks to feel as though everyone else is doing better or more or is closer to their dreams, but your effort matters. You are a success in progress, so keep moving forward.
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A little over a year ago I (very begrudgingly) moved home in order to begin the post-graduate chapter of my life. Depressed and disillusioned, I sat and stared at the same punk rock band-covered walls I decorated at 14, sure that I actually knew less at that very moment than I did when I slapped that Fall Out Boy poster up there nearly a decade ago. After countless sleepless nights of confusion, regret and ultimately anger, I came to the sad, yet very real conclusion that after 22 years of living I had no absolute idea of what the actual hell I was doing.
I had done an award-winning job the past few years pretending like I had everything figured out, and that adulthood couldn’t be nearly as draining and difficult as everyone had made it out to be. After seriously considering getting my PhD in BS-ing myself and every poor unsuspecting soul who asked me what my plans for the future looked like, I strapped on my big girl pants and tear-stained college sweatshirt and picked my life up from post-grad struggle day care.
Though finally employed and making a risky attempt at adulting, at 23 I'm still very much trying to figure out how this whole “being a grown up” thing works. Although I’m still undoubtedly fumbling around (young adult novel and popsicle in hand) here is what I understand (at least so far). Listen closely and take this with you:
Take your time
You just survived 16 non-stop years of education. From eating glue to gaining the freshmen 15, from crayon masterpieces to 50-page theses, you've miraculously made it to this point, and that is undoubtedly something to celebrate. If anything, you deserve a hot date for one with some Netflix and an economy-sized bottle of Pinot Grigio. Use this intermediate period as a way to catch up on some much needed personal time.
Treat yo self
Just because you have yet to put your degree to use doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put an “f” in front of unemployment. Use some of that generous stash of grad money to take a mini trip with friends or reward yourself with a gift you always wanted but couldn’t quite afford (and probably won’t be able to in your new adult life). There’s absolutely no harm in enjoying one last summer before real world growing pains settle in, if you can.
Get ya head in the game
The hard truth lies in the fact that looking for a job is, in fact, a full-time job. Amongst the fun and carefree moments, this is also a critical point to be thinking about who you want to be, what exactly it is you want to do and where you want to do it. You worked your ass off day in and day out for four long years — don’t just pick a job to pick it or because the salary happens to look extra shiny. Pick something worthwhile, a career you’re going to love just as much in 30 years as you did on your first day.
You’re going to have to do bad until you can do better
It might actually be anatomically impossible for someone to work their dream job right out of college. Student loans and various other debts are a grim reality, and they’re certainly not going anywhere. Just because you have to work at a local restaurant or bar or pick up as many babysitting shifts as you can get your hands on doesn't mean that the past four years were a complete waste. You have the rest of your life to build a career; there’s no time stamp on dreams, hopes and aspirations never expire.
Stop the comparisons
Our generation’s biggest issue lies within the accessibility and constancy in which we compare ourselves to others. Consumption of social media gives us immediate access to billions of lives within the click of a button. What we fail to realize is what we see via Facebook statuses and Instagram posts is a carefully constructed positively perfect outlook on a person’s existence. Behind the likes and the filters there are struggles just as burdensome as our own. Put down the phone, close the computer, and remind yourself that it even takes the Earth a whole year to orbit around the sun; just because it’s currently raining on your parade does not mean that the sunshine isn’t right around the corner.
Help your fellow struggling pseudo-adults out by sharing these blessings via Facebook.
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“I learned more from my failure than my success.” Were the words Lisa Lloyd used to describe the end of Treasure Chest Pets, the product that landed her a spot on Shark Tank and an investment from Daymond John and Barbara Corcoran.
Lisa’s life-changing idea was a barrette that has generated more than $20 million dollars globally, she has since licensed six more products. Although Treasure Chest Pets shut down its doors, Lisa was hired by Daymond John to train the entrepreneurs that he brings aboard. Discussing failure with a woman who has accomplished so much has allowed me to redefine the way that I approach failure in my life and to understand that sometimes it's simply an opportunity to refocus.
Recovering from failure
It was the perfect storm, Unfortunately, one that Treasure Chest Pets simply could not recover from.
“It was devastating, frankly I had my entire identity wrapped up in my success."
"With 8 patents that generated over 30 million dollars in revenue by the time I was 30, I was used to being very successful. I quickly realized that I had very thin skin and very low tolerance for failure, it crushed me.”
Recovering from failure for Lisa, included a fresh start. She packed her bags, moved to New Orleans and started over with a completely new group of friends and a new job as the manager for the Gulf Coast with T-Mobile. Although it took time, stepping away allowed her to understand and accept that what she does or does not do is not relative to who she is and how she feels.
It was a long process, and up to a year-and-a-half to two years ago her new friends did not know who she was or what she did.
Sometimes recovering from failure means stepping away from everything that seems to have gone wrong and allowing yourself the opportunity to remember that your identity is not wrapped up in your failure.
No amount of obsessing will change the results, the reality is that you have already failed, and the best thing that you can do for yourself at that point is to find a way to recover, learn and then improve in order to move on to your success story.
Acknowledge and learn from your mistakes
“I made the same mistake that I warned all first-time inventors against, I didn't properly vet the market, and there's an old phrase that goes, The nose of the Bulldog is slanted back so that he can keep breathing without letting go.
There comes a time where when the market isn't validating, whether it's because of the economy or things in or out of your control, you have to know when to let go. The biggest mistake I think I made was continuing to throw good money after bad as opposed to tabling the business or pivoting.”
Approach your failure the same way that you would approach all other areas of your business. Gather all the facts and work through them strategically asking yourself the questions that matter. What are the things that you could have done differently? Why did you fail?
Failure is simply an opportunity to improve on a great idea or to recycle parts of a bad idea in order to transform it into something awesome.
Your success is a manifestation of who you are on the inside
“The success that I have is a manifestation of who i am on the inside. I needed to recover and to understand my self-esteem is not based on the success or failure of Treasure Chest Pets.”
Mahatma Gandhi said, “A man is but a product of his thoughts — what he thinks he becomes.”
You are what you believe you are. Understanding the power that you hold over your destiny in thought alone can help to redefine the way that you approach failure and success in business as well as in life. Allowing failure to discourage you and to keep you from impacting your world according to your purpose is a decision that the most successful people in the world have chosen not to make.
Jim Carrey was booed off the stage of his first comic stand up, Katy Perry only sold 200 copies of her first album, Oprah Winfrey was fired from a local TV station for being unfit for television, and in 1995 12 famous publishers rejected J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter. And just like everyone else mentioned above, Anderson is one of today's most inspirational success stories. Your success is a manifestation of your ability to learn from your mistakes and to keep pushing forward.
What have you learned from failure? Let us know in the comments below.
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By now everyone knows who Charlamagne Tha God (@CthaGod) is. He's the opinionated "bad guy” that dominates the airwaves every morning on The Breakfast Club with Angela Yee and DJ Envy. Although some people have their reservations about him, CthaGod is a motivator and we can learn a lot from him. He started from humble beginnings in Moncks Corner, South Carolina and has since worked his way to the top. I’ve always liked him because of his belief in himself. When we decide to look at ourselves in a positive light, it allows more success in. Let’s take a look at the three reasons why Charlamagne Tha God is a great success mentor.
1. His belief in himself
Mindset, mindset mindset. Charlamagne never puts himself into a box or speaks negatively about the things that he wants to achieve. Every so often you will hear him talk about certain books he's read. One of them is The Power Of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale, a book I definitely recommend to anyone needing that positive energy in life. The right mindset can set you up for success in the long run, so listen up and read things that help get your mind right!
2. His work ethic
I admire CthaGod because of the hustler spirit he embodies. He starts his days early — if you look at other successful people, most of them do. He also studies his craft and the work of other greats in radio and entertainment. If you want success in your life, look at the success of others and emulate it. Listen to his podcast The Brilliant Idiots and you can figure out from his conversations with Andrew Schulz just how much dope stuff he's doing. In addition to The Breakfast Club, he has his own show on MTV called Uncommon Sense. Opportunities come when you put in work. Do what you love and the rest will follow, hard work is the most common theme of those in the winner's circle. Outwork your competition!
3. He puts others on
Charlamagne is really out here making things happen, all while leaving a positive impact on his peers. He has put a lot of his friends on in the midst of his own success. No handouts were given, but Charlamagne has allowed individuals that he rocks with to use his platform in order build their own careers. This is a sure-fire way to be blessed in the future. Give love and the love will be reciprocated. Even though he might be considered "the villain" on The Breakfast Club, look past that, because a lot of what he’s doing is positive. Just break down the moves he has made that have allowed him to get to this point, and you will see for yourself. Don't be surprised when you see that the prince of pissing you off is doing big things. Once you decide to move like CthaGod, I promise you will see great improvement in your career. Being realistic is the most commonly traveled road to mediocrity. Don't be realistic. Believe you can do what you want, put in the work and put on your peers. We can all take some pages out of Charlamagne’s book to further our success.
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Stevie Zenith is a Songwriter/Artist/Entrepreneur residing in Atlanta, Georgia. He is a member of the House,Rap, Fusion Group "The Spacesuit Junkies" and is also the founder of "AimforyourZenith" (A success blog and motivational platform created to uplift pop culture. (The blog caters to millennial entrepreneurs, creatives, and the culture). Follow Stevie on Twitter, Instagram (and here), Facebook and...
Vin Keatin comes from humble upbringings where his love for music cultivated at a very young age. He remembers staying up late nights and watching classic R&B soul and rock 'n' roll infomercials, mimicking what he heard and saw.
Vin toured for a year in Singapore and Beijing and after returning home, he knew it was his time to get back in the studio. Vin signed with independent music label Monarchy Records (a division of Spectra Music Group). While recording songs for his debut album The Beginning of Forever (due to be released V-Day; February 14, 2016), he covered many hit songs.
Receiving some buzz for his covers and his smooth, soulful delivery, emerging R&B crooner, Vin Keatin, landed the opportunity to open up for Syleena Johnson and also landed the opportunity to open up for Grammy award-winning artist, Melanie Fiona during Verizon's "Potential of Us" initiative. Vin focuses on being authentic to who he is and mentors inner-city youth to do the same while utilizing music as a vehicle to drive kids further from the street life.
Check him out on Soundcloud here.
You can check out past editions of MADE here.
The MADE campaign focuses on the journey of entrepreneurship; the good, the bad and the indefinite. Drawing much inspiration from MTV's MADE series, where everyday people overcame fears to be the very best version of them, we aim to do the same. We hope to inspire others by handpicking select influencers to share their intimate journey of becoming MADE.
Campaign Presented on behalf of Malyia McNaughton, Made by Malyia Jewelry
Creative Direction: Sherod Lewis, Heir PR (@heirsherrod)
Videography: Shayla Jaye, Shayla Jaye Productions (@lipstickndlashes)
MUA: Dominique Jenelle...
As a black immigrant woman living in Canada, I have seen the many ways we hold ourselves back. We, as black women, sometimes forget our worth, and in most cases, we set goals at a level that isn't deserving of our talents. We sit and wait for someone to notice our hard work and, sometimes, when we do get an opportunity to share what we have done, we end up selling ourselves short. We can also forget to raise our hands and ask for what we want. We question and doubt ourselves and often set ourselves up for failure in either our personal or professional lives.
It’s time to write a new story for 2016. We're destined for greatness. Who you are is your unique advantage. There is greatness within you. So as we enter a new year, here are six ways you can live your best life, starting today!
1. Stop waiting until you're "ready" to start pursuing your passion
There will never be a perfect time to start. If you’re alive, you’re ready. Start by taking action today. Choose one thing that you’ve been meaning to do and make a commitment to act within the next 24 hours.
“The path to success is to take massive, determined action.” — Tony Robbins
2. Make time for what really matters
Too often we get lost in what other people want for us. Take some time to find out what you really want and then find the courage to follow that path. Your gifts/talents will be amplified when you make time for what matters to you the most. This leads to a more peaceful, joy-filled, purpose-driven you who is passionate about life and love.
"You have to know what sparks the light in you so that you, in your own way, can illuminate the world." — Oprah
3. Don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it
Asking for help is a sign of courage. We were not meant to go on this journey alone. Ask for what you need. When we ask for help, we give someone the opportunity to utilize their gifts – what a gift we give by asking!
“Ask for help, not because you’re weak, but because you want to remain strong.” — Les Brown
4. Stop comparing yourself to others
Who you are and where you are is the greatest gift of all. Actually where you are at this exact moment in your life is exactly where you need to be, doing what you need to do. There is no one else like you — no one can compare. Comparison erodes your confidence and self-esteem. It also robs you of the opportunity to celebrate your life. Look to others for inspiration but never compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.
“Comparison is the thief of joy.” — Theodore Roosevelt
5. Let go of the past, forgive yourself and move on
What has transpired in your past cannot hurt you today. The mistakes you made in the past, although they can still haunt you, cannot hurt you. We often give forgiveness to ourselves last. We forgive others when they do us wrong, we accept them back into our lives, yet when it comes to ourselves, we hold on to that wrongdoing with an iron-clad fist, refusing to let go. You have already suffered enough. Let go of the guilt and the shame. Forgive yourself. Look in the mirror, repeat after me: I forgive you. You deserve forgiveness. Forgiveness liberates. Forgiving yourself allows you to move on with your life.
“Renew, release, let go. Yesterday’s gone. There’s nothing you can do to bring it back. You can’t 'should’ve' done something. You can only DO something. Renew yourself. Release that attachment. Today is a new day!” — Steve Maraboli
6. Accept yourself and define your own beauty standards
Acceptance is the highest and greatest form of self-love.
E.E Cummings wrote, "To be nobody-but-yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody but yourself — means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight — and never stop fighting.”
To define yourself in a world that is constantly trying to tell you who you are is hard. That I won’t deny. However choosing to love who you are is the greatest power move you can make.
As noted by the late Whitney Houston — “Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all.”
Self-acceptance boosts self-confidence which will lead you to taking more chances and saying YES to BOLD goals and more of what you really want this year.
Karlyn is a Leadership Coach, Author and Founder of SisterTalk Group, a women’s leadership network. With over 20 years in the financial industry, Karlyn has successfully combined her expertise to assist women with playing BIGGER in life and love while achieving long-lasting results in their personal and professional lives. She utilizes the power of storytelling to help women reconnect to their authentic selves which helps them become effective leaders. Her mission is to see a world where women are living their highest and best version of themselves. Using the “Elephant Story Syndrome” (ESS) model, Karlyn helps women identify their internal barriers, discover what is holding them back in life and break through their personal “glass ceiling”—empowering them to pursue their ambitions and goals in life. Karlyn Percil-Mercieca has appeared on Oprah’s Lifeclass 3 times, Global TV, Planet Africa, the UN’s Regional Conference on Women & Children, Huffington Post Live and more....
It's that time of year again. School's in session and you're probably spending your mornings deciding if that 9 a.m. lecture class is really necessary, especially because there's a blanket of fluffy white stuff covering campus. But you remind yourself that you're trying to graduate in May, so you put some boots on and brave the cold.
You get to class and check your email only to realize that you've got another email from a recruiter telling you that you're not moving forward in the application process but that your resume will be kept on file for future consideration.
The news doesn't shock you, but you still spend the entire lecture freaking out over your future and what's next after you walk across that stage in May.
Although I can't guarantee that you'll land your dream job after graduation or that you'll move off to your dream city right away, I have learned a few things during my 9 months of post-grad life, and it only seems right to share it with the class of 2016.
1. Remember everyone's journey is different
I've spent way too many nights scrolling through my Instagram feed and lurking through peers' accounts that I barely knew — we've all done it. A lot of the times I'm looking at their life with envy and wondering what it is that I'm doing wrong. What you have to remember is that we're all dealt different cards in life. That doesn't mean there's something wrong with you, understand that you and your best friends and other peers can all make your dreams come true. It's not one or the other.
2. Save money
I was lucky enough to have paid internships in college and parents who set aside something for me to move post-grad. Not everyone is that fortunate. That means you might have to work a job you don't love (I spent five years at a pretzel stand and another 2 in retail) in order to put money aside for your big move. If you end up moving back home, or in with a relative, you can dedicate more to spending money or building up a nice savings account.
3. It's okay to move home
I'm going to say that again: it is okay to move home. It doesn't mean you failed. It doesn't mean your dreams will never come true. Whatever your thing is, make sure you're still working on it even at mom and dad's house.
4. While you're still in school, have a game plan
How many applications are you filling out a week? Do you have a career center at your school? Who are you going to ask for recommendations? These are all important things to ask yourself. Utilize resources that you have. Don't take the "it'll get done when it gets done" approach because I promise it won't get done.
5. Tailor your resume and cover letter for the job you're applying for
Don't use the exact same documents with the exact same wording for every job you apply for. I don't know how a hiring manager can tell, but I promise, they can.
6. Use LinkedIn
It can be a little scary and hard/annoying to navigate at times, but you should still update it. Most resumes should only be one page, so your LinkedIn will act as a living resume, which should be updated as you finish projects.
7. Familiarize yourself with the cost of living in the city you're aiming to move to
Whether it's New York, Chicago, or Boise, Idaho, make sure you know how much it will take to move and live in the city you have your heart set on. There's nothing worse than accepting a low-ball wage in a city and struggling to make ends meet.
8. Reach out to your network
You've had internships, gone abroad and met people at professional events, so it's time to pull out those business cards and put them to good use. Ask to grab coffee or just for an informal interview if you want to pick their brain about an industry that you're interested in working in. Don't assume every business card is going to lead to a job and be nice and genuine, you'll get where you're supposed to be.
9. Watch your social media and clean it up
This one is hypocritical of me because I curse. A lot. But that doesn't mean you should. Leave the subtweets and slander for your group texts. If you're quick to talk about someone you barely know or a company you previously worked for, employers can easily see that you might do the same if hired. You can opt for making profiles private, but know there are ways for employers to get around that.
10. Accept that it's okay to still care about your alma mater once you leave
I might just be putting this one on the list for myself, but you spent four (or more) years in college. Whether you want to admit it or not, it was home and it's okay if you still want to stay caught up on university matters. It's also okay if you want nothing to do with it.
11. Don't stress too much, have fun!
Realize that things are going to happen the way they are meant to and sometimes you just have to enjoy the ride. So give yourself a break and don't forget to enjoy your senior year!
Congratulations, class of 2016, it might not have been easy, but you made it.
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Looking for inspiration to start off 2016 with a bang? Kendrick Lamar and TDE just released a video showing the power of hard work that's just what the doctor ordered. And Lamar should know, just look at his 11 Grammy...
You did it! You’ve landed that first job out of college. A consistent salary, benefits and a (hopefully) exciting work culture await you. Now you want to make sure that you show off your best qualities that landed you the job in the first place. Here are a few tips to help you ensure that your first job is one of your best.
Come in early, stay late
This rule is tried and true. Although you certainly shouldn’t be giving up your livelihood by staying unreasonably late, there’s no harm in coming a few minutes early and not rushing out of the door as soon as the clock hits 6 p.m. When you put in extra effort and make it known that you’re open to spending a few extra minutes to ensure that the task at hand is done, your boss will notice it and appreciate it.
Directors appreciate it when you take out the time and are confident enough to raise your voice in an effort to make sure the assignment is done correctly instead of doing a half-done job. Sometimes one question leads to another, giving you an opportunity to learn something else about the job that you might not have known before.
Build a relationship with your boss
Don’t be afraid to get to know your boss. Many of my own internships prior to my current full-time job were easier to get because I had — and still have — such great relationships with many of my former bosses and supervisors. Some have even turned into mentors and are always available to answer any questions I have or to give me advice on a future endeavor.
If you’re in a social job environment, such as a startup, make conversation with your coworkers. You don’t have to be lifelong pals with everyone in the office, but bonding over shared interests helps the positive office environment grow and can lead to some important career relationships.
Look for opportunity/different tasks
When you finish an assignment, that doesn't mean it's time to aimlessly scroll through your social media accounts. During one of my former job experiences, I watched a new hire get fired pretty quickly. One of the main reasons? Instead of helping fellow supervisors with pending tasks during the day, he spent his time trying to figure out where everyone was going after work. Our workforce is competitive. Everyone is hustling and working on multiple projects to get ahead in life. Instead of being the person looking for the nearest taco joint, be the one that not only completes your work with precision and professionalism but always helps colleagues and superiors to get the job done.
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We live in a world where individualism or the “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” mentality is strongly encouraged. But what if during most of the life you lived you were pulled and pushed by forces you couldn't control? Perhaps you dealt with things far bigger than you and events you couldn’t have expected like personal health scares, mental illness, tragedy, trauma, or environmental factors like not growing up with the things or people you needed to help equip you for life; let alone adulthood or a career.
Some of us spent our childhoods trying to survive our parents and their vices. Trying to survive, literally, with them. Whether it was having a place to stay for a few weeks, battling an eviction notice or trying to keep up with school materials, even though we knew next week we would have to move. Then later, when we become adults and we escaped or families, the burden to figure out survival came on us. And even more than surviving because of our pasts, we now have a will to thrive and do better than the life that was handed to us.
But society, unfortunately, holds us to the same standards and timelines as they do a student or employee with no such background and complications; as if the playing field was level. Are we all the same? Well, in fact, adversity made us stronger and our desire to succeed stronger, but that doesn’t mean we have all the same tools and access in our tool kit as our well-polished counterparts with less of a background to spring back from. In fact, part of our adulthood might be spent reconciling some of the tragedy we experienced for our own mental health while simultaneously trying to achieve the same things as our counterparts in the same work and school arenas as them. And unfortunately, there isn’t a whole lot of support for this process along the way. On the contrary, there's a reinforced value that all people have the same opportunities to achieve as each other, regardless of where we came from, what built us or the amount of obstacles placed before us. This can make us push ourselves even harder without checking up on ourselves, taking care of our health and pacing ourselves at a healthy rate that is good for us; because we are overly concerned with “success”
The truth is trying to build your life based on other people’s standards is bullshit, and so is the “pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps” mentality. For those of you who have endured the worst, you will have your time of recovery and learning, and you will also have your time to shine. But you need both recovery and learning to accomplish this and maintain yourself. It takes a village to realize equality of opportunity, and a community of support to both survive and thrive. This means we have to equalize the playing ground for students and families from these backgrounds and create supportive outlets, networks and organizations along the way. And for your personal network driving you, I advise that you don’t internalize the opinions of outsiders, their views of success and their timelines on when success should happen. It will happen when you are ready for it to happen. Many will doubt you but not know the actual real life obstacles you have endured that they, quite frankly, might not have been able to. Remain resilient and know that if you can overcome such great trials, you can most certainly face the things to come.
My name is Danielle I am a millennial caught in the soul-searching, money-gathering, life-figuring-out time that happens after receiving an undergraduate degree in Liberal Arts. I spend most of my time writing poems or blogging through my site "Black Bird's Song" and my connected FB platform page, The Humanist. Other days I'm revealing all my thoughts, favorite art and poems in a stream of consciousness on my favorite app, Twitter. And on better days I'm making plans for grad school entry, taking care of business, trying to get to the gym and get to work on time. I live a simple life right now, but I've faced incredible adversity and have great hopes for the future.
It can be frightening when your dreams come true. There's joy of course, but for those of us who still fight with impostor syndrome, the weight follows us.
I don't know anyone who wakes up with the sole intention of pursuing radical mediocrity. That's something people's actions denote, but rarely their words. Everyone is trying to get somewhere but the journey is arduous, lonely, and costly. It's much simpler to be "ok" at your craft. There's no risk associated, and you can do fairly well with minimal effort attached.
I'm not that afraid of the failure per se. What keeps me up at night, is the idea of not maximizing opportunities during that small window of space in which they are presented. I grew up around people whose only mistake was that their lack of resources meant they couldn't realize certain dreams (not for lack of using their "bootstraps" either, because in this sense, they might not have had boots to begin with). Now my family finds itself at an interesting crossroads. Generations are shifting, and for the first time, we have an opportunity to develop systems of wealth and access that did not exist. A special type of pressure rises to the surface. I call it provider pressure.
The Fear Complex
Will I be good enough? How can I raise the bar? What happens if I don't live up to everyone's expectations?
A couple weeks ago, I got an incredible opportunity at work. I'd be one of two people to ever hold this specific job, and the access to senior leadership and influential people would be unprecedented. From a purely pragmatic standpoint, it's exactly the kind of role that would allow me to open a lot of doors for a bunch of people.
But that's not what I focused on.
I froze up. Paralyzed by being selected for this role instead of my peers. There aren't a lack of opportunities for us anymore. When you believe there's a drought, you see opportunities as a zero-sum game. But perspective opens doors you didn't think existed. The choice for us isn't between having an opportunity or not having one: it's the choice between ones that are equally great.
If I don't take this one, I may never have another.
That desperation can produce incredible results, but it's not necessarily sustainable. What I've come to realize, is that the opposite is true, and revolutionary: There is an overabundance of opportunities, and the choices for us isn't about whether or not we will ever have another one. It's which one should I pursue, when I'm faced with great ones. That reality has been more frightening personally than not having any options. It forced me to realize that I'm good enough to be exactly where I am.
Success might mean you sign the back of a check every month. Legacy means you don't sign, because your name is printed on the front. I'm much more interested in the latter.
So I got over my self, kicked my insecurities in the face, and took a job that scares me. I'm unsure of what will happen next, but that's the point of faith. You aren't supposed to know. Instead you cling to what you know to be true, and fight through the rest.
Surviving the Remorse
I've had to learn that I don't have to apologize for not abiding to the narrative specific people have for me. In fact, I can't afford to dignify it with any type of energy or response.
Some of us are burdened by what happens when dreams actually do come true. When you finally get the chance to envision what only existed in your mind and the opportunity is right in front of you, and the decision is no longer "if": it becomes when.
Yet we hide from it. Impostor Syndrome gets discussed quietly in coffee shops, apartments, and the hallways of professional conferences. No amount of fake deep Instagram posts can fix this either. It drives to the core of a very systemic problem; a lot of us have never been here before. But we grin and bear it. We get promoted, make more money, build businesses, and create ideas into tangible things. Yet, the feelings of inadequacy often travel from success to success, sometimes faster than we do.
That's why history matters so much, and stories are still the best way to teach (or destroy) things. Being twice as good has a pretty steep toll price, especially if you aren't crystal clear on what you're working for, or why. It's ok to be scared, it just doesn't benefit anyone to live that way. We are allowed to make mistakes. Fail. Not do as well as we thought. The burden often lies in the perception, that has real life consequences for us, and not other people.
That's also why we can't stop in our various pursuits.
I want this to get right-clicked, saved to Pocket, shared on Facebook, then placed in the umpteen GroupMes you're a part of. I believe this is valuable, otherwise, there is no point in my writing, editing, revising, or publishing. You should feel the same about whatever you're doing. You also shouldn't apologize for the pursuit of greatness, or the sacrifices that happen when you begin striving for it.
I'm willing to continually to do the unscalable so the people around me can achieve the unthinkable. That doesn't make me an impostor. It makes me a dreamchaser.
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