Why Your Next-Level Thinking Must Begin Today

Are you ready for your next level?

You don’t have to have it all together before you start (no one does),

Or know exactly how it all will unfold (life happens),

Or be without flaw (curveballs and mistakes are par for the course).

What you DO need is a belief in your vision and a belief that you’re worth the self-investment, because you are.

So go after your personal goals with faith and focus,

And recalibrate your professional ones with strategic creativity and heart.

Your tenacity, passion and purpose will inspire others to embrace their best life, too.

Don’t wait until 2018…start now.

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Why You Are A Gift to Others

By Stacy Hawkins Adams

Bring your best self to life today by reminding yourself that you’re a gift.
Only you can grace us with that smile, that laugh, that funny story, sweet song or moving prayer.
Only you can lead that tribe or love those lost ones or help others find their joy.
Only you can live the purpose that is tucked inside of you, and often straining to be birthed.
No one else sings with your tone, writes with your voice, walks with your style, hugs with your heartiness or lights up a room in your uniquely perfect way.
So just be you today, and be grateful for others around you who are being their authentic selves, too.

Lifestyle Notes: Why A Little Red Does a Woman Good

By Guest Blogger Tawyana Athey

The most universal lip color I know is red. The color red is worn all over the world and is one color that can be worn all year round. The spectrum of the red lip can range from the truest red to a warmer red with hit of orange or a cooler red with hints of purple.

Women sometimes shy away from this color for various reasons, such as old-school connotations of “You look like a floozy,” “a loose woman” or a “street walker”—which are all false. A nice red lip can emanate confidence, sexiness, power and boldness.

Other women have the idea that “I am too fair to wear red” or “I am too dark to wear red,” when it’s not the color red itself that should be the main focus, but the SHADE of red that will look good with your skin tone.

One of my favorite go-to looks is to pair an ombre red lip with lashes (I wear it at least 2-3 times a week). So ladies, the next time you are feeling a little adventurous, step out in your red lip and own your fierceness!

“Beauty, to me, is about being comfortable in your own skin.” ~ Tawyana Athey

Tawyana, wearing an ombre (red) lipstick.

Tawyana Athey is a Virginia-based makeup artist specializing in beauty, editorial, runway, film and bridal makeup. She has a natural affinity for putting the “!” on her clients’ natural beauty, in a manner that sets the tone for the client’s specific occasion and fits with the client’s personality or needs. Her major projects have included serving as lead makeup artist for the independent film “Reap What You Sow” and serving as the onsite makeup artist for Full Figure Fashion Week in New York during its June 2013 showcase of Ashley Stuart, Old Navy and Lane Bryant fashions. Tawyana enjoys spending time with her young daughter and using her gift of makeup artistry to serve her community. She has provided makeovers for breast cancer patients and for women inmates who are scheduled for release from the Virginia Department of Corrections. She loves opportunities to bring out “The Glam” in those she serves and considers herself your beauty belle of the South. Connect with Tawyana at blushoutloud.com or on Facebook at Blush_Out_Loud, Instagram @blushoutloud or Twitter @blushoutloud.

 

 

 

9 Ways to Find Fulfillment

By Stacy Hawkins Adams
You get to choose who you’ll be and how you’ll move through this world. Why not do so in a way that you’ll treasure with gratitude and great memories? Here are 9 tips to fuel your process:

1) Don’t let your motivation to do well or do the right thing be driven by what others do or don’t do; be excellent and operate with integrity regardless of how it’s received.

2) What others think of you truly is their business; respect yourself while respecting their choice to choose.

3) Lead with love, because this is still what we all need most.

4) Remember that what you see isn’t always what it is. A fleeting perception or assumption about someone or a particular circumstance could be completely wrong. Base your opinions instead on that person’s actions and attitude over the course of time; because who they truly are will spill out over time. Accept that truth when it’s revealed, and be okay either way.

5) Choose joy. Life is too short to let grudges, gossip, guilt, greed or the like derail you. Joy is the secret sauce that keeps you going and gives you hope.

6) Speak your vision for your life and live it. Instead of wishing it were better or different or easier, embrace what it is and get busy creating a better, different, easier life for you and your loved ones.

7)  Have fun and go for gold; but don’t “get yours” and leave others to fend for themselves. When you open your heart enough to care about and make sacrifices for the benefit of all humanity, you’ll enrich your own world more than you could imagine.

8) Decide to get uncomfortable enough to try something new. You never know what opportunities, blessings and growth are just waiting for you to show up.

9) Take time to be kind or to simply be available. You are the gift someone needs today.

Her Story: Freedom from Personalizing and People-Pleasing

By Guest Blogger Gloria Thomas

Gazing up at my business idol, I tremble. If I can’t mutter my question to her, I’ll quit my new sales job, defeated by my inability to withstand rejection, complaints and conflict.

Three reasons led me – a painfully shy, personalizing people-pleaser – to a job in sales: Flexible hours meant more time with my toddler; I hoped the challenges would build my communication confidence, and I wanted to follow in the footsteps of my gregarious grandfather.

DaDa was a lifelong salesman. Even as a boy he sold “Alspaugh’s King of Pain” for his father’s business, based in Burkeville, Virginia. The alcohol base of this snake oil (patent medicine) made it popular during prohibition.

DaDa encouraged me to speak up, connect with people, laugh and take risks. Yet, as the oldest of four siblings, I was a serious, sensitive bookworm. I believed that if I was smart, good and kind I could make everything okay, keep everyone happy and avoid conflict. Then no one would yell or bruise my tender feelings.

It didn’t work that way. Dealing with people baffled me, and sales encounters at my new job weren’t providing easy answers. One day, my call to a prospect who yelled at me before slamming down the phone, left me undone. After sobbing in agony, I went to my manager. “I just can’t do this.”

My manager knew I admired our executive vice president, though I’d never met her. She was coming to Richmond to speak to our regional sales team. I reluctantly promised to hang on for a couple more weeks, until I could ask our trailblazing leader how to prevent angry prospects and hurt feelings. She could help me!

I don’t recall a word of her speech – probably because I was totally focused on asking my question. She sat at my round table in the hotel banquet hall. Yet, shy and intimidated, I didn’t utter a word during lunch.

When she stood to leave, I scurried to the group surrounding her near the door and was the last to approach. “May I ask you a question?” “Sure!”

With a shaky voice I manage to tell the story of what happened with the prospect and asked her, “What did I do wrong?”

She looked puzzled for a moment. Having grown up in Queens, New York she’d NEVER been a personalizing people-pleaser. “You didn’t do ANYTHING wrong. She was just RUDE.”

With that declaration, something shifted in me. My relief brought courage, and a few days later, I called the prospect again. I learned that she couldn’t talk with anyone when I first called because her husband had just walked out on their family.

That experience resulted in a life-changing lesson: When I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing and someone behaves badly, it’s NOT about me. It’s about whatever they’re dealing with. I can empathize through understanding that intellectually – without attaching emotionally.

My communication confidence continued to blossom, and two years later at our annual conference, I gave a speech after my business hero presented me with the award for “Sales Manager of the Year.”

Who knew communication challenges could provoke personal growth?

© 2017 Gloria Thomas, all rights reserved

Gloria Thomas is known as The Communication Wizard. She is the founder and chief communication strategist of Wizard Workforce Development (www.wizardinc.com), a communication consulting, coaching and training company. Her most popular training programs include Communication Lab: Increase Your Interpersonal Effectiveness, Speak on Your Feet Presentation Skills and Diversity & Workplace Communication.

Her Story: The Sliver Linings in Curveballs

By Guest Blogger Dawn McCoy

At the time, it seemed so wrong. It was something that happened to other people. Then it happened to me.

I found myself so blindsided by my company’s sweeping corporate layoff that almost 10 years later, I still cannot recall what was said during the announcement. This was a position I was sure was secure – so much so that I relocated from California to Virginia to oversee a regional office for the organization.

After the layoff, I chose not to move elsewhere or return to California. Instead, I assumed that my college education, leadership positions and 20 years of work experience meant I could readily transition into another top organizational position.

Networking skills and political acumen helped me navigate in the unfamiliar region. However, dead-end interviews and lukewarm job leads ended with closed doors. It was the first time I felt defeated despite my accomplishments. Occasionally I glanced at my diplomas and awards shaking my head in disbelief.

As with other life-changing experiences I’ve gone through, I faced the harsh reality and decided I had to think fast. In this case, that meant reinventing myself and shifting my thinking beyond the expected “climb up the career ladder.”

I began to approach my next steps by thinking beyond checkboxes on a job application. I leveraged my expertise to speak, teach and write, and translated those areas of expertise into a hybrid of part-time work and contract opportunities.

Thankfully, my background in drafting technical user manuals, regulatory policies and corporate compliance requirements paid off. I was able to translate those skills into valuable lectures, life-learning guides and proposals. Networking and strategic thinking also morphed into valuable grant-writing and fundraising opportunities. Who knew!

The same year as the layoff I launched a leadership development and communications firm to empower others with training modules and tools. Looking back, it was the beginning of a new chapter to serve others and at the same time chart a different career path.

Interesting enough, within three years of the layoff, my young son’s special needs and chronic health issues required a more non-traditional work schedule to accommodate his therapies and medical appointments. Not to mention that he had repetitive, unpredictable health problems. Thankfully I was already in a work capacity that nurtured my role as mother of a special needs child.

Had the unfortunate corporate downsizing really manifested into an unforeseen blessing?

The silver lining in my 10-year journey means remembering the layoff as a life-changing event that no longer makes me frown, but cherish even unsavory situations. Turning the corner does not mean that I have lost time or given up a future cushy-corner office. On the contrary, I continuously remind myself to embrace a new paradigm that nurtures my creativity and makes my spirit soar.

Dawn McCoy is a leadership strategist, speaker and the author of Leadership profile-headshotBuilding Blocks. She is also founder of Flourish Leadership Group, LLC, and a senior service facilitator with Moms in Motion, a consumer-directed Medicaid Waiver service facilitation case management provider. Dawn and her son reside in Central Virginia and enjoy the arts. Learn more about Dawn at Flourish Leadership Group (www.flourishleadership.com). You can also connect with her on Facebook at Dawn McCoy Books  and Twitter @dawnmccoy02

Her Story: Choosing a Life Worth Living

By Guest Blogger Alyson Lindsey Taylor-White

They looked at me like their cat had just talked to them. The kidney surgeon and his nurse had just delivered what they thought would be devastating news – that my case did not merit a life saving transplant – and I had responded with words of hope.

What they did not know is that I had prepared for that outcome and was already strategizing how my future would proceed without a new kidney. This looked less like a barrier to me and more like an opportunity. In many ways, I was relieved. The transplant process has its own challenges that are seldom mentioned in the literature. My healing would proceed without this ordeal.

However my perspective was clearly not the reaction they anticipated.

Having suffered for years with failing, and finally failed kidneys, prepared me for the potential outcome that a transplant might be my only hope for survival. During those challenging years, additional health complications became a factor. In the fall of 2015, my heart and kidneys gave up at the same time, and my survival was extremely iffy for about a month, when I struggled for life in a local hospital intensive care unit.

While coming out of the haze of medications and dealing with other affects of organ failure, the medical staff told me to prepare for the worst. They said my life, if I made it, would never be the same again. They assured me my old life was dead, and that I might have diminished abilities for the remainder of my life.

As difficult as it was to hear, maybe them telling me how awful my life could be actually made me more determined to recover and create a life worth living. Six major surgeries and a year of daily dialysis later, it is.

I had stuff to do, and I was not going to let these new disabilities derail me for long. For two years, I’d been working on my first book and it was at a crucial stage in the publication process. My pets and my husband needed me.

In fairness to all of those medical experts, I had a secret weapon: My ability to believe in myself. This has always proven successful. My life has had serious setbacks, but since early childhood I have been able to count on the soothing comfort of imagining the positive potential outcome of every situation. What saved my life, and has sustained me to this day, is being able to see the positive side of things.

It is not always easy to have faith when faced with doom; but my determination to heal has enabled me to persevere and succeed. Whether I have six years, six months or six minutes of life left, it is my job to live every day to its fullest and jettison whatever is not inspiring joy. You can do the same.

Alyson LinA.Taylor-Whitedsey Taylor-White is a University of Richmond certified adjunct instructor with a background in journalism and museum education. She has researched and written about Richmond and Virginia history and politics for more than 20 years, and is passionate about sharing these stories with others. She creates and gives public and private tours of Virginia historic sites. Her first book, Shockoe Hill Cemetery  – a Richmond Landmark History, will be published this year.