The Universe Will Move to Meet You

Take the first step and the universe will move to meet you.

Most of us have fallen victim to that little voice in our heads that says, “I could never do that. It’s too unrealistic.” Or how about this self-sabotage classic?: “If it was viable, someone would’ve done it already.” Or this one?: “A lot of people already do something similar…” Or my (least) favorite: “I’m too old to change careers/start something new now.”

Ooh, girl. Staahhp.

There are 1,001 steps in between where you are and where you want to be. It’s not your job to figure them all out now. It’s only your job to declare your intention. When you do, the universe will move to meet you.

That sounds too easy, right? It’s not easy, but it is the first and most important step to any change you’d like to make.

You will still need to give 100% of yourself to your passion. You will still need to seize every opportunity that comes your way. You will still need to hustle. But when you provide yourself with clarity, you provide the universe with clarity too.

When I was CEO of the Chicago Urban League, I would meet on a regular basis with a prominent Chicago newspaper to discuss their coverage of African Americans. I explained to them that they rarely published positive news or highlighted the successes of our community. After my third or fourth meeting with them, when it was clear nothing in their coverage had changed nor would it, I took matters into my own hands.

I had an idea for a television show that followed black entrepreneurs who were part of the Urban League’s NextOne program, which provides tools and resources to burgeoning black business owners. But if I wanted to turn my idea into a reality, I knew I’d have to first declare my intention to do so, not only to myself but out loud, to others, so that the universe would hear me.

At the Urban League’s annual gala, at which over 1,200 people were in attendance, I made a bold announcement: Not only would we create this show, we’d do it within six months time. At the time, I didn’t have a structure, any content, or even a funding source to create this program, but I knew that if I had faith, declared my intention, and took the first step, the universe (and in my personal belief, God) would provide me with what I needed. And sure enough, opportunities, people, and resources began to align.

Now, I don’t want to make it sound easy — it wasn’t and nothing worth doing ever is — but in six months I had a plan in place. I secured the funding and a production team to produce a trailer for NextOne TV. In its first year, NextOne TV was nominated for three Emmy Awards and won two. The key to NextOne TV’s success? I didn't wait until I had all the pieces in place. I had faith and trusted the universe would meet me if I took the first step, and the next step, and the step after that.

I know that declaring an intention without a plan can be scary. It can be scary to say, “I’m going to do something that’s never done before.” So start easy by first writing it down. Next, say it out loud to yourself. Then say it out loud to yourself at least once a day. Once you truly believe in your intention, say it out loud to the people you trust the most. Your true friends and supporters will be thrilled for you.

Finally, once you’ve declared your intention and commitment, take action. If you want to change careers, ask if you can shadow someone you know in that industry for a day or talk to a career coach. If you want to become YouTube guru, film your first video. If you want to learn a new life skill, clear the time on your calendar and sign up for a class.

Once you’re in action mode, you’ll also start noticing little coincidences. You’ll start seeing connections you hadn’t before. Doors will suddenly open up for you. Colleagues and acquaintances will start making suggestions that help you on your journey, eerily, even before you tell them you’ve changed paths. This is because once the universe has heard your intention and your commitment, it begins providing you with the encouragement and resources you need to manifest your dreams.

The truth is this: the signs were already there. Those connections were always available to you. And your friends always thought you were exceptionally talented at your passion. But because you kept telling yourself, “No, that’s not meant for me,” you weren’t in the spiritual space to take advantage of what the universe was already offering.

Stop waiting. Start declaring. Take action. And the universe will move to meet you.

Did you attend Grit + Grace Day? Now that you’ve gained confidence and a game plan, take the next step to realize your dreams: Sign up today at g2coach.com for affordable, online coaching services with top-notch career and life coaches.

It's Not a Competence Issue, It's a Confidence Issue

It’s not a competence issue, it’s a confidence issue.

In my early 30s, I worked as regional vice president for government and public affairs for a rail carrier. I found out that I wasn’t the “type” of employee the CEO was used to dealing with. I was assigned to accompany him on a junket to Nashville, Tennessee, to lobby elected officials and business leaders to support a proposed service expansion. I was new to the rail industry, but not to Tennessee. I was raised in Memphis and knew the state well.

Using the standard briefing book to prepare my presentation, I flew to Washington to brief the CEO ahead of our trip. It was my first time meeting him, but he skipped all the pleasantries. Five minutes into my briefing, he stopped me and asked a very technical question about the railroad mapping system. It was beyond my knowledge and the briefing book protocol. When I couldn’t answer, he became irritated, got up and made a phone call. Within seconds, five men came into the room wearing hard hats with a replica of the railroad map from the 1700s. I was pushed to the edge of the room.

I left there panicked. I was headed to Nashville with the CEO the next day. I kept thinking, “How do I get this man to be OK with me, to give me a chance?”

After we arrived in Nashville, things went from bad to worse. He preferred to be briefed by a young, congressional male staffer over me. The whole day was facing me with a CEO who literally stopped talking to me!

I went into full-on panic mode until I heard a voice say, “Calm down. He’s got issues, and they have nothing to do with you. Go do your job.” Once I’d gathered my wits, I made up my mind to strut in my brilliance and own the day!”

In the meetings, I spoke confidently and was well received. I asked spot-on questions and made an impression on those quintessential legislators. (Like I said, I know Tennessee!) The CEO’s dismissive attitude undermined my confidence up until the point I was able to center myself, focus on what I knew, and find the strength of character not to buy into his reality.

What that lesson taught me is this: It’s not a competence issue, it’s a confidence issue. When we experience isolation, feel as if we don’t fit into the company culture or when our contributions and achievements are overlooked, it undermines our confidence and ability to perform. We become less comfortable with being our true selves.

These feelings are magnified when you’re “The Only” in the room. One minute you’re certain of your boss lady status, and the next you’re self-censoring and clamming up in meetings, doubting your capabilities and your worth. And then the dreaded-but-predictable happens: someone else shares YOUR great idea and gets all the credit! We don’t go for stretch opportunities; we self-impose an artificial high bar; and we wrestle with the Imposter Syndrome.

It’s not a competence issue. It’s a confidence issue.

Companies are beginning to understand that to compete in the global economy, they must get everyone’s ideas to the table in order to innovate. Creating cultures of equality and inclusiveness are key to that. We’ve got a long way to go and until we get there, here’s what I need you to do: have the courage to bring your true self to the table, especially when it’s uncomfortable. We’re at our best when we’re being our authentic, most confident selves.

This is why I’m hosting the sold-out Grit + Grace Day conference on Friday, March 22, and why I’m launching the Grit + Grace coaching website at g2coach.com. I know firsthand that the world has a way of wearing down our confidence. I want to make coaching you can trust more affordable and accessible to any woman at every stage of their career, so they can gain confidence and a game plan and remember that incompetence is the lie, it’s never been the real issue.

Bloom Where You Are

Thriving in toxic work environments.

Walking away from a job, even one that doesn’t fulfill you, is never easy. Not even when it’s a toxic work environment. I’m not talking about a micromanaging boss, or gossipy coworkers—I’m talking gut-wrenching toxicity. An environment that perpetually calls on you to sacrifice your joy, sleep, inner peace, even your health, and goes against your very values, for people who don’t deserve it.

It was in such a toxic environment where I began to bloom.

For three painstaking years, I was director of communications for the Illinois governor. I was the first African American woman to inhabit that role. And almost daily, I was exposed to every social pathology associated with being a double minority: sexism, blatant misogyny and unmasked racial bias. I was surrounded by people, mostly men, who made it a point to make me feel inferior at every opportunity. It was Machiavellian. Later, when the extent of the vileness and impropriety was exposed, I felt validated. But even now when I pass by the State of Illinois building, I get nauseous.

Staying at the office until 10, 11 o’clock at night was the norm. When I worked from Springfield, those long days meant popcorn for dinner. Nothing’s open passed 9 and the budget hotel across from the Capitol building didn’t have room service. But it had a bar!

The days ran together, until one morning, at 4 a.m., I woke up in excruciating pain; I was doubled over. It hurt to breathe. I called the front desk and said if I didn’t call back in 10 minutes to send someone to my room to check on me, because I’ve passed out. I didn’t want to call an ambulance and be wheeled out on a stretcher. Media frequented the same hotel, and I didn’t want to end up on the news.

So I called a cab. I straightened up just long enough to slide passed a reporter in the lobby, and I laid down in the back of that filthy cab like it was home for the trip to the ER. Diagnosis: A ruptured ovarian cyst had triggered a potentially life-threatening attack on my appendix. I told the doctors I’d make an appointment with my physician when I returned to Chicago. They looked at me like I was crazy, and within 20 minutes, I was being prepped for surgery.

From my hospital bed, I continued to do my job, even though it was constantly being threatened by my boss in his daily chides. I returned to work, committed to the fight, ready to double down on everything. But all I did was buy myself a second surgery. After that, grace stepped in. I began to see things as they were. I’d been in the fight so long, I hadn’t stopped to think about the approach, or whether it was my fight to begin with. I decided to invest in something else: myself.

I began to look at aspects of my job that reflected things I personally cared about and how to use my powers for good. An example is the Public Health Department’s annual report on the AIDS epidemic. The impact on the black community was staggering, particularly the infection and death rates among black women. I was so moved that I submitted a proposal to the health department to create a program to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment targeting African Americans, and aggregate resources. It was called Brothers and Sisters United Against HIV/AIDS. It was empowering! The initiative even won an award, and it wound up being a feather in the governor’s cap, too, with his African American voter base.

But I didn’t stop there. I continued to engage with community leaders and organizations, and actively sought initiatives outside of my role as Communication Director that were aligned with my values. I was still working for the governor. The environment didn’t change, my perspective did. I found fertile soil in me, planted seeds, nurtured them through self-investment, and I blossomed. I was profiled in Today’s Chicago Woman magazine, and my community engagement around economic development and activism helped me land my next job as the first black woman to lead the Chicago Urban League.

I’ve shared this very personal story with you to drive home the point that when you invest in yourself, it not only empowers you, it makes you a better employee, advocate, or business owner. You can still give 100%, just hold 10% back for yourself. Your investment has the power to move you onto greener pastures.

My latest mission: helping women access the benefits of career coaching at every stage of their career by making it affordable. If you need help gaining confidence and a game plan for satisfying your career objectives, even in a toxic work environment, then I hope to see you March 22 at Grit + Grace Day. Registrants will have access to coaches onsite and post-event through a special coaching website that will launch the day of the conference. It’s springtime! Plant the seeds in yourself and bloom where you are. Register today!

Who's in Your Power Pack?

IMG_5050.JPG

Relationships past their expiration date are never pretty.

I found this out in my late 20s when I ended a relationship with a woman I met in college. We came of age together and bonded over our love of music, fashion and Italy. I remember us twirling around campus one night dressed up like Madonna with lace gloves on and giant crosses around our necks. Yes, it was the ’80s! We made some great memories and remained close after graduation. But then we lost touch during a time when I needed our friendship most.

In grad school, I was on path to become a professor of graphic design. I had a crisis of the soul and was struggling to find my purpose. My decision to abandon this path required introspection. As a result, I had a tremendous growth spurt. I mean, I matured A LOT. But having your foundation shift beneath your feet can do that.

With greater clarity and a new direction, I made the first move and invited my friend to spend a weekend with me in Memphis. I laid it out for her! She’d come to expect that of me, and I fed into it. I had all her favorites and even arranged a photo shoot for the two of us and hired a glam squad and everything! She was the same old friend I’d known. But something felt off, because I was different. By the end of our weekend, I decided to break up with her. Not because she was toxic or high-level dysfunctional, but because she was low-key draining me. Once my eyes were opened to just how one-sided our relationship had always been, my more evolved self could no longer tolerate it.

It’s not just our spouse or intimate partners that we can grow apart from, it can also be friends we allow to occupy space in our power pack but contribute nothing. One-way relationships are like apps – even when you’re not using them, they’re running in the background draining your battery.

Letting go of a friend, acquaintance or business partner doesn’t mean either of you are a bad person. It just means that you’re evolving in different ways and the relationship no longer serves either of you well. So I told my friend that I loved her and would treasure our time together, but that our friendship didn’t work for me anymore, and I wished her well.

It was one of the most adult things I have ever done, and I never looked back. I released the energy I had put into a friendship that I had Band-aided for nearly 10 years and invested it in myself and in cultivating healthier, mutually gratifying friendships. I’m not suggesting that friends keep score. Just that the people in your power pack be growth enhancers, not growth inhibitors. That they give positive, reflective energy; expand your outlook as well as your thinking; and help you be yourself, and the best version of yourself, in every aspect of your life. That’s who you want in your pack!


Join me and a few of my power pack friends for the “Dish with the Divas” luncheon and a candid conversation about friends, work, love and life at the Grit + Grace Day women’s conference on March 22. Click here to register and use promo code POWERPACK at checkout to receive 25% off.

Be the Boss of You

IMG-0089.JPG

The biggest Boss Move I ever made in my career nearly cost me my dream job.

I was 32 years old and it was the dot-com era. All around me, I saw white men in their 20s being promoted to VP level or higher. I made up my mind that I was going to be a VP, too. So, without having any conversations with my superiors, I sent out an internal memo, giving myself a new title while working for a national radio network in Washington, D.C. I know, right?!

I got an earful for it, and rightly so, but I officially was in the hunt. I gave myself permission to be ambitious and took control of my career. Accessing my grit, I pitched a plan to remake the network’s brand image, which made some people uncomfortable. I took a lot of hits, but in the end, I got that promotion and haven’t held a position below the VP level since then.

Like a lot of women, though, I felt I needed to prove I was worthy of that promotion. So I ran on jet fuel. I doubled down on everything. I leaned in. That’s what we’re told to do. When I look back, I now realize what the lean-in culture fails to consider fully is, “At what cost?”

For most of my career, I have pushed myself beyond my limits. I didn’t set boundaries professionally because I was motivated and inspired to win. But I’d come to regret not setting personal boundaries. I would work until I got sick—literally sick. Illness became my permission to take a day off.

Dealing with cancer and divorce at the same time forced me to rethink that approach. My career was flourishing, but I was struggling emotionally and physically. Through my journey, I learned how to activate my superpower, grace, what I define as “love in action toward self.” I don’t wear exhaustion like a badge of honor anymore. I’m the boss and I get to decide how I live out my success.

My health scare was a wake-up call. In another Boss Move—this time with self-care in mind—I once took off an entire month, not because I was in crisis, but because I’d been traveling a lot internationally during that trying time. I knew I needed to focus on my mind, body, and spirit. I hired a personal trainer, went to physical therapy, and slept.

Here’s the thing: It’s not enough to boss up on your ambition. You have to also be the boss of taking care of yourself. Don’t wait for someone else to see greatness in you before you decide to do great things. And certainly don’t wait for permission—or worse yet, a crisis—to take care of your emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being. Make 2019 the Year of Being the Boss of You. Stand up with confidence. Advocate for your ambitions, or for rest, or for whatever you need. Be the boss and define what success looks like for you!

To learn from the best Boss Ladies in the business on how to boss up, click here to register now for Grit + Grace Day.

The Gift of Grace

Hi there and happy holidays! 

It’s the season of giving, and I have the perfect gift for you to give yourself. It’s grace – self-love in action. Good one, right? I asked my dear friend Kalli Kerr, psychotherapist and women’s leadership expert, to share some ways you can do just that. I’ve created this Take a Moment column as a safe space to provide encouragement for you to practice self-care, self-compassion and self-acceptance, and make yourself a priority. And I can’t think of a better time to kick it off than the holidays with some expert advice on how to practice grace with yourself. 

Now, sit back, relax and let’s Take a Moment with Kalli.

Gracefully Yours,
Cheryle

 

Gift Yourself Grace
By Kalli Kerr

Ahhh, the holidays. It’s the most wonderful time of the year, right? Or is it? Sure, the season is full of fun parties, great food, champagne toasts, gifting and family gatherings. That sounds like fun, in theory. But in practice, studies show this is also the time of year when some feel the saddest and prone to depression.

Send grace to the rescue! During the holidays, don’t forget to put the oxygen mask on yourself first. Here are a few tips to help you get through some of the season’s most triggering, uncomfortable situations:

Family. Holiday reunions are often a time to reconnect with loved ones. But, hey, no family is perfect. While this can be a special time it can also be stressful. We tell ourselves that everyone is supposed to get along perfectly. But under holiday stress, unhealed family conflicts can be exacerbated, so be mindful of your trigger points. An overly critical parent, a sibling rivalry, or a less than ideal relationship with a child can heighten anxiety and ‘tis the season to be jolly won’t change that. 

Politics. Especially in the current climate, politics can be a source of contention. In these situations, it’s important to set appropriate expectations about political debates to avoid full-blown arguments. Remember, any friction you may feel during the holidays is no one person’s fault. Grace allows for you to respect differences of opinion and know when to walk away from a stressful situation.

Significant others. We want to love and be loved by our partners no matter what. However, stress can affect our romantic partnerships. Knowing your own pressure points (working too much, not getting enough sleep, or have you even had lunch today?) can ward off feelings of provocation. And, knowing the stress points in your relationship dynamics can help you proactively mitigate the pitfalls. Do the two of you tend not to feel as connected in a particular situation? Do certain events create conflict? When handled with mutual respect and a desire to understand one another, conflict can lead to heightened intimacy, but timing is everything. Try not to enter a discussion with feelings of aggression, especially if you’re tired or stressed.

Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries. Listen to yourself. Listen to your inner voice. Don’t “it doesn’t really matter” it away. Listen, listen, listen. Respect where you are and be willing to walk away from a negative situation. The holidays ask much of us, but we’re only human. There may come a time when you feel stronger. Resist the temptation to measure yourself against the ideal you rather than who you are. The more you respect your inner world, the better you will be able to react to your outer world and make the most of the holidays (or any days) for you. Keywords -- for you!

Happy holidays!

 

You can learn more about Kalli Kerr and follow her on LinkedIn at http://linkedin.com/in/kalli-n-rimikis-kerr-ma-lmft-2b62ba10.

Gain Confidence And A Game Plan

Real Like Me is all about you and your potential. You just need confidence and a game plan to succeed. Let us inspire you with stories about real women and give you a platform to inspire other women with your story. You can learn from our expert-led webinars and create your plan for success with a RLM-certified coach.

Think about how you want to make life better for yourself and your family and make more of a difference in the world. We’re asking you to put your ideas into action. Help us build a movement. Women have power. We just need to own it.

We’re preparing for our official launch and we want you to be part of it.

  • Follow us on social media (see right column) and follow this site (lower right corner) for updates.

  • Share this page with your followers and other people you know. (Use the buttons below.)

  • Share your ideas with us.

And be sure to check out the video above. Mona Aburmishan, Candi Carter, Sheila Chalmers-Currin, Tiffany Chapman, Kathleen Henson, and Tawnee McCluskey talk about their passions and major life challenges. They are an inspiration to any woman who wants to succeed in a so-called “man’s job,” manage a career and a family, make a difference in the world, or just be the best she can possibly be.