when was the last time you cried?

Three years ago I met one of the most fearless humans I know.  A friend of mine had a group of friends in town visiting Miami for the weekend, and we all decided to hang out together.  I instantly connected with one of them, and we started talking about each other’s lives and sharing our stories. He was spinning off of a massive injury (broken rib cages) from a motorcycle accident (trying stunts mixed with going too fast), something that he was so proud to share, in addition to the time he got electrocuted while at work.  In my mind I kept thinking that this guy is absolutely insane!  It turns out he lives and breathes for this adrenaline rush.  He was intense and bold and not afraid of anything. I was completely at a loss for words on how this man is still alive today, but what attracted to me to him were our conversations and the fact that he was fearless.

[Side note: That same weekend happened to be the weekend I met Ishita who’s premise at the time was about getting over the fear of fear which I subtly wrote about here.]

He and I spent the weekend together just touring Miami and getting to know each other by way of me picking his brain and sharing with him my ambition for taking a leap/moving out of Florida/quitting my job. He stopped me in my tracks and asked me this question: when was the last time you cried? In that moment, I couldn’t think of a time so I responded with something generic, “probably 3 years ago”as I literally could not pin point a moment or time. [In hindsight, this is an incredibly long time to shed tears considering now I feel I cry at least once a month :)].

The point he was getting across was that I hadn’t done anything worth testing my limits or getting out my own box – things that compliment growth & expansion.  All the signs that weekend led me on this hunt to do things that scare me, that evoke an emotion that I’ve been hiding without even realizing it.

There was a moment where we were just sitting on my couch in silence, listening to Christian Scott’s album and I remember the song that I kept on repeat long after this weekend passed was Litany Against Fear.

“I must not fear.Fear is the mind-killer.Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.I will face my fear.I will permit it to pass over me and through me.And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” – Frank Herbert, Dune

Three months later is when I resigned and moved away.

What I’ve found over the course of the years is that whenever I feel that I’m on the verge of flipping to the next chapter of my life, I cry. Not because I’m sad or afraid, but because I know that it’s in these exact moments where I’m facing my fears….and it’s okay.

cultivating culture.

I recently visited Newseum in Washington, D.C., a museum focusing on the obvious: news, journalism, stories, and the people who tell them all in one building. Spending one day there isn’t enough, so when you purchase a ticket for admission, it’s actually valid for two days.

As I navigated through the floors, intrigued by most exhibits, the most powerful exhibit I felt was the last one I experienced: The Pulitzer Price Photographs Gallery.

This exhibit was the most eerie, yet moving. Pulitzer prize winning photographs, some of which you can find here  “…includes each of the photographers and photo staffs who have won the prize since the Pulitzer board began awarding it to photographers in 1942.”

This was the only section the museum that was completely silent, which I didn’t realize until about halfway walking around the gallery.

Hundreds of pictures were displayed, and the passion, fortitude and resilience that these photographers had and faced, goes beyond explanation.  They’re Pulitzer Price winning for a reason. Going from one polar feeling of joy to sadness, each picture felt as if you were propelled into that exact time of the event.

Pictures say a thousand words. These, added with the captions, evoked emotions that go deeper than what was just captured. These pictures helped start movements, which shifted cultures and turned into novels, stories & ideas worth spreading.

That evening I shared my experience with my father who appreciates and loves journalism, history and everything in between, and he proceeded to show and teach me what he’s learning online.

He spends hours on end on the computer and I’m always curious to know what he’s reading or doing, and on this particular night he shared his love and aspiration to travel to Moscow, specifically Kremlin, by showing me pictures he found on a French news website.

Since this website is in French [and my parents conveniently forgot to teach me French growing up] he proceeded to scroll through each picture, helping me translate what each caption read. As I was learning about Kremlin culture and architecture (and French), I learned how much he loves exploration, history and teaching me what he knows.

Pictures say a thousand words. Captions tell the story. Sharing these experiences with each other spreads across generations, preserving history and culture.

getting unstuck.

Paralyzed.

Not in the literal sense of being unable to move, but I woke up feeling stuck.  “Inspiration is everywhere” is something that I pinned to my vision board last week and I’m always amazed with how much beautiful (and not so beautiful) stories, people and things are in this world that inspire me.

Being receptive and aware of this is a blessing, as some people find it hard to sense what inspires them.  For me, this morning I woke up with a fear of not knowing what to do next.  With a surplus of new friendships and relationships I’ve been granted, I got easily lost in what others were up to which sidetracked me from what I set out to do in the first place.

Avoiding the thoughts about what I need to do to keep my project going,  I gravitated to wanting to help others, because that’s the easy thing to do.  Generous by default.

Losing focus even temporarily felt paralyzing.  Coming to grips with what I know to be true, to be helpful and to dig myself out requires me to ask for the help and support that I need to stay on track.

I’m not in this alone, and neither are you.

subtle reminders.

About two months ago, I purchased a pendant in the shape of a turtle to wear as a necklace. As I’ve been recognizing and understanding how my body reacts to the uncertainties of life, I felt myself rushing to do things, with no sense of purpose or thought behind it.

With all of my ideas and thoughts that transpire every day, my own ideas sometimes overwhelm me, which causes me to be in the own way of myself. For two years I was constantly in this get-after-it attitude where every other day there was an event happening or thing I needed to go to and on top of that, I worked out 5-6 days each week at high intensity, without really slowing down. At that phase in my life, I was able to handle it. A few years later, I recognize what my body needs (rest) and craves (mobility).

Five months ago I created an environment that allows space for me to focus on what I need. It started with a shift in my career and once that happened, it was if time magically appeared and there was so much of it. How will I fill this space?

I began cutting down on my intense workout regime and adding in writing daily for at least 15 minutes, yoga 2x/week, CrossFit 1-2x/week and one other day for any other activity that gets me moving (hiking, walking, plowing snow, etc.). Spinning off of my post on adherence, I’ve found that this is the perfect mix to hack my productivity and allow me to fill this “new” time with things that fuel my soul.

The challenging part is figuring out what works best and when.  The good news? There is no rush.

on adherence – #ruckusmakerschallenge day 8

Declaring to others what you say you’ll do speaks volumes. Today is the final day of the challenge, and it although it went by quickly, it wasn’t easy.  Writing consistently and publishing is more uncomfortable than not.  There were moments when I tried to justify why I shouldn’t share certain things, but I knew that in those moments were the exact reason why I should continue to write.  What I’ve realized is that eight days isn’t enough to describe the feeling that happens when you sense your mind shifting focus.

Like most things, I started off with a plan. I brainstormed and outlined what transpired during ruckus, and now nearly 10 days later, I find myself unraveling what I’ve learned and immediately putting it into action even after we all departed ways.  Sticking to the vision, what I know to be true and share with the world was the key to this challenge.

There’s a feeling of accomplishment that runs through me, but at the same time I know this is just the beginning of an ongoing conversation and project.

Thank you to Luis for the spark, and to all the other Ruckusmakers who joined to shared their stories.

This was fun :)

I see you – #ruckusmakerschallenge day 7

This past Tuesday I spent an hour creating a vision board alongside four other middle school-aged girls. As part of our showroom’s spring break initiatives, Tuesday’s workshop was to create your 10 year vision board. The other girls who attended actually ended up inspiring me! “Live your dream, inspire, lead, dream big” were a few words listed on each of their boards, including mine. Nailing the fact that inspiration can come from anywhere.

At the workshop, each of us received name badges with a quote underneath. “I push you to be better” was listed under my name and it couldn’t be anymore accurate. At the time, I didn’t quite get what it meant, but when others saw it and read it out loud, I pieced together a bit of my bio that was shared prior to all of us physically meeting & the general consensus was that I was a trainer or coach that was somehow tied into fitness. How the world sees me. Interesting. There are so many other things that I do, but this is the message that I’m sharing with the world and I’m owning it.

This quote could’ve been under anyone else’s name as the depths of each conversation I’ve had over the course of those three days, and the ones that continue through our private Facebook group, all inspire each other to keep on pushing.

Today is day 7 of this challenge and over the course of this week I’ve been blessed to read the experiences of others.  I feel like I’ve entered an underground world of amazing humans who were DYING to share their ideas that they didn’t even know they had.  The best part of my day and where I get my daily dose of inspiration is in this private group. A platform that’s safe for us to create space for our thoughts, to those who understand us, who push us. Although not everyone is truly interacting in the sense of likes and comments, we see each other. “I see You.” Is something Seth phrased so subtly, yet powerfully.

Seth’s simplicity in his message propels us to take action and truly believe in our capabilities. He pushes us to be better.

lessons learned.

When people discuss privilege, I think it’s important to understand what they actually mean. Growing up I knew my family was different and not the “typical black family” you’d think would be residing in Baltimore. We’re Haitian, living in the suburbs and most of my family went to private schools. I was always reminded how good we had it, compared to where we came from.  “Always finish your plate because there are kids your age who don’t have anything to eat” was a common phrase to make sure we knew we were making out okay.  Growing up, I always hated the question – what do your parents do? Because without hesitation, once I answered, the common response was “oh you must be rich!”  No, not quite the way you see it, but whatever.  To some, yes, we’re privileged, but understand that it came (and can come) from much sacrifice. So what do my parents do? It doesn’t really matter.  What matters is that for my dad, he didn’t have much of a choice.  More on his story, later.

We’re all privileged in the sense that we share the same breath, the same air and have the same amount of time.  I recently attended an event for the launch of Abernathy Magazine which centered around eleven speakers sharing their stories on race, privilege, identity & lessons learned from those experiences and how they intertwined with each other.  What struck a chord with me the most is that everyone who spoke had a different sense of what privilege meant to them.

Hearing each person speak invoked a story or time where I felt something similar – a time where I felt different – but couldn’t articulate at the time.  I wrote a post the other day about how I noticed I was the only black female that was part of a seminar, yet what kept me grounded was the fact that I was surrounded by people who think like me. Looks didn’t matter then and the irony now is that at this event, looks did matter, but not for the sake of being excluded or ridiculed.

Every time I think about what transpired at the event, I get more inspired to share my story and keep the conversations going, because it’s thatimportant.

Even though we’re all different, we share the same identity, the same common thread: individuals who stand their ground for what they believe in, no matter what.  Close to 50 people attended this event and what shows is that there’s a tribe that supports this movement:  the idea that our identity matters, that what we stand for matters. The beauty behind this event is that even though these stories were shared once, it left an opportunity for deeper conversations – those worth spreading.

So, the lessons learned for me? Define who you are, know and understand your roots – for these are what keep you grounded.  Believe in your truths. Keep the conversations going.  Because of this, the momentum keeps building that will make a difference on how the world sees you.

what’s my project? – #ruckusmakerschallenge day 6

The long version of my story that will take you about 2 minutes to read can be found here. As much as I haven’t scratched the surface with what I know is possible for myself, what I will say that I’ve accomplished is an interesting body of work that connects me to where I am today. Using my past as a guide, to a certain degree, I understand that I’m in control of what lies ahead. However, what I do know is that everything that I’ve done can be used to propel myself to create the change I want to see, focusing on what I’m great at and building a team that supports and shares this idea.

Prior to attending the seminar, I battled writing out a business proposal to “be prepared” which after a few hours I immediately scratched because I had no idea what the hell I wanted to propose. The first day of the workshop, after we all got a general idea of what we’d be up to over the next 48 hours, I had one idea and project that stood out, but still didn’t know if it was substantial enough to make a difference and ultimately, be worth it. The beauty behind sharing my story with others – the nitty gritty, as in what I’m currently up to (because there wasn’t much time to dive into what you previously did) – was that it revealed why I feel that there’s still a missing piece in my community and questioning/digging deep into what change can I help to make to bridge the gap.

So, I’ll share my story on what I’m doing now. I work with amazing, inspirational and fearless girls mainly between the ages of 10-14 who aspire to be Olympians, Scholars and Doctors among other brilliant things. At this age, they’re battling with fitting in with what’s cool, and my team and I create a safe space for them to share their biggest dreams with us, through facilitating dreams & goals workshops, and encourage them to know that whatever they dream, they can achieve. I love what I do. What I love even more is the opportunity that presents itself whenever I hear from girls, who think their dreams are too ambitious, and I notice there’s still something missing. In this space where my team and I facilitate these workshops, I don’t see my 10-year-old self amongst this group. I often think of what and where I’d be had I had been given this type of guideline to write down who I want to be and I realize that there are thousands of girls who could absolutely need this, especially in the Baltimore community that I work and reside in.

Throughout the course of the seminar, we engaged in small brainstorming sessions with others to share what our big project is. In an intimate setting, with, I shared how I want to reach out and connect with minorities in the Baltimore community who aren’t active, don’t have a support system and host these workshops with them, similar to what I do now in my current role. My past work involved having a hand in event planning, coordinating and working with kids which seems to be the common theme. So, what’s my big project? Facilitate and coordinate a free movement festival (think yoga + arts + goal setting workshop for kids) for 100+ girls in Baltimore by August 31st 2016. This is pretty ambitious, but the beauty is that it ties with my current work, my passions and what I want to change in my community. Having this vision in mind helps me break it down to smaller projects (these #ruckusmakerschallenge posts to start) that will be equally ambitious and important, just on a smaller scale.

On the final day of the workshop, Seth gave each of us a ShipIt journal which helps breakdown our big project. From the basics of when you’ll start, who needs to be involved (and who doesn’t) and when you’ll actually ship this project, precisely to the date and time. The fact that I declared this out loud, to you, means that I have to work on it, and it’s scary #af. But, in the end, I know it’ll be worth it.

Now it’s time to build, connect and make it happen.

problem solve – #ruckusmakerschallenge day 5

We’ve been so engrained that putting in years worth of work equates to a promotion, a raise, or an added bonus. We’re given more vacation or maternity leave based on the amount of time we’ve been employed. The systems unfortunately haven’t changed much, and those implementing these “rules” are missing the point.

What impact is your work actually making? Your effort has to be more productive than anyone else and solve a problem worth people engaging in. (H/T: Geoff Welch)

The goal isn’t to crank out hours when the work that you’re doing doesn’t mean anything, which is where some people get confused and upset. Just because you worked your ass off doesn’t mean you should automatically be rewarded.

My post from yesterday was definitely not my best, but the point was that I needed to get something out. Even though what you’re working on may take you a ton of time to write or do, it may not be that good. And that’s okay. The opposite is also true: if it took you two minutes, it can be completely worth it. Be okay with good enough, move on and make something better.

I’ve had a battle with understanding what or what isn’t good enough. There was an entire season at the HEAT where the tag line was “good enough, ain’t enough.” In this context – playing a sport for a chance at a championship, you strive to be the best, because good enough won’t get you a trophy. However, there are times throughout the season/year where you don’t put in all of your effort, you lose games, you get injured, what feels like one step towards progress, you take 3 steps back. Yet, each step back is your chance to learn and improve.

While I was managing a gym, I remember posting what I thought was an inspiring quote – “strive for progress not perfection” – and I received backlash from this because some people felt that in a gym setting, you have to perfect a technique before advancing to the next. To each his own, but progress is the whole point and perfection is subjective, unless you’re the universe… which is a post for another day.

Understand that the effort that you put in to your work is enough. The added reward and bonus is that those who engage in your content choose to connect with you.

on storytelling – #ruckusmakerschallenge day 4

If these walls could talk.

The seminar was held at The Purple Crayon which is a beautifully re-designed space for connection and creativity. Many ideas were started here as people like us: impresarios, ruckusmakers, entrepreneurs and ultimately artists have stepped foot and shared their story in some capacity….which I take is why the name is extended to “The Center for Learning and Innovation.”

Seth shared with us astounding stories that helped define the questions we were all seeking. For most of our topics discussed, he related and compared it in a sense to a real life situation that had happened before.  People don’t care or purchase what you have to offer purely on the sole factor that you’re the cheapest or most convenient option for them. People purchase from you based off of the story behind what you’re selling is. Story over substance, always.

Throughout the weekend Seth intertwined his belief in connecting others and sharing their story with the fact that he was teaching us something different once we were enrolled and engaged in the conversation. This was shown in every fashion from the snacks and food that were provided to us, to the special guests that were local artists – musicians to be exact – who shared their stories and talents with us. The first evening consisted of a chocolate and wine tasting, all from samples of each from local stores that were near to the venue and each day felt as if the food and snacks were carefully curated to match the day’s discussion.

Creating a culture of feedback, and continuing the conversation from yesterdays post, Seth made it appoint to not necessarily answer a question with a specific answer, but to tie it to a story that’s similar that we could relate to that was within the context of the topic at hand. He’s an expert at this, amongst other things, but story telling seems to come first and naturally to him.  One aspect that he’s realized he’s mastered and it shows.