Posts Tagged ‘Personal Development’

This post is a reaction to Black Enterprise’s recent article on the state of African American women’s apparent inability to get the corner office in corporate America. The resource is a study from the Executive Leadership Council and the Executive Leadership Foundation.

I suggest you read the article first before you read my post so that you can get a better sense of the content.

In not so subtle ways the findings don’t say anything that I didn’t already know – but what really annoys me is how these findings don’t provide any meaningful insight into how Black women can push through the corporate America log jam…if they so choose.

Find a White Guy

According to BE, Black women severely lack “strategic” relationships in their relationship arsenal. Such relationships are defined as connections with senior level officers most different from themselves. 

In other words, they don’t hang out with enough white men. BE tiptoes around the idea that Black women are probably not aligning themselves with enough of them (or anybody who matters) to make a difference in their career.

And, depending on where you are in the corporate food chain – you’re so far removed from them, your best bet is to hope they trip over you at the next all-staff meeting.

Get a Cheerleader

The first point was about finding a specific mentor. This second point is more about finding someone who can:

  • Give you feed back
  • Understand your strengths
  • Scream your holy praises right through the glass ceiling

Essentially, existing in a professional vacuum is not ideal. Duh. We get that. Do the white men get to wear cheerleading skirts?

Hire a house manager – or find a house husband

Aiming for a cushy senior level position may demand that your strong black motherhood  (or attempts at it) go out the window (I guess Michelle Obama is the only exception to this?).

I’m not sure what ELC means by this since college educated and professional Black women are already marrying and having children later in life (compared to their white counterparts). 

Avoid the secretary route at all costs

I’m cheating a little bit here because this “strategy” (and the next one) come from an interview Workforce Magazine did with Carl Brooks, president and CEO of the Executive Leadership Council. I couldn’t get the link for it, so here is a portion of the interview: 


Another problem for African American women is a misunderstanding of their capabilities. How do the jobs they hold influence that perception?


The advice in this research is that if you seek an operational position at the top level, you need to stay focused on that and not move so easily to staff or administrative positions in corporate America.

Your network already sucks

I’m sure Penelope Trunk would love this one. Brooks states that a Black woman’s network is highly social versus professionally strategic. Because this is so, Black women lack the options for opportunistic entry into valuable and professionally strategic relationships.


What is holding back African American women?


The networks for African American females were considered social than strategic. They know each other , they know the family makeup of each other, they socialize together. But they didn’t have the strategic ingredient that would allow them to advance and ask each other for support and endorsements. Without that, no one moves to senior levels in any corporation.

In short, your momma’s church friends, cousins, girlfriends at old jobs and your lunch buddy can’t do crap for you, jobwise that is.

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Photo Credit: Regolare @Flickr

Photo Credit: Regolare @Flickr

Perhaps this post is ill-timed. Maybe, in a deep recession, I shouldn’t suggest that job hopping is (still) beneficial

Nonetheless, today, I’m interested in giving you something a little ridiculous to think about.

You can always top yourself – NOT

Besides the completely 1990’s phrasing used above – topping yourself  is not always the (greatest) end result.  

Outdoing what has already been done becomes a repeat exercise in …what?

If you are determined to best yourself over and over again as long as you can – it will ultimately become unfulfilling, not to mention, BORING.

Among other things, moving away from (or beyond?) your professional zenith requires spreading your scope of experience while maintaing focus

The tricky party is being fooled into believing a unique and forseeable set of risks are in your way.

In reality, you’re only re-hashing previous obstacles. Why accept the possibility of exhausted options when, instead, you can reinvent the same challenges over and over again?

Its a paradoxical complexity shading a simple truth: such challenges ask for very little. In fact, they may insist you become medicore (on the inside) bit by bit.  

Have principles. Learn to walk away

Dave Chappelle essentially gave Comedy Central the kiss of death when he refused to return to Chappelle’s Show. The common knowledge – opinion? – is that the comedian felt his style of comedy was becoming warped by the writers and producers.

Others contend that he was crazy and out of control.

This is not the first time people have travelled down a successful road, danced with greatness and then, moved on. Despite what the world may think about such actions, acting upon them empowers you beyond the usual shifts in career and job adventures.

Instead of becoming subdued by your own power and success, take it at “face value.” Respect it for what it is – and what it isn’t.

Respect for your work (and yourself) requires handling decisions on whether to exploit it and your talents for fame or fortune. Prepare to live with the consequences of accepting or rejecting either of those paths.

Once that is done – you can walk away- and have it be your choice.

Leave a Mystery

Knowing everything you could possibly know about something leaves little to wonder about. What happens?

You move on. The allure is lost because your interest depletes to zero. In an information saturated world, you aren’t necessarily growing just because the knowledge is there.

Leaving mysteries expands the the 3-dimensionality of your career. If you are interested in expanding your professional peak without becoming stale, engage in a mystery.

In short, fresh perspectives breathe new life into your own professional vision.

Being at your peak has little to do with how much you already know, but what little there is left to find out. 

How far are you stretching your current knowledge? What are you giving others to discover and what are you discovering from them?

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Photo Credit: Rebecca bexxi @Flickr

Photo Credit: Rebecca bexxi @Flickr

Create Contrast

The threat that erodes balance derives from avoiding contrast.

Life is about varying shades and mixes of worlds that collide and blend

The best way to revitalize your balance is to throw yourself into something completely beyond your scope of experience (or recognition). 

The contrast is the threshold that takes you beyond your comfort zone.

It’s as easy as doing something you’ve never done…ever.

Create Therapy

You need therapy. No – not retail therapy. Or, any kind of activity that’s going to leave you regretful, empty or broke.

Develop your creative balance by having spiritual and emotional outlets.

If that is actual therapy – go for it (or keep doing it!).

The purpose of any kind of (good) therapy is to implement a creative and emotional release, space and time for the mind as well as the body. 

The only challenge in creating therapy is keeping it consistent and relevant to your life.

Create Mood

Mood is a double edged sword. It forces you to assess your physical environment while figuring out what type of energies you gain from it.

Some are energized by chaos and mess. Others require solitude and quiet. 

The atmosphere you create in your head is physically manifested in your home, cubicle and where ever else you maintain a physical space. 

It doesn’t do any good to have a broom swept office when the desk drawers are brimming with clutter.

Keep your surroundings fresh, inspirational and pleasant. Delete bad vibes and create new ones.

Paying attention to the 5 senses keeps your spirits high. It ensures that your mood remains steady and even.

Redecorate, rearrange redo anything that might be impeding your balance.

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This communication trait is usually defined as someone who you feel (or you know) dislikes you, but treats you like sugar cotton candy whenever they see you. Women have big problems with this behavior, particularly in the office. 

In social circles, it’s less of an annoyance because women are much more likely to “call you out” on such behavior. Especially, if they’ve had a little bit too much to drink. Nevertheless, this post is not about the tipsy behaviors of women toward fake-sometimes-gal-pals in bars.

This is about the (sober) communication traits women pretend don’t happen in the office, but seethe about later to their boyfriends or husbands. So, if someone is being fake, most aptly, they are being “insincere.”

And women loathe insincerity. It’s up there with lying…or sleeping with her best friend (which ever will peeve her the most at the moment).  

Yet, the dual friction with such behavior is that women can’t stand it when other women actually act like they don’t like them. It’s hostile. It’s uncomfortable. It gets our Victoria’s Secret knickers in a knot. Especially, when we don’t know why.

And secretly, lots of women want to be liked other women

Women are more adept at using communication as tools of exclusion, derision or alienation. So, we’re particularly annoyed (simultaneously) when others fake-like us versus participating in real-dislike.

It’s nutty. So, don’t try to think too hard about it.

On the other side of the coin, women never acknowledge that the fake behavior is about someone treating you like a respectable human being, despite the fact that they may trash you when your back is turned.

In that case, the adjective “spineless” can be added to the long list of descriptors in relation to this person. Yet, fake is just an inaccurate designator.

Secondly, if given the choice (and moral permission) to behave how we really wanted toward people we disliked (immensely) we’d be in trouble as a society. So, be thankful that whoever you deem “fake” has the moral aptitude to at least to pretend to like you when they see you (whether or not they don’t have the moral decency to keep pretending after you’ve left the room).

Most people insist that if such behavior has to occur, they rather the person confront them with how they feel or be “real” about it. I respond, however, with “why?” Get over yourself and the idea that you deserve to  know what everybody thinks about you.

Leave those truthful sentiments for God and your parents.

And, yeah – they’re being insincere with their feelings, but that’s not the point. Fakeness (in the office) is not about sincerity – it’s about the (misguided) ways of getting what you want.



How many women call men bitches? Honestly. Even though people like to think that the term is gender neutral, I wonder how many women will call men an @*!hole or jerk  before they call them a Bitch.

Personally, I think women instinctively like using the word bitch. It’s got the extra oomph descriptor we need when wanting to describe a hard nosed, exacting and difficult woman.

On the other hand, it has that emasculating quality as well…when used in reference to a man.

Women are the gurus of detail when it comes to picking the word descriptors that best fit any situation (or person).



This trait is always interesting to me because snobbishness is probably the most sensitive, subjective opinion one can have of other people.

And, women pick up on it like blood hounds. In work place culture, it’s hard to be nice to snobby people because they make it so easy not to be. Yet, snobbishness is manifested in a number of ways via cliquishness and other communicative behaviors women claim they abhor (but practice with shrewd efficiency when they need to).

I could go into an infinite amount of details of snobbishness taking place in the work environment, but let’s be safe in saying that no matter what – a woman will pick up on it.

Snobby behavior may be the symptom of pretentious, ill-mannered people, but it has some uses in the workplace.

For instance, knowing when to avoid the Bitch or the Fake-jerk.

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Jaboney @ Flickr

Photo Credit: Jaboney @ Flickr

If it were up to you – would you really work for a living? That’s a funny phrase. Working for a living. What’s that mean nowadays when so many people are living to work to survive?

Right now, I’m marginally attached to the workforce. I work weird hours (when I want to) and participate in volunteer projects at my leisure. No, I’m not independently wealthy. But, I don’t consider myself to be unemployed. Instead, maybe I’m “semi-retired.” While most of my out of work colleagues won’t feel the same way about unemployment like I do, I feel that semi-retiredness is out of necessity, not out of choice.

Presently, I can spend a lot of my time looking for jobs I truly want.  I’m not beholden to my 45 minute “lunch hour.” I can be flexible with people I want to connect (and network) with. It’s not ideal. I won’t say that some days aren’t especially tough for me. And, when you spend months and years being productive (for someone else), it’s hard to have it come to an abrupt stop or (for you lucky few) have it become cut in half.

There are lots of questions behind how to fill your unemployed hours of the day. I think the simple stigma of unemployment is that you will run out of money. And, since you are not working, it feels you aren’t doing something meaningful, productive and responsible.

You, nonetheless, never run out responsibilities. You have rent, mortgage, kids, spouses, sicknesses, habits to supply and misdeeds to fund – anything, everything. But, even if you had a job, those responsibilities won’t disappear. You still have student debt to pay and groceries to buy. Money only makes handling that stuff easier.

It doesn’t necessarily make anything any better. Yet, people sometimes insist on narrowly placing meaning on the activities they do for 8 hours a day in an office. But, meaningfulness is not merely created in a cube or a vacuum or a job or a work title.

It’s more alive than that. It’s 3-dimensional and fluid. It requires 3 million bits of ideas and all of them breathe from the life you live. So, the time you spend being productive while not working demonstrates just as much (if not more) about meaningfulness than the time you spend being productive on the job (for someone else).

As a semi-retiree, I like to think that my professional “pauses” are my respites. Whether I needed them or not. Whether I wanted them or not. I can’t do much about the state of the economy and the job losses except complain. And, I don’t get paid to complain. But, I do get paid to be productive regardless of the financial value or if I’m employed.

Therefore, I’ll continue my volunteer work, my job searching and my networking.  I’ll continue being semi-retired. I’ll continue doing the things that get me in tune with others.  Being unemployed doesn’t mean you become disconnected from being productive. And, it doesn’t mean you are being irresponsible or losing meaning.

It means I can continue being thankful. I can continue to do all those other things that fill up the hours of my day. I can remain feeling meaningful and valuable. I can continue being connected and feeling worthwhile.

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Edward B @ Flickr

Photo Credit: Edward B @ Flickr

Humor can get you into trouble. Especially when you are making fun of yourself. Even when you think you are trying to make someone else more comfortable.

It’s 1998. I’m in my freshman year of college. 

There’s loads of pearl necklaces, girls wearing pink and green track suits (the school colors) and cheering our mascot – the vixen.  In spring semester, it was common practice to play ring games to celebrate marriage engagements. 

Students could indulge in a fake “sorority” system that took on an even more exclusive tone because girls had to be specifically chosen. Unlike real Greek sorority systems (that at least let anyone pledge) you had to be chosen to pledge in the first place.

The number of non-white women who enrolled freshman year was considered to be the largest group ever. A whopping 10…out of a class of (maybe) 200.

I’m not sure if this is still done, but upon enrollment, girls had to choose curfew options. Option A meant you could have guests (usually, this means men) visit you whenever you wanted on the weekends – provided they didn’t sleep in your room. Options B and C varied between never having a guy in your room at all or having your guest leave by 8 pm (or something like that).

I chose Option A. Not because I’m boy crazy, but I didn’t see myself telling potential visitors they had to leave by a certain time. When you see your dorm mates having their brothers, boyfriends and anybody else with a penis (or not) in their room, having a curfew just seems whacky.

After half a semester, I became pals with a few of the (Black) guys from a neighboring college.  One Friday night, they paid me a visit and spent time hanging out  in my dorm room. However, my guests didn’t attend school down the street – they had a 2 hour drive to get back to campus.

And, since we weren’t that friendly, my friends had to return to their own dorm rooms.

All this, at the late, late hour of 11 pm. As we were saying our goodbyes, one of my (white) neighbors came walking down the hallway.

She stared. And, I don’t mean she stared because she thought my friends were cute. And, I doubt she was staring because she’d never seen the male sex. This was obvious glaring – at least 5 full minutes. It made me uncomfortable. At least, that’s what I remember the most.

I smile, laughing a bit, and say, “Hey, [insert weird girl’s name here] don’t mind the Black folks in the hallway.”

Her reaction was like that of someone coming out of a trance. She made a huge gulp and replied, “I’m not staring,” and returned to her room. Weird, again. The night is over. My friends leave.

I go to bed.

Side Note: I much rather be called out for being a jerk and making a bad joke then someone mislabeling it and calling me a racist. Excluding the event if the joke is racist – then, you are a racist jerk. Personally, I think her next reaction is little over the top.

I get called down for a “meeting” with the Dean of Students (like I’m in trouble with the principal). Weird Girl reported me for making a racist statement towards her. The Dean of Students even told me it went into my “file.” I was instructed not to confront her. Otherwise, I’d be labeled as “hostile.”

Oh geez.

What really surprised me is that I knew Weird Girl. Well, I knew her in the way that she was comfortable enough to puke in my dorm room. She was comfortable enough to let me nurse her through Freshman Party binge drinking. We weren’t BFF, but I thought we were OK.

At least OK enough to have a normal, adult conversation. OK enough to at least be open to discussion. But, perhaps I was being naive about where I was planning to spend the next 4 years of my life. Progressiveness is not a guarantee when you go to college.  Perhaps, all those life changing conversations about sensitive topics happen on other campuses and not this one. And sometimes, people aren’t interested in having conversations at all.

To make matters worse, Weird Girl was telling anybody who’d listen that I was a horrible, racist person and no one should talk to me.  If you let her tell it, I was hanging dead white children across my door and proclaiming the speeches of Minister Farrakhan. Like that’s going to help anybody. Personally, I think she got a kick out of calling someone who was Black a racist. Obviously, she wasn’t doing anything to help change my hi-falutin “racist” ways. Just trying to alienate me from others. 

That only makes me question her “motives” further.

What makes Weird Girl truly earn her moniker? She insisted on talking to me. Very nicely. Chatty, genteel conversation. If you think someone is a raging, fanatical racist, do you really try to make nice talk with them?

Frankly, I can’t imagine why she just didn’t say something to me earlier. “Hey, what you said last night, I thought it was mean,” or “Hey, that wasn’t cool.”  At least I could’ve apologized. I always thought if you had to take issues up to higher heads, it’s because you think you’ve exhausted all your options.

Or, you think you are going to endure physical harm.

Or, it’s an emergency. Something like that.

But, if some jerk says something you don’t like, you move on and know they’re a jerk.  

What was she trying to “prove” anyway? That I was racist or that she wasn’t? It still boggles my mind. Despite the year being 2009, some people are (still) uncomfortable dealing with race. Even though the events I described transpired over 10 years ago, I imagine Weird Girl still feels she is justified in “outing” my racism and racist behavior.

Perhaps, from a cultural perspective, I made her uncomfortable. But, I didn’t have a problem with that. She did. And if someone is making you uncomfortable, you should try to figure out why. And, if it is truly offensive, take it as an opportunity to learn. 

So, Weird Girl had every right to “report” me. But I don’t think she learned anything meaningful from it. I did. But, in a not so glamorous and very uncomfortable way. 

People behave in a number of ways when someone that’s different from them makes them feel uncomfortable. They can be irrational. They can be mean. Or, they can be confrontational. You have to be careful.  You have to be more discerning. Learn from it. Hopefully, you’ll become more insightful.

Even when you believe you are right or justified (or being funny) – you still have to censor yourself.

Two things I learned:

  • Some people don’t get the joke
  • Other times, your joke just isn’t funny.

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Human Graph - 20 by Nep (Flickr)

Photo Credit: Nep @ Flickr

Ratings are odd. Why bother? They’re fuzzy, aggregated opinions. It means someone, somewhere came to a conclusion about something else. So, if you are beholden to ratings, you’re putting yourself at a huge disadvantage.

You’re dumbing down your strengths. You’re also limiting your ability to become interesting.

Using ratings pressures you to reside in the conventional and the ordinary. They insist on a static, linear definition. There’s no real risk in ratings because they rely on what already exists.

Things that are new and bold don’t have comparisons. They’re provocative. But, they’re risky because they don’t have definitions.

Ordinary stuff is rated because it’s comparable. It uses the same old definitions. Think of the thresholds and limits that ratings carry.

Therefore, what’s the point of limits when you are trying to envision yourself as something else? 

What’s the purpose of reinvention when you are relying on ratings?  

After all, the limits are there for those that want to be compared. The definitions are for people who aren’t looking to create new meaning.

So, don’t rate yourself. Embolden yourself to become something else. Something beyond comparison.

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