Last week, at least in sports, the men took center stage: NFL hopefuls were showing their best at the NFL Combine; the NFLPA and the NFL were (and still are) in mediation; Cam Newton’s comments sparked much debate; The NY Knicks’ “Melo Drama” had all eyes on the Big Apple and the MLB is gearing up for the season.
While they had the spotlight, I, along with my JGF Marcelle, ventured to Orlando, FL. to the 6th Annual Black Enterprise Women of Power Summit hosted by State Farm Insurance. Here amongst hundreds of the top women leaders in corporate America, we embarked on an incredible journey that renewed our faith in the possibilities of success and reignited the passion we have for what we do. We learned, laughed, and loved. Here are the top 5 gifts I received that I am re-gifting to you:
1. Women: We Must Honor Our Living Legends: Ntozake Shange, Bethann Hardison, Bishop Barbara C. Harris and Congress Woman Eleanor Holmes Norton all remind us that nothing worth having comes easy. Here are shining, stellar examples of what women can –and continue to do. Lena Horne said it best, “It’s not the load that breaks you. It’s the way you carry it.”
2. Women: It’s O.K. To Make YOU A Priority! ~Abbot Vascular, Pepsico and State Farm ensured that each morning we were power walking or moving with Zumba. Whatever the option, each morning started with doing something for ourselves. We are multi-facted, multi-dimensional, multi-tasking women trying to be all things to all people–all the time! Whew! But, for all the power we hold, we cannot be effective with poor health–physically, mentally or spiritually. Bishop Barbara Harris reminded us, “Each of us must have a spiritual discipline– an inner focus by which our actions are motivated and directed.”
3. Women: Discover What’s Really Holding You Back: Valorie Burton of the CaPP Institute was phenomal! She said that too often we operate in the negative. We complain. We ridicule. We catastrophize. (irrational, worst-case scenario thoughts that lead to unnecessary stress) This drains our power and pulls us from our purpose. Ask yourself, “What’s right with me? What’s the best thing that happened to me today?” Life is about the journey–so enjoy it. Give yourself room to be human. Burton said, “Failing at something doesn’t make you a failure.”
4. Women: At Our Worst We Can Still Find Our Best: One of the pivotal moments of the summit was the one-on-one conversation with ESPN’s Sage Steele and Olympic champion and WNBA star Marion Jones. Jones talked about her road to redemption from one of the lowest points in her life. As Jones spoke she connected to us, through our own personal struggles and hardships. She reminded us of that real joy and purpose is neither external nor internal, but eternal, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. We were all better women having heard her story. Forgiveness is powerful.
5. Women: You Must Have An All-Girl Backup Band: Bishop Vashti Murphy Mckenzie reminded us of this vital resource. These are the sister-friends who tell you how you really look. They know when to listen and when to give advice. They are your number one fans when you succeed and lift you up when you fail. They keep you accountable, honest and make you look in the mirror when you would rather look away. They push you to be better than you think you are so you can do more than you thought you could. When you are marching to the beat of your own drum, these chics are on your heels playing the tune that is you.
Bishop McKenzie reminds us, ” A diamond is brilliant…it shines because of the tremendous pressure it endures…and so do you!…Don’t get comfortable in your status quo…You are here for a purpose and lives will be better for having contact with you. Your power resonates with your light. You are not the source of the light but the light shines within you.”
By the time the conference was over, I had a renewed sense of self, purpose and an excitement that I still can’t contain. I met many new friends and enjoyed what turned out to be a celebrated learning about how to take the next step and get to the next level while helping those around me.
So I say thank you to Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie, Ntozake Shange, Bethann Hardison, Valorie Burton, Paula Madison, Debra Langford, Marion Jones, Sonya Alleyne, Bishop Barbara Harris, Ntozake Shange, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Richelle Parham, Macy’s, Toyota, Sony, all the beautiful friends I met, and especially Black Enterprise for reminding me why I’m proud to spell my name W-O-M-A-N!