Award-winning Business Leader,
Author, Motivational Speaker,
Level Up Your Life Podcast Host,
Level Up Success Coach
How A Girl Many People Wrote Off
Went from Earning Minimum Wage
to Managing & Leading Million Dollar Businesses.
I've been on my personal journey to greatness soon after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4, 1968. After school, I listened to snippets of his "I Have A Dream" speech on a local radio station in my hometown of Columbia, SC where I presently reside. Call it child's naivete, I believed in my mind and heart that he was speaking directly to me. His words resonated with me in such a deep way that from that point on, I have believed in the depth of my being that I will become a leader who will have a positive impact on the lives of those in my black community, and the world.
My father encouraged this belief and my vision of who I would be and the difference I would make in the lives of others. Because I loved being in theatre plays in elementary school, he encouraged me to grow up and use my voice against injustice. He encouraged me to become a lawyer. Although I didn't become a lawyer, throughout my corporate career, I built a reputation for speaking my truth to power when I believed that someone was demonstrating unfair treatment towards others in the workplace.
My peers who assumed that I was "down" with going along with the status quo would find out that I wasn't. They assumed that my identity was based on my position at the time when all along it was defined by my childhood vision of who I would become and the contribution I would make through my work by serving others. They didn't know my story.
Although I wasn't allowed to sit in on grown folks conversation, I could hear from my front porch conversations about how determined my mom and neighbors were to use their resources to help out those in the trenches of the Civil Rights movement that lived in our neighborhood, and surrounding black communities.
I grew up with a strong sense of pride in my ancestors, my family, my community, and the fierceness we demonstrate towards igniting our faith, personal power, strengths, talents, knowledge, and experience into purposeful action that brings about positive change in our lives, and in the world.
My First Life-Changing Adversity
It's Wednesday, July 23, 1975. My mom being an early riser had already washed several loads of clothes before I came downstairs for breakfast. I had gotten up early so that I could eat and do my chores before going outside to hang with my friend girls.
I was excited about being out of school for the summer. I was looking forward to the upcoming school year. I would be a freshman in high school at the brand new Columbia High School in Columbia, SC.
I finished eating my bowl of cereal and started doing my chores. Afterward, I planned to put on one of my summer outfits and go outside to see what my friends were up to. As I was cleaning up downstairs, I heard a hard thump on the floor above me, and the next thing I knew I heard my mom calling for me from upstairs.
When I ran up our stairway on July 23, 1975, I found my mom on her knees slumped over her bed. She asked me to call my older sister Sallie and tell her that she needed to come to take her to the hospital. Because we lived less than 15 minutes away from the hospital, I wanted to call an ambulance.
My mom insisted that I call my sister. My sister Sallie who lived about 20 minutes from us finally arrived and drove my mom to the hospital. Unbeknownst to me, It would be the last time, I saw my mother alive. She died at the age of 44 from cardiac arrest. I was 13 years old.
Up until this point, I had lived a very stable childhood which helped me to build a sense of security within myself that would inspire both of my parents to trust me riding public transit to attend summer school at the age of nine. My parents were never married. They never spoke an ill word about each other to me. When I became an adult and later when I left my husband, I came to understand what a gift my parents had given me by respecting me enough to not speak ill will about the other in my presence.
Until my mom died, I didn't know that "society" considered us to be poor. I don't know if it was my parent's resourcefulness, hard work, or social connections but I never felt like I was poor growing up. Yes, I was expected at an early age to be independent because my parents did work a great bit but I never resented them for it. I actually liked being in charge of my two younger brothers and my nieces and nephews when I had to babysit them.
After my mother's death, I was sad and angry. At the time, I didn't know that I was depressed. This is what I knew, I knew that I was becoming someone I couldn't identify with. I was a pretty happy kid prior to my mom's death. I didn't like how I was changing because of my anger and sadness. I knew this because I had been keeping a diary since the age of nine. My diary was the safe space I used to write out my thoughts and feelings about what was happening in my life. After reading months of my diary entries one evening after dinner, I realized at that moment how I had changed by what I'd written.
This awareness helped me to realize that something had to change. I didn't know what but I was adamant about not growing up to be an angry and mean woman. Over the course of several months, I began to hear the whisper from within prompted me to shift my focus from the loss of my mom to what I'd gained by her example and wisdom. I
I'd always admired my mom's tenacity, resourcefulness, faith in God, commitment to her family, and community. There was no pretense in her. She spoke her truth to power at a time when it was not common. It was dangerous for a black woman in the deep South to do so. My mom wasn't perfect, but she was the perfect mom for me to grow up and become the woman I am.
I began to believe that since my mom and I shared DNA, I had to have similar strength in me. I began to take on some of the traits of my mom. I didn't know it at the time, but it was during this period in my life that I began to develop my stong inside-out mindset.
Over the summer, I lost the weight I'd gained from the emotional eating habit I'd developed after my mom's death. My attitude had become more positive, even with the knowledge that my father had terminal cancer. I became a cheerleader and started to make new friends. I ran for a student government office. I lost to a more popular student. My life got even better when I started working after school to earn my own money.
This season of my life would become the foundation from which I built a conviction in my heart and mind that I was strong like my mom, and I would figure out a way to make a difference in the lives of others to make her proud.
The Storms that Developed My
Live Strong Inside-Out Philosophy
My ability to internalize this "strong moment" in my life has in many ways been a part of the saving grace I've experienced throughout my adult life.
Most of my tween years my father attempted to prepare me for his death. He had been diagnosed with cancer a few years after I was born. When he died, six years after my mom, the reality of having no living parent in the world rocked me to my core. Despite my ability to move beyond the loss of my mom, shortly after the death of my father, I decided to drop out of college. Although he had encouraged me to do what I had to do in order to pursue my college education after giving birth to my daughter Dee at the end of my senior year in high school, I didn't have the support nor the wherewithal to work part-time, attend college full time and take care of my daughter Dee. That was a bit much at 18 years old.
Several months later, I found out that I was pregnant after a routine check-up which required the doctor to remove the IUD contraceptive that I had believed it would prevent pregnancy. I worked up until a few months before my son Blease was born.
I lived on government assistance for two years to care for my two children. I reached the point when I was fed up with myself. I knew that my children deserved better. I had to be better. I had to raise my personal standards. I knew that if I didn't do better, it would become easy for me to accept that the life I was living was the best that was possible for me. This reality check lit a fire up under my feet and within my soul.
Shortly after this moment of reckoning, my life's path intersected with the path of Evangelist Cynthia DeBerry when I began to attend her weekly bible studies. It was through her teaching of God's word in a way that I could apply it in my everyday life that I began to reconnect to the strength in my spirit and the reservoir of fortitude I had within me.
This spiritual awakening at 23 would become the catalyst for helping me to dismantle the lies of limitations that I had agreed to about my possibilities in life. This moment in my life serves as a reference point of what is possible when one comes to the end of oneself and is willing to consider the possibilities of new possibilities and begin to act on this belief with everything you got, amazing things will begin to happen in your life.
I went to work at the Columbia Marriott in my hometown as a housekeeper. Three months short of my tenth anniversary with the company, I had transferred to the Courtyard division, worked my way up through the management ranks at the Columbia Courtyard by Marriott NW (now Baymont Inn & Suites) secured five management promotions in six years, and had transferred to the company's Fairfield Inn division to take on my first of six executive leadership positions during my corporate career.
Six months after this promotion, LIFE dealt me a devastating blow when my teenage son Blease died unexpectedly from cardiac arrest. Because of the fear-based story that I had been telling myself since my mom's death, I spent three years suffering in silence. Losing a child was my greatest fear. Let me explain. Nine months prior to my mom's death, my brother Arthur had been killed. Although she was making attempts to move forward by attending GED classes in the evening, her eyes didn't smile as much as they had prior to his death. When she died, I was convinced in my mind that she couldn't bear the pain of losing a child.
Because of the fear-based story that I had been telling myself about my mother's death, I was convinced in my mind and heart that I wasn't strong enough to feel the depth of grief in my heart from the loss of my son.
When life dealt me the hand to face my greatest fear, initially, I did everything in my power to dismiss, deny, and numb the truth of my grief. Although I was having award-winning professional success, spiritually and emotionally, I was in a state of quiet desperation.
When I began to have health issues related to my unhealthy coping habits related to my grief, I realized that I was losing myself because I wouldn't give myself permission to grieve, When I decided to surrender to the truth of my grief and stopped being angry at God, I started to equip myself with practical knowledge from books written by parents who had suffered the loss of a child to identify what healthy grieving looks like and feels like, and most importantly what I could expect during the process.
My decision to surrender to my truth and adopt what I refer to as my "sacred pause" daily ritual not only ended the suffering I was experiencing, but it also inspired me with a greater sense of purpose and sparked a conviction in my heart towards an expanded sense of my purpose in life.
The Compelling WHY
that Inspires My Sacred Work.
Prior to my spiritual awakening, I majored in pity parties and the blame game. It was not until I allowed myself to believe in the possibility of new possibilities that I dusted off my dream of becoming a leader who would have a positive impact on the lives of many people.
I made the brave decision to focus on renewing my mind with thoughts that affirmed the good plan that God has for my life. Instead of hoping that things would get better, I took action. Despite my previous supervisory experience, I was willing to accept a minimum wage position at the Columbia Marriott. I didn't know exactly how my dream would come true since my priority was making sure my children had a roof over their heads and they had a safe place to call home.
Fortunately, my ability to listen to the inner nudges from my heart after the death of my mother and my renewed sense of faith in God and in my personal power resulted in a strong faith in my intuition, too.
Whenever I would receive an intuitive nudge, I would act upon it. Each time that I did, it resulted in me making progress towards my personal and professional goals. Because of my continuous investment in my personal development and leadership, today, I have deepened my understanding of the practices, habits and strategies which empowered someone like me from humble beginnings to defy the odds and achieve levels of professional success that seemed impossible.
This is what I know for sure, in order for each of us to live our greatness out loud, we have to develop and grow our self-leadership. It is our ability to develop the mindsets, habits, and skills that enable us to nurture the inner game necessary to stay on our game and make progress and build momentum toward the achievement of our goals and desired level of success. It is vital to our progress that we are connected with wise people who can provide us with advice, support and accountability in order for us to be more intentional and strategic towards our goals. We need people who believe in us and want to see us win so they hold us accountable for doing what we say we'll do.
We need to immerse ourselves in environments with people who have both a growth and an abundance mindset because they will pour into us believing in their hearts that they cannot out-give the Source of infinite supply. We need people in our lives who have achieved the levels of success that we want to accomplish and more.
I needed people in my life who served as catalysts for expanding my perspective about my spiritual identity, personal power, and leadership. Coupled with my faith, they helped me to dismantle many of the limiting beliefs that had influenced me to live below my potential for years. They provided me with the support, mentorship, and sponsorship necessary during my corporate career to strategically prepare and position myself to acquire stretch opportunities and next-level promotions.
My future self of becoming an award-winning leader was being held hostage by the narratives that I believed were true about someone like me with my past.
Little did I know that hearing the truth of my divine identity and experiencing the love of God in the depths of my soul would become the fuel that continues to lead me on this adventure I started several decades ago.
I know what it feels like to live a life below one's potential. A life that reflects the smallness of who we are when the greatness within us is shackled by the limiting narratives we tell ourselves and those that we believe that are told to us by other people.
I know what it feels like to experience life-changing adversities that initially caused me to question, "Where is God in all of this?" I know what it feels like to struggle with paralyzing fear, self-doubt, low self-esteem, wearing social masks to disguise the silent suffering I was experiencing, and sabotaging my success out of concern about what other people might think of a bold move I wanted to take.
A key nugget of wisdom that I've learned on my journey is that no one person knows what you are truly capable of. Only our Creator knows this. So, when we play small for any reason, we are denying the people we are divinely designed to serve the opportunity to experience the healing, teaching, and relationship they need to discover and slay their unique code of greatness. I've decided that taking action even when you are not guaranteed success is by far a better state than feeling regret for doing nothing.
I know what it feels like to have access to people who believe in you and your potential. People who are willing to train you, mentor you, speak up for you at decision making tables and provide you with wise guidance to help you grow, thrive, and prosper.
I am certain that my path of diverse personal experiences enabled me over time to build the inner game that helped me to see opportunities where many of those around me believed my leadership aspirations were mere pipe dreams.
I am certain that the strength of God's word in my heart and the confidence I have in my inner knowing about my unique code of greatness and how it inspires, equips, and empowers others to develop confidence in themselves. As a result, they get clear about who they can become, what they are deserving of, and what they are capable of achieving.
Today, the work that I do as a speaker for organizations, in my monthly mastermind, master class, and coaching programs provide me with the privilege of empowering youth, leaders and organizations with high-performance mindset practices and habit-building strategies that increase their capacity to liberate their unique code of greatness to achieve next-level success.
Being a leader isn't what I do, it is sacred work to me. I know first hand that when a person is equipped and empowered to level up their life, it has a ripple effect on their family, community, organization, and the world.
I don't know exactly where you are in your life's journey. I know that you are seeking and that's a good thing.
My unique flavor of personal growth and leadership may not be your cup of tea. But it is my unique offering that's authentic to who I am, what I stand for and the impact I'm confident I have had and will continue to have in the lives of those that I have the privilege of serving and supporting on their journey to greatness.
I would love to partner with you and help you cultivate the clarity, confidence, and courage it takes to succeed. More than that, I hope you invite those you know and care about to join the journey.
Transforming any area of your life requires the following self-leadership actions:
First, make the brave decision to move beyond a victim or a scarcity mindset.
Second, develop the mindset that everything in your life is happening for you.
Third, take 100% responsibility for your life and your decisions.
Four, get clear about your values, who you are, who you want to become, and what you want to achieve.
Five, start where you are with what you have and believe you are enough.
Six, surround yourself with people who can help you achieve your dreams and goals.
Seven, commit to being intentional and strategic towards the achievement of your goals.
Eight, be receptive to constructive feedback because you don't know what you don't know,
Nine, be willing to course-correct as often as needed to achieve your desired outcomes,
Ten, build supportive relationships with people who will hold you accountable for achieving results.
When you have unwavering confidence in your ability to succeed at accomplishing your goals, you will create space for your greatness and success.
When you are ready, I can help you develop personal mastery and leadership skills to SHIFT, STRATEGIZE, and SOAR to new heights in your life, career, and leadership.
It's Level Up Time!