Living Fabulously Fierce Factor #48-Serving as a Light

This past week was my first full week at work since the week before Father’s Day!!! Yes, my travel this summer has been pretty intense. I have racked up some serious frequent flyer miles and hotel points. And just when I started to make even slightest bit of noise this week to a coworker and friend, saying “you know, sometimes my life can be just a little overwhelming”, without even a pause, she said “yeah, but man, your life is pretty friggin’ awesome!” And you know what she’s right! I just needed that reminder to focus on the blessing of it all and not the challenges that come up every now and then.
Besides this reality check from my peer, the time at the office this week also allowed me to have more time with some of the folks that I work with and to some extent coach and mentor. This included a long overdue check-in with the same coworker and friend. During our “check-in”, I was bringing her up to speed on a few different things and sharing with her some opportunities I was going to set her up for. I did notice this slight glazed look on her face so I ask, “ok usually you tell me if I’m going to fast but I think your face is doing the job today…do I need to slow down?” Then, she just looked at me and asked “Why do you look out for me so much…you know, making sure I’m not missing out on things?” I wasn’t sure how to answer…so all I had to give her to her question, was a question of my own…”Well, why not?” Then she just smiled at me and said, “one day, one day you’ll realize and accept you’re really not a normal person…you’re much, much more than just normal, and I appreciate you.” And because I’m soooooooo not the mushy type and I felt like either a deep mushy convo was going to get started or she was going to hug me, I moved us on to the next point (haha).
I thought about this a lot after our conversation and what kept coming to mind for me was the truth that a candle loses nothing by lighting another candle. Really pause and think about that for a second. Imagine walking into a dark room lined with candles against each wall. Say there’s a hundred of them and you walk in with one lit candle…it could even be half the size of the others. Are you going to just walk throughout that room with you one candle, with its possibly “sufficient” light and check out the scene, maybe there’s art on the wall, or are you going to take just a few quick minutes to light the 100 other candles (yes, safely, of course)? Any sane person would go forth and light the other candles-unless you punk out being afraid of the dark and run in the other direction…I know one of you was thinking it . And what happens when you do that? Not only do you have light, you have warmth, ambience, and there’s a je ne sais quo about even just a few candles that bring peace. All of this from one little candle…half the size of the ones being lit!!!! OH AND WAIT!!!! The candle that did all the lighting, is it’s light gone? Is it even dimmed? NOT ONE BIT!!!! How fabulous is that?!?!?! And this, my friends, this is how we are to operate with each other. It’s the “why not?”.

So what does it take to be that light? Honestly, nothing. You actually already are the light that you need to be to impact others. It really is just a matter of recognizing it in yourself and not holding back on the sharing of it. If I had to put a process around this, it would entail
1-Recongition of your light. There really isn’t anything more to this part except the acceptance that you have light to share. My friend helped to remind me of this when she told me how abnormal I am (I’ve always said, my friends totally keep it real with me).
2-Being confident and secure in yourself. She the reason I am so comfortable helping others is because I know that I know that I know that it takes nothing away from who I am, what I need, opportunities that I seek to do this. Here’s the reality of this, yes I have been burned….a few times, but there’s one major thing that I’ve learned from my mom that keeps me staying the course in my confidence and self-security, “What others do to me, or think they do to me, has no impact on how I operate. I am Eva whether you’re good to me or not and the only person I really absolutely need to be good to me is God.” Need I even say more?
3-Operate in the spirit of sowing and reaping. So here’s the deal, I don’t go around seeking to do good in order to get a return on that good. BUT, even when I haven’t sought anything, some way, somehow, I am constantly reaping some blessing….unexpected, unanticipated, unrequested blessing. It is just how this all works. Hence, at this point in my life, I honestly am not phased by the “invested light” I’ve passed on to others that may result in a burn because at the end of the day, remember, I haven’t lost anything.
So, this week, I encourage you to get your light on!!!
Soundtrack of the week: Mary J Blige, feat U2, One.

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Living Fabulously Fierce Factor #46- Being Authentic

“We all have to tell our truth. That is our highest calling, to be authentic.”
~Senator, Corey Booker

I honestly can’t believe that with all of the factors that have been presenting and our “conversations” about branding, I have yet to set a factor on being authentic! I think it’s simply because I see this characteristic as one of the primary foundations of living fabulously fierce that I’ve taken for granted its influence and significance on everything else.

So, authenticity….what is it?  You know…being our highest calling and what not. Well, my trusty Google search led to the following find:

-1

*LFF Interpretation:

  • Exactly what is claimed-showing up as you truly claim you are. 
  • *Being fully trustworthy as according with fact-building and maintaining credibility.

Participating in the Multicultural Women’s National Conference this week, we spent a great deal of time talking about personal branding as I led a session on executive presence and moderated a panel on communications and nurturing connections. Of course during these conversations I spent a great deal of time stressing the importance of staying true to who we are, being authentic, while exhibiting agility and the ability to flex without losing ourselves. For some of us, this comes very naturally. We’ve figured out this balancing act and get through it quite seamlessly. For others of us, it really is a skill we’re developing and honing, mostly because we don’t yet see that we can actually do both without presenting a contradiction. In time, it will be more seamless for us as well. How does this happen? Of course with time, but what else? Well….

  • Staying true to who you are is really all about knowing who you are, what you stand for, what you have to offer this world. When it comes to the professional side of things, no matter what our focus area (s) may be, this is directly tied to our unique proposition value and how that stands out and above the rest. So, this requires a great deal of self-awareness that guides our mode of operating.
  • Exhibiting agility and the ability to flex without losing yourself is where the balancing act comes into play. On some level, this is really all about “when in Rome….”, we all know how it goes. But what it is more about is the skill of flexing your style to operate in a way that draws in the audiences you’re targeting and influencing, not to change who you are, but to leverage the platform you’ve been given to share your authenticity.

Ok, so what does this look like? Here’s what is the most simplest example that we often talk about: being an employee with more of a creative flair in style and dress who operates in a more conservative environment, professionally on the day to day. Being authentic means that I have to
completely change who I am between 9 and 5 and then be more of myself after any times outside of those hours. NOT!!!! What this means is that you just have to flex your style to leverage the platform of a conservative environment to show your authentic brilliance, while not losing yourself to what may feel like uncomfortable conservatism in the process of flexing. Again, a balancing act indeed!

Authenticy: Truth…Agility…Flexing. How will you take on this challenge?

In the spirit of sharing just a bit of what I got to experience at this week’s conference.  Vernice “FlyGirl” Armour’s picture below really captures what I’ve just shared: Balancing Truth with Agility and the ability to flex…. A Fighter Pilot (FlyGirl) now leveraging the motivational speaker platform with corporate audiences.  It doesn’t get much better than that in the game of authenticity.-4

 

Living Fabulously Fierce Factor #43: Processing-Accepting “Ugly” to Revel in “Beauty”

This week I came across an Instagram post of one of the fitness accounts I follow that really struck me “

“You have to sweat like a pig and work like a horse to look like a fox.”

I wish I could remember what account it was so I could give cred, but I totally forget. There were a few reasons why this stuck with me including my own challenging efforts with personal fitness goals, goals I have around my career, entrepreneurial endeavors, and just life in general. I really like what this quote is getting at because it actually gives you a slap in the face while simultaneously encouraging you.  This is  what I really take away from it:

Listen, if you want to be fabulous and fierce, you have to accept that the being is actually becoming, becoming is a journey, and not every stage of any journey positions you to look or feel your best all the time…but if you stick with it, the process that is, you’re going to be amazed by the outcome!!!!”

So, this is what I’ve got for you today-a recommitment opportunity. We all have different things that we’ve previously committed to that we started off really well with and then, because it got “ugly” and we weren’t seeing results as quickly as we wanted or we didn’t achieve a goal by the time we determined we would, we just abandoned the process.  For me this has included the process of becoming a runner, going natural (with my hair for those of you that just got lost a bit), losing weight, learning how to golf.  Yup, I’ve got things that I need to go back to.  After three attempts, I did finally go completely natural four years ago.  I’ve had some success with weight loss but have newer goals in that area.  I have tried multiple times to get better at running and this past month, for the first time, even though I really have been ready to quit because it truly is not always cute, I haven’t.  I’m totally committing to the process.  In fact, today, I hit run #31!!!  I’ve NEVER been that consistent with that process….and I’m actually getting better.

So, here’s what I’ve got for you today-a recommitment opportunity….an opportunity for each of us to revisit a process we’ve walked away from in the past or select a new one. Basically pick a goal: Going back to school, losing 10 pounds, doing a workout program…the whole way through, something. Now:

1-Determine the process of reaching your goal: For me, I’m going to stick with my commitment to running.  I’ve determined that for me, I need to be consistent in getting at least four 5ks in per week-basically 3.1 miles.  I’ve actually been doing more than that but that’s the process I’ve identified. What is your determination-your process?

2-Make a commitment however you need to. My commitment making has taken the form of me having the Nike Running app Coach as my “partner” in this process.  And let me tell you, it’s no joke…it really pushes and encourages in a very effective way.  Commitments take different forms.  Sometimes, all it takes is stating what you’re going to do or become.  When I finally decided I would never go back to relaxing my hair…it really was just a simple decision…and let me tell you, as I was figuring things out, not every day was a good hair day.  Other times, all I needed to do was write down my goal in my journal or on a sticky note that I posted somewhere that I would see every day.  As it relates to weight loss/management, I had to commit to only picking up seven different items from the grocery store and doing meal preps on Sundays.  This week, one of my friends actually posted her commitment to her selected process on Facebook.    Whatever it is, you just need to decide how you’re going to actually make the commitment. How will you make your commitment?

3-Accept that there are going to be some “ugly” days. Here, all I mean is that you are not always going to be cute in whatever the process you’re selecting is because the process itself, if it truly is one that is going to lead to transformation, development and growth, is just not going to be cute.  Accept that and know it’s totally ok.  During one of my runs this week, I was totally struggling.  It was just a tough day and I was hoping and praying no one say how I was pretty much dragging my steps during the last mile of the run.  NOT cute.  But, I know there would be days like that before I even started the process and I just accepted it….so I didn’t let that stop me.  I let it propel me toward what I’m headed toward…success in this area. What do you already know may be “ugly” about this process for you? Just put it out there so you know that you already knew it ahead of time and can’t use it as an excuse to quit.

4-Keep the “fox” in mind-the success, the “beauty” of the process. This is all about keeping the vision up front and close…really making it…well, real.  What do I mean by that?  Well, I am n where near being a “runner”, or the runner I want to be, I should say.  But, I’m much closer to it now than I was on day one of the process, and you better believe that every time I head out the door, with every step that hits the pavement, every breath I take to push just a little bit more, I’m envisioning myself at the finish line of some race-sometimes, another 5k, other times, yup, the Boston Marathon.  I know what my “fox” looks like.  What I look like as the “fox”.  In order to be able to get here, I had to think about what all of this was, again, before the activity part of process even began.   What’s your “fox”-The end game?   What do you look like at the end of the process?

5-Get ready, set, go!!!! All that’s left is to mentally prepare, set yourself up for the process, and go forth and conquer.  I had to get new sneakers and a few more workout pieces.  I had to also get the running app.  Then, I just had to get out there and go.  And guess what, that first day, it rained like crazy!!!!!  But I had determined the process, I made a commitment, I had envisioned success…so there was only one thing left to do…so, I did it…I went…and I’m still going!

So, how about you? Do tell.  What process are you going to commit to and begin accepting the “ugly” that may be involved, determining to move forward and keep going until you reach your goal….at least until you reach your goal?

Soundtrack of the week: Because you can’t rely on your momma for this one…and it’s just a really good song, Paramore’s Aint It Fun!

Living Fabulously Fierce Factor #40-Living Life to the Fullest II

There has been so much going on for me as of late, more than I’ve ever imagined, and I am totally overwhelmed with it all, in the most positive way possible! I have wanted to share so much and actually have too many drafts of LFF Factor #40 to count and it’s all because I’ve tried to capture my next “soundbite” as perfectly as possible. What I’ve learned in the drafting process is that sometimes, it just takes a bit of rambling to get out the message we intend, and it usually results in an even greater impact than we could have hoped. So, let’s just dive into living life to the fullest.

I think the first time I was cognizant of this message that we are all familiar with was in high school. For whatever reason, I just remember so many of the adults in my life at the time stressing the importance of seizing opportunities, living in each moment, appreciating the season…living life to the fullest. I can’t honestly say that I did anything different than what I would do, but I do remember being on highs all the time. The highs of

  • connecting with people
  • experiencing new things
  • always feeling out of my comfort zone but being motivated by that, and
  • daydreaming like mad about what was next!

So as I reflect back and simultaneously look at all that is in the here in now, many years after being that high school kid, I realize that that is really what living life to the fullest is all about…..

  1. Connecting with people: Anyone who knows me knows that I would literally talk to the wall if the wall would talk back. I’m a story seeker. I love learning about others’ experiences and hearing what their interests are. I often picture our lives as movie scenes interwoven through unexpected connections. I love it! It adds a lot of flavor to life and I wouldn’t change it for the world! So, consider how you connect with folks. No, I’m not saying you need to make friends with everyone who crosses your path, but I have found that just listening to any piece of someone else’s story that they’re willing to share and sharing what I’m comfortable sharing has always improved a moment, a day, a week….life.
  2. Experiencing new things: Man oh man has 2014 already shown me the benefit of this point. So far, I’ve spoken to three new audiences that I would never have imagined being able to, set the goal of just auditioning for a fabulous play and then actually got the role that I auditioned for, and then was in the play (still baffled and truly grateful), and just this past Friday, I did a 5k with my friend Alesha. Sometimes, I seriously sit back and think “Farah, seriously, you’re doing this?” And then, I’m totally stunned by what I’ve done that I never even thought of doing. Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “everything that is now possible was once thought impossible.” This has been enough motivation for me since my AP History Class with Mrs. Joseph junior year at Fontbonne Academy when I first came across this quote to be open to experiencing new things. This year has just been a more continuous revelation of that. So, what new things are you going to let yourself at least consider today?
  3. Stepping out of your comfort zone and being motivated by this: On some level this is a bit sick. I was just recounting to one of my peers at work that the reason that I took the job that I’m in now was because it actually scared the mess out of me. I’ve never operated in the space in which I’m in now and never had as high a level of accountability in such a senior role both locally and nationally. I “knew” that I didn’t have expertise to bring to the role but I also knew that that would be enough for me to be as driven and motivated to excel in it. The yielded results are beyond what I could have ever imagined. As I’m now getting comfortable, I know it’s time to start finding ways to get uncomfortable to maintain that drive. What’s your comfort zone? How are you going to get out of it and be motivated in the process.
  4. Daydreaming like mad: I have learned and experienced the power of visioning. Last year I was really diligent about taking golf lessons and one of the things I remember the most was how the coach would tell me to “take a practice swing every time, not just to practice but to picture the ball going exactly where you want it to go.” Every time I did that, the ball always went exactly where I wanted it to go….exactly!!! At the same time, I’m also seeing being in the role I’m in now as the result of daydreaming about being as successful as Claire Huxtable when I was eight years old…..about being on a stage when I was ten years old, even though I had to quit dancing because we just didn’t have the money to continue lessons, I just kept daydreaming about the stage, envisioning myself on it again…..about getting fit and focusing on being healthy and starting to get involved in more fitness-related activities even when I was the most out of shape in high school and not as involved in sports as I had been previously. And lo and behold 2014. Just yesterday I was coaching a client, “Rachel”, and she has had a goal of getting back into shape and being healthy. We didn’t start with what she would do today to start to get back on track. We started with “imagine what “Rachel” May 2015 looks like. Tell me about it.” As she started to daydream out loud, we acknowledged how much she liked that picture and she committed to that. Then we stepped back to determine today’s next step toward that. She’s taking her practice swings and I have no doubt her “ball” is going to land exactly where it needs to and I’m so excited about it. I belabor this particular point because I have experienced the power of it. So, what are you giving yourself the opportunity to daydream about?

I’d love to hear what you’ve got to share so much so that I’m still on a high from all the complimentary sessions I did last week that I’m offering one 30-minute complimentary session to the first person*to comment on any one of the four points that they’re going to commit to. Let me hear you!

Soundtrack of the Week: This was such a popular song during my high school years that it seems most appropriate here. Enjoy Green Day’s Time of Your Life

Bernier Brand Building: Phase 3- Self Distinction

Hello Hello, Friends!
Yes, yes, yes, it has indeed been a while!  While I wish I could simply say, ‘Well, I just chose to take the summer off,’ yeah not so much, and quite the contrary.  It’s been remarkably busy in the world of LFF!  A number of your have reached out with great questions and raised hands to “dig deeper” and I’ve actually had the opportunity to meet some of you…let me tell you, you LFF followers are pretty cool peeps.  I’ve also been working 1:1 with one person on the updated Bernier Brand Building curriculum and we’ve had a great time getting through all the phases.  That being said, I’m really looking forward to picking up right where we left off here on LFF and hoping you’re ready to get back in the branding game.

With that, where we landed last was our aspirational introductions…let me tell you, that really reset me ablaze with more focus on heading toward that intro.  I mean there’s been a lot of fruit already in the way of me setting action items for next steps including:

  • A few LFF Workshops being offered in Boston
  • Connecting with a local Stylist to do an event for entrepreneurs together
  • Identifying an organization that does mission trips and currently trying to set up a time with their founders so I can participate in a trip with them next year
  • Applying for a speaker role for the 2014 Phenomenal Women’s Conference
  • Upping my workout routines and watching what I eat (psst, clothes fitting better already)
  • Yup, even making moves on the man front and if things pan out well, I might just keep you in the loop on that too!

One outstanding item I do have is reconnecting with my high school, Fontbonne Academy.  I admit, I’ve been a really bad alum…no real connection but I’m going to get on it.

I share all of this because it’s time now to move on to the third phase, self-distinction.  This is all about focusing on legacy.  This might actually be the most critical phase of the personal brand building process because it is all about the footprint you’re intending to leave behind, the impact that you’re committed to having, the impression you want to have made that lives on in others-family, friends, admirers-long after you;’re gone.  It is completely tied to your purpose, to your reason for being in this world, the reason you’re still breathing…because you’re not done yet and the world still needs what you’ve got.

So, honing in on distinction, what is it that is unique about you?  While your momma was sure to tell you you were special, did you ever find out why…for you?  Now’s the time, yes, what makes you special.  What are your spotlight traits…the things that draw people to you and step aside from others?  Ultimately, what are three characteristics that set you apart from others?

And of course you’re doing all of this for you.  If you weren’t making this investment in yourself, for you, then I need you to go back to step one.  With that in mind, because I am one focused on service and helping others, of course the importance of being legacy focused in this phase is actually very inspiring to me.  So,

  • What is it that you know you’re meant to do here on this earth or in this season or at this time, whichever is easiest for you to answer in the here and now?
  • Who is it that you’re committed to making the world a better place for?
  • Who or what group is it that you want to feel the impact of what you do in the here and now so that when you’re gone they’ll be able to reap the benefits even more so?

Heavy, I know…soooo, that means it’s time to get back to work.  I’m not holding anything back at this point, so the bell has rung.  Time to get back in the ring and kick some destiny derrier.  It’s time for a new awakening and all it takes is you starting, just starting to put pen to paper on all of this.  #gettinginthegame

Soundtrack of the week: Beyonce’s “I Was Here”

Bernier Brand Building: Phase 2-Self Definition

Hope you’re enjoying this branding journey as much as I am.  I’ve been giving you quite a bit of “homework” and a number of you have let me know that’s it’s really helpful, so what choice do I have but to give you more!?!?!?  I kid, I kid…

So I trust that you’ve requested your feedback and as I’m still waiting for a few folks to get back to me, you’re probably waiting too.  I say for now, go with what you have.  A few of you have asked me to share more about myself on this platform, so, while I don’t find that to be the easiest thing for me, you know, talking about myself, I can appreciate that you want to know more about this F Bernier telling you to do this and do that.  So in true transparency, I’m going to share the feedback that I’ve gotten from my circle…the good, the not so good, and the ‘fine, I can take that’ feedback.

Below are the questions I suggested you go out with and the responses that I’ve got so far:

  • If you could only describe me in three words, what would those three words be?

                    §  Hardworking, Ambitious, Resilient

                    §  Determined, Smart, Focused 

  • What would you say is the absolute best thing about me?

                    §  You are such a great friend!  Always there when I need you 🙂

                    §  Your ability to balance (God, Family, Personal Goals and work)

  • What is the one characteristic about me that could be eliminated or improved?

                    §  Over-extending yourself/Over-booking yourself.  Sometimes it’s ok to just sit around and do nothing and not think.

                    §  You are already working on this- taking time for you 😀

  • What truly makes me unique from your perspective?
    • You are one of the most determined people I know.  You try to look at the bright side of everything so you don’t let anything stop you from achieving your goals. 
    • Your ability to see light/good/potential in others and to help guide them to see potential in themselves. You are not scared to call out someone who is living below excellence.
  • What do you think keeps me from being my very best?
    • Over-analyzing things (ahem, relationships).  Sometimes “it is what it is”.  It’s ok to follow your heart and gut even though sometimes they just don’t make sense especially when it comes to the matters of the heart.
    • I think you are striving and growing and therefore you are not kept from being your best.

Sooooo, yup that’s a little bit of me from my friends’ lens.  So grateful that I could give them extra homework and they actually did it!!!  Thanks KitKat and Erika!  As I get additional feedback, I’ll be sure to share.

The combination of this feedback and our answers to the first set of questions I shared with you…you know, the ‘Who am I’ questions, create a great start to just learning more about ourselves. See, now you have your own view and the view of others.  Honestly, the consistency across the board from my friends telling me to take more time for myself is very clear that, although I almost lost my mind two weekends ago because I had two full weekend days of absolutely nothing on the agenda,  I could benefit from doing more of that and just relaxing or not thinking…..it’s actually recharge time!  Feedback heard, received, and ready to apply.

Now moving into the assessments, I encouraged everyone to start with the Strengths Finder 2.0.  Where did I land with my Top 5 Themes?  So glad you asked!  Here goes:

  • Relator (Shocker!)
  • Individualization
  • Strategic
  • Ideation
  • Intellection

So spot on! I won’t dig too deeply into all of the points, but my top theme, Relator, points out that I

Enjoy close relationships with others, find deep satisfaction in working hard with friends to achieve a goal, am driven by my talents, have people usually turn to me for plainspoken, easy-to-understand explanations, welcome opportunities to spend time with friends who enjoy thinking about the future…”

So check out that description and go back to my friends’ feedback….see the alignment? I totally can’t deny any of it right?  This is so important because having all of this information helps me understand how I can bring who I cam to everything that I do and be the most effective in my life, both personally and professionally.  Now I’m really ready to engage in some self-definition.

Self-Definition

Don’t worry, I’m not going to over do it.  As I promised in the beginning.  I want us to take this proces slow so that we really do the full exercise of becoming and being our best.

Self-Definition is really all about taking everyhting you’ve just gone through, the self relfection, the review of your feedback and whatever skills insight you got through whichever assessment(s) you used and starting to determine how you want to show up and who you want to be.  This is not about building facades as someone once misinterpreted my passion around personal branding.  This is all about what part or parts of yourself you want to exude, consistently in the interactions you have with folks.  Remember, personal branding is all about building a reputation.  What is the reputation you want to build and how do you leverage what you’ve just learned about yourself to define that repuation and essentially define who you are.

So, to complete this process, we’re going to do a vision exercise.  Imagine: You’ve been nominated and selected by your friends and family to speak at your High School as an alum.  Graduation is two weeks away and the school administration has asked that you submit a bio that will be included in the commencement program and used to introduce you right before you speak.  DO NOT write this as you stand today.  DO write this to reflect the reputation that you want communicated.  For clarification purposes, I’ll share that I am currently coaching an Executive Assistant on her personal brand and she keeps identifying herself as “just an EA.”  So I’ve asked her to start practicing her intro as she’d like it to be and we will, over time, bring that reputation to life.  This week, just write the reputation through this exerise, and we’ll go from there.

Soundtrack of the week: I believe it was Malcolm X who said that “Man only swears when he doesn’t have the vocabulary to express himself.”  While I agree with this, I have to appreciate Jill Scott’s Womanifesto as in this song she is totally going through self-definition and I love it.  My apologies if it offends, but if you can appreciate the exercise, I think this is a great soundtrack for the week!  Enjoy!

Bernier Brand Building: Phase 1-Self Discovery (Continued)

Hello Hello!!!

I hope you’ve all been doing well!  I gave you a little extra time to answer the questions I listed for you in the last post.  At this point, you’ve gotten closer to the answer to the question “Who Am I?”.  I trust that you’ve done some inward digging to better understand who you are, where you come from, what makes you tick, what makes you sick, and glimpses of what makes you fabulously fierce.  So now, it’s time to delve into part two of the self-discovery phase: Leveraging people and tools to identify key components of who you are.

I actually started to do a little bit of this, this week, with the team of the UK’s Unleash, with members in their UK and Barcelona offices.  It was amazing.  Honestly, watching folks go through this process is totally my high.  So, I’m absolutely looking forward to you doing the same!

Jumping right in…

Leveraging People:

When I talk about this, what I mean is really going out and getting feedback from those in your circle.  I never get tired of highlighting my circle…let me tell you, I’ve got some pretty amazing individuals in my life who will always tell me when I’m doing well, when  I’m not doing so hot, and when I absolutely need to get my act together and get back on the fabulously fierce track!  Love them love them love them love them love them.  Yup, if I’m ever messing up, just reach out to the Aundrea Cline-Thomases and the Veronica Chapmans of my world, just to name a couple,let them know, and they’ll get on me.

Believe it or not, you’ve got your own Aundreas and Veronicas in your life.  They may not be as bold to give you feedback, even when you’re not asking for it, like these two, but you’ve got them.  What you may need to do is reach out and give them permission to give you feedback.  What do I mean?  Well, it’s really simple.  Just go out, let them know you’re actively working on your brand, investing the time and energy in yourself in this way and you need their help…their candid, open, honest help.  Then, just ask:

  • If you could only describe me in three words, what would those three words be?
  • What would you say is the absolute best thing about me?
  • What is the one characteristic about me that could be eliminated or improved?
  • What truly makes me unique from your perspective?
  • What do you think keeps me from being my very best?

Yup, seriously, go out and get it. AND DO ONLY THAT.  DO NOT:

  • React positively or negatively
  • Ask any probing questions…not yet.

This will help you avoid the chance that you might roll your eyes, suck your teeth, or give the head roll in response to any feedback your don’t necessarily agree with.  C’mon, you know how some of us can get.

Then, while your friends, coworkers, mentors, your mom (only ask her if she’s like mine and will totally tell you the truth, not just say “oh baby you’re perfect the way you are”) your siblings, your boo…etc, are pulling their thoughts together for you, I need you to dig deeper into your own personal skills and capabilities leveraging some assessments.

Leveraging Assessments:

Some folks get leary of assessments or just freak out because they think it’s about exposing things in them.  To that I put forth a REMINDER: in this phase you’re just focusing in on increasing your self-awareness….assessments help do that.

In the world of assessments and inventories, there really are so many that you can take that are credible.  The most commonly used one is the Myers-Briggs indicator which just highlights how you see the world.  In addition to this one, I’ve also taken the Whole Brain, True Colors, DiSC and Strengths Finder Assessments.  I’ve been fortunate enough to work for various organizations that covered the cost of these.  While I always encourage personal investment, I always support doing so strategically..ie finding ways to avoid having to pay directly out of pocket.  That being said there are enough assessments out there that won’t cost you too much and are still quite valuable.  So, I’m going to ask that you go out and pick up the book, Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath.  It includes a unique access code for you to take the Strengths Finder 2.0 Assessment and gives you access to the website where you can dig deeper into understanding what your resulting strengths say about you.  Do it, do it, do it.  When we come back to this, I’ll share mine….I’d love it if you’d share yours and then we’ll move into how we can leverage the feedback you get from your circle and the results of your assessment to start the second phase of self-definition.

Since we’re all in the process of just getting better and better and watching things get, as my Pastor would say, “gooder and gooder,” I hope you know that truly your best days are ahead of you.  So with that, this week’s soundtrack is Tamela Mann’s Best Days, which also happens to be the adopted theme song of Living Fabulously Fierce!  Enjoy!

Living Fabulously Fierce: Bernier Brand Building Process Kick-Off

Hello Hello!

As I write from my kitchen table this morning, I am in such a good mood (shocker)…birds are chirping, the sun is shining, summer is definitely pressing through and this New Englander is definitely looking forward to it!  I hope you’ve got a few things that have you in just as great a mood or even better than mine today.

So, it is finally time….we are going to shift gears from our living fabulously fierce factors to kicking into the personal branding process based on a model that I’ve established. This model is what I use to coach folks during one on one sessions and in delivering workshops.  My curriculum is used to facilitate dialogue, increase awareness and build accountability within groups.  Usually, my challenge is that because I am so passionate about this topic and the process of personal brand building, I always feel slighted on time because I could literally talk about this 24/7…no really!  Here however we’ll get to go at a steady pace that really allows us to break all of this down together.  To really make the most of this, what I will stress is that just as with anything else, what you put into this is what you’ll get out of it.

While there are absolutely no prerequisites here, as there will be regular “assignments” and challenges, I do have three things to ask of you:

  1. Get a journal/notebook that you can use for you “Personal Brand Building Journey”.  If you’d rather just type it up somewhere and save it, totally fine.
  2. Commit to the process.  Slate one hour a week to work on your personal brand, leveraging what we go through here and actually do the work.  Consider it your investment in you.
  3. Bring someone along.  Tell a friend about what we’re engaging in together here and ask them to join you by following the blog and both of you connecting once a week to discuss.
  4. ASK ASK ASK ASK ASK ASK ASK QUESTIONS.  The personal branding process is not difficult at all, but it requires time and a willingness to raise your hand to dig deeper on different aspects.  Shoot me your dig deeper questions and I’ll absolutely address them.  Think about it, if you have the question, I’m sure at least, at least, five others do too.  Do them a favor and be the brave one, the distinct one, and ask the question.

Cool?  Cool!  Ready….set….let’s brand!

So, really simple point to address this week…..What is personal branding?

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Often times when people hear this question, immediately they think of celebrities and creating a package to present to the world, maybe even an image that may not necessarily be authentic but that is created to meet a perceived need.  To be clear, let’s start by taking  it to the basics…..what is a brand?

We know Nike, Starbucks, Target, Tahari, The Cheesecake Factory, Burberry, Dunkin’ Donuts….I could keep going, but essentially, these are all brands representing products that, whether we favor them or not, they have a place in our minds around what they are and what they stand for…for us.  I really like Chernatony and McDonal’s definition of what a brand is:

 An identifiable product, augmented in such a way that the “buyer” perceives relevant, unique added values which match stated needs most closely.

This points out two key things about any brand:

  1. It has to be identifiable
  2. It has to be augmented, positioned stand out if you will, in a way that the buyer feels like that brand meets her needs better than any other brand out there.

Soooooo, can’t this be transferred to a persona brand?  Um yuppers!

PAUSE: Please note, I’m NOT equating us to products….YOU ARE NOT TO LOOK AT YOURSELF AS A PRODUCT!  What we are all to do though is own how we are identified, how much we stand out from the rest, and what needs we’re interested in meeting in this world, and do that as best we can, better than any others who can do exactly what we can do.  That’s all!

So, the Bernier definition of a personal brand is:

The reputation of an individual that keeps them top of mind for those in their networks and positions them as the main point of influence as it relates to any area of expertise in which they’ve built credibility!

 Here are a few examples of personal brands:

  • Bill Cosby-Dad, comedian and expert on the funniest things kids say
  • Anderson Cooper- Diligent fact-finder with eloquent presentation skills that facilitates knowledge sharing.
  • Oprah Winfrey-Wealth, power, life-long learner and committed teacher
  • Beyonce Knowles-Musical powerhouse
  • Michelle Obama-Fabulously fierce, brilliant, educated role-model, First Lady, wife and mother…FLOTUS

I’m already getting brand happy so I’m going to stop myself here and ask you to do a few things this week:

  1. Without doing any informal research, describe what you believe is your current personal brand in at least five sentences.  Essentially, how do you think you’re perceived and what do you think you’re known for?
  2. At this stage, why is personal branding important…to YOU?  What’s the value here for you?
  3. By the end of the personal brand building process, what do you want to have accomplished?

You are kicking things off here and I want to congratulate you for taking the first step!  You’re making a commitment that a lot of us don’t make until we’ve made some significant faux pas and find ourselves in branding recovery mode.  Hate to go here but remember Lance Armstrong, Serena Williams?  So at this point, consider yourself a fireball, just lighting up and well on your way!  Looking forward to continuing this process with you!

Soundtrack of the week: Willow Smith’s Fireball

Living Fabulously Fierce Factor #21: Embracing Family, Friendship, and Fellowship

So, when we last connected, I shared that we would be kicking off the Personal Branding series as the next step in our Living Fabulously Fierce journey.  While I am still super excited about us delving into that, I wanted to take a moment to pause in the light of the events that took place in Boston over the past week.

As of last Monday, post the bombing at our 117th Boston Marathon, the spirit of the city was definitely more withdrawn and actually, on some level even just imperceiveable…as if there wasn’t even a spirit at all.  It was really weird getting off the train at South Station and walking through street corners of cops and SWAT team members…sitting in my office full of accountants in the midst of busy season and it being even quieter than usual…then at the end of the week having the city literally on lockdown…feeling like a caged bird with my fellow Bostonians.

In the midst of it all though quite a few things have come to light…

Boston is made up of communities committed to each other, of people who will fight for each other and our city, and maintains a resilience, really a relentlessness in fighting for what’s right like none other.  Of course, I am biased but what shown bright this week was the respect and honor that the rest of the world actually has for this city in recognition of our founding fathers, and the impressive people, entrepreneurs, citizens who make up what is current day Mass.

Our President and First Lady came this week to address what had happened and pray for the folks who were lost and injured.

There was much that was said and so much honor that resonated I really was just overwhelmed, positively, by it all.  As it relates to living fabulously fierce, The President highlighted what Marathon Monday is really all about which is what brings me to LFF Factor #21: Embracing family, friendship and fellowship.

At one point during his address at the Interfaith Service on Thursday, President Obama said

 “And every third Monday in April, you welcome people from all around the world to the Hub for friendship and fellowship and healthy competition — a gathering of men and women of every race and every religion, every shape and every size; a multitude represented by all those flags that flew over the finish line.”

The line about friendship and fellowship really stuck out for me and I don’t think it was just because it shared the same alliteration as Fabulously Fierce.  There was just something about that that gave me pause….friendship, fellowship.  There is just something about all of that that really serves as a call for embrace.  How many of us, often times when things are difficult, withdraw and just try to figure things out on our own?  How many of us are so limited by our inability to trust that we limit our circle of friends?  How many of use think of fellowship as just that “church thing” that we don’t really want to engage in?  I learned this week that there are so many of us that actually fall amongst those in these categories, if not 100% at least just a bit.  This week however, Bostonians didn’t allow each other to go there.  As a matter of fact, the rest of the country didn’t even allow us to go there.  I never thought I’d see the day where we’d get so much love from our brethren in New York, Chi-Town, Philly etc etc.  We were called to embrace if you will, our friends, and welcome the much-needed fellowship both live and virtual.

As an Eagle, “For Boston”, our fight song and hit by the Dropkick Murphys, resonates with me on so many levels.

I was reminded this week that I was a student on the campus of Boston College at the time of 9/11 and it was actually the first time that I really understood the line of that song that says “for here all our one and our hearts are true.”  This week, looking at the love across the city, throughout our state, and pouring in from all over, I was reminded, that here, on this earth, that indeed, here all are one and our hearts are true.

And so this week, I dare you to challenge yourself to embrace, family, friendship and fellowship, not only to receive, but to pour out from your own heart in a way that reflects the love we’re all suppose to exhibit for each other, not just in times of trial and testing, but in every cherished day that we blessed to live.

Fabulous week ahead my friends!

Soundtrack of the week: For Boston, by Dropkick Murphys

Living Fabulously Fierce Factor #20-Making Decisions You Can Live With

Hello Hello My Fellow Fabulously Fierce!

I have had an incredible weekend so I am on an incredible high yet incredibly fatigued!  If only I had the super power of never needing sleep!!!  Ah well.

One of my weekend activities included participating in the Babson College Black Affinity Conference!  It was great!  Friday’s segment involved a great discussion around Black hair.  Gennifer Miller of Healthy Textures, Shariffa Barnett Author of 5 Hair Archetypes, and Dr. Tina Opie who I wish was a professor when I was there, were incredible panelists! The session was slated as a two-hour conversation, which went on for three and it only ended because security had to shut the building down…and couldn’t do so with the 50 or so women in attendance still in the building.  All this being said, this is not a post on Black hair…I’m sure one day soon that will be a topic for us here in some form or fashion, but what everything boiled down to in Friday’s discussion was nothing more than decisions and the ability to make and own your life choices…whether it has to do with hair or, what I’d like to really broaden it to, the various life choices we all have to make.

We’ve spent a lot of time here at LFF addressing the aspect of vision.  Many of you have actually taken my recommendations to illustrate your vision, prayerfully sought the wisdom to know which steps to take, and actually started to take some major steps.  I love hearing from you about what’s new and exciting in your lives in the way of being the fabulously fierce individuals that you are.  This bring me to the point of free will.

When thinking of free will, we can absolutately take it “old school” if you want and in my case, that would be first communion class in the second grade where I learned that God gave us all free will (I still get hung up on Adam and Eve…really, you just had to have that apple?).  Truly, free will is actually power.  Really, pause for one minute and just think about that….try, just try to grasp that The Most Omnipotent Soveriegn Being, The One who made you…in His likeness and image…in the face of wanting you to be every bit like Him, gave you and I the power to decide what we would do in this life and what we would not do!  That’s some serious power given to us.

The thing about power though is whatever we do with it, by way of choice and decision, we actually have to be able to live with the decisions we make as well as the impact.  Now I’ve worked in corporate environments my entire career and I will tell you, a career limiting move I’ve observed in many is consistently failing to just make a decision.  I would submit that people are actually not afraid to make decisions, they are actually afraid to have to deal with any repercussions of the decisions made…even if the impct is good!  Let me clarify with an example: A young woman recently shared with me that she was trying to determine whether or not to apply for an opportunity in an area of business in which she has absolutely no experience.  I NEVER see that as a limitation by the way, but definitely more of an opportunity to highlight a different lens…take a look at my career…half my jobs I’ve really had no business being in if we were going by experience…but I digress.  So, this young lady spent 15 minutes walking me through the ‘what ifs’….you know…

  • What if I apply and I don’t get it?
  • What if they see my resume and think I’m crazy for applying?
  • What if…yada yada yada

All to which I said…”and what if you apply, and it actually works out?”  Her response: “But then I’d have to move and leave all my friends behind” etc etc etc.  See the reality is, she didn’t want to make a decision that might just cause her to have to live with the need to deal with change, and make new friends, and get accustomed to a new city…the list goes on.

Another example?  Sure…and of course this one has to do with a boy 🙂  So, another youg women recently shared that she was in a relationship with a young man who she knew just was not for her.  She waited for months but finally broke it off, very maturely I might add, and let brother man go.  And she is totally ok with her decision.  Totally ok with it.  This doesn’t mean it didn’t hurt and her heart didn’t have to go through the breaking we are all too familiar with.  It just means, she made the decision that she could actually live with.

Here’s the deal, every day we make decisions.  I had the pleasure of meeting an incredible decision maker this weekend in Dr. Tina Opie.  She is a  model of confidence in who she shares who she is, even in just introducing herself, which involves highlighting some life decisions shes’ made.  She left an impression on all who were in her presence that she is totally ok with who she is because she makes decisions that she can live with.  Now does this mean we are not to make mistakes? ABSOLUTELY NOT!  What it does mean is that  because I know who I am, I will make decisions that are best for me, more often than not, positively impacts those around me, and even when I don’t make the “best” decisions, the consequences don’t impact others or myself in a way that is detrimental.  What does this boil down to…branding…personal branding.

So, here’s my assignment for you this week:

Think about what three factors play the most significant role for you in guiding the deicisions you make every day.  For me, mine are that

  • I am a Christian woman guided by Christian principles, the most important, being the love of everyone around me/treating everyone as I would want to be treated
  • I am focused on legacy, seeking to leave a positive impact not only in the world in the future, but in my day-to-day and the people I interact with every day
  • I extend my vision from the here and now and into what I believe will be my future, not limiting my dreams and aspirations by the limitations of my current wallet, status in life, etc

Once you identify your three, post them on your mirror (feel free to share here too via comments) where you can see them every day while brushing your teeth (yes, I just made a decision for you…if you are not brushing your teeth every day…YOU WILL START NOW), and remind yourself every morning that whatever decisions you make, they will be guided by these three important aspects of who you are.

Agan, there will be mistakes, but the decision-making process, leveraging the free will that you have, is a process nonetheless, and so makes it ok.

Soooo, next steps here on LivingFabulouslyFierce is delving into the personal branding space moving forward.  Get ready to be introduced, and for some of you reintroduced, to the Bernier Brand Building process of self-discovery definition and distinction.  Get ready get ready get ready.

Soundtrack of the week: Damita’s, No Looking Back