Living Fabulously Fierce SPOTLIGHT:  The Fabulously Empowered…

Kai Y. Lopes-Stovell

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Senior Hair Stylist/Educator/Image Consultant

What does Living Fabulously Fierce Mean to You? To me, living fabulously fierce is all about learning to live each day to my fullest.  As stated in the LFF mission and description, it is the same for me-I live each day trying to inspire women and young girls around me.  Each day, I am determined to help women own their beauty.  While in my day to day this is usually in the form of their hair, for me it is much deeper than their hair and that is why, no matter the age, we talk about diet, spiritual health and of course that is connected to the best hair you can have. I want my clients and the young women in my life to walk away from me changed from the inside out.  It is my mission to elevate women and girls confidence permanently!

If you had to describe your brand in three words, what would those three words be?

This is such a hard question.  I would choose so many words to answer this, but

the top 3 are ministry, authentic and empowered. I have been given the power and abilities to encourage women and I can’t do that without including GOD, who has saved me.  Small discussions about having faith, and accepting the beauty that was GOD-given are just snippets of our talks.  My approach is what allows women to feel empowered to attack and conquer the next task, or negative mindset with courage and confidence.

I am authentic about who I am and where I’ve been and what I’m still working on.  This makes the women I speak to feel as if they can face their challenges and not be ashamed of what their past and present are made of.  The future is a few minutes from that moment and can be different.  I’m vulnerable so that they can see we all have a testimony and sharing it can facilitate change in others!

How are you intentional about your personal brand? Each day, I have to pray, meditate, love me intentionally and faithfully.  The intent is always there to do that, but the consistency is difficult and has to be done or I move further away from my goals. Loving me, allows me to love my clients and young women in my life more intently as well.  I also do small things like compliment women every day, smile and say hello to women passing just to set an example.  I intentionally try to look the part of a stylist, dressed well, just enough make-up, great accessories, and of course my hair is always done or that would be an incredibly mixed message.

How do you live it? 

I pray, workout, meditate and live intentional to my purpose.  I try to not let the small things change the course of my day.  I try not to let ANYone or ANYthing steal my joy and change my course for the day ahead.

If there is anything you could do to either reinforce or enhance your brand, what would that be?

Wow, absolutely!!!! That is like an essay question. Haha.  I would love to own my own salon which would be all about building my brand and reaching the masses of women I dream of reaching! That is coming!!!

Greatest accomplishment?

My greatest accomplishment is still yet to come!  I’m happy to share that I am pregnant and GOD-willing, my pregnancy is a healthy one and goes to full term, and a baby is born, he/she will be my greatest accomplishment thus far.  Next on that list is definitely opening my own salon and growing from there.

Biggest Challenge that you’ve overcome?

My biggest challenge thus far has been learning to truly love myself physically, no matter my size.  Loving me and all GOD has placed in me that HE didn’t put in anyone  else.  Believing how uniquely I was created and not comparing myself to anybody else!

Interesting Fact/Interests/Hobby/Something you think the LFF World to Know: My

favorite pastimes are singing, working out, cooking and spending time with my husband!  Singing is something that frees my soul and causes people to listen when I open my mouth.  It’s a blessing from GOD.  Working out is an absolute in life, to feel good and live the best life I can.  Cooking is also therapeutic, and I love challenging myself with new healthy recipes.  And last, but never least, I love spending time with the best friend GOD created for me! He is the best ending to my day!

How do you recommend other women stay true to themselves and live their authentic personal brand? Never stop learning who you are and embracing it.  Love yourself more each day and smile at challenges.  Pray, and be grateful for all you have and believe more is on the way. Don’t allow naysayers to deter you and be compassionate to those who are lost and trying to figure out so many things you already have!

What advice do you have for young girls, our up and coming fabulously fierce, around being their best selves or anything you’d like to share with them in particular?

When I speak to young women and girls, I see myself.  That automatically gives me a level of compassion that reaches the true depths of my heart.  I want them to know that the greatest power is loving yourself as you are! No one can take that from you, so you have to learn to take the best steps in choosing friends, food and fun!  Make those times help uplift them and change them positively.  If they have more moments like that then, the possibilities of living fabulous fierce are so  much greater!

One of my favorite love thyself quotes is “To love yourself as you are is a miracle, and to seek yourself is to have found yourself. For now. And now is all we have, and love is who we are.” -Anne Lamott

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Living Fabulously Fierce SPOTLIGHT:The Fabulously ‘On Purpose’…

KAREN HINDS

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 Leadership Mentor for Milennials

So we’re still preparing for our March Spotlight Campaign, accepting submissions and nominations but we just couldn’t wait to start sharing some of the wisdom and insight already coming in to Living Fabulously Fierce from you incredible women-10 women already confirmed for next month!  So we’re giving you just a bit of what all of March will have in store.  Enjoy our Spotlight on Karen Hinds this week!!!!!

What does Living Fabulously Fierce Mean to You? Living fabulously fierce means living with purpose…with purpose and having fun.

If you had to describe your brand in three words, what would those three words be? Why?   

  1. Risk taker-If I have an idea, I just go after it!
  2. Excellence-I make sure to do everything with excellence for myself, for my clients and family.
  3. Fun-well, you have to enjoy life!!!

How are you intentional about your personal brand? I set regular dates with “thinking time”.  This is time during which I simply sit down on a regular basis and evaluate myself on how I’m doing, what I’m doing, and being accountable to myself around asking  “am I living according to my personal and professional goals . Honestly, I am constantly evaluating  myself overall, and  specifically, my brand.

How do you live it?  I’ve started my business, started conferences internationally, written a book all in the face of inexperience.  In terms of fun, I am veeeeery fun.  At home, we’re constantly laughing and pranking each other.  In terms of excellence, I take my work very seriously.  I truly believe, how you do anything is how you do everything. This doesn’t mean I get it right all the time, but believe me, I try.

If there is anything you could do to either reinforce or enhance your brand, what would that be?   Focus on visibility.  I think everyone who experiences my brand really enjoys it, but I’ve got to extend the exposure of it.

What would you say has been your greatest accomplishment?  I can only pick one?  Ok…I would absolutely say my family.  See, once you have that, you can duplicate the beauty and benefit of it into anything else.  I’ve been married 20 years and my son is 16.  I am really proud of all of that.

Biggest Challenge that you’ve overcome?  So, I’m a risk taker and I’ll do whatever I believe needs to be done. That being said, the truth of the matter is there is always this little nagging voice that gets me, just like everyone else, that tries to get me to second guess myself and all that I’m doing.  So, this actually isn’t the biggest challenge that I’ve overcome but it is the biggest challenge that I’m constantly overcoming.  I intentionally try to limit the power of that voice and make sure I don’t set limitations for myself.  It’s an ‘in progress’ overcoming.

Interesting Fact/Interests/Hobby/Something you think the LFF World to Know.  I love food, so the most interesting food I’ve eaten were grasshoppers….It was a crunchy dish.

Tell me about Brand Karen Hinds as Living Fabulously ‘On Purpose’.  When you hit 44 you realize you just move and live for you and what you want.  I just live on purpose and don’t waste any time.

How do you recommend other women stay true to themselves and live their authentic personal brand?   Women first have to get to know themselves because we throw around the word brand and people really don’t know who they are.  It’s like setting someone in the kitchen, telling them to make something, and they don’t even know what ingredients they have in the kitchen to use.  So know yourself, define you, and then live authentically because you already know who and what you are.  Then you’re no longer trying to be something or someone that you think someone else wants you to be, but instead you’re choosing to live on purpose.

What advice do you have for young girls, our up and coming fabulously fierce, around being their best selves or anything you’d like to share with them in particular?  Open your mind, guard yourselves, your emotional selves, ask questions and always ask for help… always.

Living Fabulously Fierce Factor #54-Choosing and Being Confident

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!   2015 has definitely gotten off to an incredible start for LFF and I’m super excited about all that is in store for all of us moving forward.  It’s interesting.  It’s been a few weeks, and I hope you’ve missed our “catch-ups” here as much as I’ve missed writing.  Jumping right in, I’d really like to hone in on the factor of choosing and being confident.

As I said, 2015 has gotten off to an incredible start with a number of calls for me to represent Living Fabulously Fierce at different conferences, women’s groups, and high school programs.  I’m now booked  with different events through November…and we’re not even yet through January!!!!  #SuperExcited!!!!  That being said, what the requestors would really like me to drive home on given the needs of their audiences, especially with groups of high school girls, consistently, across the board, I continue to hear the desperation in others’ voice around the confidence factor for women and girls.  It’s as if they’re asking , “You know, if you could come with a few confidence pills that would solve everything an then you can continue with the LFF Branding Process you coach on.”  Now here’s the reality, is going to take more than a workshop, a coaching session, and or a loving conversation for those close to us to really get us to the level of confidence that we are all seeking in our professional and personal development.  That being said, it all boils down to steps and practice.  It truly ties back to the Bernier Brand Building Model of self-discovery, self-definition and self-distinction….the steps really, and putting into practice the self-awareness gained, and commitment to believing that you are worth the confidence you are welcomed to and should walk in.  So with that, how can you not love this quote from Miss Gabourey?!?!?!

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I’m not going to sit here and try to sell you on a roadmap, prescription, or step-by-step process to building and having self-confidence.  What I am compelled to do, though, is stress, and remind you how important it is to understand that confidence tarts with one simple step: Giving yourself the gift of confidence in being whatever it is you want to be.  Deciding to be beautiful, smart, witty, intelligent, remarkable, outstanding, remarkable, truly one-of-a-kind, sanctified, blessed beyond measure, unique, valuable, gifted, anointed, amazing, fabulous, fierce……you name it!  Decide what it is, whatever it is.  Accept that it and you are more than enough.  Honor yourself and that decision of what and who you are. Then, after you’ve decided, just be…..and be happy with who it is, what it is, that you’ve decided to be as confidently as you will allow yourself to be!

Soundtrack of the week: Angie Stone’s I’m so Happy Being  Me.

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

Living Fabulously Fierce Factor #19-Keeping Your Faith without Fear

CAUTION: Spiritual content ahead.  Brace for blessing and impact!

Happy Easter!!!  I hope your Resurrection Sunday has gotten off to fabulous start!  Easter happens to be my favorite holiday for many reasons but the most important being it is a reminder, for me, of the importance of faith.

I identify faith as it is defined in Hebrews 11:1

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”

Someone recently asked me how do I stay so hopeful and happy about everything when I don’t have everything I would like in my life.  I quickly added, “yet…..I don’t have it all, yet,” and explained that I really do believe that what I am seeking and aspire for is in line with what God has for me and as a result, it’s just a matter of time before it comes to pass.  That being said, I do have a confidence in what I hope for, an assurance in what I do not see.  This is what it means to have faith without fear.  Essentially, I have a vision, am definitely a praying woman who seeks wisdom in everything, and I don’t let circumstances or changing life seasons determine my level of faith in the vision that I have.  Simply put, there is so much good that I what to do in this world- sooooooooooooooooo much-and my vision incorporates so much that in order for me not to focus on current limitations, I have to pray and seek the wisdom needed to take the right steps toward this vision.  Most importantly though, I’ve got to maintain a confidence in the things that I hope for that is not stirred by wind (challenges), rain (moments of frustration), or any distracting “noise” (those to my left and my right who may not be able to see what I see and therefore not be able to support, and actually detract, unintentionally or otherwise).

That being said, my hope for you today is that you will

1-Take the time to consider your vision.

If you’ve been with me since the vision board exercise early on, (LFF#2) go back to that.  Remember how I stressed just laying things out not worrying about what might not “make sense”?

  • What were you able to depict for yourself as a result of taking the limits off of your own thinking?
  • Have things changed?
  • If you’ve minimized your vision, why?

If you haven’t laid out your vision, ok I’m going to be a little tough here…chop chop! If you’ve expanded your vision, fabulous!

2-Seek the wisdom to determine what next steps are needed to get closer to realizing your vision.

Be open to the fact that wisdom may actually require that you sit still for a bit.  This is the place in which I currently am, and am actually baffled.  See, we live in a society in which we’re taught that to “get, get, get we’ve got to do, do, do” and often times this only results in a whirlwind/hamster wheel effect.  You know, going around in circles and not making any progress whatsoever.  Sometimes, to make progress, we really may need to just sit still or keep moving, but just a bit slower than we’d like, all for the purpose of making sure any moves are actually in the right direction.

3-Maintain your faith without fear.

I’m a big believer that life is all about seasons.  There’s an old adage that if you’re going through something right now, know that you’re just a breath away from coming out of it…and if you haven’t gone through something, brace yourself because you’re going to need your strength as you’ll more than likely be going through something of your own very shortly.  C’est la vie.  That being said, maintaining your faith without fear and with strength requires that you maintain a “seasons perspective” while also maintaining a level of faith that is not shifted by the ups and downs of the life.

Happy Easter folks!  Get your vision on! Maintain your faith!  Let go of fear!

Sound track of the week: Mary Mary’s I Just Can’t Give Up Now

Living Fabulously Fierce Factor #18-Surrounding Yourself with Good Company

Of all the things that may change in life, a few key things remain the same, including the fact that some days are easy and some are hard, but with good company, it can all be pretty fabulous!

When it comes to good company, I am truly blessed beyond measure!  I’ve got some pretty remarkable people in my life that I truly count as blessings, gifts really, because I never once asked for them and here they all are, playing a role in Farah Inc.  That being said, there are a few key things that are common of those I keep company with that I think are pretty important for all of us.  These include,

1-We’re friends, not because we’re perfect, but indeed in spite of our imperfections.

Not a single one of us is perfect in any way, shape or form.  We’re just right, the way that we are, in whatever season that we’re in, always growing and developing.  But perfect, nope, not one of us.  True friends are those who can look at you and appreciate all that you are and all that you’re becoming with a love for you despite the fact that they know you’ll never be perfect, whatever that may mean anyway.

2-We have real expectations of each other. 

My friend Ivy and I were chatting once about some of the “interesting” people that we come across in this life.

Ivy and I with Zo! from Foreign Exchange

Ivy and I with Zo! from Foreign Exchange

And when I say interesting, I mean….you know…hmmm, how do I say this…well, the folks who if someone gave you the option of either hanging out with for five minutes or running a marathon on a blistering hot day, well you’d go and get your sneakers and start running.  And know that all of us are that “interesting” person for at least one person in this world at one point or another.  It’s all good.  Anyway, I digress…Ivy and I were chatting about one of her “interestings” and she said, “I knew we really couldn’t be friends because she just had absolutely no expectations of me.”  What this was really all about was the fact that this individual did not hold Ivy accountable to be the best Ivy she could be.  She and I on the other hand, however, we have “best-self” expectations of each other and really won’t let the other slip too far from meeting that expectation.

3-We know when to heavy-handed and when to be heavy-hearted, maintaining a balance of both.  

Sometimes, I really have a hard time with this one because don’t we all just want a hug or someone to tell us, “everything’s going to be ok” or “oh, you’ll be alright, you’ll be fine”?  As much of a tough cookie as I can be, sometimes, I really want 90% heavy-hearted and 10% heavy-handed and all I get is the exact opposite…because that’s actually just what I need and fortunately my friends often know better than me.  I will definitely say no one in the Farah Bernier Circle will ever baby her.  What I am grateful for though is that I am never at a loss of the needed “I need you to get your act together” or the needed “I’m so sorry, I’ll bring over some dessert and we’ll cry this one out or just watch a good movie.”

4-Through it all is love

Speaking of good movies, I recently saw Tyler Perry’s I Can Do Bad All By Myself again

and at one point Mary J. Blige’s character sings

“I don’t need no one to put me down, I’m on the ground can’t get no lower. And I don’t need no one to hang around an make me frown…”

I think this points to the fact that the best thing for all of us from the company we keep is love. This makes me think of Job, let me tell you, if I’m ever where he was, I’m pretty certain I don’t need anyone in my crew like the friends he had.  They didn’t show him love.  It was really all about pity and the perspective that he must’ve done something wrong to warrant him going through what he was experiencing.  Job needed love and he didn’t get as much as he needed.  Again, grateful that even if they needed to give me a swift kick in the pants, no matter what, it would be in love.

This week, I’m actually going to write, yes actually write a few cards to those in my company just to let them know they’re appreciated and that when it comes right down to it, although I am soooo not a mushy person, yup, I love them.

So, as for you, are you keeping good company? Do the folks in your circle add,
encourage, enlarge your territory, love and have expectations of you? Do they have the same expectation of you and how are you measuring up to that expectation?  Are you sowing into their lives as they are yours?  Answer these questions, just for you.  Finally, this week, in whatever way you choose, reach out to at least three people in your circle with a simple “Hey, you’re pretty fabulous and I’m grateful for you.”

Soundtrack of the week: Mary J. Blige’s I Can Do Bad All By Myself

Living Fabulously Fierce Factor #17-Never Wilting Under Mischaracterization

“If you know who you are, then what somebody calls you is just so irrelevant…  If I wilted every time somebody in my life mischaracterized me or called me a bad name, I never would have accomplished all that I have to date.  You know who you are, so whatever anybody else says is just interesting fodder.” ~Michelle Obama, 2008 Essence Interview

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I could just stop right there, huh?  How fabulous is she?!?!

Jumping right in, I’m pretty sure all of us have heard some things about ourselves from others that took us by surprise.  I know I definitely have.  Fortunately, 99% of the folks in my life are those who I can truly have a heart to heart with when things like this come up and what it usually boils down to is almost always misunderstanding.  This really takes a good level of self-assuredness and confidence.  It’s often so much easier to just sit in hurt over what others say about us, especially when it comes to the situations in which it’s the 1% who are actually just talking to talk….it happens.  It takes strength not to wilt and stay focused on what you know about who you are.

So, by now you’ve probably guessed it.  The most critical aspect to not wilting under mischaracterization knowing thyself.  This week we’re going to focus on a few self-reflective questions around this.  Get the journals out folks.

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1-What two most valuable truths do you truly know about you, that no one can every persuade you otherwise on?

2-What about yourself are you most sensitive about?

3-How do you usually most productively get over hurt?

4-Who is your ace-someone (s) you can go to and totally pour out without any fear of judgment or any other potential consequence.

Because I’m all about modeling the behavior I expect of others…here goes…

1-First, every day I am focused on being the very best me that I can be and living a life that is honorable based on my Christian values.  Second, I have a heart that extends to others in their pain and genuinely celebrate with them in their joy! (Ummmm, did I mention Dre got an Emmy!!!!! That Dionna is on a cruise with her mom this week!!!! And I’m not ashamed to say that there have been moments that I’ve actually clapped for the Jeopardy winner!!!)

2-Ugh so let me explain this one (already sounds like defense doesn’t it) so, I am totally ok with being single…for now as I do look forward to being in a relationship but trust, I am thoroughly enjoying this season.  HOWEVER, over the past few weeks, too many people have been asking me the question “so why are you single.”  The woman who threads my eyebrows even asked me, “Why you don’t have husband….you don’t like men?”  Really? And….oh if you knew the stories that are getting back to me about why I’m single…from folks who don’t even know me…it’s nuts!!! Kinda funny at times. So yes, as that itty bitty rant shows, today, in this season, that’s what I’m most sensitive about, not because it is my season, but because of others’ assessment of it.

3-The way I most productively get over hurt is to have a conversation with the source of the hurt to make sure that I’m actually seeing whatever the situation is through the same lens as them and understand their intention.  When that doesn’t or can’t happen for whatever reason, my other option…real simple….pray, and move on.

4-No naming names here but I actually have two usual suspects that I go to when I really just need to let it all out.

Whew!  Breathe!

Why is it important to answer these questions, well, when I identify and spell out my most valuable self-truths, starting with just two to get the ball rolling, well, then nothing that comes my way to contradict those truths will get me to move away from these because I know that I know that I know these truths about myself.  The are part of who I am.  If I know my own sensitivities and can get to the root of them to understand what’s behind them, no one can use them against me.  It’s like one of our Partners recently shared, “I know I’m fat, you know I’m fat, can we just move on or do you need to put in another joke to make you feel just as good about you as I do about me regardless of how I look?”  That’s an “in your face” statement if I ever heard one.

For as long as we’re living, we’re going to experience pain and hurt from others.  It’s just reality, but as Rick Warren says, “God never wastes a hurt, but uses it for a purpose in your life and the lives of others.”  That being said, as long as you know how you get through hurt, you’re better prepared to employ that strategy once things come up.  Finally, we all need someone with whom we can be totally transparent, who will know when to hold our hand and cry with us or tell us to get over ourselves, stand up straight, get in line, and keep moving.  To my aces, you know who you are, Thanks!!!  Love ya!!!

Since all of this requires the fighter in all of us to come out, the soundtracks of the week are

“Fighter” by Christina Aguilera and Gym Class Heroes

 

PAUSE: Free Flow Forum

“How do you stay so positive all the time?”

“You are always just a joy, don’t you have any down days?”

 “Everything must be perfect for you!”

“I wish I could be on a 24/7 high on life like you!”

So, we’re going to take a little break from the factors this week.  I had some really, really good stuff planned (even gave a little preview on my sister Sharon Brewster’s, Founder of the Outlet for Women, Facebook page) but there was something going on this week for a lot of people because I got a ton of inbox notes including the questions and commentary above.  I even met up with a friend who shared that someone asked her “Is Farah really as happy as she seems to be on Facebook?”  What really came out of all of this for me is that we, you and I, have more of an opportunity to learn more about each other.   So, consider this pause from the factors just a little free flow forum, more so than the usual, where you get more insight into who I am.

Now, to get to the question of am I as happy-go-lucky as you experience me here via LFF, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, in person?  WITHOUT A DOUBT YES!!!!  Is it a 24/7 happiness?  C’mon folks, I’m the founder of LFF but I didn’t lose my humanity in the process.  Yes, Farah Bernier is human!  Shocking, I know.  Here’s the deal though, what I’ve learned, and I have to thank good ole Boston College Half-Time Retreats for this, happiness is temporary-to be enjoyed, appreciated, and held on to for as long as possible.  Joy, however, is the key to the 24/7 experiences of happiness one of my more senior followers expressed desire in.

The reason this distinction between happiness and joy is so important to understand is that one thing with me is that I really am an “in the moment” kind of individual.  I love life and all that it brings, yes, even the challenges and the pain because they actually bring growth and strength.  I don’t know if this is a skill or just part of how I’m built, a long time ago, I just learned how to focus in on what is in the moment and appreciate every ounce of that.  So right now, I am truly, truly happy.  Blogging with a focus on helping others develop, reflect, and progress, however they define it for themselves, while growing in the process, myself, just makes me so happy.

Joy though, that’s when you can step back from a moment, look at your whole life picture, se the highs, the lows, the clarity, the incomprehensible confusing and rest in that it is truly all working out for your good and you are totally ok in all of it, built for it in fact.  See it?  Yup, that’s joy.

And yes, I definitely have my lows….still questioning?  Well, here’s the deal; by now, you know, or I think you know, I’m pretty obsessed with personal branding.  Those of you connected with me on Facebook may have even seen a recent post by superstar Veronica Chapman (CEO of My Crowning Jewel…check check check check check it out) where she noted Donald Trump needing to take one of my workshops J  Because of my passion around personal branding, I really do try to live and operate in a way that reinforces and strengthens my brand.  The key to that is consistency in the experiences others have with me.  No, no, no, this is not about putting up a front or a façade in any form or fashion!   Just as critical as consistency is authenticity (trying sooooo hard not to get into personal branding teaching mode right now).  Essentially, you just have to be true to who you are…just be real. What personal branding is about though, is being humble and strong enough to,(ready?)….brace yourselves, get over yourself and whatever is going on in your life, and focus on creating positive experiences that others can leave from you after an interaction and feel lifted up, not weighed down or diminished because of your choice of reveling in your problems.  Heavy, I know.  I’ll even say it, OUCH!

So about my lows?  Most definitely I have them, just like everyone else.  See you wouldn’t know that I recently had to say goodbye to my Uncle who’s gone on to be with The Lord and all I keep thinking about is his grand stature and his ever-gentle, subtle reassuring smile.  You also wouldn’t know that I was recently hurt by one who I really believed was a trustworthy and dear friend, whom I now have to confront about how I’ve felt slighted.  You also wouldn’t know that I have many around me who are going through some heavy stuff and there is nothing I can do to help accept just be there to help them laugh, give a gentle hug and believe for them that it’s all going to be ok when they can’t believe for themselves.

Am I hiding all of this? Not at all.  Do I just bottle everything in and not express any emotion?  Absolutely not.  My inner circle has been working overtime as I’ve needed a few “I just need to get this off my chest” sessions.  All that I am doing is balancing.  See, with my Uncle, for me, he’s gone too soon, but I am overwhelmed with joy just knowing that he is sooooooooooooooooooooooo happy right now.  I just know he’s up there and that smile is literally stretched ear to ear.  It actually warms my heart.  With the hurt from my friend, what are relationships but experiences across the spectrum of fabulous and downright painful?  The benefit there: I’ve got wisdom, and now can test how strong I really am in determining whether or not I’ll be an adult and have the conversation or cower and punk out because it will be a tough conversation.  As for the struggling around me, well, quite frankly, I just don’t get some of the things I have to watch folks go through-cancer, divorce, depression-I just don’t get it.  One thing that I believe though is that there’s a reason this is all around me and it must be because God sees me as able, even when I don’t, to lift their spirits when needed and spread the joy that He’s already given me.

Finally, just to be completely real with you, I am one who really operates under a faith that has never been disappointing.  No, this doesn’t mean that I just pray for everything, believe, and I get everything that I want.  What it means is that I believe that The One I believe in, always gives me what I need, when I need it, even when my when isn’t lined up with His when.  Yup, there are things that I’ve prayed and believed for that just haven’t come.  But all in due time and because of this, though sometimes disappointed and annoyed quite frankly, I know that it’s all working out for my good.  There are things that I asked for at 21 that I know that I know that I know that if I received when I was 21 or even just a little older, I’d be a hot mess!  One of my Pastors, Robyn Reese (remember that name because you’re about to hear about her in some pretty influential circles) once said to me, “Sweetie, if God showed you everything He has in store for you, it might literally kill you because you just could not even handle it.”  But with everything in due time, man oh man is this life turning out to be pretty fabulous!

So, yup, that’s me.  Hope this shed a little more light on who I am, what I’m about, how happy I really am, and how in the world I can be smiling all the time. And since I denied you a factor this week, I’ll leave you with a preview of the next: Living Fabulously Fierce Factor #16: Accepting Happiness and Committing to Joy.  More to come on!

Soundtrack of the week:  So, I’m not a singer, but I’m giving you a little bit of me today.  Enjoy!

Living Fabulously Fierce Factor #15-Saying What You Mean and Meaning What You Say

I have always been a lover of words.   Growing up, inspired by the likes of Langston Hughes and Maya Angelou, I could read for hours and hours and hours.   Visiting my mom recently, I  found a book of poetry I’d won scholarships for in high school.  Behind all of this, I think what I really loved was the power to convey thoughts, feelings, emotions, and experiences through words, both simple and complex.  Also, I just always had a lot to say, but, as surprising as this may be for you, I wasn’t always comfortable speaking my thoughts.  I found more comfort in the power of written words over spoken words….my, how things have changed.

Connect with me for five minutes now and you’ll learn that I’ll talk to the wall if the wall will talk back….seriously.  I just love speaking with people, learning their story, coaching, and most of all, I love speaking on important aspect of personal and professional development.

DSC02773I just have a passion for using my voice and the words I choose to move people to action.

Now we all know that passion, without direction or purposeful intent, can be dangerous…it can get us into trouble .

So when it comes to words, the fabulously fierce understand the importance of saying what you mean and meaning what you say.  One of the best reinforcements of this important factor I’ve ever heard is

“I think words matter.  It’s worth the time to try to convey with precision, what you’re thinking and what you’re feeling.”  ~Massachusettes Governor Deval Patrick

The reason this is so essential is because we are relational beings and everything we say either adds value or takes away from the positive experience others can have with us.  There really can be no question to this. This is especially important as you also learn to discern your audiences.  What I mean by this is there are just a few that I can lay my guard completely down with in terms of how careful I’m being with what I say.  I love the reality of this because it’s so important.  The reality however, is that my inner circle (picture of inner circle) is really small but with them, I really can just say whatever is in my heart, whenever, however, and not have the risk of being misunderstood.  With others, not as close, again, discernment comes into play, which is totally ok, and actually, less about being guarded, and more about being intentional of getting across exactly what you mean, and yes, because we have to own our words, meaning what you say.

So, do you have something to address with someone, to communicate to a group, an email that you need to send that needs to be clear so nothing is misunderstood?  If so

1-Take the time to really think about what it is you are trying to get across?  What’s behind what you’re trying to get across…what do you mean?

2-What words do you know may be taken the wrong way if you are not clear with context and/or your intent?

3-What words do you know resonate?

4-What exactly will you say…yup write it, type it, practice saying it.

Then, just do it!

Be Fabulous! Be fierce! Say what you mean and mean what you say.

Living Fabulously Fierce Factor #14-Living Life to the Fullest

“Death is a tragic thing, only if you haven’t lived.” ~Tyler Perry’s Family That Preys

Ok ladies…

Here we are, month two of 2013 and interestingly enough, it is time to take a little step back and think to the very beginning of the year.  As a reminder, here at LFF we focused on challenging new year’s resolutions with the commitment to being WIPs-Works in Process (check out the 12.30.12 post for a refresher).  Some of you have reached out sharing some of your progress, which is fabulous!  Some have shared some hiccups to the progress, which is natural by the way, and unfortunately, have pulled out of the process.

For instance, someone shared that at the beginning of the year, she made a commitment to taking more time for herself in an effort to gain more balance and because she’s gotten to a place of more financial stability than she’s ever had in the past, she was going to plan monthly, three-day getaways, a quarter at a time. So, she started to plan for Q1 with a January adventure, was distracted and never did it and all of a sudden, it’s not important to start looking into February…HER BIRTHMONTH BY THE WAY!!!!  Yup, totally putting you on blast…you know who you are.  Now I’m being a bit tough but here’s the reality….one month of delay can turn to two, which turns to half a year, another year, and then we’re 25, 35, 45 55 etc talking about the things we thought we were going to do and never did…the goals we wanted to accomplish, and never did….the impact we wanted to have, and never set ourselves up to.  Then ultimately, time lessens its patience with us and we depart, never having lived the life we knew we were purposed to live.

Now, this is going to get a little dark, but stay with me and I promise it’s going to get real good…

A former colleague of mine was the daughter of a very well-to do mortician who shared that she learned very early on that death was just part of life and though loss was always hard to deal with, it was part of the living experience. Unfortunately, a few of those close to me have lost loved ones early in this new year but every single one of them has had a certain peace about their loss like this colleague of mine.  When I think about each of them and their responses when I shared my condolensces, it’s really because they could look back over the life of the individual they’d lost and see that they had truly lived life to the fullest that they were truly ok.

My grandmother passed years ago but her death was as much of an inspiration as her strength, wit, and grace in life.  She definitely knew her time was up and her last words were,

“God has blessed me with a good life, a caring husband who was with me until his last days, three beautiful daughters, six gracious grandchildren, I am satisfied.”

I am satisfied…her last three words inspired a poem I wrote for my mom to help her through the loss as a reflection of what I believe my grandmother would have said to her. I share this to say that when my grandmother passed at 92, she was satisfied and we knew it because she lived her life to the fullest, for her, and so all we could do was celebrate her life…we didn’t fall apart as if her death was tragic, it was an inspiration.

Now, I realize this is a bit heavy and ok a little morbid but the major thing to take away from this is that we have to live our lives to the fullest.  Our departure from this earth is only tragic if we don’t.  So, today, my question to you is what does living life to the fullest mean to you?

Just think about you for a minute. No comparison to anyone else or consideration for what the world would say living life to the fullest is.  What does living life to the fullest mean to you?

Once you’ve identified that, paint the picture through words.  Yes, get to the journal and just pen it out.  List every detail of this full picture for you.

Next, clearly make note of

1. What’s keeping you from that life right now?

2. What’s in your control to limit the impact of these obstacles for you?

3. What will you do this week to begin living that picture for you?

Finally, just do it!!!!  I know I am!!!!

Instead of a soundtrack of the week, let’s go for a video clip.  See, I think Ellen Degeneres went through this process in some form or fashion and determined that part of her living life to the fullest included dancing whenever she felt moved to.  She must’ve pictured what that would look like, and now she gets a full audience to join her in dancing every day she goes to work!  And she didn’t even stop there, she extended her brand to SYTYCD and is now a “dance legend”!  So, if nothing else, go ahead, dance!