A "RISING" STAR

This year as I turned 31, I declared 2018 to be my year of “winning.” And a 3-won year it has already been!

Over the weekend, I experienced a tremendous win that I’m humbly proud of. My Iona College family blessed me with the exceptional “Rising Star,” alumni award.

The Brother Robert A. Durning Rising Star Award is given to an Iona College alum, whom in a short amount of time has brought acclaim to the College through achievements in their respective fields.

The award is particularly special for me as it is named in honor of Brother Durning, a dynamic and gifted teacher who touched the lives of many students during his time at Iona, including myself. The “Rising Star” award honors Br. Durning’s commitment to excellence and the pursuit of lifelong learning by recognizing young professionals.

To be called a “Rising Star” – by the college that’s responsible for my rise – is beyond humbling.

Iona College was my home away from home as I left Los Angeles at the impressionable age of 17. Not knowing anyone outside of my hometown, the Iona family greeted me with open arms in the fall of 2004, and they supported me tremendously in working three different jobs on and off campus, while heading toward graduating in three years, at the age of 20.

It’s only because of Iona that I was able to join media superpower Disney ABC after an internship in 2007, and went on to serve leading media and entertainment companies CBS and Comcast NBCUniversal. The college did what it was supposed to do, give me confidence to move the world, equip me with experience and skills to progress in the real world and help me to build tenacity like never before.

Confidence, is something that colleges should strive to empower their students with. It’s obviously not easy, but absolutely needed to compete against top job candidates and in particular to know your valuable and moreover to be paid what you’re worth.

Iona truly prepared me for my current worldwide role, as Director of Communications and Public Relations at FCB Global, where I work among a handful of brilliant and innovative Iona alums on a daily basis.

Focusing on the rise, I cannot wait to move higher and to lead upward in all that I do. I am reminded that I’m on my way, but not there yet, and that’s exciting. My Godmother would always tell me, “You’re going places!” I cannot wait to go to each and every place that she knew I would go.

I am forever grateful to Iona College. I am relentlessly committed to excellence and bringing further acclaim to my illustrious college. Here’s to more mentorship, teaching, and most important moving the world.

HELLO 3-WON: My Year of Winning and Being Intentionally SMART!​​​​​​​

 

This month, the lovely month of March -- Women’s History Month -- marks my one year anniversary of my blog! Likewise, on March 3, 2018, I became 31 and this year, I am celebrating my #ThirtyWON year of winning!

My 31st year of life will be fulfilling and life changing, as I claim victory in all that I desire and do. I will win, by personally implementing a “S.M.A.R.T.” strategy that I teach my graduate students at New York University (NYU). “S.M.A.R.T.,” stands for identifying Specific, Measurable, Achievable (realistic), Results-focused and Timely goals and executing each one-by-one.

1. Specific

My father always tells me, “Ma, you’re so precise!” {“Ma” is my family nickname.} When he first started telling me that, I wasn’t sure how to take it. And when my fiance joined in on the fun of calling me Precise, and encouraging me to be deliberate in life, I thought, “hey maybe this precise thing isn’t too bad.” This year, I choose to be precisely Specific, marked by accuracy, expressive, detailed and deliberate about my choices and decisions. Paying attention to detail is imperative for victory. I will be specific in clearly defining what I want in life by writing it down, telling my close loved ones, and mentors. I will outline paths and means by which to accomplish new goals, and if I don’t know how to on my own, I’ll seek guidance and support. Moreover, I will help others to do the same. Looking at my objectives at hand, this will enable me to be intentional about my decisions.

2. Measurable

I always ask my graduate students, “What’s your measurement for success?” Everyone needs personal measurements for success in order to learn and grow. I am learning how to properly measure my success by not comparing myself to others. Naturally people have competitive spirits. I honestly have to remind myself to not measure my achievements based on others, but rather to measure them based on my own personal capabilities, skills and work ethic -- all of which I must constantly strengthen.

We each can say that by this age, you expected X,Y and Z to take place or occur. This new year is a fresh start for me to do all of those things and more, while never measuring myself to someone else’s standard of success or idea of victory. I will be measurable in my actions to quantify advancement.

3. Achievable

My entire life people have told me to be realistic. Believing we each can determine what’s real and accessible for our lives, I’ve always had trouble with people telling me something that I want is not realistic.

My high school guidance teacher told me that attending college in New York, 3000 miles away from my home in Los Angeles wasn’t going to happen because I was too poor, and though it broke my heart, I knew that I alone, was able to determine where I would attend college. She was my guidance counselor, but I refused to give her authority over my life. Needless to say I’ve been in New York since the age of 17, which is 14 years post my undergrad and graduate study. I’ve proudly been a NYer for my entire adulthood.

I often ask myself, “what’s the ROI (return on investment) of my time?” I do not want to waste my energy on something that’s not going to upflight me or bring happiness -- it’s simply not worth it. So, this year, I am going to be practicable, but of course still ambitious in all that I do -- asking what’s attainable and how, is this feasible and how can it work? Never questioning faith nor God’s plan, if it doesn't’ work out, it is ok! I am becoming more sensible, grounded, reasonable and level headed while still learning to be practical and open to what I can achieve and when.

4. Results-focused

Numbers and results do not lie and no one can refute that. This year, I will be more results-driven and focused than ever before!

Results are developed from outcomes, effects, and decisions, so as long as I stay task-oriented, the end result will be great. Keeping in mind goals, objectives and focusing on actions that bring in good results and favorable outcomes is a top priority.

5. Timely

I am already dedicating additional time to storytelling -- my gift and passion. Eliminating distractions, I will continue to put allocated time on my calendar to focus on my personal and professional development. Time management is necessary in order for me to see results and achieve my goals. For a true year of winning, I must be distinctly determined and open to receive support, advice, and guidance.

I am striving to spend more time supporting my family and friends. I previously spoke to all members of my immediate family easily three times a day, that’s now moved to once a week, and I’m not happy about that. I am putting calendar reminders on all of my mobile devices to check-in with my family. This year, I lost my Godmother, and aunt, and I’ve personally learned that time waits for no one. I am present for my job, with my students, and I surely will be more present for my family.

I must admit, I am very aggressive when it comes to event planning and preparation {just ask my fiance}, but I want to have the same attitude with all that I do -- eliminating procrastination and last minute rituals from my life. I am not waiting to the last minute for anything!

Here’s to being SMART -- identifying WHO to partner or work with to learn and grow, WHAT is needed for success, WHERE I need to go and WHEN -- being at the right place, at the right time, setting realistic deadlines and meeting them, with no more procrastination!

Hello to my SMART year of WINNING! #3WON!

It’s Never Too Late To Incorporate Resolutions

Simple Resolutions to Enhance Life and Restore the Soul

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Date Yourself At Least Once a Week! It’s always the right time to rediscover what makes you happy and what you truly enjoy. Take yourself out and do it often.

Whether it be a fitness challenge, pampered spa day,  facial, massage, ballgame, dinner at a fine restaurant, a night out on the town dancing or karaoke from the comfort of your home -- go for it. From a monthly weekend getaway to a staycation, splurge on yourself as you probably already do it for others more than you realize. Learn your city, there’s always a new restaurant or hotspot.

Becoming more familiar with yourself, fosters more- time for goal setting.  Date yourself and others will want to do the same.

Be a Student of the Game of Life & Never Stop Learning. There is a negative stigma about asking questions, however, one old school way to make a good impression is to remain a student of the game (whatever game you’re looking to win), by asking smart questions. In order to continuously learn and grow you must be inquisitive. People always respect scholars and those who yearn for knowledge.

Volunteer. Never take for granted the multiple benefits of volunteering. By doing so, you’re opening a door to provide expertise and guidance. Moreover, you're earning respect and building new relationships.

Be Empathetic and willing to compromise. I am often asked how I progressed in my career, and my response usually is that I was willing to compromise and perform tasks that are outside of my traditional scope and responsibilities. Rise to the challenge and take advantage of every good opportunity that comes your way.

By Doing So You’re Giving and Preparing to Receive. All relationships should be mutually beneficial. Every relationship, should be “give” and “take.” In fact, one of my mentees recommended me for my current graduate teaching role at NYU. Give and you will receive. Always remember, what goes around comes around.

Performance and Relationship Currency. This is an old school trait that I learned from one of my sheroes, Carla Harris, Vice Chairman and Managing Director, Morgan Stanley. “Performance Currency,” is generated by you going above and beyond what’s asked of you. On the contrary, “Relationship Currency,” is generated in the investments you make in the people in your environment. It's imperative that people of influence know who you’re. Invest in relationships because your success will quite often depend on someone else’s opinion of you.

Differentiate. Stand out from the crowd by being different and by thinking for yourself, aloud. It is ok to respectfully rewrite the rules and let the desires of your heart be known. Our greatest gift is the uniqueness that we each possess.


Goal Setting. Identify a realistic resolution or annual goal for yourself and perhaps have someone join along.  Life gets busy, but when you set goals, you’ll be more inclined to make it happen -- and working with a friend can be a great motivator.

2017's Lessons in Gratitude

 "Every morning when I open my curtains for that first look at the day, no matter what the day looks like—raining, foggy, overcast, sunny—my heart swells with gratitude. I get another chance." - Oprah Winfrey.

"Every morning when I open my curtains for that first look at the day, no matter what the day looks like—raining, foggy, overcast, sunny—my heart swells with gratitude. I get another chance." - Oprah Winfrey.

“How often do you give thanks?”

Living in New York, without a doubt one of the greatest cities in the world, I give thanks multiple times a day. It is currently cold outside and I am thankful to have warm clothes and coats to choose from, hats, scarfs, and often most importantly, gloves for my hands. Nothing is worse than not being able to feel your fingers. Trust me, I learned that the hard way freshmen year of college in New York...and it is awful.

Monday through Friday, walking from Grand Central Terminal (Midtown East) to my office in Herald Square (Midtown West), I pass those who are less fortunate, with no coat, and even a few with no shoes on their feet in freezing New York weather. This serves as just one reminder of how blessed I am.

We should all look around more often and say thanks. We should do this more than just during the holidays and special occasions.  Daily we should find gratitude in learning new skills, seeing children, new life, cute animals and smiling faces.

As 2017 is coming to an end, I am grateful for God’s blessings and favor over my life including my loved ones, mentees, career growth, new relationships, lessons learned, teaching opportunities and growing in my purpose.  

Now, as a member of the ‘30 Club’, there are a few things that I know for sure: be prepared for the unexpected and remain grateful for the good, bad and ugly because it all strengthens and molds you.

In 2018, I truly welcome the opportunity to incorporate the following acts of gratitude into my daily routine:

The Power of Inspiring Visuals: Vision & Gratitude Boards

As a very visual person, I’ve created vision boards in the past to inspire me to take on the upcoming year by storm. I am constantly motivated to achieve my goals simply by looking at my annual vision board.

Powering ahead, this year, I’m committing myself to creating an ongoing gratitude board, filled with photos, quotes, happy reminders and scriptures in which I am thankful for. On my gratitude board, I am planning to include photos of loved ones, mentors, my childhood photos to show my progression out of awkward phases, memorabilia and even simplistic sticky notes with affirmations and words of encouragement.

Gratitude boards are awesome because they can be an individual or family project. They serve as excellent way to engage loved ones in a progressive and fun activity. For example, writing a sticky note of gratitude and putting it into a jar or box, and by the end of the week sharing each note with family.

The Power of Reflection:

Journal - write it down, read it later, recap and rejoice

Who really carries around a journal nowadays? However, we probably all have a note function in our mobile devices. My cell phone is my new journal, and sometimes it is exchanged for Google Docs, my iPad or any type of technology readily available to aid me in sharing and documenting my thoughts, ideas and feelings.

A good ol’ fashioned journal never goes out of style because journals are limitless. You can write as much as you like and always refer back to read one’s progress and growth. I recently read one of my journals from graduate school, and my goodness have I dramatically grown in every area of my life.

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Don’t consider yourself to be a writer? No problem! Don't be intimidated. You can begin journaling by simply writing about one or a few things that you’re thankful for and why. Before you know it, you’ll be a pro. For example, I am personally thankful for opportunities to meet new people and moments to learn and grow.

I am very thankful for new life, as a few of my closest friends are expecting children next month and early 2018. I truly cannot wait to meet them. I love babies and children! Their newness, is beyond exciting and I know that they’ll be a blessing to world.  

The Power of Saying, “Thanks!”

How often do you get something handwritten in the mail to your home? Not often enough! Regardless of how busy we all become, we can each take the time to write a thank you note and warm someone’s heart through a simple, but personalized memo.

One of the most traditional forms of gratitude is a simple thank you note. A handwritten thank you note speaks volumes. It says that you took the time to purchase a thank you card and pay for postage (postage is not cheap anymore! :). It notifies the receiver that you took the time out of your busy schedule to think of them and put your thoughts to paper. I believe it is appreciated more than sending an email which takes just a second and is done at the convenience of your mobile device. We all appreciate those who go above and beyond.

These three simple acts of gratitude are each something that we can start doing immediately. Please join me!

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I live in the space of thankfulness — and for that, I have been rewarded a million times over. I started out giving thanks for small things, and the more thankful I became, the more my bounty increased. That’s because — for sure — what you focus on expands. When you focus on the goodness in life, you create more of it.”
— Oprah Winfrey

H A P P Y N E W Y E A R !

Expect the Unexpected, Respond, Heal and Act Accordingly

  Gabé Ynes (Gigi) Grant, My Favorite Lady, Best Friend, Mother, Heart & Queen

Gabé Ynes (Gigi) Grant, My Favorite Lady, Best Friend, Mother, Heart & Queen

This month, I learned more than ever to be prepared. Prepare for the unexpected, the future, good and bad. I never thought that at the age of 30, I would lose a parent, in particular one who showed no signs of being ill.

I’ve experienced an abrupt stop to my norm, lost my best friend, my parent and daily sounding board. I must deliberately PUSH forward with intention, purpose and keep close to heart our daily epic conversations that would last for hours, random text messages laughing at the PuppyMonkeyBaby, and our fabulous routine discussions of of our favorite shows including Scandal, Power, reality TV and current events.

I lost my Godmother, Gabé Ynes (Gigi) Grant, unexpectedly due to a heart attack at the tender age of 55. I never would have imagined a day without her, at least no time soon. She was my ace, my heart, my everything. My Godmother raised me from the second I was born after she held me in her arms wearing pink Chuck Taylor tennis shoes (sneakers) at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center on March 3, 1987, just 7 days before her 25th birthday.

I was not prepared for the news, to never speak to her again, hug or kiss her. However, what will forever live on is what she’s taught me, her intentional love, and lessons which I am happy to share with you.

Here’s lesson number one: Have Fun!

Have fun and then more fun & don’t let a great opportunity pass you by. Since I was a child, my Godmother would tell me to “go to the party,” “take risks and have fun doing it.” She was passionate about me enjoying life. And I look forward to doing that more in this new season.

Two: Remember, “You’re going places!”

It is truly a blessing knowing that there’s always someone who believes in you. There is power and strength in someone constantly reminding you of your greatness. Though I would get told off with love and affection in a nano second as parents do so well, and even with my flaws and areas of growth on display, my Godmommy always reminded me that I was great, and that no matter what, she knew I was going places and reminded me of that. I am going places! I victoriously claim that over my life.

Three: As you grow in wisdom, there’s no excuse to respond with “I don’t know!”

My Godmommy taught me that once you’re an adult, there’s no longer a justification to say, “I don’t know!” She never ever would accept that response from me regardless of the question. Her explanation was that as I grow in age and wisdom, I know why I make specific decisions, as well as why I respond the way I do. And I must admit, most of the instances when I answered, “I don’t know,” I absolutely did know. I was afraid or intimidated by the answer and in an attempt to dodge a bullet or avoid confrontation, I would respond with, ‘I don’t know,’ which is without a doubt unacceptable. Worse case scenario whatever you don’t know, you learn, so figure it out! Change that “I don’t know,” to “I’m currently looking into that now.” We must take advantage of learning opportunities and changes to enhance our personal awareness.

  Baby Gab, Pageant Days with Godmommy

Baby Gab, Pageant Days with Godmommy

Four: Have an A Team!

Godmommy taught me to not just a team, but have an ‘A Team.’ An A Team is with you no matter what and furthermore ready for whatever needs to be done. They will stop what they’re doing at the drop of a hat to come to your side and aid. Sometimes, it’s ok go home, get a reminder of where you’re from, where you’ve been and look at your roots that have shaped you. This is always where I find my A Team.

Five: Be empathic and open to compromise for those who are worthy!

One of the last conversations I had with my Godmommy was about me growing in empathy. An impactful parent will pull out your potential and challenge you. Godmommy always did that. We all may need reminders that the world does not revolve around us. We never know what someone’s personally dealing with. Due to that, we should not be quick to judge or act with emotions. Instead we should lead with empathy and be open to compromise.

Godmommy and I were both Pisces, which according to our Zodiac sign, we are emotional in everything that we do. We lead and act based on emotions, but blessed is the person who truly exhibits empathy and is slow to anger and more importantly acts based on love.

Six: LOVE!

Speaking of love, love is how I would end this piece. I love my Godmother and we always communicated how much we loved each other. I am never afraid to tell someone in my life how much I love them. We need to hear, “I love you,” more and more from people who truly mean it, and who is better than your ‘A Team?’ No one!

Godmommy and I spoke about the possibility of her not being around physically. Though the day came far before I could ever imagine, it is love, the love that she always gave me, God’s love, a mother’s love that will get me through. Through her love for me, I will walk in confidence -- because I’m going places, have fun -- because life is truly short, appreciate and be a blessing to my A Team, be cognizant of how I exhibit love, and love others the way God truly loves us.

The Strength of Traveling Knowledge

My summer months are often spent attending enriching conferences and conventions based on personal interests and industries of involvement -- communications, media, marketing, advertising, entertainment and education. Participating in these events enables me to build impactful connections with like-minded individuals and provides significant professional development opportunities. I anticipate learning new concepts and strategies, strengthening my network and developing newengaging relationships. Through these events, I have established strong friendships that have positively impacted my career.

In July, I attended ColorComm’s annual conference #C2Miami with 32 women across IPG, as a new member of the FCB Global family. ColorComm founded by a fellow millennial, Lauren Wesley Wilson, started in the Spring of 2011, with a luncheon of 34 women in Washington, D.C. One successful luncheon has now turned into a powerful nation-wide women-led community of students and professionals in the industries of Public Relations, Corporate Communications, Advertising Print Media, Broadcast, Digital and more.

Here are a few of my takeaways from this year’s ColorComm conference:

  1. Be a blessing and ask others, “How can I help you and what are you looking for?” By asking these questions, you’re opening a door to provide expertise and guidance. Moreover, you're earning respect and building new relationships.
  2. Strengthen your network with not just mentors, but with those whom you can assist and support; you may even meet someone to potentially mentor in the future.
  3. Continue to learn, implement new techniques and strategies and challenge yourself and others to move the diversity and inclusion needle further to create real progress.
  4. Discuss salary expectations and questions with your network to make sure you’re earning industry standard compensation and make sure you know what you truly deserve.

At ColorComm, compensation was a big conversation. In fact, one of my sheroes, Carla Harris, Vice Chairman and Managing Director, Morgan Stanley, shared #CarlasPearls, some of which were “Performance Currency,” which is generated by you going above and beyond what’s asked of you. Additionally, she discussed “Relationship Currency,” which is generated in the investments you make in the people in your environment. For career growth it's imperative that those of influence in your organization know who you’re. Having strong relationships throughout the company is important because your success will be dependent upon someone else’s opinion of you.

Women should be comfortable discussing salary, which is truly instrumental to career growth. At present, women earn an average of 80 cents for every dollar compared to men, but the wage gap is much deeper for women of color. According to the Women’s Law Center, black women working in full-time roles make only $0.63 cents for every dollar paid to their white male counterparts. Black women are uniquely positioned to be subjected to both a racial pay gap and a gender pay gap.

On the topic of salary in particular, Angelina Darrisaw, CEO and founder of C-Suite Coach, which provides affordable and accessible coaching and career content to diverse young professionals (and focuses on expanding business partnerships and training more C-Suite Coaches,) said: “Remember the value you bring and note that in some states soon it will be illegal to base future salary off of past pay. That is one step states are taking to minimize the pay gap. Finally, the onus shouldn't be on us to ask, but we also have to ask. Force yourself to negotiate something. Anything. Even if it's just a later start time. And encourage the other women of color in your circle to do the same. Too often, we encourage each other to just ‘get our foot in the door’ or ‘consider the exposure.’ But, exposure and access do not close the pay gap. Encourage your girls and yourself to get the pay they deserve.” 

Early this month, I attended my favorite annual conference, the National Associate of Black Journalists (NABJ) Convention, in New Orleans. This year was extremely special, because I presented for the first time at NABJ to a jam-packed room of college students, recent-grads, as well as seasoned professionals in various roles in journalism, sports, media and news.

My overarching takeaways from this year’s NABJ convention:

  1. Pertinent conversations about diversity and inclusion are imperative to drive industry growth, especially in news media.
  2. There are others just like you, striving to excel in the same industry so look to them and work together whenever possible; your network provides invaluable career strength.
  3. Diverse journalists matter, perhaps now more than ever, our voices are imperative -- power through!
  4. I am forever encouraged to be great and produce excellence by the amount of talent gathered in every setting at NABJ.

I love belonging to professional organizations like ColorComm and NABJ because they remind me of how important is to have a growing network to share ideas with, collaborate and most importantly celebrate. I encourage everyone to join organizations that are specific to their area of expertise or career aspiration.

 

"There is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish." —Michelle Obama

June 2017 Reflections

June has truly been a month of personal new beginnings. This month, I learned that patience is key and a virtue indeed. Life has taught me that time produces great rewards and I am proud to announce that I have joined FCB Global, where our company mantra is “Never Finished!” We produce never finished work, because we can always do better, and together as a team we think of what's next in advertising, marketing, storytelling and innovation. At FCB, we collectively are always a work in progress looking both back and forward to determine what's out there and what's there to be discovered. I personally strive to be a work in progress because it's empowering to think about the future and having a stake in crafting a message to impact others, so without a doubt FCB is the place for me!

Looking forward to the next half of the year, I will strive to “become.” The essence of “becoming” should be constant -- because we all can become better at something in our lives knowing that there's more time to be beneficial to others, start new and most importantly grow. People are beautiful creatures that can change. Though it is not easy, we are all able to change if we put our minds to it. Nothing can come between someone who is set on success; they will make a way out of no way.

My grandfather, Walter Simpson, was born in 1917 in segregated Augusta, Georgia and was Founder and designer of “House of Walter Leather and Suede” Couture Clothing. He was also an alumnus of Eastern Michigan University and Howard University and lived well into his 80s. To this day, I clearly remember him telling me new about goals that he made -- it could be as simple as a fitness goal (he was always looking to increase his weights at the gym), or a career goal of designing a custom made garment for an influencer. I was so impressed that regardless of his phenomenal success as a Black man born in a pivotal time in our country, even in his later years he wanted to contribute more. My grandfather wanted every day to count towards being a better version of himself.

In order to enlarge your territory and grow, I believe you must be grateful for what you've been through, what you have and know who you strive to become.

As the first half the 2017 comes to a close, I am so grateful for my journey. Looking back at the first half of this year, I have made time to volunteer as a member of Iona College’s Alumni Board, as well as give additional time to my graduate students whom I have the honor or teaching at NYU and The College of New Rochelle. My graduate students honestly teach me as much as I teach them. It's the most rewarding job I could ever ask for, to sew into the lives of others and have them do the same in return. So far this year has been filled with great moments, challenges and awesome surprises and I'm humbled by it all.

Today, I am reminding myself to create new goals and I am setting time on my calendar to do so. I must admit, if it's not on my cal, it doesn't happen. :)