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.

“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.

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!

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. :)