The #1 Reason We Hate Networking and How I Finally Got it Right at #EmpowerHer17

 

Touchdown.

I couldn’t believe that I was finally in Chicago. The Chi. In SUMMERTIME Chi at that. Traveling four hours from Vegas, I had butterflies thinking about the weekend that was ahead of me.

Not only was this my chance to find my bae Chancellor Bennett but it was also a crucial time for me to redeem myself.

Because the last time I had an opportunity like this I bombed it. 

Exactly a year ago, I went to a conference in LA called BlogHer. Surrounded mostly by the people of non-color, I found a tiny group of black girl magic influencers that were loud, natural and dipped in bad and boujee goodness.

When I saw how much love they showed toward each other, I wanted to be in the squad BAD.

 

So I made the number one mistake of networking:

I tried to be, well…impressive. 

I tried to be too funny and asked them all the wrong questions.

It was awful. I’m sure nobody even noticed but I felt ashamed because I had abandoned my authenticity to try and fit in with this group of women who were thriving in their uniqueness.

I made no connections. No friends. And no progress on my blog after BlogHer. Ya’ll know I can be raggedy.

Why We Hate Networking So Much

When I made it to Chicago for #EmpowerHer17 (hosted by Blavity’s 21Ninety brand) I made a promise to myself that I would try to be as Alaina as possible.

The #1 reason we hate networking so much is because we try to take people’s time and popularity before we give our own value away. It’s forced.

STOP going to these things ready to use people for your personal gain.

You have to find ways to bring value to the people you want to connect with. When you understand what you bring to the table, you can give yourself away without an expectation back.

Bring value to the people you want to connect with. Click To Tweet

At BlogHer I was doing it all wrong. I went in the event expecting to finally get “discovered” but I honestly didn’t even have my stuff together to be noticed.

It was like I wanted those relationships to pull me into success without the work.

#EmpowerHer17 was different though. I had genuine conversations, ab-hurting laughs, deep inspiration and a Chi-town deep dish pizza ya’ll.

I loved my experience at #EmpowerHer17. Here are the top seven gems that pushed me to be myself while I was there:

Lilly Workneh, Huffpost editor for Black Voices and Kyra Kyles, formed EIC of Ebony Magazine

#1. “Distractions are enemy of progress”

This was said by Travel Noire founder Zim Ugochukwu and it’s been on my heart ever since. I instantly connected to Zim because she loves Jesus (yasss girl) and works hard AF. It wasn’t any by the book networking skills that created the opportunity to work all over the world, but it was her dedication to Travel Noire.

Truth bomb: We are lazy. 

We want things now without putting in time and effort into what we believe in. I realized that my distraction was the finish line when it should have been the marathon. It’s a struggle I fight with daily but seeing how calm and grateful Zim was inspired me to be more open to my roller coaster journey.

#2. SWV will always keep the party jumpin

There was this special moment where all of the speakers got together in the back of the room for photos. The DJ was truly bumpin the hell out of SWV and they couldn’t help but to wine it up one time. I thought to myself, is this really happening? Am I in a room full of bomb black women currently getting our life to SWV? Issa dream.

It hit me how important it was to remember exactly who I am. Being in a predominantly white environment makes it easy to forget the things I love like old school OOO-yea Jodeci music, box braids, shady Mariah Carey or doing the electric slide to Candy.

I was full blown authentic at this point in the conference. And loved it.

#3. Most people are just as nervous as you

After the first conference day, #EmpowerHer17 hosted a happy hour sesh. Rolling up to this thing alone, every table was full of chattering and laughing. I immediately got intimidated but decided to force myself to find a seat. I ended up picking a table with these two other girls (who I found out were sisters).

We clicked immediately and they started talking about how hard it would be to come to this alone.

Literally everyone gets nervous about these things. When you come up to them to break the ice (in your authentic self remember) it puts things at ease for them too.

#4. Support other people 

 

So I love me some Luvvie Ajayi and had met her last  year at BlogHer. (She was apart of that crew I wanted to roll with but of course)

She is my blogging shero indefinitely and will my friend one day; so I decided to buy her book while she was there and got it signed.

During her talk she mentioned how it was the support of black women that elevated her career to where it is now. It helped me see that if I chose not to support people I would give up the right to be supported. Stop looking at everyone like it’s a damb race (had to use Luvvie’s vocab). There can be more than one winner. You won’t lose your power points by embracing other projects. Stop that.

If I choose not to support people, I give up the right to be supported. Click To Tweet

#5. Be ten times as better as everyone else

At least that’s what Lena Waithe (Master of None) said.

First off, I just want to recognize Lena’s aura. She instantly gives off this confident vibe that nobody could touch. She had everybody church shoutin’ in that room but I really connected to her acknowledgement of the hard work.

Her opportunities have come because of her belief, work ethic, consistency and constantly learning.

It showed me that time is key here, people. We sleep on our ideas and procrastinate on our destinies. Everyday that we get in our way is another day we lose. Commit to your work if you truly bout that freedom life.

#6. Sometimes starting over is absolutely necessary 

Another shero of mine is Necole Kane. I pretty much know her story better than she does at this point haha. She’s always transparent and open and it hit home for me at the conference.

Her talk showed me that pushing the reset button can be even harder than starting. I’ve jammed that damb button by now.

There were many times I’ve had to reset this blog. I even had to reset my mindset at the conference but it was all to stay true to who I am.

Don’t be afraid to start over when you’ve veered off of your course.

#7. There is only one shot so make sure you take it

I think I ace’d it this time.

#EmpowerHer17, networking

Moral of the story: Never compromise yourself to try and fit in with others. Just kill that ish like you already won.

BONUS: Get chu some business cards. Ain’t nobody got time to be looking unprofessional.

You never know what opportunity is on the other side of that nice to meet you. Practice some of these tips and it will change the way you view networking.

#EmpowerHer17 was really amazing and I thank CEO Morgan Debaun and the Blavity/21Ninety team for allowing me to experience a new yet clearer version of myself.

-Alaina Nicole.

P.S, is a full list of all the speakers from that weekend!

But For Real: Growing Makes Me Feel Guilty When Others Aren’t

 

I feel a heart-to-heart coming on.

You know what I’m currently struggling with?

Growing.

Slowly but surely I have seen little promises from God that he’s got me. After moving to Vegas, I began to overcome insecurities that have kept me raggedy. I’m not making the same mistakes I used to (new mistakes, who dis). And although I’m not where I want to be, I can finally see who I’m becoming.

And it makes me uncomfortable.

Because while I’m excited for the BIG experiences I’ve been praying for, I’ve felt guilty for sharing my accomplishments. While watching others continue to struggle with the same bad decisions or hear them complain about their life, I steady question if I should be stuck too.

Should my life be in shambles? Should I just give up and live like everyone else?

My internal tug-o-war has convinced me to hold back to make others feel comfortable about playing small. And it’s silly AF.

Where did this start?

Since pigtail days, I was always teased for not quite fitting in. Cousins would make fun of me for being educated. I was often called Oreo (you know, black on the outside but white on the inside). I HATED being called an Oreo. Hands were thrown every. single. time.

But as much as I tried to fit in, I never could. It was annoying. I barely put effort in school but still managed to be in honors classes. I tried to wear certain clothes with my tits all out but would end up changing. I was pressured into smoking weed once and felt so uncomfortable that I never picked it up again (don’t read that mom).

**Disclaimer: If you want to have your tits out and smoke, I’m not judging. It just isn’t my ministry.

My life’s mission was to prove to others that I was about that life. That I could be cool like them. But God was calling me to be myself and it’s something I still struggle with daily.

I need you to know that you are set apart. 

When we don’t quite fit in, it makes us super insecure. I question God all the time actually.

Why can’t I just be like everyone else and be cool with it? I want to pop it for pimp too. I want to live an ordinary and safe life, God. I hate taking chances, do I really have to try?

But that isn’t what we were created to do. So when people start to talk down on our growth, we usually run to what’s comfortable – not taking risks at all.

STOP feeling guilty for growing.

Not everyone is meant to go with you as you continue to win. We have to accept that it’s okay to be alone for a little while.

Not everyone is meant to go with you as you continue to win. Click To Tweet

It hurts to leave behind all we’ve ever known for the visions of our heart. But playing into other’s expectations of you will never allow you to fully explore all that you can be.

Elevation requires separation.

This road is SO lonely, ya’ll. People you’ve had all this history with will start to act like strangers because they won’t get it. But don’t ever feel guilty for growing into who God told you you would be. You can’t blame yourself because others choose to stay piss poor. And you sure can’t blame yourself because others won’t let go of who you were 10 years ago. You’re changing and it’s totally okay.

[I wrote about why being alone is actually great here]

I have plenty of up and down days but I am learning to not apologize when God is working in my life.

It’s not a malicious brag. You don’t think you’re better than anyone. And if your wins make people that uncomfortable then they can politely watch on the sidelines. (That’s where they need to be anyway)

Moral of the story is – do you boo. You will inspire people with how you are changing, overcoming struggles and being blessed for your persistence. With your hot mess, struggling self, you got this. WE got this.

#letsglow

Alaina <3

I’m Giving Up My Piss Poorness For Lent (Why I’ve Been Hibernating)

When I started the new year (breh, I can’t believe it’s  April already) I named it the year of the bounce back. I walked up and down my soapbox on how we would join forces to recover from all the things 2016 stole from us. All those disappointments and failures. And while I had good intentions, I realized one soul-snatching epiphany – I don’t have anything to bounce back from.

Honestly, truly…I’ve never committed to myself long enough to see me win long term.

What I gave up for lent

 

What Had Happened Was…

On January 1, 2017 I still wasn’t doing what I was supposed to. My entire life has been a battle with procrastination, why me’s, did that really just happen? and whew, I barely made it.

The truth is I’ve done some great things. But they were more out of luck than out of intention. The mere thought of hustling made my heart beat a thousand times. Was I cut out for this?

When I started to look at where I wanted to be and where I was, I realized how much talk I had been doing. In the best effort I knew how, I was still half-committing to being healthy, my finances, this blog and most importantly, getting closer to myself and God.

So as lent approached, I decided I had enough and closed shop. Well, for a little while.

It’s very popular to give up something for lent and usually I give up things I’m not going to miss like vegetables. But when I started thinking about how much Jesus was sacrificing for me during this time thousands of years ago, I knew I had to come harder than that.

I decided to go cold turkey on social media and carbs (breads, rice, pastas, chips, angelic goodness).

Now, I’ve walked away from social media before but never for such a long period of time. (I’m doing this until Easter, so I have a little under two weeks). At the beginning, I literally felt like a drug attic that was being weened off cocaine.  All I could think about was everyone’s lives that I was missing out on and not being able to show my accomplishments (which is stupid dumb by the way).

What I'm Giving Up for Lent

But it’s week four into lent and some life-changing things have been happening all up and through my struggling life. I’m really learning that:

DISCIPLINE IS KING

Discipline has single-handedly been my downfall to greatness. I thought that I couldn’t control the fact that I needed my nap or three hours on Youtube more than getting serious about my goals.

Working out? Eh, maybe tomorrow.

Writing? Well, give me like…25 minutes.

Waking up early as hell? Snooze. SNOOZE AGAIN.

I wanted to be great but I wasn’t willing to put in the work of a winner. And it shows. My blog has been stagnant. My gut was still saying hi to the world. And I won’t even go into how I planned six travel vacations this summer with my credit card debt still trolling.

I had good intentions ya’ll I promise. But this fasting revealed to me that if I kept half-assing my life that my family’s legacy would never have a fighting chance to be more than a late light bill and soul sucking job.

This discipline thing wasn’t even about me. It was about my family. It was about all the people I know I am called to help. I’m cracking down. I promise.

CAN’T NOBODY SPEAK LIFE INTO YOU LIKE YOU CAN

March was an amazing month for me as far as writing goes. I landed huge interviews with people like former-NBA play Baron Davis, Blavity co-founder Morgan DeBaun and a gig with a website I love. But because I have been off social media I couldn’t promote them.

You mean I have to miss out on allll that praise?

Being absent on social has shown me how much I seek approval from others. With my writing, it never felt like I did good enough if no one told me “great job.” Writing these articles without expecting anything back in return is transforming the way I see myself as a writer. I’m more confident in my skill because I think I’m bomb and don’t give AF on who likes it or not.

You have got to become your biggest fan. Period.

There are going to be people who can’t see the talent you bring. People who secretly root for you to fail. Who don’t clap for you when you win. But when you are so secure in your dreams and who God says you are, you won’t waste time trying to prove it to those people.

NORMAL IS WACKITY WACKINGTON

This quiet time in lent hasnmade me accept that I’m called and set apart. And I know you are too because you wouldn’t be on my site or have gotten this far down in my post. (#shoutout for staying with me, you real)

I’ve been fighting so long because I wanted to be normal. I just wanted to have debt, binge on Netflix all day, eat all the pizza I want and buss it open like a stripper without regrets. It’s easy. It’s what everyone is doing.

But that’s not my ministry. (Dangit, God.)

You are struggling to understand yourself because you just don’t quite fit into what society says is normal. And it’s HARD. I am still struggling with feeling alone and the fear of being misunderstood. But I promise that there is no way the normal people can get on this success train with you. Their weight will literally stop the train dead in its tracks.

Embrace your deep desire to be somebody and do something spectacular. My favorite quote ever is “if you will live like no one else, later you can live like no one else.” That’s happy and free AF.

Lent -

I can’t wait to share all my struggles and the victories I’ve been busting through. I won’t be on social media for a second but best believe I will be bringing that new HEAT on here.

You got this, we got this.

Alaina <3

 

Monday Thoughts: Gay iLoveMakonnen, Presidential Egos and No Text Backs

Ya’ll, I always have something on my mind. So much so that I thought I would leave Mondays to brain dump everything that consumed me the week before. And BAYBAY it was a consuming week. I also recently purchased an amazing new DSLR camera that has me taking pictures of McDonald’s burgers, book shelves and even my snacks at the movies (heck yes I brought it to the movie theater). So please enjoy my recent museum-worthy work and all that I have to say this week.

Oh! And remember that these musings will always circle back to my favorite topics: self-love and personal growth. We tryna do better outchea.

My detailed photo of a bush.

So here’s the deal –

True Life: iLoveMakonnen Likes Men

If you know me well, you know that I bump iLoveMakonnen very hard. (Going up on a Tuesday guy for those that don’t know him). Well last week he finally came out as gay to the world in a series of tweets. Per usual, it came with backlash, Black Twitter jokes and long thought pieces on the acceptance of gay rappers. 

It really wasn’t a shocker at all but it made me stop and think – why do we go out of our ways to prove that we are real? Like did he absolutely HAVE to make an announcement to the world like this was a new Beyonce album?

I think that the world makes it so difficult to be ourselves that we sometimes do the most to prove that we are who we say we are. We are scared AF that people won’t accept us so we overcompensate. Over-prove. Lord knows I’vbeen guilty of this.

I feel like we have to stop trying to be and just BE. Just live your truth and people will love you for it. That’s deep man. 

My aunt and uncle’s cat that ended up being my model.

Speaking of living their truth…

These Presidential egos need to be checked at the door

Sir Highness Angry Orange was pissseeddd about the inaugural numbers. So much so that he dedicated his very first press conference as president to lying to the country about them. We saw the photos, Donald. We KNOW better.

You. Ain’t. Gotta. Lie. Craig.

What baffles me is that Trump turned something so insignificant into a major deal because it hurt his pride. By today, the talk about the numbers would have died down if he wouldn’t have been so petty about it. But you know what? We do alll the time.

I’m sure you can think of a time that you went out of your way to prove someone wrong that questioned you.

When one of my closest friends ended our friendship, I walked around for weeks pretending that I could care less. I would literally wait for the perfect moment to bring up the conversation to prove to people that I didn’t care. Always rolled my eyes. Made all kinds of jokes.

It’s an ego trip and it eats us up inside pretending to “not care” about things that actually hurt us. Whether I’m happy or embarrassed, I now try to practice embracing my feelings and facing the facts (even when I wish I didn’t have to). The truth will always set you free. Let’s get free ya’ll.

My nerdy bookcase of reads that snatch my life.

So what did we learn kids?  No one likes you Trump and it’s okay to admit you feel some type of way about it.

No Text-Back, Texas (Well Nevada)

Speaking of feeling some type of way. Did I ever mention that relationships are not my thing? For awhile (okay more than awhile, like 3 years), I wouldn’t even look at a man. I had clung to the lie that the guy of my dreams would not want a girl like me. Insecurity was definitely my second middle name.

ERR…Enough of the sad violin tale because I’m better now. I am way more confident and I put myself out there more. BUT recently I suffered a severe case of the no text back and it hurt my feelings. BAD. So after the little incident, I posted this question about communication on Facebook:

I got some really good answers like this gem:

Like I mention all the time, I don’t have all the answers Sway. But I do know that I personally will make time for what I think is special. My spirit and soul is sooo important to me and I am learning to be selective about what I expose it to. So I’ll take this no text back L. I will. But I’m excited to learn how to better communicate with others while protecting what is sacred to me.

That’s all I got. What’s on your mind this week? And did you like my pics (haha)

#letsglow

Alaina Nicole <3