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



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!

How To Powerfully Crush FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) When You’re a Social Junkie


Just admit it already, being responsible and saving money is lame AF.

 As much as you know you shouldn’t be swiping that card or ignoring Sallie Mae’s phone calls, you just can’t help but to sacrifice your bank account balance for a good time.

Yes, you’re tired of crawling to your paycheck each pay period. But scrolling past the happy hours and group travel trips on Instagram is met with legit doubt.

Is this even worth it?

Because right now going out with your friends sound much better than sitting at home thinking about all the people who are having fun without you.

You know you should be focused. But slowly you forget the commitment you made to chill out while you are digging yourself out of that money pit.

It’s a bad case of the FOMO’s (Fear of Missing Out), and you are on your death bed with it.

The Really Real Reality of Why People Suffer from FOMO

While on this journey to doing better, you’ve probably battled through these thoughts like me:

  • It’s not fair that I have to do all this to save some coins.
  • I feel really alone/ No one understands my decision.
  • This takes WAY too much effort.
  • I hope people don’t label me as the cheap friend or too serious.
  • Meh, I’ll just try next time.

Sacrifice is hard. When I decided to go all in on saving and slaying the debt, I became really insecure about it.

I knew people thought I was doing the most. I felt so alone because each refresh of my Snapchat or Facebook feed reminded me that everyone was living the life – without me.

I was the girl that never missed a function. I had to be where the action was in case something amazing happened. You know like stuntin on some old haters, my exes or meeting a potential bae (especially for that).

So although I knew staying at home was smarter, it sucked.

But I’m not the only one. The truth is that most of us suffer when we feel that people are partaking in activities that exclude us.

Most of us suffer when we feel that people are partaking in activities that exclude us. Click To Tweet

In other words, ain’t nobody got time to be looking like a square and feeling outcasted like this:


What people suggest to cure FOMO (And why it doesn’t work)

From the time we wake up until the time we go to sleep, we swallow ourselves with what people are doing.

FOMO is a PEST because it tricks us. We start to feel guilty that we rather be out sharing appetizers instead of staring at another episode of Love & Hip Hop Atlanta.

So what do people suggest to focus and fix this guilt?

Put ya phone down like my auntie Erykah says.

But that can’t be the ultimate solution. Yes, a social media break is healthy but completely ignoring the world is NOT going to erase your need to belong and have a good time. Those dancing selfies and overhead food shots will be waiting to destroy you as soon as you get back on.

5 Major keys to Staying Focused on your goal when FOMO appears

The gag is this: most experiences we feel that we absolutely can’t live without are the ones we regret wasting our time on. It’s not about limiting yourself altogether but to pick ways to create balance and peace when you see others having fun.

For mentally pep talking yourself into beast mode you can:

Get Turnt To a Personal Money Playlist

I have a playlist that can instantly lift my mood, no matter how much wine I’ve cried over that night.

Studies show that when we listen to certain music we love, our brain instantly releases the pleasure hormone dopamine.

For example, have you ever been in a club, holding up the wall or suffering in the corner because your heels have eaten the skin under your feet? It sucksss right? But when the DJ plays that perfect song (probs a hymn from our dearest Future), your state automatically changes.

At that point it doesn’t matter how boring it was or how bad your feet hurt. This is your jam and you’re ready to risk it all.

That’s exactly what your money playlist will do too. Pick out songs that will change your state so that you can begin to focus back on the goal.

Here’s a list to get you started:


Create a Wins Folder

To keep the momentum going, create a “wins” folder in your phone. As you start to see the numbers come down, screen shot the balance in your bank account and save it as a reminder that this ain’t your first rodeo.

This exercise is powerful because as you replay those wins in your head, they will become way more powerful than a burger slider on a Wednesday night.

It’s like a visual affirmation.

Instead of saying a positive sentence a thousand times you literally create a mental picture in your brain, which will shift your state back into grind mode to tackle the next goal.

This not only works for money but can work for literally anything. Save good emails from your boss or a text a friend sent saying how you helped them. These wins will show you why you are literally necessary to the world and money will just create the freedom to walk in that full time.


For walking that talk you talk you can:

Get Some Accountability That Works

 It’s time to call the Glow Up Gang crew.

While it’s possible to walk this journey to greatness alone, it’s not as fun.

If you’re a person that needs the extra push when you feel yourself slipping, pick a friend or two to commit to this thing with you.

You know the invitations for the turn up will come so make a pact that you guys will balance the outings with fun (and cheaper) things like movie or game nights.

P.S. I’ve REALYYY been wanting to play this game Black Card Revoked so that may be a start, fa reals.



Trips, gifts and other rewards that make you go round

So the point of getting out of debt is not to live a miserable and dry life.

Contrary to what they try to tell you, cutting coupons for 10 packs of deodorant just isn’t the life I’m about.

I want unforgettable experiences. I want to shop it up at Topshop or indulge in a bomb restaurant by the ocean.

Doesn’t that sound legit?

Use your desire for amazing experiences to drive you to save. It’s a sacrifice but learn to be okay with missing a couple of concerts with the squad for the amazing benefits you will reap.

To do this, pick a really nice reward to yourself. For example when I knock out $13K on one of my student loans, I plan to buy a nice Michael Kors bag.

My ultimate goal is to pay my entire debt off by my 30th birthday so I’m already planning a dream trip to South Africa.

Pick your reward and work like crazy to finally experience it without guilt or having minor heart attacks when you see the damage you couldn’t afford.

To stay encouraged you can:

Stay Covered in “This Is How We Do It” Stories

The biggest thing that helps me stay focused during my massive FOMO outbursts are hearing how changing bad money (and life) habits drastically changed lives.

Taking control of finances literally allowed people to quit their awful jobs to chase their dream or donate crazy amounts to their favorite charity.

Don’t you want that freedom too?

I smother myself in these stories. Search podcasts, YouTube channels and even Instagram for people about this hustle life.

Some of favorites include:

Dave Ramsey’s debt-free screams 

The Budgetnista’s story

Tracy G (Sway in the Morning) Money Affirmation

How This Couple Paid Off $204,971.31 – Making Sense of Cents


Stop Letting FOMO Get In The Way of Your Stacks

I know it gets hard and the journey seems so confusing that you want to give up.

But here’s why you shouldn’t:

You are one step closer to freedom.

Just imagine. Now you can buy something you love without anxiously checking your bank balance. You can ditch the burden of going to work just to collect a check.

Getting control of all this is changing the game. It’s what no one else is doing and the fact that you are sticking with it shows you truly desire to see what you are made of.

You are NOT doing the most. Everyone struggles with FOMO but now you are fighting for peace and true happiness.

Isn’t that worth the sacrifice?


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?


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.


Alaina <3