My goal was never to become a business owner, I like to say that it happened by accident. 

In 2013, I took the biggest chance of my life by quitting my corporate job and moving out of state without having another job lined up. Now, some people call that stupidity, and at the time I thought so too, but I was too determined to care. Naturally, I had a backup plan in terms of finances although I assumed that things would work out because I had never had trouble finding a job.

 
 
"There is Nothing Constant in the Universe. All Ebb and Flow, And Every Shape That's Born, Bears in its Womb the Seeds of Change." Ovid.
Yesterday, I missed the self-imposed deadline for sending out my Monday Inspiration. I woke up at 4:30 a.m. to work on a client's manuscript after about 3 hours of sleep and I could barely keep my eyelids open. So at about 7:00 a.m., I decided to go back to bed. When I woke up, I still could not function properly, so I decided to skip out on the Monday Inspiration and work altogether, and just focus on playing with my daughter.

This morning, I am up again. This time at 5:00 a.m., feeling refreshed, having gotten a full night's sleep (which for me is at least 5 hours). I was going to wait until next Monday, but I was sitting here working and thinking when the thought popped into my head and, I don't want to wait to share it.

Last week Thursday, I landed a new client. She's the one whose manuscript I'm currently working on. Before her, I had just completed work for another client. This new client and I were still ironing out the terms while I was wrapping up on my previous client's work. Before the previous client, I was ironing out terms with that client and two other clients. This has all happened within the last 2-3 months. Before then, there were other email inquiries, but nothing that became a deal. And before then, there were long periods of deafening silence.  

 
 
Last week I shared a Shonda Rhimes video with my readers because I could not focus on writing an inspirational post. As I was reflecting on why; I found that I was feeling a little drained by my life. Juggling several roles in the span of a few hours will do that to anyone. So today I decided to share with you a few things I came up with that helped me survive the rest of the week. This may or may not apply to your current situation, but I'm sure there are areas of your life where some of these lessons may still be helpful. 

 
 
Have you ever been stuck in a rut? I have. Several times. Literally! I can't remember the first time I got stuck in a rut, but I do know that I was living in Ghana at the time and I was very young. It was on a muddy road leading up to our house. The rains had fallen earlier in the day and we all knew to expect that there would be mud and difficulty trying to navigate the muddy roads, but we did not expect to get stuck. One minute the Renault was cruising at a slow, humming pace and the next thing we heard were tires spinning and no movement. The driver got out of the car to inspect the cause of the problem; we were stuck in a rut. For months on end, cars belonging to the residents of New Achimota, where we lived, had driven through the mud, leaving deep ruts in the road. The problem is that we all had to drive this particular road in order to get to our houses, but nobody deemed it their responsibility to fix the holes in the road. So every time it rained, we had to deal with the mud and the ever deepening tire tracks.

I can't quite remember how we got out of the rut, but somehow, we did. My guess is that some Good Samaritans came along and helped the driver push the car out of the rut. There are always Good Samaritans in Ghana. 
Now I ask you again, have you ever been stuck in a rut? This time I mean figuratively. Has your life ever become stagnant, your tires of complacency and comfort just spinning in the same place. Did you stay there? Are you still sitting there? Or did you find a way to get out of your rut? I would love to hear your stories, so please share them by clicking "reply."

Many people get stuck and stay there, mostly because they feel comfortable with where they are. And some stay because of excuses for why they can't move forward. What we all need is a push; be it a push from a Good Samaritan, or a push we give ourselves. My Good Samaritan came in the form of my husband who is never afraid to tell me the truth. I was slacking, and I knew it. I was using the excuse of being a first-time mom as the reason why I couldn't do this or that...why I couldn't seem to move forward. For a while, I was taking on new clients, but my lack of interest and determination showed. I was asking for extensions and using my lack of sleep as a reason why I could not stay late into the night to finish up a project. Thank God that this lackadaisical approach I had towards my work did not have lasting implications. Had this gone on for much longer, I'm sure it would have. But along came my husband's many voices of reason, just in time to kick some sense into me. This is our life! This is your career! It's not just about you! I'm working full time so that you can concentrate on growing your business! You don't get to slack while I have to go out into the world everyday whether I like it or not! Get yourself together!

The shaking was needed, and here I am, unglued and passionate again. Now I stay up late to get work done, and I have found a way to balance work and being a mother that doesn't leave me wanting to pull out my hair at the end of the day. I've even been able to squeeze in daily evening walks without obsessing about deadlines and feeling guilty and incompetent. Yes, my daughter has changed the way I work and I am better for having found a way around it, instead of making one excuse after another. And do you know what ungluing myself from that rut has done for me and for business?

I'm happier, more relaxed, and feeling more accomplished. This has attracted new clients. Positivity breeds positive results. When you're fired up about your passion, people see it and are attracted to it through the energy you emit. The same can happen for you, you just need to come unglued. Get someone to help you push your car out of the muddy rut and move forward. Whatever you have started, you can finish it. If you want an excuse not to, trust me, you will find one. There are hurdles and obstacles everywhere we turn, but we can't let those excuses rule our lives. Talk yourself out of it. Hopefully, this will serve as the first push you need. I look forward to hearing your stories. 
 
 
It's been quite some time, but the break is over and we're bring back Inspirational Mondays!!! The first issue will be released on Monday, June 27. Until then, here's a blast from the past, our last entry, enjoy!

Whose Dreams Are You Really Living?

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Photo credit: Lorenaknapp.com
A recent conversation with a friend left me with this question that I now wish to throw to you. Whose dreams are you living? My friend has just graduated with a Master’s degree in Nursing. She is very proud of her latest accomplishment, and rightly so. She has been working on getting her Master’s for quiet some time now.

However the thing is this, when she called me to ecstatically share the good news, something she kept repeating struck me as odd. She kept referring to “her nay-sayers,” those people who always said she couldn’t do it, and she seemed to derive some sort of satisfaction from finally being able to prove them wrong.

Now, I have to agree that there is no sweeter revenge than to accomplish that one thing that many doubted you were capable of achieving. But, when that achievement becomes all about them, then where does that leave you?Many times, in our quest to seek “revenge” on the people who have doubted us, belittled our capabilities and questioned our intelligence, we set out on a journey that is all about proving them wrong, whether consciously or unconsciously. In the same way, we may even live our lives to prove people right. I almost went to law school because people said I would be good at it. But I know better now. And while it wasn’t easy convincing people - and even myself - that I would rather spend my days outside the courtroom, they eventually came to accept it.

So, I ask you again, whose dreams are you living? Just think about it very carefully. Are you a doctor today (wishing you had listened to your inner painter) because someone in your distant past said you would never be allowed to operate on a frog let alone a human being? Or, are you a teacher today (wishing you had listened to your inner dentist) because someone said you were good at it? Or, are you pursuing something that you believe deep down, despite all the outside voices around you, that you were called to do. Whose dreams are you really living?
 
 
I am an avid reader. When I say avid, I mean just that. I'll read just about any and everything with words; sign boards, beer bottles, Facebook posts, cereal cartons, road signs, door posters, car bumper stickers, web content, you name it. My eyes are like razor filters too. I notice everything. Sometimes it seems as if my eyes are trained to pick out mistakes. And maybe that is why I came down a little hard on myself when I submitted an article for publication and realized that even after proofreading it 3 times over, I still managed to miss a mistake in the very first sentence. What should have been a proud moment for me turned into almost two weeks of self-doubt and self-beating. How could I have missed that? People are going to read this. I'm supposed to be an editor. No one's going to take me seriously when they read this, etc.

When I eventually got over my pity party, I realized that my mistake was just that; a mistake. It could have happened for so many reasons besides the fact that I was not careful. Even so, that is one article I still don't proudly circulate. As we head into a new week, I want you to remember that mistakes happen, even against our best efforts to avoid them, they happen. It's what makes us human. What we can do instead of beating ourselves up is to look at what could have possibly gone wrong, correct it, and ensure that it doesn't repeat itself. Then move forward with your head held high. Your mistakes do not define you!

Have a blessed and fruitful week ahead!
Nicole

PS: What I did was correct the article and resubmit it to a different publication. See the article in Today's Innovative Woman Magazine.
 
 
Two weeks ago, I was on vacation, having some much needed girlfriend time away from home, when I was introduced to a friend of my friend's at a church event. Of course, as expected, we got to chatting, and all seemed to be going well until I was asked what I do and I hesitated.

You see, I've always had a difficult time calling myself a writer. I want to say it's because writing is not my primary source of income, but that would be a lie. I know deep down that it's because I don't believe I've earned the title; even though I have written several articles for publication, maintained an online magazine for 5 years, maintained a blog for over 8, writing was a part of my responsibilities at my former employer's, and it's what I now do full time. The truth is, I hesitate to call myself a writer because I am yet to be affirmed by a major publishing house. It's the struggle most unpublished writers go through, so I know I'm not alone, but it still bothers me because I don't need that kind of affirmation in order to own my "writer" status. My readers already know me as a writer and they are the ones who count the most.

But still, the incident had me thinking of all the ways we sell ourselves short when we wait for someone in "authority" to tell us we're good enough, when we already know that we are. We all struggle with affirmation in some area of our lives. Whether it's waiting for someone to tell us that we're smart enough, pretty enough, or creative enough, we need to learn what I learned: If we accept our own truths, others will too. Having the acknowledgment of someone in authority should only be considered icing on the cake. In the meantime, start baking the cake and showing it off proudly, with or without the icing.

I hope you start thinking about all the ways in which you hesitate to own your creativity, and remember that you only sell yourself short when you do so. Of course, also remember that just because you say you are does not mean that you are if you have nothing to show for the fact that you are.

Have a blessed and fruitful week ahead!
 
 
Let's face it, writing is a difficult task for many. My writing life is no different. It takes discipline, perseverance and lots and lots of patience. You're probably having the same problem. Perhaps you've been staring at a blank screen/sheet of paper for months. You probably have a title or you don't, but either way you're stuck and can't seem to move forward. Here are a few tips to get you started on your journey forward.

Believe in your story: In order to give your story a voice and bring it alive, you must first believe in your own story. If you don't then you'll have difficulty trying to put words on paper for fear that no one else will believe it.

Believe your story is worth telling: Every story is worth telling, and every story has its reader. So know that once your story is told, it will find its way to those it was meant for. You just have to give them something.

Reading is key: Read for inspiration. Read for style and voice. Read for lessons - to know what you like and don't like. Then find your own unique voice and own it. The best piece of writing is the one told in your own voice.

Pay attention to that tug: Don't ignore that yearning tugging on your heartstrings. It is the one voice you must listen to. All others are just outside noise.
 
Just write: If all else fails, just sit down and write a starter sentence. You'll be amazed at how the story will flow from there. Stories have a life of their own, and they will lead you where you need to go.

Write everyday: Once you get started, be sure to add a little to the story everyday. Then be sure to stick to it until you have a final draft - no matter how rough it is. Editors exist for a reason.

If all else fails, seek outside help. A writing coach can help you get started, and a ghostwriter can help write your story if you can't seem to find the time or lack the skills it takes to get it done. Whatever you do, no matter how you choose to tell your story, know that your story is valid and there is someone out there waiting to read it.

Have a blessed and fruitful week ahead!


 
 
For many of us, we like to think that our talents, as wonderful as they are, should speak for themselves. People should see and acknowledge and be attracted to our gifts. And that would be great, wouldn't it? I used to feel that way too, until I realized what was missing. Presentation. There was little to none, and people can't appreciate what they can't see. It's just the way life works.

"No matter how beautiful our talents, or how awesome we may think they are, if others can't see and experience them, then they won't be able to see and appreciate them either."

The lesson on presentation presented itself during a food fair over the July 4 weekend. Side by side, were two food stands. One was selling BBQ ribs and chips. The other was selling chicken-on-a-stick with options of either fries, rice or noodles. In the chicken stand sat a girl calling out to people passing by. "Can I help you?" she yelled. She was irritating, but people were nonetheless drawn to the stand either out of curiosity, or because they simply couldn't resist the temptation of the beautiful display of sample plates which lined the front shelf of the food-stand. I ordered a plate of chicken and fries, then had to stand and wait for the chicken (which was being grilled out in the open) to cook to perfection before being served. The wait was anywhere from 5 to 6 minutes.

In the BBQ ribs stand right next door, a young man with a forlorn look on his face was bored out of his mind. Apart from people occasionally walking away with a bowl of ribs and chips, one could barely tell they were in business, or if they were, what was being sold - unless you stopped, read the sign on the stand, and the list of foods scribbled on a board by the tip jar or, you were just really looking for some ribs. 

After sampling the chicken-on-a-stick, my friend and I decided to sample the BBQ ribs as well. And do you know that we liked the ribs ten times better than the chicken? They had the best barbeque sauce I have ever tasted, the ribs were well cooked, juicy and tender, and their meal was 2 dollars cheaper than what we had spent at the chicken stand. 

To make a long story short, I began to wonder what was drawing people towards the bland-tasting chicken instead of the juicy, tender, finger-licking ribs. And that's when it hit us, "it was all in the presentation." Not only did you have the young lady calling for your attention, but you had samples on colorful display, smoke rising high from the open grill, and the line of people waiting for their orders. Naturally, people assumed it had to be good, so they were drawn to it. On the other hand, you had a bored looking young man with arms folded, not calling out, no food on display and an empty stand with the occasional customer stopping by.

People can't appreciate what they can't see - and what you don't try to sell. And, perhaps, the young man had an unwelcoming look because he might have wondered why people were walking right past his stand and heading over to the chicken stand. He forgot to look at himself, and his team, and figure out what the competition was doing right. He probably knew he had finger-licking ribs, but how was everyone else supposed to know that if the one selling it was not putting it on display and inviting people over to try it?

This week, I encourage you to take that first step towards putting your BBQ ribs on display. Is it a book you wish to write? Then start, and tell people about it. Is it a gift you have for making something special? Start, and let people know about it. Own it, be proud of it, and people will appreciate it too.

Happy Monday! Welcome to the month of July. I wish you a blessed and fruitful week ahead.


 
 
No one likes a cheater, or to become the victim of someone who cheats, and yet many of us are ourselves cheaters. Our victims? Ourselves. Yes, we cheat ourselves in several ways every day. Sometimes, we are aware of it, and sometimes we are not. Either way, one of the worst things we can do to ourselves, outside of depriving ourselves of self-love, self-care and self-motivation, is to cheat ourselves.

"We cheat ourselves when we undervalue ourselves, hide our talents, deny our sense of creativity, and convince ourselves that we are not capable or deserving of better, of more, or, of the best."


I was once cheated out of a deserving salary. It still stings to this day; knowing that I willingly settled for less than I deserved. But never again! It was on the day of my exit interview. (I had decided to take the next step in my career journey.) There I sat in the Human Resources office, answering the basic questions and filling out the requisite forms, when the director looked at one of the forms and proclaimed incredulously, that I had been underpaid for someone of my position and with my level of expertise. The truth is that I knew this already, from talking with my peers in the same profession who also worked in the same geographical location as me. And the fact is also that I had discovered this fact over a year ago but avoided addressing it because I was afraid that if I did, I would no longer have a job - which is funny because even though I still quit, I was more than okay.

When we cheat ourselves, we leave the door open for others to cheat us too. I have no doubt that the powers that be knew very well that they were underpaying me. But who can blame them when I was okay with cheating myself? The way we value and treat ourselves is a good indicator of how we permit others to treat us. So, please, do me a favor and go into this week determined to hold yourself in high esteem. Don't cheat yourself out of the things you need and deserve, and others wouldn't even dare do the same! You have it in you and you deserve to do what you love, and receive what you are worth. Believe it, and others will have no other choice than to believe it too.

Happy Monday! I wish you a blessed and fruitful week ahead.