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Strategic, Futuristic Achiever and the Upper Limit Problem - Part 2

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Long story short, after a fateful bicycle accident, I quickly became a volunteer, then paid organizer, then lead coordinator of the Restaurant Opportunities Center of Washington, DC in 2009. It was a brand-new start up worker center that happened to be about 5 blocks from my apartment. It wasn't long before I had what I call "universal moment" - one of those moments in time where you can clearly see that everything that ever happened to you all made perfect sense because it was leading you to that EXACT moment in the time-space continuum. In other words, I had crystal clarity about my purpose and nothing could stop me from growing into it. It was like I was a young Daenarys Targaryen becoming a Khalisi... Carol Danvers becoming Captain Marvel...like I was Beyonce dropping my solo debut album. Well, at least in my mind I was like Beyonce... but for real, look at me living in my light at the 2010 US Social Forum in Detroit, repping for the restaurant workers!


ORGANZING PEOPLE AND MONEY TO ADVANCE WORKERS' RIGHTS WAS MY SHIT! IT STILL IS MY SHIT! I used to work 10-12 hour days consistently but I didn't really care or notice because I LOVE, LOVE, LOVED organizing. I didn't realize it at the time, but I was finding my "zone of genius" as writer and celebrity coach Gay Hendricks calls it. It was what I had been searching for my whole life - that missing puzzle piece that nobody could ever explain to me clearly until I got to ROC-DC. It was the implementation part of power! The how-to-build-and-exercise-personal-and-collective-power-part. It was the part that no history class or movie had ever really explained HOW to do. It was #thatpart I had felt someone or something had been keeping from us all, all along.

But let me keep it REAL FOR REAL ya'll. Working 12-hour days for months and eventually years on end - is whack AF. It ain't right. Humans need rest, recovery, and reinvigoration to be their best selves. Period.


Even though I had found my genius zone and I found pride, dignity, and purpose through my organizing, I worked relentlessly in an unsustainable way, without vacation for about 8 years as a lead organizer for ROC-DC, and as a board member and Executive Director for DC Jobs with Justice. I eventually resigned and worked on a transition plan with the board of DC Jobs with Justice to leave the organization in a strong place, but only after I had gotten to a point where my body was literally rejecting my workstyle. I had been so consumed with campaigning for increased minimum wages, paid sick days, wage theft prevention, Walmart workers' rights, Darden workers' rights, DMV unions' contract rights, grassroots candidates and budget policies, and so much more, that I would forget to eat and get migraines to the point of vomiting - daily! And one day, my mind finally caught up with my body and I made the decision to step out of movement work temporarily. That was April 2016 - just as he-who-must-not-be-named was bidding for the Republican Presidential nomination and somehow fucking won. And here's a pic I took at the Women's March that year. fv #WhatJustHappened

Pause.


Breathe In. Breath Out.


So I took some time off from movement work and during that time, I started a Style Therapy and Portrait business called TigerSwan Timeless. It was dope and I had a great clientele base and I made money! I was able to exercise a different part of my brain and flex my creativity, hospitality, and business skills. I organized and hosted really cool cultural events and brunches. I even coordinated a segment of a local fashion show with friends. But most of all, I got in tune with a part of my genius that I hadn't really exercised since high school - portraiture and photography. I took thousands of portraits of people - mostly Black women and women in the local social justice movement. I found ways to set up portrait booths at events, in local and national parks, inside museums, and on the streets of DC with a large variety of vintage accessories, crowns, sunglasses, and furs for my clients to play in and/or buy. See some of my portraits below. I LOVED my business, and I was sustaining my part of the household economy with my soon-to-be husband, Chris.

Stepping outside of the movement to work on TigerSwan Timeless was an important step in my liberatory power journey in a number of ways. It gave me space to think and reflect upon my life and the kind of person I saw myself becoming in the long term. The experience helped me reconnect with the beauty of the world, the beauty of people, and the beauty of delicious food and delicious conversations between people. And it reinforced my vision that it was possible for me to sustain a values-based business.


And yet, when I became pregnant with my daughter, Golden Hazel, my #upperlimitproblem kicked in again BIG TIME. I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to run a successful business AND be a great mom and partner. In my mind, it felt impossible - EVEN THOUGH I had just come off of doing the impossible - running back-to-back victorious policy campaigns and shifting electoral mountains in DC. I literally had the skills to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars and knew every organization and community leader across the District that could and would help me realize my dreams, but I let the negative narratives about financial and freak disasters that COULD happen actually block my self-determined reality from advancing. The ideas of bad things that might happen - not things that actually were happening or had happened to me before - stopped me from doing creative business work I love.


When I think about that now - almost 7 years later - it sounds ridiculous. But to be fair, I hadn't heard of Gay Hendricks or Rachel Rodgers yet in 2016, and I didn't have entrepreneur examples or business coaches I trusted yet either. What I did have though - was an incredible network of movement people I'd had 1-to-1s with over the years - who checked in on me and started calling me back to do movement work. Afterall, Trump had just taken office and it was all hands-on-deck to save any progressive policies and elected seats we'd won during the Obama Administration.


The following years, I worked and contracted with several organizations, further sharpening my skills, expanding my knowledge and network. I held a number of positions, including State Organizing Director for Progressive Maryland; Membership and Engagement Lead for the H.E.A.L. Food Alliance; interim campaign manager for Janeese Lewis-George for DC; National Policy Campaign Director for One Fair Wage; Lead Organizer with Prince George's County chapter of the Maryland State Education Association, and more. I found satisfaction in the work I did across organizations, but it was different from before. It was different in that my primary concern was no longer whatever campaign I was working on. Instead, it was how I was going to support my child and pay for childcare. So, whereas before I had been accustomed to accepting meager salaries and benefits in exchange for "legendary" results, I could no longer afford to do that. And I believed, and still believe, that my daughter deserves everything this world has to offer and beyond. She motivates me like no other to expand resources for me, my family, Black folks, and working-class people everywhere.

Other things started shifting for me as a working mother in the nonprofit and labor industries as well. I started looking for higher paying opportunities and I really noticed who supported me in that endeavor. I also began to realize that after all the trauma I had been through as a child and young adult, that I struggled to really love myself and my life. As a result, I noticed the patterns of throwing myself into work in order to numb my pain and gain approval from others.... and that as a Black person, I had always felt like the only way I received kindness, respect, or love from anyone, was when I worked really hard and achieved perfect or near perfect results. But I wanted to set a new example and create a new narrative for myself, and before these demons could take hold and shape Golden's mentality and future. That's me and my Goldie Bear above.


Motherhood for me, has been a motivating yet uncomfortable daily slap in the face - like "Bitch, you betta evolve with THA QUICKNESS!"


Well... now my inner voice is more like, "Hey grrrl, you have come a long way. You're doing great. Keep it up! Do it for Goldie!" But it took a couple years of therapy, lots of hard conversations with my husband, and a lot of brain reprogramming activities like reading and listening to empowering music every day in order for me to stop limiting myself. Real talk - I listen to Cardi B, Beyonce, Jay-Z, and a few select others on REPEAT. REPEAT. REPEAT. REPEAT. It took a lot of tears, meditation, and commitment to self-care practices and rituals as well. It's the "Crystal, Candle, Incense, & Journal City" up in my home.


And some days, I still revert back to "Hulk Smashing" myself on the inside, but 70% of the time I catch myself talking shit to myself, am able to stop the insanity, breath, and move forward with clear intention and expanded possibilities.

For the past 5 years, I've been going hard on reincorporating the following basic-ass life shit into my routine, because when I do these things - I feel unstoppable and I do greater work. I transform into Beyonce . . .. unfortunately, always in my mind and never in reality...yet. #TwirlOnMyHaters


- Drinking Water first thing in the morning and throughout the day

- Taking my damn multivitamins and fish oil so my arthritis doesn't flare up

- Eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day with healthy snacks in between

- Spending at least 5-10 minutes outside daily to get some fresh air and sunshine #VitaminD

- Writing down 5 things I'm grateful for in the morning or before bed

- Spending at least 5-10 minutes daily meditating and focusing on my breath

- Calling and texting family and friends weekly because I love them and like telling them so

- Exercising and stretching at least 2-3 times per week because it feels fucking amazing

- Listening to music while working and making my annual life soundtrack playlist

- Watching horror or comedy and laughing my ass off (Yes, horror is hilarious!)

- Spending real quality time and exploring the world with my husband and child.


Doing these activities on daily and weekly basis enables me to be a better version of myself. I have more energy in general and for fun! More brilliant ideas. More love and capacity to engage in the emotional labor that is life. Better sleep. More sex drive! I write and draw and dance and sing and play more with my daughter. I organize impromptu parties and friend gatherings. I inspire others and they tell me so! I level up! And let me be honest - it's hard to keep it up consistently. Life happens. But what's more important is that I keep recommitting, practicing, and transforming over time. Powering up is a journey.


I decided to power up again in the late fall of 2021. I got a business coach - Rebecca Thompson and she's phenomenal. Per her advice, I started putting teaser ideas on my social media about training, strategic planning and coaching services I was thinking about offering. People responded positively. Those actions gave me the confidence to create this website, start this blog, start writing creatively again, ask my celebrity crushes to be my mentors (they said yes!), and secure my first three clients - which then gave me the confidence to leave my cushy well-paid union job by the end of 2022. I had secured about $140K within 2 months in project and retainer contracts without even having a strategic business plan or team to support me with my start up. Just today I negotiated another a $50K retainer contract. That's putting me on track to earn $200K annually and hire my first dream teammates. At this point, that's more than I've ever made annually in my life and building my dream team has been a goal of mine for a decade. #BAWSE


I've got goals. A lot of goals. Since childhood, one of them is to become a millionaire before 45 so that I can not only be the best employer I never had, but also set up my family for long term success. I want them to have choices and to not be limited by a lack of resources. I'd like to ensure my child, nieces and nephews have quality educations; that I can invest in their business ideas and help them secure their first homes or whatever it is they need support with through life. I want to have wealth and wisdom to pass on to my peeps.


I want to reinvest money responsibly and expand resources for Black Love, Black Liberation, and multi-cultural socio-economic and environmental justice movements. I'm clear that when Black women level up, everybody benefits.


If you're a working woman or mom who is exhausted and tired of living paycheck to paycheck - I suggest reading We Should All Be Millionaires by Rachel Rodgers. Buy it or borrow it now. It will change your life if you let it. I read it twice in 2022 and am still referring back to it to guide me on my pricing and team building now. I also recently started listening to her Hello 7 and The Most podcasts and let me tell you - she and her guests are so disgustingly fabulous and motivating! I can't wait to be part of her club and share my path to power on her show! #ClaimingItNow

I'm also grateful for Rachel Rodgers because in her book, she shouts out Gay Hendricks. I ended up listening to his book on Audible called "The Big Leap." Then I listened to the book two more times and did the mental narrative exercises he suggests throughout. He writes about what he calls "The Upper Limit Problem" and how to overcome it. He describes it as our limited tolerance for feeling good and our lives going well.


The concept blew my mind a little bit because soon after I started catching myself repeating self-sabotaging narratives in my mind that would prevent me from experiencing prolonged pleasure, satisfaction, pride, or general contentment ALL THROUGHOUT THE DAYS. Like - ridiculous thoughts about getting into car crashes and becoming paralyzed, my daughter falling down a flight of stairs and breaking her neck, or the feeling that no one really loves or understands me so I should just end my life. LIKE REALLY HORRIBLE DEEP DARK FEARS that would just fucking pop out of nowhere - in the middle of breakfast, going for a walk, or trying to share an intimate moment with my husband! No wonder in the past I have given up on my biggest dreams and desires. I realized I've been doing this shit to myself for as long as I can remember, and that the habit was passed onto me from my mother, who inherited the habit from her parents - who barely survived the Great Depression at the turn of the 20th century! Hot Damn! This is what Galit Atlas calls "Emotional Inheritance."


Building the patience for self-awareness . . . noticing what's happening inside of us . . . honestly reflecting on the habits and emotions we inherited from birth . . . and developing the capacity to be uncomfortable while choosing how to act and communicate on the other hand - are characteristics of an "emotionally intelligent" being. Lots of people are talking, practicing, and writing about it these days, including Alain de Botton through his "School of Life." I'll be writing more myself, about emotional intelligence, self-care, and mental health for the purposes of organizing socio-economic structural changes in the United States and globally.


As Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam would sing, "It's evolution, baby!"


I'm evolving.

I intend to further discover and evolve the inherent genius within me, for all my life.

I intend to share my story and what I learn with others.

I intend to be the most strategic, futuristic, achieving change agent I can be with my time on this planet.


What do you intend to do with your life?

How does your upper limit problem show up in your mind?

How will you cultivate the genius inside of you?


Share your thoughts and comments, please.


P.S. Like the photos in this blog? They were either taken by myself, Sekou Luke, Idit Knaan, or Christopher "06 Chris" Cole. Check out their dope work!


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