The Imperative & Paradox of Racial Reconciliation

 

Over the past eight months I have been a part of a pilot racial reconciliation women’s group at my local church, called ‘Be The Bridge’. It has been a pivotal experience for me personally and interpersonally, forcing me to engage in tough conversations around race and identity with myself, my teammates and my wider circle of friends and family. So I find myself, a black, Christian, American woman of Caribbean descent, trying to grapple with racial reconciliation in my church community and the country at large.

Lately I have been feeling overwhelmed and more hopeless than ever given the political and cultural context in which we exist today. In just this past year alone things have gotten so much worse, racially speaking. In the eight months our group has gathered, we have witnessed the Neo-Nazi/white supremacist protests in Charlottesville which put the undercurrent racial hostility in the country front and center.  The country is still reeling from those events and what has followed. The ongoing controversy around NFL players taking a knee in protest of black oppression has reached the upper echelons of the White House. Racial tensions are at an all-time high in America. Devastating proof of the horrors of hatred surround us. This is a time of reckoning in the United States if there ever was one.

Not coincidentally, this past week I started reading the book, ‘Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone’, by renowned social scientist and author Brené Brown. The book is essentially the culmination of her research on “true belonging”. Americans are scared, she writes, and to offset our fear we have collectively hunkered around our “ideological bunkers”, sorting ourselves into more homogeneous groups so that we live, work and play with people who look, think and act like we do. Yet instead of these “bunkers” drawing us closer together, we are moving further apart. Ironically all this sorting has us more disconnected than ever and yearning for true belonging.

In the book, Brown offers us the clarity and courage we need to find our way back to ourselves and to each other. But she does not hesitate to underscore the challenge America faces. In this country, she writes, “our three greatest fault lines, cracks that have grown and deepened due to willful neglect and a collective lack of courage are race, gender and class. The fear and uncertainty flowing from collective trauma of all kinds have exposed these gaping wounds in a way that has been both profoundly polarizing and necessary. These are conversations that need to happen. This is discomfort that must be felt. Still as much as it is time to confront these and other issues, we have to acknowledge that our lack of tolerance for vulnerable tough conversations is driving our self-sorting and disconnection.”

Race, gender, class—America’s fault lines. When I read those words this week as I was crafting this post on racial reconciliation, I had to pause. Here I am writing about racial reconciliation in a month where the fault line that has cracked open wide is the one around gender. I cannot write about racial reconciliation in this season of America, without acknowledging what is happening in this country in the wake of the allegations of sexual assault of hundreds of women at the hands of powerful men in entertainment, politics and business. It is simply staggering.

Sexism versus Racism

I’m encouraged by the hundreds of brave women coming out with their #metoo stories, each one subsequently fortifying the other, because this too is a state of affairs that has long since needed reckoning in this country. I’m hopeful as I see man after man being stripped of his title, status and privilege for his gross misconduct against women because justice, however imperfect, is finally being served. And with the truth out these women who have been trapped by their stories can find true freedom. The dark secret of sexual harassment and assault in America’s workplaces is out and as a country thank God, we will never be the same. The balance of power has shifted and women are finally reclaiming their collective voice and standing united and courageous against sexism.

The movement is so powerful that Time magazine Editor-in-Chief, Edward Felsenthal dubbed it “the highest-velocity shifts in our culture since the 1960s”. To champion how ground breaking this movement has been, Time chose these very brave women, “The Silence Breakers” as the much anticipated Time Person of the Year for 2017. But Felsenthal acknowledges that we are just in the “middle of the beginning of this upheaval. There is so much that we still don’t know about its ultimate impact. How far-reaching will it be? How deep into the country? How far down the organizational chart?” We don’t know. Time will tell.

Sexism affects all women. There are no grey areas, no blurred lines. One is either male or female, and as females we have been subjected to sexism all our lives. We learn to orient ourselves as women in a male-centric world at an early age, being mindful that how we dress, comb our hair, walk, talk or behave can lead men to see us as prey. This is such an integral aspect of being female that most of us, myself included, aren’t even aware of the many ways we have contorted ourselves so we won’t be the victims of unwanted sexual advances. Unfortunately as recent allegations demonstrate, even taking these precautions don’t necessarily grant us immunity from attack.

But here is where I’m going with this. There has been a certain confluence of events that has led to the fallout from sexism in the workplace. Was it the close but no cigar almost Presidency of Hillary Clinton, the first woman to have almost succeeded? Was it Trump becoming President even after allegations of his own sexual misconduct had been publicized last year? Was it the Women’s March in January that united and emboldened women to start sharing their stories? We may never know what led to this domino effect that has given women the courage to stand up and speak out against sexual harassment. But it is happening. And it is changing the landscape of this country as we speak.

So I wonder then what sequence of events would need to happen to see real, substantive change along racial lines in this country? Race–that infinitely much more complicated and emotionally charged demographic characteristic than gender—which impacts an important sub-segment of the U.S. population, some who happen to be women too. What would that take? Can we hope to really see racial reconciliation in America? Can I look to what is happening now with the galvanizing movement against sexism, witnessing those chickens come home to roost, and hold onto hope for racial reconciliation?

This country needs to reconcile itself to centuries of racial oppression against blacks.  Consider the challenge. It is daunting. But we must be fearless in wanting the light of truth to shine too on the nasty, grimy, filthy crevices of racial hatred. But I believe it will be much more difficult than what has occurred this year to begin to end the cycle of female oppression.

A Personal Confession

In my own racial reconciliation small group, I often had to lean heavily on our good intentions and the covering of our church in engaging in these hard conversations around race, knowing we were building bridges of racial unity in our church by our efforts. That didn’t make it easier, just more intentional. I felt anger, hurt and guilt repeatedly as I allowed myself to listen to other women’s experiences and views that sometimes offended me or were in conflict with my own.

I listened with a heavy heart as women shared their painful stories of racial discrimination or how they may have hurt others because of their white privilege. And I shared my own experiences, which as a black woman born and raised in the Caribbean are so very different from my African-American sisters. My blackness did not much inform my identity growing up as I lived on an island where people of color are the dominant culture. By the time I got to the United States to study at Rutgers University, I did not have that particular monkey on my back. I knew racism was alive and well here but I did not take it personally. And my experiences in college, Corporate America, in my own business and in my social circles, where I was often the solo black person among a sea of white people, oddly enough validated that way of thinking for me. I felt “free” to be me. I see things differently now.

Acknowledging this reality was difficult for me. And part of my personal journey during this process, was owning that as an American with black skin, I too am an object of hate and revulsion amongst racists in this country. I am not exempt, different, set apart or in any way spared just because I had a different socializing. My Caribbean heritage could no longer be a mask I could hide behind. With this understanding arose a righteous anger within me that scared me for a while. And if I’m being honest, at that low point, I just wanted out. I didn’t want to know, see or feel the things that were being stirred up within me, seeing myself, the way many white Americans see me with my blackness speaking for me before anything else about me. It pained and offended me. But this is the reality of racial toxicity. This is the struggle and I have no illusions about which side of the battlefield I’m on.

Racial Reconciliation is a Marathon Not a Sprint: A Quick History Lesson

In our groups at church each of the 32 women who participated in the pilot racial reconciliation program did so voluntarily, focusing mostly on our relationships with the increasingly ethnically diverse women of our church, with the hope that our efforts would slowly spread throughout our church at large. We’re at a juncture where we are hoping to double the groups from 4 to prayerfully 8, as wrap up the pilot groups, with the understanding that we are still figuring this all out as we go along. It continues to be an illuminating yet uncomfortable learning experience. But we are committed to doing the work.

With this awareness I’ve really been struggling with what racial reconciliation looks like at the national level. Getting to racial reconciliation as a nation seems virtually impossible to me. How can centuries old hurts, wounds and the systemic oppression of a race of people be healed?  Since there is no precedent for racial harmony in America, what are we even reconciling to? These valid concerns can stop the attempt and intent to reconcile dead in its tracks. There are no easy answers. I would offer that meaningful racial reconciliation in this country is not likely in my lifetime, given its history.

Let’s look at America’s track record. The 13th Amendment was passed in America in 1865 abolishing slavery….except as a punishment for crime. In 2014, the U.S. at only 5% of the world’s population had 25% of its citizens behind bars. This is roughly over 2 million people.  Of these roughly 2 million people behind bars, 40% are African-American men. Let that sink in for a moment.

So 152 years after abolition, “slavery” exists today for people of color in this country. As the decades have rolled on by, the dominant culture continues to find creative ways to enslave its black citizens, starting with the aforementioned 13th Amendment. Thereafter, this country enforced Jim Crow Law—the caste system that essentially relegated black people to second class citizenship– from Reconstruction in 1877 well into the 1950’s. Then the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s spearheaded by Martin Luther King Jr. and others who helped get the landmark Civil Rights Act passed in 1964 (outlawing discrimination based on race or color) followed by the Voting Rights Act of 1965 which removed barriers to voting among African-Americans, made it seem like racial equality could be a dream fulfilled in America.

But it would be a dream deferred as the 1980’s and 1990’s witnessed the continued subjugation of black people. With the media dehumanizing and painting black men as criminals to be feared, these decades ushered in the “War on Drugs” in urban communities and the system of mass incarceration of black men to the prison institution. In the past couple years, African-Americans seeking justice have rallied around Black Lives Matter–an activist movement that campaigns against violence and systemic racism towards African-Americans. Black Lives Matter has highlighted the scores of (mostly) unarmed young black men across the country who have been killed at the hands of (mostly) white police officers, while the officers go unpunished.

2017 will go down as the year white supremacists rallied in broad daylight in Charlottesville resulting in clashes killing one. Racial tensions in this country are worsening. For a moment, I wonder too with Edward Rosenthal of Time what it would have been like in the 60s if Rosa Parks had a Twitter account, like the countless women who used the social media platform to share their stories of sexual assault and discrimination? Would the civil rights movement have progressed more? But after a moment, I shake my head to myself. No. I don’t think we’d be much further along. Because racism is way more complicated than sexism and harkens back to the root of how this country was founded.

America’s Bleeding Heart

Michelle Higgins, worship leader and a leader in the Black Lives Matter movement wrote a no holds barred article on racial reconciliation this summer titled, ‘The Idea of Racial Reconciliation is Bankrupt‘,  essentially claiming that the term itself is bankrupt. She asserts that before the nation can even think of reconciliation that it needs to be repenting of its past atrocities, “I grieve the arrogance and presumption of “racial reconciliation” work among the diverse peoples of the United States. I believe that the terminology of racial reconciliation is bankrupt. When, in the history of this country, have racial relationships been conciliatory? We need racial righteousness, racial repentance. In this country and many others, we have worked harder to hide the truth about our history than we have to amplify the stories of people who’ve been wounded by historical lies.” For many black people, the day to day reality of being American is living in a country where we are not truly free. Where our very identities are shaped by what the dominant culture deems relevant, promotable or shameful. Where wearing a hoodie in the dark is immediately seen as predatory and where we ourselves buy into the negative stereotypes by often resigning ourselves to them. Because it gets so wearying having to prove that you bleed the same as your white brother. Every. Single. Day.

Since slavery first reared its monstrous head in America in the 1600’s (depending on the text book you read), there has never been a period of racial reconciliation between blacks and whites in this country. Ever. And the wounds inflicted on black men and women from the ravages of slavery are at the center of this country’s heartbeat. They are generational, endemic and propagating. They have never healed. And like any unhealed bodily wound that has been left untreated, the wounds wreaked from racial inequality and oppression have festered and infected the body collective of this country.  Whites, blacks, browns…all are infected and affected. This racial hostility in America will be all of our demise, if we don’t work through the reconciliation process in a meaningful way together.

In ‘Braving The Wilderness’, Brown offers hope. She has faith that we can build connection across our differences if we are willing to listen and “lean into vulnerability.  She adds, and “mercifully, it will only take a critical mass of people who believe in finding love and connection across differences to change everything.”

I believe this critical mass of people gathering together and having these difficult, painful conversations around race has to start in our church communities. Starting in groups like the Be The Bridge group I have participated in at my church over these past eight months.

 Racial reconciliation: The Paradox and the Imperative

There is no question that racial reconciliation is needed for us to move forward and thrive as a country. But this is the racial reconciliation paradox as I see it: this country needs racial reconciliation but we may never experience it in our lifetime. In over 400 years we are not even close. Yet we must strive for it. Hope for it. Dream for it. Pray for it. We do not have an alternative. We must press on towards that goal, step by step, individual by individual. If not for our generation, prayerfully for the next?

Here is the other paradox. Racial reconciliation cannot happen by our own good intentions or intent. “For everyone has sinned; we ALL fall short of God’s glorious standard.” (Rom 3:24. Emphasis mine).  If we as a country could have healed on our own might we would be much further along on the reconciliation continuum. Many noble men and women have tried. So what do we do? Instead of hopelessness, we need to lean heavily, entirely, on the cross to move towards the racial unity I believe most Americans truly desire. In short, engaging in conversations and building relationships with others of diverse ethnicities in ways that are healthy and that promote peace requires a supernatural covering which can only come from the creator of the Universe.

In Christ who has already victoriously reconciled the world to himself, we can see an end to racial hostility in this land. In an article written in October titled, ‘Should we abandon the language of racial reconciliation?’ Duke Kwon, pastor of Grace Meridian Hill in Washington DC asserts, “The biblical-historical reference point for ‘reconciliation’ isn’t the birth of our nation but the birth of the human race in Adam. . . . When used in the church, ‘reconciliation’ harkens back to our creational unity, not a national or ecclesiastical unity.”  I agree and believe that racial reconciliation needs to be under the covering of an authority greater than our collective selves as a country, and this authority is Christ.

One of the greatest stories of reconciliation between two hostile groups of people is what Paul describes between Jews and Gentiles in the New Testament. “For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. 15 He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups. 16 Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death. 17 He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and peace to the Jews who were near. 18 Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us.” Eph 2:14-18

Praise God! I have to hold onto the confident hope in this: If Jews and Gentiles could come together to share the gospel, and build the early church under the Lordship of Christ, I hold onto hope that one day the walls of the racial divide in America will come crashing down as we unite together in love and truth. This is not pie in the sky. This is biblically sound truth. And this is true for people of all skin tones, nationalities and ethnicities, not just in America but globally.

Michelle Higgins argues in her article that the social justice work required for racial parity is founded on following Jesus’ example, depending on His Gospel, to continue His social justice work here in our world today. In his article, ‘The Burden and Promise of Racial Reconciliation’, Mark Gali editor of ‘Christianity Today’ went a step further and put it this way: “Our vision, then, is bigger and bolder than social justice. And we pray and work not simply for reconciliation of blacks and whites, but of both, and all, to Jesus Christ.”  In our own strength, in our lifetime, perhaps racial reconciliation may seem illusive. But in God’s hands all things are possible.

Christ must be in our midst as we continue the long arduous work of racial reconciliation. He is our guiding light, our way maker and mountain mover. He is the authority we must cling to as we take each step and attempt to bridge the racial chasm in this country.

As Christians we are commanded to live in peace with each other: “And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.” Colossians 3:15 NLT. As members of the body of Christ, we are called to be disciple makers, to love one another, to make allowances for each other’s faults, to extend grace, to be ambassadors and reconcilers for Christ so he can reconcile us ALL to himself. This is the imperative of racial reconciliation. This is our imperative. This is the Christian imperative. This is my imperative.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” 2 Corinthians 5:17-20.

As I have been crating this article over the course of two weeks (yes that long!), God has been guiding my heart and thoughts. In the sermon at my church just this past weekend, the pastor shared a point in a different context that is so relevant for racial reconciliation. He was speaking on 1 Corinthians 13:12: “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” I interpret this verse in a racial reconciliation context as meaning we will never achieve perfection on this side of heaven. But we have to still press on knowing that our vision will be imperfectly executed, knowing that it is limited. If the majority of Americans desire peace and unity in our land, work towards it, strive for it, however imperfectly, we will be closer to the ideal we can envision in our minds’ eyes which may yet seem so unattainable. But we stand firm because even though we can only see dimly now, all will become clear when Christ returns. Then Light will permanently extinguish darkness once and for all for eternity. Hostility, division, hatred, racism, sexism, classism, discord and dehumanization will cease. And peace will reign.

I cling to hope in our future progress as a country on this journey to racial reconciliation. I stand firm in my faith in the Truth of God’s ministry of reconciliation for all Christians. I am encouraged by the personal growth I have experienced as a result of my participation in the bridge building reconciliation work in my church. And I trust in the love of God to heal all wounds. Racial reconciliation is guaranteed in Christ. But in this broken world, we have to let God fight this battle for us with our cooperation, just like he did for the Israelites– once they trusted him to get them to the Promised Land.


Natalie Jobity is an inspirational author, insight coach, and marketing & branding consultant. She is the author of the Amazon Best-selling style guide Frumpy to Fabulous: Flaunting It. Your Ultimate Guide to Effortless Style. Read more of her inspirational posts on her website. Email her at Elanimage07@gmail.com.

Real Beauty from the Inside Out

 

Without question our external appearance is important. Studies show that it takes less than 30 seconds for people to form an impression on you based on the way you look.

It is no wonder that the image and fashion industry is as successful as it is today. Celebrity culture, the rise in plastic surgery, the red carpet glitz and glamour, ubiquitous designer fashion, makeup madness– all these cultural forces focus on the external appearance. But without innate self-confidence and self-acceptance, and strong, unchanging core values, your external image is merely a facade.  It’s just window dressing.

It’s like getting a gift, beautifully wrapped with ribbons and trimmings and pretty paper, and opening the gift and finding your recipient gave you a water globe. Unless you’re a fan of water globes, you’d be very disappointed and even feel misled. So too, we can dress ourselves in the latest duds, put our best face forward, literally, and still feel ourselves wanting.

When I was an image consultant, coaching women on how to express their best external self to others, my professional philosophy was grounded on what issues or challenges my clients may be facing on the ‘inside’. Without tackling these issues from an image coaching perspective, it would have been difficult for me to properly advise and help my clients achieve their external image goals.

This viewpoint has even deeper meaning for me as a Christian woman. In 1 Peter 3: 3-4, women are instructed not to be concerned “about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes.” Instead Peter says we should “clothe (y)ourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.” Again in Colossians, Paul advises us to “clothe (y)ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience”. Colossians 3:12

This notion of clothing myself in attributes that are pleasing to God really appeals to me. I see that the more I desire to be a woman after God’s own heart, how I am literally being transformed from the inside out, with each passing day. That inner sweetness is more precious to me than any item hanging in my closet. And it is not something I have to strive for on my own. It happens because I desire it, pray for it, and let God’s spirit live and move in me.

As an image coach I could show women how to dress to impress, but only with the help of God (and for some the help of a good therapist), could their hurts and hang-ups be healed so they really could reflect the beauty that truly comes from within.


Natalie Jobity is an inspirational author, branding coach, marketing consultant and freelance writer. She is the author of the Amazon Best-selling style guide Frumpy to Fabulous: Flaunting It. Your Ultimate Guide to Effortless Style. Read more of her inspirational posts on her website. Email her at Elanimage07@gmail.com.

 

 

Remembering You: A Tribute to Woodrow Jobity (1940-1991)

 

“I just want you to remember me”. These were the last words I heard my father say before he went into a coma and died shortly thereafter, 26 years ago, when I was 26 years old. He had just turned 52 a few days earlier. His death was completely unexpected. Here was a man who rarely got sick, who woke up early to run in the mornings, who ate healthy meals, who did not smoke, rarely drank and took time to rest. Yet, this was his fate, to die of an incurable illness just two years shy of his planned retirement.

He said these words, after I asked the only question I could think of after spending a day bottled up with a whirlwind of emotions, and not being able to express the profound sense of fear and helplessness I felt at seeing him so close to death.  I had asked, “What can we do for you?” not knowing that his answer would be the last thing I would ever hear him say. His response seemed so simple to me at the time. I remember thinking, is THAT all? Remember you? That goes without saying! Surely, we can do more!

Not coincidentally, in my 52nd year of life I find myself thinking and writing about legacy  a lot. I consider how I would like to be remembered. What impact I want to leave on the earth that would stand the test of time, way after I am gone. And these thoughts naturally lead me to think of Daddy and how I remember him, which has evolved over the decades.

Daddy reluctantly posing for photo in one of his fav positions: reading paper in bed

The legacy he left behind is an impressive one, by any account.

At 18, my father’s mother died, and he being the eldest of six children had to find his way, pretty much on his own. He didn’t have the luxury of getting a college education. He came from humble beginnings. He started working as a quantity surveyor and steadily worked his way up the career ladder, at the Trinidad & Tobago division of a prominent British owned multinational construction company. I wish I knew more about what guided him to his chosen career path and where he got his strong work ethic from. Regardless, he worked it out, and by his late 30’s was doing exceedingly well. He would soon make Executive Director of the company, the highest title he could hold in Trinidad. It’s the equivalent of an Executive Vice President at a major US multinational company. Impressive for a “self-made” man.

Photo of Dad as toddler with his Mom

As his eldest child, I remember spending a couple years in public school but by age 7, I went to private school. I was getting an allowance by age 11.  My two siblings had the same privileges. We wanted for nothing. We lived a very comfortable upper-middle class life in Trinidad, except without the bells and whistles screaming so. I got to go to my chosen high school because of my good grades, but also because of the private school primary education that paved the way. At 18, I applied to attend Rutgers University in New Brunswick NJ. It was a wild card decision—I never expected to get accepted and never expected that Daddy would let me go that far away from home. He ruled our roost very strictly, and put his foot down on overnight stays in anyone’s home, far less letting me live abroad! But the stars were aligned I guess, and I got accepted, AND surprisingly, he gave little push back on letting me go.  Because of the wealth he had been increasingly building, he was able to pay for the entire thing. To be clear, this is no small feat.  I would have been coming into the US as an international student, which meant tuition was doubled for me. We’re talking converting TT currency into US dollars and paying double what the typical American student would pay. Plus, he had to pay for my living expenses as well. But it is testimony to my father’s success in his profession, that he had the means to do this, and to do it comfortably. A year later my sister would similarly benefit at an even more expensive private University in the United States.

Daddy at my graduation from Rutgers

Unlike many of my peers at Rutgers, I did not have to work to help pay for my degree. I chose to work in my Junior and Senior years to gain experience for my resume. This is privilege. One my father did not have but that I was blessed with because of his success.

It was not wasted on me. I maintained such excellent grades in College that I was afforded a full-scholarship to pursue a Master’s degree in Finance at the prestigious Cambridge University in England.  My Caribbean heritage and my Magna Cum Laude degree gave me the honor of being selected as a recipient of the award from Barclays Bank through the Cambridge Commonwealth Trust. It was an incredible opportunity and a life-changing experience. I was the only woman in the class of 20 or so mostly international students in the Finance MPHIL program to finish it. I went on to complete an MBA program, excel in my market research career, resigning as a Vice President in 2007 to work as an Image Consultant in my own business full-time. I mentored, supported, inspired and encouraged hundreds of women in my work as an image consultant. In 2010, I wrote a how-to style guide on Amazon that was a bestseller in the Fashion and Self-Esteem genres for months. I was the only black market researcher at my company for years. Doors of opportunity were opened for me by the sacrifices my parents made. I have achieved successes I never dreamed were possible which were facilitated by the legacy my father built for me and my family.

But there’s more to my father’s legacy.

My father didn’t just help us, his nuclear family. He was also a great source of security and dependability for his extended family. Someone needed a job, he provided it. Another a loan, sure, he’d back it. Professional advice? He gave that away in spades. He may not have spent as much time as he could have with his loved ones, but he sure was a resource we all could turn to, again and again. He was generous with what he had worked so hard for. I think it pained him to see others struggling financially, the way he may have had to growing up. So he gave, even when he was burned because of it. He gave, nevertheless.

Photo of Daddy and I at my confirmation at 14

At Cambridge, I remember him reprimanding me harshly because I wanted to get a blue collar job to augment my scholarship funds. I was also trying to become more independent. But my father was appalled that I would be in want in any way, and told me via phone it was absolutely out of the question to work, that I needed to focus on my studies. If I needed money, I simply had to ask him and he was going to be wiring X hundred pounds stat! Period. Full-stop. I was frustrated and in tears at the time. But now I see so clearly his heart—he wanted to provide for me, for all of us—he didn’t want us to struggle, ever. My father worked hard, at probably great personal cost to himself, so he could garner enough wealth (land, savings, stocks) so he could retire at 54 and finally relax and so that his family would never suffer the stigma of poverty. But it is so true that in life, “man’s heart plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps. Proverbs 16:9

Then there was the way my father befriended those less fortunate than himself. My father and I share many qualities I’ve come to see, and one of them is privacy and what I like to dub, “friendly introversion”. He was friendly with many people but only really intimate with a select few. Most of my life I remember him having just one best friend. It was a guy he used to work out with in his 20’s. A simple man. I recall that man visiting us with his family a few times. And even as my father became increasingly successful, that guy, that simple man who had not pedigree nor money, remained his dear friend.

He never forgot his humble beginnings, my father. He didn’t have any illusions of grandeur. In fact, he was the pillar of humility. I recently posed an article on humility and leadership,  and I cited a few great leaders we all know and respect as exemplifying humility. My father could slide right in there in the company of Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, Barack Obama and others who for me modeled humility. It’s a characteristic that I’ve slowly begun to respect, wholeheartedly embrace, and live out in my own life. My father left me that legacy too.

Later in his life, my father got very active in the Catholic Church and gave of his time, resources and wealth to the body of Christ locally and in other parts of the Caribbean. He was well-respected and beloved in the local church community.  I remember visiting home from Rutgers and Daddy dragging me to attend the 7.30 am mass and me begrudgingly obliging (some of the time). He would be so down to earth in that element! He would wear his big ‘ole grin as he mingled after service with parishioners. No one was too insignificant to be welcomed and supported by him. It was truly a blessing to witness him in action like that.

A professional photo of my father

There was a poor lady who sold cakes outside the church to support herself every Sunday. My father always made it a point to engage and buy something from her. He would chat with her for a few minutes every Sunday in addition to buying her treats. I remember my mother telling me how much this woman grieved for him after he died. I didn’t even know the woman’s name, but my father had left such an impact on her that she wept for him after his death like if he was her own kin. I’m guessing he made her feel worthy. He let her know he saw her even though many people passed her by. He showed her that she had worth. He showed her grace. Jesus shared with his disciples the parable of the King who reflecting Jesus’ own heart for the outcast when he said, ‘Truly I tell youwhatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 22:40  As I write this tribute, this memory sticks out to me as an example of Daddy walking that Christ walk, loving on the people right in front of him.  

Daddy’s moral compass seemed centered around caring for those in his sphere and serving them whenever he had the opportunity. As the Apostle Paul exhorted so often in the New Testament:  “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Philippians 2:3-4 NIV When I consider what my father most valued in life, I have to believe that loving people, in the ways he knew to do that, must have been very high on his list. And this was especially true for his family. He cared that we were in harmony with each other. It mattered to him that we stuck up for each other in the tough times and that we supported each other.

My father wanted to be remembered. When I think of my success and achievements, I remember how his sacrifices helped paved the way for me to shine. When I think of the comfortable life I had for most of my life, and the luxuries I often take for granted, I remember. When I envision the way his face lit up when he smiled, I remember. When I catch myself speaking just a wee bit too fast with just a hint of a stammer, just like he did, I remember. When I think of the man he was, not the father but just the man, with all his shortcomings but also with his gifts and strengths, I remember. When I see my own winning smile and the mole on my left cheek that I have in common with him, I remember.

Photo of Dad in his 20’s

Photo of me in my early 20’s

Those words, “I just want you to remember me”, haunted me for a long time. But at the end of the day, isn’t legacy all about being remembered? All we do, our achievements, the books we write, the money we save, the art we create, the medals we win, the battles we fight—all, ALL, are attempts at being remembered, long after we’re gone. They’re the footprints we leave behind in the sand for others to walk in.

Yet his remarkable achievements aside, when all is said and done, what I remember most about my father are the values he inspired in me by his example.

These values include humility, hard work, generosity, perseverance, resilience, compassion, and having and executing a vision. I can take those with me wherever I go and regardless of my life circumstances.  While my circumstances may be less than desired, my core values remain. Wealth and material possessions may crumble before our very eyes, no matter what buffers or protection we think we have in place. No one is immune from adversity. There is so much in life we don’t have control over. But no one, no situation, can take away our core values. These have real longevity. This has been true in my life.

We all want to know our lives mattered, that we made an impact, that we did something good with what we were given, and to believe that the world is better off for our being in it.  I think Daddy can rest assured that he blessed me and many others by the footprints he left on our hearts.

Thank you Daddy for your legacy and your love.

Your beloved daughter,

Natalie

In Memory of Woodrow Jobity (Oct 23rd 1940-Oct 28th 1991)


Natalie Jobity is an inspirational author, insight coach, marketing consultant and freelance writer. She is the author of the Amazon Best-selling style guide :Frumpy to Fabulous: Flaunting It. Your Ultimate Guide to Effortless Style. Read more of her inspirational posts on her website. Email her at Elanimage07@gmail.com.

Frumpy To Fabulous: Flaunting It. *Free* Download Oct 23rd – 25th!

 

Frumpy To Fabulous: Flaunting It. Your Ultimate Guide to Effortless Style, the self-help book I wrote to empower women to show up as their highest and finest version of themselves turns 7 years old this month! To celebrate, I will be offering a Kindle promotion on October 23rd through October 25th 2017. During the promotion the book can be downloaded for free!  Yes, free!

It’s been quite a few years since I’ve done any marketing for this book, and even though in the fashion industry 7 years is a long time, the truisms about style, image and presence are timeless. Since the book was published, I’ve heard from many women across the world about how the book was an agent for change in their lives.

“I’m still a work in progress, but this book has taken the dread out of shopping for me, and it’s not very often that I read a book that has such a quick and positive impact on my life and my perspective, so THANK YOU!!” Reader

When I wrote the book, my intention was to give women the advice and the encouragement to know they could look amazing no matter what body or image issues they were challenged with. I wanted to convey to my readers that they could be that shining star, that their brilliance was in their uniqueness and they just needed to show up and manifest it. That yes, they could “Flaunt It”. The term “Flaunt It” is not about arrogant self-aggrandizement, but rather about being confident in one’s own skin. The image of the “Diva” on the cover is all about self-confidence.

The important truth underlying the book, however, is that while there are myriad tips and tricks to look great, it truly starts from within. It starts with intention and it starts with a positive self-image.  I feel that those messages are even more relevant today.

Below is a short video (5 minutes, promise!) of an interview I conducted at a book signing event at Howard University in 2011. In the interview I explain why I revised the book shortly after its initial publication and the heart of the message I wanted readers to take away from the book. (Apologies in advance for the video quality as it was taken with a Flip Video camera!) 

To take advantage of the promotion, all you have to do is visit the book’s Amazon Kindle site from October 23rd to October 25th where the Kindle price will be listed as $0. Click HERE.

During that time the book can be down loaded for free. After October 25th 2017, the Kindle version of Frumpy To Fabulous: Flaunting It. Your Ultimate Guide to Effortless Style will revert back to its current price of $5.99. The promotion is only for the Kindle version. The price of the paperback version of the book will remain unchanged at $11.95.

Please do share the promotion with your friends and family! You can read reviews from readers HERE  and on the Amazon page.
I appreciate your support!!

Natalie


Natalie Jobity is an inspirational author, branding coach, marketing consultant and freelance writer. She is the author of the Amazon Best-selling style guide :Frumpy to Fabulous: Flaunting It. Your Ultimate Guide to Effortless Style. Read more of her inspirational posts on her website. Email her at Elanimage07@gmail.com.

 

 

 

Legacy: How Effectively are you Stewarding your Gifts and Talents?

 

Being a market researcher for over 15 years helped me develop my curiosity. When you are looking at reams and reams of data, trying to tell a story and arrive at strategic conclusions you can share with your corporate client, you can bet that curiosity becomes a very familiar friend. You learn to slice and dice data in myriad ways to discover trends, to sniff out clues, to develop hypotheses that make sense given the research objectives at hand. Not everyone has this gift. But I did. I loved the storytelling that market research allowed me to indulge in. I got to tap into my creative side when I had to craft compelling and PR worthy headlines to bring the stories from the data to life.

“Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but about the stories you tell.” Seth Godin

It is this same curiosity, creativity and craft I bring to bear when I refine and re-write my own evolving life story. I can see the highs and lows of my life as data points based on all the primary and secondary research that is my life. With my analytical mind, I connect the patterns in the data and see how the different stories weave in and out of each other, sometimes shaping an even more powerful narrative, from which I derive a new meaning.

These tendencies have made me a truth seeker. I am constantly re-framing and re-purposing information to figure out who, what, why and how, behind all the data I process in any given time period. Which brings me to the purpose of this particular post: lately I have been very preoccupied with legacy.  It’s the proverbial, “why am I here?” in all its clichéd, redundant and profound expression. While I am proud of my professional achievements and accomplishments, I’m at a life-stage where I question exactly what it was all about. There was a time, not that long ago, when these successes defined me. Not anymore. Now I am much more concerned with the quality of my life, my personal impact, my legacy. But those things are not exactly quantifiable are they? They don’t lend themselves to data manipulation much at all because often we have no idea who we impact and to what extent. The data is simply not available.

Since my market research acumen is not particularly useful in this line of questioning, I’ve had to rely more on my inner promptings, my insight, my intuition. Increasingly, I see that when I follow a “nudge” (or what I like to call a Holy Spirit whisper), something beautiful always results. I know these experiences are on the path of my purpose because of how they make me feel and what I see open up as a result, which is usually greater and more magnificent than what I could ever have expected.

To give a tiny example of this at work, I have had lunch or met with a few people recently that I just felt really called to get to know better. Every single one of these interactions has literally blown my mind in terms of shared experiences, kindred-spiritedness, and true heart-centered connections. I have no idea the extent of the impact of those meetings on either party, but this is what I do know for sure: there is an impact. I may not ever be able to connect the data and say that X meeting led to Y result. But it matters not. All I know is that something amazing is opening up as result, even if I don’t know exactly what that is right now.

Just this past Friday, as I was having dinner with a friend at Le Madeleine, I found myself in the midst of a quiet, understated legacy building moment. I had left our table for 5 minutes and when I came back I found her deep in conversation with a man at the table in front of us. Even though I was facing them the entire time, I was so engrossed in my conversation with my friend that I hadn’t noticed them. Turns out the man’s son, a 9th grader named Daniel, was a budding artist and had been busy painting at the table the whole time. He had acrylics, small canvasses, brushes, the whole nines. He had only started painting for a month but you could tell he was passionate about it. My friend, being the warm, personable, supportive person she is, spent the next 30 minutes uplifting, encouraging and building him up. She dished out advice, praised his work, asked questions, gave him inspiration  and offered to host him at the next youth event at the church we both attend, so he could get exposure for his artwork.

At first Daniel was shy but by the end of the conversation, he was animated and really excited about getting his art seen and sold by more people. His Dad was visibly moved and kept thanking us both for our kindness. Yes, I had been chiming in with praise and support, but truly I was the observer in this exchange, as I witnessed the power of just loving on people right where we are– in this case in the middle of dinner—and letting God just work his miracles.  Who knows, what if Daniel is the next Kieron Williamson  and our praise and encouragement was just what he needed to be motivated to keep going with his newfound talent? My friend will likely never see the fruit of her goodwill, but without a doubt she impacted that young man’s life by using her gift of generous praise to encourage someone she just met. To quote author Judy Blume, “Our fingerprints don’t fade from the lives we touch.” This is what legacy building is truly about!

We so often get narrow-minded about what it means to leave a legacy. For many people continuing a family name and heritage is the first thought. Then we think of tangible things like wealth, property, status, or accomplishment that we can bequeath to our family. These things ultimately center on achievement and they’re fine, really, but are they all? I believe, life coach and motivational speaker Rasheed Ogunlaru’s   definition of legacy is spot on, “Legacy is not what is left tomorrow when you are gone. It’s what you give, create, impact and contribute today while you are here, that then happens to live on.”

It is my belief that creating a legacy is about using our gifts and talents to bless others. This broadens the definition of legacy making, to include truly anything we create or give to others.   This is what has eternal significance after all for it is written that, “God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.” 1 Peter 4:10 NLT In this service to others we need to engage with them, just as my friend engaged Daniel. To be engaged requires sincere curiosity. In my evolution as a successful market researcher, I had to learn the art of crafting questions in such a way  that the answers elicited from the survey respondents gave me meaningful data I could use to shape a narrative that addressed my client’s goals. Asking the right questions in the right way, made all the difference in informing what recommendations I presented to my clients.  From experience, I know the same principles apply in relationship with others. My curiosity, compassion and level of engagement shape my dialog with others in ways that engender legacy building or not. It’s the difference between asking, “How are you?” versus “What did you get accomplished today?” or “What are you looking forward to today?” Our questions can open us up to learning, connection and discovery of others or they can shut them down.

We leave a legacy right where we are, with the people we interact with in the course of our daily professional and personal lives. We may never know the impact our lives truly have on others.  This is why it is important for us to treat everyone– regardless of rank, position, or wealth– with respect, integrity, and value. Commending, elevating, empowering, or endorsing others is how we pay it forward, how we sow seeds of significance  into others’ lives. And by so doing, we receive blessings tenfold, even though they cannot be quantified. For the Apostle Paul promised that: “he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows generously [that blessings may come to others] will also reap generously [and be blessed].” 2 Corinthians 9:6 AMP

My achievements have served me well and opened many doors for me. I am grateful for all my successes thus far. But if you’re anything like me, you’ll soon come to find that your greatest joys come from using your strengths in service of those in your sphere and knowing that you are leaving a legacy far greater than anything you could have imagined.


Natalie Jobity is an inspirational author, branding coach, marketing consultant and freelance writer. She is the author of the Amazon Best-selling style guide :Frumpy to Fabulous: Flaunting It. Your Ultimate Guide to Effortless Style. Read more of her inspirational posts on her website. Email her at Elanimage07@gmail.com.

Dove Facebook Ad: Racist Ploy or Marketing Goof?

 

Racial tensions in this country are unarguably at an all-time high. As a black woman, I am beyond outraged over Neo-Nazi’s “demonstrating” in support of Confederate memorials and white supremacy and the criticism and vilifying of NFL players “taking a knee” to call attention to the scores of deadly shootings of unarmed black men by police. These are the kinds of race issues that we need to be up in arms about because they represent the reprehensible and repugnant side of racism in this country.

But the whole uproar over the Dove commercial this past week gives me pause. Are we all becoming just a little bit TOO sensitive and jittery over race in this country today? Is it possible that race is such a trigger issue for Americans that we see racism where none was intended?

Dove releases a 3-second Facebook ad, featuring three women of different ethnicities wearing skin-tone matching T-shirts. As each one pulls off her T-shirt, we see the other unveiled after her. Reads pretty harmless, right? As one Twitter user pointed out, it is like a mini, scaled down version of Michael Jackson’s video for his song “Black or White”, where people of various ethnicities, ages and gender morph into each other, symbolizing racial harmony and unity. I can’t possibly know what Dove intended, but when I look at the ad with this lens, I see an ad trying to celebrate racial diversity in women.

Dove is a brand that has been known to spend a lot of marketing dollars promoting healthy self-esteem for young women and positive body image. Going back to their Real Beauty campaign, over a decade ago, Dove created myriad resources for young girls to develop a healthier self-image. More recently in 2013, Dove released a video called, Real Beauty sketches (tagline, “You’re more beautiful than you think”), to show women how beautiful they are when they don’t zone in on what they perceive to be their facial flaws, but can see themselves how others see them. It was beautifully done. A perusal of Dove’s website, will highlight campaign after campaign that champions, uplifts and celebrates women of ALL colors. It is part of their brand promise!

The Dove brand has reflected diversity, self-acceptance, and feminism for a long time. So why would they create an ad, to dismantle their powerful brand identity and alienate a cross section of their target audience? Was it merely a marketing goof?

Here’s what I think Dove got wrong in their latest ad: They showed a black woman unveiling herself as a white woman. Bingo. If they had shown the white woman first, unveiling herself as a black woman, I don’t think we would be talking about this at all. Instead, it was racially insensitive for Dove to show the black woman  followed by the white one. But I think Dove might have actually been trying to show diversity like they claimed in their public apology and “missed the mark”. So the fact that there is actually a third woman in the ad of East Indian descent with medium complexion was overshadowed by the age old stereotypes that were triggered anew, of black people desiring whiteness or needing to be cleansed of their blackness. And all it took was for one Twitter user to crop just the photos of the black woman revealed to be white for all racial hell to break loose on Dove.

Unfortunately, this type of racially offensive advertising is all too familiar for people of color. A New York Times feature yesterday, gave a quick run down of other brands in the past that released racist ads. The list includes well-known brands such as Intel, Nivea and (coincidentally?) Dove back in 2011.

I think the Dove snafu highlights a larger issue really, and it is this: if we don’t all start having REAL conversations about race in our circles, this country is in for an even bigger wake up call than the racial protests we are seeing in cities all across the country. It is unfortunate that more than 50 years after Martin Luther King Jr’s “I have a dream” speech, that the United States still does not have its race act together.

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Natalie Jobity is an inspirational author, branding coach, marketing consultant and freelance writer. She is the author of the Amazon Best-selling style guide :Frumpy to Fabulous: Flaunting It. Your Ultimate Guide to Effortless Style. Read more of her inspirational posts on her website. Email her at Elanimage07@gmail.com.

Are you confident your legacy will count?

 

When I gave presentations on professional presence as an image consultant, I often referenced  research conducted by sociolinguist Albert Mehrabian, who found that 55% of our first impressions are based on how a person looks, 38% is based on how they communicate and just 7% is based on what they actually say. This was my “aha’ slide, the slide that made everything else in my presentation on image and professionalism relevant. The “just 7%” was justification for focusing on the visuals over the verbal.

But even back then, I always had tremendous respect for the veracity of voice, the power of the pen, and how our words wield our truth.  Way before I became interested in style and image, I was a truth seeker. I believe we all are to some extent. What I believe is true, is what I value. What I value is what I focus on. What I focus on is what I speak into existence. What I speak into existence by a tweet, talk, or post, is my voice—it is my opinion, expression, or the truth as I see it. My voice leaves an indelible print of my time here on earth.

Mahatma Gandhi advocated for unabashedly speaking ones truth when he said, “Many people, especially ignorant people, want to punish you for speaking the truth, for being correct, for being you. Never apologize for being correct, or for being years ahead of your time. If you’re right and you know it, speak your mind. Speak your mind. Even if you are a minority of one, the truth is still the truth.”  Your truth is reflected in your voice. In this era of social media communications, your voice leaves a lasting legacy of your thoughts, beliefs, priorities and perspectives. So, what type of legacy are you leaving with your voice?

This is no inconsequential matter. Our current President uses his voice in a very public platform to express his mostly personal views. Every tweet he sends, whether you agree with his opinions or not, communicate so much about his character. He may say one thing using a teleprompter, but I believe the real man can be discovered in the one place where he can express himself unfiltered, where his voice is truly his own. Like him or not, on Twitter, you get the real deal.

Our words have tremendous power, and to cast them around carelessly is foolish, especially in a medium where they can be shared, copied and attributed to you till kingdom come.

In the past three months, we have witnessed unprecedented tragedy in the world, from natural disasters and sadly, just this week in Las Vegas, from human hands. Every day we seem perched on the brink of war between North Korea and the US with tensions mounting between these two world leaders. In times like these just how do we use our voice?

When disaster strikes, like it has around the world lately, I find my voice escapes me. As a writer and truth seeker, I feel so trapped by all the many words in me fighting for air time, that none wins. And instead, just silence. Words of comfort seem insufficient. I’m sure I’m not alone in this feeling. But I have to fight to find my voice and speak up for my truth, within the context of all the events happening around me. Scripture speaks often of using our words to uplift and encourage each other.  For example, First Thessalonians 5:11 says: “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” It is this belief that motivated me to write an inspirational post on cultivating resilience,  two weeks ago.

Just consider the greatest leaders, orators and champions in our modern world –John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., Theodore Roosevelt, Mahatma Gandhi–whose words continue to surface decades after they have passed on. Their words leave a lasting legacy unfettered by time and often context. Their voices offer hope, guidance, encouragement, purpose and motivation. But moreover, their words were in sync with their characters, deeply enmeshed with their value systems. JFK said it best when he wrote: As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”

It is interesting to me that after the horrific massacre in Las Vegas this week, in the President’s address to the nation,  he referenced scripture and God multiple times to comfort, console and speak up for unity in the United States. He referenced Psalm 34:18 when he said, “Scripture teaches us the Lord is close to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit. We seek comfort in those words, for we know that God lives in the hearts of those who grieve.” He ends his speech with these words: “May God bless the souls of the lives that are lost, may God give us the grace of healing, and may God provide the grieving families with strength to carry on.” I applaud him for taking himself out of the equation, following his script and calling on the wisdom of a higher power to try to find words to comfort us. But if I’m honest, his words did not ring true for me. I do not see this President as a religious man in word, action or deed. The words he read are not words he lives by.

Here is an important point about our voice: it has to be authentic. It has to reflect who we are and what we value. Otherwise it can seem hollow, stiff or rehearsed, as the President looked and sounded during his speech on October 2nd. As a reporter for the Atlantic said of his speech, he “would have done better to say a few things that sound real than a great many that sound false.”  Time and time again we witness this President using his voice in a divisive, critical, aggrandizing and equivocating way. He vacillates so much that it is difficult to trust anything he says. How sad. How unfortunate that the voice for this great nation may be failing its people.

I admire the account of King Edward VI’s journey to finding his voice in the movie, “The King’s Speech”.  Here was a leader who struggled with a debilitating stammer, who fought to find a way to communicate to his people with confidence, command and clarity, at a critical juncture in history. The heart of the movie is the unbreakable bond that develops between the aspiring King and his speech therapist, Logue. We see how much is at stake. The only way to communicate in real time with the public in those days was via live radio where voice reigns supreme. The climax of the movie is the new King delivering his first wartime radio broadcast where he announced Britain’s declaration of war on Germany in 1939, without a hitch. The king’s speech inspired the country and united them in battle while giving the new monarch the confidence he needed to be King. What a legacy!

Most of us will never be a king or a president of a country, but we all have a platform for our voice when we communicate. On social media we have virtual followers and online friends. Some of us are influencers. We may be leaders in business or our community. We may pontificate from a pulpit or coach in a classroom. It matters not. But make no mistake, your words leave a lasting legacy within your sphere of influence and this should give you pause before you speak, tweet, post or share.  Your words can uplift, edify, elevate or enlighten. Or they can dis-empower, tear down, vilify and condemn.  Your words can spread joy or pain, love or hate.

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Theodore Roosevelt’s quote about the “man in the arena”  is now even more famous because it is where researcher turned author and influencer, Brene Brown, derived the title of her bestselling book, “Daring Greatly”.  This is the power of voice! Truth begets even more truth and from Teddy Roosevelt’s legacy we have a book that leaves a legacy that urges us all to let go of our facades and show our vulnerabilities because therein lies our strength and courage. We need that message more than ever today.

In these precarious times, will you join me in committing to getting in the arena, letting our voices be heard, living authentically from our truth, using our words for good,  so hopefully, prayerfully, we can leave a legacy worthy of our time spent on earth? We’ve sure got our work cut out for us!


Natalie Jobity is an inspirational author, branding coach, marketing consultant and freelance writer. She is the author of the Amazon Best-selling style guide :Frumpy to Fabulous: Flaunting It. Your Ultimate Guide to Effortless Style. Read more of her inspirational posts on her website. Email her at Elanimage07@gmail.com.

Finding a way: Cultivating resilience when facing life’s storms

 

Building resiliencethat ability to ‘bounce back’  after adversity, trauma, tragedy, change, or failure —has become a critical component to living a long, healthy, and productive life. In the past few weeks, the ravages from Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, and most recently, Hurricane Maria, in the US and the Caribbean have been televised and we, the un-impacted, sit back in awe, disbelief and gratitude. We are grateful that (for now), we are safe and our possessions intact, even as our hearts overflow with compassion for the millions who have to rebuild their lives, their cities, their economies, or their countries. I find myself thinking that it could easily have been me and wondering if I have what it takes to start all over, if I had to. How does one cultivate that type of resilience?

hurricane

Numerous studies  have shown that children need to be taught how to be resilient at a very young age so that they can develop into thriving, well-adapted individuals. None of us chooses to go through trial and hardship. But life happens, and we either get knocked down and stay there or get back up. When the going gets tough the tough get going, right? According to Pastor Rick Warren in his recent study series, Daring Faith, “Nobody goes through life with an unbroken chain of successes. Everybody has failures and mistakes. We all embarrass ourselves. We all have pain. We all have problems. We all have pressures. The people who make it in life have resilience.” I immediately think of Diana Nyad.

I have only recently heard about Diana. She is the long distance swimmer who set the record for swimming from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage back in 2013 when she was 64. She swam nearly 53 continuous hours in the ocean, surviving  the treacherous waters of the Florida Straits, a notorious stretch of water teeming with sharks, jellyfish, storms and an unpredictable Gulf Stream. The magnitude of her achievement is undeniable. But what really got my attention when I heard this story, was that this was her FIFTH attempt at setting this record. She first tried when she was 28 years old back in 1979! On her 4th attempt, she almost died from Jellyfish venom. At 64 years old she finally accomplished her life-long dream, when many of us are thinking about retirement. What made Ms Nyad so tenacious, so persevering, so resilient to failure, to adversity, to misfortune?

diana nyad ted talk

I was so intrigued, I listened to a couple of her Ted Talks (she is now an author and motivational speaker) and they are truly inspiring. Four things stood out to me related to cultivating resilience. 1) She learned from her mistakes. After each failed attempt, she improvised, learning what to adjust, which expert to consult and what new protective protocol to implement. 2) She kept herself motivated and positive. To keep herself focused and upbeat during the dark lonely hours of her swim, she sang John Lennon’s “Imagine” over and over and over again. She jokingly admits to “having a playlist of songs” at the ready to sing in her head. 3) She had a single-minded goal to set this record and she believed her dream was achievable. Her motto as she trained for the feat was “find a way”. She saw her dream coming to fruition in her mind’s eye. As she swam, she thought only of reaching the Florida horizon, that was her fulcrum, her grounding point. She did not agonize over how many hours she had left or what could go wrong. She sung and she swam. 4) She did not go it alone. She frankly shares about her ‘ride or die’ friend Bonnie who was right there in the boat alongside her, encouraging and supporting her, along with a team of experts who were there for her protection and safety. She acknowledges that even though she was the one swimming, it would have been impossible without her team.

Diana Nyad’s feat makes it crystal clear to me that resilience is about not giving up, no matter what. We will all fail at something. Life will throw us curveballs. Tragedy or illness may come upon us or our loved ones. We may lose our cherished job. We may be forced to contend with a natural disaster. We may have to endure with terror a Category 5 hurricane huddled up in an attic or shelter praying for our lives, and survive, yes, but without the material possessions we once held dear: damaged car, destroyed house, no building standing for miles, our town or island flooded, washed up, practically swept away! So we are forced to begin again, to face the clearing, the rebuilding, the starting over, one step, one piece of debris, one day at a time. So daunting isn’t it?

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How do you stay resilient, after a “storm”?  You find a way. You consider:

  • What can I learn from this disaster? What is the life lesson here for me to grow from?
  • How can I keep myself and those around me positive and motivated to keep going, even when I am exhausted, feeling hopeless and I cannot see my way through the aftermath of this storm? How can I remind myself that “this too shall pass”, that I have endured the worst of it and I am alive?
  • How do I stay focused on my dreams and goals even in the midst of this adversity? What is my fulcrum? My true North? What do I believe to be true about myself, about God, about humanity?
  • How do I let the fact that I am not alone, strengthen me? How do I draw support from the millions of people going through this very same catastrophe? How do I stay encouraged as I witness the outpouring of compassion and support from my fellow survivors and the International community, whether it be via funds, food, Facebook feed words of encouragement and inspiration, prayers, supplies, disaster relief efforts or fundraising campaigns?

These questions apply for a hurricane and for any storm we face.

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I have faced more than my fair share of storms in the past few years, from seeing my career aspirations come crashing down to chronic illness. I have often wondered just how I was supposed to find a way in the midst of seemingly incredible odds against me. And yet, I’m here, still in the game, with new dreams and a reinforced inner strength. I had to find a way. And that way was excavated out of the rubble of my trials through trust—trust in myself, in God and in humanity. I had to trust and let go of the reins so God could take over. I had to submit, in humility to the grace of my God. And therein lay the gift of resilience.

“When we tackle obstacles, we find hidden reserves of courage and resilience we did not know we had. And it is only when we are faced with failure do we realise that these resources were always there within us. We only need to find them and move on with our lives.” A. P. J. Abdul Kalam

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Photo by Tommy Lisbin on Unsplash

I am reminded of a conversation I had decades ago, when I was going through a particularly difficult season, and a mentor said to me that I was like a willow tree—that I surely bowed but never broke. She was right. That powerful image has stayed with me. There is a quote that I have had stuck on my office poster board for years, and in writing this post, I understand why it is so meaningful to me. It is because it speaks to me of the heart and soul of resilience and epitomizes for me what resilience looks like: “The sturdiest tree is not found in the shelter of the forest but high upon some rocky crag, where its daily battle with the elements shapes it into a thing of beauty.

Goosebumps.

I was sharing with my friend Maurice, my idea to write a post on LinkedIn on resilience after just having written a post on humility as a hallmark of leadership and he shared an original thought that coupled the two themes that was just so brilliant to me. According to Maurice,  “Resilience is the other side of coin to humility. Humility keeps you grounded. Resilience helps you fly”. With resilience my friends, you can fly, you can swim over 100 miles, you can soar to greater heights than you can ever imagine!

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Photo by Rod Long on Unsplash

I  just have to end this post with one of my absolute favorite Maya Angelou poems, Still I Rise. I consider this to be the resilience anthem! This poem deserves its own post, but for now, I’ll just quote the first verse:

“You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.” Maya Angelou

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My heartfelt thoughts are with all those impacted by Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria, especially the victims on the islands in the Caribbean whose infrastructures have been completely devastated.  Please consider donating to these organizations to help hurricane victims:


Natalie Jobity is an inspirational author, branding coach, marketing consultant and freelance writer. She is the author of the Amazon Best-selling style guide :Frumpy to Fabulous: Flaunting It. Your Ultimate Guide to Effortless Style.  Visit her blog Be Simply Inspired. Email her at Elanimage07@gmail.com.

Humility: The Hallmark of Great Leadership

 

I recently responded to an article on LinkedIn where the writer set out to prove why being humble is a bad thing. He basically asserted that humility fosters blending in, not speaking up for oneself, and letting others (who are braggarts) get ahead because you don’t toot your own horn. I appreciated the perspective and subject matter but disagreed, so I was inspired to write my own post on this topic. Having had a feast eating “humble pie” in the past few years, I have a newfound respect for humility and what it stands for.

I can think of quite a few leaders from the past and present who I consider to be successful, stellar, one of a kind, movers and shakers by any account, who are also humble. From my perspective, humility has nothing to do with letting others run circles around you. Looking at the root of the word, humility comes from the word hummus, meaning the earth or the ground. Humility then has as its essence, groundedness, steadfastness, and standing firm on one’s beliefs and values. A humble person does not compare themselves with others as they know that they are no better or worse off than anyone else. Being humble means having a realistic sense of one’s position with God and to other people. Humility levels the playing field. It embodies the traits of honesty, authenticity, trust, acceptance, unity, kindness, expansiveness and generosity.

I believe very strongly in personal branding and one of its tenets is the principle that we all have gifts that we are uniquely qualified to offer to the world, based on our experiences, talents, beliefs, values, personality, etc. As Marianne Williamson says in her famous quote from her book Return to Love‘, “We are all meant to shine…we are all born to make manifest the glory of God within us”. If you believe this, then you cannot believe in the scarcity model that suggests that only some of us get to be successful, brilliant, or stellar. The author of the article that inspired this post, shares stats on the number of people in the world, on social media and possessing college degrees in the US to offer a view that there is just too much competition for brilliance. Therefore, the only way for a person to succeed, to carve out a special niche or platform for themselves is by taking full advantage of their bragging rights. If they don’t do it, someone just as qualified will take their place as “nature abhors a vacuum”. I respectfully disagree.

You have unique gifts to manifest to the world—God given gifts. Humility is graciously receiving these gifts and sharing them with others to bless them and glorify God. You don’t need to scramble like a crab in a barrel to get others to notice you. If your light is shining truly, others will see it and you will influence those in your sphere. Though the greedy and the proud will have you think otherwise, your light, your unique brilliance, is unstoppable. Because it is your stamp, the efficacy of your personal brand. It is the core of who you are as a leader.

When I think of stellar leaders in my lifetime, who possess humility at their core, the icons that come readily to mind are Princess Diana, The Dalai Lama, Barack Obama and Martin Luther King Jr.

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Princess Diana was the poster child of gracious humility. A princess, beloved by the world, as beautiful on the outside as the inside, who with heart and humanity used her influence to help the needy, the marginalized and the outcast. Her many charitable endeavors are well documented. Watching her being interviewed on TV, what you observe is not a woman full of herself and her accomplishments, but one who even in her gentleness and meekness, demonstrates her commitment and passion for her causes with grace, dignity and humility. In every single year since the anniversary of her death 20 years ago this year, she is celebrated and mourned all over the world. Why? Because she let her actions speak for themselves. She let her true light shine on its own merit, and we all witnessed her authenticity and the fruit of her passions.

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The Dalai Lama is a study in tranquility, presence, open-hearted service and humility. Whenever he has a speaking engagement, anywhere in the world, people of all faiths throng to hear him. Why? Could it be because there is an allure there, an attraction which has nothing to do with wealth, perceived success, prestige or status? Could that attraction be the very humility and self-sacrifice so many of us shy away from? We are captivated by the Dalai Lama in some part because what he stands for runs so counter to the values we hold dear in this society. Simplicity, non-attachment, non-judgement are characteristics so foreign to the average person that a persona like the Dalai Lama stands out distinctly from the pack.

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You may not agree with Barack Obama’s politics while he was President, but you have to admit he possessed a calm, dignified and resolute presence which for a U.S. President, was refreshing to many Americans. He came into his Presidency ringing the bells of change, hopefulness (“yes we can”), unity, and inclusiveness. After 8 years in the Whitehouse, he left sans scandal and controversy with his morals and values intact. I see so much humility in President Obama. He had a lot to brag about as the first African-American President in US history, one of the youngest elected Presidents in recent memory, and as a President who in spite of a Republican controlled Congress, got Obamacare and other major legislation enacted in his tenure. Yet what will go down in history is not a President that tooted his own horn, but one that listened, extended grace to allies and foes, and who tried to act fairly in his dealings, all why staying true to the man he was. Authenticity, poise, equanimity and kindness are some of his hallmarks—all key aspects of humility.

 

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Martin Luther King Jr’s whole platform centered around non-violence and using the power of love to conquer hate. He rallied for justice and equality for African-Americans and advocated for peace and unity instead of resistance. What a concept! It was hardly revolutionary, but it seemed crazy against the backdrop of the violent and contentious civil rights movement in the 1960’s. His opponents mocked him for what they deemed as weakness. He didn’t go around thumping his chest trying to be noticed. Yet he built a movement so pivotal that it impacted the course of U.S. history. He advocated unrelentingly for civil rights in the face of fierce opposition and used his platform to “keep hope alive” when it seemed that equal rights for all citizens was just a fantasy. His beliefs eventually led to his assassination at the age of 39. Martin Luther King Jr’s was a visionary. He was courageous. And he was humble.

MLK’s story reminds me of a famous Jew that preceded him centuries earlier. Jesus of Nazareth spoke The Truth, knowing it would lead to his death. He confronted his accusers boldly and publicly shamed the Jewish leaders of his time for their hypocrisy. He was the God/man come to the earth in the most humbling of circumstances (born in a horse’s trough in a stable) and lived without wealth or earthly pedigree. He didn’t brag about himself but he did brag about his father, the God of the Universe. Jesus spoke favorably of the meek and the humble, and went so far as to say they would “inherit the earth”. The character trait of humility was one Jesus endorsed, exemplified, and encouraged. According to Proverbs 3:34, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”

As a Christian, who has a newfound respect for humility, a recurring prayer of mine is to learn to embrace humility and to know that in my humility I gain so much more strength to do the will of God. In my humility, I am transformed more into the likeness of Jesus. Hallelujah!

You don’t have to be a braggart, prideful, arrogant or self-seeking to get noticed for what only you can do best. You— with your unique talents, experiences, personality, values, strengths and bravado— are needed. Your niche is already carved out waiting for you to show up and manifest your brilliance. They are waiting on you to shine.


Natalie Jobity is an inspirational author, branding coach, marketing consultant and freelance writer. She is the author of the Amazon Best-selling style guide :Frumpy to Fabulous: Flaunting It. Your Ultimate Guide to Effortless Style.  Email her at Elanimage07@gmail.com.

Three teaching “AHA” Moments

I am almost through with my first semester of teaching Introduction to Business to a group of mostly college freshmen. What An Experience! I’m learning SO much—about how to teach, how to communicate more clearly, about my students, but most of all about myself. Getting in front of a classroom of twenty 17-20-something year-old kids first thing in the morning is nothing, if not a humbling experience.  They’re my captive audience–that is, when they are not glued to their cell phone or otherwise engaged.  I never thought it would be so difficult to command 80 minutes of attention. I’ve spoken successfully to professional audiences in the past, and in my career as a market researcher, I had to give presentations and chair meetings that were way longer, myriad times. Yet, these kids are a challenge. I keep striving to be a better communicator. It is my job, not theirs to keep them engaged or in the very least, entertained.

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So I’m learning and growing and evolving as a teacher. Here are 3 of the biggest lessons I have gleaned thus far.

  1. It’s not about me, it’s all about them. Well this was a shocker. One of my biggest concerns coming into teaching this course was not being able to be the dynamic presenter I know I can be. In my first few classes, I left dejected when I felt I didn’t do a good job “presenting” the information. But then I had an ‘aha’ moment when I realized these kids could give a darn about my presenting skills. They were there to learn, and to get the highest grade they were capable of. Whether I presented the content flawlessly or clumsily was moot if they did not learn a few things after that class. So I started to relax. Once I let myself off the hook, I was really able to be PRESENT to them. What DID they really need from me? How could I make them understand the difference between fiscal and monetary policy, at its most basic level, without whipping myself into a frenzy drawing charts on the board trying to impress them with my skills? Once I realized that I was there to serve them completely with everything I had to offer, I could really begin to teach.
  2. Keep it Real. You know who you really can’t impress especially when you’re trying? College aged students! They really don’t care how smart I am or how many degrees I have. I can’t “pretend” to be a teacher. I can only be me. Because of my personality, I’m very self –conscious when I don’t know the answers to their questions. And to be honest, there is a lot I don’t know.  Once I gave up trying to be perfect and instead focused on being authentic, I fostered stronger connections with them.  In my first class, I was using the restaurant Chipotle as an example for a SWOT analysis, and I noticed a few of them snickering. Well I’ll be darned—I had been pronouncing it CHIP-OL-TE  for years and never realized it until these students corrected me. I had to laugh with them and just let it go. I know it endeared me to them that much more. I’m not perfect. I’m human. And that’s exactly as it should be.
  3. Never Assume. My class is diverse as you would expect at a community college. These kids are there for a variety of reasons and they have varying levels of ability. In my first few classes, I was trying so hard to impress the “smart kids” that I was excluding the ones who were really learning many of the concepts for the first time.  The latter are the majority. But I was so insecure about my abilities as a teacher, that it never occurred to me until class number 7 after the first exam, that the majority of the students needed me to go a whole lot slower. I was assuming they all got it. Grading that first exam was an eye opener.  I was appalled by how little seemed to be sinking in. But it forced me to dig deep and try a new approach. Now I teach for the weakest kid in that class. I know the smart kids will get it. But if I can make an underperformer get it? Priceless!  This is now what fuels me.

Teaching might be my toughest job yet. But now I understand what they say about this work being fulfilling, if you approach it with the right heart. And I figure, if I can be a decent teacher, then there probably isn’t anything that I can’t do if I put my mind and heart into it, and get out of my own way.

Related Posts:

5 Ways to Build a Legacy Brand like Martha Stewart’s

Five Ways to Use Your Words for Good

Dare to be Brilliantly You

5 Steps to Leverage your Vulnerability for Victory 

Natalie Jobity is an inspirational author, marketing consultant and freelance writer and editor. She is the author of the Amazon Best-selling style guide:Frumpy to Fabulous: Flaunting It. Your Ultimate Guide to Effortless Style.  Email her at Natalie@Nataliejobity.com.