If You Want To Achieve Excellence

Excellence (noun): the quality of being outstanding or extremely good.

I recently read some game-changing insights into why workplace feedback isn’t as effective as we think. The idea was that other people aren’t in a position to give us helpful feedback. This is because whatever they say is limited by the fact that it is largely their reaction to what we did or how we did – which is, obviously, highly subjective.

So it’s hard to know what to take to heart and actually work to change within ourselves because feedback is so colored by the other person.

Only we can translate and ultimately decide what makes sense to change or not change based on what others say.

Photo by  Arif Riyanto  on  Unsplash .

Photo by Arif Riyanto on Unsplash.

This might feel uncomfortable because many of us are taught – and fully believe – that taking feedback is the way forward on our personal journey to excellence. Which is why getting negative feedback can be so heartbreaking and disorienting sometimes.

Many of the women of color I work with (and know in life) tend to judge themselves incredibly harshly based on other people’s feedback.

We only pat ourselves on the back if other people have praised us first. We find ways to punish ourselves if other people criticize our work. 

The unfortunate result is that 1) we lose track of our sense of self and our own standards and 2) we find ourselves at the whim of what other people say and do. 

Not good.

Losing our sense of self and feeling like we’re at the whim of others’ opinions is NOT going to lead us to our own distinct version of excellence. Because no one else can tell us what excellence will look like for us. There’s no blueprint. There’s no predetermined path. This isn't science. What excellence looks like is different for every single person because we are all unique, we’re guided by our own sets of values, and we’ve had our own blend of lived experiences.

Photo by  Tachina Lee  on  Unsplash .

Photo by Tachina Lee on Unsplash.

Our uniqueness is what we have to tap into if we really want to achieve excellence.

What do we intuitively sense that we’re doing well? How can we do more of that? What are our greatest strengths? How can we build on them? What are we doing when we feel a rush of joy or exhilaration? What do we love doing? How can we bring more of that into our lives?

These aren’t rhetorical questions. Try to answer them for yourself. (If you feel really disconnected from your inner compass and sense of self, it may take time for you to reacquaint yourself – and that’s okay.)

Once you’re able to reflect on these questions and hone in on some answers, I think you’ll see the way forward to excellence a whole lot clearer.


Do you have thoughts or reactions to this piece? Let me know in the comments or send me an email! I always love talking things over with people as I continue processing, myself :)

One Way to Negotiate Our Way to Equal Pay

This year, Equal Pay Day was this past Tuesday, April 2. That’s because that’s the date through which women (in the US) have to work in order to earn as much money as men earned in 2018. It’s another way of expressing the average gender wage gap – 80 cents to the dollar.

Image credit:  Equal Pay Today .

Image credit: Equal Pay Today.

But April 2 isn’t the only Equal Pay Day in the year. March 5 was Equal Pay Day for Asian American women because we earn the most – on average – of the different groups of women of color. (This does a major disservice, however, to Southeast Asian American women, whose Equal Pay Day was September 12 last year.) April 19 will be Equal Pay Day for white women. 

Then comes an over four-month-long hiatus (gap seems inadequate here), until Equal Pay Day for black women happens on August 22. Then comes Equal Pay Day for Native women, on September 23. Finally, Latina Equal Pay day is on November 20.

To be clear, this means that, on average, Latinas must work practically an entire extra year in order to earn the same as men earn in this country. And if that’s not a source of outrage, I don’t know what is.

Image credit:  Love Sujeiry .

Image credit: Love Sujeiry.

But. You all know I don’t like to focus solely on the problems. I like to talk about solutions.

And when it comes to the abysmal wage gap situation in this country, those in power need to behave responsibly and pay women of color more money – specifically Latinas, Native and indigenous women, Southeast Asian women, and black women.

(And for anyone who is thinking, yeah, but these women work primarily in fields that are paid less than others – e.g., domestic work, caretaker work, sales, technician roles, cosmetology – labor is labor. There is no reason that there should be such a vast wage chasm between people doing white collar work and those doing blue collar work or emotional labor or work in the home and so on.)

Image credit: Vox.

Image credit: Vox.

However, I also don’t believe in sitting around and waiting for things to change – particularly when it depends on people in power ceding some of that power or acting against their financial interests to change the status quo. So it’s probably no surprise that I’m a big fan of the work and research of Professor Ashleigh Shelby Rosette, Associate Professor of Management and Organizations at the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University.

Professor Rosette gives excellent negotiation advice – that is actually intersectional.

And if her name sounds familiar, it might be because I’ve mentioned Professor Rosette in a prior edition of my newsletter, The Trajectory, as she was an expert interviewed on the HBR podcast, Women at Work: The Advice We Get and Give. If you haven’t listened to it yet, do yourself a favor and do it today!

Prof. Ashleigh Shelby Rosette

Prof. Ashleigh Shelby Rosette

Professor Rosette and two co-authors published a research paper in 2016 demonstrating how two groups of women of color – black women and Asian American women – face very different and specific stereotypes when compared to each other and to white women. On the podcast, she spoke about using these stereotypes to our advantage. 

She lays out in her paper how we are socialized to believe the stereotype that black women are strong and dominant, whereas Asian American women are competent and passive. Her research found that when black women conduct themselves in line with the stereotype of being strong and dominant, then they’re given more “behavioral freedom.” 

In other words, if black women act assertively in negotiations and in leadership, they’re more likely to get what they want. Similarly, when Asian American women conduct themselves in line with the stereotype of being competent, hard-working, and passive, then they are also given more behavioral freedom.

Although the study didn’t explicitly state this, I’d extrapolate that the practical application is that black women should make sure that they present themselves – and their negotiation demands – in a confident and emphatic manner. And Asian American women should emphasize the quality of their work product, the depth of their expertise, and frame their demands in terms of suggestions in order to get what they want.

Image credit: Vanity Fair.

Image credit: Vanity Fair.

Drawbacks of this study are that it did not include Latinas or Native and indigenous women, did not break down black or Asian American women into ethnic subgroups, and only took into account race and gender identities. Hopefully future studies will be more expansive and inclusive.

Nevertheless, this important and trailblazing research gives us an idea of the potential that using intersectional stereotypes (which we might normally shun) strategically – and to our advantage – to help close this wage gap faster than projected (estimates vary from 2058 to 2106).

For more practical help on this, download my 5 Steps to a Winning Negotiation Mindset: Strategies for Women of Color (released to The Trajectory subscribers April 4; available to new subscribers April 5).

The Problem with Women’s Day / Week / Month

Tomorrow is International Women’s Day. Which is great and I’m glad that there are certain days, weeks, and months dedicated to recognizing different marginalized groups, including women. But I can’t help but think that there’s something really off about the fact that women are basically half of the world’s population and we get one day out of 365 days in the year, one month out of twelve.

Photo credit: International Women’s Day 2018.

Photo credit: International Women’s Day 2018.

As if the rest of the year is “regular” and for men, right?

Frankly, the more I think about it the more riled up I get. So I decided to dig into the history of it a little to educate myself. In a nutshell, IWD grew out of the Socialist movement and labor and protests for equal rights for women in the early 1900s and later became an established holiday around the world. Although in some countries, like Russia, it’s an actual national holiday that people get off from work, in many other countries, like the US, it’s still kind of fringe and many (probably most) women can’t make it to IWD demonstrations or actions because they, of course, have to work.

Which brings me to what really frustrates me about these kinds of holidays and “heritage months:” the fact that they feel so tokenizing and, honestly, insulting. Okay, so, officially, we acknowledge that there’s one day out of the year dedicated to recognizing women around the world, celebrating their achievements worldwide (I’m not even sure how one does that), and calling for gender equity.

But what does that actually get us?

Photo by  T. Chick McClure  on  Unsplash .

I suppose the real crux of it is this, if I may be so bold: what women need – especially women of color, especially Native and indigenous women, especially immigrant women, especially poor and working poor women – is not just a holiday or a history month, but actual, tangible, concrete change. In the form of equal pay. In the form of equal representation in positions of power. In the form of freedom from harassment and discrimination. In the form of equal access to opportunities to pursue the work and create the lives that they want.

In other words, more money, more power, more autonomy, and more respect. It’s 2019. Is that so much to ask?

Alright, if I stop ranting for a second and get practical, let’s talk about some actual things that we can do to incorporate all the good things about IWD and Women’s History Month into the rest of the year. Off the top of my head, I’d suggest:

  • advocating for a woman to get paid more at her job (this woman can be yourself)

  • if you employ women, being sure to be a sponsor or a champion of them so that they can be promoted and given raises at least as often as their male counterparts

  • validating a woman in her opinion, lived experience, and aspirations

  • asking a woman what she needs, what she wants, and how you can help

  • getting out of a woman’s way both physically and metaphorically (listen to the podcast in the March edition of The Trajectory for more on this)

  • not cutting women off when they’re talking (this applies to men and other women!)

  • making sure women get credit for their ideas

  • protecting women from being stuck with all of the “low-level,” “unskilled,” and underpaid work

It’s important to note that these things can really take place on any day of the year.

Which ones do you want to integrate into your life?

Also, I thought of these ideas in under five minutes. There are many more. What ideas do you want to add?

On the Beauty of Writing Things Down

For those of you who know me, I’m a huge fan of writing things down. Mostly because I get overly stressed out when I have to keep too many things in my head! It’s like juggling, right? I know I’m gonna drop something! Also, since most of my writing nowadays is done on the computer or phone, I do savor the chance to write things down on paper.

IMG_8348.JPG

I’m also a huge fan of planning things out strategically. Without a plan, I just feel lost and directionless. And I’m much less likely to be productive. Which then makes me feel worse because I am definitely one of those people who gets an adrenaline rush from productivity and crossing things off lists.

Speaking of which, every morning, I start my day by writing down a simple to do list (one much like the one I share in my Weekly Scheduling Packet. If I’m doing particularly well, I’ll even write this list the night before! But usually I create it in the morning, which helps focus me before I do my meditation and get my day started.

Image courtesy of  The Content Planner .

Image courtesy of The Content Planner.

Recently, I was super excited to win my first Instagram giveaway! While I’ve now run a few giveaways myself, I had never won one, so I felt pretty special. Even better, and relevant to this post ;-) the prize was a sleek, beautiful Content Planner that I can use for planning out my Instagram posts! Up till now, I had really only been planning things out from week to week, which is really not sufficient for some of the bigger goals of having a social media account for my business.

So now I get to plan things out as far in advance as I want, all while literally seeing the bigger picture, and get all the benefits of writing things out by hand! If you want to see what difference it makes for my IG account, go ahead and check it out here! And click on over to thecontentplanner.com if you want to check that out!

Writing and planning are my go-to’s for keeping myself sane in a busy line of work – what are yours?

Parallel Learning: Anger + Magic + Action

I love parallel learning. This is a term I use to refer to learning the same concepts in different ways – by reading, by listening, by watching, by firsthand experience. I’m a nerd, so I love when I learn something one way and then happen to absorb the same lesson (or a related one) in another way, in a completely different context. I love how it deepens my learning – like adding another layer to a foundation – and makes things feel so much more…solid.

Photo by  Peter Forster  on  Unsplash .

Photo by Peter Forster on Unsplash.

For me, 2019 has been full of parallel learning so far. I’m taking it as a sign that my life, work, and purpose are lining up more and more – like some kind of cosmic convergence.

Much of my parallel learning this year has centered around systemic oppression and anger. In a way, it feels like a natural component of my work with Embrace Change, an organic progression in the work of the last year or two. But the last few weeks have really distilled things down for me.

Photo credit: CreativeSoul Photography; Design credit: Lauren Panepinto.

Photo credit: CreativeSoul Photography; Design credit: Lauren Panepinto.

Layer 1. I’ve been reading a fantastic book, How Long ’Til Black Future Month? by N.K. Jemisin, for the book club I’m in. It’s a set of mind-bending, super inventive and extremely thoughtful short stories in the sci-fi, fantasy genre. I highly recommend it. 

Layer 2. With Jemisin’s stories about power, race, destruction, and sacrifice as a backdrop, I then attended a sold-out event called The Furies: Women’s Rage, Women’s Power with Dr. Brittany Cooper, Rebecca Traister, and Irin Carmon. It was a gloriously potent combination – sitting there and listening to these badass thought leaders, with the stories from How Long ’Til Black Future Month floating around the back of my mind. I felt like I left that auditorium a slightly different person – no exaggeration. I was armed with a new critical lens; the discussion that evening helped me zero in with laser focus on the purpose behind my work coaching womxn of color.

Photo credit: Cynthia Pong.

Photo credit: Cynthia Pong.

Here are two of the lessons that stuck with me from that night. One: the double standard when it comes to anger. Anger aimed down, from the powerful to the powerless, is considered condoned, reflecting the “normal,” natural order of things.

Anger and outrage aimed up, from the oppressed to the oppressors, is condemned and actively suppressed, as it’s a direct threat to the status quo and existing power structures.

At the same time, anger is an important barometer in the lives of POC, WOC, and other marginalized folks because it signals to us that something is being wrongfully taken away from us – often, at its core, that something is a piece of our humanity or dignity.

Two. I keep thinking about something Dr. Cooper said, which is (and I’m paraphrasing here, as I didn’t have the foresight to bring a notebook and pen to take notes, like some of the more brilliant audience members) that if we really believe in equity, then we, womxn, must examine our opinions, beliefs, and internalized oppression extremely closely whenever our decisions end up favoring a white man over a womxn.

Powerful stuff.

Photo credit: Deun Ivory.

Photo credit: Deun Ivory.

Layer 3. I had been reading an issue of Good Company magazine and had a gleeful lightbulb moment when I realized that every single person featured in that magazine – whether in an article or a photograph – was a womxn, nonbinary, or a person of color! There were even two Native American womxn featured in one issue!! It was a beautiful, magical, new experience for me that really highlighted how impactful representation really is (and how low the bar is for equitable representation in media).

Layer 4: my latest podcast obsession and this month’s featured podcast, Battle Tactics for Your Sexist Workplace (BTSW) with Eula Scott Bynoe and Jeanie Yandel. It takes the anger and outrage from Layers 1 and 2 (and the lack of visible representation from Layer 3) and takes them to the next level: ACTION.

Where the magic happens.

Battle Tactics for Your Sexist Workplace.

Battle Tactics for Your Sexist Workplace.

The BTSW episode that I highlighted in my February newsletter is the episode about Imposter Syndrome. I chose it because I think it’ll resonate with a lot of my clients and workshop participants. But it was a difficult decision because I’ve binged many of the BTSW episodes now and I can honestly say that they are consistently full of quality advice that I would give – and have given – to clients and other womxn of color. In fact, one of the battle tactics at the end of the Imposter Syndrome episode is a version of one of my strategies from Stop Settling in Your Career!

Listening to BTSW is a direct parallel to my mission – arming womxn and WOCs with strategies to resist and challenge the white patriarchy that pervades all workplaces.

Photo credit:  Real Bro  w  n Girls .

Photo credit: Real Brown Girls.

Last, but not least: Layer 5. I’ve been thinking about the record number of womxn of color recently sworn into Congress. That’s something that feels magical too. It’s something that definitely grew out of a lot of collective anger. But now, I think about two theories from Layers 2 and 4 of what will happen to this cohort of WOCs in Congress. From BTSW, we have the theory that womxn are only allowed in to major leadership positions to clean up a mess. Afterwards, they’ll only get blamed for the continued mess. From the Women’s Rage event, we have a theory that these womxn will successfully clean up the mess, but will then be disposed of (sooner or later) so that the white patriarchy can be reinstated. Which makes me think back to my clients and all womxn of color who have lofty career goals.

I know these theories may seem overly cynical. And while I absolutely believe that they could predict our future, it doesn’t mean that I’ll approach my work with any less zeal, fervor, or optimism.

Because all of this parallel learning has left me with two lingering questions that keep echoing around in my head:

How do we transform the anger from the past and the present into action to co-create a more equitable future? And, how long, indeed, ’til Black / Indigenous / Latinx / Asian / Womxn / LGBT+ Future Months?