Tag: SEO

#MondayMotivation: Get Help Where You Need It

Many of you may have been able to make a strategic plan for the summer without difficulty, but it was the development of a support system that may have left you confused. The frustrations seem to all boil down to three questions:

1) What types of support groups exist?

2) How do I figure out which type of support group is right for me?

3) If I were just more motivated and disciplined then I wouldn’t need a group, so how can I change myself?

 

Because having a support system is critical to actually executing your summer plan, I want to dedicate this Monday’s blog to the many different kinds of groups and what makes them either flounder or flourish as support systems.

You may be wondering, “Why do you need a support group?”, “Can’t you just motivate yourself?”, or “There are so many people who would love to be in your position.” In short, many are advised to shut up & be happy. Because shaming moves people into action, that may actually work for a week or two, but true needs have a way of resurfacing. So instead of taking the tough-guy, ignore-your-needs, shut-up-and-be-happy approach, I want to suggest the opposite. In other words, I believe that embracing your needs will help you to develop a support system that will move you from occasional shame-induced action towards a healthy, consistent, and sustainable routine.

While it should go without saying, it’s OK to have needs. In fact, if you wait until you are perfectly motivated, flawlessly self-disciplined, free from anxiety, utterly fearless, intellectually energized, and emotionally resolved to get stuff done, you may never begin! Instead, release yourself from the idea that having needs means there’s something wrong with you. It’s OK if you need support and accountability. It’s OK if you’re not productive in isolation. It’s OK if you need community, feedback, a safe space to take risks, and a group of people who genuinely celebrate your accomplishments. It’s OK because meeting your needs for community, support and accountability will not only increase your productivity but also your enjoyment.

What do YOU need?

If you can accept the fact that you don’t have to change who you are in order to be productive, then I want you to dig just a little deeper by asking yourself: What do I need to maximize my productivity this summer? Different people have different needs. For example, some people need to physically be around other people while working, while other people need an accountability partner to answer to. Some people need solitude and the kind of support that is silent, while others need regular cheerleading from their peers. Some need quantitative accounting of their progress, while others need substantive feedback from those who are working towards the same goal. Some people need additional coaching. It’s even okay if you need all of these things at different times! The important thing is to identify what you need without judgment or shame. Knowing what you truly need to maximize your productivity is what will allow you to construct a support system that is effective for YOU.

Connect with a group that meets your needs

Once you have identified your basic needs, start to imagine the best way to get them met. I’m going to describe a few different types of groups that illustrate the importance of letting your needs guide your selection of an appropriate group. It’s really quite simple: Support groups flourish when everyone’s needs are being met and flounder when they don’t meet the primary needs of members. 

Traditional Groups

The most common form of a traditional group that comes to mind is a small number of people who commit to a specific period of time to meet face-to-face, once-a-month, for the purpose of reading, critiquing, and providing substantive feedback on each other’s work. This requires a time commitment to show up and engage during the meeting time. Such groups tend to work well if a participant’s primary need is substantive feedback and if members are able to provide that for one another. This structure is less effective when participants have other more pressing needs (support or ongoing accountability) and/or the feedback is the sort that could be obtained, instead, more efficiently from a professional.

Accountability Groups

If your primary need is to have a committed group of people to answer to each week, then an accountability group may be worth trying. Here is an example: four people can agree to meet once a week during the summer (either face-to-face or by conference call). The groups meet for exactly one hour per week and each person gets 15 minutes to discuss the following items: 1) my goals for last week were _______, 2) I did/did not meet them, 3) if I didn’t meet them, it’s because of _______ and 4) my goals for next week are _______. Developing a daily routine tends to bring up people’s stuff, and the group helps to support one another by identifying the limiting beliefs and behaviors that hold members back from productivity. Instead the focus is on the process and moving projects forward so they can get into the hands of people with subject matter expertise (not group members). This structure works well when the participants’ primary needs are accountability, support, community, and peer mentoring. It is, however, ineffective when individuals cannot sustain the weekly commitment to the group.

Online Writing Groups

There are a variety of online writing groups that are designed to provide support, accountability, and tracking progress over time. Some are free and some cost money, but essentially the structure is the same. Participants commit to a period of productivity, check in each day or each week, track their progress over time and engage in discussion with other participants. This support system works well for people who need daily support and encouragement, feel isolated in some way, and/or find electronic relationships are genuinely satisfying and significant enough to elicit the feeling of accountability. This support structure is less suitable for people who need face-to-face contact and interaction in order to feel a tangible sense of accountability and community.

Life Coaches

It may be the case that you have a variety of needs but your schedule disallows you from committing to any kind of group for the summer. Or alternatively, you have no idea what you need, and you would like to work with a professional to figure it out. There are a variety of life coaches out there who will consult with you weekly (for fees ranging from $75-$150 per hour) to increase your awareness of what’s holding you back and help you to develop and implement strategies to move you forward. Coaches work well for people who either aren’t clear what their needs are or need more personalized and intense accountability than a group can provide. Of course, this doesn’t work for everybody, but it may be worth a shot.

Remember, you can use all of these mechanisms at once! I know that if left to my own devices, I will not get certain things done. I’ll be productive in other ways, though. I have come to accept the fact that I need community, support, and accountability, and instead of judging myself negatively for having those needs, I embrace them, create mechanisms to meet them, and find that participating in these types of supportive systems brings me increased productivity and tremendous joy. You may have different (or fewer) needs than I do, but the key to having a productive, fulfilling, and enjoyable summer is to ask yourself: What do I need, and where can I find it?

I hope this week brings you the clarity to identify your needs, the freedom to embrace them, and the creativity to connect with mechanisms of support that will allow you to maximize your productivity this summer and develop a sustainable daily routine.

Do You Make Your Children Buy Their Stepfather A Gift For Father’s Day?

I went to a comedy show recently where one of the comedians made a very good point – why isn’t there  a day, or at least a few hours set aside to honor stepfathers? He went on to tell the audience that he was a “retired stepdad”. He had recently divorced a woman with 3 kids & started lamenting on how hard it was to raise someone else’s kids. With Father’s Day right around the corner, he thought that they should get some acknowledgement on that day, even if it was only the last 1 hour of the day. Now can you imagine that: on Father’s Day celebrating your stepfather from 11:00 pm – 11:59 pm only?! LOL

This actually isn’t such a bad idea. When you think about it, stepfathers oftentimes put in more work that than the biological father (or even a stepmother, in that case). Think about it: Usually children live with their mother full-time, therefore the stepfather typically has more interaction with the kids than their own dads. He has more opportunity to make an impact on them, since more interaction means more influence.

Not to mention,  a stepfather’s paycheck has to cover all the bills & incidentals in the home, which includes supporting someone else’s children. (This is precisely why I don’t want to marry someone with kids) The stepfather has to build & maintain a friendship (or at least a relationship) with someone else’s children that is “good enough” for the woman that he chose to marry (otherwise she wouldn’t marry him).  Imagine all the sporting events, recitals, etc. that he would be pressured to go to by his wife. He has to prove to her that he loves & cares for her children, and may even have to deal with the bio dad. This can be a hard thing for a man to do – deferring to another man for a child that lives under his roof (another reason why I don’t want to marry someone with kids – they may live with you & you are financially supporting them but you don’t get the “final say” when it comes to raising them). Only a strong man would sign up for this.

I think the comedian has got a point. If you are someone’s stepparent you have to do just as much work, spend your own hard-earned money and don’t get nearly as much of the credit. How often do mothers make their children buy a Father’s Day card for their stepfather or buy him a gift? How much do mothers show their appreciation of the effort & the dedication that their new husband puts into raising a child that is not theirs?

Helping to raise someone else’s child who lives in your house can be tough. Women with children really should show a little extra love on Father’s Day to any man who is helping her raise her kids.

This Father’s Day, I hope that you think about the men who are stepfathers in your life. Appreciate them. Tell them thank you. Have your kids acknowledge them because being a stepdad can’t be easy.

Why White People Love Africans (But Can’t Stand African-Americans)

I’ve been aware of the preferential dynamic between Africans and White Americans for a very long time. It’s something I witnessed all throughout childhood and well into adulthood. It wasn’t a secret that professors at my university showed preferential treatment to African immigrant students, both in instruction and in resources. And it’s not uncommon to hear about preferential hiring and promotional decisions in favor of African employees as opposed to Black Americans in the workplace. I mean it’s cool for Africans and white people to love each other, the problem arises when innocent people are affected by this preferential treatment and biased decision making. It wasn’t until I saw the effects of such treatment played out in my own life that I thought to explore why this dynamic existed. Now these are just my theories, but let’s explore 5 possible reasons why white people love Africans (but can’t stand African Americans).

“All of the Melanin, None of the Guilt”

Slavery is America’s greatest sin. No matter how much white people would have us forget it ever occurred, grab our invisible bootstraps and move on, we know that can never happen. The truth is the residual effects of slavery are sewn into the fabric of this country, making the avoidance of guilt a seemingly impossible feat, especially when you’re still wearing it’s clothing. Not to mention, interfacing with your victims on the daily can get pretty taxing. Of course the white people we see today aren’t the ones who steered the ships and physically chained us, but their willingness to maintain hold of the privileges they inherited through these atrocities lets us know that they’re in no rush to make amends. And because White people feel this unavoidable sense of guilt when it comes to forging on in their ancestors bloody footsteps, their subconscious is always thinking of ways to avoid further persecution. And one of the easiest ways to do that is to avoid who makes you feel guilty about it.

If this observation is accurate, then it only makes sense for white people to prefer Africans immigrants. Not only can they whip out the “I have a friend from Ghana” card, but they also get to avoid the social responsibility, the expectation of ally-ship, the acknowledgment of wrongs, the challenging of old family beliefs, and many other responsibilities that come along with befriending Black Americans. Sure, the Transatlantic Slave Trade began in West Africa but white people don’t see slavery as a crime committed against Africans — at least not directly. So in the context of friendships and intimate partnerships between Africans and White Americans, these topics are easily avoidable. No victim, no crime. No rallies to attend, no protests, no boycotts, just guilt-free fun. The African friend essentially acts as a breath of fresh air to the white conscious.

“Is This Wakanda?”

Now this next sentence may not go over well, but Black Twitter will pretty much tell you all you need to know about Black culture. What we eat, how to cook it, how to season it, what we’re listening to, who we love this week, who we hate, what boycott we’re half-assing, where the cookout is, how to get there, and what kind of raisins to bring for the potato salad. Black people don’t keep much of anything a secret when it comes to Black culture. Nothing is off limits and nothing is too sacred to discuss out in the open. That’s not necessarily something to fault Black Americans over but when has easy access ever made us more appreciative of something? Not to mention that Black American culture derived from the culmination of European influences and whatever remnants of African culture were permitted to remain on the plantation.

White people know Black culture well because they had a huge part in its inception — been there, stole that. In contrast, African culture is a little harder to access. You won’t find nationally televised shows depicting a modern African way of life, there is no continent-wide cookout for us to dish out invitations to, there’s no honorary South African pass for best gwara-gwara dance, and you won’t find Nigerian gele (traditional West African style of headdress) at Forever 21 or Zara. African culture is tied to Africans which means you must go through the people to access it, which white people have proven they have no problem doing. White people cant get enough of things that aren’t made for them and it doesn’t get more F.U.B.U. than African culture.

“Let’s Have a Pity Party”

National Geographic came forward this year and issued an apology for historically racist coverage of Africans and indigenous groups around the world. Shocker. But that apology doesn’t do much to rectify the lasting imagery that their coverage created. The naked African hunting bushmeat in the forest, the bloated belly of a starving African child, the drug fueled African warlord, some of these images are the only images of Africa that many Americans know. Leading some white Americans to see African immigrants as personal charity cases, whether warranted or not. It’s not uncommon for a white person to befriend an African immigrant for the sole purpose of feeling like a do-gooder. Who else would introduce Mbutu to the wonders of pants and forks? The destitute African friend gives White Americans their much needed dose of heroism, which is not the case for the Black American friend. And why is that, you might ask? Black Americans are somewhat destitute in their home country, are they not? The answer to that question is yes, we most certainly are. But it’s a little more difficult for white people to feel sorry for Black Americans because that would require them to acknowledge their participation in keeping Black Americans destitute in the first place. And white people hate feeling guilty, especially when they’re guilty.

“You Are Really Dumb… Forreal.”

Generally speaking, White People are ignorant. And despite all of the free information at our fingertips, many will choose to remain in that state. And it’s probably best they do, simply based on the fact that most of the ideologies, advancements, and innovations that white culture promotes and celebrates were birthed from Black minds, which for many would be too big a blow to their egos.

What we know about white people’s silent inferiority complex is that it’s very important to them to feel in control, in power, and in moral authority, which is hard to do if you’re constantly being called out on your immorality. And while it’s impossible to avoid the very obvious connection between the condition of Black America and its relation to White America, it’s a little easier to glance over Africa’s relation to the West. The truth is that the continent of Africa has been repeatedly pillaged, siphoned and squandered ever since Europeans first decided her resources were profitable. There have been countless documented incidents of war, genocide, group extermination, sterilization, intentional disease outbreaks, famine, child trafficking, molestation and rape at the hands of UN “peacekeepers”, intentional elimination of indigenous spiritual systems and the list goes on, all at the hands of white people. White people aren’t blameless when it comes to the state of Africa and it’s inhabitants, they’re just ignorant.

“He Wouldn’t Hurt a Fly”

White people aren’t afraid of a lot of things they probably should be: each other, wild animals, extreme sports, each other, the sun, illegal drugs, heart disease, cancer, each other, and chronic lower respiratory disease just to name a few. After all, these are a few of the things that pose the greatest statistical threat to white life. You know what’s not on that list, Black folk. That’s right, Black people actually pose an excessively low threat to white lives, (now if only the reverse were true). But you would never guess that with the immense amount of irrational fear white people seem to have when it comes to Black people. A fear they don’t appear to have when it comes to African immigrants. And while many would look at the rate at which American-born Black men are killed by police in comparison to that of African immigrants and attribute that to some instigative behaviors on the part of Black men, we would be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge the vastly different representations these two groups possess. Black Americans are portrayed as unpredictable, unhinged, violent, aggressive and irrational. African immigrants, on the other hand, are depicted as docile, overly religious, determined and jovial. The African is harmless. Harmless to the fragile white ego, harmless to white establishments, harmless to the white savior complex, harmless to white sensibilities, just plain ole harmless.

There are a ton of other reasons that could potentially explain why white people prefer Africans. One being that African immigrants, having nationalities that don’t reject them, are less tied to racial classifications than Black Americans and therefore are less likely to see their race as an inhibitor. White people love that. Another reason could be that Africans are more willing to capitulate, quickly denouncing culture, language, tradition and birth name in order to blend into white society and corporate culture. A third reason could possibly be that Africans are often more willing to overlook the racist and bigoted comments and beliefs their white friends hold, not having the same historical attachment to various words and references. Whatever the reason, white friendship has never been and will never be the prize. And we should all beware of any white people who think making exceptions for a few “safe” Black people makes them any less racist or prejudice. It doesn’t. And whatever we call it, tokenism, favoritism, nepotism or a classic case of divide and conquer, the only thing I know for sure is that we should all be skeptical.

*Originally published on Madame Noire.

#MondayMotivation: There is No ‘Mentoring Guru’

We’ve all heard repeatedly how important “mentoring” is to our professional success, but if you scratch the surface and ask people what exactly they mean by “mentoring,” you will find a wide range of responses. Too many new people imagine that they will have a single guru-like “mentor” who will sense their needs, generously dispense wisdom, care deeply about their success, and gently guide them along the path to be promoted. Since it rarely happens like that, this week I’d like to focus on: Looking For A Single Guru-Mentor.

The problem with the idea that you will find one guru-mentor is that you will always have a wide variety of needs and it is not only impossible but also problematic for all of those needs to be met by one (and only one) person. For example, if you are fairly new to your position, you may have some combination of the following needs:

Professional Development

You are looking for help in learning how to manage time, resolve conflicts, administer projects, organize your office space, lead efficiently and make strategic decisions about service commitments.

Emotional Support

If you are a new employee or newly promoted, you are in the midst of a significant identity and role transition. As a result, you may need support in dealing with the common stress and pressures of transitioning.

A Sense Of Community

You may find yourself seeking both an intellectual and/or social community where you feel a true sense of belonging.

Accountability

The structure of your job likely provides the least accountability for the activity that is most valued (research, writing, and leadership). In order to avoid getting caught up in the daily chaos, the vast majority of people need some form of an accountability system.

Institutional Sponsorship

You also need to cultivate relationships with people who are invested in your success at your job. By that, I mean senior members who are willing to use their power to advocate for your best interests behind closed doors.

Access To Networks

Because knowledge isn’t produced in isolation, it’s critical for you to connect with others to discuss potential collaborations, navigate the business landscape, and access opportunity structures that might not be immediately apparent to you.

Project-Specific Feedback

You will also need to regularly communicate with people who can provide substantive comments on your ideas and/or presentations.

I’m saying this to illustrate the point that no one person could (or should) fulfill all of these different elements in your life! Expecting a single mentor to transition you will inevitably lead to disappointment, over-dependence on the advice of 1 person, and feelings of loneliness. All gurus are human; they make mistakes (just like you do!). Therefore, relying exclusively on 1 person can put you at unnecessary risk and leave you with many unmet needs.

This week, I want to encourage you to fundamentally rethink the idea of “mentoring” by asking yourself: What do I need, and what is the most strategic and efficient way to get it? Then, instead of looking for 1 all-knowing guru-mentor, you will start to realize that there are many different ways to get information, support, feedback, and advice. We can meet our professional development, emotional support, community, and accountability needs by connecting with professionals, peers, friends, books, and online communities. For example, it’s probably more effective to hire a professional house cleaner than to take an entire day to clean up yourself when you could’ve been using that time to do something else productive. That example doesn’t just work at home, but also at work – it might be easier to get someone to review or edit your work than for you to do it yourself, (especially because you might miss something). It also probably makes more sense to meet with friends for emotional support than to expect it from your co-workers. And, it’s far more meaningful to join a group for accountability purposes than to ask your mentor to call you every week and make sure you’re making progress on your goals.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some needs (ex: sponsorship, access to opportunities, project-specific feedback, etc.) that only senior people in your field and/or department can meet. The trick is to know the difference so that you focus the limited time you have with senior mentors on the things only they can provide for you while finding alternative ways to meet your other needs.

If There’s No Guru, Then What’s A Person To Do?

Instead of focusing on any 1 particular person, try to imagine an extensive web of support that you create by identifying your needs and proactively getting them met:

  • A broad array of mentors & sponsors that are located within and beyond your reach.
  • An excellent coach(or therapist, if need be) to help you transition
  • A local and extended network of friends who you can rely on for social support and stress relief
  • A group of scholars or professionals in your field with whom you can share thoughts and ideas
  • A supportive community that meets your unique accountability needs and celebrates your successes

In a perfect world, your network would be organized in such a way as to welcome and support you during any professional transition you make. In reality, it will most likely be your responsibility to identify your needs and find ways & people to meet them. Along with that responsibility comes the realization that you have tremendous power (even if it doesn’t always feel like it). In other words, you don’t have to be dependent on a single guru-mentor because you have the power to create a network of support that is populated by people who are invested in your success. This collective approach will enable you to feel supported before, during, and after problems arise in your life. It will provide you with opportunities, connections, and reference groups that extend far beyond your current employment situation. And most importantly, it will serve as a buffer to decrease any alienation, loneliness, and stress that you may feel at your current job.

I hope this week brings you the energy to re-think your assumptions about mentoring, the clarity to identify what YOU need right now, and the energy to seek new and creative ways to get all of your needs met!