Distinct Choices Change Courses

(First appeared in WRAL TechWire.)

Earlier this week I spoke at the SAS Championship 9th Annual Women’s Day presented by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina. My theme: ‘Distinct Choices, Change Courses!’ It’s true, right? Each major life decision we make impacts our happiness, general fulfillment and financial security. These decisions also reverberate off the people that are closest to us – potentially changing their course as well.

Since I declared this month “Open Book October” I want to share two personal examples of how other people’s choices, deeply impacted the way I move and view the world.

FLY AGAINST CONVENTION

My birth story is a made-for-tv movie so I won’t unpack it here today; but let’s just say that my mom defied all 1976 logic when she brought her 9lb bundle of ebony into her ivory world. I grew up in the tiny unincorporated village of Evansport, Ohio. It’s a dot on the map with a population of about 309 people living within its borders… 99.9% of whom were white. I made up the exception.

Now, my mom had choices. She was stationed in Germany when she found out she was pregnant with me. That said, she could have chosen not to have me – and no one would have been the wiser. She also could have given me up for adoption. Or, she could have chosen to move to a city more favorable to a white single mom raising a bi-racial child. But she didn’t. And because of these distinct choices (and so many others), I’m not only able to write this blog today, but I got comfortable being uncommon pretty fast.

APPLE… TREE

Now, my mom didn’t raise me alone; my grandparents were there every step of the way.

They were also second-generation entrepreneurs running multiple businesses, and all of us—including me—worked. From real estate investment and appraisal to auctioneering and insurance…my family followed the market trends and capitalized on them.

I distinctly remember riding along with my grandpa in his baby blue suburban over the summer breaks. I would watch him broker deals and offer second chances to struggling individuals. I saw him win over adversaries and make a difference in his community. In the evenings, my no-nonsense and business savvy grandma kept the momentum going by bringing us together for conversations at the dinner table. It was here that my mental models around integrity and stick-to-it-ness were formed.

Now, looking back, I can see and appreciate the front row seat that I had. I literally watched my mom and grandparents reinvent themselves over and over again throughout the years. It’s why I’m an entrepreneur – no question. It’s in my blood, and it’s what I know.

PUT IT ALL TOGETHER.

People often ask me: How did you do it? How did you find the courage to quit your job? Start your business? Put yourself out there on the line?

My answer is simple. I made a series of distinct choices over time. Choices that fed my various passions and used my skillset of communication and relationship-building to bring it all to life. That, combined with my willingness to be uncommon, set my course.

Are you making distinct choices or are they carbon copies of the people around you? How do you know? If you’re feeling a little stuck, try walking through these questions.

  1. Let’s say I magically removed all roadblocks, what BIG idea would you dive into? What quickens your pulse and overtakes your thoughts? Maybe you have dreams of developing new technology. You might want to disrupt an industry, or establish a new market footprint. Maybe you want to throw your hat in the ring and leapfrog a level at work. Set a timer and free write for 20 min.

  2. Next, what’s holding you back from diving in? Set a timer and free write for 10 min.

  3. Finally, who in your life calls you higher? Who helps you see your greatest potential? Schedule a walk-n-talk or a coffee. Go deeper with them. Share your lists and listen to their feedback. Ask specific clarifying questions. While this might be a moment of extreme vulnerability it can also be chocked full of nuggets that will accelerate your next step.

At the end of the day, we all want to be better tomorrow than we are today. With that in mind, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes: “You can’t influence the world by being just like it.”

Find the courage to take a step into the unknown. Just one. You got this…

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