WHAT MAKES BOZOMA SAINT JOHN FEARLESS?


Tall, dark and Ghanaian-gorgeous, Bozoma Saint John looked like no one else growing up in Colorado Springs, Colorado. She credits that otherness with making her courageous at work, and everywhere else. Boz told her story onstage at Together Live, Seattle, and her point—Never Hide—applies to every blessed one of us.

“I’m very tall. And I wear extra big heels so everyone has to look up at me all the time. I also wear my hair very high–that way you have to notice me when I walk in the room. This is part of my tactic, since I was probably 11, 12, 13.

I literally cannot hide. I cannot walk in to any space without people being like: What’s going on over there? So I just started to embrace it, because there was literally no other choice. If people were going to look at me anyway, then I might as well put on a show.

I was 5’10” by the time I was 12. I didn’t look like anyone else in Colorado Springs, Colorado. I’m actually really appreciative of that experience as a kid because it taught me to own all of it. I never hide now. I don’t walk into my office hiding. If there’s an idea I have, I say it. Because I have learned over time that there’s no being somebody else anyway. No one else has the ideas I have. No one else is me. There is no trying to just go along, because people look at me as different anyway, so I need to bring something different to the table. I lean into that.“

“I could not look at myself in the mirror”: Jen Hatmaker’s road to embracing the LGBTQ community

Jen Hatmaker is one of those guide-women who helps us figure out what we owe others, what we need from others, what’s important and what’s just funny. She’s also willing to talk about times she has felt lost. She faced one of those moments a few years back, when she could no longer abide her Christian community’s rejection of LGBTQ people. So, she bucked church doctrine and opened her arms to them, risking her livelihood and peaceful family life to get right with herself. Here’s what she told Glennon Doyle and our Together Live audience about finding her way to a “true space”. It’s a Pride Month story worth re-telling.

I knew what I was walking into, for sure. I’m not new here. I’d seen many of my compatriots removed for the same sort of affirmation. All of us have some sort of tribal connection. We all have a group where we are identified, and we tuck ourselves safely inside that thing. We put structures around that thing that make us feel safe. They give us edges that feel tidy. And they’re bound together by a set of rules. In my world, the rules include a pretty heavy component of behaving: Behave like I want you to behave. Believe like I believe and do what I say. I’d seen enough to know that the cost of going against the system, the cost of going against the structure, is belonging. That’s the punishment and I knew it would be.

I have a career, and I’ve built my whole world inside that structure. And the cost was going to be high. It was not just going to be belonging—it was going to be financially punitive. But I could not look at myself in the mirror. And that cost is higher. That cost is higher.

When I knew that I had this internal conviction that I was simply too afraid to say out loud—fear kept me silent—I felt like a fraud. I felt very fractured. Ultimately that pain was worse than anything anyone else could do to me. Nothing cost that much.

But I wasn’t prepared for the volume of the reaction. I wish I could say I weathered it with grace and dignity. The truth was, it was devastating. It was awful. At one point, I made my mom travel with me. My books were pulled off shelves. They were pulled out of print. I heard: We will not publish them anymore. People returned my books to me burned. There were so many pieces written about me that were painful and harmful.

I will tell you though, that I would do it again, and again, and again. I would make the same choice again. Even if it cost me every last penny. And I feel like I’m sitting in true space for the first time in a long time.

A DAUGHTER HONORS HER DAD WITH HER OWN BRAVE VOICE

“I have his picture on the back of my phone. There’s a little polaroid that I’ve stuck into the case. So, I’ve always got you with me.” Madison McFerrin was talking about her father, the jazz legend Bobby McFerrin, on NPR (listen to the entire interview here). Turns out the McFerrin musical legacy reaches back to Madison’s grandfather. “My father was the first African American to sign a contract with the Metropolitan Opera, 1955,” Bobby told NPR. Madison carried her family’s fame with her to the Berklee College of Music, where, she says, “people were kind of freaking out” when they realized who she was.

Not easy, she says, but her formal training “helped me gain perspective, because all of the sudden I was starting to listen to my dad’s music as a musician and not just his daughter. Sometimes you can take for granted when there’s a genius walking around your house making all these random noises that, as a kid, you don’t understand are really difficult to make.”

Now she’s making her own name, having released two projects, Finding Foundations Vol. I and II. Her music tells bold, raw stories, in sharp contrast her father’s ultra-mellow 1988 hit, Don’t Worry, Be Happy. One of her songs, Can You See, deals with police brutality. “Having the national anthem in there and changing some the words really seemed to hit home about what the topic actually is,” Madison told NPR. “It gets summed up at the end when I say, ‘but so proudly you hail, while we are all out there screaming.’”

Clearly, Bobby McFerrin raised an outspoken daughter, and he loves her risk-taking: “Maddie has built her career on words,” he said, “and I built it on non-words. She’s more of a lyricist. She’s full of words and what she has to say is very, very provocative and interesting. I wish I had that gift.”

LISTEN TO THIS WARRIOR, AS HER FIGHT RAGES ON


LaDonna Powell never turned away from revolution. And the entire time she spent working at JFK airport for Allied Security, she fought for what was right, no matter the cost. She told her story to This American Life, beginning with her start at Allied, when she was posted in various guard towers around the acres of tarmac. From day one on the job LaDonna reported the rampant discrimination and bad behavior she saw at every turn. Women at Allied were denied lunch and bathroom breaks, forced to pee in coffee cups and bleed on themselves during 12-hour shifts. They were called names and exposed to porn, sexually harassed, and raped. But LaDonna remained principled and confident. “I would just give the morals my mom dropped in my brain, hoping it would stick to them,” she told NPR. She assured herself, hey, everyone has a boss, and if she worked hard enough and climbed the ladder she’d find responsible leadership.

That attitude got her promoted to supervisor; she was the youngest woman to advance so quickly. When she was appointed to train the new recruits, she told them to focus on their work, but also emphasized that they mattered. They were worth it. And if they were wronged, they should report it, report it, report it. Which is what she continued to do every time she saw women being mistreated.

The discrimination didn’t stop. LaDonna did every single thing in her power to make it right. She was never afraid to speak truth and logic to power, but no one at Allied listened.

Instead, they fired her.

This American Life asked LaDonna if she ever felt powerful during her time at Allied. When she made supervisor? No. When she was training new recruits? No. When she filed a lawsuit against the company that finally forced the CEO to respond? No. She said in the interview, “I still feel at his mercy. I feel like I am caged because of them.”

And yet: She has returned to JFK working a better and higher paying job as a security detail for VIPs. She escorts dignitaries through the terminals armed with an M4 and a pistol. Her words are pained, but her voice throughout this NPR interview? Clear, unafraid, outraged, energized. She owns every bit of her story, including her most vulnerable moments, and we’re all better for it. Listen for yourself here: https://www.thisamericanlife.org/647/ladonna

How to give a commencement speech that goes viral? Tell your absolute truth (and wear foxy kicks)

The Barnard graduating class was on their feet cheering, but Abby Wambach still had no idea she’d just given the kick-assiest commencement address of 2018. That news came later, via YouTube (more than 100K views and counting), and Twitter, and Good Morning America. Her speech urged women to stop playing Little Red Riding Hood—all obedience and acceptance—and join a new kind of female wolf pack, remaking the world. If you haven’t already, watch it here, and you’ll know what it feels like to be in a locker room with an Olympic-caliber coach. (While you’re there, check out her bedazzled sneakers—a little footwear rebellion under her ceremonial graduation robe-thing.) Where did the inspiration for the speech come from, we wondered? The soccer legend, Together Live speaker and wife of TL co-founder Glennon Doyle told us it was a process. Before she could say it to others she had to live it herself.

Together Live: The speech was eff-ing incredible. Congratulations.

Abby Wambach: Thank you.

TL: Tell me about the process and how it came together.

AW: Glennon calls me Captain America because I’m always trying to figure out how everyone can coexist in a positive way, in a better way than we can exist as individuals. And over the course of my career I learned certain principles, or rules, that I just live by. Then about a year and half ago I came across this beautiful story about these wolves that were reintegrated into Yellowstone national park, and I was able to attach to it some of the things that I knew about sport. I drew from all of that, and because my wife is an author and a thought leader, she’s able to help me make my ideas beautiful. She’s a champion and an expert at making something very complicated seem simple with language. I think that’s our special sauce as a couple. She makes me sound much better, and much more beautiful and much simpler than I actually am.

TL: Did you spend a lot of time talking this through, the two of you?

AW: Yes. It was about a sixty-hour production from start to finish, to cultivate and create what ended up becoming this Barnard speech. We sat down every day for two hours and I would basically just talk. It’s ironic because that’s kind of what we do on a daily basis but we don’t necessarily have a focal point where we’re trying to accomplish something on deadline for a big crowd. So, as the speech started to evolve and to morph, I started to feel like, Oh my gosh, this is actually really good. This is the best thing I’ve ever done. And I started feeling really proud of it and turned up the volume on how much thought and time I was putting in. Of course, Glennon has her own deadlines, so to find the time in our day to get this thing to be as beautiful as it was—that was a miracle in a lot of ways, but such a joy. In fact, it actually was the most fun I’ve had since retiring from playing soccer.

TL: Wow! That seems like the universe speaking to you somehow, right?

AW: Of course. I realized that I just haven’t been around a team for a while. This gave me a focus, it gave me that team feeling, it gave me that feeling that the Together tour pulled out of me. Even this morning I said to Glennon, this makes me feel like I’m on a team again, and I like this feeling. Because I don’t feel so alone, and I think that’s what we’re all here for. That’s why the wolf pack imagery is so important.

TL: Yes, we are all, on some level, pack people. So, when did you marry the wolf pack image with the Little Red Riding Hood idea? Every woman heard that story as a child, and we carry it with us.

AW: One of the stories that Glennon uses a lot is the story that’s been told over and over for the longest time in humanity: the story of Adam and Eve. Eve gets curious and hungry, and she reaches and grabs an apple, and the world falls apart. Right? So, from the time that we’re born, this is the one centralized story that we’re told, and that story gets morphed into Little Red Riding Hood, gets morphed into every fairytale that little girls and boys are told the world over.

TL: Right—and the message to women is don’t reach, don’t stray.

AW: Yes, that’s why it’s so important to make something so complicated sound simple and understandable and relatable to every person’s life. It uncovers what’s unconscious inside of us. So, it’s like: Oh yeah, I didn’t know that I was doing that.

TL: Ok, some of us are very literal minded and struggle with the fact that the wolf is kind of sneaky. He’s clever and he bares his teeth. Do we need a little sneaky, do we need a bit of scary? Is that important for women as we invest in becoming more wolf, less Little Red? Is it important for us to come up with our wolf strategies?

AW: Yes. But if you’re looking at it literally, we don’t want to become the Big Bad Wolf. We want to be the wolves that are conscious of what’s out there and aware of what’s going on. We don’t want to live in this nature of just being female or male—what has been characteristically and historically feminine, and characteristically and historically masculine. What’s been feminine has been shamed out of women, and what’s been masculine has been revered and celebrated. I think we have to redefine what masculine is and what feminine is and what our new culture needs for our society to evolve. We need to recreate what kind of people we all want to be. And it’s not only masculine and it’s not only feminine—it’s being able to use both.

Asking Polly How to Find Purpose

In this week’s Ask Polly advice column, Heather Havrilesky offers some sound advice to a young millennial woman struggling to find her purpose. While she leads a seemingly great personal and professional life – good finances, a loving husband and a booming career – whenever she finds herself forced to focus on her relationship with herself, she thinks What’s the point? If you find yourself asking the same question, Heather’s response is worth a read.

Here are a few other things we’re chatting about this week:

  • From romance to friendship to family to community, we shared a lot of love stories from our stage this fall. But what if we only had 13 words to do so? Check out how fans of Modern Love described the loves of their lives in just a few words.
  • NPR’s Book Concierge is our new go-to guide for more than 350 of this year’s best books. Grab your glasses and dive in here.
  • Join Glennon Doyle’s annual love offering, Holiday Hands, to help those in our communities who need a little extra this holiday season. Click here for more details.

 

Fighting in the limelight for those in the shadows

Women are voicing solidarity as stories of sexual harassment are being shared with the media around the world. But the decision to speak up or stay silent is not always easy, especially for women in industries with extreme power differentials. For those in vulnerable groups, such as domestic workers or members of the service industry, outing a predator on Twitter likely won’t yield the same affects as we’ve seen with offenders in Hollywood. Instead, collective action by groups such as the Coalition of Immokalee Workers has proven to be another successful way to fight back.

Here are a few other things we’ve been chatting about this week:

  • “You have to get out of your own way and write your own story—and not be forced into the narrative that you think will give you the easiest path to success or the most likes,” shares Laura Dern in a moving letter to her 12-year-old daughter. Read more of her message here.
  • Decades later, this timeless ‘70’s manifesto ‘I Want a Wife’ still hits the nail on the head.
  • Whether it’s your time, a donation or the power of your voice, give to those in need this holiday season. Find out how to join the movement today.

Planning Your Un-Retirement

The Financial Freedom Studio welcomes Jean Chatzky—financial journalist, author and host of the HerMoney with Jean Chatzky podcast—for a series of articles on a modern approach to financial and life planning.

Many dream of retirement as a time to leave work behind—but plenty of retirees find that the desire to keep busy is more powerful than they imagined. 

Recently, I gave a talk with Ken Dychtwald, CEO of AgeWave and one of the country’s leading thinkers on aging. He travels the country for his work and meets a lot of retirees. Lately, he told me, he’s noticed an interesting phenomenon. He’ll ask people, “What are you doing?” They’ll answer, “I’m retired.” He’ll follow up, “So, what are you doing?” They’ll answer, “Well, I’m working.”

Yes, working. In retirement. According to research from AgeWave, nearly half of current retirees say they either are working or would like to be working. And nearly three-quarters of people in their 50s say they plan on following that same path. What’s behind this trend? Finances of course. Continuing to work – at least part-time – in retirement can bring in enough money that many people find they can put off tapping Social Security and withdrawing from their 401(k)s and other retirement accounts, allowing those balances to continue to grow.

But there are also other benefits. Research has shown continuing to work reduces isolation, leads to better physical and mental health, and gives you a sense of identity. It may even keep you alive. A study from Oregon State University found that healthy adults who worked past age 65 had an 11 percent lower risk of death from all causes than those who retired earlier. (Continuing to work even lowered the risk of dying in unhealthy adults, but by a smaller percentage.)

Read more at https://www.jackson.com/financialfreedomstudio/articles/2017/planning-your-un-retirement.html

Retirement in the Age of the “Experience Economy”

The new trend of valuing experience over “stuff” (and what it means for retirement).

My husband and I live in Denver but spend most of our weekends in the mountains. We’re transplants from Michigan who moved to Colorado nine years ago and quickly developed a desire to stand on as many summits as possible in our new home state.

As we pursue our peak-bagging project, we’ve noticed a distinct trend: On those rare weekends when we stay home, we consistently find that we spend more money than we do when in the mountains. When we’re home for a weekend, we seem to be drawn to activities that involve spending money. We have a sudden desire to undertake some sort of home improvement project, for example. Or we’re compelled to purchase items we had no need or desire for until we found ourselves with an excess of downtime that rekindled our interest in consumerism.

These mini-spending sprees usually leave me feeling empty and consumed with buyer’s remorse. In contrast, I always feel satisfied returning home from the mountains and never regret the money spent on gas, food and other travel-related expenses. Likewise, when I determine it’s necessary to spend money on hiking equipment, I rarely feel guilty because it’s a purchase that is directly linked to a future outdoor experience.

I assumed this tendency was some sort of odd quirk. Then I started seeing articles about the so-called “Experience Economy.” A company called Eventbright coined the phrase based on a study they conducted that found that 76 percent of Millennials would rather spend money on experiences than material goods.1

I sought out more articles on the “Experience Economy” concept and realized that my preferences for spending money on mountain trips versus new clothes or home decor fit right into this phenomenon. It got me thinking—what does this mean from a retirement saving and planning perspective? Could this new trend be just the sort of shift in mindset people need to not only be better prepared financially for retirement, but also psychologically prepared and more likely to achieve contentment after they retire?

Read more at https://www.jackson.com/financialfreedomstudio/articles/2017/retirement-in-the-age-of-the-experience-economy.html

Musings on Millennials

Not so long ago, a major American car company ran advertisements featuring Ringo Starr (OK, maybe it was a bit ago) telling the consumer that “this is not your father’s Oldsmobile.”1 The point of the slogan from Oldsmobile was to tell the consumer that they had access to a better version of their product than what was available to the consumer’s father or, to put it more bluntly, they desperately needed the target market (the younger generation) to move away from having the following thought every time they see the company’s brand on a passing car: “Ugh…that behemoth is something only my father would drive.”

So in that same vein, I’ll mention to my younger readers that you probably won’t experience “your father or your mother’s retirement.” And I think that’s okay, because you’re probably not going to have your father or mother’s working career either. To quote the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, “You cannot step twice into the same river.”2 So, if you’re looking backward or lamenting that you won’t have the same luxury of retirement afforded your parents or grandparents, it is time to turn your head and, as Heraclitus might say, let newer waters flow over you, as they are not of the same river and you are not the same person. And that, my friends, is as existential as we’re going to get in this piece.

Read more at https://www.jackson.com/financialfreedomstudio/articles/2017/musings-on-millennials.html