I am not typically a meditating person (shoutout to not having an attention span), nor am I a “visualize your best life” person. I just do stuff. A couple of years ago, me and my girls tried to do a vision board party once and after 3 hours of cutting out pictures and words from magazines and gluing to a board, we got bored and abandoned our janky half-done creations. We realized that wasn’t for us. Vision boarding was not our ministry and we were ok with that.
Also, I’m a writer. Arts and crafts is not my forté. Still, I gotta tell you how my life has changed after writing a vision statement 5 years ago. Or maybe it is all just a coincidence.
In January 2010, I was part of the inaugural class of New Leaders Council Chicago. 15 of us were picked to jumpstart the progressive organization’s chapter in the Windy City and we had a pretty diverse group (ethnicity, backgrounds, industries etc). At that time, I was working full-time as Marketing Coordinator for a nonprofit called Community Media Workshop and it was a job I enjoyed tremendously. Plus, I had started doing social media trainings for the org. I was comfortable. The HIV/AIDS advocacy nonprofit I co-founded the year before, The Red Pump Project, was ten months old at that point. My pop culture blog AwesomelyLuvvie.com was three years old. My plate was full; I had a career, a hobby and a purpose.
Anywho, NLC required us to get together for trainings for a full weekend (Saturday and Sunday) every month for 5 months. Our first meeting was in January and that weekend was dedicated to “life entrepreneurship.” It was all about figuring out where we were, where we wanted to go and the habits we have that help and hurt. It was 16 hours of getting to know ourselves better. Oprah would have been proud.
One of the exercises we did was on Vision Statements. We were told to write a letter to someone as if it was 10 years in the future. Write it and describe what you’re doing, who you’re around, where you’re living. Be as descriptive as you want.
In my vision statement, it is January 2020 and I am running a nonprofit organization (Red Pump) that is making global impact, I have a social media consultancy firm and travel the world speaking and teaching about technology, and I am a New York Times Bestselling author. THINK BIG, GIRL. Because: why not?
We read our vision statements to each other, and tucked them away. I forgot about it completely until I found it a year later and reflected on what had happened since I wrote it and realized that it started a domino effect for me. It is either an amazing coincidence or I wrote my life down and the words made themselves come true because the series of events that happened right after blew my mind and still do.
The Red Pump Project had our first anniversary event, and it was in Chicago: the first Rock the RED fashion show. There, Karyn (my co-founder) and I were presented with a Congressional Record from the U.S. House of Representatives, acknowledging our work in raising awareness about the impact of HIV/AIDS on women and girls. There is a picture of us wiping away thug tears. That was March 22, 2010.
On April 10, 2010, I got laid off my job because of budget cuts. But two weeks later, they asked me to give a Twitter training, thus beginning my consulting life. I started getting hired to teach folks about blogging, branding and how to use digital tools to further their business. I have not had a fulltime 9–5 job since.
On May 11, 2010, I got an email (out of the blue) from a book agent who had been reading my blog and said she was a fan of my work. She said I needed to write a book, and she’d be interested in helping me make it happen.
Everything I had put in that vision statement was just dropping at my feet.
What is interesting is that I wasn’t ready for most of it. For starters, I kept looking for other fulltime jobs, even as every sign pointed to the fact that I need to make this whole working for myself work. Red Pump had 40 ambassadors in 20 states at that point and we could not handle everything that was being thrown at us. We had to dial back and we cut our team down to 5 ambassadors. And the book? Well, I was not ready to write one. I didn’t have much to say to fill 250 pages. I could not figure out what to write and the proposal I was asked to submit did not happen. I dropped the ball.
Today, I look back on those months following that statement I didn’t think much of and realize that I was getting a lesson of “be careful what you ask for.” I was also learning that when our dreams are presented to us when they are not the right time, they will not come to pass. It’s like trying to harvest crops before they’re ripe.
Now, they have ripened, and everything in that statement is happening right. The Red Pump Project was invited to come to Port-au-Prince, Haiti this December by a government agency to do a weeklong immersion. We will meet with other organizations doing HIV/AIDS advocacy work, and we’ll meet with women infected and affected by the epidemic. We will do workshops and trainings, and commemorate World AIDS Day by passing out 1,000 safe sex kits to women and girls.
AweLuv LLC is an entity, and in the past 3 years, I’ve given social media trainings all around the United States at conferences, colleges and to small business owners. I’ve also traveled and done presentations in Kenya, Nigeria, Egypt and South Africa. In fact, I’m writing this from Egypt. My passion for teaching people about technology even led me to start a site called Awesomely Techie with tutorials, tips and tricks.
Last year, I got a book agent who believes in my voice and thinks I have something to say that is worthy to be bound. In May 2015, I signed my book deal!
My book (titled I’M JUDGING YOU) is due to be released in Fall 2016, by Henry Holt (division of MacMillan). I am claiming that it will be a best-seller (SAY AMEN) and I have a great editor and team by me! Most of all, I know it is something I am already proud of. I have written something I am proud to put my name on.
On my 30th birthday this year (January 2015), I wrote a new vision statement. I’ve actually forgotten what I put in that too. It’s like I wrote it and erased it from my mind. Maybe I’ll check back in a year or so.
I don’t know if it’s the act of writing it down that makes it real or if there’s a magical Vision Statement Fairy that grants wishes. Visualizing things works for me if I can see them on paper. It’s like a reverse Pensieve (shoutout to fellow Harry Potter heads). Either way, I am ever thankful that I wrote down my dreams for the future so present me can have some concrete things to work towards.
P.S. No, I’m still not coming to that Vision Board party. The closest thing I will do is use Pinterest.
UPDATE on October 25, 2016: My book I’M JUDGING YOU dropped on September 13, 2016 and was instantly on the NYTimes best-selling list, debuting at #5.
My nonprofit The Red Pump Project went to Haiti as guests of the US Embassy in December 2015 and did HIV/AIDS 101 workshops for 900 young adults. Holy smokes.