Love Yourself Enough to Fail.
Yo. The last month has been a train wreck. Many of us have been leading the fight in the streets. Many of us have put aside our everyday commitments as we engage in a defining fight for the future of this country.
Here at Brioxy headquarters we took a quick break over the last two weeks because we were invited to help facilitate the debrief from the Women’s March on Washington — it was awe inspring. And one of the strongest demonstrations of the leadership of women of color in today’s movement.
As we dig in our heels for the long term I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is that we are better equipped than any previous generation of young people to face this fight. We have more resources, education and connection to each other than any generation in history.
At Brioxy, we see our role as trainers, facilitators and connectors to the front line of change makers in every field. We center the leadership of those on the margins — people of color, women, LGBTQ folks, undocumented leaders and disability justice activists. They are entrepreneurs, nonprofit leaders, artists & creatives, philanthropists and elected officials. Trailblazers and innovators.
So the bad news is that we are going to FAIL a lot over the course of this year. Failure is something as innovators of color we are not unfamiliar with. This world was not built for the level of shine that we emit. It’s a sad fact. And we are deeply aware that there is no safety net of white humanity to catch us when we fall.
We fall faster and harder. But that’s why we are magic. We have made surviving an art. It is filled with beauty, creativity and joy. We must learn to use failure as our accelerant for change and growth.
On the road to both joy and success — however you define those I have found these three ingredients to be the most critical.
1. Ground yourself in the historical line of incredible leaders who have come before you. Yes, we have experienced the bitter disappointment of the kind of failure that comes with glass ceilings, subtle but pervasive discrimination and the often insurmountable barriers to entry into our field. Yet we forget that we come from warriors. There are leaders of color who have fought, even died, to bring you to this moment. You stand on their shoulders. Draw from their strength. At Brioxy, we’ve been brushing up on the history of leadership legends like Ella Baker who was a stalwart in training young people during the Civil Rights Movement. As Ella said,“The struggle is eternal. The tribe increases. Somebody else carries on.”
We honor her work by training leaders taking courageous leaps outside of the box American tries to stuff us in.
Who’s work are you taking up? Spend time this month reading about them. Learn their lessons. Honor their work by building on it. Speak their name as you navigate the world. Make sure their story is told to the best of your ability. Know that you are both a legacy in the making — and the realization of a dream. We will need all the inspiration we can get as we navigate 2017.
2. Reinvent yourself. White people do that ALL THE TIME. They have generations of capital (real and social), access to the knowledge of how systems work and ownership of those systems. More importantly they have the recognition of their humanity and the cultural permission to reinvent themselves in the direction of their choosing. We start the race of life behind. We need to shift the rules of engagement.
Be bold. When you fail, pick yourself up. Start over. Seize the right to transform yourself into the place you want to be. We know that society hasn’t cast you there. You have to embody the confidence that is owed to you. All those who have come before you have fought for you to take your rightful place. Now is the moment to claim it.
3. Become self aware. I know so many leaders of color who are so fearful of fading from the limelight or spotlight of success that they never truly look deep within their own challenges to grow. It’s heartbreaking. We have cultivated a self affirming culture of do no wrong that doesn’t allow us to evolve and be fabulous at the same time. I’m ALL here for celebrating yourself. America does not recognize the beauty and brilliance you bring to the world — while mediocre white men are running our country (quite literally). I get it. Celebrate and love up on each other. But never do it at the cost of valuable insight into the ways you need to grow.
All of us are evolving. I’ve been coaching leaders for over 15 years and not a day goes by that I don’t make a mistake that challenges me to re think the way I’ve been doing things for 15 years. That’s the point. Failures shape the most fundamental parts of who we are. We do a disservice to ourselves when we don’t allow ourselves the space to learn from them and take an even greater leap forward. That’s the way we become whole people and what we call grounded leaders. Failure is an essential ingredient to being a grounded leader.
When you face failure and can honestly look your team in the eye — holding your failure in your hand — you become a transformative leader. That is the path that we are destined to hold as leaders of color. It is authentic, raw and rooted to our connection to each other on a fundamental level. Something that white culture and white leaders consistently show they cannot offer. It is, I believe, the leadership of the future. What will become leadership when we are truly free to lead in a culturally based way.
The days of being afraid of our failure and the limitations white culture places on us as a result of it are over. We must lean into these moments of discomfort. Learn from them and pivot to an honest assessment of where our house is raggedy so that we can completely transform.
We lead with community at the core — the collective at the heart of the decisions we make. Your self care and self love is tied to your ability to grow and transform as a leader. That is the kind of leadership that we will need in the coming years. Leadership that makes space and room for all, even when that has never been modeled for us. We are the #ReadyGeneration and we will build the models that will allow us to thrive.