Summer School- Class 1: 5 Ways to Catch Up and Get Ahead

When I was in high school, there was always a stigma tied to going to Summer School. It usually meant that you didn’t do what you were supposed to do during the school year and had to spend your summer catching up so that you could advance to the next grade. In college, I took a history class the summer after my first year. I hated it because it just didn’t feel right to me to go to school in the summer.

I didn’t need to catch up on my college credits.  I just wanted to get ahead.

Now, not only do I go to school during the summer, but I’m always in school in some capacity. Always learning. Sometimes I’m catching up, and sometimes I’m getting ahead.

And now that I’ve written books and curricula and have online courses and my own college course, not only am I learning. I’m also teaching everything I learn.

So this summer, THIS Summer will hold Summer School with a focus on using this season to help you catch up and get ahead.

Here are 5 simple things to think about or work on right now. I’ll talk about each of these in separate posts over the next few weeks so watch out for them and get ready to get ahead!

  1. Mid-year Reset: Get your goals back on track. We’re headed into the second half of the year. Have you met your goals or given up on them? It’s not too late to make them happen before 2018 starts to peak at you.
  2. The Purge: Get rid of things, thoughts, and people who bring you down or hold you back. When you’re trying to catch up or get ahead, the last thing you need is anything weighing you down. Bad habits, self-doubt, or that negative friend…gotta go so that you can do #1.Summer Owens Confidence Class-Waitlist
  3. Life check: Are you living your dreams or just living? Are you dwelling on what happened or what didn’t happen for you? Life is too short to just exist or to stay stuck on that messed up or unfair thing that’s holding you back. There are too many options and opportunities available to you. Plus, the better choices you make and the smarter actions you take now, the more and better options you have. As a life coach, I’m excited to help my clients realize this every day.
  4. Unhide and Go Seek: Find Time and Get Money. Evaluate and eliminate your time wasters so that you can use that time to work on activities to get you ahead. I’m not a money chaser and don’t believe it is the key to happiness, but I do know that it is necessary and that you can get more of it to do more with it especially for others.
  5. Get Bold: Build Your Confidence and Make It Happen. It’s time to stop hiding by fear and excuses and take a step, maybe even a big one, towards #3!

Be sure to follow this blog so that you don’t miss the rest of Summer School!

Next Up: Summer School- Class 2: Mid-year Reset

Quick question- How are you already using your summer to catch up or get ahead?

 

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No Honeymoon. New Cancun Memories and 10 New Life Lessons.

Last week I wrote about what would have been my 10 year wedding anniversary (June 9th) so this week 10 years ago I would have been on my honeymoon. We went to Cancun, Mexico. Although things were awkward (wrote about that too), we had some good times but not what I expected for my honeymoon. I’m sure it wasn’t what he expected either.

The marriage didn’t last, but I did.

So when my friend asked me to join her on her birthday (June 10th) trip, I immediately said yes. I didn’t care where we went. I was just ready to go. Anywhere warm.  Three weeks before we left, she chose a destination- Cancun, Mexico.

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I laughed thinking about how exactly 10 years ago I was in the same place under completely different circumstances. Another case of everything coming full circle.

Ten years ago she and I knew each other, but our sons were friends and we weren’t really. We were both married then and both single (divorced) now. Our boys weren’t even teenagers then and now are grown. We are now both grandmothers to beautiful, little girls. Life has thrown us both many curve balls. We have been through and overcome a LOT. Similar life circumstances have brought us close, and we deserved our Gemini getaway (I was still celebrating my birthday too).

Kylie and Kailey

So this time, 10 years older and 10 years wiser, I had a new mindset. I had a new attitude, and I even learned at least 10 new lessons.

Lessons Learned:

  1. Say yes. Going on the trip seemed like a no-brainer, but I had a lot of work to do and other priorities for my money. I immediately wanted to go, but I also thought of all the reasons that I shouldn’t. I chose to say yes and just go. Life is short and opportunities to get away with good friends may be few and far between. Plus, if you are smart traveler like my friend, you can find deals and make some great memories on any budget.    FB_IMG_1497161942024
  2. You can work while you play. So I said I just went, but I still had work to do. Speeches to write, emails to respond to, and coaching clients to help. I had one laptop, and Naomi actually had two for different jobs. We are both blessed to be able to work wherever we are so on our six-day trip to Cancun, we played hard. We also got to work.
  3. Leave the make-up behind. I am not a big make-up girl, but every since I was a teenager I’ve suffered from acne and hid my face with make-up. Over the years, I have gotten comfortable showing my face sans make-up. This trip made it feel even better especially as I got darker and darker each day.                                         FB_IMG_1497161981337
  4. Put on your swimsuit. 10 years ago in Cancun, I didn’t even bring a swimsuit. I probably didn’t even own one. I had, and still have, stretch marks and cellulite and much more to hide. After my divorce, I put on a swimsuit for maybe the first time since I was a kid, and I liked myself. This trip, with my own perceived imperfections, I embraced the skin I’m in and wore a swimsuit. And I enjoyed myself in the water just like every other imperfect body at the pool and on the beach.                                                  Picture_20170609_170713122[1]
  5. Get dirty and laugh about it.  Most days on the trip, we threw on swimsuits or shorts and headed out, but one day we got an offer for dinner and to hear a Mariachi band so we decided to take a little more time to look nice. Our date, one of the employees from Aquaworld, met us at the bus stop, and we headed to downtown Cancun.  FB_IMG_1497161762079It started raining while we were on the bus. After we got off, it started pouring. We ducked into a church for cover for nearly and hour.                                                                           When it subsided, we started our walk again headed to a restaurant only four blocks away. Sounds simple, right. Well, imagine making that walk in flood waters nearly up to our knees. Plus, there was lots of bit of debris in the water as we scooted our feet, lovely sundresses hiked up just below our butts, to get to the nice restaurant- drenched and dirty but laughing all the way. Oh, and I found the only mariachi band member who made it out that night.
  6. Talk to strangers. Lots of them. On one of our many adventures, we visited a separate resort for breakfast. As we talked to different people, I met a fun birthday twin who worked for the resort. We communicated the entire trip. On our flight home, I sat next to an amazing man from Switzerland on his way to Costa Rica which was one of many countries he had visited just in the past few months. We talked the entire flight. We also made friends at our hotel, in the market, and at the airport. Everywhere. Many of these interesting people are now my Facebook friends and Instagram followers, and I plan to stay connected.
  7. Take the bus. A shuttle got us to the hotel, but from there we walked and took the bus everywhere. It was fun doing as the locals and also meeting other tourists trying to figure it all out too. Plus, we saved a lot of Pesos by taking the bus!  This experience made me open to taking the bus at home too.
  8. Do it scared.  I can’t swim. Okay, I admit it. And I’m also afraid to go under water. But that didn’t stop me from doing the Jungle Tour or the Sub Sea Tour and even snorkeling….well, kind of. Driving the boat was exhilarating, going under water in the submarine was tough for this girl prone to motion sickness. And Super Mario held me while others snorkeled, but I was proud that I even got out there. I’m sure I didn’t look great doing it and fear was on my face, but I. Did. It.
  9. Slow down. Our captain took us fast through the water, and the wind blew through our hair. Water splashed everywhere and it felt great. But that, other than when I was driving my boat, was the only time I wanted to go fast. As my friend raced down the streets of Mexico, I reminded her to slow down and enjoy the time and place we were in. And it all reminded me that I have to do the same every single day,FB_IMG_1497161921212   FB_IMG_1497161902873

Get ready for the next adventure. As we left Cancun and headed home, I was:

1.  Thankful for the time and fun with my friend

2. Ready to be back alone for a while

3. Rejuvenated to work

4. Excited about the next trip

 

What do you do to make the most of your trips?

 

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Divorce. 10 Years Later. 5 Lessons Learned From One of My Biggest S.O. What!’s

June 9, 2007,  I walked down the aisle and my last name changed. So did everything about my life.

And my son’s.

I had been a single mother for 12 years, and I was pretty proud of how I managed to provide a good life for myself and my son on my own. If you read my book, then you know how my my soon-to-be husband came into my life. Unexpectedly and for me, unwillingly, but my heart changed, and I said yes to changing my consistent relationship status of single.

A little over two years later, my name would be back to Owens, but it would take a long time (if ever) for my life, and my son’s, to go back.

My next book will explain what happened and all the lessons learned. But for my 10 year anniversary, I wanted to share a few things I learned from an experience I never thought I would have- Divorce.

  1. Less is more. We had an extravagant wedding with over 300 guests. Although we paid for nearly everything ourselves, we went all out. The ballroom beautifully decorated for the reception was full. But during our first dance, I felt empty. He did too. The same was true of our house. Nearly 5,000 square feet of a beautiful home, but I longed for a shack to bring us back close. Do what you like on your wedding day, but even if my marriage had lasted I think I would feel the same way.
  2. Remember it’s about you and him- But mainly you. No, I’m not suggesting being selfish, but I am saying do what you feel in your heart is best for you. I moved forward with my wedding even when I had major doubts because I didn’t want to hurt his feelings, let other people down, or throw away the money that been deposited on all the wedding stuff that ultimately did not matter. When it’s good, you’re the one gets to enjoy it. When it’s bad (or over) you’re the one who has to deal with it. I wrote a post about this that A LOT of people could relate to.
  3. Who cares how pretty you are if you don’t feel loved. Over and over I was told how beautiful of a bride I was. Sure, it was the appropriate thing to say to me on my wedding day. Maybe there was some truth to it. I had gotten up early to get my hair done, and the make-up artist beat the faces of the 13 women in my bridal party (told you less is more…I learned). They had all spent the night with me in our huge house I moved into a week earlier. After selling my house faster than expected, I had lived with my friend and wedding planner near my son’s school until school was out. At the church she made me feel gorgeous. I spent nearly $1,000 on my wedding dress (the second one), and I laughed and smiled nervously in it. The nerves weren’t about the wedding. They were from my uncertainty about his love for me. I would have felt beautiful in a $5 dress as long as I saw love in his eyes for me.

     

  4. Don’t beat yourself up. I held on to my marriage when I was the only one communicating. The only one fighting for it. I already had the negative labels of teen mom and single mom. I didn’t want to add divorcee to my list. I didn’t want to fail. Although many things in my life had not gone as planned, I succeeded at whatever I set out to achieve. This marriage would be no exception. Except it was. I didn’t eat. I didn’t sleep. And I became someone I really was not doing things that were not me. When I finally let go, I felt guilt for a number of reasons. First, because of some things I had said or done that maybe contributed to my husband shutting down (I fully accept my role in our issues). Second, because of the impact both the marriage  and the divorce had on my son. Then and now. The guilt consumed me for a long time, and it stifled my growth and ability to heal. But just like the marriage I struggled to save, I let that guilt go. When you have honestly done all that can do, forgive yourself and live your life.
  5. Love yourself, and don’t give up on love. Before I got married, I was very reluctant to allow someone into my life and especially my son’s life. After I did and it ended badly, my initial thought was to not let anyone else in. I would not allow anyone else to hurt me or my son. So for five years, I did not have any type of serious relationship with anyone. And I certainly did not introduce anyone interested in me romantically to my son. I devoted that time to getting to know myself and trying to get to know my son and trying to repair the damage the divorce had done. After he turned 18, I decided to open my heart to consider allowing someone to try to break down my now brick wall. When asked if I would ever get married again, unlike some other divorcees I’ve met, I said, “I truly hope so.” The bitterness and even hatred that I felt towards my ex, really more my situation, was replaced with love for myself. I opened my heart to receiving love. However, with a better understanding of myself, I make better decisions about who deserves to be in my life.

So Happy Anniversary to me!  June 9, 2007 was a big day for me. June 9, 2017 is even bigger because I know me, and I love me. I’m not bitter. Just better and better and better!

 

 

 

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4 Years Down as an Entrepreneur, and I’m Still Up

More than celebrating the day I started my businesses by officially obtaining LLC and 501c3 statuses, I celebrate the day I made one of the scariest moves of my life.

The day I left my financially secure and even fun and rewarding job in Corporate America. June 5, 2013.

Last year I wrote a post detailing why I had almost given up on entrepreneurship but did not. One year after writing that have things changed drastically?

Nope. However, I am still in the game and moving forward. I have some new wins and some new losses and lots of new lessons.

I am more clear on my vision for my business and exactly how I want it to run and what I want to do. I have new relationships, new ideas, new contracts, and new revenue streams.

So today I celebrate 4 years as a full-time entrepreneur. The road has not been easy, but the key has been not giving up and always learning. I did it, and so can you if that is what your heart desires. I love sharing what I learn in business and in life so maybe I can help you too.

Now I can’t wait to see what the next year will bring!

 

What maybe has made you want to give up on your dreams? What kept you motivated to stay the course?

 

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20 Years Later. 4 Lessons Learned as a Teen Mom High School Graduate.

May 23, 1997 marked the end of my high school career and the beginning of my adult life. I was armed with a high school diploma…and a two-year old son.

I had no idea that what had been the hardest part of my life up to that point would define me as a woman, establish my profession, define my calling, and give purpose to my life.

The day before on my birthday, was Senior Awards Day.  In my book, I talk about my disappointment that day when I was skipped over for announcement of my full leadership scholarship to the University of Memphis. jcm grad

I had worked so hard to earn that scholarship and just wanted my moment to show everyone in the audience that the teen mom had achieved that. I had graduated number 8 in my class of over 300 students and gotten a full leadership scholarship.

20 years

But I didn’t get that chance. My guidance counselor later apologized and said, “What matters is that you got the scholarship.” That did not console me in that moment because announcing my accomplishment to all the people who I assumed had doubted me and counted me out was like me sticking out my tongue at them. Or maybe even flipping them off. The stubborn, teenage me needed that moment.

But I learned from that experience and so many others. I have achieved so much and been acknowledged many times. Overlooked several too. But I learned early how to say, “S.O. What!”.

20 years 2

 

Below are the Lessons Learned that I include at the end of the chapter of Life After Birth: A Memoir of Survival and Success as a Teenage Mother where I graduated from high school that helped me deal with that situation and helped me as I made my transition to college.

 

Lessons Learned:

  • Don’t do it for other people or acknowledgments. The recognition may never come. Do it for yourself. Do it for your child.
  • Find a way. Make a way. I knew going to college was my ticket to a better life for me and my son, but my parents did not have the money to pay for my college education. I, not my mother or anyone else, sought and applied for several scholarships. I did the research and filled out the paperwork to apply for financial aid. My diligence paid off, and I ended up going to college for free.
  • Make a decision to succeed, and stop making excuses. I could have easily decided that it was too hard to attend school and to be a mother and given up, but I knew that giving up then would mean giving up on my future and my son.
  • I can do anything I set my mind to. Potty training a little boy was hard for me as woman. I did not have the same anatomy as him, but I showed him how to use what he had to do what he needed to do. I took that lesson and applied it to my own life. I did not have what everyone else had, and I did have something a lot of others did not­–a baby. I learned how to do what I needed to do with what I had.

I still use these lessons and many of the other lessons in the book to guide my decisions and keep me encouraged.

 

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The Hardest Job I Never Applied For

When I was 15, I got a new job. The summer before I had worked at a summer camp cleaning bathrooms and kitchenettes on a college campus for a summer program. I think the kids participating were my age. I wasn’t really old enough to work, but they hired us at 14 to do something I hated even doing at home. I really hated that job, but I did it.

The next summer when I was in a bedroom at my aunt’s house with my cousin’s friend, I had no idea I was about to take on a new job. The hardest job I would ever have in my life. A job that I didn’t apply for and would have for the rest of my life.

On February 4, 1995,  I officially joined the profession of being a mother. I was 15, and I was scared for lots of reasons.

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But I didn’t think that I was clueless, and I was determined to excel at this new job. I was the oldest of my mother’s five children and had changed diapers and babysat my siblings. However, as each year went by, especially during the teenage years, I did feel clueless at times. Changing diapers was the easiest task I had as a mother.

Although I faced many challenges, becoming a mother showed me a love I never knew I could have and give.

Easter 1997me and jaylanVLUU L100, M100  / Samsung L100, M100Jaylan and I

Since that campus cleaning job, I’ve had several other jobs. Arby’s and Waffle House in high school. An internship at Hilton Hotels in college. The Memphis Grizzlies, ServiceMaster, and FedEx after college. And now entrepreneurship.

Each job had challenges. At times I was frustrated, confused, even sad and feeling like I wasn’t doing a good job. There were times that I wanted to quit because the jobs were hard and I felt that my work wasn’t appreciated. There were tears too sometimes, but there were so many more good times. There were laughs and conversations that let me know I was doing okay. I learned and grew and figured out who I was and figured out what my actual job was while I was doing it. Being a mother has been all of that times 100.

“Nothing is harder than trying to help someone figure out their identity while trying to maintain your own.” -Anonymous

And in my case, I was still trying to figure out my identity.

I wouldn’t trade my journey for the world. I thank God every day for the blessing to be a mother. And specifically to my super special, amazing son. And also a grandmother, known as Sunshine, to my wonderful granddaughter.

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Becoming a mother changed my life in every way. And it gave me a different appreciation for my own mother. She had five children with distinct personalities and different challenges. As kids and as adults. But she somehow managed to raise us well while embracing our individuality. Sacrificing so much of herself, as mothers so often do.

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I got a lot of my mother’s traits. She’s kind and compassionate, artistic and creative, witty and kind-hearted. And in a lot of ways we are completely different. She is way more reserved and patient than I am.

I love her for being the best mom she knows how to be. Just like I have done.

 

 

 

 

And I’m so blessed because I still have both of my grandmothers. One turned 92 last month, Grandma Ocie, and the other, Grandma (Agnes),  turned 95 two months ago.

These two mothers have close to 100 descendants between them. Combined they have almost two centuries of wisdom, challenges, and experiences. They are both mothers and women I aspire to be like. Strong, patient, kind, forgiving, loving. And they both are so funny. They have both experienced extreme highs and extreme lows as wives and mothers and endured.  So has my mother. And so many other mothers.

So to every mother who reads this whether you carried the child in your womb or only in your heart, whether you stay at home with your children or go to work every day. Happy Mother’s Day to you.  You are beautifully blessed and equipped to have the tough job of shaping the lives of your children. You never fully get the appreciation you deserve and certainly not the pay, but even in the trials the value of the reward (and sometimes the pain) of seeing your heart outside of your body cannot be measured or explained.

I salute you on Mother’s Day and every day.

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5 Lessons Learned from Losing Two Friends Under 40

At this moment, I am 19 days from my 38th birthday, and a little more than two years from my 40th birthday. I pray that I will be blessed to see it on May 22nd because two of my friends did not.

Last weekend I had the sad occasion of attending the funeral of my sweet 38 year old friend, Sylvia. My soror and line sister.

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Sylvia and I on my visit to Chicago

 

Two years ago, my college suite mate and beautiful friend, Melanie, died six days after her 35th birthday.

 

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My roommate and friends with Melanie (4th from left) in our college dorm

They were two of the sweetest, funniest spirits I know, and I was blessed to meet them both my freshman year of college at the University of Memphis. Soon after us meeting, they both began battles that many people didn’t know about (including me to a large extent). They were selfless and caring and didn’t want other people to worry about them, and it feels so unfair that they would have to leave us so soon.

As always is the case when someone dies, you question your own mortality. But I also examine my existence. They were both my age when they passed away, but I’m still here. They can no longer physically do anything, but I can. So I ask myself, “What am supposed to do with the time that I have?”.

In life and in death, both Sylvia and Melanie taught me and many others so much. These are a few of the lessons I learned from losing two friends under 40.

  1. Live, Laugh, Love. When I think of both Melanie and Sylvia, I immediately smile because that’s what both of them did– all the time. Well, more accurately, they were laughing–all the time. They had fun and they enjoyed life and lived life in spite of anything they were going through. And they both were the epitome of love. They loved everyone and everyone loved them.
  2. Stay connected to your friends. When we lost Melanie, it hurt especially bad because I had not talked to her or seen her in several years. I knew she had been sick, but I had not seen her. Losing Melanie, brought me closer to my other suite mate and Melanie’s best friend, Erania, who celebrated her 38th birthday the weekend we celebrated Sylvia’s life.raniAlthough I had seen Sylvia because I spent a week in Chicago with her, it had been nearly two years, and I had only talked to her a couple of times since. I normally keep in touch with people well, but I let my busy life keep me from talking to them as much as I thought about them. Losing Sylvia brought my entire line closer, Spring 98 Epsilon Epsilon chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. We were preparing to celebrate our 19 year anniversary on May 7th, but losing Sylvia brought us together sooner and tighter than we ever could have imagined.20170429_141935_001[1]It also reconnected us with other lines from our chapter especially those who came immediately before and after us.20170429_141325[1]AND so many other Greeks and non-Greek alumni of the University of Memphis who loved Sylvia.

  3. Focus on what matters. Knowing your friend who has lived the same number of (few) years as you have is fighting for her life then watching her no longer have that life is heartbreaking. The things you complain about become so trivial and you gain a greater appreciation for life. And for me, a greater conviction to do more with it.
  4. Be grateful. The illnesses my friends dealt with ultimately took their young lives. But they could have easily been my issues. I have many issues and conditions I have complained about, but these experiences have made me grateful for my life and the minor challenges I have had. I have also become more grateful for the friends in my life and our ability to support each other in fun times and hard ones.
  5. Give people good things to say at your funeral. As I sat at Sylvia’s funeral just a few days ago and at Melanie’s a few years ago, I listened as each speaker shared memories of them. Of course the people on the program giving remarks would have good things to say, but as I sat there and looked around I seriously doubted that anyone, in the churches or outside of them, would have anything bad to say about either one of my friends.

Tomorrow is not promised to anyone. None of us are given the same conditions for living nor the same number of days. What we do have in common, if you are reading this, is that we are still living and can still use our lives to have an impact on the lives of others.

 

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