Representation Matters

Michelle Obama + My Daughter

I kicked off this year reading the memoir of our former First Lady, Michelle Obama. It was 2018’s #1 seller for good reason.

There is a lot that I adored about this book (I couldn’t put it down), but perhaps the most significant is this:

Representation Matters.

Eight years ago today Brian and I brought our Ethiopian son and daughter home. They landed on U.S. soil and they had a black President and First Lady. For the first time in U.S history there was a family occupying the White House, leading the Free World, that wasn’t white. Whatever your politics (perhaps especially because of your politics!), this matters. Over the next 6 years my son and daughter were able to see themselves in places of influence and with powerful voices. Having a black First Family formed their mindset of what’s normal. It gave them a model of what’s possible. It cast vision.

As a female leader, I’ve worked hard these last few years to learn from women and people of color. My 2018 Books I Loved list were predominantly by women and/or people of color. Their voices matter and I learn so much about my own Imago Dei and the character/nature of God through voices on the fringe. I can honestly say that I’ve learned more about God and myself from those not like me than anything else. Voices from the fringe have become beautiful, sacred teachers in my life.

This past weekend I finished Michelle Obama’s book, Becoming. I hated it to end, but as I closed the final chapter my daughter came out to the couch where I was sitting. She asked if I was already finished reading it (it’s over 400 pages!). Shocked at my amazing speed reading skills, she plopped down next to me and started flipping through the pages. She spent probably at least 15-20 minutes pouring over the pictures in the center, asking all the questions, and finally asking if she could read the book. She was drawn to the book because of what she saw, and it looked like her.

Yes, we fill our kids’ library with stories about people of color, but there’s something unique about a present day heroine showing you what’s possible. I saw it in Addise’s eyes as her 8 year old self looked at our former First Lady’s giant book. What if? What’s possible. Can I be like her?

Representation matters for my daughter, but it also matters to you. It matters that you see other women who’ve done what you want to do. It matters that you can see a way forward, even if it seems like there are glass ceilings and barriers to hurdle. It matters to know that you can do it AND keep your soul it tact. It matters to believe that you can fulfill your calling as a leader AND as a wife or mother. Representation matters for our sons and husbands. It matters so a more complete picture of the Imago Dei is expressed in every organization, church, and business.

Representation matters so you know you’re not alone.

I’m insanely committed to empowering women and people of color in leadership. If I didn’t have women investing into me, I wouldn’t be where I am today. And because I spent 10 years as an ethnic minority in a local church AND I have a daughter of color, this layer is even more important to me. When our world is equally lead by women, my work will stop. Until then, I’m here.

That’s why I’m throwing myself even deeper into coaching, training, and equipping women. This year, you may need a coach and some accountability to get from here to there. If so, let’s connect. Join a coaching group (one for women starting soon) or commit yourself to 1on1 Coaching.

You matter.

Potential Killer

Potential - April L. Diaz

“You’ve got so much potential.”

Depending on your age, stage, and current realities that declaration can either feel like a blessing or a curse. When you’re a teenager or in your 20s and someone says you have a ton of potential, it’s hopeful. Inspiring. Something to look forward to. But if you’re into your 30s and beyond or you’re frustrated with your life, that word can feel like a thousand razor blades. Missed opportunities. Settling. Giving up or giving in.

I remember a number of years ago my coach, Hendre, asked me what percentage of my potential I was living into.

Pause. I’m a pretty high achieving person. I like goals. I get a ton of stuff done. I tend to pride myself in all I’ve accomplished in my years in life (yes, I have issues I’m working through). In comparison with others, I’m doing pretty well. But that’s the problem!!! “In comparison too…” Comparison isn’t only the killer of joy. It’s also the killer of your potential.

Un-Pause. Immediately I knew and I blurted out the answer - 60%. SIXTY PERCENT. That’s like a D in school. Practically failing at living my own life fully. I knew that I was not growing into my potential the way I could. Not in comparison with anyone else. I run my own race and no one else’s. At the end of my life I get to account for how I spent my days and gifts. Only mine. Fulfilling my potential and purpose is the work I get to do.

For me, I realized that most of my potential was buried because I was performing at a pretty high level. I was getting things done and making an impact in the world. But I was also hiding. I was settling. I was letting my fear be greater than my faith.

Since that Day of Reckoning, I’ve been on a quest to pursue my potential so I don’t waste a thing. I don’t want to live with any regrets because I didn’t have the courage, didn’t take the risks, didn’t do what I know needed to be done. I want to multiply my gifts not simply for myself but for another. I don’t want to kill my potential for the sake of comfort or any other defense mechanism.

What about you?

What does the word “potential” mean to you? This year is the year for it to be a word of blessing. Don’t let your potential be a kliler for your purpose, confidence, or impact.

If you need a guide and some accountability in this process, let’s connect. Join a coaching group (one for women and one for youth workers) or commit yourself to 1on1 Coaching.

You’ve got loads of God-given potential. Develop it. You’re worth it.

2018 Books I Loved

Leaders are readers.

I will never apologize for challenging leaders to be readers. Articles, podcasts, and online courses are awesome. I engage them regularly. But reading a book does something different in our minds, deepening our understanding of a specific topic or issue.

Obviously, I’m a big fan of reading. I read more than I can put into practice but it’s an important growth tool for me. Over the last few years I’ve been very, very intentional about reading books by women and people of color. I want to give my money to those authors and celebrate their work. I’ve been intentional to elevate these voices and continually learn from their non-dominate culture perspective. (I have a couple outliers on this list, but you get my point.)

I read more than these last year, but these rise to the top for me. They were the winners when it comes to self-leadership, diversity and justice issues, business building, and simply a good read. You can purchase any of these books below with my Amazon links (be sure to click each link). In no particular order…

Invitation to Retreat by Ruth Haley Barton. Rest isn’t my natural bent, but I’ve learned how critical it is to live and lead out of a fully energized and rested soul. Ruth compellingly moves us to toward WHY we must retreat so we can live life to all its fullness. Filled with practical ideas and specific retreat guides, I underlined so much in this book. It’s also required reading for my Coaching Groups; it’s that good.

Celebrating his book release

Rethinking Incarceration by Dominique DuBois Gilliard. I loved this book so much. And I hated the ugly underbelly of our country’s “justice” system. I got an advanced copy, promising to read it before it’s release. I didn’t fulfill my promise because it was such a deep, dense, and painful book to read. I wanted to soak in the statistics, stories, and the restorative justice vision. Dom was also gracious enough to come on Season One on The Global Fringe. He was brilliant and I’ve continued to think about that conversation even months later. If justice and racial equality matter to you (and they must if you’re a Jesus follower), this is a must read.

Raise Your Voice by Kathy Khang. Women’s voices are being heard more and more today, but we often get in our own way in our own internal conversations or in how we choose to speak. Kathy does a beautiful job sharing her own painful journey as a woman in leadership, weaving together the biblical narrative so women can raise their voices higher and higher. I hosted Kathy in Season One on The Global Fringe. She was sharp, witty, fun, and challenging. You need to read this if elevating women’s voice - or your own voice - matters to you.

A friend gave me her advanced copy of the book. I couldn’t put it down.

I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown. I wanted to read this book slowly over time to suck the marrow out of her wisdom, but I read it in less than a weekend. It was that good! I have immense privilege being white, but have experienced the marginalization of being a woman in a white male dominant culture. This book connected so many dots in my own story, but also opened to my eyes to the challenges of being a woman of color. Austin is a fabulous writer, her words weaving a powerful narrative that evoked emotion and righteous anger. It gave me language to further the justice work of equality for women, especially women of color.

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult. I don’t read a ton of fiction (sorry people), but I love to get lost in stories that reflect real life. The Hate U Give was my top novel in 2017. I couldn’t put it down! But Picoult won my heart this year. A heart-wrenching yet power-FULL story about race, privilege, justice, forgiveness, and hope, wouldn’t let me stop turning the pages.

Dr. Perkins with my babies - January 2018

Dr. Perkins with my babies - January 2018

Dream With Me: Race, Love, and the Struggle We Must Win by Dr. John Perkins. A year ago our family had the deep honor of meeting Dr. Perkins after he spoke at a local church. I told our kids that it was like meeting a modern day Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. They were rightfully awed. His book set a tone for 2018 for me. It’s a vision for for unity, equality, justice, and wholeness in this world not in spite of our differences but because of them. I’ll listen to a man who’s fought for civil rights his whole life any day of the week and twice on Sunday. The next morning I ran into him at the airport before both our trips. He was a consummate gentleman. He gave me two hugs, invited me to visit his work, asked me questions, and spoke with such kindness and purpose.

The Path Between Us: An Enneagram Journey to Healthy Relationships by Suzanne Stabile. If you know me at all, you’ll know I’m a raging enthusiast for the Enneagram. I’ve never experienced another tool that’s better for growing in self-awareness and leading one toward the healthiest version of themselves. I use it in all of my coaching (groups and 1on1). It’s way more than a personality test and the Enneagram definitely isn’t a reason to excuse bad behavior. If you’re new to the Enneagram, I’d highly recommend starting with The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery. This recent book by Suzanne would’ve saved me a lot of grief in my marriage, friendships, and leadership if I’d read it years ago. She does a masterful job describing how each Type works well relationally overall and specifically with other types. Each chapter shares a similar flow including sidebar cheat sheets in every chapter, which makes it an easy read. Even though I’ve been a student of the Enneagram for 5+ years, this book was a guidebook for how it works in relationships. If you have relational goals this year, get this book. Exhibit A to the right of how my Type 8 interacts with 3s and 7s…

The Body Keeps Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk, MD. Truthfully, I haven’t finished this book. I’ve been SLOWLY working my way through it for most of 2018. As a parent to 3 kids with varying degrees of trauma, this book is a goldmine in understanding the human brain and how to bring healing. Incredibly well researched and tested, this book is ground-breaking for working with people who’ve experienced trauma (aka the vast majority of us). As a leader, this is book is vital to understand better the people we lead and how to love them well toward healing. It almost serves as a reference book to understand trauma’s impact on the brain, body, and relationships.

The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do about It by Michael Gerber. As a long term visionary but new entrepreneur building a business, this was my last read of 2018. It was incredibly helpful to understand why most small businesses fail and how I can build a company on a firm foundation. I had lots of ‘ah ha’ moments and it was actually really encouraging on top of being highly challenging. If you’re building any sort of business, this book is a fantastic guide.

I’d be a terrible author if I didn’t share my own book. She turned 5 years old this fall, and amazingly enough the ideas and vision of this tiny manifesto has strong traction for youth workers and those who love teenagers. You can read it in a few hours, yet the concepts you’ll work through for years.

If you’d like a personalized, autographed copy, message me and I’d love to send you one ($12 including shipping).

Happy reading in 2019. I’ve already started by reading Michelle Obama’s new book, Becoming, and it’s fabulous. Swoon. I’m also a few chapters into a new mid-January release called Hermanas: Deepening Our Identity and Growing Our Influence by Natalia Kohn Rivera, Noemi Vega Quiñones, Kristy Garza Robinson, three Hispanic women taking us into deeper understanding of God and sisterhood through their experiences and Scripture.