I'll be honest: I am not one who loves conferences. As a media professional who has not only had to cover but host and assist in the planning of a few major ones, I've experienced a bit of burnout. Well God, as He usually does, sent a little piece of heaven in the form of the Black Women Talk Tech: Roadmap to Billions conference to reignite a fire in me to connect with awesome black female professionals and entrepreneurs and step up my own game, both professionally and personally.
Here are 10 things I learned at the BWTT conference, held over three days in New York City, that should do the same for my fellow go-getting sistas looking to make 2020 one of their best years yet:
1. Self-care and fun are necessary, not optional.
BWTT was created by three amazing entrepreneurs: Lauren Washington, co-founder of Fundr, Esosa Ighodaro, co-founder of Nexstar, and Regina Gwynn, co-founder of TresseNoire. It's a collective of more than 500 entrepreneurs in 10 U.S. and international chapters. The conference, in its fourth year, brings women of color to network, share ideas, learn from and rub elbows with top-tier entrepreneurs who are multi-million-dollar success stories in their own right.
A common theme at the event was the importance of self-care and having fun. Not only was this part of the actual conference---via a beauty bar, a Nike dance therapy class, and sessions about dating and mental health---but it was part of panelists' formulas for growth and longevity:
"I love dancing--salsa, house, swing. I find the things that bring me joy and commit to doing them," said Maisha Walker, founder of Message Medium who has worked with brands including Mars Chocolate, Columbia and Unilever (the company behind some of your favorite beauty, home care, and food brands).
Fun is a must for Rakia Reynolds, CEO of Skai Blue Media, a company that has clients including HSN and Dell. "I have to do fun things. See a movie, walk around, see something green, eat something green. Watch something that might be super-mindless."
2. Silence is indeed golden.
For Courtney Adeleye, CEO of The Mane Choice--a multi-million-dollar beauty brand that has products in Target and Sally Beauty to name a few--self-care is related to something many of us might struggle with. "My sweet spot is silence. When I travel, I haven't turned on a TV in years. I allow myself time to just think. That's normally when the most amazing ideas come."
3. Your online presence means more than just posting frivolously---even if you're not an entrepreneur.
Walker said it's important to utilize sites many of us might overlook or even neglect such as LinkedIn: "Build the audience on LinkedIn and make sure it's full of people you actually want to do business or connect with. Learn the technology and then learn how to leverage it effectively."
And ladies, it's OK if getting a handle on your social media platforms seems overwhelming or is just not your thing. "Learn as much as you can, read articles, or hire a consultant. Focus your efforts," Walker added.
4. You can use tech to hustle smart, not hard.
Another common suggestion among panelists included using automation, whether through apps (a good one I use is Crowdfire) or through added tools that you can buy for Websites, to post updates to your social accounts, provide calendar reminders for upcoming events, or even for celebrating birthdays and other key milestones among your network. You can pretty much automate many aspects of your life in order to make things simpler and focus on more important daily tasks.
Automation has also helped me relieve anxiety and get more organized.
For all my women hustlers out there with products to sell, Walker suggests, "When doing a traffic campaign, you want to think about those basic demographics of who your audience is." She also added that using tools like retargeting campaigns---which repeat exposure to your ads to targeted populations on social as well as other Websites----to get the most out of your advertising.
5. Others in your industry are potential partners, not competition.
Partnerships are a key way to work smart as well. The founders of BWTT pooled their resources, expertise, and networks together to bring powerhouse sponsors including Walmart, Shea Moisture (which awarded prizes worth more than $10,000 in this year's pitch competition), Microsoft, Ketel One Vodka, Target and several more.
Many of the panelists, no matter what the subject, talked about how important teaming up can be. "Stop thinking that every woman in your industry is competition," said Adeleye, who has featured many of the awesome women in her network in her own event, the Bawse Conference.
6. Rejection makes a boss bigger and better.
It was great to see the fellas in the room supporting all this black girl magic, and Ron Johnson, founder and CEO of Triton Consulting, was one of them. The panelist had some key, eye-opening things to say about rejection and failure: "It's part of the grooming and pruning process," he said. "I went through journeys of rejection. You can take it as an empowering experience where those are just spaces you weren't supposed to be in the first place. One of the things I try not to get distracted by is the why and how things did not work out for me the way I thought they should have because that can really distract you from where your destination is."
7. Sometimes saying 'no' is better than saying 'yes.'
"One of the No. 1 things I had to learn is the power of 'no'---giving and receiving," Adeleye said. "You can't spread yourself so thin. Be OK with your decision and not feeling the need to explain it.."
Walker agrees: "We only have a certain number of hours in a day and certain number of resources. I had to be really adamant with myself about not going beyond that. This year is my year of saying 'no'. It doesn't have to be 'no' forever but it's 'no' for right now."
8. What you thought impossible might actually be possible.
Andrea Evans, a BWTT speaker, patent attorney, and author of All About Inventing, knows how important it is to act on something you feel led to produce. "I've grown with my clients. I've seen them start with an idea on a napkin and [then get products into] Target or on Shark Tank," Evans said. "It's about that confidence---believing in yourself and taking action. The only thing that separates a billionaire inventor and you in your garage is that they took the steps to protect their invention."
9. Where there's a will, there's a way.
When it comes to making your dreams come true, the resources are out there. Several panelists were living proof of this including Mandela Schumacher-Hodge Dixon, CEO of Founder Gym, an online resource that has helped underrepresented founders raise more than $40 million in startup capital; Crystal Etienne, founder of Ruby Love who launched her business on her own and grew it to a worth of more than $10 million; Jasmine Lawrence, who simultaneously runs beauty brand Eden BodyWorks while working full-time for a major social network; and Chris-Tia Donaldson, a cancer survivor who earned a Harvard degree and runs a beauty brand called Thank God It's Natural (TGIN).
10. Get out of your own head and into a tribe.
Tiffany Dufu, who has a very clear understanding of her vision in life, said, "My life's work is advancing women and girls. I already know what my tombstone says: 'She got to as many women as she could.' I am not going to be able to get to as many women as I can doing everything by myself."
Her platform, called The Cru, actually makes it easier for women to find groups that fit their needs. You apply via the Website and are paired with nine other women to help you reach your personal and professional goals. "I've found, while working with and connecting thousands of people over the years, that even though we have a lot of people around us, we largely perceive personal and professional journey as a solo endeavor, not a team sport. There's but so much impact you can create through your own work, ingenuity, prowess or intellect...and I think that in order for us to grow our impact we have to understand that other people are involved, and we've got to figure out how to achieve results with other people as well."
Reynolds also finds a lifeline in making connections. "I have to go out and talk to people. Human interaction and talking to other people keeps me fueled," she said.
Point taken. Point truly taken.
To find out more about Black Women Talk Tech and their events, visit their Website or follow their Instagram @blackwomentalktech.
Featured Image Via Shutterstock
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This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
Imma tell y’all what — it seems like not one week goes by when I don’t see some sort of so-called term that has me like, “What in the world?” For instance, when I first stumbled upon “self-partnering,” honestly, I laughed. Then shared it with some other single people as well as married folks I know. And I kid you not, every individual was like, “What the heck does that mean?” When I told them that it was yet, one more way to seemingly define single living, basically everyone’s follow-up was, “Oh, brother.”
Why can’t (more) singles just be single and be okay with that? Good Lord. Why does there need to be some sort of relational play-on-words to make it sound like we’re with someone — even if we’re not?
Now masturdating? Even though it’s not even close to being a “real” word, it’s something that also brought a laugh outta me — although it was then followed by a genuine smile. The laugh because I almost immediately caught the play-on-words. The smile was due to the intention behind it all.
If you’re not familiar with what masturdating is and you’re curious about why you should even care, take a few moments to at least skim through what it’s about and why I think participating, as a single person, is a pretty cool (and effective) concept.
Masturdate: a date w oneself
What’s Masturdating All About?
Masturdating. Okay, so let the word marinate for just a moment. What does it sound like? Yeah…exactly. And since a huge part of masturbation centers around self-pleasure, it’s cool to explore how “self-dating” could produce similar (as far as pleasure is concerned in a broader sense) results. Because masturdating is all about spending quality time with yourself, pampering yourself, treating yourself— and yes, taking yourself out on dates.
Any of you who may think that masturdating is a consolation prize — and a pitiful one at that — for not being able to go out with another human being or get that dream $200 first date that social media was all in a tizzy about last year (bookmark that) — personally, I think that you’re the demographic who needs to try out masturdating first and the most. Why? Off top, I’ll share my three good reasons.
3 Reasons To Strongly Consider Masturdating
1. It’s an intimate way to get to know yourself better. I’ve been working with couples for a pretty long time at this point and if there’s a pattern that I see arise, OFTEN, it’s that two people are oftentimes so busy trying to “find their person” that they didn’t even know who they were. As a direct result, they found themselves in a relationship with someone who only complemented the “kiddie pool version” of who they were.
That’s why it can be so beneficial to spend time getting to know yourself on the “deep end” of things: what makes you tick, what your passions are, what you want most out of life, what are your interests beyond obvious things — and masturdating can help you to discover all of this. Whether it’s traveling alone or taking out a weekend to drink some wine and journal, the more you get to know yourself, the clearer you’ll be about who complements you on a romantic and friendship level.
2. It will definitely help to boost your confidence levels. I guess since I’m an ambivert, I don’t really get why people freak out at the mere thought of going to a restaurant or movie alone. Personally, I think it requires a helluva lot more energy and gumption to wait around and plan stuff with other people (#Elmoshrug). However, whether you’re an introvert, extrovert, or ambivert, there’s no way around the fact that the more comfortable you get with doing things alone, the more your confidence levels will increase — no, soar — because of it.
One article that I read on the topic said that doing things alone can make you more creative, improve your mental health, and help you to be totally okay with being alone (so that you’re not “needy” for other people’s attention). A psychotherapist from a New York Times article on the benefits of spending time alone said, “Getting better at identifying moments when we need solitude to recharge and reflect can help us better handle negative emotions and experiences, like stress and burnout.” And when you’re able to stare negativity in its face without flinching, how could that not make you bolder, more self-secure, and hopeful about your life?
3. It will teach you to value your time more effectively. In every facet of your world, you’re gonna operate from a healthier place if you’re operating from a “full cup” rather than an empty one. When it comes to this topic, think about it — if you’re constantly waiting on someone to call you to go out or wishing for a dream date with some guy, all you’re doing is wasting precious time that you could be spending taking a cooking class or hell, hiring a chef to make you dinner at your own home.
Indeed, waiting has two sides to it: when it’s in the form of patience, it is indeed a virtue, yet when it’s wrapped up in the notion that you’re not really living life unless you have an audience…it is totally working against you. Choose wisely.
10 Solo Date Ideas To Help You To “Master” Masturdating
So, what if you’re someone who has either never considered actually masturdating before or you don’t really know what to do beyond dinner and the movies? Here are a few ideas to consider:
1. Attend a workshop or masterclass that you’re interested in. If there’s something that you’ve always wanted to learn, sign up for a workshop or masterclass. The cool thing about this option is there are probably some in your city, as well as some that you can find online (like here) that are convenient and affordable.
2. Binge-read at a local coffee shop. Aside from their coziness and oftentimes inviting scents, I once read that a lot of us gravitate to coffee shops because we can be around people without having to actually socialize with them. So, if you want to “hang out” while still being able to enjoy a bit of solitude, take a book that you’ve been trying to finish to a local coffee shop, order your favorite latte, and sit in a big-ass comfy chair. Usually, you can sit there for hours, and the staff will be just fine with it (another bonus).
3. Have a spa day in the next town. You can never go wrong with a spa day. And while going with a friend can be fun, sometimes there’s too much talking transpiring to be able to fully chill out and relax. So, go off of the grid, get a change of scenery, and hit up a spa in the next city (or town). There are lots of studies out here supporting that day trips or “daycations” can actually be really good for your long-term health and well-being.
4. See a community play. Some of the best solo dates that I’ve ever been on consisted of taking in some of the local arts in my city. What’s really cool about this particular option is, oftentimes, they are extremely inexpensive, if not totally free of charge (in exchange for making a donation or putting money into a tip jar).
5. Plan a trip. Whenever people say something along the lines of, “If you don’t expect anything, you won’t be disappointed,” I know that they low-key have some (additional) healing to do from past disappointments. There’s simply too much intel out here to support that anticipation (of good stuff) makes us more motivated and optimistic, keeps our dopamine levels up, and makes life more exciting overall.
Since traveling alone is more cost-effective, gives you the freedom to do whatever you want (when you want), and increases the possibility of meeting new people and having new experiences on your journey — why not devote a day this weekend to planning a solo trip? All the way around, it’s good for you.
6. Try your hand at your own “$200 date.” Uh-huh. Roll your eyes if you want to, but it’s real easy to talk left about how a man should be able to just drop $200 like it’s nothing…until you actually try to do it. So yes, while taking yourself out on this type of date could serve as a bit of a reality check, it can also “scratch the itch” of waiting on some dude to do it for you. It’s also way less emotionally draining because, at least when you’re taking your own self out, it’s guaranteed that you’ll enjoy the company…right?
7. DIY some pampering. When you get a chance, check out “5 Reasons You Should Unapologetically Pamper Yourself,” “Want To Love On Yourself? Try These 10 Things At Home.,” “I’ve Got Some Ways For You To Start Pampering Your Soul,” and “When's The Last Time You Actually Pampered Your Vagina?” The bottom line here is pampering is all about, not mere self-maintenance; it’s all about treating yourself to levels of EXTREME SELF-INDULGENCE. So, if nothing else tickles your fancy on this list, at least consider doing that, chile.
8. Feed your creativity. Something that I used to be really good at is art. That said, one of my goddaughters is insanely talented, so she has reminded me to tap back into it. Also, a big part of what got me into the writing world is poetry; I actually used to be a house poet at a local spot. Sometimes, my best quality time moments with myself have been revisiting these creative sides of me — and this is definitely easier to do (and enjoy) alone.
9. Try some stargazing. When’s the last time you took a blanket into your backyard, laid down on it, and just stared at the stars for hours on end? While some say that stargazing can teach you to be mindful, others say that being in that form of nature reduces stress, while others believe that looking up at the universe at night can increase your attention span. All solid reasons to give it a shot, if you ask me.
10. DO. ABSOLUTELY. NOTHING. Let me tell you something that nobody will ever be able to make me feel bad about: doing absolutely nothing. I’ve got data to back me up. Good Housekeeping shares that doing nothing can help you decide how you want to respond or react to certain things. I like howThe Guardian says that taking this approach helps you to regain control of what you give your attention to.
TIME magazine says that it can ultimately make you more productive.BBC offers up that it can help you tap into your ingenuity.Henry Ford Health says that it can make you kinder and a better problem-solver. So, if you want to invest in yourself, do nothing sometimes.
Closing Thoughts from the Lovely Javicia Leslie
While some of y'all may know Javicia Leslie from being the former Batwoman, I discovered her back in the day from the indie series Chef Julian (and yes, "Julian" was right to say that "Mo" looks like Tatyana Ali...the real ones know). Sometimes I'll hop on her IG to see what she's got going on and this story popped up within a few hours of me penning this...so, I took it as hella confirmation.
TREAT YO SELF. WAIT FOR NO ONE.
WAIT FOR NO ONE. TREAT YO SELF.
RINSE AND REPEAT.
Sooo…what kind of masturdating plans do you have for this coming weekend? While going out with others has its perks, hanging out with yourself has a ton of ‘em too. Enjoy!
No…for real. ENJOY!
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