Joy Ubani

 Your life is not a group decision.

If we hold on to the false belief that we (or our circumstance) can only succeed if someone else cosigns our idea, we rob ourselves of living fully and taking agency over our lives.

We end up placing ourselves on a rollercoaster of emotions...constantly waiting for someone or something to decide for us. When in reality, our lives are not group decisions. So my beloved, let’s no longer wait until all conditions are perfect. And we definitely should stop waiting for permission.

You get to decide.

The decision comes from being radically honest with ourselves. What do you want? Is this thing congruent with your values? 

We are so used to the reassurance of others that it's almost difficult to fully trust and rely our own voice or intuition. Instead, we give into the belief that we have to ask for permission to pursue our passions, to post the photo, to wear the outfit, to accept the date.

Truthfully, sometimes we don't actually want an alternative opinion though. We simply want to be told that, yes, our position is perfectly acceptable and, no, it wouldn't be a bad idea.

I'm confident that you have [good] transformative ideas, 
that don't need to be signed off by a committee of friends or family before you actualize them.

And no one has the right answers because we’re all just winging it. 

I recently had a conversation with my life coach who asked me why I thought it was difficult to let go of a project I had started about 6 years ago. Of course, I offered her a profound answer saying “Oh, I’m not done with it yet.” But can I be honest? Deep down I knew that if I announced that I was letting it go, I’d feel like a failure and that I was disassociating myself with the thing that [I felt] strongly defined me. 

I’m learning that the act of release does not diminish the core of who you are, nor should it point to the fallacy of failure.

But rather the alchemy of release highlights your ability and acceptance of new, profound space for the person you are, opportunities you attract, and love you permit yourself to embrace…right here..right now.

So, practice release as often and as radically as your growth permits. Release creates room for abundance. Let abundance be your norm.

I distinctly remember a phone conversation with my mentor this summer. After I told her of a decision I made, she questioned me and asked "But Joy...why are you hiding...?" I was stumped. As if I was found out! I didn't feel anyone had noticed, and worse yet, I didn't really notice this either. I had been hiding myself and playing small in the way I'd show up (or rather, not show up). 

My playing small (or hiding myself) started in 2013 when I first launched my blog. I'd send each published link to one person, my best friend at the time, who kindly said "great job!" each time I wrote a post. Then a year after when I created a secret Instagram account (I wish I remembered the password for @epitomeofjoy 😂😂). 

I have more memories of playing small and shrinking back, but this question stung from the realization that my playing small over all these years was hurting me more than it was helping me.

It’s likely we all started off confident — showing off every skill we profoundly believed we possessed (whether we really did or not was not the question LOL). But something taught us to shrink back…yet we never audaciously challenged those limiting voices, beliefs, or experiences. So naturally, we developed insercurities that beckon us to play small whenever we have the opportunity to show up fully.

Challenging our insecurities involves being lovingly and radically honest with ourselves and asking:

Where does this insecurity stem from?

And what potential outcome am I truly afraid to face?

Sometimes we fear rejection.

Sometimes we are afraid that we might not be good enough (according to whose standards?)

Other times we are afraid of the truth of our strength and being called to a greater accountability that we think we cannot uphold. 

Running from our insecurities leads to emotional and mental exhaustion. We enter cyclic thinking of what if, worst case scenarios, and I wish — that may never be resolved because we craftily leap over ever thinking of a positive case scenario. 

So I challenge us all today into a mindset of radical honesty that incites us to challenge our insecurities head on….so that we no longer feel the need to play small. Your gifts are beautiful and we are waiting to see just big you are. Your playing small serves no one and frankly an insult to the One who strategically created the masterpiece that is you. 

Take up space friend. We’re ready for you.

March 20, 2020. That’s when I received the email from the corporate office informing me that I should not be returning to the office the following Monday. We were in “unprecedented times”. Everything was shut. I thought “Okay, sis. It’s fine…this is temporary.” Well, because the email said “for this week.” I thought wrong.

As we all know (because we’re living it), the one week turned into five, then ten, and frankly, we’ve probably all lost count of how many weeks were within these “unprecedented times”. Collectively, we paused. And forcedly, we pivoted.

Like you, at the start of this year, I sat hopefully attuned to each goal I inscribed in my prayer journal on January 1st. From the relaxing trips I’d planned to Lagos, Tanzania, and Athens… to the transformative events I expected to produce in London, Amsterdam, and Los Angeles. I entered the start of this year with flair, captivated by the unlimited potential my “2020 Vision” would bring.

But, forcedly, I pivoted.

If I learned anything from being a corporate employee, entrepreneur, then consultant, it is that change happens constantly, quickly, and our least favorite: unexpectedly. The latter tends to raise fear.  The thought of change tends, at times, to be frightening (and other times, paralyzing) because we’d much rather focus on ideas or experiences that we’ve held on to closely (lived or dreamed), than embrace something as foreign as the unknown. So in that fear, we’d rather sit. 

Sit on ideas, dreams, goals (probably smothering them by this point)…well because, the unknown is frightening. And we’re much better off saving our dreams for another time... that is less “unprecedented”. 

But, what if instead, we took ownership of change, no matter how unexpected? 

In April, I had the mental capacity to focus on the consulting work I did with other brands (in the absence of my 9-5). I researched to further my knowledge of brand marketing. I sharpened my networking prowess and connected with leaders in the beauty industry. The brands exceeded their sales targets, in the midst of unprecedented economic times. In May, I continued to record episodes for my podcast, then was invited to speak to the audiences of several brands across Los Angeles, Lagos, and London.

I was forced to pivot. But I willingly chose to embrace something as “dangerous” as the unknown: change.

I have to be admit, that although I pivoted, I wasn’t necessarily changing course confidently. But I committed to doing small actions that had some semblance of movement. And that’s all pivoting is: a commitment to moving forward, even when it does not feel safe of familiar.

So with that, I’d love for you to cherish this verse I ascribed in my prayer journal, beside the page titled “2020 Vision”:

Isaiah 43:18-19 “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!....I am making a way in the wilderness...”

If you’re in a place of pivot, grab hold of this unique (and uncertain) opportunity to refine your talents. In this unique place, your frustration of your situation can pivot into surrender, and God will have more room to make a way in this unfamiliar territory and “unprecedented times”.

*The above was written as a contribution to a 2020 Coffee & Prayer newsletter*

I remember having a conversation with a friend, who in full accountability, called me to see if I’d made a decision to move forward on a project I’d been so cleverly dragging along. In that conversation, I very boldly told her “Well, if this happens, I’ll do it.” I could feel her side-eyeing me through the phone, but I ignored it.

I began noticing I made this statement repeatedly. “If that happens, then I’ll do this.” I was living life based on external conditions. I realized my conditional living had manifested itself in small things -- like how I chose to eat (I'll eat ice cream if I workout), then more grand circumstances like career progression (I'll leave my job if I get a new offer). I was placing conditions on making decisions and worse yet, taking action. 

Doing deep work and a bit of research (self-help junkie & psych nerd here!), I realized that our conditional living is rooted in self-expectations, societal expectations, or fear of failure. Conditional living often manifests or masks itself as:

  • Procrastination or perfectionism

  • Validation seeking (constantly asking for reassurance from more trusted sources, because we’ve stopped trusting ourselves)

  • Delayed decision making

But if we hold on to the false belief that we (or our circumstance) can only succeed if something else (usually outside of our control) happens, we rob ourselves of:

  • Living fully

  • Taking agency

  • Having ownership of our lives.

We end up placing ourselves on a rollercoaster of emotions...constantly waiting for someone or something to decide for us. When in reality, our lives are not group decisions. So my beloved, let’s not wait until we get a groundbreaking sign. Let’s no longer wait until all conditions are perfect. And we definitely should stop waiting for permission.

You get to decide.

The decision comes from being radically honest with ourselves. What do you want? Is this thing congruent with your values? Does it authentically align with who you are?

I’ve discovered that the answer to taking ownership over our life experiences is accepting that you cannot fail. That there are no failures. Only data. And that  data will inform how radically honest you need to be to solely and confidently make your next best decision.

Can I let you in on something personal? It's the part of my journey I've rarely talked about: my slow down and pivot.

Before this change in momentum, there was a distinct period of time where client contracts were consistent. In the span of 5 months, I flew between 3 countries to work with some of my favorite brands. This is where I felt like I thrived the most – in motion. So when work started slowing down for me later that same year (as in zero clients and no cash flow), I was forced to do nothing. I used the opportunity to visit family in Atlanta.

There, in Atlanta, I was far from busy, and couldn’t relate with the word productive. I took walks in the morning, watched new Netflix series during the day, mastered baking homemade bread, learned to take self-portraits with a tripod….and came up with the idea for Pivot & Thrive.

It was birthed in the stillness. 
The idea began to sprout when I found a book that detailed the fine art of negotiating. It took root when I spent time updating my resume. And it flourished when I did nothing but gaze out of my sister’s living room window (because boredom often invites you here).

Pivot & Thrive finally emerged fully 3 months later. And it unfolded into events, a newsletter, and now a podcast. (I talk about this in my latest episode here).

It’s in our (sometimes forced) stillness that we take the biggest leap. And at times, the counterintuitive solution to productivity may lie in the very thing we resist and fear will impede our progress: slowing down. For me, slowing down was a power move.
The benefits to slowing down are numerous. When we’re still, we allow our minds to daydream – which makes us more creative and better at problem-solving.

In Dutch, the term for this idea is known as “niksen” – taking conscious, considered time and energy to do activities like sitting motionless and doing nothing.

Our current circumstance with social distancing vaguely reminds me of this extended stay in Atlanta.

A forced stillness. Now, as we are seemingly hindered from jumping rapidly from place to place, or job to job, there's an opportunity to let our ideas simmer. But, whether you chose to fill this time with productive projects or to simply rest, I hope in this season you tap into grace.

Grace to go at a pace, slow or fast, that feels right for you. Grace to stay focused and not to compare your journey, output, or creativity with others around you. Grace to chose your own pace. 
For some, this period of stillness and social distancing screams: DO MORE, while for others, it's about grabbing the opportunity to rest.

Either way, here's a sweet reminder to all my "I have to keep moving" people, to use this season to settle into God's grace. To let your ideas simmer. And to make your very own power move. You'll be amazed at your confidence in your ideas, and how unbending you are in your decisions.

Do you remember your 'first' ____(go ahead and fill in the blank with your first -- blog post, podcast, speaking engagement)?

I do. And I cringe thinking about it. Well, I've had many firsts, but this particular one was my first Beneath Your Beauty event in 2014. I made up the website, and I'm pretty sure I used PowerPoint or Paint to design the graphics. We held a fashion show that night, and can you believe we used butcher paper for the runway? 😂 I clearly wasn't going to let my $100 budget stop me.

But you know what? I did it. A whole me. I produced a fashion show, and panel discussion in LA. I had no prior experience. But I got a team together. Made the Eventbrite page. Secured the venue, the designer, the models, and the guests, and here we are 5 years later, doing events in London and LA. (Shout out to the very amazing teams I've had).

I cringe even as I write this because I’m a (newly discovered) perfectionist...and the thought of just DOING something with no perfect first, second, and third step, gives me stress. 

But whenever perfection tries to rear its head, I'm reminded that waiting until we’re ready, or until it’s perfect, is almost never a good idea.

Looking back, I’m sure we can each remember our "firsts" …and appreciate the candid faith we had in simply starting. For me, I was just content with the idea of adjusting along the way where necessary. Perfection wasn’t a question. I knew it just needed to be done.

Truth is, it’s okay to strive for excellence. But when we make perfection our standard, we regressively welcome procrastination (waiting for the right moment), we miss out on opportunities (to learn), and we deny others the chance to be positively impacted by the gifts we have to share.

I recall an article that explained the negative sides of perfectionism, and why it's hindering your progress. The article was shouting and I felt attacked.

Impacts of perfectionism:
  • It adversely affects relationships by separating individual effort from a common goal effort.
  • It negatively impacts behavior by creating defensiveness to suggestions from others.
  • It leads you to unavoidably waste time striving for an absolutely perfect result.
  • You maximally focus on an all-or-nothing mindset, sometimes paralyzing any progress or never completing the task.
  • It slowly impedes personal development by preventing the application of learning.
  • You increasingly develop self-loathing by reinforcing a limiting belief of “not being good enough."
Do any of these stick out to you?

What you can do about it:

If you're reading this and silently nodding in agreement, think about "good enough" actions you can take in the next few days. A start, no matter how imperfect will eventually lead you to excellence (or at least done). Sometimes, it's better to take imperfect action and adjust your approach, rather than sitting so heavily on your dream, because chances are, the dream will pass you by 🥴.

So go ahead and do whatever 'it' is...without fear of imperfection. Remember just because it's flawed, doesn't mean you've failed.

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