Joy Ubani

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.

I remember reflecting on an opportunity I had recently, and wondering if saying "yes" to it way back then was the right choice. It was my dream opportunity. There was glitter and gold all over it. In hindsight, I did in fact hesitate initially because not every aspect of the opportunity matched with my checklist (do you have one of those? now is a good time to create it) -- but, in full enthusiasm and intentionality to take every opportunity, I said "yes".

Presently, I've been offered another opportunity that sounds amazing. Last year, I would have excitedly rushed towards it. But this time, it feels less appealing simply because of where I am with my goals and in my journey.

So, I made an effort to try out what it felt like to say "no". If opportunities didn't align with my goals or give me the most peace, I didn't hesitate to politely walk away. And, it worked.
I noticed that life has a way of making room for us when we know where we’re going and have the actions to match (prioritizing your goals and what brings you joy, & being courageous enough to apply wisdom in saying yes or saying no).

If you’re currently at a place in your life where you’re discerning if certain opportunities are for you, this halfway mark of the year is perfect for refocusing on your goals.Before you say yes, ask yourself if an opportunity lines up with your goal.

Here are 4 reflective questions to considerbefore you grab an opportunity (that glitters and looks like gold):

  • Does this support my priorities and align with my calling?
  • Does this opportunity excite me?
  • What is my intention behind this and what can I give or gain?
  • Will this opportunity stretch me beyond my limits and do I have the capacity for it?

I have to admit that there was a certain point where I was glued to the word “yes”. I’d say yes to every opportunity that came my way. No matter how or if it interrupted my goals. At the time, saying yes felt good. It felt like the one caveat to growth that I needed to master in order to propel my career forward. I didn’t want to limit myself. For a while, this made so much sense…I was learning and growing in my craft. But truth be told, a lot of those opportunities just didn’t work for me — and I felt the impact later. 

If the answer is no to these questions, or you've come up short with your intentions, then perhaps it's okay move on with grace. For me, my intention was to learn as much as I could in my new career field. Do you know what your intentions are with each opportunity?

Thanks for coming back for the second part of this blog post!

Your questions

If you've kept up with me via Instagram, you may have taken on the chance to ask me your questions which I'm excitedly answering here.

Q: Did you have a gap between your 9 to 5 and your entrepreneurial journey?

A: No. As I mentioned, I ran my "hobby" alongside my full time job. Before handing in my notice, I had a project in Paris and London with a brand, Bifuko, so at the time, I was preparing to travel abroad to work on their launch campaign.

Q: Did you always want to be self-employed?

A: I think the short answer is yes. Initially, I wanted to run my own private practice as a psychologist. 

Q: What lesson has taken you the longest to learn?

A: I love this question! I love it because I want all of us to learn this (and master it early on). The lesson that has taken me the longest to learn is knowing my worth/what I bring to the table, setting my rates based on this, and having the courage to ask for it.

Q: How did you find strength to keep going when it gets tough?

A: Discipline, grace, and accountability. I learned to discipline myself early on to accomplish certain tasks, even when I don't feel like it. For example, I'll create a schedule or "Intention List" at the start of each week. I'll include tasks on there such as going on a morning run (to set a routine), posting on Instagram (to build brand visibility), reaching out to a brand or client (for a collaboration or to secure potential work). In the same vein, I remember to be gracious to myself. If there are days where I need to rest, eat ice cream and take a trip down to Topshop, I do so. I cannot come and kill myself, because trust me, it does get tough. To top all of this off, having an accountability partner is helpful. Maybe that's a close friend or family member you can share your goals with, or a fellow entrepreneur who is working on similar tasks. I have two friends and a dear sister and check in with each of them, respectively (and reciprocally) for emotional support, to share our resources, and to climb the ladder together.

Q: Are you making a steady income now?

A: Yes! Praise break!! This is something I prayed about for a while...and something I continue to include in my prayers. I work as a contractor with certain brands, while maintaining clients for my own business. Though, I'm still learning and will soon master the art of acknowledging and charging my worth.

Q: What is your ultimate goal?

A: Sigh -- my (fitness) trainer asked me this yesterday and I was surprised I couldn't answer fast enough! My goals are evolving, honestly. As I discover more about my skills, my character, and what excites me, my goals shift and are more clear. Short term, I'd like to see Beneath Your Beauty events grow to attract and impact more people. Long term, my goal is to own my own clothing brand (watch out, Zara); marry a fine, attentive, and God-fearing chocolate man, own a beautiful home or three, and vacation often. 😁 I'd also love to have the ability to practice law if I wanted to and provide counseling if I needed to....All this in no particular order...*ahem.

My ultimate goal is really helping people grow into confidence and thrive in life. I'm embracing and at peace with taking a different route to achieve this goal. Because God is my father, I realize that abundance is my birthright...I have been so blessed with multiple talents, and my heart yearns to use them all and bring Him fruit.

"There's nothing wrong with taking a different route..."

This was the thought I mulled over constantly for several months prior to leaving my job. Studying psychology had been my dream. I wasn't done. Yes, I was a high school counselor. But, there was so much more space on the career ladder. Yet, I felt such a strong and compelling tug to pivot. This feeling coupled with the toxic environment that was my workplace contributed in my decision to take the final leap on April 16, 2018.

Last week, April 16, 2019, I quietly celebrated the one year anniversary of leaving my job, making a career pivot, and diving full force into what I considered a hobby for the past 5 and half years. Now, let's rewind and I'll briefly get into this "hobby" of mine.

The back-story

In 2013, my brand Beneath Your Beauty was born. This was an outlet I created for connecting with women, and helping them build self-esteem, courage, and develop their personal style. Soon after my first Beneath Your Beauty event, I was asked to take on clients for brand management. I wasn't sure what exactly this entailed, but I was willing to (and did) learn on the way. Fast forward to 2014 when I moved to London to earn my masters in Psychology. I was frustrated by the lack of opportunities my program provided for graduate students. So, I took matters into my own hands and sought out opportunities. I knew I loved helping naturally, my search included organizations that catered to this demographic. Not long after I began my search, I got my first gig in marketing as a Communications Manager (really, I was a glorified social media intern), for a lifestyle brand based in Milan, Italy. During my interview, I showed them the content I created for Beneath Your Beauty. They loved it and hired me on the spot. Excitedly, I jumped at the offer, not understanding this whole digital marketing thing (it was still very new back then), and desperately wanting money to pay the rent for my flat in London.

The pivot

After earning my masters in Psychology, I graduated, and moved back home to Los Angeles. Soon after, I started working as a high school counselor. I was so much closer to my dream of being a psychologist and providing therapy for teens and their families.

Concurrently, I ran annual Beneath Your Beauty events, created content for our blog; consistently took photos and wrote content for my personal brand (thank you for reading and keeping up with me!)....I did all this while working as a counselor full time, juggling a part time job as an ABA Therapist, and managing a small handful of clients for digital marketing (I was no longer working with the brand in Milan, but established clients of my own as a freelancer). As I type this, I realize that I did...the most. I started to get the feeling that I had to...choose. I'll admit that it did feel strange writing "Counselor by day, Marketing Strategist by Night" on my Instagram bio. So, I chose.

The chance

Just before I handed in my notice at work, I did my due diligence of applying to other jobs for the same role, as well as roles in fashion marketing. But, everything in me was nudging me towards taking a chance on myself. I wanted to find out if I could actually make it. So, I chose. I chose to step out fully and zero in on this hobby I just couldn't let go of despite my 14 hour work days and fully booked Saturdays. I never intentionally planned to be an entrepreneur or accepting that there was nothing wrong with taking a different route, I believe I willingly fell into it...


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