Ronda Lee - 3WCircle

I was the speaker, but I walked away inspired by the stories and encouragement from other women. There was an interest in my notes. Below is my speaker notes/transcript. Thank you Caroline and Melissa for founding 3WCircle. Daphne @SuiteThreeOhSix is a food goddess! I never ate vegan before and I am addicted to her cuisine. To my co-speaker, Valerie Bennis, you inspire me! For pictures, head over to Ronda-isms on Facebook.

Thank you for allowing me to speak to you. I do not present myself as the oracle of knowledge. However, if you can learn from my “good, bad, and ugly” life lessons, then this is all worthwhile.

First let me start off by telling you my age. The reason I begin with age is because for women, unlike men, aging is taboo. There are so many negative connotations associated with women “growing old” – spinster, crypt keeper, old maid. On her birthday my aunt would say, “I’m like a fine wine, I get better with age.” My other aunt would retort, “no honey you’re more like Yellow Tail, that goes bad after a day.”

Last month event was about priority pie’s. Woman tend to associate their life pies with age. No man limits his goals based on his age. He can look like Newman from Seinfeld, be 88, and wheelchair bound and still claim he’ll be the best you ever had! You’ve seen them on the streets of NY. You want some of this – yuck. Yet we women, smarter of the sexes, get caught up in if I am not married by x my life is over. If I don’t have kids by y, what’s the use. Recently, Miley Cyrus made a very ignorant statement that people don’t have sex over 40. Youth is truly wasted on the young. Women don’t hit our sexual peak until our thirties and she thinks she’s already seen the mountaintop of sexual greatness. In the words of my belated father, “young dumb and full of come.”™Ronda-isms

Age ain’t nothing but a number and if we’re wise, there is a maturity that comes with aging. We don’t start to hit our stride until our thirties. In our 20s we’re overly concerned about what other people think. In our 30s we begin to come into our own. By the time we hit 40, we develop a confidence. Who cares what you think. All that advice and your life is no better. I will take counsel with those who actually care about my well being and are looking out for my best interest. That’s why young men are attracted to cougars. We pay them little attention. At 40, it is a complete waste of my time to cry over a man. If I have to shed a tear over a man that is not my husband, then time to upgrade for newer younger model that knows to look pretty and keep silent. Amen!

We are nurturing by nature and tend to put others before ourselves – husband/boyfriend, children, family. We are very self sacrificing. The saying “tis’ better to give than receive” is one we need to apply to our lives. We need to give and invest in ourselves. Why? In the words of L’oreal: Because you deserve it! In the 70s, the Enjoli perfume commercial always made me wonder “if I’m bringing home the bacon fry it up in a pan and never make him forget he’s a man” what is he doing for me in return? What is my return on this relationship investment beside he put a ring on my finger?

“If you don’t build your dreams, someone else will hire you to build theirs.” – Tony Gaskin

Too often we stay in relationships and jobs because “at least I have a man” or “it’s a stable paycheck.” We settle and compromise. The movie Joy Luck Club summed up the woman problem best “you don’t know your worth.” We constantly downplay our successes and accomplishments. Whereas a man will take credit for what he didn’t do and give credit to himself even when it does it wrong. Do we truly believe we are worth investing in? I am not talking about using others for your personal gain. I am talking about investing your talents into building your own happiness factor. In the movie the Pursuit of Happyness, the Will Smith character tells his son don’t ever listen to people who tell you that you can’t do it…because they are upset they never realized their dreams and don’t want you to realize yours. There is truth to that. Whether consciously or subconsciously, naysayers are resentful.

A dear friend always said living well is the best revenge. As a child when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up I answered at least four things. Why is it that somewhere between kindergarten and high school graduation we are told that we must pick one?! It turns into the movie the Highlander. There can only be one! Pick domestication or professional career for the rest of your life. Men do not limit their options even when their lack of skill suggests they should. Yet we do. We’re too practical for our own good.

Three years after becoming a lawyer my father passed at a young age. It was sudden and was one of the most life altering experiences I faced. Until then I dedicated my life to becoming a career woman. Hours at the office missing weddings, baby showers, and time with my family and friends. When my dad passed, I initially thought I’d take a couple days off. I quickly realized that I was going to lose my mind. I needed time away. The firm that I was working with responded with “but we sent flowers, you can’t leave.” I’m sorry your flowers don’t replace the loss of my father. It was then that I dusted off my journal and started writing again. I begin mentoring inner city youth. Writing and education for underprivileged youth are my passions. Mentoring the teens reignited my desire to teach and to get my books publish. I could not do that in Chicago. My dad’s death opened my eyes to the fact that my love affair with career was not going to bring me happiness. The law practice is an unforgiving and unfaithful mistress. Your needs and wants will always be subservient to her demands of more billable hours.

I had to make a choice – leave the practice and Chicago to follow my dreams in NYC (or) remain in Chicago unfulfilled in my career but with a comfortable living arrangement.

“Life doesn’t begin until you get outside your comfort zone.” -Neal Donald Walsch

When I told friends and family I was moving to NYC to get my books published, my mother didn’t want me to move because she wants her daughter near. Most of my friends were supportive. “If anyone can make it, you can.” “Do it so I can live vicariously through you.” “Go girl.” A few now former friends and acquaintances did not hide their resentment. “You won’t make it. Everybody I know that went there didn’t make it. You won’t make it.”

I have little respect for people who mouth off but have never put themselves out there. Oh they can tell you why this athlete sucks or this politician or businessman is wrong, but they’ve never tried or attempted anything. I have the utmost respect for people who try because it takes courage to step into the unknown or worse certain “failure.” My father always encouraged me to follow my passion. He said: “The only thing that beats a failure is a try. So you keep trying. So what if they say no. No never hurt anybody. If the door is closed, knock on the window. Keep trying, you can always come home but don’t come home until you are done trying. You don‘t want to get to the end of your life and wonder what would have happened if only you tried.” Roosevelt said it best:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the [wo]man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the[wo] man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends [her]self in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if [s]he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that h[er] place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

I came to NYC without a job or contacts, just a dream and a prayer. Two and a half years later, I am embarking on a for-profit venture. Two literary agents expressed an interest in my book. Although no offer yet, that is a hell of lot for someone that came to the concrete jungle with nothing but moxie and ambition. In my early years, I was aggressive and ambitious. I moved to LA after undergrad ended up working in the same building as Johnnie Cochran. How fortuitous – I plan to go to law school! Not. Johnnie had a baby blue Rolls Royce. Every day for six months I put my resume on his windshield. I figured he had two choices: hire me as a legal assistant or call the cops on me as a stalker. He did neither. Years later, I had the opportunity to work with Willie Gary and Johnnie Cochran. I asked Johnnie if remembered circa 1995 someone posting their resume on his windshield. He said “oh yes.” I looked at him, “that was me!” He replied, “Oh things are going well for you.” I said, “you didn’t hire me.” He responded, “you didn’t need my help.” Time and negative experiences caged me. Too often we feel if so-n-so isn’t on board I can’t do it. We let fear and naysayers trap us in a corner. Coming to NYC awakened the hunger in me. I am a that caged lioness that is learning to roar again and I am hungry for success. I want a bite out of this Apple and to leave my initials etched into its concrete. Jay Z says Watch the Throne and I’m coming.

If we don’t see the value of investing in ourselves, then no one will. Ladies, no matter what your dream don’t let naysayers or fear of failure paralyze you. Failure and success go hand in hand. I recently posted a blog “Failure is an Option and It’s Okay.” Anyone that has experienced success will attest to the fact that it only came after many failed attempts.

I study, work hard, research, plan, have doors shut in my face, get frustrated, mad, and then try again. No pain no gain. Believe me there has been much pain and struggle. Many times I wondered if I lost my mind or whether it was worth it. It is worth it but like an athlete training – the “thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.”Every struggle prepares you so that the next hurdle doesn’t intimidate as much as it would have. Once you’ve been knocked down the fear factor fades. Been there, down that, get up again.

Put on some booty bumpers and get ready to fall down a time or two or three. It’s alright. Come up with your own fall down dance. “Drop it like it’s hot,” then pick it up again and chase down that dream – in stilettos no less. Maybe that’s why God gave me a big bum. He knew I’d fall down a lot so he decided to give me extra cushion 🙂

One thing that encourages me is when I see women like 3WCircle support other women. Too often we are so judgmental of each other. Men will mentor and bring others up the ranks with them. We look at each other as competition and as a result do more harm than good. Focus your energy and praise on those standing in your corner cheering you on. Spread the word about another woman that is doing great and fabulous things. I am grateful for the friendship I have in Jeta. After a year in NYC, I was virtually friendless. Jeta and I met volunteering and struck up a friendship that has involved talking each other down from our fears (step away from the ledge) and pulling each other up from the pit of depression when we are wondering what are we doing wrong that no one has taken notice. Jeta has been my SamWise Gamgee, encouraging and investing in my outrageous dream. That is why I never hesitate to sing her praises. Because when no one else befriended me in NYC, Jeta did.

 

 

TIPS: (1) Find mentors that will tell you the good bad and ugly to keep you on path and honest with yourself. (2) Research. Go in eyes wide open to the risks and benefits. (3) Reach out. Visit the Small Business Center at a grad school to get assistance especially for women and minority owned businesses. (4) Make a plan and revisit it monthly, quarterly adjusting to your needs wants and market changes. (5) Finally pay it forward.

SUMMARY: Invest in yourself, invest in those that have invested in you, and spread the word. We allow men to use and denigrate us without a word of rebuke. However, we’ll stick out a foot in front of another woman who’s trying to do something. Ronda-ism: Don’t vag block another woman’s success.™ In the words of Madeleine Albright: “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.

Twitter:@Rondaisms