Don't settle: live the life you want with these 5 steps.
SONYA A. LOWERY HAD A GOOD LIFE--BUT SHE WANTED MORE. Her dissatisfaction prompted her to make pivotal changes in her personal and professional life. Three years into her marriage and a budding graphic design enterprise, she left both her husband and her business partner.
"My life was okay, but I knew I could have more," recalls Lowery. "I wasn't excited about what I was doing and I was constantly torn between doing what I wanted and adhering to what others wanted me to do." Today, 38-year old Lowery is president of Solaris--House of Fine Graphics, a Greenbelt, Maryland-based design firm she launched after the split.
"We all have an innate drive to fulfill our desires," says Karyn Pettigrew, author of The Invitation: The Secret to Creating Your Best Life (Highest Good Publications; $6.95). "But we have to choose whether we want to support that drive or suppress it."
The Chicago-based life coach and business consultant maintains that those who sup press it suffer in ways that include living with increasing regrets and experiencing feelings of discontentment, anxiety and even depression.
"When we settle for less than what we want, we're living less of the life God intended for us to have and we're unhappy," Pettigrew says. "However, when we embrace who we are and pursue what we want, we experience joy, happiness, peace, and contentment, making it easier to deal with obstacles we encounter in getting it and move beyond them."
Lowery agrees and recalls that while the divorce and business closing were difficult, the changes allowed her the freedom to rediscover her creativity and reignite her childhood passion.
"Creating your best life doesn't necessarily mean making monumental changes," reminds Pettigrew. She recommends implementing these small adjustments, which can yield big results:
||Outlook. Rethink your frame of reference or modify your stance.
|| Attitude. Establish how you will feel despite the circumstances.
|| Response. Determine what response you will exhibit.
CHANGE IS GOOD
Pettigrew insists that everyone can create their preferred life. Here's how:
|| Find your truth. Look deep within your heart and identify what is important to you. Determine your values, likes, dislikes, and desires. Lowery realized that she cherished her independence and felt best when she made decisions on her own terms.
||Trust yourself. Listen to your intuition. Regardless of what others think, pursue the life you dream of having. Lowery acknowledges that despite having fears associated with single parenting and entrepreneurship, she always believed in her ability to build a business and take care of her children.
|| Be responsible. Take steps that move you toward your preferred life. Seek out information. Secure resources. Solicit support. Lowery took charge of her career aspirations by networking more.
||Stay focused. Concentrate on what you want and those things that will allow you to achieve it. Lowery refused to spend time working at jobs other than those that built her business. "If it wasn't graphics, I wasn't doing it,--no matter how bad I needed the money," she recalls.
||Be intentional. Make deliberate, impactful efforts to further your progress. Early on, Lowery volunteered to design marketing materials to gain exposure. She also created opportunities for herself such as writing a book, The Secret Language of Business Cards (Jordan Maxwell Publishing; $14.95).
Lowery Wins The Network Journal 40 Under Forty Award
A. Lowery literally designed her success from scratch,
on scratch paper. A former receptionist, Lowery leveraged
the doodling she did in between answering telephone
calls to become an award-winning graphic artist as
founder and president of Solaris-House of Fine Graphics
in Greenbelt, MD. For more than 10 years, Lowery has
designed marketing materials to enhance the image
of such nationally known businesses as ConAgra Foods,
FraserNet’s PowerNetworking, Allergan (Botox),
as well as countless others. “Having a great
image gives a business an advantage,” she says.
“Smart business professionals make use of all
the advantages they can get.”
Lowery has always had an affinity for minority-owned
businesses. However, she credits her mentor, motivational
speaker George Fraser, with encouraging her to take
her image-enhancing efforts into the Black business
community. She has since made it her mission to change
the way Black businesses are viewed in the marketplace.
“Few businesses are as scrutinized as those
owned by Blacks. It’s these businesses that
need to pay the most attention to how they look, sound
and feel,” Lowery says. “Your business
image is a total package and it’s either working
for you or against you.”
Lowery offers businesses and professionals a set of
image-building guidelines in her book, The Secret
Language of Business Cards (and What Your Brochure
Is Saying Behind Your Back).
Lowery received her formal design instruction at the
Corcoran School of Art in Washington, D.C. She also
took classes at the Eastern Shore and College Park
campuses of the University of Maryland. When not writing
books, speaking around the county and making various
media appearances, Lowery is chauffeuring her sons,
Jordan and Devin, between piano lessons and baseball
practice. She says, “My greatest success is
being able to provide a way of life that both my sons
and I can be proud of.”
Common Business Card Mistakes
Presenting yourself as a professional is key to any
executive. Here are some common business card faux pas
to steer clear of by Marcia Layton Turner.
You only have one opportunity to make a first impression.
That's why Sonya Lowery, author of The
Secret Language of Business Cards: And what your brochure
is saying behind your back (Jordan Maxwell Publishing;
$14.95), is constantly surprised by the gaffes business
owners make in the design and production of their business
card. Here, she points out the eight most common mistakes
professionals should avoid:
||Having no business
card at all suggests you aren't serious about your
business and makes it virtually impossible for potential
clients to follow up with you.
||Not using a professional logo
makes it difficult for customers to differentiate
you from other companies in your industry.
||Leaving your Web address off your
card discourages potential customers from researching
your company or visiting your Website.
||Using an unprofessional email
address, such as firstname.lastname@example.org, which is
a free email account, is much less professional
||Buying template-produced cards
printed for free by companies online “are
a tell-tale sign you paid nothing,” says Lowery
||Settling for cheap printing “cheapens
your entire company image,” she says
||Listing several professions on
one card suggests you may be a jack-of-all-trades,
but a master of none
||Presenting tattered and torn cards
with information crossed off portrays you as a struggling
and unprofessional business owner
For recommendations on how to design
your business card, pick up the December issue of BLACK
Down The Corporate Ladder
The Entrepreneur In You)
Nikitta A. Foston - For the ambitious
corporate climber, the rise to higher heights is
an intricate maze of corporate practices, business
protocols and requisite benchmarks. It is a daunting
task of increased responsibility, and for a growing
number of employees, a job of diminishing returns.
Despite the benefits of ascending the corporate
ladder, complete with public acclaim, industry accolades
and corresponding financial rewards, it is a journey
that leaves more and more top-ranking executives
with a lack of energy, a loss of joy and a mounting
search for personal satisfaction and internal fulfillment.
used to get up every morning incredibly excited
to go to work,” says Lalita Tademy, former
Vice-President and General Manager of a Fortune
500 high technology company in Silicon Valley. “But,
I began dreading it. I could still perform it well,
but I was giving all of my energy away. I had no
idea what I was going to do, but I knew I couldn’t
figure it out while I was working an 80-hour week.
I didn’t leave my job for a particular idea
or desire. I left to change my life.”
change her life she did. Tademy, who devoted the
next three years of her post-corporate life to researching
her family history, culminated her research in a
bestselling novel, Cane River, which spent 17 weeks
in the #1 slot on the NY Times Bestseller List and
was chosen for inclusion in Oprah’s Book Club.
“There is nothing better that can happen to
an author, especially a first-time author,”
says Tademy of her pick by Oprah. The novel, which
won national acclaim, tells the powerfully gripping
story of four generations of Black women alongside
Louisiana’s historic Cane River.
her debut, Tademy has added color and depth to the
literary landscape of America from an African-American
perspective, in the process, found time for love
and marrying for the first time in her 50s. “I
am extremely proud of being able to restructure
my life in such a way that accommodates interests
I could not have explored had I not left the corporate
world.” The two-time novelist, who recently
released, Red River, the sequel to her breakout
debut, terms this new phase of her life, Chapter
II. “I was able to take my life back.”
prominent Los Angeles attorney, Darrell Miller,
the 2nd highest billing associate in a national
law firm of over 300 lawyers, life was good –
very good. After 5 ½ years at one of the
nation’s Top 100 firms, Miller, a classically-trained
opera and musical theater singer, decided to merge
his creative genius with his legal expertise.
result? Miller & Pliakas, LLP, an entertainment
law firm which boasts an impressive roster of A-list
actors, directors, writers, singers and producers
including Angela Bassett, Courtney Vance, Master
P, Ludacris, Romeo, Wanda Sykes and Outkast’s
Andre 3000 – an accomplishment which has catapulted
Miller to the top of Black Enterprises’ Top
50 Showbiz Players List and Fade in Magazine’s
100 People in Hollywood You Need to Know. The firm
also represents the interests of executives and
companies in television, film, music and new media
including the development, production and exploitation
of entertainment related content.
is a complex definition, but one that Miller shares
quite easily and proudly, offering no regrets for
leaving behind the security of a firm for the limitless
opportunity of his own business. “Our parents
grew up in an America where there was amazing corporate
protection and stability. You worked for 20 years
and then retired with a gold watch and a pension.
But today is an entirely different era. We live
in a climate of transition which has made the luxury
of stability, as our parents knew it, virtually
non-existent. In this day and age, you’re
only as good as the last thing you’ve done,”
says Miller who launched his Beverly Hills firm
in 1996 and was later joined by partner, Roger Pliakas.
“I am thankful for the freedom to identify,
research and articulate my future based on my own
resources and my own terms.”
terms, including the flexibility of creating your
own schedule, setting your own hours and determining
your own workload, are the perks that Sonya Lowery,
a former corporate executive, simply can’t
do without. The graphic designer-turned president
of her own company, Solaris, is more than a talented
graphic designer for individuals, small businesses
and everything in between. She is an image consultant-extraordinaire
who scored four promotions in five years before
launching her own company. “I took everything
that I learned in the corporate arena and threw
it into my business. From my customer service skills,
to negotiating with clients, to developing an image
that lasts, all of my prior experiences helped me
develop my approach to business. Lowery, the author
of The Secret Language of Business Cards (And What
Your Brochure Is Saying Behind Your Back) has been
profiled in Smartmoney.com, Black Enterprise Magazine,
the Washington Post and was recently honored by
the Network Journal Magazine’s 40 under Forty
Dynamic Achievers List.
Lowery, the decision to leave corporate America
required a commitment to doing what she did best:
branding. “New businesses have a 50% chance
of failure before year two and by year five, 90%
have closed their doors. The high failure rate is
due, in part, to something many entrepreneurs don’t
realize is critical… their image. It may seem
like common sense, but branding is the best kept
secret of the successful. My company helps define,
create and build the brand,” she says of her
business located just outside of D.C. “You
only get one chance to make a first impression.”
Miller, entertainment lawyer and author of the 16th
Minute of Fame says “Far too many people focus
on trying to become successful, rather than focusing
on what it takes to remain successful. People tend
to focus on the 15 minutes of fame – not the
for trailblazers like Miller, Tademy, Lowery and
others who are charting a new course toward success,
one that doesn’t require a corporation or
its ladder, the focus is clear, the vision is strong
and the rewards are lasting. “The biggest
thing that stops most people is fear,” says
Lowery. “But fear is based on an unawareness
of the unknown and an inability to focus on what
could be. But if you change your mind, you can change
your life. It all begins with you.”