One of the hardest things to do is to say yes to your own wants, dreams, and desires. For the longest time, I’ve been extremely focused on what’s “right” and what’s practical, and I’ve realized that I have put my own needs and desires to the side for way too long. Simply put, I want to build a better relationship with myself.

The process of improving your relationship with yourself is more difficult than it might seem, but it’s totally worth the time and effort. The steps to improving your relationship with yourself are to learn yourself, understand where you are, and decide where you are going. I’ve broken down the steps that I’ve been taking over the past few months to improve my relationship with me.

  1. Access Your Situation

The first step towards saying “yes” to yourself is accessing where you are now in your life. What is the state of your career, love life, living situation, and parenting relationships with your children, and so forth? One of the areas that is most often neglected is the area of personal finances. Sit down and take a hard look at your bills, debts, and savings. Are you where you want to be in every area of your life?

  1. Address Problems

Once you have completed your assessment, you’ll be able to identify areas for improvement. I call these “problem areas,” but they may not actually be problems, just areas for growth. For me, there are holes in my finances that need to be plugged, areas for growth in my career, and some repairs that need to be done in my relationships with loved ones. Once these areas are identified, you can create a plan to address them.

  1. Create a Plan

This is probably the hardest part, but you need to create a plan to address problems and areas of growth. Your plan will be unique to you, and your timeline will be also. Some problems can be fixed in a day (leaky faucet); other problems may take years (saving a marriage or overcoming an addiction). As you create and work your plan, ask for help and talk to others. You can’t do it all yourself.

  1. Be Flexible

Even the best laid plans usually change, so you have to be flexible. You may have had money designated for one purpose, only to have it diverted. You may want to go to marriage counseling, but your partner refuses. This is where you have to learn to say yes to YOU. You can’t control each and every thing that happens to you, but you can control what you do to and for yourself. Learn to prioritize you, so that you can better take care of others.

  1. Forgive Yourself

Along your journey, you will make mistakes. As you reflect on the past and how you got to the position that you are in, you may find yourself stuck mentally on past mistakes or poor decisions. Part of the process of creating abundance in your life is learning to let go of the past, and to forgive yourself. If you live in the past, you can’t create a brighter future.

You may be surprised that I didn’t mention “loving yourself.” That is because, while it is extremely important to accept certain parts of yourself that you cannot change, it is also important to change the things about yourself that are not making your happy.

You must first access your situation and what is and is not making you happy before you can address underlying issues like self-esteem and even depression. (It’s important to seek professional help if you are experiencing depression or have thoughts of harming yourself or others.) As you work though these steps, you’ll be able to decide the best way to move forward.

As you create your plan, don’t be afraid to think BIG, and outside of the box. Your plan doesn’t have to be practical, and it doesn’t have to make sense to anyone except you. I want to do things like learn French, tour Europe, and publish books. Other people may not be happy with those things, but in order to improve my relationship with myself, I have to make ME happy.

Just as it’s important to meet the needs of your mate, it’s important to meet your own needs, too. Take the time to work through these steps, and you’ll develop a greater understand of self, and you’ll be working towards building a life that makes you content.

It’s 2017 and I still have a 9 to 5 that pays the bills. I’m grateful for that, even as I pursue  my goal of becoming a well-known, bestselling author and YouTuber. It can be a real struggle to keep up with the busy world of blogging and vlogging while working a full-time, professional job. I’ve been working like crazy on my blog and YouTube behind the scenes this week, but from the outside looking in, it would be hard for someone to tell. I haven’t put out a blog post or video in a week; meanwhile, full-time content creators are churning out new videos, articles and social media posts almost daily. How can I, as a full time professional, keep up with that?

Well, the answer is that I have to remember that this is not a competition. It’s not me against other writers and content creators, even though it may feel that way. I don’t have a huge number of subscribers and followers on social media. But, I do have a lot of value to share. I have to remind myself that I’m in a building and growing phase. The people who are working as full time content creators mostly did not start out that way. Many of them were posting videos as a passion project on the side, only to eventually amass a following. The same can, and will happen for me.

I don’t want to just write posts and put them out there, and not have anyone read the posts. This may sound strange, but often creators spend hours and hours creating content, only to skimp out on actually promoting it. There can be a lot of reasons for this, and having a full time job is one of those reasons. When you work full time, it’s hard to have the time to spend promoting and marketing on social media. It can also be scary to “put yourself out there” for fear that something you say or create can put your full time job in jeopardy. I’ve gotten to a place where I’m mentally free enough to pursue this work and promote myself boldly online. If I want to grow my audience, I have to take some steps to actually promote my work.

NEW BLOG LOGO AND GRAPHICS

This week, I took some time to streamline my branding. Although I switched up the direction of my blog a few months ago, I had not sat down and created the collateral to go with it. When I say “collateral,” it means that I had not created a cohesive logo, blog, and social media graphics to match my new direction. I was off on Friday, so I literally spent the entire day creating a new logo, blog header, updating all of the graphics on my blog posts, and for my social media. It was an overwhelming task, but I tackled it one piece at a time.   I primarily used Canva to create my new header and all of the complimentary graphics.

The hardest part f making the new blog header was determining what “tagline” to use. I decided to keep it simple and put writer & entrepreneur. I chose writer, because I am one, and writing is my main focus. My blog is actually a focus over my other social media and video creation. I chose entrepreneur because I am one, also, and I write about travel freedom and making money online through writing.

I’m pretty sure I’ll update that tagline once I can think of a way to capture the essence of my site, and how I hope to provide value to readers.

MY FIRST MEDIA KIT

I created my first media kit. I put this off for a long time.  A media kit is a document that outlines who I am and what my blog is all about at-a-glance. It also provides information about my social media following and online reach. I felt really nervous about making a media kit because my following is so small. But, I’m working on being “fearless” when it comes to promoting myself. If I have 80 followers on a social media site, I need to be proud of that and keep working on growing my numbers. If I hide, I won’t grow. I’m proud of the fact that my small, but growing following is full of authentic readers. In the past, I collaborated with companies even as a smaller blogger, and I’m often approached to do speaking engagements. A media kit can help companies and individuals quickly decide whether or not my brand will be a good fit for a collaboration.

ONLINE RESUME & PORTFOLIO

One of the ways that I make money online is through freelance writing. I’ve had a lot of success with the Upwork platform in the past, but lately, I have not been getting a lot of action on my profile. I couldn’t figure out why, but then I remembered the tips that helped me when I first started on the platform. One of those tips was that I needed to keep my profile updated, provide work samples, etc. I did that when I first started, but I have not updated those resourced in a while. My next project is to update my profile on Upwork and to turn this blog into more of an online portfolio instead of just a blog. I’ll be getting more personal with my insights and the behind-the-scenes work of building a brand, growing my writing career, and filming videos. I posted this behind-the-scenes look at my YouTube video filming process on Instagram.

A #behindthescenes look at the experience of filming a #YouTube video solo. From the camera setup to lighting, scripting and reviewing the footage to make sure the right shots were captured, it’s a challenge. I’ve been watching and learning from #CaseyNeistat and some other vloggers and film makers to learn how to upgrade my film making. ____________________ Tools Used to Create this Video: •Camera: iPhone 6s 📱 •Tripod: Gorilla Tripod by #Joby 🦍 •Software: iMovie for iPhone 🎬 The equipment seen in this video includes my Manfrotto compact action tripod, my Canol Rebel t6i, and my Rode Mic. _____________________ #timelapse #timelapsevideo #contentcreator #creator #creativeprocess #houstonblogger #houstonvlogger #tombasspark #ampitheater #iphone6s #gorillatripod #joby #iphonevideography #rodemic #canon #photojournalist #behindthescenes #blackgirlsblog #blackgirlsvlog #writer

A post shared by Debra Johnson (@bydebrajohnson) on

VIDEO PRODUCTION & EDITING

As illustrated in the behind-the-scenes clip from Instagram, I’m stepping up my video production game. It’s no secret that I love YouTube, and I want to learn how to do more than just “talking head” videos. Those are great, but I want to produce really compelling video content that tells a story instead of just “chit chat” videos where I talk. I know that this is a learning process, but the first step that I’m taking is learning how to better use my video equipment. I have a Canon DSLR (the Canon Rebel T6i), and a iPhone, and that’s honestly all that I need to make great videos. The rest of the process is learning how to use what I have, film the right clips, edit, and create “stories” instead of just shooting videos.

THE SECRET TO BALANCING WORK & BLOGGING

As you can see, I have a lot on my plate. It’s hard to commute back and forth, work 8-10 hours, take care of my adult and parenting responsibilities, and make time to write posts, shoot videos, do graphic design, and promote on social media. I’m a one-woman show. But, I keep pushing because I honestly love it. I truly, truly enjoy writing and creating content that entertains and informs. I really believe that I have valuable information to share and stories to tell, and that is what drive me. So, instead of spending an entire day off resting or on vacay, I’m working. My sorority had a big conference in town this week, but I was hammering away on my laptop. I did make some time for socializing and exercise, but the rest of my time was spent working on building this blog because this is my dream.

There is no “easy” way to balance it all. The secret is to remember why you are doing what you are doing. You have to focus on the fact that you have a unique voice and that you have valuable information to share with the world. The practical process is to stay focused on individual tasks that you need to accomplish in order to reach your bigger goals. Right now, I’m in the building phase. I want to grow my audience, so that I can offer products and services to fit their needs.

Decide what tasks you want to accomplish in a single day or work session and get really intense in your work. Let your friends and family know that this is “work” and you’re not just on the computer browsing online. Decide on a start and end time for each work session, and readjust your timeline if you need to. Work hard and promote the heck out of each video, article, and piece of content you create. Content promotion can be done on your lunch breaks, or can be scheduled using apps that make your work more efficient.

I’ll be posting more about the software applications that I use to help me build my blog and social media presence in an upcoming post. I’ll also be talking about how bloggers and vloggers can gain an advantage by using the skills and knowledge from their professional 9 to 5 jobs when growing their passion projects. If you want to stay up-to-date on my progress, be sure to subscribe to the blog! Until next time, be well and keep grinding.

I’m excited to share a different type of content on my blog today! I’m doing a tour of my minimalist dining room. It was scary enough when I shared a picture of my home from the outside, but I feel super vulnerable opening up my home to share video of the inside. But, when I was looking for information about the minimalist lifestyle, it helped me so much when other people shared their stories, along with pictures and videos of their home. So, here goes!

To give a bit of background, I live in a single family home in Houston, Texas, that has more than enough space for me and my son. Having a lot of space is a blessing, but it can be very tempting to try to fill the home up with stuff. The minimalist lifestyle is about having less stuff, and only possessing what you need. You don’t have to even have a dining room table in your dining room if you don’t need one.

I like to have a modern look to my home, with traditional furnishings. To balance this out with minimalism, I don’t purchase a lot of “knickknacks” or souvenirs. I don’t have wall decorations, or items that clutter the floor or surfaces. I only have functional furniture in each room of my home. In the dining room, I have a dining room table, my son’s keyboard (the dining room doubles as his practice area), and one piece of décor. That’s it!

My hope in filming this dining room tour is that it inspires others who are in the same situation as me, who are moving towards minimalism, but aren’t in the position to sell and move out of their homes right away. You can begin to eliminate unnecessary possessions, and create a clean, minimalist feel in your home. Start by decluttering and focus on having only what you need in a room. Eliminate non-essential items. Clear surfaces. Reevaluate your décor to make sure that it’s a simple as possible while still being aesthetically pleasing.

Over time, as you make these small changes, you’ll notice that your home feels less cluttered, you feel calmer, and you home is much easier to take care of and clean. Check out my minimalist dining room tour below, and let me know what other videos you’d like to see! Don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel to be notified of new content.

As always, be well.

-Debra

If you’ve been following my blog and social media, you know that for the last few months, I’ve been trying shifting in my life and my business. I have been seeking clarity through much prayer, lots of decluttering, and reading about different ways to simplify my lifestyle. After months of changes, I’ve finally embraced my transition towards living a minimalist lifestyle. I’ve decided to share my journey on this blog, and on my YouTube channel.

I think that my journey towards embracing minimalism is one that a lot of people can relate to. To help you understand my experiences and how I came to the conclusion that moving towards minimalism is beneficial for me and my family, I’d like to share with you a bit of background information about my life and my career.

Much of my story is typical, but much of it is not. I was always a young scholar who enjoyed reading and writing. As an introvert, I kept to myself a lot and kept my head in the books. I took advanced courses and made great grades. Like many teens, I didn’t always make great choices. I had my son at an early age, while I was still in high school.

Despite becoming a teen mom, I managed to graduate early from high school, graduate from college, become a teacher, and, eventually, I graduated from law school and became an attorney. I immediately found a job after I passed the bar and started working on education policies and human resources policy implementation.

All seemed to be right with the world, until my whole world changed in an instant. My son was diagnosed with cancer. Suddenly, I had to shift my focus from work to caring for my son. I had to take care of him, find a way to pay medical bills, and continue to work. My salary was the only financial support we had.

When I look back it, that tumultuous time in my life shaped my future and helped me realize that life isn’t all about work and making money. Yet, I still wanted a career, and I still needed money to survive. Thankfully, my son had a successful surgery and went into remission. We managed to continue on, and even purchased a house.

I continued to live like most Americans. I worked. My son went to school. We took care of our new home, got a dog, and commuted back and forth into the inner city in Houston for work and school. After a while, this routine started to wear on us both, and I started struggling with the financial obligations of homeownership.

On top of everything, work was stressful. I thought that my job was my issue, so I started researching entrepreneurship. I had always enjoyed blogging, and had even had a YouTube channel before. Although writing was my passion, I felt like I “needed” to use my law degree. I did the “sensible” thing and started a law practice on the side.

Long story short, it was exhausting, and it wasn’t profitable. Even worse, I had taken on more debt to keep my business afloat.

All of the years of stress, bills, and anxiety reached a peak for me in December of 2016, and I realized that something had to change. I shut my business down, and went on vacation with my son for at the start of the new year. We went on a life-changing trip to L.A., where I started to re-evaluate EVERYTHING.

I had already been doing the Marie Kondo method to cut down on clutter, and I started researching minimalism. Minimalism is a concept that encourages less focus on things, and more of a focus on experiences, personal growth, and connecting with others.

It all started to make sense. With the exception of medical debt and student loans, my financial burdens were the result of an accumulation of “things.” I had used credit to buy my home (a mortgage), cars (a lease, then a loan), and load of things that I did not “need.” Yes, much of my debt is what one would call “survival” debt (things purchased to live), but other things were the result of the natural American tendency to accumulate too much “stuff.” It also took an enormous amount of time to maintain my home, my car, and all of my possessions.

As I began to eliminate clutter, I simultaneously reduced my spending and I slowly started to get a grip on my finances.

Unfortunately…financial issues don’t disappear overnight. In fact, when I stopped “borrowing from Paul to pay Peter,” my issues seemed to get worse. I stayed strong and vowed not to take on any more debt. I closed my credit cards, and stopped taking out any loans.

Months later, I’m still trying to get everything in order. I went through some low points, but now I’m in a balanced place where I can begin to share my journey, even as I’m still learning from it. Through minimalism, I’m learning to say no to buying things I don’t need, and I’m spending more time focusing on my family and my personal growth.

I’ve been learning French, writing more, and connecting with like-minded people instead of spending all of my time trying to figure out how to buy and take care of stuff. My mentality about work has shifted more to focusing on helping people and pursuing passion over profits and accolades.

I’ll be sharing more about my moderate minimalist journey, and chronicling my experiences here and on my YouTube channel. You can share more about my experiences by checking out my YouTube video, linked below.

Until next time, be well.

-Debra

 

 

It’s been a busy week at work and at home, as the school year is winding down. I seriously cannot wait for summer. Longer days keep me inspired, and I enjoy the feeling of the sun beating down all day long, even though it gets really hot here in Texas.

This weekend, I’m buckling down on my French studies. I’ve been studying French since January, and I’m in beginner II. I take classes once a week, and I have a hard time finding the time to study in between classes.

I was looking at some videos on YouTube for tips on how to improve my French language skills, and I don’t think I’m studying nearly enough. The people whose videos I watched that had mastered the language were studying, at minimum, one to two hours per day! I’m ashamed to admit it, but sometimes I don’t even get in one to two hours a week outside of class!

The good thing about taking actual classes is that it forces me to study at least enough to complete my homework each week. It also gives me an opportunity to actually speak the language, interact with a native French speaker (my teacher), and with other students. But, it’s going to take a lot more effort outside of the classroom if I want to get serious about mastering the language.

I recently added a new language study app to my arsenal called Tinycards. Tinycards is by the maker of the program Duolingo. Duolingo is a completely free language learning software, and so is Tinycards! Tinycards integrates the vocabulary from Duolingo and other language programs by the same maker to create flashcards.

The Tinycards flashcards are awesome for reinforcing my French vocabulary. Before I move to intermediate-level courses, I’m going to need a lot more vocabulary words. It’s fine to learn rules, important verbs, and to how to conjugate them. But, in order to improve my speaking, writing, and listening, I simply need to know more words in French.

My French classes at the French Alliance in Houston are immersion style. The good thing about this method is that you start speaking from day 1. The downside of this method is that you don’t do traditional memorization or vocabulary drills. We do some vocabulary exercises, but for the most part, we have to study a lot of the vocabulary on our own.

I kept telling myself that I would make my own flashcards. I even got out the marker and the index cards, but it just never happened. Luckily, the flashcards provided electronically via Tinycards make it easy to reinforce my French vocabulary.

The cards introduce new words and phrases, and you have to translate them  to French from English and vice versa alternatively. You also have to identify the pictorial representation. I like this method because it allows me the practice of typing out the words instead of just clicking on them. I want to eventually write fluently in French, so writing practice is important.

The Tinycards app is also available on desktop applications, so it’s easy to study from different devices. So far, I’m really enjoying the program, and I’ll let you guys know how it’s going as I progress!

Before I found this new app to help me out, I was briefly becoming discouraged because, to be quite frank, learning a new language is a lot of work! Luckily, my teacher makes class interesting, and my desire to actually visit France one day keeps things me motivated.

Unfortunately, I’m still getting comments from people about how I should be studying Spanish. Ironically, these comments mostly come from people that don’t even speak Spanish! I actually feel quite confident that the experience of buckling down to learn French will make it much easier for me when (and if) I decide to revisit Spanish.

I’ll be detailing more about the methods I’m using to beef up my French studies, but for now I have to get back to studying! Au revoir!

It’s Mother’s Day and Ciara and Russell Wilson are celebrating the birth of their new baby girl. Baby Princess is the newest addition to the family, making little Future a big brother. As we reflect on motherhood, there are lots of lessons that working mothers can learn from high-profile songtress Ciara.

Ciara has been in the spotlight since long before she became a mother. She burst onto the music scene during her teenage years, and she quickly gained popularity with her sultry hip-hop dance style, and smooth R&B singing voice. She expanded her career into acting, and she has maintained a successful singing career to this day.

Like most entertainers, Ciara dated other high-profile people in the music industry, and eventually became involved with rapper Future. They were engaged and she gave birth to a son, named after his father’s stage name. The pair split before getting married, and that was Ciara’s first test as a working mom.

She received backlash from some of Future’s fans, and people who were generally critical of her as a single, working mom. Instead of shying away from the spotlight, Ciara used the criticism to fuel her artistry, and spoke out about the failed relationship through her songs.

Eventually, Ciara started a new relationship with Russell Wilson, they married, and now have a child. Unfortunately, the criticism has not ended. As is the case when one lives a public lifestyle, naysayers have continued to scrutinize her every move, but Ciara has stayed strong.

Her perseverance as a woman, and as a working mother is admirable. There are lessons that all of us can take from the way she has handled criticism over her public relationships with style and grace.

Continue Working & Creating

When any of us go through difficult times with our families, our initial instinct is to slow down on our work. It’s only natural, as the stress from dealing with family issues can cause us to want to withdraw. Ciara had the means to stop working, or to slow down on her creativity, but she didn’t.

Instead, she continued to do what she loved. Despite her public break-up, she continued to put out new music and tour. She got right back into shape after having her baby, and she always showed up with a positive spirit.

Ciara continued connecting with her fans online through social media, and through her music. She was able to draw strength from fans who had been rocking with her for many years. When we continue to pursue the work that we love, even in difficult times, we’re able to maintain a sense of accomplishment and independence.

If you need to take a break during hard times to regroup and refocus, that’s fine. But, once you’re okay again, get back to work, and get back to connecting with the clients and customers that believe in you.

Dancing In These. I Love My Job ❤ Thank you @riccardotisci17. Love You

A post shared by Ciara (@ciara) on


Turn to Family and Friends for Support

Ciara is blessed to have a support network of family and friends to support her. Although her private relationships are just that – private, it’s likely that she turned to her family and friends to share her thoughts, and to receive emotional support.

Those of us working moms who have supportive family members and friends need to let them know when we need help. We don’t always have to play the role of “super woman” or “super mom.” We can let the people we know and trust know that we need help during the hard times.

Ciara now also has a man, Russell, that supports her not only personally, but professionally. As working women, we have a lot to balance, and it’s important to have a partner to support us when things get hard to handle at work.

Realize Your Worth

Unfortunately, during the break-up, Ciara had to deal with public backlash from Future and his fans. A lot of not-so-nice things were said about Ciara in the media. She was criticized for her relationships choices and for having her son.

Through it all, she continued to act as a woman with a high worth. She never turned to publicly insulting her former mate. In interviews, she handled questions with class, and she continued to come across as lovable and sweet.

When she began dating Russell Wilson, NFL quarterback, some people had negative things to say about her being a single mother. Again, she continued to act as a woman with a high worth, and she didn’t let the naysayers ruin her relationships.

Turn Lemons Into Lemonade

The old saying goes, “Turn lemons into lemonade,” and that is exactly what Ciara did. Although she never directly told the story of what happened in her break-up, her album talked about being cheated on and mistreated.

Her female fans were able to connect with her experiences, and Ciara was able to address rumors about the break-up without saying anything disparaging about her ex. As working mothers, we can do the same by using our experiences to connect with clients and customers, instead of letting our negative experiences bring us down.

Living Well is the Best Revenge

Ultimately, Ciara has had the last laugh. She is now happily married to Russell Wilson, and they have a new baby girl to complete their family. Despite the difficult times that she has been through, everything has worked out.

A post shared by Ciara (@ciara) on

Some of us working moms are still in the struggle. We haven’t gotten our “happily ever after” ending yet, but it’s coming. No matter what your happiness looks like, whether it’s a happy family, or a successful career, living well is the best way to get “revenge” against naysayers.

If you are a working mother who is struggling with hard times at work, a lack of support at home, or a sense that you’re falling behind in your business or career, just remember that these hard times will pass. By using the example set by Ciara, and the examples set by other strong women in your own life, you, too, can live well in the end, and find your own happily ever after. Happy Mother’s Day.