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The 3 Deadly Ps: Perception, Perfection & Productivity

Disclaimer: I think it’s important to note that I am not dead dead. Do not write a thought-provoking post about how I was an inspiration when you know I didn’t like you like that. I will block you.

You are reading my obituary. Because I am dead, I didn’t get the opportunity to write my invite list so I hope I like whoever is reading this.

There isn’t one particular event that caused my death but most things can be tracked back to childhood. To make a long story short, I was about five when I decided I didn’t want to be broke. At that time and well into adulthood, I thought I would be an artist (although I did little outside of daydreaming about being one).

Like many others, Hurricane Katrina had a major impact on me. In addition to loss, it was that experience that made me take school seriously. I needed to be able to take care of myself and possibly others. If I was going to take something seriously (that I never really wanted), it needed to benefit me. After all, I got student loans for this.

I worked hard to secure both an internship then fulltime employment once I graduated. To ensure my advancement, I enrolled in graduate school and whenever I lacked experience in something, I joined a professional organization. I was an active member in several which not only benefited me but often its baby boomer leadership.

I didn’t completely hate everything I did but ran into a pattern of excitement for something new then disappointment for the usual reasons: management, coworkers, environment, lack of resources, etc. Of course, experiences come with lessons but I needed something tangible and when I didn’t get it, I became resentful, angry, and all the other fun emotions that make life a living hell.

Getting knocked up was another event that changed me. Besides the obvious reasons, it forced me to asked questions that can be summarized into three words. Spoiler alert: They are in the title. First, why was perception so important to me? Interestingly, the more I tried to protect my reputation, the more I would experience situations that drug my name through the mud. They include but are not limited to sleeping my way into subpar positions, nepotism, incompetency, sexual harassment, etc.

Universally, I think most black women are programmed to be perfect. That’s evident and how many of us are educated, underemployed, and turning towards entrepreneurship. In addition to education, my work experience, and extracurricular activities, I had to be cognizant of what I wear, what to say, when to say it, or if I should say it. Some people would be surprised to know that I heavily filter myself.

Last but certainly not least, I have to be productive every waking minute. Fun fact: I wrote this on my lunch break. If there is any free minute between work and family, I should be working on my dissertation. Obviously, that should be sufficient but I have all these side hustles, things that I have volunteered for or things that have volunteered me, and a laundry list of stuff that roll into the next week because I didn’t complete them the previous week. The audacity of me to want to take a break, sleep, watch TV, or skip a meetup, event, or conference (that likely features the same 20 people).

And, you know what sucks? No one told me to do this. Maybe someone told you but my parents and grandparents never told me to do any of these things. Interestingly, they have always advocated for me to lighten my load. So, imagine my surprise when I realized I killed myself. And, while there is a shitload of people that have wronged me (and will be featured in my tell-all), if I lived more authentically, validated myself, and sought happiness outside of my employer, you wouldn’t be wearing my face on a t-shirt with angel wings (which I strictly prohibited).

But, what can I do? I have wasted enough time on the past and am looking forward to thriving on the other side. There is better food here.

THIS MEETING COULD'VE BEEN AN EMAIL

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Disclaimer: I am a millennial and have realized that meetings are incredibly triggering and can lead to an instant level of rage. Please note I am an expert, always right, and am not biased. This blogpost is completely objective and is supported by my extensive research and evaluation of my own experiences.

Where was I? Oh, I hate meetings. They are often a waste of time and resources. Of all things in life, my time is one of the most important things because it’s something I can never get back but people are often inexperienced in: (1) Is this meeting necessary; and (2) If it is necessary, how do I make sure I am not wasting everyone’s time?

Meetings are not a time for bonding, because you desire human interaction, or to discuss something that’s already been discussed in the last ten meetings. You don’t notice the pattern of unproductive meetings so you schedule another unproductive meeting which makes me have to call my husband on my lunch break to vent but he’s probably agitated cause he just left his unproductive meeting. You are ruining our lives!

Maybe take the time to determine if a meeting is necessary, gauge the possible attendees. If a meeting is necessary for brainstorming, suggest brainstorming before the meeting, coming with ideas in tow, then making some decisions once at the meeting. If you are charged with something but think a meeting is necessary, think about getting input from your colleagues first. Email them, catch them in the breakroom while they’re sneaking their second glazed donut, or pop into their office. Is it fair for everyone to take an hour out of their busy schedules to discuss something that’s your job? No. The answer is no. A former boss once said “give me solutions, not problems” which means try to figure that shit out first. And, I live by that. Unless you work in IT. If you work in IT, I will not figure that shit out first. I will call you first, roll my eyes when you tell me to turn my computer off then on; although, in most cases, that’s the best solution.

Ok, let's say you do need that meeting. Set an agenda, send that agenda, ask if anything needs to be added, set a time, start on time, end on time then send minutes. Your agenda should include the next steps, the person responsible, and maybe a timeline to complete associated tasks. Thanks for coming to my Ted Talk.

Side note: Meetings can be unavoidable. An unavoidable meeting is what triggered the inspiration behind this post. Do not get fired, I do not have any money. I am not an expert, am not always right, and am bias. This blogpost is completely subjective and is not supported by any research.

In the next episode of “What Triggers Ashlee,” I will discuss signs this phone call could’ve been a text.

WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU LEMONS

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When life gives you lemons, cut them in half then apply to your armpits to neutralize the sweat.

I experience the most random situations; as a result, I can’t help but use them as a time of reflection. Most recently, an eczema outbreak that covered my neck, chest, and armpits. Like, who gets an outbreak there?

Unfortunately, the area started to flare and became super itchy so to prevent from scratching in front of my colleagues and possibly being reported to human resources, I scheduled a doctor’s appointment.

After a quick visit, I was prescribed three medications then got the worst news of my adult life. Brace yourselves. I could not use deodorant for a week! Living in one of the hottest and humid locations on earth? The neighboring state to the fiery pits of hell? Obviously, I thought about suing the physician but didn’t have the time or money. I am not very liquid at the moment.

So, I left and set out to conquer this challenge. This challenge would not conquer me. I kept replaying this diagnosis over and over in my head but figured there were some steps I needed to take if I wanted to get through this.

Step 1: Forgive myself and take the medication, as prescribed.

Step 2: A moment of vulnerability even Brené Brown would be proud of. Anyway, I told my colleagues that I could not participate in outdoor happy hour because I did not want to be musty.

Step 3: Per my husband’s instructions, to stop sniffing myself. Worse, to stop asking him to sniff my pits. Triple worse, to stop asking my one-year-old (who doesn’t know what sniffing is) to sniff my pits.

It’s almost a week and I have come this far to serve as a testimony. Sometimes, we as humans need to know we are not alone. I am not alone and you are not alone. Obviously, I am now a better person, better listener, and have even limited how often I roll my eyes. I hope you’ve learned something too.

Small print: It’s highly likely that my outbreak was triggered by stress and gluten. I have not learned my lesson. I will not change. I am a thug.

WHAT DO YOU DO? A CONVERSATION WITH DR. ALMESHA CAMPBELL, DIRECTOR FOR TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER & COMMERCIALIZATION

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JXNPRENEUR: We've been friends for a while but I don't think I've fully grasped everything you do and why it's important. Could you provide a brief explanation?

DR. CAMPBELL: I currently serve as the Director for Technology Transfer and Commercialization in the Office of Research and Economic Development at JSU where I direct the technology transfer/intellectual property initiatives, commercialization, and innovation strategies. I also provide strategic vision for defining and designing strategic partnerships involving commercialization and innovation initiatives. (I work with faculty and students who have innovations or inventions and help them protect those ideas, as well as find avenues for getting their ideas to the marketplace). I am also currently managing the newly established Center for Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Economic Development, which houses a Virtual Reality Academy, the TigerLab Makerspace, a collaboratory, and a Tech Hub Training Space. Tech Transfer is important because of its primary goal to transfer knowledge – researchers share their research results, which allow others to use it, improve upon it, or come up with more research questions. Additionally, it is important because innovation and inventions are intended to improve human life; thus, my role is to ensure that this occurs. Innovation and entrepreneurship will drive the economy.

JXNPRENEUR: How has your position evolved over time? 

DR. CAMPBELL: Wow! When I tell you that this has been one of the most exciting opportunities that I have been given, I am not exaggerating. In 2011, when I was asked to serve as the Intellectual Property Manager, I had no idea what the job entailed, but I quickly accepted the challenge and began to immerse myself in the field. Back then, my job was to help JSU protect the intellectual property of its faculty – mainly through patenting. As I began to get involved with organizations such as the National Academy of Inventors and the Association of University Technology Managers, as well as connecting more with the other Tech Transfer Directors in the state, I began to understand the importance of my role. The role of Tech Transfer has also evolved over the years. We are now expected to drive innovation and entrepreneurship, and work across multiple landscapes to advance Economic Development. 

JXNPRENEUR: Recently, you've had some major accomplishments. Could you tell us about them?

DR. CAMPBELL: These accomplishments are truly collective efforts. Without support from the JSU administration, faculty and students, we would not be able to pursue these initiatives or achieve some of these accomplishments. Only a handful of HBCUs have Technology Transfer Offices, and thus, JSU is considered a leader in this area. We are able to collaborate with larger institutions and work on some great things, such as the National Institutes of General Medical Sciences funded by the Southeast Accelerator Hub to accelerate biomedical technologies. The University of Kentucky, West Virginia University, and a small business health accelerator in Kentucky lead this effort. There are 24 institutions in this Hub, which includes JSU and Ole Miss. I serve as the Site Lead for JSU. I also serve as the Principal Investigator for the JSU I-Corps Site funded by the National Science Foundation to help faculty and student teams take their ideas from the lab to the market. JSU also recently established the first university Virtual Reality Academy in the State of Mississippi. JSU was also just awarded Mentor-Protégé of the Year by NASA Shared Services.

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JXNPRENEUR: How does your program benefit the Jackson metro area? 

DR. CAMPBELL: We currently accept local entrepreneurs in some of our programs. In fact, we recently collaborated with Georgia Tech to host four Lean Start Up Workshops in May 2019, which were opened to the local entrepreneurs. We also assist with prototyping, and linking entrepreneurs with faculty and student expertise.

JXNPRENEUR: I picked you to co-moderate my Clique Facebook Group. We are fairly informal and provide a little advice, have open dialogue and share inspirational messages. What else could we do to provide more of a benefit to members? 

DR. CAMPBELL: I think this is a great forum for open dialogue. I think we can schedule more sessions, with specific topics, so we can focus the conversation and provide some support for entrepreneurs. We also should target some experienced entrepreneurs to share their experience starting, keeping, and growing their business.

JXNPRENEUR: What's your go to for motivation? Is there a favorite song? Movie? Book or quote?

DR. CAMPBELL: Hmmm… My motivation comes from my late grandmother’s saying, which I’m translating from patois to English, “If you don’t work during the day, you will have to work at night. Either way, the work must get done.” It’s that simple for me. I also like to see the excitement in faculty and students when they tell me about their ideas/innovations. That excitement fuels me to work harder to ensure their ideas come to fruition. I don’t think I have a favorite song – it depends on the occasion and my mood. If I am lacking energy, I tend to go to YouTube and play Rihanna songs. Favorite movie is probably Lion King – I learned so much about complex relationships, respect, finding one’s place in the world, balancing my free spirit with my roles and responsibilities, and how to overcome adversity. Yes; I found all that in a Disney animation.

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JXNPRENEUR: What does your future look like? 

DR. CAMPBELL: My response is the same as the one I gave when I was interviewed for acceptance in my Ph.D. program. I see myself on the beach, sipping a Pina Colada, relaxed, and stress free. Until that time, I have a lot to get done. The possibilities are endless.

For more information, please visit Jackson State University.

START, VISUALIZE & GROW: A CHAT WITH KEYAH WILLIAMS OF MAMA NATURE'S JUICE & SALAD BAR

Tkeyah “Keyah” Williams is a mother of two, yoga instructor, artist, and all around creative who was born and raised in Jackson; specifically, south Jackson. In 2016, she started her vegan journey, inspired by her mother who went vegan because of depleting health. Inspired by her mother, Keyah went vegan to improve her health but included her kids on the journey. She was dealing with stress and bad headaches due to a personal loss and her daughter suffered from chronic asthma. After seeing the benefits and her daughter turning from a bubble baby to a playful child, she was on a mission to educate individuals on health and the food we eat. She started with family and friends, and despite the backlash, she persisted. Keyah moved from events and markets to brick and mortar.

Tkeyah “Keyah” Williams

Tkeyah “Keyah” Williams

JXNPRENEUR: What was the process of opening Mama Nature’s Juice and Salad Bar? How long did it take? 

KEYAH: I’ve been in business for two and a half years and have been in our space for one year. It took six months of planning then six months of build-out to open the store.

JXNPRENEUR: Did you have a support system? 

KEYAH: Yes! My mother, Michael McElroy, partner, and Tim Ward, consultant and mentor. My mother helped to pull me from the pit of depression, confusion, and helped me to truly tap into who I am and what I can achieve. My partner helped to motivate me, by believing in me and my vision and helping on those long nights of working a 9-5 then fulfilling orders until 3 or 4 am. My consultant and mentor gave me words of wisdom in my business and professional life, ensuring I do not give up on my bigger goals. They ensured I do not settle. 

Michael McElroy and Keyah

Michael McElroy and Keyah

JXNPRENEUR: You'll be opening a second location soon, can you tell us a bit about that, the process and your vision for your business? 

KEYAH: Yoooo, this is manifesting in action. I definitely had a vision in mind for the company, and it’s a blessing for everything to unfold the way I’ve projected. We definitely had a few left turns and alternate routes on getting here but the timeline remains the same. Gives me the feels that this is divinely lead and I’m on my true life path. The vision is to create an umbrella company of plant-based products and businesses. Three brick and mortar before possibly franchising. Getting in gyms, yoga studios, and wherever true health is sought. Definitely, want to be a beacon of light in the health Industry in Mississippi and connecting people back to nature. 

JXNPRENEUR: Did any local small business or entrepreneurship agencies assist you? If yes, what did they provide? If no, what would you have liked to receive? 

KEYAH: Initially, yes. Some people truly wanted to assist, others were not truly motivating enough as they should be for beginning entrepreneurs; especially, women of color who are already facing so many obstacles before we start. I expected to be assisted with being motivated to pursue my dreams but was instead faced with doubts and misunderstanding in my vision. I appreciate the connect they did give me with the person who composed my business plan, but that was still not exactly what I wanted to produce. But after I received the business plan, I knew it was time to pay to play in my field. From there, I found a consultant and surrounded myself with those who wanted to see my vision unfold and succeed. 

JXNPRENEUR: What advice would you give entrepreneurs who want to open a similar business? 

KEYAH: Go for it!! Mississippi is a playground of possibilities. Health education is on the rise, and people are becoming more aware of what their eating and how it affects them. Join the health curve that’s kicking in gear. 

JXNPRENEUR: Any advice for startups? 

KEYAH: Visualize where you intend to take your company. Pray over it, believe in it, and continue working toward it, until you can set another goal. Research, plan, market, stay professional, listen to what your customers aren’t saying, and stay true to yourself and mission. Do not allow the fear of others to shrink your vision, but become a master at your business, skill, or product. Find your company niche and use that as your selling point, that sets you apart. Place yourself around other motivated individuals because that energy will help to keep you motivated.    

JXNPRENEUR: What's your go to song for motivation? 

KEYAH: Panic at Disco “High Hopes” and Meek Mill “Going Bad” featuring Drake

JXNPRENEUR: You host a networking event. What's it's purpose and how often do you host it? 

KEYAH: That is an event I co-host with a young man by the name of Cameron with Let’s Talk Biz. I collab with motivated local entrepreneurs to assist them with their vision. Anyway, I can be of assistance. Currently offering the space at a rate lower than others, spreading info of their products, and giving insight in entrepreneurship and ownership. 

Visit Mama Nature’s Juice and Salad Bar’s website. Follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Follow Keyah on Instagram.