I had the opportunity and pleasure to attend the National Black MBA Association Inc Conference, which was from September 23-25, held virtually this year. I was able to sit in on a number of panels that showered me with knowledge, advice, and hope. Entering into the business sphere has been a whirlwind of experiences and this conference gave me three major takeaways that have created a strong foundation for me to move forward in my two year MBA Babson journey.
Sitting in my MOD 1 Entrepreneurship class, the most uncomfortable phrase that was said on my second day was hearing “fail faster” spill from the lips of my professor. “Fail faster.” Make mistakes, definitely, but do not strive to fail, is what I have always believed. At the conference, The Power of the Pivot Panel was led by Pinky Cole, the CEO of Slutty Vegan and Dr. Lynn Richardson, a Financial Expert & Entertainment Executive. They agreed that we need to talk about our failures. Our failures are our stepping-stones to success.
A reminder that you cannot fail until you quit. “Go back to where you failed; you cannot fix what you cannot face.” Listening to Pinky Cole, I noticed I was cringing. It was hard to hear her say that she failed so often, and continues to fail, so frequently, and so painfully hard. Nonetheless, she persisted and persists. She was the head speaker of this panel. This successful Black woman who is living her dream. A living mosaic of her failures. She said in seriousness, and in a fit of giggles, “failure is the most expensive school.” Failure forced her to pivot. I have not been pushed, persuaded, pulled to fail. I’ve been pushed to be prepared to expect the unexpected.
Hearing the phrase “fail faster” sounds oxymoronic and more importantly frustrating. Nonetheless, I am slowly beginning to understand the “why” behind the phrase that is commonly said at Babson and from business owners like Pinky Cole: I am gaining perspectives and tools through every failure. It is a re-evaluation. It is a breath and a try again. An entrepreneurial leader needs this skill to survive and thrive in a world of uncertainty with a mission that fuels me to keep moving forward through failure.
“Have a Mission”
I sat in a panel titled Wealth Choices. It was led by Dennis Kimbro who is the author of Wealth Choices, which discusses 7 steps he extracted that Black millionaires have in common. I do not have a dream to become a millionaire. I have a dream to make sure that I, and those surrounding me, will be successful and to continue passing along knowledge and opportunities for success to flourish throughout my communities.
Dennis Kimbro’s very first point was to ask yourself “What is your mission?” And, then he quickly followed up with “Do you know your calling?” Through Dennis Kimbro’s research, a mission and a calling were the most prominent for a millionaire to have. Your work is your play and if you did not get paid, would you still be doing this work for free? It brought a memory to the forefront from my work experiences.
The CEO of my first full-time teaching job in Los Angeles, California said, “Passion like yours does not come along too often. When it does, it is refreshing. However, passion can be blinding. That is what gets you in trouble. That will be your downfall.” Passion. An ideal. A feeling. I never considered it to have a negative connotation, a word that has the ability to overwhelm people. During that meeting, I learned that passion could be misconstrued as anger, as aggressiveness. I thought about Dennis’ questions.
Every job or project I choose to engage in will be mission driven and one that I hold that close to my heart. It will wake me up in the morning. My commitment to protecting and uplifting Black and Brown communities is fierce. My calling to combat structural racism in everyday predominantly White spaces is ever present, and I have been doing this work without a paycheck. Now, as an MBA candidate, I will learn to combine my educator background and business knowledge to make sure there is food at everyone’s table.
I sat in on a Career Journey panel led by Bank of America that reinforced the seriousness of networking through Black Bank of America executives. A panelist, a Black woman with fifteen years of work experience, mentioned it was not until year five that she began to outwardly wonder why opportunities passed her by. She did great work and pursued higher education; however, she kept her head down.
She stressed that when she began to engage in more conversations with her co-workers, doors began to open. She expressed that she had to believe she deserved opportunities and that they were not just going to be given to her. She had to network. She had to draw back the curtains. In another panel discussing Journey Mapping, Marty Rodgers said, “we are a sum of decisions and experiences.” We have to have the courage to share our story. The power to name, is the power to define, is the power to envision.
As a Babson MBA candidate, I am learning that what I envision can be a reality. A “No” is not an ending. A “Maybe” is possible. As long as I can speak and dream, I have the power to build. I have to believe that my inner power will create that outward impact, because I am a powerful being.