It’s a week later, and I’m still talking about my experience at the Black Enterprise Women of Power Summit. Yes, I had the awesome pleasure and privilege of talking about love + money. But I also had the chance to be a student, and to soak up the wisdom of some amazingly, fabulous women. Ursula Burns, Madame Chairman and CEO of Xerox, was one such woman.

I sat mesmerized during Caroline V. Clarke’s One-on-One interview of Ms. Burns, whom was refreshingly candid, accessible, humble, authentic, and funny (!). She talked about her family background; ascent up the corporate ladder; the significance of becoming the first African-American woman to head a Fortune 500 company (she even shared a blooper); and how life has taught her to redefine what work-life balance looks like.

Her style and temperament were the exact opposite of the self-absorbed, “celebrity-CEO.”

Everything about Ursula’s conversation with Caroline felt very “real.” So much so that they could have talked for hours and it still wouldn’t have been long enough for me. And this is true even though Ms. Burns’ narrative is not really that different from others you and I have heard or read about before:

  • she’s of immigrant heritage (Panamanian descent);
  • she grew up in single-parent home;
  • her mother worked two jobs yet still never earned more than $4,500 a year (!);
  • her mother was so committed to education that their low income didn’t stop her from sending Ursula and her siblings to Catholic school; and
  • her mother also always reminded the children that although they may live in a poor neighborhood that doesn’t make them poor people.

Whilst the details of her story many not necessarily be rare, the results of her narrative…of her upbringing, education, hard work, and hard choices definitely are! After all, her family income has gone from $4,500 to $4 million.

Gettin’ Down with “Trinity” & Ursula Burns

Did you see the “Matrix?” Did you love it? I love, love. LOVE the “Matrix.” It is one of my favorite movies. The opening scene is HOT – the Agents are chasing Trinity; she’s running full-speed ahead, leaps across building roof-tops and while flying contorts her body to fit through a narrow window pane; tumbles down a flight of stairs; lands on her back and says the now famous line – “Get up Trinity. Get. Up.”

I wanted to hear more from Ursula Burns because I wanted more examples of what I call “Get up Trinity. Get. Up.” moments.

From a metaphysical standpoint, there is so much packed into this less than five minute scene and sequence of events: who or what is chasing you; what are you running to; are you focused; how do you stay focused when adrenaline is at an all-time high; what do you do when you fall down, are bruised and tired, and on your back; what do you say “no” or “yes” to so that you do ultimately “get up?”

In my opinion, the opening scene of the “Matrix” is all about our inner-dialogue, which is what came to mind as I reflected on last week’s luncheon conversation. I wanted to know more about Ms. Burns “get up” moments. I wanted to know more about the times when she feels like a fish out of water.

Similarly, I’d like to how do you manage the times when you feel like a fish out of water?

How do you navigate the unknown space as you leap from where you are to where you want to be? How do you manage the gap without a net?

Who or what chases you and gives you momentum to keep going?

What do you keep your eyes focused on so that when you fall, you talk yourself into getting up?

In honor of Women’s History Month

When I listened to Ursula Burns talk about her mother, she often referenced pearls of wisdom from her mother that didn’t resonate ‘back in the day’ but make all the sense in the world today. Funny how that happens, right?!

When I listened to Ursula Burns talk about her mother, I couldn’t help but think of my own and the tremendous sacrifices she’s made so that I can enjoy the life I have today (like Ursula’s mother did for her). Thinking of our mothers reminds me that no matter how hard things may feel in any given moment, I have a tremendous legacy that not only paved the way, but is also waiting on me to “get up” when I fall down or stumble.

I think it’s pretty cool that this year the Black Enterprise Women of Power Summit began during Black History Month and concluded during Women’s History Month. How appropriate!

Both months represent an inherent invitation to share our stories and life-lessons. And when we do this, we inspire one another. And when we inspire one another, we help each other “Get. Up.”

p.s. mark your calendars for Tuesday, March 19th at 8:00pm EST. I’m hosting a webinar “Is Stress Blocking Your Wealth” featuring Colette Ellis. Registration details to follow.

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