Every twist in our story, challenge we face, and obstacle we overcome is an important part of our story. These difficulties make us stronger and wiser and prepare us for what’s ahead. As we grow and succeed we may imagine that soon the challenges will fade away, but in our conversations with business owners, artists, creatives, academics, and others we have learned that the most common experience is that challenges never go away – instead they get more complex as we grow and succeed. Our ability to to thrive therefore depends heavily on our ability to learn from our experiences and so we are asking some of the city’s best and brightest: What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned along your journey?
Destiny Bell | Fashion Mogul in the Making
The most important lesson that I’ve learned in my journey thus far is that mistakes are inevitable and absolutely necessary. For a while, I held on to the idea of perfection. I withheld on sharing amazing projects because I hadn’t quite amassed every detail.
I don’t want to confuse my message and discourage people from crossing their T’s and dotting their I’s because attentiveness is imperative, but if you’re check-listing more than you’re progressing, you’re causing yourself more harm than help.
We have to learn to trust that all of the hard work and thought that we’ve put into our projects will create the exact results we wish to achieve. Release your need to control and manage every detail, and breathe. Your art will speak for itself!
The Woman Behind Those Braids | Garyayana Mood/Luttie
The most important lesson I’ve learned through this journey is that you must be patient , be consistent & have faith. I try to put god in everything I do because I’ve came so far. After losing my father in 2018 due to sickle cell anemia it definitely put me in a dark space. I had no desire to do hair no more but my dad was always a hustler he never let this disease bring him down so I knew that I couldn’t let this disease do it to me.
Shifat Noor | Interior Decorator and Social Media Influencer
Definitely take that leap and don’t compare yourself with others. When my husband and I bought our home almost 2 years ago, I remember I would spend hours scrolling through Instagram or Pinterest looking for home decor ideas! I would peruse through countless accounts with beautiful photos of homes and think how fun it would be to share MY home decor ideas. But after seeing pages with thousands of followers and likes, I thought, why would anyone have any interest in me or my home? I felt intimidated. Intimidated by the beautiful homes, successful people, and it sounds silly to say, intimated by the likes and number of followers others had. So I decided that social media wasn’t for me and continued decorating my home for a whole year on my own.
About 5 months ago, I remember I had just put my kids to sleep after an exhausting day. I came downstairs and started cleaning up toys, vacuuming up food off the floor and getting the meals ready for the next day. I felt extremely stressed out and flatly asked my husband, “what am I doing for ME?”. Well that’s when our very long conversation started and he said, “why don’t you do something related to home decor?”. I looked at him as if he was crazy but the thought excited me. I mean, I was already working from home in my healthcare field but I needed something to get my mind off of patient files. And that was when it clicked…Instagram.
So that’s when I started this journey. As the saying goes, “you can’t pour from an empty cup. You have to take care of yourself first”. I decided I wasn’t going to compare my chapter 1 with someone’s chapter 20. Everyone has a starting point but it’s up to us to take that leap! I posted a photo of our dining room and was floored by the amount of love I received on it. But I know that even if I didn’t get that initial positive reaction, I still would have continued because it was thrilling putting my work out there for others to see.
I continued to share my love of home decor by showcasing my home and also virtually taking my followers along with me when I went shopping. Now, several interior decorating clients, a good deal of brand sponsorships and over 13,000 (and growing) Instagram followers later, I am happy I started. More than anything, I’m grateful for all the internet friends I’ve made and for all the support I’ve received from family and friends. To be honest, I know now that it was never about the amount of likes and followers, it’s about me sharing my ever-evolving passion and being excited about it.
So the bottom line is, after a while we realize that true happiness comes from within and you’ll never get there if you compare yourself to others and you’ll definitely never get there if you don’t take the leap!
Sasha MaRi | Singer/Guitarist and Barber/Natural Hairstylist
The most important thing I’ve learned is to Love Self, first.
Once you are in a happy space and feel good about yourself and your choices, that will pour out of you naturally. If you depend on a substance, situation or person for happiness, then your happiness will only be temporary.
Love yourself a little more everyday by making changes, no matter how big or small, that you can be consistent with. Maybe it’s drinking more water. Maybe it’s stretching every morning you get out of bed. Maybe it’s letting go of what no longer serves you. Maybe it’s making time, once a week, for something you enjoy doing. Whatever it is, start somewhere. Spend some time with yourself and be more mindful. Pay attention to you and nurture that relationship.
Brian Mickens | Entertainments new Dual Threat in Stand Up & Film production
The most important lesson I’ve learned in this journey is to building relationships and remain persistent. There are a million people trying to do what you’re trying to do. What makes you different?
Antonio iwharper | iwHarperAirGraphic Custom Airbrushing
Its that we all have greatness in us but sometimes it gets misplaced by life but if you keep yourself around people that are focused just as much as you are your dreams and goals can always be achieved
Hard Work, Focus, & Timing will payoff.
Nakeia Louise | Owner Thirteen14 Apparel | Enthusiastic DIY Designer
Being a single mother of 3 and a business owner, you can say that over the past fifteen years of my journey I have learned so many lessons, every lesson molding me into the person I am today. Every day I strive to be a better person than the person I was the day before. The most important lesson I’ve learned by far is to never give up during the adversities. It’s hard enough juggling kids, ranging from ages 5-17, but to have a career fulfilling my dreams is a tough conquest. I have learned to trust that life has a journey for each and every one of us. As well as to trust this journey of mine is full of so many blessings and so much love. Even when there are dark days, trusting there is always light ahead.
Overall, I love sharing my designs and my story to help build Women, Men and Children’s confidence, self esteem and their worth in this world.
Rob Birdsong | Creative Producer
Would be great to link people to my Instagram account where they can find out more information about the shirt I am wearing.
Stay persistent, stay positive. If the mind can conceive it and believe it, it can achieve it.
Thàhresa J | model and an aspiring actress
Modeling is not easy and there are those who will look to take advantage of you. In the beginning I allowed my enthusiasm to override my caution and unfortunately was involved with some people who were eager exploit my naivety. I am wiser now and if it’s one thing that I learned it’s that you must depend on yourself first, place the burden of your goals on your back and carry the weight of your dreams on your shoulders. Your dreams and your goals are yours, be selfish with them do not give others the power to deny you.
Thomas Kendall | Pilates Instructor
The most important lesson I have learned on my journey so far is to stay true to your authentic self while teaching. I have taught many Pilates classes and discovered that it is best to let your unique personality shine through. My philosophy as an instructor is to teach a class that you would be happy participating in yourself. The clients that enjoy your method of teaching will stay with you for that very reason.
hitman marco business owner and artist | producer
I’ve learned that if you want something in life there are no shortcuts . you have to work hard at any dream you want to pursue . Most of your supporters will be people you don’t know.
Alison Haselden | Actor & Podcast Host
Letting go of expectations and mastering patience has transformed the way I approach my relationships and career. Trust that you will arrive at who and where you’re meant to be. Beyond that, this year in particular I’ve learned the importance of infusing more play into everything I do.
Laikyra B | Model | Actress | Business Owner
The most important lesson I learned is do your research on the industry people , don’t always hop on every opportunity given to you , Some opportunities can hinder your brand .
Khiry J. Morgan | Film Producer& Founder | Owner of WOKE Organics LLC
The most important lesson I learned in my journey so far, is that “Your daily routine, effects your long term goals.” and that you “No-one can see your vision through your eyes, only through your work.” | quote: “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”
Jeremy Simmons | J Black | Producer
The most important lesson I’ve learned is that the genuine relationships you build with people in the industry are more important than anything. Networking & getting solid work completed is goal. I plan on being one of the go to producers in the industry along with a few other Co Producers I work with.
Kalyn Davis | Creative | Environment Lover, & Jack of all Trades
I have learned a lot during my journey thus far; I like to believe that everything happens for a reason. As such, I treat all events and relationships with meaning. I try to find the lesson in all things and experiences – good or bad. So far one of the biggest things I have learned is that every one’s path is different. It may seem as though we are all competing, but to be honest the only person you should be comparing yourself to is your “past you.” I have learned to appreciate my process and see beauty in my struggle, for it makes me who I am. In short, my journey has taught me to remain focused, stay humble, be kind, and choose happiness. I could go on forever though haha, I’ll ramble for years if you let me!
Chesica Evans | Makeup and Skincare Advisor
The most important lesson I have learned so far is to always keep pushing. No matter how bad things seem there is always a break through somewhere nearby. Even if you can’t see it!
Kati Arikoski-Johnson & Jessica Kim | co-founder | dance instructor
Starting a new nonprofit company based on a passion that we love was incredibly intimidating, since both of our backgrounds do not include any sort of business management. For Kati, she learned that she has to have patience, actually sleep at night, and push worries to the next day. For Jess, she learned how incredibly supportive the diverse dance community has been for this new project. Through financial donations, time, food at events, and a general fun, collaborative spirit, the Atlanta dancers have been helpful and kind beyond belief!
Reena Goba | Fashion | Lifestyle Blogger and Educator
As my journey continues I am constantly learning different lessons. The most important lesson will have to be loving every single ounce of myself. All of me including the good, the bad and the ugly. Loving myself enough to dig deep inside of myself, to change the things I dislike to become a better me. I had to learn how to face my fears and insecurities head on. I had to learn how to love me.
Cousia Towns | Founder & CEO of Amore Transitional Group, Inc.
I consider my trials in life to be custom made for my journey. Each hardship is specifically designed to form the testimony of God’s work. He wants to trust us with his perfect plan. Many have experienced the same sufferings, but we have to expose the things we compartmentalize or they will resurface in hardships, friendships, and relationships. I stand in the gap of silence of unmasking generational consequences. Through experience and deliverance, you have PURPOSE!
Humorology Atlanta, HA! | Taking the stress out of hospital stays and replacing it with joy
In our journey as Humorologists, we have learned that joy and laughter are universal languages. Bringing it to those who need it most is a precious gift that speaks to the best part of our humanity.
Taylor Rusch | Actor | Recording Artist | Lifestyle Entrepreneur
Doors truly do open and opportunities easily fall into place when we let go, let God and follow through. So enjoy the journey. Embrace the beautiful mess that you are. It’s all part of the refining process. Most of all, remember the greatest wealth you will ever accumulate in this life is in the relationships you surround yourself with.
Dariea Ruff | Founder | CEO of Royal Affaires, LLC
The Most Important lesson that I’ve learned during my journey is patience and consistency is extremely important! What works quickly for others may not work just as fast for you so you have to make your own path, follow it & BE CONSISTENT with it!
Janyia Farley aka Nyia | business degree | model | artist
I’ve learned that letting go and moving on is probably the best thing you can do most of the time but LEARNING is the key to letting go and moving on, growth is born out of that. And life is just an endless cycle of growing up.
Terence ‘T’ Scott | Photographer
The journey is the lesson; and there are many other journeys. Enjoy your personal legend.
Reginald J. Dillard | Podcaster Extraordinaire
My journey has been one of so many obstacles. Failure, heartache and cancer scare came a knocking. As soon as I became more honest with myself I asked my Father for more wise-dome and confidence. Sometimes people will give up at the first sign of defeat. To be honest, I can’t blame…but what those things did was the creation of something new and improved. I had to loose myself in order to truly find myself. I finally feel like I have a mind of my and not easily influenced by people that didn’t have my best interest in heart. I believe everyone is meant to be great in their own way. I also believe great men can make such a big difference in this world. My ultimate plan is to be a part of the blessing.
Troy Banks | entertainer | artist | music producer | songwriter | choreographer | life coach and a motivational speaker for years
I am 29 years of age. I’m originally from the Bronx, New York. I moved to Atlanta, GA a few years ago. My upbringing made me very raw and uncut, different, honest, and a stand-up person. My music, my art, and my fashion saved my life. If not for these, I would not be living a year ago. I’m proud to announce that I just launched my own shoe line called bipolar love I have a partnership with alive shoes it is a dream come true. I became a part of IFA which is an African tradition. I am a son of Elegua, the son of Oshun, the nephew Orula. I am proud of the person that I became. My childhood was very rough. I was left on my own at ten years old twice. I had to grow up fast and learn Life in many different lessons it made me strong. Mind, body, and soul growing up in New York and getting very harsh lessons but it makes you appreciate everything that you have. I have three children, two boys, one girl. They made me view life in different aspect for without them I would not have growth. I’m currently finding a new beginning in life. I have to die and be reborn. Growth is always necessary. I feel like we die every day. The things that happen to us today before in new life becomes every morning — just my thoughts. I’ve been homeless, beaten, broken, and molested — things taken from me my entire life. I always get the short end of the stick, but you know what? I never let that stop me. It’s all about what you believe in. If you believe that you can succeed no matter what life throws at you make it with a smile on your face, you will always be successful and spiritually rich. I want to motivate people from all walks of life. I want to be the voice for people that have no voice. I got diagnosed with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and depression. The multiple personalities every day. I strive to be the greatest of me. I want people to understand what it is to be grateful and thankful. I’m the perfect example. I’m not perfect by a long shot, never do, I try to be. I used to be a sex addict, addicted to the streets, money, and fast life. Twenty-nine years and I’ve never drunk or smoked. The only drug I’m guilty of is pain and letting it run my life and turn me into a person that I never thought I would become, but God, my guardian angels, my protectors, and my spirits had different plans for me. So, never give up when life gets you down just stay focused. Be humble, time honest, and true to yourself and others.
DayDreams Company by Kay | Natural Skin and Hair Care Products
The most important lesson in my journey so far has been to be persistent. Starting a small business is a challenge and it takes time to get my company’s products out there. I’ve learned that I have to be persistent and consistent with my advertising and products. I think about how amazon started in a garage and how so many other companies started small, but have become billion dollar companies. Those owners were persistent and put their everything into their dream and that’s what I plan to do.
Dorian Shy | Photographer
Be grateful for each step of progress on the way to your ultimate goal.
Briana Cymone | The Couture Event Architect
I learned to embrace change. You can’t fix everything, and you shouldn’t try to. Some things, no matter how difficult are meant to happen in order to open doors or alleviate obstacles. But, no matter how unfair, unfortunate, or even untrue things may seem or even how well they were going; if you’re focused on correcting the old, the new could end up passing you by!
Atlanta, I’d like to invite you on a Voyage …
I don’t know how I found myself here. Loving every part of me, embracing all of my gifts, and saying f–k off unapologetically. But it feels good, and I don’t want to ever go back. I remember planning my first event when I was fifteen. I was asked to assist with the planning of my cousins wedding. It was fun. The country town my beautiful great grandmother raised me in was small, so word got out fast that “Briana plans events!” and just like that I’d found myself a new hobby.
Little did I know, my gift for event planning wouldn’t dawn on me until years later when I’d single handedly plan my first full-service event. Picture me, a 21-year-old student at Arkansas State University, taking an 8-hour drive in a snow storm, from my college apartment, with my 1-year old son and 6 month old twins; just to produce a baby shower, in Milwaukee WI. I’d been planning the baby shower for months, and I was so excited about the customized designs I’d coordinated with matching décor, and to assure the many surprises would be timed just right during the event! Everyone raved on a surreal experience! After the event was over, I stood outside in the snow just breathing, taking it all in. I knew this was what I loved.
At the time, no portent it would all come to a soul shaking halt a short year later. Many say, “Music saved my life.” Event Planning saved mine.
But let’s back it up a minute. I was born in Milwaukee and the eldest of 6 siblings. I moved to Searcy AR with my Granny-gran at 6 years old. I began first grade and was introduced to my first love, basketball!
As an all-around athlete I also ran track, played soccer, dance/drill team, cheer, and sang in the choir. For the most part, I’d spend summers in Milwaukee and the school year in Searcy. In Searcy I studied hard in school, was active in my Baptist Church, and played girls’ basketball, boy’s AAU and benefitted from a solid loving support system.
In Milwaukee, I learned to fend. Most of the black communities were redlined, and therefore the schools were very poorly funded, if at all. Because of this, children were neglected and weren’t offered a fair education. We barely had books, the years I attended. However, due to violence and high gang activity, we did have security similar to TSA to enter our schools. I lost a lot of friends in my hometown.
I was happy to return to a healthy learning environment for the remainder of my High School years. As a Junior in HS, I learned that I’d earned all the credits I needed to graduate and besides 12th grade Math & Science I required only an elective or two. I chose beauty school and work study figuring I’d make some money if I was going to be out of class. I graduated High School a semester early, and even managed to snag a few full rides for college basketball. But life had other plans! During High School I began an off and on relationship with a boy who had decided he wanted to marry me. After I became pregnant with my first child, his family decided that we would indeed be married. I was usually decisive and ethical, but now I was just lost. I decided to share with him my biggest secret. And since he accepted me for me, I decided at the age of 18 to go against my great grandmothers wishes, and get married.
We left and began college at Arkansas State University together, became parents, residents of Craighead County, AR and were doing a great job at life, most important, happily! I became a mother for a second time, this time to Jayden and Jordan; twins! I’d often take my children to class with me depending on the circumstance. I like to joke with Marcus, my oldest that “It’s why he’s a scholar [laughs]!”
There was one particular day that I went to greet my then husband in the College of Communications. He was still in class, so I perused some signage and happened upon some scholarships being offered. To my surprise, they were in direct alignment of his needs for an internship I’d been eyeing. My Ex-husband was a sports fanatic and would always dream about working for ESPN. So, I took the scholarships off the wall and left. I went straight to our apartment and began completing the applications. It took me about a week to get everything in order! Another week or so went by and he came home one evening puzzled. He’d received an invite to a banquet dinner from the Chair of ASU’s College of Communications. We attended the dinner and brought along the kids and my father in-law. Sure enough, 2-3 scholarships were presented to my Ex husband that night! He was thrilled, but I wasn’t finished. I had just gotten what I needed to firmly apply for the internship!
After quadruple checking the ESPN internship packet I’d prepared, I presented the folder to him on a dazzling afternoon. I wanted him to mail it! Saying my Ex was over the moon with excitement, is an understatement. The first thing he did was call the person who had cultivated his love for sports in the first place; his father! When he came back from that phone call; life changed. His dad had told him that he wasn’t good enough for ESPN. That he was just a boy from Arkansas, and they didn’t want him up there in Connecticut.
I brushed it off and through failed attempts, tried reassuring him that he could do this. He could intern for ESPN and would turn it into something great! That internship application was never sent, and our marriage was never the same.
Along with being a full-time mom of 3 under 3, [laughs] I went on to become more active in a few clubs on campus, make new friends, and assist with on-campus organizations events. Over time, my marriage was almost non-existent. I sat down one night and spoke with him about it. “This isn’t working. I’m not happy, so I know you aren’t. I’m not saying I want a divorce. We need to work on our marriage.” The next day I awoke to an empty home and empty bank accounts. He had fled to his parent’s home in White County, AR and had taken my children with him. We had a nice life, but there was nothing on this planet I cared about more than my 3 children.
The day the courts allowed him custody of our children, without finding me unfit; without him having a residence to take care of them; without calling my witnesses to the stand, without contacting the children’s schools, doctor’s, therapists, and caretakers whose contacts I’d provided; my soul seemed to spin, drift, and sink. The lower left ventricle of my heart shattered, and my brain could no longer comprehend what was happening. None of us were even residents of White County, what happened to jurisdiction? He didn’t know how to spell his own children’s names, but wanted them? As my brain malfunctioned, I remembered I should feel an emotion. I squeezed out tears to seem normal. My attorney thanked my Ex’s attorney for “The great seats to the game” and something about dinner. But psychologically, I was already gone from the room.
I decided to take my oldest son and move to Maryland to work for my younger brother. He was a genius and always has been, the both of them actually. My brother happened to be the Director of Communications at a Consulting Firm in DC. I worked as an Executive Assistant and organized meetings and events. I still couldn’t shake what had happened to me. My soul and my heart had not been restored. Not only that, it was embarrassing. Usually having your children taken directly reflected your parenting habits. So, it was an experience I couldn’t even bring myself to talk about with people. Who would believe me?
I eventually concluded that in order to bring my children back home, I’d make the money I needed to play the game. But I’d win with integrity. I still recall sitting at my mother’s breakfast table in Bowie thinking, “What am I good at… that I actually like to do… that I can make money doing? We all know EVENT PLANNING was the answer to that! It had followed me all of my days. I got started on my business plan and website right then and there. For the first time in 3 years, I felt the spark of life again.
A QUOTE: I admire the great wisdom before me, but the quote I’d like to share with you is my own. “Even when the eyes cannot see, our instincts are in tune with immense reality.” – Briana Cymone
Which put simply means, follow your instincts. We may feel alone or lost in life at times due to our own ideals and notions of reality, each perception is unique. But the instincts are rooted in what truly exists, the fact in its rawest form. Have no fear.