September 18, 2019

I remember being a young student in school, not really believing in myself or knowing what I could fully be capable of.

There are distinct instances in my life and people who have impacted me to help me become who I am today. One constant lesson that has remained because of what I learned from those people is to always look for ways to help and inspire those around you.

My career path to where I am today wasn’t always easy. I was the first in my family to graduate high school and the only immediate family member to graduate college. In my neighborhood that I grew up in, teen pregnancy and high school dropout rates were high. Mentors and role models were scarce resources, making it even more difficult to dream.

Two people in my life helped me overcome those obstacles around me – a teacher I had, Jackie Bolden, and my mother. Their belief in me and their positive outlook on life, as well as my faith, have helped me use my circumstances to take advantage of opportunities to succeed.

They always believed in me and encouraged me to become the best person I could be. That made me realize there must be so many people out there who don’t see in themselves what others do.

Paying it forward regularly is easier than you may think:
1. Think of a skill you have you can share with others. Not everyone brings the same skillset to the table, in or outside of the office. Think of ways that you can benefit and help those around you. You’ll likely walk away learning something from someone else, too.

2. Volunteer your time. There are several nonprofits in need of mentors, churches and more across the U.S. that you can volunteer your time. I personally volunteer in a church group, where I help create strategic plans and leadership processes, and teach general skills to pastors and other church staff.  

3. Empower with encouragement. Just as my mom and Ms. Bolden did for me, I try to find ways I can encourage others daily, make them more confident in their roles and inspire them to do more. I am fortunate to have informally mentored many of my colleagues throughout the years, helping them create plans for themselves and always thinking one, two and sometimes three steps ahead of where they are today.

4. Don’t mistake paying it forward for telling others what to do. The most important part of paying it forward is to realize it isn’t about you, it’s about bettering those around you. We can mistake this for dictating what others around us should or shouldn’t be doing, so it’s important to remove yourself from the equation and realize it’s about investing in others. In and outside of your work environment, be a beacon of light for someone.

With every colleague, every person I meet – sometimes without even knowing it – I try to find that spark within them that helps them reach goals they didn’t think were possible. The truth is, everyone can do this. Find a way you can give back to others today.