Thursday, August 31, 2006


Normally the posts I use here are taken from my weekly columns in the Chicago Defender. I decided to do something different today. Correction: I NEEDED to do something different today. I needed to vent.

I was asked a question after giving a motivational speech recently that I've never been asked before.

"Who are you to talk about overcoming something? What could possible be wrong in your life. You're Nikki Woods!"

Excuse me????? Didn't know I had to show my bullet wounds to prove that I've been through some thangs and qualify me to stand before someone and talk about being successful despite the challenges that life may bring.

That's what I wanted to say. But I didn't. Instead I smiled, took her by the hand and squeezed it. I looked in her eyes and instantly what the problem was. She wasn't mad at me. No, this sister was mad at a life that had dealt her more than her share of bad hands. I understood it because I've been there. More than once and will probably go there again. And having been there, I knew better than to take someone's harsh words personally. 9 times out of 10 it's misdirected.

I also didn't take it personally because it wasn't about me. It was about "Nikki Woods" and all this woman took that to mean. People have probably looked at you and made certain assumptions about what they see on the surface. That doesn't mean they know anything about what's going on inside of you.

I don't think there is anything about me that makes me more qualified than anyone else to talk about "overcoming" difficult situations. I think everyone has overcome something. I'm just know what my talents are. Even the rich, beautiful and talented goes through things. Look at Halle Berry.

It's what you learn from what you've been through.

Life is not about Hills or Valleys - either you're up or you're down - but more like a long stretch of railroad tracks with the good and not so good running side-by-side. Everything is not going to be all good in one minute and then all bad the next. I'm sure you too have experienced that.

I know a lot of people that are trying to navigate some choppy waters, myself included and maybe you are too.

Life is not always like it appears to be. Sometimes it's not even close.

And that's ok. Because it's not all bad. There's a golden light shining somewhere in the murk.

I freely admit that I am emerging from a storm, that left me beautifully broken, stronger in my faith and zeal for life. I also emerge with a lesson. I'm a very private person and tend to become more so when life threatens to overwhelm me; protecting myself with isolation; wrapped in a bow of solitude. I always thought it was easier for me to figure it out, deal with it and then move on. Not so in this situation. On one hand I had my beloved support system throwing me life jacket while the haters were trying to poke more holes in my boat. My natural instinct was to hunker down and ride it out. But through the darkness, through the hail, my golden light was right there just beaming down on me, refusing to be ignored, refusing to be shut out. And for once, I did it differently.

Your support system is there for a reason. I knew that. But what I discovered it that your haters also serve a purpose. In the song Motivation, TI urges the "haters to get on their job" describing them as motivation.

And they are: if you keep them in perspective. I'm used to haters, anyone who is doing anything with their life will have them. If you're in the spotlight - they are automatic. To me, having haters is a very good indication that you're doing something right with your life. And believe me, they are easy to spot. They whisper, gossip, sometimes tell outright lies. They make assumptions, lecture and try to throw monkey wrenches in your good thing. They discourage, manipulate, and preach. In short - they cause unnecessary drama. BUT ... they also build character, strengthen your faith muscle and motivate! They don't mean too. They don't want too. But they do, if you keep them in perspective.

I hardly ever mention "haters". I have too many other things going to on to waste energy on such things. But I thought it was important to at least bring it up once because when you're facing a challenge they seem to converge like a pack of roached when the light goes off. And if you're not firmly planted on your path, they may cause you to falter. They may cause you to take a step back. But rest assured, they do not have the power to stop you.

Special Shout Out to all the "Closet Haters" who seem to think that their cloak of anonymity will shield them from the negative energy that KARMA is guaranteed to always send back their way. Not so, Kemosabi. Not only will it come back, but it returns with twice the strength in which it was sent out.

SMH! (That's "smiling hard" for those of you not up on the internet lingo.) I feel much better now.

I bless all of you on your journey (especially the haters) and thank you for letting me vent.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Value Of You

For some school has started, for other it's on the way. It was a busy graduation season for me and I always appreciate the chance to talk and mentor the young adults through my commencement speeches. This year in particular my messages have been centered around recognizing the value each of us has as unique human beings.

I realize that when I stand in front of room full of students that there are future CEOs, doctors, entertainments, maybe even the president sitting there. It's exciting to see the potential right before my eyes even if they don't see it in themselves.

With that in mind, in the beginning of my speech, I paraphrase this well known story:

A well known speaker started off his seminar by holding up a $20 dollar bill in a room of 200 people. He asked the group, "Who wants this $20 dollar bill?" Of course hands started going up.

Next, he crumpled the $20 dollar bill and asked, "Who still wants it?" The hands remained up in the air.

"Well," he replied, "what if I do this?" He dropped it on the ground and started to grind it into the floor with his shoe. He picked it up, now crumpled and dirty and asked, "Now who wants it?" Still the hands remained in the air.

"My friends, you have all learned a valuable lesson. No matter what I do to this $20 dollar bill, you still want it because it doesn't decrease in value. It's still worth $20.

Many times in our lives, we are dropped, crumpled and ground into the dirt by the decisions we make and the circumstances we're in.

And it doesn't matter where you are in life - this can affect anyone.

We may feel worthless; but remember that no matter what happens you will never lose your value."

This illustration is a good reminder that we are valuable and we are valued by those who love us.

Sometimes we may feel crumpled and worthless; but the tough times we go through make us stronger, better people.

If we never experience hurt or frustration, how can we ever know when things are really good? And how can we ever really appreciate those good times?

The answer is that we can't.

And let's make an import distinction. We hear a lot about teens suffering from low self-esteem. Self-value is very different from self-esteem. Self-value is what you are born with. As one of the creations of the universe you are worthwhile and have value, which cannot be taken from you. You can't lose it, but you can lose sight of it. You can forget your value. Self-esteem may go up or down depending upon what's happening to you. Self-esteem is changeable. Self-value is not. Don't ever forget your value.

But if there are ups and downs, remember to look for possible opportunities that result from that experience. Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich, says "every adversity, every failure and every heartache carries with it the seed of an equivalent or a greater benefit." Look for the opportunity and the benefit. Life in and out of school is full of potential learning moments. Take advantage of them.

Even without struggle though, life is made up of a series of transitions; with the end of each phase bringing about the beginning of another. Each transition with its own challenges; challenges that may make you feel crumpled or worthless.

But just like the dirty $20 bill your value as a person never decreases.

So to the students, I say congratulations on a job well done! Be proud of your accomplishments and of the fact that the struggles you may have had over the past few years have made you a stronger person today. Know that no one can take away your value as a person and as in the words of former first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." Good luck next year and remember dirty or clean, crumpled or creased, you are priceless to those who love you.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


I received an email from a friend the other day. In his short opening paragraph he said, "Guess I want to know whether or not I'm the only one feeling like things are challenging these days for the whole... or is it just me? Ever feel like this can't be it? That there has to be more happiness shortly coming? Guess I'm kinda feeling like this is as good as it gets. I know I wrong, but?"

My response was even shorter: "If you know you're wrong then what's the 'but' for?" Sounds a bit harsh but I guess it was my form of a reality check. In my mind's weird way of working in any given moment - it is as good as it gets. It may not be the way you want it or the way you think it should be - but at that particular point in time, it REALLY is as good as it gets. And if you don't feel things are the way you desire them to be, ask yourself a question - "are you doing the best that you can?" Stop and really think about it. How many times do you take on a project or get into something and really give it your best? Are do you often just skate by, only giving a percentage of your skill, effort and energy. How often do you really try to be your best and wish the best for others - even those you've just met?

My fifth grade teacher used to say it all the time. "All I expect is for you to do your best because at the end of the day that's really all you can do."

In a perfect world everyone would put their best foot forward every single day. Think about how different things would be.

But in reality, most people don't always put their best foot forward unless they really have to. Most don't try to be their best and a large number don't always wish the best for people.

But if you forced yourself to perform at your best, and wished the best for people at all times you would simply get the best in return.

By being at your best you attract and meet positive, supportive people who respect you and enjoy your company and give you the best they have to offer.

By being your best you attract the best in every situation, you attract the best outcomes and you attract the right people.


Because when you are at your best you exude the right energy that draws the best people, situations and circumstances to help you achieve greater success in all areas of your life.

This means that you don't get caught up in what other people think about you. You don't get caught up in success the way the society defines it. Instead you focus on being the best possible person you can.

Let's face it - you simply won't be able to please all of the people all of the time.

So don't waste time and energy trying to please everybody - focus on being your best and you'll attract the best.

Start by focusing on what you like about yourself. Think of all the positive qualities that you have and everyday compliment yourself for the positive qualities that you have.

When you do this - you focus on your best qualities, which naturally pushes you to be your best.

You are a unique human being - there's no one else like you - no one and that automatically makes you the best.

Now you just have to believe it.

Sunday, August 20, 2006


Someone forwarded me these in an email and it is the first list that I actually really liked so I thought I'd share. I'd love to hear any others that you may want to add. I have a few but I'll save mine for later. Also, is there one you DON'T agree with? I have one of those too. I'll also save it for later. :)

1. Never apologize for pursuing what makes you happy. Even if you need to quit your job, transfer schools, or move across country, always do what you really want.

2. Never apologize for using proper English. Keeping it real doesn't mean you have to speak Ebonics.

3. Never apologize for giving your best in a relationship that just didn't work out.

4. Never apologize for being successful. Only haters want to keep you at their level.

5. Never apologize for crying. Wear waterproof mascara and express yourself.

6. Never apologize for ten pounds you need to lose. People who truly care about you will accept you as you are.

7. Never apologize for being frugal. Just because you save your money instead of blowing it on the latest fashion emergency doesn't mean
you're cheap.

8. Don't apologize for being a single Mom. Babies are a blessing.

9. Never apologize for treating yourself to something special. Sometimes you have to show yourself some appreciation.

10. Never apologize for leaving an abusive relationship. Your safety should always be a priority.

11. Never apologize for keeping the ring even if you did not get married.

12. Never apologize for setting high standards in a relationship. You know what you can tolerate and what simply gets on your nerves.

13. Never apologize for saying NO.

14. Never apologize for wearing a weave or braids. You bought it so it's yours.

15. Never apologize to your new friends about old friends. There's a reason she's been your girl from day one.

16. Never apologize for ordering dessert or more than one dessert.

17. Never apologize for dating outside your race. Just because you found Mr. Right across the color line doesn't mean you don't love your brothas.

18. Never apologize for demanding respect. You are to always be treated as a queen.

19. Never apologize for not knowing how to cook. Even if you can't burn like Grandma you know how to order good take out. (Right Girl!)

20. Never apologize for your taste in clothes. It's your style.

21. Never apologize for changing your mind, it is your prerogative.

22. Never apologize for making a decision from your heart, even if others don't agree. You have to live with the consequences not them.

23. Never apologize for making more money than your man, you work hard
and you deserve to get paid.

24. Never apologize for being you! "KEEP YOUR HEAD UP AND KEEP MOVING FORWARD"

Friday, August 04, 2006

Fast Food Society

For as long as I can remember, I've had this love/hate relationship with food. I've been on every diet known to man and some that haven't even been discovered yet. I'm impatient in almost everything I do and that's a really annoying trait to have when you're trying to lose weight. And yes I know I didn't gain it overnight but I want to lose it yesterday.

So this has been the hardest part for me to get; trusting the process and allowing my body to do what it's supposed too. I am so focused on seeing immediate results that I don't look past the short term. But when it comes to your health it's not about the right now but the long term.

And to ensure that I have the right tools, I have assembled a team of experts. You can learn about them and my journey to understanding my relationship with food at They give weekly updates on fitness and nutrition then I throw in my two cents.

Here are this weeks contributions:

Personal trainer Kevin King asks the question, "What are your workout goals? In other words, how much time can you realistically devote to a workout program? The most important element in answering this question is to be brutally honest. We want everything. A beautiful and healthy body, a satisfying love life, a fulfilling career, loyal friends etc. Be patient, you can't have everything all at once. You want a great body and you want it now. Make realistic goal, unrealistic goals set you up for failure. Your ultimate vision for fitness and wellness must be a lifelong process. Working out does not have to be dreadful; it can become a natural part of you day. You and your body are together for life."

According to nutritionist "Michael Michaelangelo" Bance, "burning body fat through exercise can be accomplished in various ways. However, the best way to is to first start with your nutrition. Individuals who take at least 500 of milligrams of Vitamin C actually burn 39 percent more fat during exercise? You can derive vitamin C from foods such as Oranges, Apricots, Strawberries, Melons and Tomatoes. Avoid training with low levels of Vitamin C, because this impedes your body's ability to use fat as energy. The best way to boost your Vitamin C intake is through supplements such as Buffered C 500."

Michael Bance can be contacted through his website at and Kevin King can be reached at He offers free consultation for your first visit.

So with Michael and Kevin, things are slowly sinking in. I'm stubborn and hard-headed but if you continue to do what you've always done then you'll get what you've always gotten. I'm starting to understand the "process" and appreciate the journey. I'm at the beginning but I am prepared for the long haul. How about you?