Theme for 2012: Don’t give a rip what anyone thinks!

2011 has been a big year for me, in both the personal and professional arenas. I can honestly say I have raised he bar in my the mental, physical, spiritual and emotional pillars. The point of life is eternal growth and we all came here to be creators. According to Abraham: “You never get it done, and you can never get it wrong”, and that’s a good thing. So, with this in mind – I want to be even more deliberate going into the new year. As a designer, whenever I start a creative project I always come up with a theme before I dig in. This sets tone of the overall project, keep me inspired and allows me to stay in alignment with my vision. In a recently heard a quote in a documentary that said, “The greatest prison that people live is the fear of what other people think.” That spoke volumes to me. It’s only when you step out of this fear, that you set yourself free of this self-imposed mental prison. You begin to realize how much external influences control our daily lives and dictate what is the norm, what is acceptable, what we should believe, say and think. Moving into 2012, I want to transition out of this pen by expressing my uniqueness in a bigger way. It’s time to stop being what is perceived as “normal” – that has limitation written all over it. The reality is “No one who was normal ever made history.”

“We have been trained to live in fear and mindlessly behave like everyone around us…It’s time to break free from that cycle, start thinking for yourself and take what’s rightfully yours in life.”

~ Jad T Jones

Special thanks to Dolores Morford for inspiring this visualiztion.


True Success Requires Acknowledging your Personal Support System

Many of the successful people we admire – whether it be an entrepreneur, musician, athlete, mentor, executive, spiritual teacher or guru are typically perceived as people who have pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps. Meaning they achieved their success solely by their own efforts and determination. The reality is, that is only part of the equation. Anyone you who you see as successful or a high achiever has a massive Personal Support System which is rarely brought to light, because it is easier to focus on one person than the power and support of many. The bigger the success, the bigger the support.

We all have Personal Support Systems to some degree and the best way to harness the power of it, is to first acknowledge you have one. This system is your personal community of advisors, mentors, inspirers, coaches, teachers, leaders and experts who motivate and strengthen you in areas that you are weaker in or need further development in. This works similarly to the concept of the “Mastermind” Group. Popularized by Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich. Hill defined the mastermind as  “coordination of knowledge and effort, in a spirit of harmony, between two or more people, for the attainment of a definite purpose”, excerpted from Feel Good Girl The beauty of the Personal Support System vs. the Mastermind Group is you already have one, it doesn’t require and formal meeting and doesn’t even have to be organized (though it would help).

Furthermore, it is not required that all the people in your Personal Support System have a personal relationship with you. I have several people in my system who I am not on a first name basis with, whom I look to for inspiration and motivation. They support me merely through observation. Have you had anyone whom you see regularly, and doesn’t know you – that make you want to step your game up? Whether at the gym, in a race, at a store or on the job. These people are in your system too.

Personal Suppoer System Map

5 keys to attaining success through your Personal Support System:

    1. Acknowledge your Personal Support System and the people in it as much as possible.
    2. Pay it Forward: Share the knowledge you have gained from others and give them credit.
    3. Support your supports: Play an active role in their Personal Support Systems.
    4. Let people know how they support you, ie. “thanks for the motivation” or “hey you really pushed me today”.
    5. Become as excited about the success of others as your are about your own success (don’t fake it).

FEEDBACK: If you like this post, disagree with it or have a better suggestion – please leave a comment.

P.E.T.s can dramatically improve your well-being

I recently finished listening to the audio version of Rhonda Byrne’s (author of The Secret) new book The Power. This book completely resonated with me, and there are many valuable lessons within it. One of the takeaways from the book jumped out at me starting right away in the introduction where she stated: “your relationships with your family and friends are meant to be filled with happiness.” From my own personal experience many of the relationships in my life – whether it be my children, wife, family members, friends, co-workers, clients, business partners, service providers, etc. can sometimes appear to be challenging or difficult.

One of the many principles Rhonda offered as a solution for “taking the sting out of confrontational or difficult relationships” is to imagine all the people in your life as Personal Emotion Trainers also know as P.E.T.s. The people that serve as P.E.T.s in our lives challenge us much in the same way as Personal Fitness Trainers do. Instead of training your physical muscles, they train your emotional muscles. According to Rhonda there are two types of P.E.T.s: Hard and soft. Soft P.E.T.s don’t push you very hard and are very easy to love. While hard P.E.T.s push you to your limits. Just like the physical personal trainers, the Hard P.E.T.s make you stronger!

Personal Emotional Trainers

Core Values: What do you stand for?

As a visual communications consultant, two questions I always ask my clients in my discovery process are: 1) What are your values? 2) What do you stand for? I ask these questions in an effort to help people clarify their core values. We are all operating from a value system or set of beliefs that serves as the foundation in which we can measure our integrity. These values make up a broad set of guiding principles that direct the decisions and actions we take in our daily lives. These principles are deeply personal and require some reflection to get a good perspective on what our core values truly are.

From time-to-time we can all use a tune-up on our values system. In past experiences, I have found myself getting off course and compromising on my core values. When this occurs, I always get less than pleasing results, regardless of what the category is. Wether it be relationships, business, health, family or career areas. When I get in alignment with my values at the core level – all areas of my life are in harmony. Not only do I get the results I am looking for and more, I also attract more and more like-minded people into my life that hold me accountable for principles I live my life by.

So with that said, it is important to get super clear on what you value most. Doing so will empower you to take control of the direction your life is headed. It will drastically improve your decision making skills, and motivate you take the necessary actions to achieve your goals and intentions. If you are stuck in a destructive pattern, It will answer why you do what you. Below I have visualized a process for helping you get clear on your core values inspired by my good friend Florence Haridan.

Core Values: What do you stand for?

Loss, grief, and accepting change to heal and move on

We grieve over all losses whether we are aware of it or not. Any change in circumstances can initiate this process. Why? Because with each loss we feel something has been taken away from us internally. A void develops where that attachment has been ripped away. It is an emotional tear that makes us desperate to recover it and sad when we can’t. We feel diminished somehow by no longer having that person, place, or thing in our lives.

I looked everywhere I thought I may have placed it. I was desperate to find it. “What could I have done with that ankle bracelet,” I asked myself half expecting to hear me say, “You put the ankle-let in the top drawer of the nightstand next to your bed.” This wasn’t like me. I don’t throw things away … so, where was my ankle bracelet?

Grief happens when things change or when we lose something or someone who we care about. It matters not whether the object of our affection is animate or inanimate, we grieve over that loss. Be it a dollar or a dime, change in our situations and/or circumstances, a dismantled relationship or the loss we experience when a loved one transitions from this world to the next, the grieving process will be the same.

This process is called the 5 Stages of Grief, acknowledged by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross in her book On Death and Dying or the 5 phases of Managing Change, like the loss of my favorite ankle bracelet.


      1) Denial: What’s the first thing you do? You try to find the lost object. You tear up the place to locate the comb, the brush, or the penny that rolled under the sofa. In my case, it was the ankle.
      2) Anger: “Where did I put the dang gone thing? I should have taken it off before I went for that run, dang it!”
      3) Bargaining:“Please God, just let it be somewhere in the house. I promise I’ll never wear it outside again.” Yeah right!
      4) Depression: “O-mi-god, what am I going to do now? Oh man, my ankle looks naked.”
      5) Acceptance “Enough,” I said. “Get over this and move on. You can’t change what happened.” I had accepted the reality of my loss, experienced the pain, adjusted to my ankle without the bracelet, and reinvested in a new one.

We don’t have to go through the five stages in sequence. But we must go through them to heal and become whole again.

Trusting the Process – How I ended up doing what I’ve always loved

“Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase. Just take the first step.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In 1997, I graduated from Tuskegee University with a Bachelor of Architecture degree in Tuskegee, Alabama. Excited, about the new opportunities that lie ahead for me in the architecture work world, I was only to be let down by a down architecture hiring freeze. Fortunately, in Tuskegee, one of the few African American architects had also been one of my professors at Tuskegee, and he hired me for a year and a half. What a great job. It was only a 3 person firm, but I learned a lot and in 1998, realized I needed to grow from the small college town, and accepted a job in Jacksonville, Florida at a well known architecture and construction company that designed and built commercial buildings. This was the big times for me! Corporate world… here I am!

For the first few years I absolutely loved architecture, my job, and all of the challenges that came along with it. I started taking my architecture licensing exams in 2000. Many have compared the architectural licensing exams with the Bar exam that lawyers must take. It was a nine part test that I would soon learn would be the death of my spirit, my confidence, and what would make me bitter and cynical toward the architecture profession. Every test had test preparation courses to get ready, books, CD’s online tests, you name it, and it was out there to prepare for the “A.R.E’s”.  I literally dreaded going into my yearly evaluations with my boss, where they would ask me how many tests had I failed and how many had I passed. Every year it was a different number… but it was always a higher number of failing than passing.

After the birth of my daughter in 2005, I had taken the tests for 5 years and was failing miserably. I was being pigeonholed at work, and when I asked for more responsibility on projects, I was nudged to the side and handed red lines, while I watched my male counterparts move pass me with the opportunities that I had initiated. It was time for me to move on, I wasn’t growing, my company wasn’t appreciating me, and when one of my coworkers moved to a competing architecture design firm and he asked me to come… I was right behind him in 2007.

Starting at the new design firm was refreshing and exciting, although very stressful. After two months at the job, my coworker who I had followed was let go due to personal issues, and then started the slow leak of my new job.

Fortunately for me, I am and always will be highly ambitious. What I couldn’t get at work, I would come home and learn on the internet. I’ve always been a home decor, realty, DIY fanatic – in college my friends affectionately called me the “The Black Martha Stewart”, and to this day I idolize Martha and her Omnimedia mogul status – vowing one day I will create a similar presence but in Ronique’s own way. In the summer of 2009 I decided to start a home staging business that was more of a hobby than for profit. While being able to sell my 2 homes successfully on my own, I started Stagetecture to help home owners, but also have a website to hold my inspirations, give advice, and call home for myself and build another world.

By 2010, my work world was unfulfilling; I had passed my LEED Accreditation exam as a divergence from the Architectural Registration exams, and realized I no longer had a drive to become an architect. While I still loved the principles, the profession had made me numb and bitter. My night life of helping friends with their homes, writing my Stagetecture blog, and reading other lifestyle blogs consumed my life, and my architecture job, while helping me financially, was leaving me sleep deprived, and hungry for more of my new ‘work world’ in  my night life.

In the summer of 2010, through social media, I met up with several online architecture and interior blog owners and started freelance writing to get my feet wet. I took it on as a hobby, and then started realizing there was a huge market and I loved the challenge. What began as a small taste on a tiny blog turned into writing for a blog that receives 2 million viewers monthly, catapulted me into worldwide stardom and recognition. The taste turned into a gulp, and I haven’t turned back since.

In September 2010, I was offered a trip by an elite refrigerator and stove manufacturer to tour their facility and meet with other designers and kitchen bloggers – I jumped at the chance. This was my sign for jumping ship and starting my new life! Two weeks prior, I turned in my resignation and told myself that this trip would mark the start of my new entrepreneurial life. While this new life hasn’t always been roses, I wake up at 4am and sit at my computer for 13 hour long days… the money isn’t where I’d like…. But…

…It’s all mine. This process has been well worth it. I powered through each step to see what I DIDN’T want out of my life. Everyday I see people miserable at what they do… my advice, set your sights on what you DO want, and then trust the process, every step is required to get you to the other side… I’m living and breathing, happy proof.

A story of moving beyond stuck

We are not defined by who we are, but by who we are becoming

Everything that has personal, professional, and spiritual meaning for me today began with a choice to do something different. Albuquerque, New Mexico was my Turning Point…

Up until that time, one of my favorite quotes used to be: “When you are stuck, throw a hand grenade, close your eyes, and JUMP!” Why was this one of my favorite quotes? Because I felt as if that was the only way I could move when I was stuck with no perceivable way out. You could say it was a “leap of faith,” but it wasn’t. It was more like a stab in the dark and my way of “busting loose.” However, that approach was not the best way to handle what I thought were insurmountable circumstances. When I jumped with my eyes closed I never knew where I would land. I often found that I had exchanged the skillet for the frying pan.

My dream job as a Hospice Nurse turned into a not so beautiful nightmare when downsizing reordered my life and I found myself without a job and receiving unemployment … When I received the notice from the state informing me that my benefits were nearly depleted, reality hit me like a brick. I had to get a job — and with a quickness. I was back to being placed through home health agencies, something I had done earlier in my nursing career. “Oh boy”, I sighed. I remembered why I traded the hospital setting for home health — too much drama! I had now traded the skillet for the frying pan. And I’m looking at a request from the city to vacate the premises. Where is that hand grenade? Life sucked.

There are times in life when you need something to help you navigate through and around rough waters until you are able to float your own boat, like how I dealt with the dismantling of a dream and my identity. I had defined myself by what I had become: a Hospice Nurse. I had attached my personal power to a position. And I did not know if I could be anything else. I felt powerless.

I needed to do something different. However, knowing that I needed to do something different was not enough; I had to want to do something different. I had to become sick and tired of being “sick and tired.” I had to become teachable. I had to stop running away from myself; and run towards ME. So, in July of 1993, I relocated to Albuquerque, New Mexico with my family, and I moved from Hospice Nurse to Life Coach.

Truth: We will not live up to our potential until we give ourselves permission to move beyond the words; to live boldly and to take measured risks.

Here are some pointers I have personally found helpful in motivating myself:

Take Charge of your Destiny

Finding your voice in the midst of mediocrity

In my previous post I defined the rule of three: find your voice, tell your story and trust the process. I can’t tell you how profound the first step of finding my voice was. In the past I allowed other people’s voices, thoughts and opinions drown out my voice. We are all surrounded by people who constantly projecting their visions on us. This eventually ends up influencing our decisions and has us going down a path that doesn’t always align with our core values.

Once I became aware of this — I had to really assess what I value most. What am I truly passionate about. For me this is visual communication and personal development. Finding my voice wasn’t enough though, I have to constantly fight to maintain my voice amongst resistance and distractions. Part of my process is periodically eliminating things in my life that no longer serve my vision and intentions. Below is a tool I have incorporated into my process of finding and maintaining my voice:

Stop Doing List Visualization

Live for the Journey, not the Destination

One of my major intentions for 2011 is to launch a visualization blog to inspire and connect with a tribe of like-minded people who share a passion for discovering their personal calling. Today marks the birth of that intention and I hope that you will join me and my fellow tribe members in our attempts to make a collective dent in the universe. I began this journey two years ago. Along the way I’ve had diverse experiences and connected with several people who have inspired me to create my own personal GeniusMap (below) to guide me on my path to infinite potential. This map will serve as the framework for future blog posts on various topics from the Spiritual, Mental, Emotional and Physical pillars.

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