The Seven Books on My "MUST READ" List

There is something to be said about a well-read person. On a basic level, seeing someone engaged in a book is just plain sexy, maybe because we subconsciously assume they are smart. On a deeper level, readers are curious and we are all attracted to curious people because they are interested in a world view bigger than their own. Plus, reading inspires better conversation and transforms us by exposing us to a new perspective. Iris Apfler, the legendary fashion icon, has been quoted as saying, “I cannot be close friends with someone who is not curious and does not have a sense of humor”….same girl, S.A.M.E. 

So in celebration of both curiosity and humor, here is my “must read” list:


1. That Thing Around Your Neck by Chimimanda Ngozi


This might be my FAVORITE collection of short stories. Funny and smart. 

I walked away from this book feeling at peace with every single one of my life experiences. 

Buy it here:

2. Me Talk Pretty One day by David Sedaris


For someone that talks a lot about living a vibrant life, I don’t say enough about the power of humor. This book is HILARIOUS.

I walked away from this book laughing my ass off.

Buy it here: 


3. All About Love: New Visions by Bell Hooks


“There was a time when I felt lousy about my over-forty body, saw myself as too fat, too this, or too that. Yet I fantasized about finding a lover who would give me the gift of being loved as I am. It is silly, isn't it, that I would dream of someone else offering to me the acceptance and affirmation I was withholding from myself.” - bell hooks (she intentionally doesn't capitalize her name by the way). 

I walked away from this book feeling like my mother had just schooled me on love in very real and logical ways. 

Buy it here: 

4. Linchpin by Seth Godin


Reading (and re-reading) Linchpin is a reminder than complacency is out of the question for people like you and I, the high achievers.

I walked away from this book recognizing that you decide to be exceptional. 

Buy it here:

5. Americanah by Chimimanda Ngozi


This is probably on both yours and your mother’s list and there is a reason for it, this is an epic work of art.

I walked away from this book remembering that what is meant for me will not miss me and what misses me was never meant for me.

Buy it here:

6. The Power of Habit: Why we do what we do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg


This super practical book should really be a teaching manual on life.

I walked away from this book understanding why incremental changes are powerful and how to truly change my habits.

Buy it here:

7. Compelling People: The Hidden Qualities that Make Us Influential by Matthew Kohut and John Neffinger


If you want to become influential in any way, ya might want to read this. PS: It's on the required reading list for Harvard Business School if that means anything to you.  

I walked away from this book understanding that super influential people (like Oprah and Barack Obama) are as powerful as they are because they exhibit both warmth and strength when interacting with the world.  

Buy it here:

That is it from me. What is on your must reads list?

PS: The links next to each book are affiliate links so if you buy any of them, mama gets some coins. Just FYI. 

5 Personal Branding Lessons via CurlBOX CEO, Myleik Teele

If we’ve met and we’re instagram friends, it’s very likely that I’ve talked your head off about my favorite instagrammer (and virtual mentor), Myleik Teele. This genius of a woman launched CurlBOX in 2012, by leveraging her instagram following. So when she put out a podcast episode on branding, these little fingers couldn’t take notes fast enough.

While most of Myleik’s advice was about branding in the business sense, it helped me clarify my understanding of personal branding. If you have no idea what a personal brand is, don't worry. Simply put, a personal brand is what people associate with your presence. And more specifically, it is the collection of the work, language and vibe that you put out into the world (online and in person).

And whether you like it or not, you have a personal brand…and it’s accessible to the whole world if you have any kind of online presence. So you can either intentionally shape your personal brand or do nothing and let it be determined for you. Some of my other favorite personal brands are Emmelie DeLaCruz (like the link in her bio says, she really does come off like Cardi B’s College-Educated Alter Ego lol), Mimi Ikonn, and Shirley B. Eniang.

Here are the top 5 lessons I learned from listening to Myleik’s branding podcast – hopefully you can use this to shape your personal brand because a clear personal brand comes from an honest personal mission, which of course, leads to a more fulfilling life.  


1. The goal of personal branding is simply to manage how you are perceived

The best way to manage how you are perceived is to decide what you want to be known for. But there will be many other people who want to be known for the same thing, so you will set yourself apart by HOW you deliver everything you put on the internet. I capitalized the how because how you do what you do, is what makes you unique.

You set yourself apart by sweating the small stuff, focusing on good design, and taking your time with the details. Each new blog post, instagram picture and tweet has the potential to be your first impression on someone. You want everything you do to communicate exactly what you stand for.  


2. Personal branding is all about satisfying emotional needs

Think about the people whose instagram feeds you go out of your way to check out. What emotion is pulling you in?

Mimi Ikonn appeals to the calm and free part of who I am.

Emmelie DeLaCruz pulls me in by appealing to the college-educated Cardi B in me.

Shirley B Eniang arouses the classy in me.  

Do you see what I mean? A good brand pulls people in by appealing to an emotional need.  


3. Great brands ignore trends

I cannot emphasize how much I love this point because it's an encouragement to remain authentic. 

Great personal brands stay in their lane.

They are not swayed by the world.

In her podcast episode, Myleik talks about how Oprah is a great brand because she consistently did what was most authentic to her. She chose to end her show while it was still great, she chose to never take her name public and she never pursued business deals outside of her core confidence.

So with every idea that you put out into the world, ask yourself, is this aligned with who I am? If you are like me, you always want to do more, but that doesn’t mean you should do everything all at once. You should test out the ideas you are inclined to pursue and pivot from there


4. Attract your tribe by celebrating who you are

You can't be all things for all people, so appreciate the tribe you naturally attract and add value for them in whatever way you can. We naturally connect with people who need us so don’t chase after anyone.

Focus on who is focused on you. 

These are the people who will protect your brand and proudly display being on your team. Case in point, think of what the beyhive does for Beyonce's brand. 


5. Know your motto and live it out loud

Whether conscious or sub-conscious, we all have beliefs that inform how we make decisions. Consciously decide what your brand’s motto or tagline is and use it as your North Star. My personal motto is “Vibrant. Joyful. Powerful.” I use it to inform how I make life decisions and also how I choose the pictures, blog posts and messages I share with the world.

Develop yours and allow it to evolve with your brand over time. 



So there you have it:

  • Manage how others perceive you by focusing on what you want to be known for
  • Branding is all about emotional appeal
  • Great brands ignore trends. Stay in your lane
  • Celebrate who you are and attract your tribe
  • Live out your motto


      “Decide what you stand for and build your brand around that.”
- Myleik Teele


The Rule of Expectations

I’ve never been afraid of public speaking. In fact, I always liked the rush of having to address an audience. The only time this wasn't true, was when I had to speak in a policy analysis class in grad school. My professor was incredibly critical and would give me such harsh feedback that I always walked away feeling slightly less competent. So every time I had to make a speech in her class, I could feel my blood pressure rising. And needless to say, no matter how good I got at policy analysis, I was never my most authentic self in that class – which of course meant, I was only bringing a small part of myself to the game.

The power that that professor had over me is an example of The Rule of Expectation. The Rule of Expectation says that individuals tend to make decisions based on how others expect them to perform. In other words, we subconsciously conform to the stereotypes people project on us. And it’s my personal belief that this is only true if we are not consciously monitoring our thoughts….because we are not sheep.

Several studies support The Rule of Expectations. In one study, researchers at Harvard found that when teachers were told that a randomly selected group of students are expected to do exceptionally well, their expectation of these students rose, and those students ended up outperforming their peers.

You might be a little skeptical right now. Does how others expect us to behave really affect us that much? Think about how you behave around your parents vs. how you behave around your friends. And if that doesn’t resonate, think about how you’ve behaved in situations where you weren’t quite sure of what the other person thought of you. Your behavior probably changed according to what you thought was being expected of you.

Fortunately, we can use the Rule of Expectations to our advantage because it can help us influence how others behave around us. And I don't mean that in a manipulative way, I actually think we can use it to help others guage how to treat us. You know how some people walk into a room and have an aura you respect? That’s them expecting that the world approach them with respect. How about people that radiate joy. Is it as obvious to you as it is to me that those people simply expect the world to greet them with good things?

And best of all, after learning about the rule of expectation, I had to ask myself what my self-imposed expectations were, regardless of what external cues I was being fed. Do I expect myself to be distracted by new people, places, and things or do I expect myself to have unwavering focus? Do I expect myself to succeed in my pursuits? Or do I expect to second guess my goals and back off on my dreams?

It is one thing to say you are a winner. It is entirely another to expect yourself to behave like one.