As I stood on stage aboard a giant cruise ship in the Caribbean, I explained to the hundreds of women seated before me what it means to be a woman of influence.
Last month, I hopped aboard the T.D. Jakes Ministries Faith & Family Cruise for the debut of the #WomenofInfluence conference. Under the leadership of Bishop Jakes, I was charged to explore, explain and guide the conversation on how to be influential women. So many amazing people helped make this event a massive success, including T.D. Jakes, First Lady Jakes, Sarah Jakes Roberts, Paula Madison, Ivy McGregor, Nona Jones, Sundra Ryce, Michele Hoskins, Pat Harris and many more!
The biggest takeaway from the conference?
True influence comes from how a person responds to hardship!
Sometimes it’s the hardest thing in the world to handle a bad situation maturely, calmly or courageously when all you want to do is give up, scream or hurl insults. But acting with maturity, grace and courage will always catch the eye of an on looker, and hopefully influence them to do the same. When met with trauma or heartache, will we step out of grief and take on the mission to influence others through their trials?
Based off my own life experiences and the thousands of stories I’ve heard from women over my career in corporate America, I know life can be hard. For example, I’ve had more upheaval in my life in the past 2 months than ever before. About a month before the cruise was scheduled to leave, I had a major health challenge and ended up in the hospital. The process and recovery was so lengthy, I wasn’t sure it would ever end. But when the time came to pack for the cruise, I said to myself, “I can choose not to go and leave all the women that signed up for this conference hanging, or I can find a way to make this work.”
So I set about brainstorming how to make it work and realized I couldn’t do it on my own. I needed my support system—my family, friends, colleagues and the conference staff. I called on the women around me who I knew would be there for me. My sister traveled with me to help remind me to take it easy, Marie Perry-Dyer co-led the conference curriculum and the entire staff helped out tremendously!
On this cruise, I came to realize—more than ever before—that every single person has a story to share. And all of them involve hardship.
One story was from a young corporate executive, married to a well-known public figure and pregnant with their first child. One morning during a conference they attended together, her husband told her in a hotel lobby that he wanted to quit his job, and he wanted a divorce. What did she do? After the initial shock, she carried herself with dignity and grace. She continued caring for her baby, pursuing her passion in business and leaning on the steadfast women around her for encouragement. Then, this brave young woman attended our #WomenofInfluence conference and shared her story to inspire others.
Hardship is common in life, unfortunately. Some might even say it’s inevitable. But this cruise taught me that women of influence don’t just say “That’s terrible,” and leave it at that. They rise out of a dark place with a mission to help others during theirs.