Work culture and work life starts with the leader. As the leader, you must know and align your values and mindset every morning and every evening. You must have a way to quickly re-center and ground when the unexpected threatens the vision and the goal. You must know yourself, maintain, and re-group as necessary. I advise everyone to set up a morning, a pre-sleep, and a reset mindset routine. For me, my morning routine follows Hal Elrod’s SAVERS (silence, affirmations, visualization, exercise, reading, and scribing). Before I go to bed Sunday — Thursday, I do a brain dump. I write my to-do list and my meetings for the next day. My reset routine includes repeating out loud my affirmations and goals in the mirror, if possible.
As a part of this series about what successful women leaders do to thrive, both personally and professionally, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Yolanda Columbus. In all of her roles, she challenges the status quo and facilitates change. She specializes in fear- & goal-setting, mindset maintenance & growth, and building legacy wealth. By customizing her services and approaches based on the unique needs of her clients, the value she adds exceeds the quantifiable and resonates after the contract is fulfilled.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path and to where you are today?
In May 2018 after a 15-year career in higher education, I ended my pursuit of a Vice-Presidency. It ended but not for the reason it should have. During my stint at my last institution, two different therapists during two different academic years characterized the work environment as toxic to my person. However, I didn’t choose to end my career after either of those sessions. I attempted to change my work environment. I applied and interviewed with multiple college presidents, at multiple colleges. I was often qualified but never quite the right fit. My search for another work environment inside higher education didn’t end till my Bigmama died.
In 2017, Bigmama died unexpectedly in my arms as we prepared for Sunday dinner at my sister’s. When she died, I knew that in time I would forget the sound of her laughter and her smell. My fear was that I would lose her fingerprint on my life. This fear along with the time constraint motivated me to peruse opportunities outside of higher education. A year after she died I left my career in higher education to be a full-time entrepreneur.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
There are lots. My most memorable stories center on our two foster kiddos. When I left my career and became a full-time entrepreneur, I underestimated the cognitive and mental capacity it would take to be a solopreneur. It required intentional and purposeful scheduling and mindset routines. My best days began at least 90 minutes before our kiddos and included a 45 minute pause before I picked up our kiddos from school.
As a result of scheduled reflections and routine, I was available physically and mentally to my family. My FB profile is full of our conversations. I love it when they pop up on my timeline. Our conversations were priceless and often comical. We had an 8 year-old foster son and a 9 year-old foster daughter. They were biological siblings. Here are two of my favorite conversations
Son: Is the Tooth Fairy real?
Son: “How does the money get under our pillow?”
Son: “Soo, y’all forgot to give me money last night?”
Daughter was with my sister, her Aunt, for the day.
Son: Mom, will she come back today?
Me: Yes, son. Why is it such a big deal?
Son: I want to play with someone. I feel loved when I play with someone
Me: Do you feel loved by GOD?
Me: How do you know he loves you?
Son: Because he plays with me
Me: Oh. Well, you can play with Him till your sister comes back then
Son: MOOOM. No…I want…it’s not…No Mom.
Conversations with them, playing board games, dancing in the morning before they got ready for school were the most interesting and fulfilling parts of my day. Reading them always brings a smile or laughter. They were returned to their family in November 2019.
Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?
The most humorous mistake? I think it’s humorous. My hubby may not agree; we are currently building our reserves back because of this mistake. However, for me looking back it’s humorous because the mistake was obvious. As my Bigmama would say, “If it was a snake, it would have bit me”. I still shake my head.
I am a Christian and daily I strive to live a life that is pleasing to GOD and aligned with the tenets and principles. I seek his counsel and the counsel of my circle. So, when I decided to spend our reserves to invest in “magic beans”, there were flags all along the way. However, I convinced myself that investing was aligned with the will of GOD, with our values and that it was my prerogative as the sole member of my LLC to make the decision.
As BlackWallStreetDFW, I advocate for entrepreneurs and small business owners. My services includes business strategies, data analysis, mentoring, and being a tenant rep for commercial realty. Being an advocate depends heavily on relationships. Hence, finding a prospect who should also be a client is not always according to my time table. The time table for conversion meant that I needed to generate income from other sources while I built my clientele. So, when I first became a full-time entrepreneur I focused on generating income by building my real estate investment portfolio.
My real estate investment niche is short term rentals like vacation rentals, corporate housing, transitional houses, etc. After a year of success with my first property and advising other investors, I began looking for a second property. The goal was to mimic my first investment so that I could leverage resources and systems.
For my first investment, I leased a 3 bedroom, 2 bath single family home with permission to place it on AirBNB and HomeAway. Because it was built in 1946, there were often issues with plumbing, the HVAC, or something. The goal for my second property was two-fold 1) Lease with permission to list on AirBNB and similar sites, and 2) Minimize the interruptions caused by infrastructure repairs.
The answer came in the form of a condo that was already listed on AirBNB. The current investors leased it from the existing owner. The current investors had minimum success for the past 18 months and they were ready to do something else. We worked out a deal that included me buying the furniture, the linen, the towels, soaps, inventory of supplie, and any reservations currently on the books. The occupancy rate in the previous 18 months, the cost, and the security deposits indicated that I would not be able to generate enough income to replenish the reserves and stay afloat unless there was some drastic marketing changes and upgrades.
In addition to the numbers, there were multiple hiccups along the way — 1) My hubby was not in agreement 2) A previous business partner advised me to renegotiate, and 3) the bank transaction records confirmed money in my business account; however, it was not reflected in the balance. Relentless, I convinced myself that it was doable.
I convinced myself that I could mother my two foster children, support my hubby as he adjusted to our new financial reality, start a new consulting business, and take my short-term rental portfolio off of auto-pilot. I was wrong. For the most part, my real estate portfolio generates decent cash flow. Unfortunately, it does not generate enough to replenish the reserves. Hence, we are still rebuilding our reserves using other strategies. Needless to say, I can laugh about it. My hubby, he just looks at me and shakes his head.
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture and work life?
Work culture and work life starts with the leader. As the leader, you must know and align your values and mindset every morning and every evening. You must have a way to quickly re-center and ground when the unexpected threatens the vision and the goal. You must know yourself, maintain, and re-group as necessary
I advise everyone to set up a morning, a pre-sleep, and a reset mindset routine. For me, my morning routine follows Hal Elrod’s SAVERS (silence, affirmations, visualization, exercise, reading, and scribing). Before I go to bed Sunday — Thursday, I do a brain dump. I write my to-do list and my meetings for the next day. My reset routine includes repeating out loud my affirmations and goals in the mirror, if possible.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of our interview. In my work, I focus on how one can thrive in three areas, body, mind, and heart. I’d like to flesh this out with you. You are a very busy leader with a demanding schedule. Can you share with our readers two self-care routines, practices or treatments that you do to help your body to thrive? Kindly share a story or an example for each.
I’m not sure if this is considered two routines. However, for me both are equally important: strenuous and relaxing exercise. Strenuous exercises require two things 1) focus and 2) physical exertion. During strenuous exercises, I have to focus on my breathing, my form, or time in order to keep going. At the end I am physically depleted. Strenuous exercises forces me to stop analyzing and over thinking. I build endurance and physical strength while releasing stress.
When I was working on my doctorate at Texas A&M University, I worked out with three ladies from our church Covenant Family Church in Bryan, TX; it’s now called SkyBreak. We worked out 2–3 times a week — Suzanne, Lori, Lisa, and myself, with our personal trainer Claude Hoyt. I didn’t realize the impact until I graduated and then moved 200 miles away.
When I moved, I did some of our signature routines at a Snap Fitness. One of my “favorites” started with a speed interval run on the treadmill for 15 minutes minimum. The jog speed was 14 min per mile and the run speed was a 10 min per mile pace. This was followed by an upper body workout on the stability ball using 20–25 lbs. weights for bicep curls, triceps extensions, and chest press. The resistance work was then followed by another round on the treadmill.
This routines impacted perception of strangers, my physical appearance and health, and my self-confidence. On a regular basis, men and women would commit on how hard I worked out. My new doctor was impressed with my low blood pressure. I could fit medium-sized shirts for the first time in my adult life. I was 10 lbs. away from my high school graduation weight. In addition to my physical appearance, my confidence was through the roof. As a first time administrator in higher education, I addressed crowds of hundreds without the usual nervous shakes and self-doubt.
Let’s fast forward to 2018 when I became a full-time entrepreneur. Initially, I was able to join a Crossfit box at a discounted monthly rate. I was dogmatic about attending the evening class 3–4 times a week. I loved the results, the community, and my confidence. Eventually, I chose to discontinue my membership. When I stopped attending the classes, I quickly picked up 25 lbs. Each and every mental and physical activity required considerable effort and will power. My clothes did not fit and I was too stubborn to buy more. It took me a moment to find an alternative that required enough physical exertion and provided similar benefits. I am happy to say that I’m back and loving it.
Relaxing exercises are just as important as strenuous exercises. Relaxing exercise requires two things as well 1) focus and 2) repetition. By focusing on breathing or form for extended amount of time, I’m physically lulled into a calm and peaceful state. This relieves the tension in my muscles, increases my flexibility and grounds me. I schedule time to focus on my breathing during every workout. This could mean walking or stretching for 10–15 minutes. As a result, I start the day fully aware of who I am, fully aware of my purpose, aware my goals, and connected to my GOD.
Can you share with us two routines that you use to help your mind thrive? (Kindly share a story or example for each.)
Two routines that help my mind thrive are 1) Affirmations and 2) Learning and applying
In March of 2019, I went to the Advanced Leadership workshop taught by Klemmer & Associates. The week was physically difficult to say the least. During those 6 days, I physically battled the altitude, respiratory issues, and nauseous. By the end of the week, I had busted blood vessels in both eyes and limited my food intake to broth, toast, or crackers. Yet, I showed up at every activity inside or outside, every breakfast, every lunch, and every dinner. And I engaged. I shared. I listened. I encouraged.
When I returned home, physically I felt better. Mentally, I felt heavy. I found myself avoiding decisions that made me uncomfortable. I wasn’t sick. I just didn’t want to take responsibility for results or engage. Because I had endured and engaged in Colorado, I knew I could do it. I needed to shift my mindset. So, I drafted three affirmations
- “I am becoming more accountable by doing my Sunday night, pre-sleep, and morning rituals”
- “I am becoming more focused by saying my goals out loud 3 times a day”
- “I am becoming a better parent by dancing and playing with my kiddos everyday”
After 6 weeks of affirmations, there was a noticeable shift. I didn’t always remember to say them. I didn’t always choose the right action or reaction. However, repeating them every morning and whenever I was off-kilter, centered and grounded me. Daymond Lavine who is a friend and a life coach commented that at first I was fighting to become those things I affirmed. After 6 weeks, I had embodied them with confidence and boldness. Today my affirmations have changed but they remain an important part of my morning routine.
The other practice that helps my mind thrive is learning. I love learning. Learning formally in the classroom and informally from the world around me. It invigorates me and fuels my creativity and innovation; always has. When I was in elementary school, when my mom told me to take a bath. I’d run the bath water. Sit on the floor beside the tub and read. I didn’t want to get my book wet. Reading fed my curiosity and need to learn.
Unfortunately, when I first became a full-time entrepreneur I didn’t leave much time to learn by reading. However, I spend an insane amount of time in the car. In 2 years since we purchased it, I’ve put almost 80K miles on it. Now I use my time in the car to learn by listening to audiobooks and podcasts. Learning is the first step. Growing happens when we grapple with and apply what we learn. So in the last quarter of 2019, I started a book club titled “This is Not Your Auntie’s Book Club”. We read books related to business and mindset. Then together we meet every week or every other week to apply the words to our business.
Finally, can you share with us two routines that you use to help your heart, your emotional or spiritual life to thrive? (Kindly share a story or example for each.)
Two routines that help my emotional and spiritual life thrive are 1) Meditation and 2) Fellowship with like-minded people
Meditation for many cultures is a scary word. It brings up images of séances, idols, polytheism, chants, etc. In reality, it is systematically training focus and attention. This added with a focus on my Lord and Savior is powerful beyond measure.
There are two meditation practices that I enjoy. The first I tend to do when seated and alone. I focus on exhaling and inhaling. During the inhale, I envision myself immersed in GOD’s presence breathing in HIS presence. During the exhale, I envision anything that is not of Him exiting my body. The second, I tend to use when I’m in a crowd and/or exercising. I repeat ‘JESUS’ on a cadence. For both approaches, whenever I realize my mind has wondered I start again.
I prefer to meditate early in the morning. However, it also helps when I’m emotionally charged. During Spring Break a couple of years ago, me and the kiddos stopped at the Toyota dealership for an oil change. As we are in the waiting room, I got engrossed in a project and I forgot to look up to check on them for about 15 minutes. When I looked up, they were using crayons to draw life-sized children on the walls of the play area. “JESUS, <breath>, JESUS, <breath>, JESUS, <breath>…” was the only way I stayed calm. It was the only way that an apology and a timeout seemed like sufficient consequences.
Fellowship with like-minded people are my safe places. Our foster kiddos left at the beginning of November. They were with us for almost 4 years. We were given 24-hour’s notice. One Thursday morning their caseworker called and started with “Are you sitting down?” She then told me the kids were going home tomorrow, Friday and that I needed to pull them out of school.
This was shocking for a few reasons. You see we were expecting a hearing to terminate parental rights in about a week. The kiddos didn’t know that hearing was coming but everyone else knew — their therapist, my small group, my family, colleagues, our Pastors, etc. Our circle had been diligently praying us through that season.
Well, we expected our son to take it the hardest when we delivered the news that they were leaving. He’s 8 years-old. Instead it was my daughter who is 9 years-old. She cried uncontrollably and clung to my hubby. Witnessing and hearing this triggered our son’s emotions and outbursts. I chose for this to mean that I couldn’t break down.
Instead, I sucked up my emotions. I comforted and encouraged everyone. I talked about the silver-lining, the possibilities, GOD’s hand in this, etc. Even as we packed their toys and clothes I entertained, acted goofy, and loved them. My goal was to make sure they left more excited than depressed and for me to make it to church on Sunday. If I could make it to church, there were enough hands and arms to pick me back me up.
My hubby’s emotions were just as raw as mine. So, I couldn’t bring myself to lean on him. I chose to believe that my emotions would be too much of a burden for him. So, I drank, cried, and slept after they left Friday. I hid in the house all day on Saturday. I broke on Sunday during our celebration service at Church on the Hill. Three ladies held me up as I cried it out.
The next week I attended another Klemmer & Associates workshop. At the onset, I confessed that I didn’t know how much I would get out of it because emotionally I was all over the place. Our facilitator and the Vice-President, Kimberly Zink challenged me. She said do you think you’re the only one experiencing loss this week. I said “No”. She shared that 3 weeks ago she had buried her dad. She challenged me. “What you get out of this week is your choice. You can stay stuck in resistance — “it’s not fair”, “it shouldn’t be this way”, “it’s hard”, etc. Or, you can accept it and discover the best way to move forward. Your choice”. After that I was sad but not burdened with grief. You see fellowship with like-minded people can hold you up and shine a bright light on your next steps.
When life is very busy, and you cannot stick with your ideal routine, are there any wellness practices, rituals, products or services for your mind, body, or soul that you absolutely cannot live without?
When I can’t stick with my ideal routine, I lean heavily on my inner circle. Leaning on my inner circle includes scheduling and sending text messages to them, calling for prayers and quick pick me ups, and venting sessions over coffee and chocolate. When our first foster son was returned to family in 2015, this routine saved me. I didn’t have the strength or the wherewithal to even attempt my healthy daily routine. I confessed this to my inner circle.
We picked our first foster son up from the NICU when he was 35 days old. We were told that it was highly probable we would be able to adopt him because his mom’s parental rights were terminated for his siblings. Seven months later they decided to place him with a great aunt. Not waking to care for him felt like all love had been completely sucked out of living.
I turned my life upside down for him. I almost lost my job on multiple occasions. He was my first priority. If I came to work completely depleted and unable to function as second-in-command in the office, then so be it. He had some medical challenges that impacted his sleeping. So, some nights I sat up with him wrapped to my body so that he could sleep. On those days, I was not my best at home nor at work. I didn’t carry him but caring for him spiked a lot of same the hormonal shifts, emotional attachment, and love. When he was returned to his family, my inner circle kept me going.
All of us have great days and days that are not as great. On days when you feel like a rockstar what do you do? What does that day look like, and what did you do to get there?
My rock star days are when my activities fit my time block schedule. I use time-blocking to outline my daily activities. When I adhere to the outline, I don’t carry guilt for not doing or doing. There’s freedom in moving from project to project. There is freedom when I take a little extra time to engage with family, friends, and strangers. At the end of the day, even if the to-do list is not empty. It still feels like a good day.
In contrast, on days when you feel down, what do you do?
On days I feel down, it’s because I’m double-minded through most of the day. Each activity I engage in reminds me that there is something else I’m not doing it. Most of the time I cannot explicitly define that tasks. However, there is a foreboding feeling that I’m forgetting something critical.
These days occur when I spontaneously attempt to remember everything that I need to get done. The day starts without reflection, without quiet time, without affirmations. I spend the days going full speed. At the end of the day, it feels like I run a marathon at a sprint’s pace. Even when I get everything accomplished, I feel like there was something else that could have or should have been done.
Do you have a story about the weirdest, most bizarre or most humorous wellness experience, treatment, practice, or practitioner that you’ve ever partaken in? If you do, we’d love to hear it.
In December 2018, I had the privilege to attend a 3-day Personal Mastery workshop put on by Klemmer & Associates. Since then I have attended 2 more seminars put on by Klemmer & Associates. Before I went to the first workshop, I scoured the internet for reviews. The bad reviews mentioned cults, misleading promises, and ineffectiveness. I trusted the individual who invited me, my mentor and client Suzette Teague. So, reluctantly I went.
Once we arrived at the training, the choice was now mine. Would I participate fully all weekend or would my skepticism color my interactions? I chose to participate fully. Participating fully meant being open to new experiences of active and experimental learning; it meant evoking and reveling in emotions; it meant being open and transparent to strangers. I’m not going to tell it all because part of the impact is trusting without all of the information. If you want to attend, check out their website. There is a money back guarantee because it will change your living www.klemmer.com
Consider this, to participate fully you have to be fully present. As I participated in the workshop, I discovered that even though I professed to be a servant leader I blindly avoided the messiness of relationships. I showed up and went through the motions. However, most of the time I was not present. Here is an example. Years ago we bought a house. For about a year, every morning I waved at my neighbor as we both pulled our cars out the drive way. At the beginning of a committee meeting at work, someone mentioned they were thinking about moving. They begin talking about neighborhoods and houses. During that exchange, I realized that my co-worker who I served on the committee with was the neighbor that I waved to every morning.
If during the workshop, the facilitator lectured that most people were not fully present. I would have agreed and been convinced that it was not a problem for me. In the Personal Mastery workshop, the methods used to present and facilitate makes sure that each participant comes face-to-face with the man or woman in the mirror.
You’re a high achieving business leader, and you also have family and loved ones that may require a different side of you at home. How do you leave the executive at the door, and be the most loving caretaker at home?
When our foster children were with us, I scheduled a break 30–45 minutes before I was scheduled to pick them up. This allowed me to rest and shift. Since they have left, I find it harder to adjust according to a schedule. My hubby is spontaneous. When his works ends and if he wants to engage, depends on a myriad of factors.
So, currently I’m studying him so that I’m aware of the cues and teaching him my current cues. If my hubby turns the TV to a show that we both enjoy, I stop working. If he comes home and he seems drained or overwhelmed, I stop working. If I need to connect with him, I plan dinner around a sporting event on TV or I ask him in advance. And I’ve committed to seeking his presence every day. It’s one of my affirmations that I remind myself of every morning.
Is there a particular practitioner, expert, book, podcast or resource that made a significant impact on you and helped you to thrive? Can you share a story about that with us?
The eMyth by Michael Gerber, Think and Grow Rich the Black Choice by Dr. Dennis Kimbro, If How-to’s Were Enough, We Would All Be Skinny, Rich, and Happy by Brian Klemmer all shifted my approach and my mindset. Most entrepreneurs are building a job, rather than a business. We forget the importance of systems; instead we focus on tasks. We forget the importance of relationships and adding value. As we become self-employed we box ourselves in to one solution for a specific group of people. Reality is there are an unlimited number of solutions to any problem, for any group of people.
Initially, I created a business model, price list, and marketing based on my ideal client. There was only one problem. I did not attract my ideal client. So, I could continue to unsuccessfully market and entice potential prospects exclusively. Or, I could serve and support the people who I did attract. The people who trusted me, respected me, and supported me as I am learning and growing. I naively believed that shifting my focus meant I was quitting or giving up. It took me a moment to realize that I can fulfill my purpose anywhere with any group of people.
So, I reviewed the needs of my circle and adjusted accordingly. Being a commercial realtor became secondary to helping entrepreneurs and small business owners build a business rather than a job. Hence, my services expanded. They now included consulting, workshop facilitator, book club, and tenant rep for commercial realty. Prices for services are determine by anticipated value-added, duration of project, and/or potential future partnerships. Marketing shifted in that it is a natural flow of how I do life. As my circle changes and expands so will marketing. Today daily living is more aligned with who I am and how I naturally operate.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I love this question. We all need a routine for a Mindset Reset. So for a while I did this on IG TV. It didn’t become a movement, not yet, anyway. I started it like Robin Williams. “It’s time for the Daily Mindset Reset”. Then for the next 2–3 minutes I would share how I started my day, whatever sent me left, and how I re-centered and grounded.
Mindset is the foundation to all success. It’s amazing to me how casual we are about it though. We have plans and goals for our finances, our meals, our finances, etc. The reality is if our mindset is rooted in scarcity or toxic we will not be able to make progress on any of that. Yet, we leave our mindset to chance and opportunity.
I know many people listen to self-help books, go to church, go to professional development classes, etc. Unfortunately, knowing how-to do or what-to do is not enough when your mindset is not right. Brian Klemmer has a book called “If How-to’s were Enough, We would all be Happy, Skinny, and Rich”. It’s our mindset that derails us.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
“Sometimes you have to burn the boat”
My superpower and kryptonite is security. I’m fulfilled when people allow me the privilege of serving and supporting them during their turmoil. For my own life, this means I need and build illusions of security. My illusions of security included multiple saving and retirement accounts, strategically adding value to institutions and to influential people, and limiting the risks before I rocked the boat. This is one of the reasons two therapists identified my work environment as toxic to my person.
For decades, I built illusions of security in my personal life and in my career. In 2015 when we received our first foster placement, I sought out a therapist; I realized that every day was stressful and that I was not being authentic in most of my interactions or relationships. My therapists told me then I needed to either establish boundaries or change my work environment. I did neither. I stayed at the job for another three years.
As I pursued a Vice-Presidency in higher education administration, I lost who I was. So in April 2018, when my hubby agreed to support my decision to be a full-time entrepreneur, I gave my 2 week notice. I did not know what being a full-time entrepreneur would entail. What drew me was the freedom to define it for me and my family.
A 2-week notice, from an Associate Dean in the biggest academic department on campus, when the Executive Dean has less than a year experience is less than ideal. I knew it was not a convenient time. I did it anyway. The decision got me out the boat. The timing of the decision scorched the boat.
After I got out the boat, I withdrew my retirement from the Teacher Retirement System of Texas. This action meant that I could not work for the state for a specified amount of time. Hence, I burnt the boat. I’ve been walking on water and GOD’s promises ever since.
Burning the boat, forced me to dig deeper and to search for answers. If going back was an option, then
- when I mismanaged our cash reserves,
- when my hubby could no longer see the vision,
- when my kiddos court cases were draining us all mentally and physically
I would have gladly gotten back in the boat. Getting back in the boat would have meant less growth and less support for my assigned entrepreneurs and business owners. I am extremely glad and grateful that I did not get back in the boat.
“Sometimes you have to burn the boat”
What are the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
My Instagram and Facebook handles are @blackwallstreetdfw
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!