How I Discovered What It Means to Be Driven by My Passion and Not Finances

4 Min Read

From my childhood through the early days of my career, one carrot always loomed clearly in the distance: money. Growing up, my family earned a modest income, so we always had to be extremely financially conscious with every decision.

So after graduating college, I thrilled my grandmother when I snapped up a position as project manager for IBM Global Services and plunged myself into the "security" of a corporate job. I gave it all the dedication and passion I could, but every day I felt myself becoming more and more unfulfilled. Why? What did I have to complain about? I had an important position with a Fortune 100 company, and I was climbing their ladder, quickly. I had a great salary that afforded me a nice car and a very comfortable apartment. My Grandmama and my mom could sleep like a baby knowing that their little Teneshia had grown up to be a self-supporting woman on an executive fast track. But something was wrong, and every day, I grew a little more heavy-hearted.

I began the journey by going through a self-reflective exercise during which I pondered, If I were able to look at myself from the inside out, what would I find? What are my natural skills and talents? And which of these talents am I passionate about?

Beginning on Fridays, I'd try to lose myself in a cloud of parties and other weekend outings with friends. Then, at the first sign of a darkening Sunday sky, I'd feel a familiar creep of sadness at which point I'd call my mother and sing the blues of dread for the Monday to come. In keeping with my professional and financial ambitions, I enrolled in graduate school, and the demands of my job plus grad school wore even more heavily on my already exhausted psyche. But it was in a higher education classroom that I was offered the miracle of awareness. One of my professors asked the class a simple question: "What's been the driving force behind most of your major life decisions?" When I think back to that day, my eyes sometimes still well up with tears at my realization that the desire to make money had been the basis for some of the most important choices in my one and only life. No wonder I was not happy. I not only wasn't pursuing a purposeful life, I didn't even know enough about myself to understand what my purpose might be. And I certainly didn't have any idea how to pursue purpose in a professional way. But in that class I took the first step.

I began the journey by going through a self-reflective exercise during which I pondered, If I were able to look at myself from the inside out, what would I find? What are my natural skills and talents? And which of these talents am I passionate about?

You just need to drive and courage to keep moving.

I scribbled a list of words: Creative. Organized. Project Management. Fashion. Entertainment. Culture. Each word conveyed something about my passions. Simple as that exercise sounds, it was an enormous step toward my changing my life completely.

Next I had to figure out how and where could I use and develop my skills. So I looked for opportunities that would let me learn while helping. This led me to volunteer on a movie set in the film's fashion department. While this once-in-a-lifetime experience actually earned me a move credit, more important is that it pushed me one step closer to figuring out what I wanted to do with my life—by showing me where I didn't belong. Fashion as a career wasn't a fit for me, but I learned that time spent figuring out where you don't belong is time very well spent. I call this the "purpose process of elimination." Every job, task, or challenge you take on and discover that you don't like moves you closer to understanding what your purpose is. You just need to drive and courage to keep moving.

Next, I landed a volunteer position for RUSH Communication, a New York based entertainment and media company that was driving pop culture across several categories including fashion, music, and community empowerment. Aha! Now I was beginning to feel the click. It was there that I discovered the thrill of making a positive impact on multicultural communities. After some time with RUSH, I also discovered that I missed some of the structure I'd experienced at IBM. So I wondered, how might I combine my newly discovered purpose with structure and organization? What better way than to captain my own ship? That ship eventually became EGAMI Group, my New York based, multicultural marketing agency that works with Fortune 100 companies to create campaigns that meaningfully engage multicultural audiences. Purpose. For me now, every day feels defined by purpose, and I'm elevated by the reminder that purpose is a journey, not a destination. What a gift I gave myself by looking for that purpose and creating a life that honors it! Now one of my greatest goals is to help other people forge purposeful paths for themselves. Consider these questions as you try to define your purpose:

  1. What brings you your greatest joy?
  2. What are you most curious about?
  3. What gifts, talents, and skills come to you naturally?
  4. What are your weaknesses and strengths?
  5. What inspires you?
  6. What annoys you?
  7. What would you do every day without pay?

The answers to these questions will help you recognize and define your own purpose. And once you see it more clearly, what might you do about that?

What a gift I gave myself by looking for that purpose and creating a life that honors it!

How my Sundays have changed. Long gone are the end-of-weekend blues. Now a Sunday night means, "Yes! Tomorrow begins another week to make a positive mark on the world."

You can find out more about my book, The Big Stretch, here.

This article was originally published December 26, 2019.

How to Learn Much More From the Books You Read

It is one thing to read and another thing to understand what you are reading. Not only do you want to understand, but also remember what you've read. Otherwise, we can safely say that if we're not gaining anything from what we read, then it's a big waste of time.

Whatever you read, there are ways to do so in a more effective manner to help you understand better. Whether you are reading by choice, for an upcoming test, or work-related material, here are a few ways to help you improve your reading skills and retain that information.

Read with a Purpose

Never has there been a shortage of great books. So, someone recommended a great cookbook for you. You start going through it, but your mind is wandering. This doesn't mean the cookbook was an awful recommendation, but it does mean it doesn't suit nor fulfill your current needs or curiosity.

Maybe your purpose is more about launching a business. Maybe you're a busy mom and can't keep office hours, but there's something you can do from home to help bring in more money, so you want information about that. At that point, you won't benefit from a cookbook, but you could gain a lot of insight and find details here on how-to books about working from home. During this unprecedented year, millions have had to make the transition to work from home, and millions more are deciding to do that. Either way, it's not a transition that comes automatically or easily, but reading about it will inform you about what working from home entails.


When you pre-read it primes your brain when it's time to go over the full text. We pre-read by going over the subheadings, for instance, the table of contents, and skimming through some pages. This is especially useful when you have formal types of academic books. Pre-reading is a sort of warm-up exercise for your brain. It prepares your brain for the rest of the information that will come about and allows your brain to be better able to pick the most essential pieces of information you need from your chosen text.


Highlighting essential sentences or paragraphs is extremely helpful for retaining information. The problem, however, with highlighting is that we wind up highlighting way too much. This happens because we tend to highlight before we begin to understand. Before your pages become a neon of colored highlights, make sure that you only highlight what is essential to improve your understanding and not highlight the whole page.

Speed Read

You might think there have been no new ways to read, but even the ancient skill of reading comes up with innovative ways; enter speed reading. The standard slow process shouldn't affect your understanding, but it does kill your enthusiasm. The average adult goes through around 200 to 250 words per minute. A college student can read around 450 words, while a professor averages about 650 words per minute, to mention a few examples. The average speed reader can manage 1,500 words; quite a difference! Of course, the argument arises between quality and quantity. For avid readers, they want both quantity and quality, which leads us to the next point.

Quality Reading

Life is too short to expect to gain knowledge from just one type of genre. Some basic outcomes of reading are to expand your mind, perceive situations and events differently, expose yourself to other viewpoints, and more. If you only stick to one author and one type of material, you are missing out on a great opportunity to learn new things.

Having said that, if there's a book you are simply not enjoying, remember that life is also too short to continue reading it. Simply, close it, put it away and maybe give it another go later on, or give it away. There is no shame or guilt in not liking a book; even if it's from a favorite author. It's pretty much clear that you won't gain anything from a book that you don't even enjoy, let alone expect to learn something from it.


If you're able to summarize what you have read, then you have understood. When you summarize, you are bringing up all the major points that enhance your understanding. You can easily do so chapter by chapter.

Take a good look at your life and what's going on in it. Accordingly, you'll choose the material that is much more suitable for your situation and circumstances. When you read a piece of information that you find beneficial, look for a way to apply it to your life. Knowledge for the sake of knowledge isn't all that beneficial. But the application of knowledge from a helpful book is what will help you and make your life more interesting and more meaningful.