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Life On Your Own Terms: Six Dilemmas That Might Come Up and How To Address Them


There’s a reason why nobody reads all of the terms and conditions when downloading a new app or software. First of all, it’s long. Secondly, terms and conditions don’t actually give you directions for how to use the software. None of the information seems immediately applicable unless you’re particularly concerned about whether or not the company will sell your personal information and even then, some of us would rather just not know. That little checkbox certifies that you ‘agree’ to the terms and conditions, even if you have not read them, and puts you on a fast track to getting started with the program on your device.

Now, imagine being the person responsible for writing those terms and conditions from scratch -- yikes. 

Obviously, we know that it takes even longer to write than it probably takes to read. We also know that the writer of those terms and conditions has to be careful to include accurate information about details that no consumer is ever going to care about. 

As much of a drag as that sounds, get this: a lot of the behind-the-scenes work of a trailblazer likely resembles that of the “terms and conditions” guy. He works out the details for the really cool app while everyone else gets to just click ‘agree’, and move on with their life. Likewise, the trailblazer has to think deliberately about what the road ahead will look like while everyone else appears to be on autopilot, coasting upon a road that is already paved. 

This is why every trailblazer needs a mentor to help them stick to the sometimes daunting process of coming up with your own terms. A good mentor also provides guidance on what may need to go into the “terms and conditions” of your life, whether or not other people know about them or agree. 

We were honored to hear and learn from guest Susan Chapman-Hughes who has traveled the world, served on many executive boards and is a proud member of the “Old Mamas Club”. In our very first Mentor Moment event, Susan shares how she has been able to progressively navigate executive roles as an empowered black female within white male-dominant industries, a global leader with ethics and a relational human being. If you’re a goal-getter, building a network or brand, looking to switch careers or just wanting to pick up as many pointers as you can from someone who has done it before, you are in the right place.

Take a look at what Susan had to say as a strong voice of mentorship for our community members here at Luminary.

Dilemma #1: I keep getting sidetracked from the plan I made for myself. 

Struggling with sticking to the day-to-day plan? You are not alone. Susan gave us some concrete tips for how to approach goal mapping, but not before she provided some much needed perspective:

“You may not have the amount of hours that you’d like, but the ability to make those hours count to being fully present, not being distracted, making the investment in the relationship that you want to build are all really important.

It really boils down to what you really want.” 

Mentor Moments

  • Dream really big and then work backward from that goal. Plan to do ten things every year that will move you into the direction of the big goals that you set for yourself and be mindful that how you reach the goal might change the more knowledge you gain about the experiences that you need.
  • Make a relationship goal: Nothing has the power to change our schedules more than appointments that need to be made and kept with the people we care about. Recognize when you need help and ask for help when you need it (including help that you might need with keeping to commitments).
  • Create a self-care regimen and plan your “no’s”. Avoid the overwhelm that comes from saying yes to everything. “No” to someone else is what creates the capacity for “yes” for yourself. If you don't know how to say “no” you'll never have the capacity to say “yes” for yourself.

Dilemma #2: I don’t know how to go about growing my personal brand.

Creating and growing a brand is an opportunity to reinvent yourself and tell the world (both new and old faces) who you are and what you offer. Knowing where to start can be extremely challenging though. Here’s what Susan had to say:

"Figure out what is your superpower that you can share with others. Figure out what your thing is and go from there.”

Mentor Moments

  • Nothing happens without a social media presence. Get your Instagram, your Twitter, Facebook, website, or whatever it is you're going to use. Be mindful to choose the right social media platform to have a strong presence.
    • For example, it's unlikely you're going to go to Twitter, looking for coaching advice but you'd likely go to LinkedIn or to Medium and look for that.
  • Start sharing insights within your network. Write articles that you can post on different Medium and you'd be surprised at how quickly some of those things will pick up.
  • If you have a unique space that you feel like you've got something to say, write a book! 

Dilemma #3: My goals are taking too long to achieve.

Ambition is admirable, but patience is a virtue. Here’s what Susan had to say about dreams that don’t come to fruition fast enough:

“I don't believe that there is anything called, “it takes too long”. If it's taking too long, then that means that I'm not dedicating the time and energy that I feel like I'm supposed to to achieve the goal. Some of the goals that you're going to set for yourself, are just going to take a long time.”

Mentor Moments

  • Accommodate for changes in the plan. Set realistic expectations, based on your life, about what you'd like to achieve. 
  • The emotional toll that comes along with all the things that we've been living with in the last year and a half... two years [with COVID-19] is just hard, and so people who haven't done the work to try to make the transition to accommodate for those changes are really doing themselves a disservice.
  • Be clear on what it is you're trying to do, why you're doing it, and if you're on track for doing that. If it isn't clear, then that means you probably need to make some changes, because everything is not going to always work out the way you want it to.

“When something doesn't work out. I don't look at it as, ‘Oh my goodness I'm such a failure…’ I look at it as, ‘This is not the right opportunity for me at this time’, and I ask myself, am I doing the work? Am I on track for the things that I said I want for myself? ...If I'm doing the work that I know I need to do, then I feel completely good about it because that just means that it's going to come together. It's okay to be impatient, but sometimes you’ve got to be patient with your impatience.”

Dilemma #4: I’m having trouble finding a mentor and building a network.

Not everyone is the kind of vibrant extrovert who thrives in social settings and seamlessly inserts themselves into enjoyable conversation. Susan, however, is and did a fantastic job of giving pointers for those who might not be. 

“Approach it as if it's just a relationship, and then recognize that sometimes some people are there for a reason, a season, or a lifetime; and it's up to you to figure out which one that is because everybody's not meant to be in your life forever.”

Mentor Moments

  • The biggest part of it is being open to unexpected interactions, and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone to be in those places, so that you can make those connections. Find some new things and some new places to go and give yourself some new challenges.
  • I would encourage you to just approach it as a relationship building opportunity, and not a professional one. Note: I didn't say “professional relationship building opportunity”. I just said, a “relationship building opportunity”.
  • Lean on email and texting to keep in touch. After a couple of months have gone by, send somebody a text or an email forwarding a resource or letting them know that they’ve crossed your mind. Some relationships, you will need to put them on a calendar and have a quarterly touch base or bi-annual touch base. 
  • Ask your friends to introduce you to people. The best way for someone to get to know you and not feel like they have to go through that whole trust filter is if somebody they trust vouches for you

“Don't be afraid to look at your network and say, “Hey look. I really want to learn: X, Y and Z and I noticed that you have a friend in your network who does that for a living. Would you mind making an introduction to them for me?”

Dilemma #5: I want to switch careers/industries, but I feel a bit stuck

If you've spent more than a decade as a classroom teacher, it can feel pretty much impossible to switch to an industry that has not one kid or lesson plan in sight! That’s just one of many examples where one might feel pigeonholed into a career that just isn’t cutting it anymore. Susan has one of the most ferociously diverse resumes and tons of advice on how to help you make the switch. 

“Build your story. This is about branding and marketing yourself in a way where people go, “Oh yeah, I totally could see you doing this thing.”

Mentor Moments

  • Switching to an industry means needing to learn the industry. You have to actually want to learn the work or industry and do the homework, first. It has to really be a passion that you want to grow into something more.
  • Be mindful of the fact that you’ve got to ask for the opportunity. If people don't know what your desires are and what you want, it's gonna be really hard for them to actually help you out with that because they're not mind readers. Most people are busy with their own “stuff”; they don't have time to go do your stuff too. 
  • Tell them “why me”. Paint the picture of why your experiences would make you suitable. Build your story or branding and market yourself. You have to do that work. It's really hard if you put it out there and tell people you want to do it and you don't create the story for them, because now you're asking them to look at your resume and try to figure it out and most people just are not going to dedicate that time.

Dilemma #6: I find challenges as a mom with trying to keep everything running smoothly between home and work 

Susan hilariously echoed herself in claiming her membership in the “Old Mama’s Club”. A woman so accomplished as herself gives us hope that there is a balance for the goal-getter who is also a mother, wife and friend. Susan’s answer for how to keep things running smoothly was the breath of fresh air that mothers, soon-to-be mothers, and aspiring mothers need to hear.

“The first piece of advice I'm going to give you is to stop expecting that things are going to run smoothly. Children are very interesting and they are unpredictable and just when you think you have it under control, everything changes again.”

Mentor Moments

  • Figure out what you need to do versus what you can outsource. I felt like I had to do everything, so I was literally cooking every night. I was doing all the grocery shopping until I literally sat down with myself, and thought, “This is completely stupid to them, and you're going to run yourself into the ground and this is not okay.”
  • Figure out where your boundaries are and what you're willing to do, what you're not willing to do, what you need to do, and what you don't need to do; and set those boundaries.
  • Get some help. Organize as much as you possibly can. Get a good nanny or ask a family member to help with whatever it is you need.

“I also just let go of some things. I was like, ‘Okay, well listen, if you want to sleep in some funky sheets for an extra week, then that's up to you.’”


As you can probably tell, our time with Susan Chapman-Hughes was nothing short of candid, lighthearted, and informative. Stay tuned as Mentor Moments with other guest goal-getters will occur once a month and remember, you can totally sit with us!