Category: thinkpiece

Creating Your Universal Balance

business, entrepreneur, lifestyle, mindfulness, purpose, society, thinkpiece, youtube August 19, 2019

Ahhh, balance…the thing we yearn for more and more as the years pass. But how do we create this elusive thing?


The best advice I received lately was from the consummate badass herself: Mona Zak, a successful businesswoman constantly inspiring others with her 7 C’s to Ultimate Transformation, how she runs her real estate brokerage, or how she started her fitness line, just because.

…Monday’s are made for big starts, big transformations and taking big chances, after all. And there’s no one better to help you de-program than Zak.

Self-Preservation is Your Best Friend

know, mindfulness, thinkpiece July 7, 2019

The two-hundredth-and-forty-fourth anniversary of America dredged up some pretty powerful feelings about my own independence…or lack thereof. Days after, it dawned on me that my obsession with the latter (or the former, errr), could be tied to the impending arrival of my two-year LA-versary.

Thanks to Hollywood (one small neighborhood in LA), Los Angeles has been likened to some other world (true), where sunshine beats on you constantly (false). So much so that you might be wondering, “Tahira, what about sunshine makes you uneasy?” And the answer to that is: living in Los Angeles is the hardest thing I’ve done thus far. In two short years, I’ve learned a disturbing amount about myself and being on my own.

What that really means, and what that really looks like. 

And for some reason, learning these things has been seemingly more uncomfortable than my learning in other seasons in my life. Perhaps because I can no longer bullshit myself about who I am and why I am that way, but to make a long story short, I’ll say that I’m still trying to figure it out. One can only suspect that it has a lot to do with how good I’ve gotten at ‘picking and choosing my battles’–a practice so subjective by nature that another wave of discomfort is rolling in as we speak.

And perhaps that's the thing that really gets me about this town...

It makes you realize that nothing is good or bad. The only thing that makes it such is your perspective. What a beautifully hellish thing to be responsible for…. :’) And ultimately, that’s why I’ve come to see self-preservation as my best friend.

Merriam-Webster defines self-preservation as, “preservation of self from destruction or harm,” a biological reaction that boils down to survival of the fittest. But in my even simpler, zen-brain terms, self-preservation is what I do to not completely lose my shit. If life is an ocean of emotional triggers, self-preservation is your lifeboat. Not your mother, or your best friend, or your significant other. Love and fear of God is great too, but for good measure, pray for self-preservation.

I liken self-preservation to the duvet cover I pull over myself at night knowing that it won’t protect me from the ax murderer, should they arrive in the middle of the night, yet that cream, linen duvet helps me get in those Zzzs.

Self-preservation isn't false security.

I’m fully accepting of the fact that two locked doors are the actual barriers between me and this imaginary murderer, and even more privy to how ridiculous this analogy is, yet I don’t allow either of those facts to keep me up at night. If I’m being even less ridiculous, SP is any action that helps you to cope with the reality that a lot of sad, scary things happen in life, without diminishing life’s beauty. It’s the mediator that helps to balance you out after all goes left.

For me, that mediator comes in the form of mantras that I hold up against pretty much anything that happens in my life, including, but not limited to….

1. Love all, but give your energy to few.

Energy is expensive and we have to learn how to spend it. To my horror (and yours, I’m guessing), turning off your giving-a-damn-o-meter completely is impossible, but if you learn where to invest your energy, and how in what quantities, your life gains an under-rated calm.

2. See it and say less.

A ghost from dating’s past once taught me life’s biggest lesson: not everything needs a response–that includes people’s actions. Sometimes they have no idea that what they’re doing affects you big time; other times, they know what they’re doing, can ‘imagine how you feel’, and they just don’t care.

3. Relationships must be a two-way street.

Call me crazy, but whether familial, platonic, or romantic, I want the people in my life to do the work to maintain the connection we have. This may not look like a steady stream of communication, or time spent together, but if the answer to why we haven’t enjoyed quality time in 5ever is poor communication…I will happily remove you from my life.

Ciao. Poof. Finito. 

I take all of my relationships very seriously, and if you don’t, well…please keep your ‘pick-up-where-we-left-off’ mess away from me. Everyone has their preference, and mine is to unapologetically connect with the people I love as often as I can.

4. Cherish the people who show up for you.

You don’t have to search for your cheerleaders. Or buy some device on the black market to decipher their energy. You will know who is there for you and who is not. Celebrate those who are, they did not stumble into your life by accident.

5. Not all of your relationships will pass this sniff test. 

That’s the whole point…not all of them are supposed to, and that’s perfectly ok. Even the relationships that pass the sniff test today, may not pass it fifteen years from now. That’s why self-preservation should be our best friend.

And why not? Self-preservation is having the audacity to celebrate your life regardless of the circumstances. It’s the defiant act of celebrating who you are today and who you have in your life today, of loving all that you have for what it is, and of seeing the magic in this very moment.

Self-preservation allows us to see the beauty in all things, by helping us to reconcile the hurt we feel from the bad that occurs in our lives, without attaching it to the good. It’s the freedom to just be and let be. And you deserve it.

Ellie Shoja + Neloo Naderi Teach Me the Art of Finding Inner Peace

business, thinkpiece, transformations, youtube May 7, 2019

With Mental Health Awareness Month upon us, there’s no better time to pause and consider the health of our inner dialogues. Recent reflections around my mental health helped me realize how much time I have spent considering my relationships with others. And who doesn’t? It’s the most human thing to do.

But when do we start giving the same time and attention to the relationship we have with ourselves? Our thoughts create our reality, and of course, our ability to shatter limitations. I started to prioritize my self-talk after a college roommate scoffed at my post-grad aspirations, and told me it would never happen. My recognition that those were her limiting beliefs and not mine, helped me to muster “the nerve,” and conviction to follow my dreams instead. At that very moment, a choice was made.

We often think that changing our thinking to honor all that we are is a long process, but the work of Peace Unleashed owners, Ellie Shoja and Neloo Naderi show us major breakthroughs can happen as quickly as 15 minutes…if you’re ready to commit.

Their business consists of empowering people to connect to their true selves, which are completely at peace. The power of peace then helps them to, quite literally, make their dreams a reality.

Don’t believe it can happen to you? Ellie and Neloo just might change your mind:



The Fe(Male) Blame Game

society, thinkpiece October 5, 2018
    On some indiscriminate day, at some indiscriminate time, I listened to a radio interview that shifted my perspective. The celebrity guest, Ariana Grande, said something that hit me like a ton of bricks: “stop blaming women for the shortcomings of men.”
    The 15-second clip felt like a homecoming, the vehicle through which I was finally able to make sense of the many things I had felt in my relationships with men, whether familial, platonic, or romantic.
    Newly broken up from Mac Miller and not yet engaged to Pete Davidson, Grande’s clarity struck me as that of a young woman who had freed herself despite “going through it.” Her words, not a lyric to some man-hating anthem, but the haunting, underlying beat of an undeniable, unwritten truth within the patriarchal societies of the world: that the denial of male culpability in situations they are wholly responsible for, shifts blame to women, subjecting women to lesser qualities of life, harassment, sexual violence and even, death.
“Stop blaming women for the shortcomings of men….”
   Not only did I write down her words, as I do with anything that moves me, I essentially uploaded it to my psyche. Grande’s words guide the analysis of my rumination that day, the day that followed, and so on. Then and now, they elicit breakthroughs on situations I am still not fully healed from. Then and now, they allow me to be gentler with myself when (inevitably) considering the smorgasbord of character flaws I encounter in men, explicitly said to be my fault, my cognizance and self-lovingness aside.
 Finally, a powerful, universal one liner I could put my finger on: “stop blaming women for the shortcomings of men.”
    Then, after the passing of one short summer, Mac passed too. The words are still so hard to write, let alone, to imagine as reality. His heart shined through his talent in a way few rappers I’ve listened to have been able to master and even when theirs did, his felt just that much more effortless. His death made me think about how lucky I am to be alive, after years of struggles with disordered eating, depression, binge drinking, an MDMA-induced overdose and suicidal thoughts, all of which led me into therapy for nearly three years, some months ago, instead of into a grave. I felt horrible that he his life ended in the latter.
    The disbelief remains but after the initial shock subsided, I immediately thought of Ariana and her words, which couldn’t be more revealing of the female experience in our overtly man-handled world.
    Scrolling through the vitriol people threw at her over the Internet, my stomach turned; her words were used to imprison her with culpability for his death. The commenters (many of them men), declared, “you killed him.” Others wrote, “they couldn’t take Demi instead??” My anger, pre-heating to the seven-hundredth degree, found me praying for her and even the heartless, often icon-less bozos on the Internet.

Then came the nausea.

    So much like the nausea I felt after it became frightfully apparent that first man I was strong enough to love unapologetically and unconditionally, wasn’t the great guy he so desperately wanted to be–and painted himself as.
    The ILY’s, introductions to members of his family and long-term friends that shouldn’t have been made and the intentions he spoke of, but took no action to make a reality, nauseated me for days on end. I was floored by the humiliation of the reality that “he couldn’t be all in with me now, but would be ready in two years,” in similar ways as I was by stupid people on the Internet. The only difference was, I hadn’t made what felt like a lifetime of memories with these people, or traveled the world with them as I did with him, and I certainly hadn’t engaged in multiple conversations about our lives and the life we could create together. At times, the magnetism between us was so strong that observers, whether friends or strangers, approached us to say that we seemed to be so in-tune, we could only see each other in a crowded room.
    Furthermore, flashbacks to their being, words and actions didn’t confine me to my apartment for a week because I was so weak and so broken by everything that had happened that I couldn’t survive as much as a glance from a stranger on the street. I was terrified of what they would see when they looked at me; the feat that I would be as worthless in their eyes, as his actions and words suggested I was in his, kept me inside my tiny studio in Los Angeles.
    And here I was, “the strong friend, the fearless daughter, an exemplary young woman,” pleading with God, blankly staring at walls, feeling worthless because I did exactly what Ariana said I must stop doing: allowing men (especially those viewing the situation from afar), to convince me that I am to blame for their shortcomings. As devastating as that experience was, I’ve heard of, and even observed by proxy, women loving men who were far worse than he was; a kind-hearted person I just happened to get involved with at the height of his self-sabotage.
    I still hope he metamorphoses into the incredible person I had the privilege of experiencing so intimately, solely for himself and no one else, especially not me. Nowadays, I see my value so clearly that not only am I sailing the ship, I’m working on wrecking on it altogether. And though, I have forgiven and have come to terms with not being able to forget, I’ve wised up to the game he and so many men engage in: The Fe(Male) Blame Game.
    The game occurs as follows: he, the flawed guy who “needs to grow up,” he, the guy “you’re too good for,” as per his faux-friends (often the ones waiting to take his spot–stay woke), or family, convince you that you should’ve known better than to give him the time of day instead of urging him to take responsibility for his actions and his struggles in life. Because how dare you show up in his life, trying to be the most positive, supportive person you could be to him?
    How dare you ignore the inconspicuous warnings? How dare you try to assist in fixing all the leaks in his house, after discovering his house isn’t standing on the most stable of foundations? And to make matters worse, like the nightmarish, antithesis of Bob, The Builder, after all you’ve tried to help heal, he sets you on fire…only to expect you to mix the plaster he mindlessly slings at hole-ridden walls. Fed up with his lack of care, you start to realize that at the root of the this pernicious, cultural phenomenon is the male ego.
     The same male ego that forces women into culpability for more than just our heartbreaks, but even for our character assassinations, for the limitless micro-aggressions thrown at us, for our harassment, and sadly, our rape, and our murder. The Fe(Male) Blame Game allows us to be the creator of our own downfall, while men are “just boys being boys,” or “didn’t mean any harm,” when they’re violating us and our personhood in stunningly harmful ways. By complex, men are entitled to the throne and more, even when they’ve ground up bones of women come and gone for the sole purpose of creating one to sit their undeserving ass on.
    Save labeling me as an angry man-hating woman, for that I am not. I love the men in my life unconditionally, so much so, I unapologetically hold mirrors to them, and nothing more. What is revealed in doing so is their responsibility to fix. Instead, label me a mere observer of the patriarchal society that initially caused me to build a shaky foundation for my own house, until I gained the bravery to tear it down and rebuild one made of self-love, of the love of God, a faceless, nameless life-force and of the bravery to be seen and heard in a world that often shields and shuts me up: a house made to last
    However, I am angry at the detriment the male ego continues to create in a society where #MeToo isn’t a witch hunt but a reality. Even beyond that, there’s the gender-wag gap, the perils of childbirth, the limit of opportunities that come with child-rearing, the daily mind f*ck that you absolutely need to look like that model, smile all of the time and embody vulnerability so that a man can swoop in to save you; an action you must then reward said savior with pleasure so good, he even starts to lose interest in his favorite pornstar.
    This anger damn near caused me to implode this week, while listening to two stories play out on Capitol Hill: one of an exemplary woman, Dr. Julie Blasey Ford, who also bears the title, survivor of sexual assault, which per her testimony, robbed her of peace of mind that her body is hers and hers only, her spaces are safe and that her society values her–something she cannot get back; the second, of her abuser, Brett Kavanaugh, a man attempting to cash in on the white male privilege he received a number for at birth despite his arrogant attempts to dodge arbitration, his agitation in not being above the law and his aggression in lieu of the rightful realization his actions are choices he made that make him wholly unfit for the Supreme Court seat he petulantly seeks.
      I am angry that the male ego residing within Kavanaugh also resides in so many of the men I’ve rubbed shoulders with.
     Within the enclaves of academia, a young, white male had the gall to say to my face that the only reason I matriculated at Boston College was because I reaped the benefits of affirmative action with my black skin.
     Within the enclaves of white, patriarchal society, the last boss I had before starting my first business, audaciously told me that quitting is a mistake, though the position was bankrupting me mentally, emotionally and physically. “You know this is the only chance you’ll get to be an entrepreneur,” he quipped; I retorted that I’d send him a signed cover of my Forbes cover.
    Within this society, I am subject to catcalling, told to smile by men I don’t know, forced to grapple with being perceived as not so smart thanks to my large breasts, or gorilla-like, or always angry (because black women always are, right?), or too smart to date due to my inability to not have the wool pulled over my eyes.
    As a woman in this world I have experienced weeks of sexual harassment from a black man I considered a friend up until that point. I have also experienced a black man fix his mouth to suggest that if I were “10 years older, I’d be his wife.” As a woman in this world I have experienced a black, male TSA agent loudly proclaim, “my fiancé is coming through,” as I made my way through a crowded airport security line. I was 13. And traveling with my grandmother. To say we were both horrified is an understatement.
    Yet, I remember thinking, well, “maybe if my shirt hadn’t been so low-cut,” revealing breasts larger than the average 13-year-old, “this wouldn’t have happened.” My tendency to blame myself for the way men treat me had been programmed into my neurons long before I realized it. My tendency to blame myself for the way men treat me is still something that percolates but now, doesn’t go unchecked.
    That tendency plays out everyday, for every woman just to varying degrees. It’s the need to double check that the skirt isn’t too short, or that you didn’t send the wrong idea by being “too nice.” It’s sharing your location with more than one trusted person at all times, just in case. It’s knowing not sitting on men’s laps after you hit age 8, even when they’re “trusted.” It’s the inability to go anywhere without looking over your shoulder and quite frankly, the reason I personally started boxing because when push, quite literally, comes to shove, I’ll do everything in my power to not be the one on the ground.
     It’s the art of rebuffing advances with seeming graciousness as so not to be further harassed. It’s balancing growing into your own person while taking on the second and third shift. It’s considering your plan of action in the event that you fall asleep on an airplane and wake up to someone else’s hands in your shirt or pants. It’s being manipulated into friendship in the hopes that it may turn romantic, unbeknownst to you. It’s the ongoing threat of a physical attack in a public or private space at any point. It’s being taught to value financial independence so that if your male partner puts his hands on you, you have the financial means to leave.
    Women are forced to subconsciously play The Fe(Male) Blame Game all of the time, over just about anything, because that is what we’ve been conditioned to do within patriarchal society. That’s why the actions of Dr. Julie Blasey Ford, Debbie Ramirez, Julie Swetnick and other unnamed survivors of Kavanaugh’s abuse, are so remarkable. In their speaking out, bravely offering their names, reputations and more, they’ve continued the devastating work of breaking the cycle of shame and blame, of “if you had only done x, y wouldn’t have happened.”
    They are the few amongst the many, whether we know their names or not, who are working to correct society’s grandest transgression: misogyny. By honestly sharing their stories, women in our global society are inspiring others to do the same, revealing the multitude of ways the unchecked male ego has trespassed against us all, even men. Now, more fearlessly than ever, I’m happy to ally with women of all walks of life working to destroy what has destroyed us: a culture wrongly blaming, shaming and punishing women for the shortcomings of men we were never responsible for fixing, excusing, or loving in the first place.

The Business of Love

thinkpiece July 6, 2018

From the scarcity of my posts, you know that I’m guilty of many things–reclusiveness and drawn-out reflectiveness being the most obvious. I wouldn’t say that my writing lacked purpose before, but now, I write what I feel is most essential; it’s like 11th grade AP English all over again, when concise was the word that haunted my dreams. After months of silence, I return to say that love is more important now than ever. And even more so, giving it in abundance.

Owning a business is the last thing I’d imagined would strengthen my practice of giving unconditional love, but, almost six months into managing my first, I can say that love makes for good business, and being able to express it, makes business better. This isn’t to say that I call my clients up to tell them how much I adore them–as I get to know them, I find that they’re all very dynamic people, but professionalism is of the essence.

So, what does love have to do with business? I consider myself lucky to wake up everyday absolutely loving what I do, whether it’s an easy day or not, but this way of looking at love doesn’t go deeper than the surface. When we think a little more abstract and consider unconditional love, it becomes apparent that love and business go hand in hand because an abundance of one creates an abundance of the other. Here’s how:

At the core, when you treat yourself like an asset with infinite value, you’ll treat your employees and your projects similarly. Stories about founders and CEOs who don’t make self care a priority mortify me because the foundation you set for yourself will determine the foundation of your business; if you create a culture of sleep deprivation, unloading built-up emotions instead of communicating openly, and indulging in crappy foods, guess what? That’s what your employees will emulate.

Do I whine internally as I roll out of bed to head to the gym at 6 or 7 am? Absolutely–especially when there’s (LA) traffic. But, it sets my day on the right track, puts me in a great mood, and quite frankly, keeps me healthy. I promise, I’m not some vegan Crusader, but giving extraaa thought to what I put in my body has put me in a better headspace. If you treat yourself like a trashcan, eventually, you’ll treat your business like one too; if you treat yourself like an herb, for instance, that needs several elements to grow and provide, the sky is the limit.

And this isn’t because you’re the most important person in your business, it’s because the way you treat yourself sets the tone for how your employees treat themselves and each other! Granted, you are the foundation of your business, so everything you think and do will manifest and influence others within your organization; however, you’re merely the foundation. Let’s not forget, the Burj Khalifa has 163 stories built upon its foundation.

So when you set a great foundation for yourself through practicing giving unconditional love, that practice spreads to others–whether they work with you or not, creating a lasting influence on first, your community, then society, then the greater world. Respect, communication, collaboration and love make for a fabulous bedrock, not only because it ensures your organization’s success, but also because it allows for those successes to translate into civic goodness: investments in community centers, offering paid internships to kids whose other option is crime, even, collectively giving blood…the list goes on and on.

Now, the practice won’t be easy–it’ll be hell sometimes, but the reward is infinite. And whether you are a recluse (like me), or you have the visibility of Kim K, this practice will change your life. If you’re already practicing, great, continue, and I promise the reward will be magnified.

“Don’t withhold your love. Somebody needs you and you need them.” –Iyanla Vanzant