Each Monday, we shine a light on an amazing woman who makes an impact on Birmingham and beyond. We call this our “FACES” series, because these women are the “faces” of positive change in our community and throughout the South. In every interview, we ask them to give us the words of wisdom that have changed their lives, and their answers are always inspiring. Here is each woman’s response to the question: What is your best piece of advice, and if applicable, who is it from?
We hope you glean a bit of wisdom from these inspiring words. We sure did!
The Best Advice from Our 2019 FACES
Harmony Mendoza: I would just encourage people to be more empathetic and cognizant of other human beings on the planet and not be so self-absorbed. Try to understand things from a different perspective before you wind up on the wrong side of the fence. There shouldn’t be a fence. But just step outside yourself for five minutes and look around you. Open your eyes. Image: Eric & Jamie Photography
Jessica Honegger: One piece of advice that’s changed me on this crazy journey came from brilliant author and thinker Andy Crouch, who talks about the importance of having rhythms for your life and holding yourself to them. That includes not just having rhythms for working and being productive, but for rest, too. I’m a future-oriented person, so it’s hard for me to make space for rest. I am always thinking ahead to the next thing I could be doing. But by committing to a life rhythm that includes space for rest and holding myself to it, I’m able to remember better that life is not all about the hustle. And, ultimately, that rest is going to allow me to keep going for the long haul. Image: Submitted
Amy Jason: Do what you really want to do, and follow your gut. Take chances. Image: Eric & Jamie Photography
Harriet Despinakis and Paget Pizitz:
Paget: It was from my dad. I know the saying is “The meek shall inherit the earth.” But, to me, it’s “The meek shall not inherit the earth.” My dad told me that when I was a little kid and I think it’s really given me a lot of motivation and ambition. I think I’m pretty outspoken, but I think that’s done more help than harm. I think he meant to tell me, in a way, that if you want something, you need to go after it. Because nothing will ever be given to you. I will never forget him saying that because a few years later I heard someone say, “The meek shall inherit the earth” and I said, “No, that’s not it!” I still think to this day that he thinks that’s how the saying goes!
Harriet: Mine was from my dad, too. He passed away just a year ago. But he always told me, “Just don’t give up. Keep plugging along. If you’re not seeing the end yet, just keep plugging along.” Image: Charity Ponter Photography
Jane Comer: Breathe — it will make you better physically, better emotionally, better in every way. Image: Eric & Jamie Photography
Image: My father said that his father told him, “If you can get along with people, you can get along in life.” Image: Eric & Jamie Photography
Stacy Brown (aka “Chicken Salad Chick”): The best piece of advice I have ever received came from my mother. She told me to never fear change. Depend on it. When things are going well, do not take them for granted, because things will change. When things are going badly, do not let that paralyze you because things will change. Image: Emily Jane
Laura Newman: This is going to sound weird, but “It’s not my problem.” I think as women, we’re always taught to say ‘yes’ to things, that saying ‘no’ is hostile. I think being here, too, around Southern women, it’s the idea that to be polite, you always have to say ‘yes’ and be accommodating and sweet. I think that was a turning point for me when someone said, “It’s not your problem.” I was horrified, but it really does make you feel a lot better about saying ‘no’ if there is something you just absolutely don’t want to do — especially if it’s not beneficial to you at all, and you don’t have the time. Image: Eric & Jamie Photography
Valerie Thomas: When I was the major gift officer at Lehigh Valley Hospital, the chief of geriatric medicine told me: People need to understand that aging begins at birth, and we have to focus on the basics of aging way before we become seniors. That resonated with me, and I started getting up at 5:30 a.m. with Steve. He headed to the hospital, and I headed to the gym, and I have continued to focus on not being frail. My goal is to be a spry grandmother. I exercise, eat healthy and try to watch my alcohol consumption. But, the key is to keep moving! Don’t stop, because it’s painful and hard to get going again! Image: Eric & Jamie Photography
Liesa Cole: Follow your passion. Do what you love best, and your passion will separate you from the pack. Thanks, Dad. Image: Liesa Cole
Kallen Blair: Too many people have given me amazing advice! I am incredibly grateful for the people who have been placed in my life. This is not a piece of advice, but a mentor of mine recently sent me a message and signed it, “Wishing you bravery and abandon today.” I wrote that out and put it on my wall. What if we all lived in “bravery and abandon” every day? I think it’s a lovely thought.
Alie B. Gorrie: My acting teacher in the city happens to work a lot with Simon Sinek, author of the book Start With Why. She spreads his message to us constantly: It’s not about WHAT you do, but WHY you do it. I am always coming back to my “why?”. Because if we aren’t living every day based on our own personal “why,” then what’s all this for? Image: Submitted
Erin Snow Yarbrough: I wouldn’t say this is a piece of advice, but I’ve had a lot of great role models who demonstrate the importance of hard work and a positive attitude. I try to bring that same work ethic and positive spirit to work every day, despite the daily challenges and stressors. I try to make every interaction one that leaves someone feeling better than before — like we are moving things forward together. Image: Eric & Jamie Photography
Shannon Spotswood: “If it was easy, everyone would do it.” Image: Eric & Jamie Photography
Nadine Barton: My mom always says, “Smile, nod, and listen.” And she has that Portuguese accent, which is a really nice touch. And I think that I smiled, nodded, and listened for so long that I developed this sense of confidence — in my voice, too, when I had to speak up. I think speaking up is also really important, but you have to listen before you speak up. Image: Melissa Dooley Photography
Kendall Chew: Patience truly is a virtue, but it is also so important because things do not happen when you want them to, and that’s okay. With patience comes calm, awareness and giving yourself a break. This life is too, too short. Enjoy it. Wait for it. It’s worth it. Image: Charity Ponter Photography
Kerry Schrader and Ashlee Ammons:
Ashlee: Use the skills you have gained personally and professionally to build whatever you want today. Use the skills you have today to get to where you’re going tomorrow.
Kerry: Don’t forget to breathe and live. At the end of this, this too shall pass, and there are a lot of more important things in life. Take a breath. Image: Charity Ponter Photography
Kenya Buchanan: The best advice I always give to creatives is to stay true to yourself. You are in competition with your yesterday self, not anyone else. Image: Charity Ponter Photography
Alli Webb of Drybar: I have always had a tendency to react and respond immediately. I have learned the benefit of thinking things through before we make any decisions or react impulsively, and as founders, we want to react to everything and manage everything immediately. Business moves so fast especially in the entrepreneurial stages, and it’s so important to pause and look at the big picture and overall goals of what you are trying to achieve. Image: Submitted
Mary Michael Kelley: My dad has always said, “Don’t put socks on God. Sometimes there’s just no figuring things out, and that’s gotta be okay.” I accept that I’ll never be able to control everything. That acceptance is honestly what I think has gotten me through the pain of the past, and it’s what keeps me looking forward, at least as best as I can. Image: Eric & Jamie Photography
Shella Sylla: Even if you’re afraid to do something, do it anyway because you don’t discover what you can accomplish until you’re on the other side of fear and you end up surprising yourself. Image: Eric & Jamie Photography
Mary Wyatt: Activity breeds activity. Image: Eric & Jamie Photography
Dr. Frances Tunnell Carter: Women can be catty if we want to be, and you know what I mean by catty. But try to be human about everything. Try to work alongside each other — women and men, and be your own person. Show respect for each other. Show love for each other. Just be good to one another. Image: Eric & Jamie Gay of Eric & Jamie Photography
Jamie Bonfiglio: The best advice that I’ve been given is to find a mentor. And if you cannot find someone that you can hire to mentor you, then find someone who is doing what you do and is successful at it and follow their steps as much as you can until you can hire them or someone like them to mentor you. Image: Eric & Jamie Photography
Whitney Wright: People unwittingly give bad advice all the time. The only way to know what works for your life is to come by it honestly; live it and learn it. Image: Eric & Jamie Photography
Jennifer Hunt: I recently heard “Today Show” host Savannah Guthrie say this: “Think big for yourself, and then just head in that general direction. Whether you arrive at the ideal destination is not even the point. The point is to be ambitious for your life and then just try.” Image: Eric & Jamie Photography
Karin Korb: One of my first mentors, Deidre A. Davis, Esq., a powerful disabled black woman, once said to me, “Don’t ever forget where you come from and all the people, places, and things that helped get you where you are.” Image: Eric & Jamie Photography
Dr. Leesha Ellis-Cox: One of the things my dad said to me very early on when I was little was, “Don’t be intimidated.” He would whisper it in my ear almost every day. Don’t let fear, doubt, people, obstacles, hiccups, or derailments stop you. Whatever it is that you desire, don’t let anything get in the way. I think it still resonates because obviously as we get older, the challenges and obstacles that we face change but we’re always going to face hurdles in life. It’s just a constant reminder that I’m capable, that I’ve got what it takes. Image: Eric & Jamie Photography
Cathy Sloss Jones: “Be kind,” because kindness matters, and love the people you love as much as you can. Image: M. Fehr Photography
Olivia Hiz: Never give up, no matter what. Even if the odds seem so stacked against you, don’t give up. Because even if what you wanted doesn’t work out in your favor, some other door or opportunity opens. So don’t give up. Image: Eric & Jamie Photography
Sheila Benson: Build a company around your culture and hire to fit that. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how talented someone is — if they don’t fit the culture, they won’t be successful. For me, culture has been the most important thing. It’s about team building and it’s about our culture. Image: Eric & Jamie Photography
Tiffany Martin: Love and kindness can get you a lot further than just about anything else. Image: Eric & Jamie Photography
Deborah Everson: Stop talking. Listen and learn. Image: Eric & Jamie Photography
Tanya Tucker: Like I said, get out there and perform everywhere you can. You never know who’s listening or paying attention. Image: Danny Clinch
Pardis Stitt: Be compassionate. Image: Eric & Jamie Photography
Delphine Carter: Listen to your intuition. Quiet the voices on the outside and listen to your intuition. Sara Blakely from Spanx, she didn’t tell anybody about Spanx for the first year of its existence because a dream in its infancy is the most vulnerable. People love you and want to make sure you’re safe, but they’ll tell you, “Oh, don’t do that. It’s so risky.” Just trust your intuition and drive toward that result. Image: Eric & Jamie Photography
Martha Underwood: Believe in yourself and go for it! Whether it’s a raise, a board seat or a position that I don’t think I’m 100 percent qualified for, going for it stretches me! Whether or not I achieve the sought-after goal, at least I leave learning what’s required to get there. And throwing my name in the hat associates me with that level/caliber of opportunities. Image: Eric & Jamie Photography
Granny Rich: Be caring and loving and look at everything in a positive way, instead of looking for the bad in everybody and everything. We sometimes think things are the end of the world, but it’s not. The world keeps turning, and good things keep happening. Image: Leila Grossman
Hallie Ringle: The best advice I’ve been given I got from my uncle. He said, “Things don’t go wrong; they just go differently than planned.” And in contemporary art, things always go differently than planned. Image: Eric & Jamie Photography
Jamie Golden: I have seen every episode of “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” That was my after-school program — not going to the Y. And she famously quoted Maya Angelou, who said, “When you know better, you do better.” I think the advice there is not just to wait until you know better but to really work to learn about everything. Always be a learner because then when you learn about anything — any issue, any type of people, any type of situation — you’re going to be able to move around the world easier and with more kindness. Image: Eric & Jamie Photography
Mallory Webb: Take risks — I just feel like we can’t get anywhere unless we take risks, even though it’s scary. All this stuff about vulnerability is so trendy right now, but it’s so true. Living a vulnerable life and putting yourself in situations where you feel exposed and scared, it becomes the most life-giving way of living. I did salsa-dancing classes last year, and it felt scary, but it was so much fun! Putting yourself in situations where you feel vulnerable is so rewarding; so many doors open up when we take risks. Image: Eric & Jamie Photography
Farris Benko: Be yourself and don’t let anybody hold you back! Image: Gray Benko
Brenda Meadows: In general, I try not to lose my focus and start carrying things that really do not relate to the mission of my shop, which is lingerie, loungewear and sleepwear. My best advice is to remain focused. I think that small shops do get into problems when they try to cover too many different products. I think it’s better to go more in-depth. Image: Eric & Jamie Photography
Nadia Richardson: My career unfolded when I allowed myself to indulge in who I really am. I feel like sometimes the world can take reality and beat someone’s purpose out of them, so my advice would be to do what makes your heart happy. If it’s art, do it. You might not be Beyoncé, but you might teach Beyoncé, or you might write a song that Beyoncé sings. Do what you love. Plan for the future, but don’t let the future plan you. Image: Eric & Jamie Photography
Bettina Byrd Giles: Choose your battles. You try to find a win-win, but sometimes you have to give up something to get something … to get to the win-win. Image: Eric & Jamie Photography
A HUGE thank you to all of these incredible women and their wealth of advice!
Stay in the know about all things Southern — subscribe to StyleBlueprint!