Disrupt Aging Salon: Who Is Your Circle of Influence?

“I always said I was a hell raiser, but I’ve since found a more politically correct term for what I am: I’m a disruptor.”

Beverly Jackson wastes no time in getting to the point.

The Vice President of Social Strategy for MGM Resorts International gathered 20 of her closest friends at MGM National Harbor in Maryland last week for a discussion about (literally) changing the face of business. Beverly and Karen Chong, Director of Audience & Influencer Engagement at AARP, discussed what happens when people, particularly women, of color claim the seats they deserve at the business table.

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Beverly’s friends represented many stages of her personal and professional life, and spanned fields of influence including politics, marketing, media, social good, tech, and education. Some of them knew each other well, but most didn’t. They shared in two hours of lively discussion what it means to take chances, to pursue goals that often aren’t always easily accessible to women of color, and to use their gifts with bravery to change their communities and the world. They considered:

What does it mean to gracefully lean into 50+?

How can women embrace aging in a beautiful way?

How can women aging gracefully help younger women looking for professional help?

Beverly, Karen, and her friends spoke, and I had the privilege of being in the room to listen, to learn, and to amplify.

  • Take charge of your story

“Once we get in the room, once we show we have the courage to get in there, people recognize that. We get the business.” Kelli Joy Richardson Lawson, @aJOYcollective

Kelli Joy Richardson Lawson spoke of her father’s wish that she add more joy to her life. She ran with this suggestion, rebranding as Joy Collective, and it’s changed the face of her career and her life. Kelli is proud of being a black woman, and finds embracing her identity and what it brings to her work an asset to her many high-level clients, her team, her family, and herself.

  • Glow up your friends and it will illuminate everyone.

“We talk about the glow up. When you’re finding your way in the space, look for people who can help you. No one does this by themselves.” Beverly Jackson

Beverly repeatedly and emotionally pointed out how each person in the room had supported her in her life and career. She spoke to each person’s gifts and noted how they contributed to her success, to the wellbeing of their communities, and to themselves. It was a solid reminder of the power of interdependence, and of expressing gratitude. Why not openly acknowledge what people have done for you, really? Watching Beverly do it, and the positive reactions from her friends when she did, encouraged me to do it more often myself.

  • Don’t dim your own light.

“The power in bravery and self assurance means being ready to stand in the light and take your moment.” Beverly Jackson

Women in particular are caregivers, focused on giving time to their children, partners, family members and friends. Too often, focusing on your own accomplishments is seen as bragging, when it’s actually good business. If you’re not your own public relations representative, who will be?

  • Use Your Legacy

“I thought it was time to pass the torch to the next generation, but taking myself out meant a history gap. I was erasing myself from the timeline.” Shireen Mitchell

Shireen Mitchell founded the first organization to get black women and girls into tech. The young women and girls for whom she paved the way still need her experience and history. While she still pursues other work, she can’t remove herself from a story she played such a large part in writing.

  • Mentoring is Critical

“I’m determined to not create bad habits for the young women and men that work for me. They need to be a whole person when they get home.” Beverly Jackson

I loved Beverly’s take on mentoring that included the aspect of modeling healthier behavior and creating an example of a work environment that supported other aspects of employees’ lives. This adds to the need to hold the door open for other women coming up in the ranks. You have a unique position to connect to the past and the future, she said. As a connector, you have a responsibility to make meaningful connections with your family, employees, and consumers.

Build a team of supporters you can trust

#DisruptAging for me includes the idea that I am connected to more people, and each day those connections are reinforced by the people in my life. Beverly Jackson

It was so moving to be in the room with Beverly & her friends, sharing honest feelings about their personal and professional lives, loves, fears, and motivations. It made me wonder who I’d invite to a similar gathering? What would that person have to say about my life, and what I’d contributed to theirs? I’m glad to say that I’ve got a list of quality people I’d gather in my own living room, to take stock of where we’ve been, what we’re doing, and where we’re going, and how we helped each other get there. I came away from this experience thinking how smart it would be to bring our own circles together for creative brainstorming and mutual support. Isolation does not support dreams, focus, or self esteem.

Who would be around your table?

This post is made possible with support from AARP’s Disrupt Aging. All opinions are my own.