Friday 5: Meaningful Friendships

Hello everyone! It’s Krista, one of LeaderShape’s Community Engagement Interns. Today we’re talking about friendships. In my 22 years of life, I have definitely struggled with making quality friendships. People can be tricky to read and it can be hard to know who to let into your inner circle. I have been terrified to open up to new people in fear of them leaving me for other friends, but it’s important to put yourself out there. You will meet your forever friends, trust me! You just have to give yourself permission to let it happen.

Yes, good friends can be hard to come by, but you will find them. Sometimes it just takes a little patience. Here are a few of the ways I have found that are essential in creating and maintaining meaningful friendships — & keeping them strong as ever!

Let yourself be vulnerable, trust is key.

Being vulnerable can be difficult. It’s hard to find people you know you can trust to open up to, but it’s so important to have those people in your life. Vulnerability is something a lot of people like to avoid, though surface level relationships are not sustainable in the long run. You need people you can trust to talk about the things that really matter. Being vulnerable takes practice, but once you’re able to do it well with friends you can trust, then you’ve got yourself a strong friendship that will last.

“The best proof of love is trust.” -Joyce Brothers

Give each other space when it’s needed.

Sometimes you just need time to be alone, and that’s okay. Space can give you room to breathe and that can actually create stronger relationships with those in your life. Being alone gives you time to gain a better understanding of who you are as a person, as well as who you need to surround yourself with for a more fulfilling life. Just be respectful about your need to be alone for a little while; let your friends know in a clear way – so they know you aren’t avoiding them, but you really just need personal time to grow.

“I think it’s very healthy to spend time alone. You need to know how to be alone and not be defined by another person.” -Olivia Wilde

Remember to create time for one another.

Life can get busy. It’s inevitable, but it’s important to not forget about your friendships amongst the chaos of life. Make time for each other, even when it seems like you have no time at all. This can seem especially hard when it’s a long distance friendship, but there are a few ways to easily make time for the people that matter. It would be best to find time to meet in person, but if you can’t do that, try to call them or video chat. Don’t always rely on social media. Social media is can be an amazing way to keep in touch with friends and family, but people can often use social media in a way that can hinder relationships instead of cultivating growth.

“No distance of place or lapse of time can lessen the friendship of those who are thoroughly persuaded of each other’s worth.” -Robert Southey

Make each other smile.

Friendship is built on people that can make you smile even on your darkest days, so making your friend feel safe enough to talk about those feelings, but also be able to help them forget about it for a little while. Remember the little things your friends love to show you care. Put effort into your relationships, and prove that you truly care about those who mean the most to you.

“Share your smile with the world. It’s a symbol of friendship and peace.” -Christie Brinkley

Be upfront and honest.

They say honesty is the best policy, and it really is true. If you have an issue with a friend, it’s best to just be upfront with them. It will cause less stress in the long run, plus many times people don’t even pick up on your potential hints of anger. Just ask your friend to sit down and talk with you about the problem as soon as possible after it happens. Being passive aggressive about something rarely every solves the problem, it just makes everything worse. Dishonesty in a friendship ruins trust and a lack of trust could end the relationship once and for all. Just remember to be kind-hearted in your honesty — do not intentionally hurt others with your words. Remember that mind-reading doesn’t exist, so you’ll need to actually tell your friends what is on your mind to solve the problem. Trust is the foundation for a meaningful relationship — honesty allows for love.

“Honest communication is built on truth and integrity and upon respect of the one for the other.” -Benjamin E. Mays


Krista Lindwall is a Community Engagement Intern at LeaderShape. A recent graduate of Marquette University, Krista loves creating excessive amounts of Spotify playlists, making memories with family and friends, adventuring around her city and beyond, drinking copious cups of peppermint tea, and learning to become a social justice warrior in her community. Follow Krista on Twitter at @krista_lindwall.

“Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.”

Friday 5: The View from NYC – 5 Leadership Learnings from the NYC Marathon

It is a treat for me to get to live in the Big Apple. I mean, the city has almost anything to offer at any time of the day. As a vegan, I get to have 213 vegetarian and vegan restaurants at my fingertips. As a lover of Broadway, Hamilton is playing right up the street (though getting tickets offers its own challenge). And as a person who loves to observe people, a simple ride on a subway offers its own special drama every time I take a trip downtown. Though, there’s one special event that only happens once a year in NYC and I try not to miss it. It’s the NYC Marathon.

Now, let’s not get confused.  I don’t run the marathon. I stand on the sidelines to watch and cheer on the runners. I’m on the official “Olympic standing there team” (anybody else remember the Friends episode where Joey says that about Chandler’s lack of foosball?). I think training and running the marathon might offer its own lessons in leadership and possibility – particularly for my 44-year old body – but standing on the sidelines gives me a unique, front row view of hope, resilience, struggle and strength, and it’s the one thing in NYC that I don’t miss.

This year while watching the marathon (I got to combine two of my NYC loves…one of my favs on Broadway, 2016 Tony Winner Cynthia Erivo who plays “Celie” in the Tony winning revival of The Color Purple ran the marathon) many ideas begin to pop in my head about lessons of leadership that we learn just by watching these incredible runners, and I thought I would share 5 of them with you:

  1. Run your race, Keep your pace
    As I stood a few yards in front of the Mile 23 marker in Central Park and watched the hundreds of people move by, I noticed there were runners, walkers, and folks that were barely standing. Again, not being a runner, don’t quote me on this, but the folks who were stumbling or barely standing, probably ran someone else’s race.  By that I mean, they probably trained at their pace, but probably got out with all these other runners and tried to keep pace with others’ who were faster or had trained differently. How many times do we do that in our lives? We compare ourselves to the people around us (usually by looking at social media) and think that our lives and our experiences just don’t measure up.  The thing about that comparison is that it tires us out and has us running a race (or living a life) that isn’t ours.  How can we remember to run our own race, and keep the pace as leaders that is meant for us?
  2. Step out of bounds to help a friend
    I will forever watch the NYC Marathon at mile 23. I think that’s the mile where our humanity shows up – for better or for worse (see note about people barely standing above). The humanity of the runners was being tested the whole 26.2 miles, but Mile 23 tests the humanity of the folks on the sidelines. And both were beautiful. I watched loved one after love one cross the metal barriers that we were held behind to run alongside their friend…in jeans, sweaters, and sometimes boots…just to give them that extra boost of energy to push that extra mile. Whenever are we able to step out of our everyday expectations and normality of our lives to give an extra listening ear, kind word, or assistance to a friend, we should do it.  It doesn’t matter what artificial barriers have been set up.
  3. Listen to Good Music
    I love music. And to run a marathon, I would MOST DEFINITELY need to have a playlist that lifted me up and that inspired me. Many of the runners had on headphones and it made me wonder what was on their playlist over 2 hours into the race. Did they pick India Arie’s “Just Do You” (I would pick that one) or was it the Rocky Theme (that too!)? What was the pump up music that they needed?  What’s the “music” that we are listening to? Not the literal music, but the voices that surround us. Are we surrounding ourselves with people who will lift us up? Or the folks that tear us and our dreams down? I want the most positive playlist I can have in my ear as I run this life marathon.

  4. Get clear on your purpose
    My guess is that everyone who completed the race had a relatively clear goal. The 26.2-mile marker. The finish line. To beat their training time. But then there were the folks who had a purpose on top of their goal. You might be scratching your head and saying, “What do you mean Tanya? Aren’t they the same thing?” For me they are different. The goal might be the thing we are striving to achieve, but the purpose is the why we are even there – to me, it’s the thing that gives life to the goal. At the marathon, I saw runners’ whose shirts read “For Uncle Billy” or that named the number of years they had survived cancer. I didn’t have to know what their individual stories were to know that they were going to complete that marathon because they had their purpose for running as the wind at their back. So many of us in life are going after these goals dictated by society or what it looks like to be successful, but for what purpose.  The clarity of purpose makes a difference.

  5. The “you take a risk you might be rewarded” – MTA, -weather, -life
    This last realization actually happened on my walk away from the marathon and as I was getting on the subway to head back home to Harlem. As I swiped my Metrocard to get on the subway from 86th up to 135th, I saw an MTA (Metropolitan Transit Authority) worker holding open a side door to the regular turnstile entrance and calling for marathon runners to show him their marathon medals and offering them a free ride on the subway. I immediately thought, “How cool, they are getting a reward for their bravery.” The subways in New York cost $2.75 per ride, so it might not seem like much – but it adds up – but it helped me realize that their reward was so much greater than the $2.75 that the MTA employee was putting back in their pocket. Their very willingness to take a risk many months before to say, “yes, I’m going to run that marathon” was paying off. When they signed up, they had no idea what the weather was going to be or what would be going on in their lives at the time of the marathon, but they signed up anyway and started training. And they were rewarded. It was a gorgeous fall day. They had millions of people cheering for them along the streets of NYC. They got to see all five boroughs of the city in the most scenic way possible. They got random people like me who said “congratulations!” to anyone I passed on the street wearing a blue marathon heatsheet on the day of the marathon smiling big toothy grins at them. And they got a free ride on the subway. We actually never know where our rewards will come from when we take a risk, but I do believe they are always there (even if we have sore muscles or might get bumped and bruised in route to them.)

If you’ve never watched a marathon (and don’t think you’ll ever run one), I encourage you to find your nearest marathon and sign up for the “Olympic Standing There” team and take it all in from Mile 23.

Tanya O. Williams is the Director of Strategic Partnerships at LeaderShape and works primarily with the Resilience program. Tanya describes herself as a Social Justice Educator, Life Lover, Possibility Creator, Liberation Seeker and Hope Giver and has been affiliated with LeaderShape for 20 years. And she’s loved every minute of it! You can find Tanya on Instagram and Twitter at @authenticseeds.

Friday 5: Travel Edition

For some of us, summertime means vacations and travel! Some of you out there take to the skies for your work. The person who travels the most on our staff, hands down, is Vernon. Because Vernon is such a pro, we’ve asked him to share his top 5 “must have” travel items. Here we go…

Hopper app on my phone.
Allows for you to save trip destinations for specific dates and you will be alerted when the fare drops.

Luggage Online
The only place to shop for luggage.  Deep discounts.  Free shipping.

Beats headphones
Combination noise cancellation and great sound!

Flightboard app on my phone 
Brings every airport flight board in the world to your phone – real time.

Luggage Tags from FedEx Office
Did you know that you can take your business cards to FedEx and get them laminated and made into luggage tags? Cheap and functional!

Do you have any additions to Vernon’s list of travel must-haves? Leave your recommendations in the comments below. 


Vernon A. Wall is Director of Business Development at LeaderShape.  An avid college football and basketball fan, Vernon loves visiting new places, laughing with family and friends, reading Entertainment Weekly, martini bars and challenging the status quo when it comes to equity and inclusion.  “I am in the world to change the world.”  Follow Vernon on Instagram and Twitter at @vernonAwall.