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How this coach, strategist and entrepreneur finds motivation to keep pushing her career forward

by christinecauthen

Photo: Angelina Darrisaw

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“I would describe what I do for a living as living in my purpose and my passion,” says Angelina Darrisaw. But other people might describe what she does as coach, speaker, facilitator or just incredible person. She’s presented to over 3000 in-person working professionals and over 40,000 virtual attendees from January to July of this year alone, all focused on providing our community with tangible resources and strategies to make the best of their careers and for them to achieve success on their own terms.

“It’s what really exhausts me sometimes, but also what really excites me,” she says.

For example, she recently had a presentation for more than 100 young professionals. Because of how much work she had to do, she was up until 3 a.m. for a 9 a.m. presentation (Which is not something she would recommend, for the record). But she says she finds herself working without even noticing how much time has passed because she truly enjoys what she does and it incorporates all elements of her skills. Her career allows her to work with audiences she cares about and to put her analytical background to use.

“I didn’t know I would be an entrepreneur,” Darrisaw says, “But I knew I wanted to do something big and knew I wanted to incorporate an element of social justice.

She grew up with humble beginnings, but at the same time she was going to a school on the Upper East Side of Manhattan where she had an almost full scholarship. There was an incredible juxtaposition between where she lived and where she went to school. Where now Brooklyn is the hot thing, back then people didn’t want to travel there and were afraid.

But what she learned from those experiences was that where you’re born impacts your access to opportunity.

“I saw that as a 5th grader and it made me want to provide access for people. And I was grateful to have these opportunities to go to different rooms and make this more scaleable.” 

And although she saw nonprofits helping high-achieving students find opportunities outside of the public school system, she thought ‘Why don’t we just improve the school system to not fail the kids,?’

“In college, I was a political science major and I got into a program to study the post-genocide effects in Rwanda. I also had an ESPN internship. ESPN paid, but Rwanda would cost me $5k and I needed loans for it.”

Although both of these opportunities spoke to things that interested Angelina, she felt guilt that she wasn’t on the front lines doing the social justice work. But at the same time, she knew it wasn’t financially feasible for her. But as she began to do informational work and meet with new people, she developed notes upon notes from meetings she had with different executives and people within the company.

“I now understood how you could make an impact — you don’t have to do the Peace Corps to impact the community. Being a person of color at work who gets promoted and provides opportunities for others is inspiring, too. That’s the journey — I grew financially in corporate america, paid off my college loans, started a business, and even during my time I was able to think about, as a person of color who has changed my status, what my impact will be on society. In my career, I did a program on how to be effective on boards, I joined a nonprofit, and participated in other civic engagement opportunities. We don’t always think about that, but it’s so important. These boards impact our community, but the people often don’t look like us.”

And these things are so important to her because Darrisaw knows that we have to be represented.

The Value of Free Time 

In her free time, Angelina will often go to different panels and conferences — even if she’s just going alone.

“I like events and I’m OK being by myself sometimes getting inspired and hearing stories unlike mine. I learned early on that no one can make you happy but yourself. You can’t wait for someone to want to do something with you or be disappointed when they don’t want to. Sometimes I will even go to a concert by myself.”

But when she’s not hopping from event to event and getting the most out of her professional life and the world of entertainment, she’s relieving stress by going on a run. It’s her biggest stress reliever. When it’s warm out is when she loves to run best — when she has time to think without interruption and just spend an hour with herself. But she doesn’t run on treadmills

“Ask my mom,” she says, “If I’m freaking out, she’ll ask ‘When’s the last time you went for a run?’”

That also means taking care of herself physically by eating well and only consuming food that will make her feel good afterward.

But on a more personal level, family and friends are a major priority for Darrisaw.

“That’s something I’m always thinking about,” she says, “It requires a few different things. I think of life in different phases. There were the phases where I had the opportunity to be more social and there was value in that, but now if I go a week or two without seeing a certain friend, I know we have a relationship to withstand that. With transitioning from the corporate world to entrepreneurship comes a lot of changes — financially, your time, values, etc. So I have to plan it . I put it in my calendar and take that very seriously. If I made an appointment, I don’t plan anything work-wise on top of that. That’s critical. I feel refreshed afterward.”

In addition to time with those she loves, Angelina schedules time for self-care, too. “It comes in waves, I learned early from my mom to do your hair, do your makeup — If I know I’m stressed, I’ll make it a point to get my hair or nails done to feel fresh and fly. That’s self-care for me. Even to have someone else wash your hair is a precious moment. Priorities change, but I have to realize ‘I deserve it’ and make sure I make that time.”

Her Daily Routine

The best mornings for Darrisaw are those where she’s started to prepare for the day the night before. From laying out an outfit, setting an alarm to go to the gym if she has a little extra time, doing as much planning ahead as possible makes for most efficient days.

“I have a dog , he’s active so he starts my mornings for me, he’s my alarm clock,” she says, “I don’t have to have my phone near my bed.”

Instead, her dog wakes her up at 5:30 or 6 a.m. to go for a walk every day. She focuses on being present in that moment.

When she answers emails, Angelina will use Boomerang to schedule her emails to go out at 8 or 9 a.m. The app is super helpful for her as she works on setting personal and professional boundaries.

Part of Darrisaw’s transition out of corporate included learning about herself more — whether that be direct or subconscious. She’s been natural but always blow-dried her hair before. Now she will wear it natural more often with Devacurl’s Ultra Defining Gel or Miss Jessie’s Jelly Soft Curls.

“The less I’ve used heat on my hair, the more gorgeous my curls have become,” she says.

Her skincare routine is extremely regimented, and she uses a three-step process from Clinique. She wakes up, washes her face, uses toner and then finishes wit their moisturizer before doing makeup almost every day (although she only does a quick face unless she has a major event that day). About two or three times a week, she’ll use a scrub by Clinique to exfoliate her skin. 

“I still get carded for R-rated movies,” she says, which tells you that her regimented routine is working.

At night, her main focus is trying to put her phone down. So she can really disconnect for a little while. She also brushes her teeth and flosses loyally, as she’s constantly smiling when working with clients.

Self-care Essentials

“One or two nights a week I’ll have a glass of wine and FaceTime a friend or loved one, and throughout the day I’ll journal and use a planner .”

She’ll write down if she had a win for the day and generally reflect on how things went. She’ll write what she wants to be better or how she wants to build a new habit. 

“The more I do that, I wake up the next day being super prompt, super unshaken. Things will always go wrong, but the more you’re centered, that helps a lot.”

She also engages in therapy a couple times a month to reflect and talk freely.

“We need to erase the shame around it and pay attention and focus on ourselves, it doesn’t mean you have a problem.’

Angelina has noticed that even if you’re living in your purpose, work can be exhausting. It’s necessary to take moments to step away. 

“If I’m at home, I’ll walk my dog in the middle of the day, I find that super helpful,” she says, “There’s nothing like being outside, it really helps my mood. And hugging a dog is good self-care. But on that same note, if I’m in my workspace, I’ll go take a walk or step away if I get overwhelmed.”

And if she’s feeling too engaged with something she doesn’t want to be, she’ll give her mom a call.

“We talk every day, she’s my unofficial advisor for my business,” Darrisaw says, “She’s the one person I call all the time, even if it’s just for five minutes. It’s nice to be able to have that kind of relationship with a person, especially when you need to talk about anything but work for a minute. “

But a good set of clients can also serve as the fuel she needs to get through the day.

“When you have clients who have work you’re passionate about, I’ll walk away from meetings sometimes feeling inspired and refreshed by their level of interest and commitment.

But on those days when self-care is a struggle or you’re lacking motivation, Darrisaw recommends one vital thing.

“Don’t be shaken by nos,” she insists, “Things WILL go wrong. You won’t get every opportunity that you want. Rejection is a part of life and makes you develop your skillset. It helps to go back to the drawing board and improve. But I try to get feedback with my nos so I can see how I could have gotten a yes and can continue to develop myself and my approach and tactics for the future. Your worth isn’t attached to 'yes' or 'no.' Separate yourself from that and take time to reflect and feel comfortable in yourself."

For access to Angelina’s coaching workbook, click here. For individual coaching services, check out her website and be sure to follow her on Twitter @linadarrisaw!

Photo: Gary Williams