|ASKING FOR WHAT YOU ARE WORTH
Many months ago, an A Patel reached out to me with an inMail on Linkedin. I had spoken at a local town hall for the Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA) several years ago. Would I consider giving the keynote at the women’s luncheon at their upcoming conference? I had been working with recent LadyDrinks speaker and coach Jen Groover on cultivating an abundance mindset. I was pleased to see the work bearing fruit so quickly. “Sure,” I said. We signed a contract for my speaking fee.
Monday, I had flown back from Milwaukee. Wednesday, I was up at 2:30am to do the news. At 4:15pm, I boarded a train to Princeton to give a talk. At 8:30pm, I boarded a car service back to Manhattan. At 5am Thursday, I boarded another car service to the airport. As the Brits in my life would say, I arrived in sunny San Diego ‘completely knackered.’ I’ve become the poster child for those who fly with ear plugs and eye masks in order to get some quality sleep. I went to the fish hut by my hotel for tacos. Despite the sun and water beckoning me, I stayed in bed the rest of Thursday.
PEOPLE IN SAN DIEGO ARE SO NICE
Friday, I awoke refreshed and ready for the day. I went to a 6am yoga class. The Spanish instructor with fake dyed blonde hair, inquired inquisitively as to where I was from and had I been to Yoga Vida before. I eased into my day with a cappuccino and a yogurt. The barista even offered to make me a yogurt cup with bananas and blueberries. In New York, the barista would have told me ‘&*(k off.’ People in San Diego are so nice! Must be the sun. I showered, got dressed, practiced my speech one more time in the mirror. Then I headed over to the venue. The Convention Center loomed across the street from my hotel window like a great big white albatross, reminding me that I was here for one big reason: To give a talk.
I registered with my badge. The African American woman at check-in reminded me that she had written the description for my talk in the conference brochure. She so wanted to come and hear me speak, but alas, she had to man the desk. She directed me up the escalator to something called the “Sails Pavilion.” At the top, there were Indian men and women everywhere. This was the 30th year of the AAHOA Convention and a record 8,000 hoteliers were in attendance. I approached an attendant. “Where is the “Sails Pavilion?” She promptly got on her walkie talkie to inquire. She pointed to a hall across the road. Um. ok. That room is like…large. And empty. I walked in. It was massive and white. Sun light filtered in through the carefully architected room. Sails covered half the ceiling. 1600 seats and tables were set up. “This is like a room where Tony Robbins gives talks. This room can’t be for me,” I thought. And then I heard the tech ops do a mic check. “Our keynote speaker today is Joya Dass.”
“H*ly **it!” My heart started beating fast. I had never given a talk in a room this big before. H*ly **it!
I did what I do at every talk now. I immediately started to walk around to each table and introduce myself. “Hi My name is Joya. I’m the speaker today. What are your names? Where are you from? Dallas. North Carolina. Salt Lake City.” I hate speaking to a room full of strangers. Going around and pressing the flesh helps take the sting out of addressing such a large room. I would have places where my eyes could land and make eye contact. I couldn’t even get to the end because there were 1600! (not 1200 as originally advertised) South Asian women hoteliers in the room. As I took the stage, the nerves started to ease away. You know how Beyonce has an alter ego called “Sasha Fierce” that takes over when she is on stage. Maybe I have an alter ego. Maybe it was the yoga with the Spanish instructor. I took the podium and I gave my talk. The first third was about my journey of extricating myself from a home of extreme domestic violence and leading with my dream of becoming a TV anchor. The second third was about the founding of LadyDrinks and the support systems I hope to create for other South Asian women. The last third was tactical advice. I had pre interviewed 6 women hoteliers in the audience over the phone to address their current pain points. I addressed tips for time management. Being heard. Dreams unrealized and how to realize them. The photo above is from the stage after I finished. My biggest takeaway was the power of 1600! South Asian women in business, all in one room. Mic drop.
THE POWER IS WITHIN YOU
I asked for this. I wished for this. I manifested this. And for doing work I love with South Asian women in business, I am incredibly incredibly grateful. For anyone who has ever been told ‘no,’ know that the power is within you.