Luvvie Ajayi Jones Is Ditching Humility, and So Should You

Her new book, ‘Professional Troublemaker: The Fear-Fighter Manual,’ is a guide to embracing your greatness

Photo illustration: Dennis Huynh/Medium

Luvvie Ajayi Jones is proof of what happens when you pair 18 years of blogging and writing with tenacity and synchronicity. She went from working for the man to being the woman, with a 14,000-member app, her own social network, a popular TED Talk, and now what is sure to be another New York Times bestselling book. Released today, Professional Troublemaker: The Fear-Fighter Manual is chock-full of the I’m Judging You writer’s step-by-step tips on how to face down fear, earn your worth, and big-up yourself in a world that wants to put us all down.

Yes, racism and sexism are shitty and real, Ajayi Jones says, but in the meantime and between times, gas yourself up—and gas up your friends, too. After all, who told Black women we need to shrink or that reminding folk of our dopeness was a problem? Ajayi Jones provides a step-by-step guide to the blowup, the glow-up, and the popup, aided by ultra-relatable Nigerian culture and sass. She delves into lessons imparted by her grandma, calls herself the “18-year overnight success,” and suggests traditions like the Oriki, which is kind of like giving yourself a massive title akin to Game of Thrones Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen, first of her name. But the gist is this: Be unapologetically big.

And if that’s uncomfy, Ajayi Jones has explicit ideas and easy-to-access techniques on how to help you bridge that fear.

“We gotta fight fear like it called our mama a ‘bald-headed, trifling bitch,’” she writes. “We aren’t doing it because we are unafraid of consequences or sacrifices… We are doing it because we have to. We know we must still charge forward regardless…”

On the eve of her second book release, Ajayi Jones talked to ZORA about success, Twitter, humility, and braggadocio. Here’s what else she had to say.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

ZORA: Manifestation Mondays and Twitter LLC are full of advice to think it, be it, and somehow become it. Your book deviates from the conventional wisdom.
Luvvie Ajayi Jones:
I’m not distilling the lessons of Twitter LLC, because Twitter LLC thinks life is one-size-fits-all and things. No, I don’t believe the key to success is just start your own company. For some people it is, but not for everybody, you know? I really took my life, my story, and my actual lessons lived and decided to put it in this book. Even the parts that say “you got this” are backed by “do the work.” I broke down the book into three sections: Be. Say. Do. And that “do” being the exclamation point. None of the being and saying matters if you don’t put any real action behind it.

That’s real.
Everyone’s manifesting, which is great. And so I’m not knocking it. It’s incomplete though. That’s the thing. I want you to dream audaciously. You have to start there, but you can’t stop there. I think when we talk about the whole manifesting conversation, people stop at the dreaming. So, if the dream is to write a book, you should probably start writing.

You also offered other gems, like “throw humility away.” That’s a block for many. How does one, for example, brag without bragging?
Brag with charm? You know, it’s not even about declaring yourself the best, because that title is too subjective. It’s too debatable. There’s always somebody who’s better than you, quality-wise, but bragging is about really owning what you’re dope at. Right? So, if I sit up here and tell you, Adrienne, that I wrote an amazing book, it’s because I firmly believe I wrote an amazing book. Right? We think humility is diminishing our gifts… If I don’t recognize how good I am, nobody wins.

That’s why a lot of people are in therapy right now—trying to recover from self-diminishing their talents.
Why shouldn’t she tell you that she’s dope? Why shouldn’t she tell you how fire her flow is? And I need us to get used to watching women be bold about that. Be unapologetic about it. I surround myself with people who are like that: “Yes, I am amazing. Absolutely amazing.” But these people are also really kind.

Humility is like being self-deprecating to a fault. No, I will not be that person. I’m not going to be that humble. But my humility is tied to the fact that I know that I am who I am and I can do what I do. Not just because of my work, not just because of my gift and my talent, but also I am surrounded by systems that have propped me up — parents, the community, my deep beliefs, great opportunities, mentors who also pushed me forward.

Some Black women feel guilty for being successful and having nice things. Damned if we do and damned if we don’t. Any advice?
Being successful is a form of economic justice. We live in a world where capitalism reigns and men are given full permission to profit without guilt. And then they attach guilt to our profit, because women are supposed to be nurturers and caretakers. How do I take care of myself when I’m not financially whole? How do I take care of my community?

I trust women with money more than I trust men. When we make money, the world benefits, because we give it away. Look at Oprah. Oprah gives away so much money every year that the world is better because Oprah is rich. Mackenzie Scott, Jeff Bezos ex-wife, who got $50 billion? This woman has given away like $10 billion — to colleges, to philanthropy organizations, to nonprofits. This woman’s money is working.

True.
I want us to get more money. The world would be so much better if there were richer Black women, because we are the gateway into service. Like we will give it to kids, we’ll give it to domestic violence shelters. If we have to struggle less, the world would be better for it.

Talk about gassing up your friends and complimenting each other’s sexy lipstick. I’ve seen your IG Lives with Bozoma St. John. They made me smile.
We’ll spend the first three minutes of a conversation gassing each other up and be like, “I see you girl.” I had my makeup done for something, and I called her, and literally she picks up the phone and I was like, “I just wanted you to see me ’cause I look cute today.” That’s just how we roll, because, I mean… It’s such a deep breath of relief to be able to do that and then have it sent right back to you.

Any advice for women ready to speak out but afraid of the outcome — especially in a corporate gig?
Don’t be ride or die for a brand. Be somebody who’s willing to move and flow. And if the place stops serving you for real, like if that place stresses your whole spirit out? Look for another job. There are so many other jobs out there. If you were excellent at your current job, it’s not going to be as difficult to find a new job. If you have proper mentors, they will look out for you. If you have friends, they will look out for you. We always think the job is the end all, be all. It’s not. If they are sucking your spirit out, and they’re saying you’re too aggressive because you dare to show up as your full dope self? That is not the place for you. I’m not saying quit your job today. Be clear that you have options and use them.

Director, Multicultural @Medium. Focusing on ZORA, Momentum, Level and bolstering creators of color. All ideas welcome. And yes, I’ll still be writing.

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