Two Stock Tips From Two Bad Decisions | Investing Series

I’m a kinesthetic learner, which means I have this insatiable energy to learn things by doing things. Which means I don’t have the patience to watch videos or listen to someone explain something when I want something right away. Which means I usually do the thing before I should and make some stupid mistakes.

Well, we have more advisors talking about what they did right vs. what they did wrong. But it’s the mistakes that lead you to the tips you wouldn’t investigate unless you had to get yourself out of trouble. So at the risk of embarrassing myself, let’s save you some time and headache with the list of mistakes I made so you wouldn’t have to 😊.

Luckily, my portfolio’s been outperforming the Dow Jones Industrial Average for at least the last month (I’m the green line below).

But when you’re dealing with rapid ups and downs and uncertainty of what’s going to happen next, it’s critical to make every dollar invested count in your favor.

It’s never a bad time to invest during a recession, if you have the means to do it. I got a little too eager, though, and missed some rare chances to make enormously more than I’d invest…and then I overcorrected and put myself in an unnecessary hole that left me doubting my ability to keep the momentum.

Here are the ways that happened, and how I’m getting back on track regardless:

  1. I didn’t explore all my options with options.

Options contracts offer you the opportunity to buy or sell minimum shares of a stock at a specific price (relatively cheaper than buying stock through a direct purchase).

Options are like coupons you have to pay back for playing a slot machine. No matter how much of a certain data you have on company stock, there’s never a guarantee that everything lines up the way you think it will when the reel stops spinning.

I bet on an option for a company (see below) only after I had solid evidence of something that would make its profitability skyrocket in the near future. I even waited to watch the stock price move either up or down after a major news announcement to make sure I had more than a hunch about its potential.

What I did:

I made the most rookie mistake ever because I was too lazy to do my research. I paid no attention to pretty bad penalties for holding an option that expires worthless…

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For Michelle Obama, Becoming Ordinary is Extraordinary | Leading Like a Lady

Lesson: See the Unseen.

I used to wonder why God was invisible. At times it was hard for me to put stock in a higher power I couldn’t see but was supposed to exalt. 

Then at one Bible study, I found my answer in a story about how God revealed himself to Moses. He was allowed to experience God without fully seeing God, because “no one may see [God] and live” to tell the story.

Interesting to think about as I think about feeling invisible, a feeling most black people share. God symbolizes perfection and no person is near perfect. But, I wonder if there’s a power within us (the black people) making it hard for others to fully see us, lest parts of them are forced to die.

It was definitely a theme in the Netflix documentary “Becoming”, based on the memoir of the same title written by Michelle Obama, former First Lady of the U.S. The film includes clips of her book tour, the best and worst parts about being the first black family in the White House, and the conversations she had about it along the way with high school students.

Read the book Becoming with a 30-day free trial of Amazon Kindle.

So much can be unpacked from her trip to Chicago, where a student asks, “how did you…persevere through this invisibility [of being a black woman]?” In one sentence she wraps up the misunderstanding and miseducation of black people around self and worth constantly forcing us into microcosms of ourselves.

For black women, the misunderstanding involves the exhausted tropes of being too ornery to talk to, too nefarious (think “welfare queens”) to trust, or too ugly or average to be valued. Coupled with black girls misinformed about who they really are, or what they could be, and you have the recipe for ripping apart the soul.

Policy changes or laws aren’t enough to solve this. The plague cuts across economic class, ethnicity, or geographic region. I saw it in myself— a first-generation Nigerian-American in a middle-class home, taught to find her worth in marriage rather than ambition. And I saw it in the black girls I struggled to teach in the South Bronx because they never thought they were smart enough. Miseducation starts at home, where internalized self-hatred is inherited, passed down in the mocking or discouragement from elders nursing past trauma. 

The trauma comes from a world deifying the black child only after they’ve made it through hell. Black children have the undue pressure to prove themselves significant while navigating paths paved with the blatant oppression of slavery, heading down the road of “soft bigotry”, low expectations” and taunts to “pull yourself up by the bootstraps.” And like a cool glass of water you’d be hard-pressed to find in hell, there’s no grace for buckling under that pressure of trying but failing to hold on.

Michelle Obama’s response to that question— “my parents always made me feel visible”— would be triggering without the self-awareness she has to recognize her unique situation. The key point she portrays in her book and attitude is crucial. We need to feel seen, but it’s a need a lot of young black girls can’t find at home or anywhere else.

When I think about that and the past generations of young people (like me) who didn’t have a Michelle Obama, I mourn the missed opportunities to unlock all the potential we had within us. If the world continues to have its way, black girls can’t afford to be just “good”, and don’t deserve the right or resources to be “great”. It takes someone like Michelle Obama, self-aware in rooms where entitlement can deceive, to show us where our true greatness comes from.

As Michelle eloquently puts it, it’s in the stories rather than the numbers. I loved Michelle’s conversation with Elizabeth, a senior from Whitney M. Young High School in Chicago. So many young women like her worry their life amounts to nothing if all they achieve is survival. I taught so many girls like her who didn’t have the perfect GPAs or pre-collegiate careers but were busy earning the income that keeps their family afloat, caring for the grandmother or father that’s sick, or frankly just carrying the emotional baggage of an unstable home.

It cautions me to reconsider what I try to accomplish as a leader, and especially as a black woman. Michelle clues us into our true superpower— seeing worth in what the world finds ordinary. It’s monumental to have an accomplished black woman like her showing us that growing up in places like South Side Chicago can’t deny us access to the privileges of high society by default. But it’s even greater to have someone like her breaking the fourth wall of privilege that tells us otherwise. 

A world that immortalizes Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg (college dropouts) for pursuing their dreams, but demonizes black children who get lost trying to find theirs, needs to be called to account. There’s so much power in Michelle telling black girls it’s okay to unplug from the world’s expectations, to stop being a “box-checker” under its standards to discover and be seen for what they truly value.

The world underestimates or refuses to understand that. It’s clear from the stories in “Becoming” and from “ordinary” life. The truth is that, as imperfect and complicated as we are, black women pursue the greater good. We raise and nurture children. We protest the harm done to others. We use our talents to inject joy and excitement into the culture. But, as Michelle says, “we go through it alone; we don’t have backup, we don’t have support…” And then, when the world’s done taking and reclaiming what we give it as its own, we’re stripped to a script or statistics that are nowhere near the truth.

The truth about us is dangerous to the status quo…too dangerous to be seen. God bless Michelle Obama, with the rare luxury of people’s attention, to share this with black women and the world: “That story, with all the highs and lows and what seems so ordinary, and what seems like nothing to you – is your power.”

I’m Not Selling Disney. Here’s Why | Investing Series

If 2020 was a motto, it would be fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.

I graduated right when the 2009 Great Recession started, into essentially a non-existent job market and the worst year of my life. The past 10 years were a grueling process to heal mentally and financially.

So, imagine my PTSD when coronavirus shows up ten years later and takes blowing up the economy to another level. As blindsided as we all were, I had my wits about me this time. I wasn’t gonna let history repeat itself. At least not my financial history.

That’s the context for why I started my investing in a recession challenge. Around March I started dedicating at least four hours a day to following the stock market, buying up at discounts, and consuming as much knowledge as possible on how to invest and make a profit.

I’m making videos occasionally here, but I felt the need to talk about Disney, the stock on everyone’s mind.

Disney is like milk— you know when things are good or out of hand as the price goes up or down.

You got to inverse your thinking, though, when it comes to stocks, because even as they get cheaper for the average person to buy, they also get more expensive if they lose their value. Buying cheap milk is great for the soccer mom, horrible for the milk farmer. But if the whole milk supply goes sour none of us are eating cereal.

Disney is supposed to be the safest bet because there’s no reason for it not to grow in value.

First, Disney invented the happiest place on Earth.

Also, it’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t own at least one Disney DVD (VHS if you’re a real OG) that their four-year-old self didn’t wear out. And now, Disney has a streaming platform where you can binge to your inner child’s delight.

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Out of all its products/services, Disney makes the most from its media and entertainment vs. its theme parks (check out page 2, segment operating income). So technically speaking, it should be a no-brainer to invest in its stock. It can still earn a good amount of money even though social distancing is keeping Disneyland closed for who knows how long.

But lately, Disney’s not the cash cow most people hoped for. So far I bought it at a profit, albeit only a $10/stock profit over the past month. It’s staying in the same place right now, not going down or any higher in price, and for that reason some experts are telling us to cut our losses and sell it off.

I’d only do that if I were going to take the cash (i.e. profit) from sold shares to buy another stock without it costing me any more money. In other words, I’d use the profit I managed to gain from Disney and use it to buy something else I knew is (a) at a discount, and (b) expected to grow in value and make me money without having to take more cash from my bank account.

Big BUT— this is based on the way my specific portfolio is made up. Based on the performance of the other stocks I bought, selling off Disney wouldn’t mean much. I wouldn’t gain much nor lose anything. It would only be worth it to me if it gets me to another stock that will make me more money, faster and sooner.

This is why it’s so important, especially as a novice, not to just follow whatever “the experts”, or anyone else, says. There’s been so much value in me learning for myself, and not just trusting a financial planner to do the work for me. Yes, it takes a lot of time and my mind was never equipped to look at so many numbers every day. But I feel way more empowered to know what I’m doing and be in control of my own finances.

And I hope you’d do the same. 2020 is turning into a year of controlling your own destiny, as much as that’s possible. As a woman, I’m finding the confidence to take these risks and make something out of a situation that would have made me an emotional hot mess a decade ago. As a black/African woman, I feel I’m making up for lost time and wisdom about building wealth. And for the first time, I feel I’m on the right path to create something I’ll pass down to generations.

Maybe you want to feel the same way? Let me know if you want more ideas or just want to watch my financial journey by signing up to get blog post alerts. If you’re really lost and have specific questions you want to read about or hear me discuss, send an email to

DISCLAIMER: The Investing Series focuses on investing in the U.S. stock market. I have a Master’s degree in International Management, but I am NOT a certified broker or trader. The advice I give is based on my own experience and I cannot be held liable for any gains or losses from this advice!

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf | Leading Like a Lady

Lesson: Look like a man, think like a woman.

(Photo by Bruno Vincent/Getty Images)

You might call Ellen Johnson Sirleaf an “alpha female”, and that wouldn’t be your fault. Though you’d be wrong.

James Bond wishes his plots were as thick as Johnson Sirleaf’s life. Reading her memoir This Child Will Be Great is more than a thrill ride. But to call her an alpha female cheapens the magnitude of the events in her life and oversimplifies the purpose behind the choices we must make to lead.

Read the book using this link.

Have you ever wanted to be an alpha female, and did you ask yourself why? It’s one of those labels so overused that we say it without a strong sense of what it actually means. 

You probably said it because you want to be rich or successful, dominate anything you pursue, or to be the one in control. Psychologists say these tend to describe the alpha male, and that women wear these traits more often when they’re desperate. They want their boss to take them seriously, or they need that promotion to cover the extra childcare costs, for example.

Moreover, the alpha is his (or her) first priority. And that’s where the problem lies. Self-preservation is a natural instinct, so there’s nothing extraordinary about it. 

But, at least for the first 30 years of her career, Johnson Sirleaf proved herself extraordinary. It wouldn’t be a typical African politics story if Johnson Sirleaf’s legacy wasn’t mired in controversy. There isn’t a doubt, though, that she gave up several chances to put herself first for the sake of prioritizing others. 

In her book, she goes into elaborate details about the threats to her life. She was an activist under probably the most vicious political regimes in African history (don’t skip reading about it). Of course, she wasn’t the only one who did this in Liberia, male or female, during that time. It was especially abnormal for a woman to be in the position she was, or get the amount of attention she did for speaking against tyrants who didn’t make idle death threats. 

I see myself in Johnson Sirleaf’s boldness not because she’s a woman, or because I imagine I’d be just as brave to call bullshit in that hostile environment. Instead, I see her life as a reprimand to me and everyone who shy away from this and needs to know that this is what it takes to stop injustice from happening, whatever your gender. Oppression’s oxygen is silence. We all have a moral obligation to speak up, even if it means neglecting our natural instincts to lay down our lives for others.

What’s powerful about learning this lesson from a woman like Johnson Sirleaf is knowing that, whether she lived or died, her story would no doubt push others to not let her sacrifice go in vain. Her “alpha” traits didn’t just force greater international pressure to stop one of Africa’s worst civil wars. It told African women, specifically, that their voices were an existential threat to the status quo.

This couldn’t be clearer than when Johnson Sirleaf writes about a clash between her and then U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who didn’t appreciate her strong opposition to Charles Taylor, the notorious blood diamond dictator:

I was astonished. There was no way in the world I would work with Charles Taylor after all the death and destruction he had caused…and I told President Carter as much, in no uncertain terms…. 

“Do you really think I’m going to identify myself with that?” I asked Mr. Carter…I think the president got a little miffed with me because of that.

It took another six years before Johnson Sirleaf would be heard. One can only wonder why Carter or anyone else would be annoyed more by her resistance than by the blatant evidence of Taylor’s despotism. Regardless, Johnson Sirleaf’s persistence signaled to Liberian women that they couldn’t risk letting another dangerous man get the benefit of the international community’s doubt.

Let’s be clear: we shouldn’t hate men. We should hate what they get away with —which is, at best, demanding more for mediocre effort, or at worst giving them full reign despite how their actions harm others. 

In a world where a proven murderer (a man) leads a country into years of senseless massacre, while a political prisoner turned first woman president in Africa is immediately harassed when accused of a fraction (nepotism and counterfeiting) of that chaos, introspection once again helps us understand what’s best when leading like a lady.

Unlike Okonjo-Iweala’s book, I was inundated (in a good way) with Johnson Sirleaf’s honest self-reflection. If there were one tip I’d give to the wannabe alpha females, based on her life, it would be this: you can try to look like a man, but at least have the sense to think like a woman.

Let’s say “looking like a man” includes the tough exterior, the no-bullshit attitude, and the fearlessness in demanding what you want, nothing less. Embodying that put Johnson Sirleaf’s life at risk countless times. And her shrewdness in wielding it ultimately saved her.

Too many close calls make it impossible to believe she’s still here at 81 years old. From coercing assassins to jail her instead of killing her, then watching other men in the same prison executed while she’s released the next day, she’s lucky to be alive, let alone be an elder. All of this even after standing her ground and refusing to bend to the will of then Liberian dictator Samuel Doe. 

Her quiet confidence was the trick. Calm and sensible defiance —which, by the way, is NOT usually an alpha trait— was the ironic, stronger counterbalance to the braggadocio and violent threats of her enemies. “They sicken of the calm who know the storm,” is how Dorothy Parker once described it. Several times Johnson Sirleaf recounts how reminding her assigned assassins of their mothers, or treating them like sons by bringing them water or just talking to them, were the little things that meant the difference between being left alone or raped, beaten, or murdered.

Listen, women— better yet, black women— are asked to be the voice of reason in unfair and unsafe environments constantly. I get that and even spoke about that here. It may sound like this is another plea for us to be the bigger person and execute sound leadership at the risk of losing ourselves or our lives.

I can’t help thinking about the amount of carnage we’ve seen in Africa, and how in the midst of so many dying for no reason we need leaders to make themselves a purposeful sacrifice so that something worthwhile comes out of it. 

I wish I could tell you that you can have it all— the kids, the husband, the corporate office, the smooth-sailing peace of mind and wealth. That’s what the alpha female probably wants to hear. But maybe the greatest thing you could give to prove your worth is not in what you gain by living, but what your life inspires others to do.

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Listen to the new Leading Podcast, with real-life stories of ordinary women learning how to lead.

The Leading Podcast

For those who like to listen more than read, I’ll post some conversations I’m having with women learning how to lead in different parts of life.

Introducing the Leading Podcast!

Honestly, I’m not sure how consistent it will be. But when I can, I will share the miraculous stories of black and African women overcoming the most extraordinary challenges.

The first episode features Fatima Brown, a young woman who at the age of 30 beat lung cancer and started her own business in holistic health.

Click here to listen to the episode, sponsored by Amazon.