The greatest gift any person can give is their self. With that in mind, I decided to share my personal journey to becoming a children’s toy maker. As a considerably private person, being open in this format is a huge step for me. I hope my experience will serve as a form of encouragement and help you nurture what matters most to you. Here we go, this is my journey:
Hindsight is 20/20, it began in 2009 after a former supervisor said to me, “anyone can plan an event, you need to present [workshops].” He, being a very wise man and someone I call a friend; I took his suggestion into careful consideration. At the time, professionally, I served in two roles for a local community college: an Adjunct Professor for leadership and business courses as well as my current position, the Coordinator of Student Life. For those who may not be aware of the duties of a Student Life Coordinator, it includes a lot of event planning and student leadership development activities. That evening, I thought long and hard about my friend’s suggestion. I made the decision that night, that if I was going to present, it would need to be on something meaningful to me, something that I felt was significant to human development, and of course it would need to be on something I understood well.
As I considered my strengths, passion, and what I hoped for people to get a handle on, self-leadership came to mind! The process of influencing one’s self is the treasure that resides in everyone. It occurred to me that helping students discover the leader within could inspire greater achievement. This revelation led me to create the L.E.G.A.C.Y. self-leadership model to help students in their personal journey. This model was shaped by wisdom I gained over the years, my understanding of history, and leadership principles. Four months after creating the L.E.G.A.C.Y. model, I began to present workshops at local student leadership conferences. When I applied the model in my own life, Bevy & Dave ™ was born. Using the L.E.G.A.C.Y. model took me from concept to market in one year while working a full time job and adjusting to motherhood. These concepts are also included on Bevy & Dave’s flagship product, the History Makers Puzzle Block Set (#HMPBS).
Food for thought: Being aware and listening to suggestions by those who mean you well can lead you in the right direction. Be open!
My L.E.G.A.C.Y. in the Making
L = Life - I have always desired to contribute something extraordinary to the world. I just needed to figure out what I was meant to be doing. I love my day job but something else was tugging at me in a very loud and powerful way. My deep passion for history and honoring my ancestors were presenting itself as something I must creatively pursue now. My experience with student leader development and teaching leadership courses at the college level proved to be useful in helping me understand the value of providing leadership education to the youngest age possible. To determine how I was going to bring my joy for history, my appreciation for my ancestors, and my love for developing leaders together, I decided to develop my personal mission statement. While drafting my mission, I took time to examine myself closely. I asked myself, three questions: What defines me? What do I want to do before my life comes to a close? What do I believe God wants me to contribute with the life he has given me?
Food for thought: Time is not on your side, so do not waste time trying to keep up with the “Joneses.” Be you and focus on what you need and want to achieve not on what others are doing. Remember, you are already remarkable! No one is better or less than you. Find and define you!
E = Energy - After developing my personal mission statement, I began to take note of my mental, spiritual and physical energy. Being aware of myself in these three areas helped me to improve myself greatly, creating incredible peace and joy. More specifically, journaling, reading, spending time with God, family and friends was my source of comfort; along with listening to spiritual leaders, entrepreneurial podcasts, eating well and exercising. My energy allowed me to move from a written personal mission to living my mission. Once I elevated mentally and spiritually, eating well and exercising consistently came natural and much easier, as I realized that my life was not my own. I deeply understood that my body is temporary and it must be used to do great things. My awareness heightened and I began to experience confirmations letting me know I was on the right track in my journey.
Food for thought: Your energy can work for you or against you. So, be disciplined in your thoughts and behavior. Your actions always leave a footprint, make them worth following.
G = Gift(s) - Gifts manifest in various forms, I knew that my gifts included encouraging others and developing leaders. I also knew that I was deeply passionate about history and my ancestors. I did not know how I was going to bring all these things I love together, but I kept searching. I thought maybe I should obtain a doctorate where my research would focus on how children learn and understand Black history and leadership. So, I began a doctorate program and completed all the classes. I took the first qualifying exam, failed and scheduled time to retake the exam. By the time I was meant to take the second qualifying exam, I had already made the decision that I was tired of researching and talking about the problem. Instead, I wanted to use my gifts to contribute toward solutions. I left the doctorate program and dedicated time to discovering how I was going to connect children to history and their self-leadership ability. Eight months after making that decision, I finally figured it out and Bevy & Dave ™ was born as a concept. Within a year Bevy & Dave’s flagship toy, the #HMPBS was on the market.
Food for thought: Imagination is your key to unleashing your gifts full potential. Share your gift(s); the world needs you!
A = Appreciation - Appreciation is the most rewarding attribute on the planet; at least I think so. It provides me with much joy to share my gratitude. Several times a day I would say and still say thank you to someone, whether it’s to God, or to family, friends or a stranger. I made it a priority to express gratitude verbally and through writing. Telling others how I felt about them (good things) was fulfilling. The art of appreciation is the essence of Bevy & Dave ™. When I honor history, my ancestors and children with the toys I create, I am also appreciating them with the simple act of having Bevy & Dave ™ products available on the market for children, parents and educators alike.
Food for thought: To receive appreciation you must share appreciation. Appreciation maximizes opportunities in your life. Simply put, you get what you give.
C = Commitment - Because I love history, I refuse to look back at my own life disappointed by what I could have or should have done. This thought empowered me to have unwavering commitment to making Bevy & Dave ™ a reality. I made it a point to always keep in mind, why I exist and that I have something of value to contribute to the world. More importantly, I focused on how my ancestors achieved so much while enduring overwhelming oppression. I had no excuse! I understood that Bevy & Dave™ could only go as far as the effort I put into it. As a full time employee, wife, and mother, I had to find time to make Bevy & Dave™ happen. To realize this dream, I would rise at 3:00 AM every morning until the first product came to fruition. My early rise consisted of many efforts, including praying and reading, creating and designing, researching the toy industry, learning about the manufacturing process and Consumer Product Safety Commission requirements. I built a website, created surveys to understand parent’s needs, found and hired graphic designers, etc. The list goes on. It’s been a year and half since I launched. Since then, Bevy & Dave’s flagship educational toy, the “History Makers Puzzle Block Set (#HMPBS)” was recognized as a finalist for the 2018 Toy of the Year Award (#TOTY) in the Rookie of the Year category, and is available in museums, historic sites and toy stores. Additionally, a couple of pre-schools have added the HMPBS to their curriculum.
Food for thought: Time does not wait for anyone, so when you think about it, it’s actually horrifying to be a quitter. Use your time wisely, as commitment is the life blood to fulfilling your life purpose. Don’t quit.
Y = You- I alone am responsible for fulling my life purpose. With that in mind, I implemented the L.E.G.A.C.Y. strategies in my own life to help me through the process. You will naturally make your mark in life. Focus on being the best you and allow nature to take its course with how your life will impact others. My journey to becoming a children’s toy maker has taught me that life is a series of varied moments that provides us with learning opportunities; these experiences will eventually lead us to our purpose. As individuals, we must be open, be aware, take note of lessons and be humble during the process.
Food For thought: Can anyone else fulfill your purpose in life? Your Legacy begins and ends with you. If you are moved to do something special with your time, do it! Lead yourself to victory and enjoy the journey.
I challenge you today to incorporate the L.E.G.A.C.Y. model in your life and use it as a tool to discover and implement your own purpose. Pledge to contribute your best in every community you serve, including your role at work, your role at home with your family, your role as a friend, citizen and human being.
Thank you for taking time to read this article. I hope it serves you well. Thank you family and friends who have supported and encouraged me. I would also like to express my gratitude for my dear friend Arfa Syed who nudged me to write articles and share my story. Thank you Arfa! Thank you Dr. Kirk Nooks, my friend and mentor for planting the seed of presenting workshops. Thank you Michaela Alexis for your candid articles that inspired me to be open. Lastly, I would like to thank my ancestors for their remarkable acts of self-leadership, I appreciate you!
Wishing you peace, joy and courage!
Tiffney T. Laing