That cliché of staying “Focused and Determined” just wasn’t jiving for me. I was not too sure why, but for months now, I don’t feel driven to stay “Focused and Determined.” What exactly was I supposed to be focused on? I felt stuck and like I didn’t have a clear path. In conversation with a loved one, he said to me, “It will come when it is time.” I realized, I had to Flip It! I said to myself aloud “Determined and then Focused,” and the light switch came on.

Accept the things I cannot change, but changing the things that are unacceptable.”

I realized right then; I had to be determined FIRST to make a move or change. The determination is accepting the things you cannot change, but the desire to change the things that are unacceptable. In my mind, these were items like confusion; second-guessing myself, frustration, unhappiness, complacency…did I say confusion and frustration? As soon as I flipped it, I felt the fire, the burn that no matter the challenges or opposition you face, the fire, that determination still flickered and could not be put out.

So now, to stay focused on this determination made perfect sense. Staying focused on the reason for such determination. Focusing on changing the items that were unacceptable in my personal life and my work life was made very clear once I flipped it.

Sometimes you have to look at things differently to truly understand the meaning. Flipping a cliché statement lit a fire in my belly. It helped me know that I had to have my determination before I could have my focus. Many times, we tell individuals (even children) “to focus.” But what is their determination? Do they have the fire burning? If so, the focus is going to be the wood, the lighter fluid that will keep that fire or determination burning.

I have to admit, there are moments when there is no fire. At times, you have to step out of the race, find your lane and be Determined and then Focused to win. I took the cliché and flipped it to help me to understand how to proceed, how I could change that which is unacceptable and continue to have that fire burning in my belly. I took a little cliché, something that has become overly familiar or common in our society—it is used every day I bet—looked at it a bit differently, and made it my own, giving me a renewed sense of purpose.

“She silently stepped out of the race that she never wanted to be in, found her lane & proceeded to win.”


  • Nicole F. Smith, M.Ed., CDBC


    JMS Creative Leadership Solutions

    For the past 20+ years, with her background in Talent Development, focusing on Leadership Development, Nicole has consulted, trained and coached many organizational leaders at every level in various industries. Her background led her to becoming a #1 best-selling author of a quick, easy read book called 20 Golden Leadership Nuggets. Nicole takes lessons learned in her 20 years of servant, authentic leadership and crafts them in practical tips that can be applied today helping you on your leadership journey! With her love of speaking, she has designed, hosted, and facilitated many educational events, conferences, workshops, and seminars for over 20,000 attendees. She has engaged audiences on a variety of topics such as multiple generations, managing your schedule, conflict management, skillful collaboration, emotional intelligence, diversity, inclusion and equity, unconscious bias, employee engagement, how to use technical tools/software, and the list continues. Nicole is passionate about speaking and teaching, and strives to help people enjoy the journey of becoming the best version of themselves. She is a certified DISC behavior consultant, allowing her to administer, interpret, train, and coach on the DISC behavior profile assessments. She is currently pursuing her Emotional Intelligence Life Coach certification and Professional Life certification. Nicole is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte with two Bachelor of Art degrees: one in Psychology and the other in Criminal Justice. She received a Master of Education from the University of Phoenix focusing on adult training and development. Nicole resides in Charlotte, NC with her husband, Marcus, of 22 years and two sons, Jordan (20) and Justin (15). She is an excited marching band mom, and an active member of the Junior League of Charlotte, NC winning service awards and serving in positions such as the Education & Training Council Manager, Vice-Chair of the Training and Development committee and Co-Chair of Diversity & Inclusion Committee.