Nichol Bradford

Nichol Bradford, a proud Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority sister, is fascinated by human potential, and has always been interested in how technology can help individuals expand beyond their perceived limits to develop and transform themselves to the highest level.

She spent the last decade exploring these ideas in the online game industry, serving as a senior executive with responsibility for strategy, operations and marketing for major brands that include: Activision Blizzard, Disney, and Vivendi. Most recently she managed the operations of Blizzard properties, including World of Warcraft, in China.

Now, as the CEO of the Willow Group, Nichol is applying those same skills to the realm of elevating psychological well-being. Willow is a transformative technology company focused on employing rigorous scientific research to develop training protocols, hardware and software that can produce a reliable and positive change in the human experience. She is also a member of the African-American MBA Association

Nichol has an MBA from Wharton School of Business in Strategy, and a BBA in Marketing from the University of Houston. She is a fellow of the British American Project, currently serves on the board of the Brandon Marshall Foundation for Mental Health, and is a former term member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

BPM: How did you get to be where you are in your life today? Who or what motivated you?
I wrote the book I wanted to read about strong yet vulnerable and intelligent black women committed to a great and grand goal — mental freedom and empowerment for all. I was tired of not seeing heroes that looked like me. I wanted to see someone like me save the world, not as a side-kick or agency head, but as the actual, certifiable central hero. I wanted to read about Olivia Pope back then, but since she didn’t exist yet, I wrote my own. I also wanted really well-developed characters who had something on their minds other than men. So some of the characters are happily married, and some are single, but most of all their focus is not just on their men (or lack thereof) but on their friendship and common goals. I also love technology and so wanted the women to be deeply immersed in that world.

I am deeply motivated by the memory of my mother, Vivian Jones Bradford. My mother is the model for the visionary leader of the Sisterhood, Vivian Delacroix. My mother was an entrepreneur. She was completely committed to helping women and supporting the efforts of black women in particular. She believed most in defending the defenseless and used her legal education to do so. I started volunteering by her side when I was a child and she made sure that my values included service to the betterment of society.

Like the CEO on the book, my mother died suddenly and unexpectedly (months after I graduated from college). She was a young fifty, healthy, and we were very much alike. My last conversation with her was the morning of her death, and I’m so grateful for that. I was devastated. It took at least a year for me to reorient myself. The shock of losing her shaped the way I approach life. It instilled a sense that there’s plenty of time, but no time to waste. I believe in being passionate about the work that you do and who you do it with, because none of us knows how much time we have. I believe in being mission driven. I have the loss of my mother to thank for what I feel is a highly effective approach to a full life.

I’m deeply motivated by the idea of empowering people to free their minds in order to create choice and options in their lives. That thread runs through most of what I’ve done — from writing the Sisterhood, to working at a senior level in the video game industry, to launching an online meditation course, to pioneering the transformative technology sector.

Transformative Technology is about making the technology in our lives support our well-being and not just our productivity. The last decade found me exploring the idea of transformative technology in the video game industry, where I served as a senior executive with responsibility for strategy, operations, and marketing for games internationally for major brands that include: Activision/Blizzard, Disney, and Vivendi.

Most recently I managed the operations of Blizzard properties, including World of Warcraft, in China. During this time, I also began to meditate and saw interesting parallels between it and gaming. Both enable delight, flow, and access to dynamic states of consciousness. Meditation, though, goes even further and can profoundly and positively impact well-being. It seemed logical to me that technologies that directly impact human experience could do so as well, but no one seemed to be seriously working on it. So, I left Blizzard to pioneer Transformative Technology.

BPM: Who does your body of literary work speak to? Do you consider authors as role models?
My books are for women who want to make a difference with their lives — women who care about their communities, families, and lives and want to make positive change. Black women have a beautiful heroic nature, and I wanted to show that you don’t have to be wearing head-to-toe spanx to be heroic. The “Superwoman” meme sells us short. It makes us think that there’s something wrong with our heroism. We believe that our heroic nature will ensure that we are single and have nine cats so we reject our nature in order to not be alone.

Or we believe that we can’t be heroes and also be vulnerable so we build walls around our hearts while we work ourselves to death. Real heroism is the flexibility to be strong AND vulnerable AND all of those things – while keeping focused on our wider mission. As far as role models go, I think that anyone who is positive and lives with integrity can be a role model — so if an author is doing that, then yes — she or he is a role model.

BPM: What inspired you to sit down and actually start writing this book? Why now?
The Sisterhood started on a late night drive home from a success workshop I gave during college. That night, I had this group of beautiful young black women stand in a circle and tell each other, one at a time and by name, that they were smart, beautiful, and could have anything that they wanted and worked for. It was a hard session, each and every young women cried when the group told her that she could actually have what she wanted. And I realized that we don’t know this…not really (even I didn’t always believe this and still have my moments where I don’t).

As I drove home, I felt really inadequate. I know that workshops can help, but they don’t last long enough to really shift someone…or help someone shift themselves. I started thinking about how I could show what it would look like, to be women who believed they could have what they wanted and worked individually and together to make that a reality. So I decided to write the Sisterhood. I conceived of an organization of women, who faced a series of challenges. Addressing those challenges would allow me to show versus tell how an individual can be successful. I went home and jotted the basic plot down which today is more or less the same.

However, it was another eight years before I actually started writing. The events that prompted me to write the book in the Fall of 2000, to actually sit down and type the first word was a break-up that triggered a recommitment to myself. I was in business school and had been dating a sweet man, who though wonderful in many way, was not the right person for me. I also had been interviewing for jobs that truthfully, I was only interested in for the security and the salary. Essentially, I was headed towards a life that was not aligned with my inner North Star. Luckily, the man did something break-up worthy (and so we did) and none of the jobs came through (thank goodness).

I’m a Virgo baby, so every September I do an assessment on my life — where am I mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, and professionally. During this period, I also try to clean things up — I ask forgiveness, forgive, clean out my closets, and think about what my goals are for the following year. As a part of this, I had been thinking about my goals, and realized that I had put “write the Sisterhood” on my list for eight years — and I just refused to start another year without having taken an action. Taking that action, after all the difficult things that had happened that year, was a proxy for a commitment to myself, to my intuition, to the life that I truly wanted to lead. It took another eight years to write the entire book, and then two more to publish it.

BPM: Give us some insight into your main characters. What makes each one so special? 
All of the Sisterhood characters are smart and strong…yet flawed like all real human beings. They aren’t perfect — but by working together they complement one another and accomplish great things. Tonia Rawlings is the main character that you follow and I just love and admire her. She’s the head of security for the Sisterhood and carries the weight of her best friend’s death on her shoulders because Vivian, the CEO of the Sisterhood, is assassinated on the first page.

Vivian’s death triggers a chain of events where Tonia is tested more than ever — which is saying allot given a life story that includes an abusive husband, a drug conviction, and the death of a child. In order to navigate the danger, she has to change herself. Watching her wrench a new version of herself from the old is a powerful illustration of how to do the same thing.

The nine leaders in the book are based on ALL the women I know – from the amazing women I grew up around, to those I pledged AKA with in 1990, to the women I met at in the African-American MBA Association at business school, to all the women I’ve met along the way . One of the things I love about this book is that it represents the full diaspora – every size, shape, and hue of black women.  The women come from all backgrounds, educations, and geographies but they share a common bond through their desire to positively impact their world. They are all women who have integrity with themselves and with their Sisterhood, showing what that looks like and the real possibilities it can create in our lives.

BPM: So, who would be a woman/member of the Sisterhood? 
If you are reading this interview then she might just be you. Or maybe she’s the woman who works next to you. From businesswomen to teachers to any profession, any smart and talented woman you admire could be a secret member of The Sisterhood.  That’s part of the fun of the book too – wondering about the women in your life to guess who might be in The Sisterhood already – because maybe it isn’t just a book. 😉

BPM: Why are there nine leaders in the Sisterhood?
The Sisterhood is more than a book, it is also a teaching narrative. Each of the women represents one of nine leadership traits (discipline, self-knowledge, financial stewardship, service, sacrifice, education, vision, innovation, and entrepreneurship). In The Sisterhood, how they address challenges to their survival illustrates what is possible with collective action and individual excellence. They present a powerful illustration of what a group of focused women can do together.

The concept came to me on a late night drive home from a success workshop I gave during college for a group of high-school girls. That night, I had the group stand in a circle and tell each other, one at a time and by name, that they were smart, beautiful, and could have anything that they wanted and worked for. It was a hard session, with most of the girls unable to accept the endorsement without tears. So many of them simply could not see it, much less believe it.

As I drove home, I thought that there had to be a better way to illustrate what fulfilling one’s potential would look like – something more penetrating than quotes from self-help books and short workshop sessions. On that drive, I decided to write The Sisterhood. I conceived of an organization of women, who faced a series of challenges. Addressing those challenges would allow me to “show” versus “tell” how an individual can be successful. I went home and jotted the basic plot down which today is more or less the same.

BPM: What inspired the amazing book cover for The Sisterhood? Is this book available on Nook and Kindle?
I love the new cover of the Sisterhood. It captures the blend of drama, focus and technology that sits at the heart of the novel. You can see it in the eyes of Tonia, the woman on the cover, she will not rest until she perseveres. Also, it has the iconic Sisterhood sword on the cover blended with a data stream that I think is also ancient and futuristic.

The sword comes from a quote I once read about how the vast continent of a woman’s life crosses the shadow of a sword, where one side lies the known, but the other lies adventure. I would say to the other side also lies purpose and mission. We are vessels of potential and we realize it now more than ever. The e-book is available on Kindle and the hard copies are available at www.mskincorporated.com.

BPM: What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
I enjoyed learning how to actually write. Though I was an avid reader, I didn’t know how to write fiction. I didn’t know how to show not tell. I had to learn how to write in order to share the story I had in my heart. I was lucky enough to meet the legendary literary agent Marie Brown, who introduced me to the woman who became my editor and my teacher. I remember sitting at my computer at times, crying, because my skills didn’t yet allow me to tell the story I could see in my mind. But I refused to give up. I didn’t stop until The Sisterhood was complete.

Since I was working full time, and more, I wrote at 5AM before work, after work and weekends. I missed parties, dates, and trips. But I got that story out of my heart and onto paper, dammit. It was the most wonderful/horrible thing I have ever done, and I grew as a person and a woman by doing it. I highly recommend making a goal that requires you evolve and learn something new in order to achieve it.

BPM: Where do your book ideas come from? Are your books plot-driven or character-driven? 
My books are mission driven (thank you Mom!). I think of the effect I want a book to have and then craft a story that makes that point. However, even with a mission-driven writing process, the story has to stand on its own, and be worth reading even without an underlying message.

The Sisterhood is more than a book, it is also a teaching narrative. Each of the women represents one of nine leadership traits (discipline, self-knowledge, financial stewardship, service, sacrifice, education, vision, innovation, and entrepreneurship). In The Sisterhood, how they address challenges to their survival illustrates what is possible with collective action and individual excellence. They present a powerful illustration of what a group of focused women can do together.

The book can be read just for entertainment, or it can be read as a skills blueprint. Each of the characters is informed by several major skills and personality testing programs, like the Meyers-Briggs test and the Leadership Women’s EQ. There’s a workbook that allows the reader to assess her own skills as she reads the book and then make an action plan to fill in the areas where she’d like to excel.

I write mission-driven books in order to illustrate a world where women are awake, think for themselves, live with purpose, and work together. All of this is possible, and if we were to live this way, then we could transform our lives, our communities and the world.

BPM: Are there under-represented groups or ideas featured in your book? If so, discuss them.

I’ll answer this question with a summary that was written by one of the LA talent agencies on the Sisterhood.
In this empowering story, African-American women joining together to fight slavery in the new millennium. A reinvention of the futuristic action genre, intelligent technology, hot cars and sleek offices are paired with unique heroines, proud black women. The book is based on a revolutionary premise: black female action hero moguls.

The book’s concept is an original rendition of a classic crime-in-the-future story, replete with a mysterious threat, a radically different government, and teams of highly trained civilian forces. The leads happen to be almost uniformly African-American, and this is, of course, a major difference. The combination of glossy urban environs with soulful leads with deep appreciations of their histories is an original, welcome twist.

In terms of characters, the book is dominated by strong African-Americans who work in a host of capacities, from banking to science, law and law enforcement. All of the leads have well-developed personalities, can effortlessly crunch numbers and beat down villains. They also have highly-defined back stories, husbands, children, professions, which lend them necessary substance. The book thus provides a phenomenal vehicle for female African-American talent.

I love all of the new TV shows with amazing black female leads—when I wrote the Sisterhood these characters were rare in film and TV. Still missing though, is media showing black women working together to achieve something extraordinary. The ensemble casts with black women today show women supporting one another in their private lives with men, children and neighborhood dramas, but not as a team in the world. The Sisterhood represents the next step and as such, is still an underrepresented idea.

BPM: Why should I tell my friends about the Sisterhood and this new movement?
You should tell your friends that you’ve found this great book where the black women save the world. Then tell them that there’s a character in it that reminds you of them – because that will happen while you read it – you will see yourself and all of your closest friends. Then challenge them to read it in the next 30 days so you can talk about it and make your action plans together to fulfill your absolute potential and make all your hopes and dreams possible.

BPM: How does your book relate to your present situation or journey?
I wrote each of the characters as a trait—so at any time you can be like any one of the characters. When you are visionary—you are a Vivian. When you need to connect with your warrior—then you are a Tonia. Likewise, for your entrepreneurial time, your community time, or whatever, you can bring forth the trait that you need when you need it. So what is interesting to me is how I cycle through being “like” the character whose trait I need at that time as I continue my journey.

This also is relevant for teams. Since all nine traits are important for a successful team, you can use the Sisterhood framework to “bring forth” a trait from yourself or recruit someone with the missing trait in order to have a full set of skills on your team.

On a high-level, the work that I am doing in the world mirrors the work that the women in the Sisterhood. Meditation leads to mental freedom, the same objective the Sisterhood pursues. My secular meditation course is very successful at helping people to remove limiting mental blocks and psychological conditioning. We’ll reach tens of thousands easily with our program. My work in Transformative Technology is about doing that at massive scale, and our goal is to help no less than 100M people transform their lives by 2025.

BPM: Did you learn anything personal from writing your book?

I learned that I do not quit. I refuse to quit. No matter how hard, or lonely, or tough something gets, I do not quit. That’s a powerful self-lesson to learn. Now that I’ve learned that I do not quit, at the tender age of 43, I’m learning when I should “leave well enough alone” which is an entirely different lesson. LOL.

BPM: What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them?
My core goal and intention with the book was to inspire women to have the courage to believe in their potential and take action to bring that potential into existence because I believe that empowered women can save the world. I feel that I have achieved the ability to inspire with The Sisterhood based on the emails that I get from women who read the book and then bet on themselves. The email I recall most was from a young college student who had been a child in Rwanda during the genocide. To me, anyone who survived and thrived after witnessing that horror is a hero and has my unending respect.

She wrote an email describing how she was on the verge of a major decision — one path leading to safety and security — and the other leading to a path where success was not certain and winning would require her to become everything she was capable of being. She was struggling with the decision — and then someone gave her the Sisterhood.

After reading that book she took the harder, but more rewarding road. I cried when I read that email because staying committed for 16 years to something is not easy — I definitely sacrificed to write that book. But that one email made everything worth it because one woman stepped towards her full potential.

BPM: What message do you hope for readers of The Sisterhood to gain from reading it?
I’d like women who read the Sisterhood to become inspired to create positive change in their lives and communities. I hope that they embrace their heroism and technology. Black female heroism is perfectly suited for technology because it directly maps from our desire to be the agents of change to the ability to have an exponential impact on the world.

BPM: Can you share some stories about people you met while researching this book?

The book is not just a personal blueprint, but a community building blueprint with real-world insight on how you would fund an endeavor like the Sisterhood to radically transform our communities. The Sisterhood makes its initial wealth from very well placed investments in technology companies. They use that to buy into established but declining industries that they innovate and to set up their own labs to create the technology of the next generation. Being tech-aware and tech-savvy is at the core of their success.

So the people that I met while researching the book were entrepreneurs, financiers, strategists, technologists, and community activists. One person who stands out is Pamela Jolly — a strategist, banker, and more — who is actually written into the novel due to her cutting edge ideas on economic empowerment for communities of color.

BPM: How can I use the Sisterhood to make a Life Action Plan?
The book can be read just for entertainment, or it can be read as a skills blueprint. Each of the characters is informed by several major skills and personality testing programs, like the Meyers-Briggs test and the Leadership Women’s EQ. There’s a workbook that allows the reader to assess her own skills as she reads the book and then make an action plan to fill in the areas where she’d like to excel.  The workbook is free to anyone, just send me an email at: info@mskincorporated.com and I will send you the PDF.

BPM: What projects are you working on at the present?
I am really focused on getting the word out about the Sisterhood. The Sisterhood is a part of a trilogy, all of which are outlined. I’m focused on getting part one out to as many women as possible and then will hide myself away somewhere and write the sequel.

BPM: How can readers discover more about you and your work
?
Website: http://www.nicholbradford.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/nicholatsisterh
Twitter: https://twitter.com/nichol_bradford

MSK website: http://www.mskincorporated.com
Biz Networks: http://www.linkedin.com/in/nicholbradford
Community: http://www.mskincorporated.com/nichol-bradford/
Purchase Books: http://www.amazon.com/author/nicholbradford

Like on Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Sisterhood-by-Nichol-Bradford/136723666351091

 

 

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