Self in relation to others

Self Awareness is one of the 9 Elements of Success, also referred to as The Elements A2H.

This blog and online community is based on the title of my company, Aspire2Higher. The work of the company has been designed around a set of nouns, characteristics, traits or ,as I call them “elements of success”; the framework describes that these elements, when embodied will equip people to define and create the success they desire. The first Element of Success under the A2H framework is SELF AWARENESS. As I have been dealing with personal challenges this year, I have been reflecting on my experiences and my goals; but I have more recently been in deep contemplation about myself, my goals and my connection with others.

This contemplation kept bringing to mind for me a phrase that I hear and used to use often as an educator; self in relation to others. I have had a strong self awareness for many years, and in fact believe that self awareness is essential as a leadership skill and in the pursuit of success. This is why it is the first and most important among the Elements A2H. In these most recent months, which have proven to be some of my most challenging times personally and professionally, I have realized that my self awareness alone is just the start; its on one end of the self understanding spectrum so to speak. Having an understanding of myself, in relation to others is truly where synergy lives. This can be the fuel for not only defining success but manifesting the success you envision. Having this kind of self awareness is a fluid process, and having an awareness of “self in relation to others” is achieving the most balance as you move (fluidly) along the spectrum of awareness.

Another way to think of this is with the Johari Window Model. I learned about this somewhere during the course of my graduate studies and it still resonates. It is also a tool I use when facilitating A2H empowerment sessions and sometimes individually with clients. The Johari Window model/technique was developed by two psychologists in 1955, Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham (Johari is the combination of their 1st names). It is used widely in psychology, counseling and the self help industry but it is also used in communications, and business development and consulting. The general idea behind this technique/model is that we all have four quadrants (or four panes to a window ) of self awareness. Those four quadrants are: open, blind (spot), hidden/façade and undiscovered/unknown. Outside of the model (or window) are four other realms: Known to self, Unknown to self, Known to others and Unknown to others. The goal is to be a person or a team/organization that has free flowing movement and communication between the four quadrants and through the four outer realms, leading to a person or team that has a large “OPEN” quadrant. The larger open quadrant (or window pane) represents a person/team that has a great sense of self awareness, while also having a strong sense of themselves in relation to others. (Thank you for attending my self help TedTalk, LOL).

Image of a Johari Window , Taken from,

Additionally, I have come to understand the importance of self in relation to others as an educator, specifically from my study of and career in higher education. Just as I came to learn the Johari model in grad school, I learned about the Chickering Theory of Student Development (as ALL higher education grad students do); this theory has been widely used in the practice of higher education, specifically by those who engage college students outside of the classroom. For a quick overview, the theory, developed by Arthur Chickering (1969) has since been revised in 1993 and describes the overall development of college students. The theory states that students go through 7 vectors or tasks during college as they continue in their psychological & identity development. The two vectors that most closely connect to the Aspire2Higher framework are vector three- Moving through autonomy towards interdependence & vector four- Developing mature interpersonal relationships. A large part of the third vector (autonomy–interdependence) is about students pursuing their own interests and convictions but they begin to understand that they are part of a whole. The fourth vector is related to accepting and celebrating difference in others; respecting & appreciating those differences while learning the interconnectedness we share through our commonalities.

I find these models relevant in several ways. They have proven beneficial to me at this time, as I have been in this contemplation about myself, my goals, my company and the work I set out to do. These theories provide the context for my work in many ways as I guide others in discovering how important self awareness is for their personal and professional success. These theories have also helped me to establish my own theoretical framework-The Elements A2H and they inform my work with students, seasoned professional clients, young adult entrepreneurs and even organization leaders seeking to understand and connect with their units or teams.

As I have been thinking about my goals and the work of A2H, I had to ask myself two important questions: (1.) How are you perceived by others and (2.) who is your main “crew” or part of your tribe? As I reflect on where I’m headed both personally and professionally, its has been much more valuable to involve others in my process. The gift of having a “crew” (you guys know I speak in hip hop terminology) that you can be transparent with ,that you can explore your blind-spots with safely; and a crew that will tell you how you are viewed by them and others (again I stress safely) is an enormous value!

As part of the Elements A2H, self awareness is at the top of the list and enables you to embody the other elements. While it is vital to have self awareness, understanding yourself in relation to others will be far more advantageous for your personal & professional development. As such, I implore you to get you a crew that will be the safe space for your self exploration and reflection which I have described. I also offer to you, if you do not have this type of “crew” the A2H community can offer you that space and be a stand in crew for you!

(A2H Support Crew & A2H Empowerment Session details coming soon! SUBSCRIBE NOW for early access!)

Concluding Black August in Reflection


I write tonight in reflection, on the last evening of “BLACK AUGUST” of 2021. For those who aren’t aware, in the black community, we commemorate the historical revolutionary black resistance. More specifically, Black August is rooted in showing solidarity for incarcerated freedom fighters that we have lost.

As such, we keep the tradition of Black August going by continuing the practice of black resistance and we spend each August honoring those freedom fighters who came before us. I am writing to encourage all who read this to remember BLACK AUGUST as a time to reflect and learn about the legacies of black revolutionaries; a time for self discipline; dedicating time to study, plan and pledge to continue to fight for black liberation.

3 Ways A2H Fights/Works for Black Liberation

  1. Educational Liberation: Working outside of the traditional public system of education through the A2H Movement and with the “My Scholarship IS Affirmation
  2. Teaching Ready to D.I.E. Leadership: Training educators & practitioners through professional development sessions Diversity, Inclusion & Equity leadership practice. And teaching/training students through our J.E.D.I. Leadership Summit (launching before the end of 2021)
  3. CommUNITY Building: Through activity such as our podcast(s), the Hip Hop Symposium and various seminars workshops and special events we produce.

The A2H Commitment to the BLACK AUGUST Purpose & Spirit

As stated in our 2020 Purpose Statement, we remain ” intentional, unapologetic, and fervent about economic, educational and political empowerment of our community”. Today as we close out our Black August, I write to remind our followers and the A2H community that Aspire2Higher is an educational consulting brand that seeks to empower society with the Elements of Success. We’re building a movement of people who are empowered to define and design their own success. This is meant to liberate us from institutions whose structures & policies were designed to exclude, marginalize and minimize our inherent excellence. We work to create opportunities for people to study, train, celebrate and reflect on our ongoing fight for liberation. With our educational, training and community building programs we will demonstrate to the world that OUR SCHOLARSHIP IS BLACK! This is our WHY.

Aspire2Higher’s Connection to Hip Hop

As part of the Aspire2Higher Movement, where people are empowered to define and develop their own success; we offer programming and events that reveal, explore, amplify and interrogate both hip hop and higher education and the intersections between the two. Additionally, we have launched a line of merchandise as an extension of these efforts.

We created our merchandise to affirm the intersectional and “Scholarly Swag” of queer people, black people, Hispanic and Latin X people, and hip hop heads.

As you know, my career has been in higher education and that is where I refined my skills in creating highly engaging educational events that have a basis in hip hop music and culture. The idea for a t-shirt and merchandise line also grew out of my experience in higher education.  My work in higher education focused on uplifting and empowering students who often feel marginalized and even ignored in educational and traditional academic spaces.  I have been utilizing hip hop as a cultural marker in my work to connect with a diverse student population. Our T-shirts are meant to amplify the voices and experiences of those students.

Our designs are also meant to motivate BIPOC, Queer & Trans educators and scholars. The feelings of marginalization and isolation felt in “the academy” were also experienced by people teaching and working there. I also sought to spotlight hip hop as an industry that is a legitimate line of work where leadership and black excellence exist; just as it does in other industries. With this merchandise, we also seek to affirm for hip hop heads, hip hop scholars, emcees, producers, and the like; that your scholarship is hip hop.

All of these ideas and experiences led to me being in the right space at the right time. In my first year working in higher ed in Raleigh, NC, I found myself in close proximity to the very first hip hop festival in the region (The Dreamville Festival). So, I shot my shot. I recruited a strong team, I proposed that my institution find ways to connect this festival to our mission and curriculum and we had a very successful hip hop & higher education symposium (pictured above).

Bringing this into the current year where COVID still has many of us holding events virtually, A2H has most recently partnered with the Ladies Luv Hip Hop platform. tomorrow we are releasing a brand new podcast titled, “Hip Hop IS Higher Ed”. On this podcast (just as in my previous work) we will explore how hip hop is a form of education, how it feeds intellectual curiosity, and how hip hop offers its audience unique forms of critical analysis. Please tune in to the podcast on Apple or SoundCloud, every first Tuesday of the month!

So, if any of this resonates with you and/or describes you or your experiences, order your merchandise and FOLLOW OUR PODCAST today… and proudly AMPLIFY YOUR SCHOLARLY SWAG!

Introducing A2H, The Elements of Success

Aspire2Higher Personal & Professional Development , INC is a three part business.

  1. The A2H Movement & Lifestyle Brand
  2. A2H Programming & Events
  3. Training & Consulting Services

The foundation of the company is based on a framework for personal & professional development created by yours truly, Founder & Executive Director, Stephanie Reed. Each part of the organization is grounded in what we call The Elements of Success-or The Elements A2H.

The framework was developed over the course of my 20 years of work experience as a career counselor, a sales professional, and higher education diversity administrator. Over time, I’ve researched many aspects of career development, personal success, employment trends, career readiness, employer needs, labor statistics, etc. Out of this work grew a simple idea that I coined, Aspire2Higher. The idea was this: imagine if every person had a personal VISION, and work connected to their PASSIONS that they could use as an internal compass to navigate not only the world of work but their pursuit of personally defined success. With this internal compass and personal definition of success, people would not need to look outside of themselves to navigate their careers or journey based on someone else’s definition of success. I used this way of thinking as my own personal mantra (and career compass) for many years, and I never settled for what others prescribed for me in regards to work or my personal choices. Back in 2010, I began to write about my ideas and created this framework for personal and professional development called Aspire2Higher.

In short, Aspire2Higher is about possessing some key elements of success, some of which include having Unapologetic Ambition and Taking Charge of your Career! Below is the list of skills and abilities that comprises the Element of Success:


Self Awareness


Unapologetic Ambition


Innovation & Problem Solving

Digital Literacy

Financial Literacy & Wellness

Physical & Mental Wellness


Tolerance for Ambiguity

Aspire2HIgher: The ELEMENTS A2H

We are not all born with the ability and resources to be young moguls right away. However, I believe we are all born capable and can become great leaders through the PERSISTENCE of GOOD HABITS and VISION-WORK! Aspire2Higher Personal & Professional Development has programs and services that cultivate this mindset in its participants and train people (young and “seasoned”) on the skills necessary to live an Aspire2Higher life.

Stay tuned to this blog, follow our social media, and participate in A2H programs and events to learn more!