Knocked Out!

April 17, 2022
5 min read

Wake up, shake yourself, pump your fists and get ready to be KNOCKED OUT! Life is not about who you are while winning, but about who you become while getting KNOCKED OUT.

Don’t believe me? Think I’m crazy? Here’s my story.

That’s me circa 1979, both the inception of my fashion identity and my earliest memories of winning, or rather losing. It was the 70’s, and there was no such thing as “everyone’s a winner”. You were either first, or you lost.

With my dad, a famed local athlete and coach, and my older brother as my inspiration, I tried every sport possible - football, basketball, gymnastics, swimming, cheerleading, you name it, I tried, and one consistent theme began to emerge: I was okay, at best average, but I didn’t want to be average, in my heart I wanted to be GREAT!

So year after year, from sports to student council, debate team to marching band, I just kept coming up short, I kept coming up second and it killed me. And while the emotional side of not winning took its toll, I just kept coming back for more.

But a funny thing began to happen on that journey. I didn’t win first in any gymnastics competition, but learned to tumble and became a coach for the NationalCheerleading Association. I didn’t win President of Student Council but volunteered anyway and was asked to join not only the state student council leadership conference but the national leadership conference.

For every time I came in second, every time I wasKNOCKED OUT, I got back up, bruised and slightly broken, and put myself out there again, excited for what was next, determined to succeed.

It has taken me almost 40 years to finally understand that it was my optimism and resiliency that people responded to the most and not the act of winning. And it was only in a time of loss for me that the trait was most prevalent for everyone else to see.


And so they rewarded me. They gave me unique opportunities that mirrored the experiences of those who won, valued my intrapersonal abilities over testing, and propelled me to coach over competing.

All those years of coming in second and fighting back have created an optimistic, resilient, risk taker.


It is this trait that defines the core of who I am today, driving my leadership mantra and approach to innovation, and has catapulted my career across three industries and five iconic brands.

You see, resiliency fuels courage and courage breaks the boundaries of imagination and unbridled imagination is at the heart of innovation.

40 years of getting KNOCKED OUT has given me the courage to take amazing risks, risks that have defined my life. And it is this transformational idea that I want to share with you:


It’s time to lose, it’s time to get KNOCKED OUT so that you learn how to fight back, and you learn how to innovate at your most vulnerable moment.

And it is only in this moment that you will learn the most important success trait I have ever witnessed – resilience.

In 2011, while at Target, I worked with a team of amazing people who conceived Missoni for Target. We literally broke the internet, selling out of all products in the first two-hours of store sales and crashing, creating a yet-to-be-out-done moment in retail history.

At the height of Missoni for Target, I was the director of marketing and charged with conceiving the next designer partnership– can you imagine the pressure to repeat the success of Missoni?

So, here’s the KNOCK OUT moment: everyone wanted to repeat the model – find another fashion house, grow revenue, capture culture, repeat. But in that moment of so much pressure to repeat, I pitched a new concept, a concept that was the antithesis of Missoni for Target.


The concept was called The Shops at Target and it was born out of an idea that the small shops around the United States were the new hub of innovation. These shops were the purveyors of culture and the ultimate find for our guests. The Shops did well, but it was no Missoni – and that was our greatest lesson. We didn’t need to repeat Missoni, we needed to have the courage to try new ideas so that one day, through all the courageous thinking, we would find our next Missoni moment in history.

So, what next? Well, if you’re tracking my story, it’s time to get KNOCKED OUT!

At the height of my career at Target, I left to follow my mentor and join the re-imaging team at JCPenney. It was one of the most anxiety inducing and yet adrenaline-fueling moments of my life.

The vision was audacious, and it was set to break the paradigms of retail. While it famously imploded, it was nevertheless daring, it was living! Every idea we conceived had to break-frame, it had to be audacious and as the leader of brand partnerships, it was my job to deliver breakout thinking.

After 13 years of designer partnership history, no major mass retailer had launched a black designer partnership. In Fall of 2013, we launched Duro Olowu for JCP. The response was huge, the creative incredible, and the clothes unforgettable.  

After 12 months at JCPenney, and the pending collapse of a visionary model, I decided it was time for another KNOCK-OUT moment and went for a KNOCK-OUT doozy and not only changed industries, from retail to entertainment, but career paths from strategy to creative as I joinedDreamWorks Animation as the head of creative design and development. It's been eight incredible years since joining DreamWorks, and I’m now the EVP of brand strategy and creative at NBCUniversal. My life and career have been defined by fearlessness, resilience and willingness to get KNOCKED OUT!

You see, if you want to be resilient, choose to get KNOCKED OUT.

If you want to build resilient teams, encourage them to get KNOCKED OUT.

If you want to raise resilient children, allow them to experience getting KNOCKED OUT.

Every time you encourage your team, your friend, or your loved one to get KNOCKED OUT, you allow them the space to learn, the space to grow, and to become resilient.

My greatest hope for you as an individual, a leader, a parent or a friend, is that you choose to get KNOCKED OUT because at least you know you are living.