A PENGUIN READERS GUIDE TO PROFESSIONAL TROUBLEMAKER Luvvie Ajayi Jones AN INTRODUCTION TO PROFESSIONAL TROUBLEMAKER
“This book is a manual on HOW TO HUMAN. You could spend a lifetime and fortune finding the perfect therapist, mentor, minister, career coach, and girlfriend—or you could just spend a day reading Professional Troublemaker.”
—Glennon Doyle, author of #1 New York Times
and founder of Together Rising
Luvvie Ajayi Jones is known for her trademark wit, warmth, and perpetual truth-telling. But even she’s been challenged by the enemy of progress known as fear. She was once afraid to call herself a writer, and nearly skipped out on doing a TED talk that changed her life because of imposter syndrome. As she shares in Professional Troublemaker
, she’s not alone.
We’re all afraid. We’re afraid of asking for what we want because we’re afraid of hearing “no.” We’re afraid of being different, of being too much or not enough. We’re afraid of leaving behind the known for the unknown. But in order to do the things that will truly, meaningfully change our lives, we have to become professional troublemakers: people who are committed to not letting fear talk them out of the things they need to do or say to live free.
With humor and honesty, and guided by the influence of her professional troublemaking Nigerian grandmother, Fúnmiláyò Fálóyin, Luvvie walks us through what we must get right within ourselves before we can do the things that scare us; how to use our voice for a greater good; and how to put movement to the voice we’ve been silencing—because truth-telling is a muscle.
The point is not to be fearless, but to know we are afraid and charge forward regardless. It is to recognize that the things we must do are more significant than our fears. This book is about how to live boldly in spite of all the reasons we have to cower. A CONVERSATION WITH LUVVIE AJAYI JONES How does this book, Professional Troublemaker, compare to your first book, I’m Judging You? Professional Troublemaker
is the big sister to I’m Judging You
, not a sequel. In I’m Judging You
, I’m talking about how we should all stop being less terrible as humans so we can leave this world better than we found it. In Professional Troublemaker
, I am talking about how we must commit to doing the things that feel uncomfortable. In order to leave the world better than we found it, and live the life that’s bigger than what we imagined, we are going to have to do a lot of things that scare us. This book is the HOW while I’m Judging You
is the WHAT. It’s more grown up, it’s more mature. It is the version of me that has evolved. This book has my cheat codes to how I have managed to live a life that has shocked me in the best ways. Why do you refer to yourself as a “professional troublemaker,” and why is this book called that?
When people hear “troublemaker,” they might think it’s a bad thing. But we should reframe that, because usually the person who’s making trouble is disrupting something. And sometimes disruption is necessary, if what is being challenged is unjust, unfair, and unnecessary. Being a troublemaker is underrated, and I think the world is the massive dumpster fire it is because there aren’t enough people who are agitating what’s happening for the greater good.
Let’s rebrand the word troublemaker
. To be a troublemaker is to be the person who is shifting something in the room. It means we are challenging people, ideas, and systems that are not okay. It means we are protecting people who are typically not protected. And it means sometimes we will be standing on islands by ourselves—but if we get there because we are fighting for justice, then we are supposed to be there. What do you hope people take away after reading this book?
I hope people take away the idea that you don’t accidentally live a life that makes your own wildest dreams jealous. You’re going to have to commit to doing things that scare you, over and over again. And I really hope that people read my story and my grandmother’s story, and realize that our lives can be greater than what we can imagine. Whatever it is that you want in this world is reachable, but you’re going to have to be intentional about going after it. A lot of that is going to come with you doing things that are going to be uncomfortable, that are going to be anxiety ridden, and that are going to feel too big for you. You wrote this book during a pandemic. How was that process? What was your biggest challenge in writing?
I wrote this book in the first half of 2020. As the world was shutting down during a pandemic the likes of which we hadn’t seen before, where the enemy was microscopic, I had to deliver eighty thousand words. That process was tough because I was called on to be who I said I was: the person boldly showing up and speaking the truth, even when it was difficult. As we were all scared about what was next, I was called on to write this book about fear fighting, which felt very meta.
My biggest challenge was getting out of my own head and actually putting these words on paper. It was a professional challenge, but more important, a personal and emotional one too. But I felt convicted to write this book because I felt, “Wow, this is the book that I need right now. It’s the book that I needed last year. It’s the book that I needed ten years ago.” So I sat in front of the computer, stared at the blank screen, and put down the words that were sitting on my shoulder. I got it done, almost as if I had no other choice. What do you think your grandmother, Fúnmiláyò Fálóyin, would say about the book?
My grandma would LOVE this book! She’d be so proud, not only because it has her name all up through it, but to see me, her granddaughter, pursuing my dreams and pursuing this life that feels so big, she would be relentlessly proud. And she would definitely be my biggest PR person. What do you think makes fear such a struggle for us all, and why is fighting it especially important in our world today?
Fear is universal. To have fear is to be human. If you fear nothing, you are considered to have a disorder of some sort. Fear is a struggle because we create all these different stories about who we are and what we’re supposed to be doing, and we end up being stifled because of it.
That’s why fighting it is important. We let fear dictate our decisions so much, and because of it, we end up not going for the job we want, not going to get the degree we want, not having the tough conversation that we need to have. It is definitely one of the biggest obstacles for us, and it’s all about our mindset, which is the weirdest part, right? It’s not that you can flip a switch and all of a sudden that thing you’re scared of will be conquered.
For us to get that life that feels so big, the house we want, the family we desire, the career we want, we will need to push past our anxieties. That is why we must fight fear. So we have to be intentional. We will be afraid but we must move forward regardless. QUESTIONS AND TOPICS FOR DISCUSSION BE
1. In the book, Luvvie defines a professional troublemaker as someone who is “committed to speaking the truth, showing up always as themselves, and is almost unable to bow in the face of a world that demands it.” In what way are you a professional troublemaker and in what way do you think you aren’t?
2. Luvvie uses her grandmother Fúnmiláyò Fálóyin as her personal guide to being a professional troublemaker. What attributes did she possess that made her particularly well suited to being a professional troublemaker?
3. Like Luvvie did with her grandmother, we learn from others what is possible for ourselves. Who do you look to for courage on when and how to speak up? Who are some of your favorite past and present professional troublemakers, and why?
4. The book talks about the importance of being too much, and how it can be our superpower. What quality do people say you are TOO much of? When has it gotten you into trouble and how do you use it to your benefit?
5. In chapter 3, “Dream Audaciously,” Luvvie talks about a group of men who get together to buy a mountain, as an example of the importance of dreaming audaciously. What is a dream you have that feels so big it scares you? Say it out loud or write it down.
6. Luvvie is a big proponent of owning your own dopeness. So, right now, own yours! What are you truly gifted at or a quality people always notice about you?
7. We often talk about fear of failure but fear of success is just as real, if not more. When have you let imposter syndrome convince you that you should say NO to YES questions?
8. Luvvie asks herself three questions to think about when she’s deciding whether or not to challenge something: Did you mean it? Can you defend it? Can you say it with love? Talk about a time when you were faced with a challenging moment. Did you speak up? Why or why not? Using these questions now, how might your decision have changed? SAY
9. On the topic of utilizing our influence, capability, and money for the greater good, Luvvie shares the phrase “spend your privilege,” which she learned from activist and teacher Brittany Packnett Cunningham, who learned it from disability rights advocate Rebecca Cokley. What privileges do you have? What might be a way to spend those privileges on behalf of others?
10. In chapter 7, “Fail Loudly,” Luvvie tells the story of her biggest public fail, and how she used that moment as a step stool to be better, smarter, tougher, kinder, and more gracious. What was your biggest fail? How did you use that moment of reckoning? How did it change you?
11. Luvvie shares how she finds it hard to ask for more and to ask for help. What holds you back from asking for help when you need it? When have you asked for more (or help) and someone said “YES?”
12. There is a lot to be learned when it comes to knowing your worth, standing in it, and demanding it. As you were reading Luvvie’s stories in Chapter 9, “Get Your Money,” did it make you uncomfortable to think about asking for more money? Or did it feel like you were finally granted a permission slip to ask for more? Get curious and write down some of your reflections on this.
13. Most of us find boundaries exceptionally challenging. We think we can’t afford to tell people our boundaries for fear of ostracizing them. But when we are silent, we betray ourselves. What keeps you from establishing boundaries? What lines do you need to draw and why? DO
14. Luvvie shares the following quote from Maya Angelou in chapter 11, “Grow Wildly”: “You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” When unexpected change has entered your life, how have you handled it? How might you handle things differently after reading this book?
15. Self-sufficiency and independence often mask a fear of losing control, and the importance of learning to outsource your life. How does this show up in your life?
16. Luvvie says, “Nice is talking about the weather. Kind is caring about whether you have an umbrella, in case it rains.” When is a time in your life when you were called to be kind, but couldn’t be nice?
17. We know from Professional Troublemaker
that a squad is critical for every person. As Luvvie puts it, “We normalize each other’s bravado, which allows us to step into the world with confidence. And beyond the gassing up, it’s about holding each other accountable and calling each other in (not out) when we fall on our faces.” Who is in your squad? When was the last time they gassed you up and also a time when they held you accountable?
18. Throughout the book, Luvvie is careful to point out that fear will never go away, but we owe it to yourselves to do the scary s**t anyway. What is something right now in your life that you’re scared of doing, and how are you going to tackle it after reading this book? CALL TO ACTION
Find your favorite quote from the book.
Share it on social media, tag @Luvvie, and use #ProfessionalTroublemaker. WRITE YOUR OWN ORÍKÌ
What’s an oríkì? It is a Yoruba word that combines two words to mean “praising your head/mind”—Orí is “head” and kì is “to greet or praise.” An oríkì is a greeting that praises you through praising your kinship and speaking life to your destiny. It is your personal hype mantra, and can be spoken or sung.
Luvvie lists hers as: LUVVIE of HOUSE JONES
First of Her Name. Assassin of the Alphabet. Bestseller of Books. Conqueror of Copy. Dame of Diction. Critic of Culture. Sorceress of Side-eyes. Eater of Jollof Rice. Rocker of Fierce Shoes. Queen of the Jones Kingdom. Taker of Stages. Nigerian Noble and Chi-Town Creator.
So, how do you write a simple oríkì for yourself? Here’s the formula:
First Name and Middle Name
House Last Name
Number of Her / His / Their Name
(i.e., Juniors are “Second of Their Name”)
Noun (Occupation or Descriptor)
Have some fun and gas yourself up! FIVE WAYS TO CONTINUE TO SUPPORT
1. Visit fearfighterkit.com for life mission and oríkì templates and other helpful resources, tools, and downloads to help you and your squad fight fear and live more audaciously.
2. Talk about the book on social media using #ProfessionalTroublemaker.
3. Leave a review of the book on bookseller websites.
4. Buy the book for a friend.
5. Follow the @ProfessionalTroublemaker Instagram account for inspiration on your fear-fighter journey.