Lincoln Uptown Journey Series: LA Kick-Off Event*Information on how to achieve success is floating around everywhere, but considering the source is the wisest starting point when determining whether to take or leave what you hear.

In that vein, it is always better to receive wisdom from those who have not only talked the talk, but who have also successfully walked the walk … and the Lincoln company and Uptown magazine have set the stage for an exchange that absolutely meets that criteria.

Through their recently conceived four-city “The Journey” series, Lincoln has identified several different arenas that would likely be of interest to consumers who align with its product offerings, specifically the new MKZ premium midsize sedan.   Within those arenas (Arts, Sports, Music, Theater, etc), recognizable luminaries from each were commissioned  to not only talk about the inspiring success they’ve achieved, but also – and more usefully – to talk about the obstacles they encountered along the way.  Emphasis was placed on the obstacles because – similar to the fascinating journey of the Lincoln brand, typically, it’s the perseverance and overcoming of those obstacles that produces the most savory and lasting triumphs.

2013 Lincoln MKZ

2013 Lincoln MKZ

Lincoln wanted to indirectly share its ongoing story of overcoming challenges and reintroduce itself as a long-standing luxury automotive brand, while using the panel experience to enhance the lives of tastemakers and urban professionals who took time out to support it:

“We didn’t want to just have an event and put the new MKZ in the middle of the room so people could just look at it,” said Lincoln executive, Jose Ortiz.  “We wanted to create an environment of exchange, where those in attendance could truly take something away from the experience, something life changing.”

Mara Brock Akil, Bevy Smith, Woody Wilson, Carmen Murray

From left, producer Mara Brock Akil, moderator Bevy Smith, fashion designer Woody Wilson and Television & Music Executive Carmen Murray attend the Lincoln Uptown Journey Series: LA Kick-Off Event, on Tuesday, September 10, 2013 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Frank Micelotta/Invision for Ford Motor Company /AP Images)

In the first installment of the Journey series, held at the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles, screenwriter/producer, Mara Brock Akil (Girlfriends, The Game), fashion designer, Woody Wilson (Arsenio Hall, Diddy), and music executive Carmen Murray (Melanie Fiona) all participated in an extremely informative panel discussion hosted by lifestyle maven and TV personality, Bevy Smith (Fashion Queens).  Guided by the provocative and humorous Smith, the panelists were refreshingly candid about their pre-success struggles and kept the attendees on the edge of their seats with exciting stories about how they became industry leaders and turned their long-shot dreams real-life dilemmas into enviable careers.

Though many valuable words were spoken during the discussion, here are some of the most compelling takeaways from each success story that could get you over the hump of turning your dreams – no matter how difficult – to reality:

Carmen Murray: 

Starting Point: hailing from Oakland, CA, Carmen was working a local job, when a random guy told her she didn’t belong.

“He said ‘I see you come in here and work, day in and day out and you need to leave.’ I wasn’t quite sure what it meant, but I discussed it with my mom and she said, you know, you should.  And I wasn’t one of those people who knew exactly what they wanted to do, but I tried a lot of things.  I did well at some of it, but at some of it I was horrible, but it was OK, because it was part of it.  So, I went to my mom and told her I was leaving and she gave me money, $350, and I drove to LA with a Kodak picture, and I said you know what, I’m here and I’m gonna audition, no agent, no manager or nothing, I just knew I needed to eat the next day. So, I knew I wasn’t as talented, but I knew that I didn’t have a choice and that was the difference and it all started to happen for me from there.”

Obstacle: not being respected as a female music executive.

Solution: purchased the rights to song, It Kills Me, performed by Melanie Fiona, that no one in the music industry would hear, and it went on to become a resounding hit, nominated for a Grammy.  It was that instinctive move that earned her respect as a bonafide music executive.

How long it took for her to realize what she considered success: 10 years

Woody Wilson:

Starting Point:  “I was at a crossroads. I grew up in Columbia, Maryland and all my friends’ parents were in Corporate America, attorneys and lawyers and professional folks, so that’s all I knew.  So, I went to college and graduated with a business degree and joined Corporate America, too.  I had a lot of success, moved around the country, Delaware, Boston, Chicago, Houston and came out to Los Angeles, but I was confronted at the time where my next promotion would place me somewhere else, outside of California. But there was a guy who I was sitting across from who was my boss and he determined my future … and he didn’t like me … and at the time, the results of our meeting resulted in me looking at him thinking, should I choke him or just punch him? At that very moment I knew that I could no longer work for him, so I had to really look within myself to figure out what I really wanted to do, because I had dedicated so much time and energy to Corporate America and climbing the corporate ladder …

Obstacle:  making the career change from Corporate America to what became his passion, working the fashion industry, but with no experience and not being taken seriously.

Solution: so, what I did was take a blank piece of paper and draw a line down the center and wrote out my strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes … I was true to myself and fashion jumped off the page.  So, I said how in the world am I gonna do this?  So, I prayed on it, contemplated … more prayer and I shared it with my friends [networking is essential] and one of them introduced me to his partner [in fashion] and I fell in love with the business.  We went to Las Vegas and outfitted Don King, Mike Tyson … I knew it was what I wanted to do. You don’t want to grow up doing a job that you hate, because you won’t be successful at it.

How long it took to realize what he considered success: 13 years

Mara Brock Akil:

Starting Point:  “I often tell people don’t criticize children for talking to themselves, because you should recognize that as writing, as imagining, it was my first expression.  When I hit the wave of writing … writing is like sitting in the ocean and you catch a little wave and it’s enough to keep you sitting in the ocean waiting, but when you ride that big wave, it is a high unlike any other.  I really didn’t need a bunch of playmates, because where I was is where it was at.  I’m thankful to my mother who didn’t thwart that and I think it’s very important as adults to see that spark in a child.  So that’s mine and it carried me to know that writing was definitely my path, but at the time careers in journalism were for you to be a journalist and most people assumed that I wanted to be a broadcaster.  They thought “you’re pretty and you should be on TV.”  I stutter, I mess up words a lot … I’m getting better at these things but they make me really want to vomit.  I don’t want to be in a career that makes me want to vomit everyday, so I thought I’d be a print journalist and be a novelist. [I was] the product of a single mother and being raised by my grandmother and my aunt, strong women around me, so I just wanted the best for myself at all times, and I knew that very on in my life, so I wanted to be a journalist and I looked up the best journalism schools and at the time, Northwestern was it for me.  I only applied to Northwestern and I got in and somewhere along the line (my relationship with God was established very early on in my life), I just believed and so I got in.  I loved my experience.  I was very aware that this was a major university and I made it there and all that stuff but the interesting thing was I did not become a real student until I got into the screenwriting class … I was a senior.  I was always on time, the assignments, I read them twice, I couldn’t stop … we had the choice of writing a treatment of a half hour or an hour … I wanted the hour.  I was in love.  I fell in love with it just like I love my husband.

Obstacle: Once she received her big break and sold a show, she had to work under the thumb of controlling executive producers of the show she created, but she wanted to control her own destiny and get paid what she was worth.

Solution:  In the third season of Girlfriends, she nervously, but resolutely confronted a major studio head with her demands and was willing to walk away from that show – her own show, if she wasn’t given the control and money that she wanted.  After prayer and much courage, her demands were met and the rest is history.

How long it took to realize what she considered success: 8 years

Take heed and be inspired! Lincoln Uptown “The Journey” will soon pass through a city near you.  To learn more, checkout the #lincolnjourney conversation on Twitter or visit