EAP 10: Zana Williams – Conquering Law School in Her Father’s Memory
If my journey, my grief, and this process can help motivate somebody else to know they can still keep going. #OvercomingGrief #ConqueringLawSchool
Being able to uplift people in that moment of weakness and sadness and transparency was kind of a launching board for public speaking and motivation. -Zana Williams #MotivationalSpeaker
Our guest on this episode of the Early Accountability Podcast is Zana Williams, a second-year law student and motivational speaker in the San Diego area. From an early age, Zana knew that she wanted to become an attorney, and she is very close to achieving this dream, despite experiencing the difficult loss of her father in 2014 and the difficult grieving process that followed. Zana made it through that very dark time only by the grace of God, who relentlessly pursued her and showed her His love even when she was angry with Him, and by watching the incredible strength that her mother demonstrated in the middle of her own mourning.
Zana is dedicated to motivating people to reach their potential, from young people in Lesotho, Africa, to first-year law students that she intentionally mentors. Her life experiences have encouraged her to just keep pushing through struggles, to be transparent with your friends and family, and to seek accountability in the midst of struggles to go hard and focus on taking the next step. To aspiring lawyers, Zana recommends that they focus completely on their grades while preparing for and being in law school, because it will be worth the lost networking and social time when it is all said and done.
Topics Covered in this Episode:
- Zana’s advice for aspiring lawyers
- How Zana got through the loss of her father and grandmother
- The importance of transparency in struggles
- How her father’s funeral sparked Zana’s passion for motivational speaking
Connect with Zana:
Zana Williams, better known as Z, grew up in Oklahoma, where she attended and graduated from Christian Heritage Academy and Oral Roberts University. After working within the political and legal fields for eight-years, Z relocated to California where she is completing her Juris Doctorate. Z also operates as a motivational speaker and political consultant. In her free time, Z enjoys mentoring youth within the United States and internationally.
Welcome to the ‘Early Accountability Podcast’ hosted by Kimi Walker. Kimi has a track record of serving as a behavior change and improvement catalyst for individuals, groups, and organizations. Get ready to make the best version of yourself a priority. Now welcome Kimi Walker.
Kimi: Kimi Walker here and welcome to the next episode of the ‘Early Accountability Podcast’. Tonight on our show, I have Zana Williams. Hi Zana.
Zana: Hi Kimi, how are you?
Kimi: Good, good. Why don’t you start off by… Like I was saying I know you are right now in law school, and you do a lot of it in the community, and for other. So why don’t you just start off by telling the audience a little bit about yourself, what you do, how you kind of got into doing the things that you do.
Zana: Sure, absolutely. Like you said, I’m currently a second year law student out here in San Diego California. I’m from Oklahoma and my background is political. So I was political campaign consultant, do some work there. I still do a little bit of consulting as well as I do a lot in the community. Some of it is not… well none of it is really for prop. So it’s all because every single thing that I do know is something that I completely believe in and I’m passionate about.
So even one scenario would be a young lady. Met her she was bubbly abused by her father, worked with her and a couple of other people to get her emancipated. And now I believe she just graduated from O.U. College – Oklahoma University College. Met her when she was 14, reworks, got her emancipated. I don’t know I just like taken on different projects if you all were different cases. Trying to make little difference in ever way that I can.
Kimi: What made you want to go to law school?
Zana: Something that I’ve always known since I was about 12 years old actually even younger than that. I can remember sitting down watching that O Jason’s trial thinking to myself. And I’m pretty sure I said it because my grandmother was like, “Okay Zana.” But I remember sitting there thinking and probably saying out loud that I was going to solve the case before anybody else just in crisscrossed glued to the T.V. just watching every single witness that was questioned. And then my cutting my pieces of the puzzle together.
So at that point probably even younger than 12, I knew that I knew. But officially, I believe… I don’t remember. I think I was 12 to 14; somewhere in there. I got in trouble. I was sent to the principal’s office. And so the principal said that I maybe I’ve been skipping class or talked to the secretaries at my school. Would have to take an extra class. And so he made me take an extra class to take and I chose literacy and debate. And from there it’s just been a nonstop romance with law.
Kimi: Okay, wow! Talk to us about… I know I have had some friends and people I know who had a very hard time getting into law school or getting into the school of their choice. If someone say is and they know. Like this is something that I want to do. What kind of recommendations which you give, or what kind of guidance would you give to somebody if they say, “This is a goal I want to achieve. I want to get into law school.” Like whether it’s from L set or getting your letters recommendation together. What kind of advice would you give?
Zana: Go hard, be all and everything that you do, but especially for this. Was cool for me. I’ve always been a social butterfly. What comes to me naturally is connecting and networking with people. What does not come naturally to me however is the work that it takes to sit down with a book and just read for like four or five hours straight. I’ve never been the school type of woman. But it’s just something you have to sit down. You just have to focus and do. So focus on your grades. I know everybody says it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. But who you know is a lot easier to come across than producing the grades that you’re gonna need to get there. So focus on your grades; the networking, that will come easy and that will come later. So focus on your grades to get your grades up.
Kimi: How was the L set for you?
Zana: It was tough. I actually took it two times. So we’re having a real moment. The first time I took it, I did not get… I actually I got accepted to two law schools way late in the game, but I had so many denial letters. I still have all those denial letters on my vision board; on the back of my vision board.
Zana: So I read [inaudible] [04:33] L set ended up getting it and so I think three schools. But the school that I’m at now was one that I’d visited and for several reasons wanted to go there for a little bit and see what happened. So got in. Back in time was the charm.
Kimi: Just because I know you personally, I know that from the time of you like working on the L set and working on getting into law school from when you finished undergrad instigating at starting a law school, you experienced a lot personal hardships. And I think that’s such an important part of your story because you are able to accomplish such a difficult task that many can’t applying and getting into law school while you were going through so many personal changes. Would you be willing to want to talk a little bit about that and how given the things that were going on with you to the extent you’re comfortable sharing? How are you able to still push forward and do the goals that you would say that you going to accomplish for yourself which was getting into law school and going on that route to becoming an attorney?
Zana: I would say for me, I had to learn my value number one which I’m still learning. It’s an every day process. I had to learn my value because I grew up in Oklahoma and especially coming from a political background in consulting and different things like that. It’s hard to be taken seriously as a minority female in that atmosphere because you’re with a very large crew of very wealthy men. So it’s harder to be taken seriously as a female. So that was one of the things that I had to learn was that my call in who I am is not to be subservient. I have to know my value to push forward.
For so long I was a legal secretary or [inaudible] [06:22]. You know helping out with clerking; stuff like that. But I just had to realize no, I deserve to go to law school. I deserve the title of being the campaign manager, campaign consultant. So that was one of the things that has been a journey for me. The other thing is I lost my father in 2014. Shortly before that, I lost my grandmother. And just went through hell and back. Think it was three car accidents and a year and a half. Just the most insane testimony by the grace of God I’m alive. But the journey has not been easy. It’s a victory some days just to get out of bed and to brush my teeth thinking thank you God.
Zana: So just keep pushing. That’s all I can do.
Kimi: Thank you for sharing. I know it’s very hard to lose like a parent and you’re still really, really young. What helped push you forward? You know while you’re still grieving to get through the process and have like high stakes testing, really detail applications. Like what kind of helped you in the day it’s like stay on track? Like and I need to say this much today. I know I need to do this. Like what supports did you put in place for yourself?
Zana: Honestly there are two things that got me and are still getting me through this process because the grieving process we still is not over.
Zana: [Inaudible] still a journey and it’s one that I’m still working through. But I would say my mom was number one. Actually number one is God. But number two would be my mom; seeing her strength. I mean I know how much I… If she wasn’t here, I probably wouldn’t be alive to be honest with you. Because if I didn’t know that it would kill her, I would have taken the step so maybe end my own life. Then I probably would because my world revolved around my father. Loving him, taking care of him, and his [inaudible] and I just truly did not believe he would ever pass away. I would be honest.
Kimi: right yeah
Zana: So seeing her strength and watching her get up and put makeup on, and still look beautiful every day. And watching her struggle through it, and putting up with my nonsensical ways during the grieving process. Like her strength motivated me; still does inspires me. So the other thing is God because without God there are times when during this grieving process I have literally cursed God. And I know that’s the thing I’m not supposed to say, but that’s the truth because I felt like he hated me. Why would you take something that meant so much to me?
Zana: You know what I mean?
Kimi: In such a time. Yeah, yeah that’s really hard. [Crosstalk] [09:04].
Zana: Yeah, God is the most beautiful image of love that I’ve ever seen oh is that even when I was running from God and please believe doing this grieving process, I had run from God. He has pursued me and showed me what’s true love looks like in spite of all.
Kimi: When you got the scores that you wanted to get on L set, or you got the acceptance letter for the school you wanted to get it, you were able to… your father was gone. If that point, but I saw you really posted a lot where you still seem very proud of yourself and kind of knew he was still there with you in the journey. Can you talk through that experience for you? Because I doubt that that was very… I just took a lot of strength to do even to post and put all of that on social media. Even when you were still studying for the L set to be able to put some of those things in just of knowing that his presence was there as you were kind of pushing for it. Did that help you in healing? Or in your healing because it’s still a journey.
Zana: Yeah, transparency is always been something I’m an advocate of. There’s no stance and if my journey and my grief and this process can help motivate somebody else to know that if I can still keep going despite it all, they can still keep going. Then why wouldn’t I? I’ve never been the best of being completely [inaudible] and secretive and the quite sweet little girl. I’ve just always been very transparent, and honest and to be honest. But created and a level of accountability because when I do post my journey from whether the weight loss or sickness with this you know getting into law school campaigns; things like that, holds me accountable. Because now I know that people are looking at me and provide messages from people who are inspired to keep going. Then that means I can’t give up. Now I have somebody holding me accountable. So it helps motivate me.
Kimi: So say big thanks for you or your support circle; vulnerability and visibility.
Zana: that’s it
Kimi: Are big things. I know you do a lot of speaking engagements whether it’s talking to mall groups of younger people or adults. I know you do mentoring at the law school for first year law students. How did you kind of get into wanting to do more of those like engagement? Because I know a lot of people sometimes want to be speakers. They have very powerful stories like yourself. But they don’t necessarily feel they have the strength, or they don’t feel like they’re qualified to do it. Can you kind of talk through that? How you got comfortable to kind of do that in that type of platform? What advice would you give to people or someone who would like to get into public speaking?
Zana: Sure, I’ve always been the person who’s very comfortable public speaking more so than even one on one conversations I guess. I don’t know why, but that’s just always how I’ve been. I’m always very outgoing. I love helping people self-actualize their goals and dreams. My first I guess outside of like high school competitions; mock trial, debate, things like that. My first I guess motivational speaking engagement as twisted as this might sound was my dad’s funeral. After the funeral, people came up to me and said that they’ve never been to a funeral like that before.
They giving the eulogy at my dad’s funeral. I did it because my mom and I discussed it, prayed about it, and realized that there’s no one else that my dad would have wanted to do it other than me right. After my heart beat. So I got up there and all I knew is that just because like myself and my mom were suffering doesn’t mean the story of his life isn’t a motivation in itself. And his story motivated other people. I still get messages from people who come and tell me that they remember that funeral. And I’ve never in my life heard anybody until then say that they actually enjoyed a funeral. So as weird as that sounds.
Zana: Being able to uplift people and that moment of weakness and sadness and transparency was kind of a launching board for seeking; public speaking and motivation [inaudible] [13:02].
Kimi: Wow! So that event within itself still had transformational value for you and people really able to affirm you. What type motivational speaking to you do like? What type of topics do you usually do for your engagements?
Zana: I actually… right after my father passed, part of my healing process I just needed out of America for a minute to get my mind right.
Kimi: I understand
Zana: So I ended up in Lesotho Africa and a good friend, she has a nonprofit out there. She connected me with the U.S. embassy. And so I did a speaking engagement for them called ‘The Pledge for Parity’ and it was about equality among the genders out there. Women are viewed as very [inaudible] [13:46] in that particular area. So I got to speak with a young group of individuals. Young being anywhere from probably like 12 to 21, 22 our youth are our future.
And I believe you have to get on board with educating our youth and motivating them to take a stand. Because when they take a stand, we are better as a nation, we are better as a culture, we are better as a world. So I love speaking to a younger crowd. So I will speak to corporate, C.E.O.s, tech positions, I just anybody who needs a swift kick in the behind a reminder of how valuable amazing they are. I’m about it. I love it.
Kimi: That’s great. How long were you over in Africa for?
Zana: I believe three or four weeks that…
Kimi: Oh wow! So you had a nice little time to … They’re still trying to with the law students. Do you… how often are you mentoring them? So that’s a pretty big part of what you do to a lot of mentorship.
Zana: I do a lot of individual stuff.
Zana: I don’t do… I don’t know why I’ve never been a person of color within the line. I am not too good at it. I really personally mentor certain students. Like I try to identify those students ahead of time. I’ll look for certain characteristics. I have mentored of course through our lunch program this past summer and then last semester I was teaching like professors; teaching them, helping them understand the material. This semester, I really just have my eye on a few students; very special individuals and they know who they are (if you’re listening to this). So and I just work with them. Anything that they need, anything that I can help them with, and down moments. I remember how I felt my first year law school and if I can help hopefully get them past that and over that hump and not have to go through the feelings and experience as I did. I’d love to do it. So I just work individually with people and outside of the school.
Kimi: That’s great. Now if someone wants to get in contact with you or for anyone to follow your journey. I know not even if they’re just like a law school. I know grad school is tough just a lot of undergrad from you have a lot of inspirational things. How could someone follow your journey through law school now and to become an attorney? And also someone wanted to contact you about speaking engagements, you do a lot of motivational speaking. How would they get in contact with you?
Zana: I’m getting a lot better at utilizing my Facebook. So follow me on Facebook as Zana; Z A N A, Williams. Zana [inaudible] [16:12] Williams or follow me on Facebook. You can e-mail me at Zana; Z A N A Williams a number 94 @gmail.com.
Kimi: That’s great. And Zana, where would you say it’s a close up? What is your personal mantra, or your quote? What gets you through day to day? What keeps you focused on your goals and conquering and achieving them?
Zana: But God.
Kimi: I love it.
Zana: By God because without him, there’s no me.
Kimi: Absolutely, well thank you so, so much for your time. I know we have known each other from the years even from [inaudible] [16:46] being wellness. You also have some blogs. I know [inaudible] wellness.com. You still have some material on there as well where you’re really chronicled even some of your early evolution when you were younger in school. So that’s another place where people can access a lot of your work. So just thank you so much for your time and sharing your story to so many others as you continue to do every day. You really are empowering, motivational, and I’m so glad that we have crossed paths and that you’re in my life. And I’m so happy that you were in the podcast with me.
Zana: Thank you Kimi for having me. You’re motivational as well.
Kimi: Thank you so much. I know we’ll have you back again. So it’s a [inaudible].
Zana: Yes, sounds great.
Kimi: Thank you
It was a pleasure to have you join us on this episode of the ‘Early Accountability Podcast’ with Kimi Walker. Be sure to visit earlyaccountability.com to sign up for the Early Accountability newsletter. We look forward to activating your greatness and helping you reach your goals.