Capt. Deshauna Barber’s road to becoming Miss USA wasn’t an easy one.
Speaking to a packed house at the Next Generation of Government Training Summit in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 9, Barber shared her road to thriving, which included six failed attempts before being crowned Miss USA in June 2016 and the pain of losing her mother to lung cancer three months into her new role.
“There were numerous days where I had to wake up in the morning and find a way to smile,” Barber said during her keynote speech at the two-day training summit, which united more than 500 individuals from the government community. “[But] life is all about understanding how to find happiness even in our darkest days.”
Barber’s message was profound yet simple: “To be good at work, to be a good teammate, to be a good boss, to be good at your projects and just to be a good employee, I think it’s important to be good at life,” she said. “You need to be the best version of yourself.”
She shared these steps for being good at life.
Barber started by asking a question that resonates with many of us: Do you have that one colleague at work who you think is there just to make your life difficult?
“That’s because that person is not good at life,” Barber said. “They are bringing all that negative energy into the workplace. I’m here to make sure you don’t evolve into that guy.”
The best way not to be that guy or gal is to understand the ups and downs that life brings. As mentioned earlier, Barber had to deal with the loss of her mother early on into her tenure as Miss USA. “It is our responsibility to put our minds and our hearts in the best space possible so that when we walk into our workplaces we are the best versions of ourselves.”
There is nothing wrong with grieving, but the real problems arise when that grief creates toxic emotions that start to affect you personally and those around you. Barber’s approach is to look at the glass half full and count her blessings — one being the opportunity to wake up each morning and live.
This leads to the next point.
Make time for the things that make you happy and be unapologetic about it, Barber said. Sometimes we put our jobs first, but the job does not come first; you and your family come first.
When it comes to being unapologetic, Barber said not everyone in the military was happy about her walking on stage in a swimsuit, but she did not let that deter her. “You all need to do what you love. Why? Because life is short.”
Her motto: “If something were to happen to us tomorrow, would we be happy with how we lived?” What are all the things that you should be doing but instead put off?
“Seize the opportunity — whatever it is,” Barber said.
In life, we are always holding ourselves back. Instead, we need to seize those opportunities and not be afraid of hearing “no.” “I don’t want you to be afraid of nos or shut doors,” Barber said.
She encouraged attendees to have faith. “I know that times get hard, and we have our bad days. But believe that happiness and love is something we can place in our lives every day.”
Despite the current political environment and the weight it puts on government employees, she urged attendees to have faith in their government, their world, their families and their actions.
“I wear the uniform because I have faith, and I know that times will get better,” she said.
Barber ended by giving NextGen attendees specific instructions: “Don’t just live — thrive.”