Believe it or not, Mara Brock Akil attended her first ESSENCE Festival last weekend. The acclaimed television writer and producer flew to New Orleans with her husband Salim, to enjoy the festivities but also talk business during her Path to Power session on Saturday.

With a room filled with Girlfriends, The Game and Being Mary Jane fans, the 47-year-old spoke candidly about her journey of success and working smart.

“Legacy first starts with character,” Brock Akil said about putting out good work and always preparing for the next career step. “I live below my means to this day, so I don’t make the wrong decision for my family and my career.”

Reflecting on her early days of getting into the industry, Brock Akil talked about the time she hung up on John Singleton, thinking it was a friend pulling a prank on her.

“He called back and was like, ‘No, really. This is John and I’d like you to come by my house to talk about your work’,” she said. “I go see John Singleton’s house. He opens up his garage. I thought my life had changed. I said, ‘Any advice?’ and he says, ‘Yeah. You’re a writer, right? So, write.’ I did not insult him —thinking, ‘this a–hole’— but I went in there thinking he was going to give me something. He was going to change my life; I thought it would be a job. I went back and, after I bitched about not getting what I thought I was going to get from John Singleton.”

“I thought about how I was living my life so far —I was trying to get into every networking event, every party, thinking if someone just sees me, they’re going to give me something. But nobody’s going to give you anything.”

Brock Akil realized there was a silver lining to the garage encounter where Singleton told her to do the obvious.

“You are going to get what you deserve. I began to think, ‘What was I doing? I’m not writing.’ I started writing every day of my life after that. In fact, I wrote so much, I met my husband. That gift of going back and seeing and doing the work is what I found in that. Really, I was asking for wisdom. I asked the universe, came to John Singleton for wisdom, heard it and I acted on it.”