All I ever wanted to be was a waitress

This week’s #LetsBlogOff asks, “What did you want to be when you grew up?” They might as well have asked, “What’s the purpose of your life?”-  that’s how seriously I’ve pondered this question throughout my life.

My Mom said when I was a little girl I wanted to be a waitress. I’ve never felt compelled to actually work in a restaurant, except for one brief stint in college where I lasted a couple of days at a slight step above a fast food hamburger place. I worked the register and was supposed to yell “zukes…shrooms… fries .. rings” as people placed their orders. I probably have the most annoyingly soft voice you’ve ever heard, so while I sincereley tried to yell as loud as I could, the cooks still couldn’t hear me. I didn’t last long.

I’m not sure what that little girl was drawn to in that waitress… Maybe it was the tiny pad of paper she carried (I’m a habitual list maker) or, the skirt and tennies she got to wear or, her magical ability to bring people anything they wanted. This was before I realized Dad was paying her to do this. I asked for a milkshake and she brought me one…  a pretty cool job, in my 5-year old opinion.

Maybe it’s because I didn’t have children, but my work has always been my world. I care deeply about how I spend my days. When my work isn’t right, I’m not right. The older I get, the more important it becomes.

I’m turning 46 tomorrow and I’m happy to say that I’ve finally found the profession that speaks to my heart. And, I appreciate how every job I’ve had in the past has prepared me for where I am right now.

I’m also realizing that as I build my health and lifestyle counseling practice, that the little girl wasn’t too far off.  While I might gently suggest a green juice instead of a milkshake… I’m finally able to help people have anything they want.  I’m going to help them live the life they’ve always wanted and I can’t think of a better way to spend my days… and the second half of my life.

This post is a part of the #LetsBlogOff challenge where every two weeks bloggers unite around a given topic. It’s a great way to build your blogging skills and cultivate your own unique voice. Here are 5 more reasons to join us next time.

Be sure to read the others’ take on “What did you want to be when you grew up?” here:


So much good-ness

Ever have so much good-ness going on that you can’t quite absorb it? I’ve been so overwhelmingly, every minute booked type of busy lately that I’m having a hard time staying present for each thing.  I realize that each “good thing” has happened through relationships that have evolved, over time.

I’m especially thankful for my online relationships. The process of blogging and participating in social media has helped me uncover my voice and given me the confidence to follow my heart. I’m trying to slow down and appreciate change. I don’t want to miss a single moment.

I thought I’d take today to fill you in… here are a few things going on…

Design Everyday. I’ve been hard at work blogging for Design Everyday, a blog affiliated with LightHome, an Australian green home design magazine that launched earlier this month. I’m having so much fun interviewing Aussie designers, reviewing thoughtfully designed products and encouraging people to design for the way you live, with things you love. I even squeezed in a trip down under to do some digging myself. This opportunity came my way via Amanda Falconer, the publisher of LightHome and founder of the Sydney Small Business Centre. We go way back, having worked together at James Hardie, giving Australian architects tours across America.

Site re-design. I’m a big fan of Reese Spykerman (she’s the creative genius behind Chris Guillebeau’s Art of Non-Conformity site).  When she ran a site review special in June, I jumped on it.  Reese’s process gently suggested the look of my site didn’t reflect my voice. She gave me a lot to think about, which prepared me to bring in designer, Kaiko Kassab of Izumi Studios to work her magic. We’re not quite done yet, but I think it’s evolving nicely.

Back to school. While I love marketing, I’ve learned that I really love encouraging people to be their best self. I’m about three weeks into a year-long program to become a certified health and lifestyle counselor through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. It’s the only school that approaches “nutrition” holistically, with food just one small part of a happy, healthy life. I can’t wait to really dig in and learn more ways of helping people live their best life.

Guest posting. On top of all of this designer, Tobi Fairley asked me to guest post for her “All-American” series this weekend!  How much good-ness can a girl take??? I’ll be sure to share it. Tom Brady is involved.

Mom’s birthday. As if that wasn’t enough –  today is my Mom’s birthday!  We’re celebrating her 65th, Princess-style. I want her to feel as special as she’s made her children feel every day of our lives. She doesn’t have near enough Princess moments. To ensure she can have one whenever she wants, I gave her a Helen Ficalora crown charm. I think she liked it 🙂  Love it, love Helen and especially love my Mom.

Happy Birthday, Mom!

A crown for the Princess (Helen Ficalora style)

Alaska bound. And, I’m taking my first cruise tomorrow… to Alaska! I’ve packed every variation of Ugg, knitting and reading material you can imagine. We’ll see what I actually end up doing. More than anything, I’m looking forward to enjoying the beautiful scenery and being chilly!  It’s 110 in Tucson. Alaska is going to feel sooooo good.

I’m looking forward to sharing a lot more goodness with you, goodness that comes, thanks to you. Thank you for stopping by.

Recharge your career, creative success

A fresh perspective... captured on a walk, in Morro Bay.

You’d think that leaving corporate craziness would leave you with plenty of time to relax and recharge. A funny thing happened when I left to start my own business.

Sure, I’m no longer held to someone else’s calendar.  But, I’ve chosen a creative profession – writing, blogging, marketing, coaching are all in some way dependent on expressing yourself authentically. Which brings self-doubt and a plethora of ideas. Which can be energizing or exhausting.

If you choose a career or a way of life that calls for this, you’re going to need more R&R than the standard American two-weeks.

You need everyday replenishment. Because creativity…your sanity…your confidence…your livelihood… depends on stillness.

I’ve learned to squeeze it in as often as I can. I keep it simple. A walk around the  neighborhood typically does the trick. I take my phone for the timer and the camera… but turn the ringer off.  I walk for about 10 minutes, find a place to sit, set my timer for 20, close my eyes and listen to whatever’s going on around me.

It takes at least 10 minutes to tune in. That’s when I notice that my eyes and brow are tense, my breath is shallow, my jaw is tight and my shoulders are still hunched over from sitting with the laptop.  I take a deep breath, soften my eyes, my shoulders and my jaw and simply try to keep it that way for another 10 minutes.

I’ve yet to experience complete thoughtless-ness. Maybe that comes after 30 minutes…  But, inevitably, when the timer dings, the tension in my brow is gone, my breath is more even, I feel lighter and the walk back usually brings a picture-worthy moment.

Regardless, I’m always left with a fresh perspective.

How about you? How do you rest and recharge?

This post is part of the #LetsBlogOff challenge… a bi-monthly exercise in creativity, writing and building relationships with fellow bloggers. Check out everyone else’s response to this week’s challenge, “How do you relax and recharge?” here (and join us next time!)

7 things I learned from Chris Guillebeau’s book tour

Chris Guillebeau (pronounced Gill-a-boh) was among the first bloggers I started following. It was 2008. I was immersed in learning about social media and found his blog, “The Art of Non- Conformity.” While I was learning a lot from  Copyblogger, Problogger and Seth Godin, Chris spoke to my heart.   He was a writer with an entrepreneurial spirit. He encouraged taking responsibility for your own reality with a practical twist. He was speaking my language.

What I really like about Chris is his sensibility and creativity.  He doesn’t have anything against “the way it’s always been done.” But, if that way doesn’t help his goals or feel right to him personally, he considers all the alternatives and creates one that works.

Which is why he launched his own tour to promote his first book. The publishing company’s marketing plan (or lack thereof) wasn’t going to do. As a veteran traveler who’s in the process of visiting every country within five years (an entirely different subject that has become an entirely different opportunity for Chris), he decided to apply the same logic to his book tour – visiting every state in the U.S.

I remember when the book was just an item on his list of goals. Now the book was in front of me. (Not surprising, he has an entire annual review process for making his goals come true.)

So, when I saw that Stop #49 was in Tempe, Arizona, I wanted to support him, thank him, encourage him. The staff at Changing Hands bookstore had to get more seats…. Apparently lots of others felt the same way.

I brought my Mom and hadn’t really thought about how she would interpret her daughter being a groupie of the author of a book called, “The Art of Non-Conformity.”  Fortunately, Chris handled that right off the bat, then spent the next 20 minutes sharing insight from his own unconventional life. (Along with @pamslim from Escape from Cubicle Nation… total surprise, BONUS, guest host!)

Here’s what resonated with me… what’s helping me shape my own goals:

1) His message is more for the discontented than taking a stand against convention. He’s not here to judge anyone’s path – conventional 9 to 5, or not. He’s more about considering alternatives that could make your life better. This seemed to put Mom at ease.

2) He bases his actions on answers to two questions. He considers the two most important questions in the universe: 1) What do you want to get out of life? 2) What can you offer the world that no one else can? He plans the route, using the answers as his logic check along the way.

3) He works with the end in mind, considering what his legacy will be. For him, it’s not about money or career. It’s about influence and relationships. He even has a Legacy Project on his list of goals.

4) Sometimes he places adventure over efficiency. It recognizes that it isn’t efficient to go to all 50 states on a book tour or to travel to every country. He makes decisions based on what’s meaningful to him.

5) He let his writing create the niche. When Chris started his blog, he wanted to establish convergence between life, work and travel. Speaking from his experience was more important to him than finding a niche for each interest.  While this does not follow traditional marketing logic, I like the way he started… saw what connected… then created products and valuable content for each of the niches that evolved. It just shows there could possibly be a different way, especially within social media.

6) He pays attention to opportunity. He says he gets paid in nice emails and blog comments. However, from these… opportunities have risen. He’s turned common questions and topics into lucrative income streams by creating products that answer their questions and solve their problems.

7) He knows everyone has something they want to do. And, everyone worries they’re too late.  One of the most common comments he receives is people worrying they’re too late or not ready. He offers consolation with a cherished quote, “The best time to start was last year. Failing that, today will do.”

Chris just finished his book tour… has launched a new “travel hacking” site … and is planning to launch his next book in 2012.  He’s a true example of doing what you love and money, success (whatever that looks like for you) following. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer (or harder-working) guy.

Have you taken an unconventional path? Is there something you’d like to start that you haven’t yet?

5 life lessons from The Sartorialist

I may be one of the last people out there to discover Scott Schuman, aka The Sartorialist.  He’s considered one of TIME magazine’s Top 100 Design Influencers and has one of the Best Blogs of 2010.  Where have I been?  Thank goodness for @TIME and @designmilk on Twitter or I’d still be in the dark.

I’m drawn to The Sartorialist because it’s a great place to watch creativity in action.  It’s interesting to see how “real” people choose to express themselves for the day. It also makes me want to put more thought into what I wear… to occasionally reach beyond the Uggs, yoga pants and hoodie.

However, what sold me forever, is this video capturing Scott’s philosophy on creativity.  His path offers insight for anyone questioning their career path or favored form of creative expression.

Here are 5 things that inspired me about his life:

1. He could never have predicted the way his life would unfold. After 9/11 he left 15 years of sales and marketing in the fashion industry to focus more on photography.

“I always felt that there was a disconnect between what I was selling in the showroom and what I was seeing real people (really cool people) wearing in real life.”

He started taking pictures and started a blog.  His photos and style insight are now covered by media around the world.

2. He’s confident despite his lack of formal training. He didn’t grow up dreaming of being a photographer so he never had any formal photography training.  With practice and experience, he’s become comfortable with his ability and says,

“The way I do it is just the way I do it.”

3. Childhood curiosity fueled his interest. He started getting into fashion, looking at magazines in junior high. (It was a way to get with the girls.)  From this, he picked up a “visual understanding” and became curious about the world outside the Midwest.

4. He trusts his instincts. He’s says his lack of training has helped him remain instinctual.  He doesn’t over-think the shot, wondering if it’s fashionable enough. Something catches his eye and he reacts.

5. He designates time in his day for inspiration and execution.  He spends part of his day on his computer just getting the blog going. Then, he spends about  4-5 hours outside, walking, waiting for possibility to catch his eye.

Can you imagine the people who probably told him to get a real job, or that he needed formal training to be a photographer?  Thank goodness he kept going or the world would be missing a very intriguing, telling snapshot of today’s culture – a “digital park bench” as Scott calls it.

Blogs like this will also provide a unique historical perspective.  Not only will we we have a record of real-life, unstyled street shots, reader comments will offer a record of real-life attitude right along with them.

I hope you’ll watch and share what inspired you…

2011: What will help you stay on track?

A birthday present wrapped in butterfly paper... A card with a butterfly stone enclosed. Christmas brought butterfly notecards and an Ipad with a butterfly screen saver!

I’ve really enjoyed reading everyone’s reflections on 2010 and intentions for 2011.  While everyone has such different processes and perspectives, we’re all going to need some help to stay on track.  What will be your go-to source?

Yoga (and a story about butterflies) will be mine, as they have been for years. I must have really needed help this past year because I immersed myself even more than normal. I went to two yoga retreats. One was in Mexico, one in El Salvador, one with teaching in mind, one with learning in mind, one was powerful, one was graceful. Both were transformational.

I don’t expect you to do yoga.  I respect your way and by no means want to force mine on you.  I just hope you have a go-to source that will remind you that you’re good enough, special enough and smart enough to have every single thing on your New Year’s list. In fact, you’re probably selling yourself short. You’re probably special enough to receive more than you’d ever imagine putting on that list.

The physical poses of yoga (asana) is really just one part of a system, or set of tools designed to help us get through this life as gracefully and happily as possible. Another part (svadhyaya) is filling your mind with words, music, movies – whatever meaningful “content” works for you, whatever is powerful enough to replace the thoughts, perceptions and beliefs that might stop you from checking off everything on that list.

So, while you’re contemplating getting on the mat (I can hope, can’t I?), I’ll share a little svadhyaya with you. One of my dearest yoga teachers, Diana Christinson, gave me this story about butterflies years ago and re-introduced it at her El Salvador retreat. It truly helped me begin trusting “what within me was beginning to awaken.”

According to the story, the universe turns caterpillars into butterflies… Do you really think it has anything less in store for you?

I went into 2010 wide open to possibility. I paid attention. 2011 is about continuing with the things that connected, the things that when I think of letting them go, my heart hurts. To me, that’s a sign to keep going.

You see, butterflies are never born on the ground. The tiny caterpillar has to go through a lot of effort. They have to climb a very big tree and crawl onto the scariest branch before transformation happens.

Ever since I started reading this again in El Salvador, I’ve been bombarded with butterflies… I received a birthday present wrapped in butterfly paper, a card with a butterfly stone enclosed… This may not mean anything, but I’m taking it as a sign to keep going. I hope you’ll do the same.


The Tao turns the tides

and changes caterpillars into butterflies.

Do you truly believe that it has less magic,

mystery or meaning in store for you?

Pay attention to what within you is beginning to awaken.

The caterpillar can feel the essence of the butterfly

even before it begins to emerge.

Remember, butterflies are never born on the ground.

This type of total transformation occurs only after

an arduous climb up the trunk of the tree

and a perilous trip out onto the barest branch.

Risk is the cost of attaining anything of real value.

Create your own chrysalis of consciousness;

A protective cocoon in which you realize yourself more wholly.

Dawning as a radiant light,

awakening others in the same way.

– Tao de Ching, 78th passage, as translated by Dorien Israel

What will be your go-to source, your protective cocoon that helps you stay on track this year?






Graceful transitions

"Dance" sculpture in Phoenix, Arizona

So, I’m thinking about what’s next… It amazes me how when you have something on your mind, related things, people, messages come into your life. Check it out:

  • Last Wednesday afternoon, I’m at the library, Googling around and discover 3 blogs and 5 articles, all written by architects, all with the same message I’d been trying to convey in Inside The Exterior.  I was so excited and inspired because I had been struggling, wondering if my message was connecting with architects (the intended audience for James Hardie’s blog.)
  • Wednesday night, I stay up until 1 am writing 3 architects + 5 articles = all the answers, tweeted it to all 3 architects, all 3 responded, thanking me for continuing the conversation. I wasn’t sure how we’d collaborate, but thought there was possibility…
  • Thursday afternoon, I received a call from  James Hardie’s marketing department  saying they needed to end the blog.  My only thought was, “Hhhmm, how am I going to continue the discussion with architects?”
  • Friday, I didn’t have time to think about it… I had other deadlines.
  • Saturday, I skipped yoga, went for a hike, then watched my nieces fearlessly dance their hearts out at a recital.
  • Fathers Day started on the back of my dad’s motorcycle, with a ride to Starbucks, followed by the A-Team and In-N-Out burgers. (It was the least I could do after all the girl movies and tofu he’s endured for me.)
  • Monday, I wrote the “Goodbye” article.  I’ve struggled with the timing of this because I have architect interviews scheduled for the blog.  I still want to get their stories out but I’m not sure how to make that happen.
  • I remembered a passage from Melody Beattie’s Journey to the Heart (a book dedicated to, “people on the path of discovering and trusting their soul… and those involved in creative endeavors, including artists, writers, healers” (and I’d add architects):

“It’s okay not to know what we want, what’s next, or what we think our lives will look like down the road…sometimes the reason we don’t know is that what’s coming is going to be very different from anything we’ve experienced before. Even if we knew, we couldn’t relate to it, it’s that new and that different. It’s a surprise.”

  • Tuesday night,  What is Design?, by Jody Brown of Coffee with an Architect arrived via email.  He compares design with ma” a japanese word for the interval of time between two things. I thought it was interesting that in the West , we don’t even have a word for this. We’re expected to push forward, with a plan in place, an outcome firmly in mind.  Wikipedia calls not having a word for this space, a  “serious omission.” I agree.
  • This morning, I woke up at 3 am with this article and  graceful transitions on  my mind.   In the yoga that I practice, all the poses are connected, we move from one to another, with intention, slowly, not rushing, with smooth, steady breath. It’s the transitions that give the practice its comfort, grace, ease.

So, I’m not going to worry about what’s next.  Instead, I’m going to slow down and focus on graceful transitions.  I’ll transfer my efforts to my site (the one I’ve been neglecting). I’ll keep writing about creativity and connecting with humans vs “consumers.”   I’ll stay grounded in gratitude for the opportunities I’ve had and everything I’ve learned. I’ll stay open to grace and look forward to the possibilities (and surprises) ahead.

I hope you’ll join me at ;
Be my friend on Facebook ;
Follow me on Twitter ;
Let’s connect on LinkedIn

Curves, shifts and crisis – barriers making us better

As a marketer and reluctant, Optimist, I’m intrigued and inspired by the changes technology, the economy and our mindset are forcing us to deal with. While we used to be able to push through and just do what everyone else is doing, genuine barriers like

– learning curves (the blog’s up, now what am I going to say?),
– power shifts (media to corporate; corporate to consumer),
– identity crisis (you can’t fake it anymore)

are forcing us to reflect on who we want to be, how we market and how we engage our targets (also known as “humans”).

While change is hard, regardless of experience or budget, embracing instead of resisting it can create some pretty great realities. Here are just a few:

1. Opportunity. Anyone can participate regardless of budget or size.
2. It’s not about you. It’s about them. You have to care. Genuinely.
3. Creativity and individuality are considered good things.
4. Forced reflection vs typical reaction. Those jumping on the bandwagon without a true strategy will struggle. Another opportunity for differentiation.
5. It lets others sell for you. And isn’t that so much more powerful (and rewarding) than having to sell yourself?
6. The bright light it’s shining on the need for meaningful marketing content. Everyone has it, you just have to uncover and unleash it.

© Copyright Denese Russell: Writings | created by: IZUMI STUDIOS