Being Brave

by Whitney on September 29, 2014

how to practice courage

 

Seth Godin once said in an interview, “Books are like souvenirs of ideas.”

As I sit here, befuddled about what my fingers should talk about next, I look around the room, and sure enough, my eyes don’t land on books. They land on ideas.

The current idea floating around in my mind has something to do with courage. Something to do with being brave. Something around this concept that courage, like tennis, requires practice to be good. You can’t come out the gate and explode with a mass of impactful courage, just like you can’t pick up a racquet and be good overnight. No, you have to pick up the racquet every day, and over time, you start to get better at the game.

Or maybe practicing courage is like practicing law, or practicing medicine. They say it’s a practice, because the truth is, as much as they’re supposed to be experts, they don’t really know how the surgery or the lawsuit is going to turn out. By hiring them, you’re just trying to buy the best bet. You’re trying to increase your odds of success, of winning, of beating a disease.

But it’s still all a gamble in the end.

So is courage. So are little acts of bravery. You don’t know that you’re going to succeed, and you don’t know that you’re not going to fall flat on your face. But you do know you have to try. You do know that the best chance of winning lies in effort, and that if you don’t try, you definitely lose.

I spoke on failure at a Christian conference this past weekend. In my talk, I told a story that, I think, sounds weird. I told a story about how my husband and I were struggling to buy groceries, so when he found a bag of canned goods at my dad’s car wash, he brought them home. It was strange, eating food that someone else had bought, and left behind, discarded. I mean, that’s what homeless people do—eat food that’s been discarded. But we were being stewards—good stewards—of the things we had been given. And in faith, we felt like the found canned goods were a gift, and it was our duty to practice stewardship with them.

But also in that story, was a kind-crazy, people-don’t-talk-about-this-stuff element of God being there, taking care of us. Stewarding us. Knowing we had tied our knot and were hanging on at the end of our rope, He was there, making sure we were ok.

I kinda think He liked that. I know I like it when someone comes to me for help. I like helping. And I kinda think God does, too. I think that maybe, He puts these crazy circumstances in our paths to send us running to Him. When a friend comes to me and asks for help, I normally want to stop and have coffee. I like the fellowship and engagement and connection that occurs. And God probably does, too. We come running for help and He says, “Sure! Let’s sit down and chat about that! Do you want cream or sugar?”

And, once again humbled, but still desirous of my right to ask for what I want, I request a Splenda and He makes it appear.

God laughs at me. “I offer you cream or sugar, and you still want a Splenda.” He shakes His head, and looks at me. “You get it, don’t you? You know I’ll work it out. You know you won’t get the Splenda every time…”

And here, I interrupt God. “But I’ll still choose to be completely delighted with cream and sugar, if I can’t have the Splenda. I’m just not going to to NOT ask.”

God chuckles and His eyes twinkle. He is delighted. He is delighted with my adventurous brain, and my newfangled ideas, and my whimsical notions. Sometimes I think He wants me to help other people have newfangled ideas and whimsical notions, because He knows this world has a pretty discouraging way of telling brave people that they can’t do something. That they’re not good enough. That He won’t have their back.

When I spoke at this conference this past weekend, my friend Ellen Parker taught out of Deuteronomy. She challenged us: what does it look like to live loved? She talked about the Israelites who wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, because they didn’t have the courage to trust. They chose fear over love.

Love chooses courage. Love chooses little acts of bravery.

So, what is brave for you? What would be the smallest brave thing you could do today? It might mean leaving your phone in the other room during dinner, or it might mean cooking dinner. It might be going to the gym, or it might be choosing to battle that disorder and eat the next bite on your plate. It might mean saying I love you, or it might mean saying I’m sorry. It might mean hitting the forgiveness reset button, one more time. It might mean letting go, it might mean hanging on. It might mean sending a text, or shutting down a thought, or setting a boundary.

Here’s the best formula I can give you for practicing courage: make a list of all the things you COULD do. None of them will be easy, or you already would have done them. Make a list of the things that feel heavy with fear or anxiety. Then, pick the tiniest, easiest thing from that list, and do that.

Whatever it is, it’s going to be hard. And that probably means it will be right.

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Happenings ‘Round These Parts

by Whitney on September 4, 2014

I know I’ve been quiet lately, but the silence on this blog stems from a pile of amazing people and projects I’ve been able to work on. I’d love to be better about documenting these adventures as they occur, but in the grind of daily minutia, the details don’t seem to matter. The tiny steps of progress every day are things that I’ve learned to celebrate, but I fear making a bigger deal out of them than they actually are, if I pay homage to them on the blog.

Maybe they are a big deal. Food for thought.

At any rate, here’s a quick summary of things I’ve been working on, in case you’re curious.

  • Go Inspire Love – Cathy Olson from Love Inspired contacted me a few months ago to ask if I wanted to collaborate on something. We brainstormed and defined an audience: creative entrepreneurs with a desire to share God’s love with the world. Then we came up with a concept, that, to our knowledge, has never been done before, or at least in the way we are doing it. The basic concept is what I like to call “nuggets and network”. It’s a community concept (we’re working on exactly what that will look like), and a place for us (and members) to share feedback and experiences on problems other entrepreneurs might be experiencing. We’re very transparent about the fact that it will evolve based on feedback from members. Registration opened yesterday for 50 founding member seats. Check out GoInspireLove.com if you’re interested!
  • Day Designer – The old duck analogy applies here. Calm on the surface, paddling like crazy underneath. We debuted 9 new cover designs on August 15th! This was the highlight of my month. I loved hearing the feedback from folks as they picked their favorite and placed their order. I can’t wait to get these in ya’lls hands, hence the paddling like crazy underneath! Here’s a pic of the cover designs we debuted:

 

2015 Planner Day Designer Limited Edition Coves

Left to right in the image above we have:

  • Spotty Dots – Definitely the new favorite! Quantities are on this one are dwindling, and we expect to sell out quickly when the shop opens again on September 15th at 8:00 am CST!
  • Black Stripes – Aren’t they classic and timeless? Still a favorite among Day Designer users.
  • Aqua Shell – Elegant and refined, light and airy!
  • Navy Rugby – Preppy and bold with a twist! The “grosgrain ribbon” on the center adds an element of detail that charms my socks off!
  • Gold Stripes – You all love your gold! This one will also be a quick sell-out, so if you have your eye on it, set your clock for that September 15th shop opening (8:00 am CST). Retailers also have stock of both the Gold Stripe and the Black Stripe, so if you miss out on one of these, check the retailer list. Most of our retailers ship nationwide!
  • Grosgrain Stripe – You all like this one a lot more than I thought you would! It’s preppy, bright, fun and whimsical. What’s not to love?
  • Green Gingham – My friend Natalie Chang commented that she drooled on her phone when she saw this. Isn’t it darling? Several of my close personal friends have picked this as their favorite. I think they all live in the South, too.
  • Navy Gingham – Maybe this is the gingham for the girl in the northeast. She’s a preppy and nautical-loving gal, right? I think it make me want to take a trip to Nantucket.
  • Mint Rugby – When I asked you all what color you most wanted to see, you said mint! Here it is, with a dash of coral and blush. It’s the perfect color combination for the gal who wants to be on top of the latest trend!
  • Carrie Floral – This one might be my personal favorite. Named for Carrie Bradshaw, it’s bold and fiesty, feminine and crisp. It oozes confidence.

I might need to find a reason to carry two Day Designers!

Other projects that have my wheels turning:

  • I’m working on getting some new community features in place for Day Designer users. It’s kind of a big project, and trying to figure out all the details, how to roll it out, get all the kinks worked out–well, it takes time.
  • Over the past two years, I’ve received a few requests from folks who are non-planner people, but want access to the Define Your Core worksheets in that have come with our flagship Day Designer product. I’m excited to announce that these worksheets are now available as an e-workbook download! Check them out in my new Authenticate Etsy shop. I’m definitely rolling with these requests as they come, so if you are interested in purchasing other types of downloads, let me know!

On that note, a little bit of information about Authenticate, and my consulting business. I’ve dabbled in consulting over the past two years, but never really felt like I found my footing. I love helping folks, but trying to figure out HOW to help them, and put a process in place, has been a big challenge for me. In fact, if you’ve been a reader for any length of time, you may have noticed that I announced earlier this year that I wasn’t accepting any more graphic design or branding clients. After trying on those services for size, I discovered that what a client expects and wants isn’t really anything I’m able to offer right now, with kids and a whole lotta crazy happening at our house at any given moment. And if you can’t do it right, don’t do it at all.

That realization definitely left me floundering in the consulting department for a while, but I’m finding my footing. I’ll be rolling out a new service in the coming weeks, and I’m also opening a new class for Authenticate later on this fall. The first online class/course/mastermind has evolved over the course of this year, and I’m taking everything I’ve learned and everything I’ve taught am retooling that into an all-new Authenticate 2.0. To sign up to be notified when this opportunity opens, you can add your email address at AuthenticateExperience.com. And stay tuned for details!

I’m signing off now, because that’s a LOT of information in one “quick” blog post! Leave any questions you have in the comments, and I’ll try to answer them ASAP!

 

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Terri Roberts told her story from the platform at the small church where I grew up. She told the story of how her son had become a perpetrator. Perpetrator—the word for a man or woman who commits a horrific crime against another person. The crime her son had committed was shooting ten Amish school girls. Five had been killed. Four recovered, but one of the younger ones remains wheelchair bound, unable to speak, and has to be fed through a feeding tube.

Terri’s son, Charlie, turned the gun on himself in the final moments, leaving Terri, her husband, her other three sons, and Charlie’s wife and three small children, left to deal with the rippling effect of his tragic actions.

Terri told us how she and her husband wept, buckets and buckets of tears. I can only imagine how the tears would worsen, as feelings of shame and guilt crept in.

Days after the shooting, the Roberts family gathered for Charlie’s funeral. It was a small turnout, I’m sure, given the circumstances. It’s hard for us, as humans, to understand how anyone would mourn the life of someone cab able of committing such a travesty.

But, as many of you know, if anyone mourns, it’s a mama.

Here’s where the story starts to transcend my understanding.

It was the Amish mamas who mourned with Terri Roberts. Almost half the people in attendance at the funeral were Amish. As the news crews from all over the world gathered, shining a spotlight of shame and pointed fingers on this family, the Amish circled the family to shield them from the media.

The Amish—the people who had lost five daughters at the hand of Terri Robert’s son—the people who had all the right to show up at that funeral with pitchforks and picket signs—showed up and FORGAVE.

And not only did they forgive, they shielded. They protected. Talk about ACTIVE forgiveness. Passive forgiveness would have been sitting at home, saying, “we forgive”, and then silently, or maybe not-so-silently, muttering something about how the media would give them what they deserved, for whatever reason the media wants to cite that they deserve it.

Mercy—not getting what we do deserve—is ACTIVE FORGIVENESS.

I don’t know if I have that in me, friends. I want to have it in me. I want to be like the Amish were to Terri. But I’m flawed and I’m human, and yes those are excuses, but if someone did something to my family—I fear I’d be the one with the pitchfork and the picket sign. Loud and angry. And I’d want to defend my actions in the name of righteous anger.

It’s a tough subject, for sure. What would you do? Can you share any thoughts about how we could all more actively forgive?

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How To Nurture Your Creativity

by Whitney on July 18, 2014

Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night, restless and unsettled? Have you ever felt called to action, but you’re just not sure in what direction? Have you ever seen injustice, and wished your pointer finger was a magic wand, because you know you’re supposed to do SOMETHING?

I think we all feel this. It’s a feeling I struggle to define, though.

It’s part urge, part drive, part gut instinct and intuition, part love.

It’s a dissatisfaction with the way the present is.

It’s the knowledge that things can be different, and the confidence that different is better.

It’s not arrogant. It’s quiet.
It’s not foolish. It’s careful.
It’s not content, but for the best reasons.

The best way I can think to describe this emotion is simply this: you stumbled on to the seed of an idea. This emotion is creativity, in embryonic form.

The next time you can’t sleep, the next time you want to fight injustice, the next time you feel called, nurture the idea. Find some quiet, journal the feelings, mind-map the bunny trails your mind will take you.

Don’t try to organize, or structure it.
Don’t limit it.
Don’t shrug it off as insomnia, or say you can’t possibly be the one who is supposed to be doing something about it.

Whatever you do, don’t judge it. If you do, you’ve stifled and killed your creativity.

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The One Thing You CAN Get Done Every Day

by Whitney on July 3, 2014

Big progress.
Little progress.
Old progress.
New progress.
Short progress.
Long progress.
High progress.
Low progress.
Bad progress, good progress.
Fat progress, skinny progress.
Pretty progress, ugly progress.
Perfect progress, flawed progress.

It doesn’t matter what kind of progress you’re making. The amazing thing about progress is that it all counts.

What doesn’t count:

Stationary. Standing still. Stagnation. Inaction. Avoidance.

There is never a new view from the stationary position. Stagnant is never going to wake up one day, all of a sudden refreshed and renewed. Inaction will never lead to desired results.

Even if it’s bad progress, it’s progress, as long as we’re learning something and then moving on.

As long as you’re moving, you get the award for making headway, the cheers for keeping on when the keeping-on gets tough, the check mark for progress.

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Welcome, ye who hail from Huffington Post Small Business. I wish I was writing with exuberance, but I’m a little deflated at the moment, I’ll admit. We’re kindred spirits, though, you and I, so I can admit that. Small business owners gotta stick together, right?

I just returned from my monthly “Posse” meeting. It’s a group of small business owners who gather monthly, and in the strictest of confidence, hash out whatever issues we’re battling at the moment. In fact, as one of my colleagues put it this evening: if each brain at that table was worth $5,000 an hour, it would be about $120,000 worth of consulting. Pretty powerful stuff.

Posse meetings are not always easy, though. Sometimes we have to hear things we don’t want to hear. Just last month, I received feedback from someone in the group that I didn’t want to hear. I didn’t respond well. In fact, I could almost feel my fists come to my face, ready to respond in unadulterated defensive fashion.

I know nothing about boxing, or defensive sport of any kind, so that’s probably not a smart move.

It’s also not typically the kind of move I’d make.

I believe that defensive communication breeds defensive communication. Defense escalates the heat, the fight. It makes things worse, not better. No one wins. Lose/lose, as Stephen Covey would have said.

If we don’t learn how to take it, if we don’t train ourselves to respond positively to critique, we’ll never improve. We’ll never grow.

If you’re here from the Huffington Post, you probably realize I’ve committed the worst blogging mistake a company can make–a poorly written blog headline.

But here’s the thing: I don’t want to be a company. I want to be a human. Companies have to be perfect. Humans are allowed to be flawed.

There’s no forgiveness if you’re a company that’s committed a cardinal business sin. It’s harder to apologize when you’re a “we”, and an apology means more when it’s an “I”.

I’m not writing this to make apologies for poorly written headlines. I’m writing this to let you know, that one of the most powerful things you can do on your blog, as a company, is to give it a human voice. Be yourself.

Perfection isn’t attainable. The alternative is wholly fulfilling: trying to be the best version of myself I was created to be.

Now, in the spirit of receiving constructive criticism, I’m off to write a better headline.

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On Motherhood & Storytelling

June 26, 2014

Either I don’t really feel like I have a lot of great stories to tell, or I don’t know how to tell them well. Figuring that I need to get better at this story thing, if I’m ever going to write a book, last week I picked up a copy of A Million Miles In […]

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The Voices of Fear

June 25, 2014

Sometimes he’s annoying and loud, booming out across the room, “Ha-ha! You can’t do this! Remember that you stink at the whole accounting/communication/focus thing?” To which Courage, and a few good friends, whisper in reply: “Why not you?” Sometimes Fear is less loud, but still just as tickled. “Hoo-hoo! This’ll be fun! Can’t wait to […]

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How Do You Find Purpose When The Big Picture Seems Bleak?

June 8, 2014

A friend left a comment on one of my Instagram pictures the other day: “I love all the joy I’m seeing in your recent pictures!” I took it as a compliment, and was grateful someone had noticed. Life, lately, has demanded a lot of focus from me. I’m feeling pulled in so many directions, have […]

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Your Best Summer Giveaway

June 2, 2014

Happy Monday Friends! I’m so excited about this giveaway with some of my favorite people! We’ve all teamed up to bring some of our favorite things for summer. One super lucky winner will receive the following items: $500 CASH! 2015 Day Designer by Whitney English Mommy and Me beach towels (The Bishop Towel and The […]

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Choices & New Video!

May 29, 2014

If there’s any one thing I’ve felt in full force this past month, it’s that choosing is HARD. I’ve had more opportunities come my way lately than I know what to do with, and while that’s amazing, and I’m so grateful, I KNOW that I can’t do everything. And choosing to do everything results in […]

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Dear Kiddo, Bubba, and Charley,

April 2, 2014

I just got finished washing the boys hair and trimming it. Today is picture day at school, and if I’m honest, it’s only the second one I’ve remembered. In months past, life has been just that crazy. Also, you both needed haircuts. Badly. And fortunately, I’m getting much better at the haircut thing. One day […]

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The Beautiful Art of Balance Workshop by Shannon Ho

March 16, 2014

Next month, I’m so excited to be participating in Shannon Ho‘s first ever workshop for photographers (and, I’ll go ahead and just invite you: creatives)! I’ve been in on some behind-the-scenes conversations with Shannon about this workshop for a couple of years now. She’s one of the most talented photographers I know, and I’m so […]

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Ellington & Rose

February 22, 2014

Last year, when Kate Baird and I accepted a handful of full branding clients, I was thrilled to see the names of Lynn and Allison, the brains behind Ellington & Rose, land in my inbox. At the time, their business wasn’t actually called Ellington & Rose, so I challenged them to do some digging, and […]

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