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

by Whitney on 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 A Thousand Years by Donald Miller. Great book. In it, Don proposes something quite beyond learning how to write a better story. He challenges: what if we could live a better story?

I finished A Million Miles, enjoying every minute of it, and then decided for my next read to dive back into Love Does. The author of Love Does, Bob Goff, is friends with Don, so I figured another read through Love Does would be inspiring, and maybe it would give me more insight into this whole story concept.

It was, and it did. Halfway through the book, Bob is talking about how he took his kids around the world to meet world leaders. His kids gave each world leader a key, and invited them to come over to their house and hang out sometime. Sitting on an airplane, I put the book down and stared out the airplane window.

Could I do something half as adventurous as that with my kids, I wondered? I felt my nose scrunch up in response to my own proposal. Seriously, Whitney, you wonder if your house smells like diapers the way a high-school quarterback wonders if his arm pits smell. That’s hardly the confidence it’s going to take to invite world dignitaries to dine in your home.

But then I remembered that in A Million Miles, Don says that maybe we should try to live a better story. To me, he’s saying, “If you don’t like where you’re going, you better change directions.”

I have some pretty crazy dreams. I’d like to sail around the world with my kids. I’d like to live in the south of France for a year. I’d like my kids to experience some of the educational systems outside of the US. I’d like to buy a plane ticket to Tokyo, write half of a book on the way over there, have a few espressos at the airport, and get back on a plane and write the last half on the way back, like I once read an executive did to meet his deadline.

I understand story a lot better because of Don. If this was fiction, he would probably say that this would be a good spot in this blog post to include an exciting incident, something that would force me to action, and perhaps, inspire a happy ending.

I’m not sure what inciting incident will propel me forward from here. I got a paper cut this morning, but that’s not exacting working in terms of excitement or motivation.

But in an effort to wrap up this post with a happy ending, I’m delighted to tell you when I walked in the door from the airport last night, my house didn’t smell like diapers.

Baby steps, right?

p.s. If you’re as into books as I am, join me over on GoodReads.

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The Voices of Fear

by Whitney on 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 see what an idiot this is gonna make you look like!”

To which Courage, and a few good friends, declare: “You win when you start trying. Don’t let him defeat you before you’ve even given yourself a chance to step out the door.”

He’s most insulting when he shrugs you off, mid-battle, acting as if he’s already won. Turning his back and walking away, chewing on a piece of straw, without even a glance in your direction, he says to the on-looking crowd: “Move on. Nothing spectacular to see here.”

To which Courage, and a few good friends, respond: “Get up, wipe the mud off your face, and finish.”

Fear knows that finishing itself is spectacular, just because so few people do it.

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John-Maxwell-Success-Quote

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 had to say no to many great opportunities, and have returned again and again to a purpose statement I wrote almost two years ago, that embodied the concepts of authenticity, choice, change, love, gratitude, creativity. I’ve had to fight to live a life aligned with my values of grace and gratitude, and focus on family (when there is so much exciting stuff happening in the work arena right now). I’m still working on finalizing a few client projects, and knee-deep in research for Authenticate and a productivity project that is supposed to debut in 2015. And I realize that I can’t squeeze in a relationship with my kids when they are 18; that time has to be invested now. Despite all this, life does feel balanced, on most days, even if it also means I’m apologizing to a few people who don’t understand why I’m not into 24/7 work mode.

My weekend research led me back to a topic I discuss frequently with coaching clients: purpose. I drafted some thoughts in Evernote, and as I wrote, I found myself thinking, someone needs this TODAY. So I’m posting.

If you’re looking for purpose, meaning, and significance in your life; if you’re looking for the impact that you can make on the world, or if you’re looking for a reason to explain away dire circumstances, you might be zooming in on something too specific. Purpose is a big picture, a long timeline, and our lives are just a tiny pixel in that big picture. That doesn’t mean we’re not an important part of that picture. Every pixel counts, no matter how big the picture gets.

It’s hard for me to imagine, and it might be hard for you, too: if the world really is such a huge place, how is it possible that we matter that much? How is it possible that our actions, or worse, inactions, could have a ripple effect that might hit the other side of the world next week, or even in the next century? Aren’t legacies things that are reserved for the rich and famous?

Here’s something I know for certain: you don’t have to be famous to make a difference. On the opposite hand, you could be a celebrity that leaves the world void of any difference made. Think of headlines–the last time you saw news of a celebrity dying of a drug overdose. We’re talking about people who supposedly have everything—the world is their oyster, so why have they have fallen into a pit of drugs and alcohol to escape that world? Would a sense of purpose, and meaning help them escape that emptiness? It’s hard to say that folks drowning in the sinkhole of substance abuse are folks that have a strong sense of purpose, significance, and meaning, right?

Yet if we look at the pixels that make up the front of newsstand magazines, their lives definitely take up more room than ours in the big picture, right? So if you think that your life doesn’t make a difference in this world, I can see where you are coming from. From the media’s perspective, I guess that’s correct.

But we’re not going to look at this from the media’s perspective. We’re not going to take a mass-market approach to living. I’d even go so far as to say that the mass-market approach to living doesn’t always end well, if we look at the headlines. If fame and fortune guaranteed happiness, the magazine covers would read differently. Then again, the media can’t sell magazines based on a long-term big picture; they sell magazines about today’s news, today’s drama, today’s minutia.

It’s hard for me to talk about purpose without talking about my faith. I believe in an intentional, benevolent God, who holds that big picture firmly in the palm of His hand. I believe there are good things on this earth, and bad things on this earth, but I also firmly believe that the bad things on this earth are overshadowed in the long run by amazing things He knows about that we don’t. I believe that in the timeline of all existence, of everything that was, or is, or is to be, that this moment that we are in, right now, is just a blip. It might be a yucky blip, a bad moment, a not-so-fun time in our lives, but in the scheme of a massive timeline, it really is a minuscule moment. The good, in the long run, will always win.

I realize that there are some folks out there who would want to debate this, and that’s fine. That’s where my faith takes over. I believe that good will win. But I also understand that in those sometimes sucky moments, it’s hard to see the big picture. It’s hard to see how the pain of that moment adds any purpose, significance, or meaning to our lives.

The secret to seeing the big picture, and adding purpose and meaning to life, is actually quite simple: find the good, and give it away. Take inventory on what you have been given. Start with the good stuff: talents, strengths, abilities. Add in the bad stuff: experiences, lessons, things that are hard to explain. See the good in it all, find the love, even in that sucky, yucky moment. (I didn’t say it was easy). Find the gift. And then give it away. Realize that you haven’t been given the responsibility of hanging onto it. In the words of our favorite Elsa, let it go. Anything given to you, good or bad, is given to you for the purposes of stewardship only—it wasn’t yours when you came into this world, and you can’t take it with you when you go. Thank goodness, right? This means that nothing is really ours, and anything we think is ours we are really just stewards of. Part of stewardship is sharing. When we are young, we are taught to share our toys, right? That’s part of good toy maintenance—making sure other kids get a turn.

So, how do you share the bad and the ugly, without being an overly negative person that no one wants to hang around? In my own struggles, I’ve identified four steps that help me wade through the thicker waters of life, and still help others:

  1. Tell the redemptive side of the story. Even if it’s an ugly story, if you can find the gift, you’ve found the good. There might be times when you flat out feel like you are making it up–that there is nothing good in this situation. The mind is a powerful thing, though. Grab a pen and paper and write out something good about the negative situation, even if you feel like it’s hogwash. Walk away from it for a few days, then do it again. When you feel like it, share the story publicly. If it’s not the right time to tell the story, wait until it is. Find the good in it, though, and see it as a gift. Eventually, it will be something that will be used for good, even if you can’t see it at the moment.
  2. Give more. In his book Give and Take, Adam M. Grant proposes that when we can give where we see results, giving will actually energize us instead of deplete us. When my husband and I hit rock bottom financially a few years ago, the first thing we started doing was tithing. What amazed us was that when we felt we were down to nothing, by society’s standards, we still found the resources to give. You have resources at your disposal–time, money, assets, knowledge. Find a way to share them.
  3. Count your gifts. You’ve been gifted with a unique set of talents, skills and abilities. It’s true, there is no new idea under the sun. What is new under the sun is YOU, and how you react and respond to ideas and circumstances. No one, ever on the face of this earth, is going to have the same perspective and the same gifts to breathe into others that you are. In this moment, this difficult moment, you can bring beauty like no one else, if you pull from those unique-to-you-resources. Here’s another cool thing: when you do this, the people around you blossom. The greatest gift you can give to anyone in any moment is the gift of your present self.
  4. Count your blessings. Literally. Start counting the tangible goods around you that money has purchased, circumstance has given, and Providence has provided. If you’re reading this, you probably have more within an arm’s reach than 80% of the world. (As of 2005, 80% of the world’s population lived on less than $10 per day.) Nothing produces gratitude more quickly than looking at what you HAVE, rather than what you lack. And nothing produces joy more quickly than practicing gratitude.

It’s a truth that we were all born unique. Even a set of identical twins has differences, both in the unique personalities they are born with, and in the circumstances that shape their lives. When you acknowledge this truth, you eliminate the need to conform, imitate, and you invite the fulfillment of life that happens when you celebrate your authenticity. It’s not an excuse to rebel, but it is a reason to be confident in your talents, skills, and abilities. The best way to live your purpose, on good days and bad days, is to be you, uniquely. Stop the comparison game, and look at what you were put on this earth to be, and be those things.

In other words, put into practice what composer Harry Dixon Loes wrote in 1920: This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine!

Shine on.

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Your Best Summer Giveaway

by Whitney on June 2, 2014

Happy Monday Friends! I’m so excited about this giveaway with some of my favorite people!

giveaway

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 Bonnie Towel) from The Beaufort Bonnet Company

Prayer Journal from Val Marie Paper

Accessory Beach Bags from Hayden Reis

Ice Ice Baby tumbler from Ashley Brooke Designs

Double Layer Necklace from Caroline G

Thanks to Erin from Blue-Eyed Bride, Ashley Brooke Designs, Whitney English, Kelly from Kelly’s Korner, Ashley from Fancy Ashley, Carrie from Chasing Big Dreams, Nina from According to Nina, Courtney from Pizzazzerie, Jenny Collier, Julia Ryan, Chrissi Shields, Sheaffer from Pinterest Told Me To, Sarah from Life Is Beauty Full, and Valerie Woerner from Val Marie Paper

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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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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Why I’m Letting Day Designer® Go

February 22, 2014

First of all, announcement! Day Designer® is officially a registered trademark! Trademarking something is a lengthy process, and it’s never guaranteed that you’ll actually get a trademark when you start the process, so I’m delighted that it’s done! Wahoo! When I started designing the Day Designer®, I knew one thing: that there wasn’t a planner […]

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Not About The Money

February 18, 2014

Last week, at Bliss & Bespoke, Tara Guérard told a story about an entrepreneur and a client. The client had asked an entrepreneur for advice, and the entrepreneur responded by whipping together a solution in ten minutes. Thrilled, the client asked how much she owed the entrepreneur, and the entrepreneur replied: $10,000. Shocked, the client exclaimed, […]

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Smarts vs. Passion

January 30, 2014

There are smart people and there are passionate people. Smart people show up, do good work, and then go home. Passionate people can’t help but show up early, drive everyone crazy with ideas, suggestions, and numerous attempts at solutions that result in both success and failure. They stay late, and they annoy the smart people […]

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Balance and Dreams

January 29, 2014

David and I had some long chats last night. We are so busy right now. Actually, scratch that: I am so busy right now. And it was getting to him. I think I’d been trying to ignore my busy level, and the flashing warning signs that come along with the rise of busy, but last […]

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