Designing a Family Life That Matters Starts With Failure

Process of Living an Intentional Life

This process of living an intentional life is not an easy path. If it were, I believe many more people would do this and stop going with the flow.

Living small has many opportunities and challenges, but it is a plan without a defined road map. You still have to decide which way to turn and where you want to go, but the reason for going has not changed.

Knowing Your Why

There is a power in knowing the reason we want to do anything. It is that power that takes much of the emotion out of decisions. It does not take all the emotion out, however. As a woman, the emotional side of decisions is there, but understanding my why keeps the tsunami of doubt from crashing in on my journey.

When I was reading about minimalism, I found many men and their perspectives. Their blogs helped me see a different way of thinking, but my mother’s heart was not settled on the idea of minimalism for the sake of joining a movement. Reading their blogs helped me see how my husband might see this change, which is very helpful for us as a couple, but I also needed to hear from someone more like me.

I did want a simpler richer life, but I did not want to get rid of things for the sake of getting rid of them. I edited through many things, and continue to do so. I am a sentimental soul, so defining what is meaningful is a process. This whole plan is a process.

Questions and More Questions

The process of seeing your life, and working through it to make intentional decisions for me requires a sounding board. My husband is a good sport, and a great sounding board, but I don’t want to have him feeling like a constant sounding board. I also have greatly reduced the need for such a process, but I still need to work through an idea.

My question I ask most often these days is, “ Why are we doing this?”

I believe that if you are embarking on something new, and out of the norm, choosing your sounding board wisely is essential for success. I have a friend that is a great for this. We never want each other’s life to look like the other’s, but rather give a safe non judgmental sounding board. We don’t talk often, texts of kids photos happen regularly, and an occasional call when the time is right.

This is important. Spending too much time getting other people’s take is not productive. Strike out on your plan for simplifying your life. It is okay to fail. You cannot win, without some failures.

We are processing through working more with the kids at home most of the time. Juggling new experiences for them and for me. We are processing through the right balance of independent learning for them. It is a process of discovery. One that you can only discover if you chart a course and begin.

We begin again each day. They are leading us to the best way for them to learn. We just have to process through it and watch them discover the world while we rediscover ours.

 

 

 

Never Have More Square Footage Than Joy

“Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don’t need to escape from.”


― Seth Godin

Texas Bluebonnets

There’s No Place Like Home

We spent this past weekend visiting my family for my boys third birthday celebration. Yes, three celebrations.  I want them to see the people who love them.

We had to drive a few hours to our destination, and I was anxious to see my older sister, since I had not yet seen her new home. She recently moved back from another state, after losing her husband to colon cancer two years ago at his age of 52.

She is embarking on a new journey, and having her closer was wonderful. As I drove through her new neighborhood of gilded gates, lush lawns, and shiny streets I noticed something. I admired the beautiful surroundings, but did not yearn for that life.

Finding your sweet spot for how you want to live your life is one of the most important things to a happy life. Will we always want to live small? I don’t know the answer to that, but having a life filled with purpose and connection with our family is more important than square footage.

The visit had me wondering how you decide where and how to live your life. The wonderful news is that nothing is permanent, so if you find yourself where I did not so long ago you can change it.

Money magazine comes out with their Best Places to Live in the US each year. They study cost of living, school rankings, crime rates, etc. The one thing they cannot measure is how each person needs to live to have a full life. That is the one thing that cannot be quantified with a formula.

You can and should do research to find the amenities that are important to you, but I also think you need to have another column in your formula. That category would be joy.

It is like a great weekend trip. We were gone about 30 hours and it was perfect. One great family party. One nice evening and dinner with my sister. One brunch. One baseball game. Lots of joy.

I have a large family and seeing most of them at once and getting caught up on some of their life is joy. Spending time talking with my teenage nieces as my sister put my boys to bed was joy. Telling them stories that can help them see how special they are is joy. Seeing my 80+ year old parents looking great and seeing my children run so fast to hug them was pure joy.

Is it perfect? Probably not, but there are more moments of joy everyday.

At the end of it all, I was happy and ready to go, since there really is no place like home. Does your home leave room for joy?

How to Turn Up The Volume on Your Intuition and Mute Your Fears

 Tune Into Intuition and Drown Out Fear

A few days ago, I called my Aunt to wish her a happy 84th birthday. We had not spoken in some time, not by phone. Life gets in the way, but we have a great bond that began many years ago with a letter.

I was 19 when my Grandmother, her mother, passed away. My Grandmother was a writer and wrote to all of us often. I can still see her secretary where she wrote those letters in my mind. Photographs tucked into the woodwork and glass above the desk. She wrote to the people in the photos. She wrote to me at times when I needed it most, although I never knew how she knew that I needed her. Losing her was this first time I had experienced a profound loss.

My Aunt, her daughter, took up her place as my supportive pen pal. Not often, but the timing was always just what I needed. I am sure my father had something to do with this. Over the years since, my Aunt Nancy has always been there in the background, when things were tough reminding me of who I was and that I would find my way. She was at my wedding, telling my husband that he found a good one. She was there to remind me to believe it too. She was there in letters, when my diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder in my twenties both rocked my world and saved me.

She said, “you sound so good honey.”

It was more than just a statement. I knew she felt it through that connection on the phone. I am happy. I did make it.

We talked about writing and how hoped I would I help someone else as much as she and Ma (my grandmother) helped me. I am the current generation of “the writer” in our family.

As I was working with a client a few weeks ago, I knew that she too was not trusting her intuition. I had traveled this path and could see it clearly. She had one persona for her work and the other that was just there in the background if you read between the lines.  Her truest self was there, but it was hiding. She needed to know that those subtle pieces of her soul did reach her audience unless they were really paying attention. It was hidden in the very few photos on her blog with her family. This was a huge part of who she was, but she had separated it from her work. She needed to serve the others and herself, by letting them see it too. She needed to trust herself.

Here is a little of what she wrote back to me, “…you really hit at the core of me… I want to say thank you though. You care so much. And you help me think about myself in a new way. ..”

The ultimate betrayal is when we betray ourselves. Worst yet, we cannot share our best work with the world if we are hiding the very pieces that define us. Those pieces when you can feel joy over a phone are the ones that are the truest part of you. Just talking to my Aunt reminded me of how far I have come, and how much I have to share.

We are always on our right path, but somewhere along the way you muted your intuition, you stopped trusting it.

This is what Jeane and Nancy would say…”you are strong and gifted. You can move mountains. You just need to trust your gut.”

Why Movement Makers Need Advocates

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“You have great talent as a writer and a coach.” Jeff Sandefer, Acton Academy Austin

I just completed work for an educational movement that I wholeheartedly believe in and not a moment too soon. As an advocate and coach, I know my role and it is my greatest joy to be able to do this kind of work knowing when it is time to move out of coaching and back into my role as an advocate. The world of education is experiencing a revolution and not everyone is happy about it. Many people are afraid of change, just because of the uneasy feeling of not knowing what lies ahead.

It is particularly difficult when you become a parent. I had a higher tolerance for risk before the boys were born, but I have learned that fear holds you back and that is what we will teach our children. I want them to explore their world and how to use their gifts in it.

I always knew I wanted to be a writer, but I was afraid to do it. It was not practical.  How do you make a living as a writer? This was before, during, and after music. Writing unlike music has always been there.

“Come on now, buckle down and find a real job” is something that would knock around in my head…and I did just that over and over again until I identified my ideal work.

I loved writing as a kid, and it was not until my first college creative writing class that I ever experienced the red pen of death. It was like a death for me. I lost confidence. I lost my voice. The one that was not afraid to say what needed to be said. I am brave when I write.

The world of work is changing and movement makers are building companies, brands, and tribes, but they need something. They need the champions of the brand. The advocates of their vision to show the maker the things she has hidden from herself. Seth Godin talks about having your customers be your brand advocates and I take this one step further. What if those advocates are also connectors and amplifiers?

As makers, they are often so deep into their world of making that there is a language they develope. A hidden world that is not always transparent to those wanting to peer in to get a closer look. Makers guard their vision. They have to in some way or their vision would never become anything. They can work to share their vision without intrusions into their world.

How does a maker use the skills of an advocate to share their message?

It is a delicate balance of two very different skill sets, that actually do not work together well in an organization. If an advocate is to do their best work, they have to be shielded from the day-to-day necessities that go into building a movement. Their excitement and passion for the cause will be affected if they are too in the actual making. They will know too much. Advocate types soak up emotions like rays of sunshine and for that reason the day-to-day running of a business is not a good fit for them. It deletes their energy. It affects their effectiveness.

So, how do advocate types create a living? First, they need to know that they are an advocate, and they have to use their skills in advocacy and sharing on themselves. They need to see how their talents and gifts are needed in the new economy. More importantly they have to understand the makers.

Understanding the makers and helping them understand your talents of bringing their vision to the world is a recipe for unbelievable success.

I am an advocate. I will champion causes that will change the world if I believe in them. Advocates feel compelled to do something that leaves a legacy.

Many of them know this, but are afraid to say it out loud. They accept jobs just to have income, instead of designing or seeking the perfect fit.

There is a perfect fit for the advocates. There is a place for a champion of a cause. That cause can be anything, from the writer who must share her struggles through stories that might help one child overcome their struggle in life. It might be a photographer who feels a need to document the lives of ordinary people in such a profound way that leaves their mark on history. It might be the mother who strives to create the most nurturing home school environment for their children. It might be the coach who wants to help others own their future.

It might be you.

I coach advocates, champions, and artists. It is my calling to bring their art into the world, and to keep reminding them that the world needs their art. The world needs to hear their song.

What is your calling? Are you brave enough to name it?

 

 

How Minimizing Career Choices Open’s a World of Possibilities

possibilities

 

Over ten years ago I read the book, Do What You Are, by Paul & Barbara Tieger. In it I learned that my personality type was ENFP. Actually truth be told, like all ENFP’s I waffled a little in the beginning, considering all the possibilities. I learned so much about myself, but putting it into practice took me more time than I would like to admit. It was through coaching courses, that I was finally able to make sense of these possibilities and how to dial into the ones that led me to my best work.

As a freelance consultant, it is easy to fall into the trap of doing everything a client wants, but minimizing your roles will actually serve your clients more in the long run. It does the same in every area of your life.

The last couple of weeks have been a whirlwind, and I am glad to have landed back at home. Last week, the kids and I traveled to the northern part of the state to visit my family and sadly for me to sing at the funeral of a dear friend’s mother. I studied music most of my life, even continued those studies in college for a couple of years. I am grateful to have a well-developed classical voice, and enjoy the fact that I can express myself in this way. I have not been involved in performance singing since the boys were infants.

After the service, many people came to thank me for singing and as usual one person stopped and said ,”Don’t ever give up on your gift. It is a gift that must be shared. ” I have heard things like this many times, and as an ENFP,  it could get me off track. “Should I be pursuing music? Is that the plan for me? Maybe, she’s right.”

The difference now is that I know something that took me years to understand. I am using my gift. I use it in the most intimate way a person can use a gift. I sing when asked by people I love. Sometimes it is a wedding, other times a funeral. I consider it an honor to say goodbye to a loved one in such a personal way. It  is hard and wonderful at the same time.

Do you have gifts that are creating confusion? Are you having trouble deciding  which one to choose?

After that trip, I was home for a day and then off to a music educator’s conference for a client, sans kids.  Although I am a gifted singer, I am not dedicated to that craft. You must be dedicated for hours of practice.

I am however dedicated to my craft of understanding people and wanting to help them. At that same conference, I was able to use the gift that I do practice and craft. It is in strategic engagement, specifically how to reach the people who need what you have to offer. My clients were preparing for a product launch. The product was in development and it is now time to design the launch strategies. I am at my best in these types of sessions.  I get invited to many lunches just to begin the spiraling of strategic ideas that spin from one idea to another. There is nothing random about it, rather insightful well researched strategies that admittedly sometimes seem out of thin air.

This is no different than an artist who crafts a painting unsure of their destination, but for me I did not always see my abilities as art. There was a time when all I could see was business. As a creative that might as well have been a curse word. If you could have felt the disdain I had for it, but then something changed. I could see how my gift of strategic engagement combined with my genuine caring for people was a way to serve. It was a way for me to help people.

That is how the work you do changes. If you are like me, and have had people say that you are so talented you just need to pick something, maybe you do. Just not the way you are thinking of it.

 

 

 

Transparency Is a Gift – Embrace It

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“When you’re authentic and transparent, there’s nothing to hide, nothing to defend, nothing to prove, nothing to outrun, because all of a sudden you’re living inside your truth.” Lisa Nichols

I read something, that I am not sure that I was meant to read, but needed to hear. Knowing the source, I think it was intentional transparency, even if it was painful to read.

There are times when we need to hear the message. These messages can help us hear the voice inside of our head and heart. These messages simply turn up the volume of our own voice.

As I navigate this new map, I found myself the last couple of weeks wondering what was my next “big fat goal” (BFG).

If you are open things will come your way, but you have to be paying attention. The idea of simplifying your life involves some large, complicated stepping stones. Being careful where you step is vital. Especially using simplicity to stepping our way to our best work.

Notice I did not say career, but work. I consider my work to be of me serving in some way, and the linear career path would not work for me. Coaching, writing, and speaking are all part of the way I serve, but it was time to get more intentional about it.

The Mad Scientist’s key to simplicity in work, is going to work. He thrives in an environment where he contributes to a collective goal in the lab. He has aspirations of course to develop his work, but his is a linear path. He serves as part of a collective.

How Transparency Is a Gift

There is a freedom in transparency, but freedom only exists alongside being brave. Bravery might be reading words on a page, and then have a good cry if you are so inclined. It also means knowing when it is time to get to work. Bravery serves you. Bravery gives you the power to change course.

Years ago, before I fully embraced this journey, I hired a coach. I thought if someone could just help me pick something for my work focus, I could be off and running. Many people have different views on coaching. Some think you need a coachable goal to begin, some believe that coaching is there to help you walk through this wild new world and find where you are headed. The second is the camp I agree with most often, but it is the hardest for me to do.

My first coach, Cara Lumen, is no longer coaching, but she serves by sharing her writing with the world. One of her messages found its way to me a few days ago. Her message appeared to me as if “like magic,” said fellow messenger Chris Brogan.

Chris is the founder of OWN, a digital magazine that is about owning your life. Well, it is a business magazine, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. It is about how to live your work, serve who you are meant to serve, while still serving those that make it all possible, you and your family.

Embarking on a journey of exploration without knowing exactly where you will end up makes my heart beat a little faster and my shoulders tense. That queasy feeling in my stomach is that little voice saying – oh just pick something already! The good news is that I did not listen to that pesky little voice anymore and have come out the other side happier for it.

So, what do you do when someone’s transparency is hard to hear? What if… in your heart you were already feeling this, but were afraid to say it out loud. What if that was because you knew you needed to follow a dream and path that was uncertain? That did not come with a guarantee?

Do you say yes to this opportunity? Are you neglecting your own personal work? As I spent the last week contemplating my new BFG, messages and signs were popping up everywhere. A post from Penelope Trunk about ENFP’s, and their uncanny ability to tackle the wrong projects just to have a project. If you want career advice that is as transparent, you need to be reading Penelope’s blog. As you may know, I am an ENFP, and before becoming aware of my strengths and the perfect way to work, I might have missed the signs as they were happening.

How do you work through something? Do you have a coach? Do you write? Do you read? I do all of these things, and reading is usually first.

The one thing that will always guide you in the direction of your truest life, the one you are meant to live is transparency and the freedom it brings. So read those messages and listen to your own voice. It will always lead you on the truest path for you, one complicated stepping stone at a time.

Interview with Kathy from Live Small, Love Big

Kathy:

I have enjoyed reading David & Conner’s posts from An Unschooled Future for some time now, and am honored to have a place on his blog.

Originally posted on An Unschooled Future:

I came across Kathy’s blog a while ago and found her experience in simplifying her life very interesting.  

In many ways we have also done this, in others we haven’t.  Irrespective, I find her views to always trigger new thoughts.  Besides, I loved A Simple Life when I was a kid (for those of you familiar with old British comedy) and in some ways Kathy’s push for a simple life reminds me of this.

And of course, a simplified life combined with homeschooling makes for a good read – I had to ask her more about it.

How many children do you have? What ages?  Are they all homeschooled?

We have twin boys that are five years old. Yes, we do homeschooling in the sense that they are not and have not ever been enrolled in a formal preschool or school.  My approach is as much a reflection of…

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Finding Inspiration to Live Small

Small Living Provence in Texas

This past weekend, the Mad Scientist and I hit the road for a little R & R which included a couple of trips to Texas Hill Country wineries. We had a wonderful time, even though it was so hot you could hear it. You see, Texas summers have a unique sound. The steamy heat and symphony of insects is as Texas as it gets.

Small living has been a project of ours, but on this particular day I was inspired. We only visited this winery after the recommendation from a couple we met on our first winery tour at Dry Comal Creek on Saturday. The tours and hospitality at Dry Comal Creek just outside of New Braunfels is worth the drive, but this second visit was like stepping into Provence, France – Texas style.

With my camera ready, we walked up to this little jewel just outside of Gruene, TX. The story behind this beautiful small structure is as interesting as it’s owner, Lewis Dickson. La Cruz De  Comal is a feast for the eyes, and the wine is as delicious as the scenery.

It was inspired by his time living in France. He described a way of life focused on experiences. I understood what he meant, after my travels there in my early 20s. It is less about  a prescribed life as an imagined one.

Small Texas Living

One of the things he discovered by living there was the pride  that the people of each village took in their work. No matter what type of work they did, it was their pride in doing it to the best of their ability and reverence that struck him. There was a respect for everything, from the local butcher to a restaurant owner. He went on to explain that all the children are taught at an early age about wine and food, and have an appreciation for the best that life has to offer. It was a story about living a rich life. Not based on money, but experiences.

He brought back a little of Provence to the Texas Hill Country, to carry on the tradition of doing his best work. Lewis Dickson has a true calling as an Artisan Winemaker. Everything bottled by hand, and with such care. Living off the land and respecting it’s unique offerings.

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This really is what living small is all about for me. It is about removing all the distractions so that we can live a life full of experiences along side my growing passions in photography and words. It is about allowing our children to find their way in this new world, by making their own map.

We can learn so much from simply exploring and listening. The lessons learned at La Cruz De  Comal will be long lasting, as the images of a little Texas-style Provence dance in my head.

Homeschooling is the New Playground for Entrepreneurship

Homeschooling Playground Entrepreneurship

“You are an anthropologist,” Penelope Trunk wrote to me in an email after I took the plunge five short months ago to begin this blog.

I am someone who looks for solutions in everything I do. I am fascinated by why people homeschool and how rethinking work is making it possible for more and more people to do just that.

I seek solutions in every project I am working on and the reason I do this is that I am an entrepreneur.  It is as much a part of who I am as the fact that I am 7/8ths Irish, as my mother likes to remind me of as often as possible. I am not sure if you are born an entrepreneur or not, but I am quite sure anyone can become one. It just requires a leap of faith.

Jeff Walker newest book Launch is a great example of someone leaping into entrepreneurship out of desperation. It is a great read, and more that that it will help you shift your thinking. Many of us are leaping into homeschooling for the very same reasons,  but we need a vehicle to change the way we work.

I read blogs and  forums, lots of them, about homeschooling and working. The one recurring theme is people looking for a way to help their children love learning. We all essentially want the same thing, just the vehicles are different. Some want homeschooling, others to unschool, others still want a private school for their child. We all want the best for our children. This one united goal makes us stronger if we are brave enough to tell each other the truth.

So here I am telling you the truth about working and homeschooling. You can do it, but not until you change your mindset.

You have to let yourself think like an entrepreneur. You already do deep down think like an entrepreneur if you are even considering homeschooling.

en·tre·pre·neur

ˌäntrəprəˈno͝or,-ˈnər/

noun

  1. a person who organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on greater than normal financial risks in order to do so.

I think the same can be said for homeschoolers, unschoolers and educational disruptors. We all know that it is easier to work, and put your children in something that is free, but it is not better so we cannot. We might go along for awhile, but the nagging feeling that there is a better way always wins. It shows up in stress with our loved ones,  and postings on messages boards asking for advice on how to teach our kids from 6-9 pm at night after work.

I remember the first time I read a comment online from a mom seeking help a couple of years ago. She wanted to know how to continue working her full-time teaching job (ironic isn’t it), but she wanted to homeschool her kids. I was a reader of Penelope Trunk’s career advice blog, and so I thought I would send the question to Penelope and see what she thought was the answer.

Here is why her advice is so valuable. She tells the truth. She is not afraid of it, and I think when someone posts a question like that online they really need someone to tell them the truth.

Here is Penelope’s answer, “She CAN”T!”

She is right, you cannot teach in a broken system all day and come home and be the kind of teacher or guide your kids need. What she can do is rethink work. She can start thinking like a free agent with an enormous amount of skills, and redefine her work.

Yes it will be scary. Yes, she will have to leave her “teaching job”. Yes, she is putting her kids future above her fear of thinking bigger.

There, I said it.

If you find yourself wanting to homeschool and work, you can do this. I found myself giving into this fear, but I am pushing through it. Why? Because we have to. As I get busier with my work, I have to remind myself, “I am an entrepreneur. I am in charge.” If I want to teach my kids this, I have to model it first.

If I can do it so can you.

Put it in a sign somewhere in your house. You are a warrior in the world. You define your life and your work,. If only you will take the first step and commit. You will find the solution, but first you must commit to think like an entrepreneur and the rest as they say is details.