inspired life

Just Because You Hate It, Doesn't Mean You Should Throw It Away

Sweeping lines, colorful dots, and textured swishes covered the cardboard canvas. I thought it was rustic and beautiful, in that innocent way that every child’s art is beautiful. But my daughter did not agree. In a fit of pre-teen rage, she threw the painting on the ground.

“Don’t throw it away!” I begged her.

But she screamed and dropped it on the floor anyway—face down, unfortunately.

I told her, “Maybe you just need to let it dry for a bit, and then you can add another layer of paint.”

“Why would I add another layer? I already hate it.”

“Because maybe it’s not finished,” I told her. “You can let it dry, and then you can paint over the parts you don’t like.”

Meanwhile, my 15 year-old son is busy working on a project in our home office. He’s come up with yet another new idea for a company he wants to build. His newest entrepreneur endeavor—fragrance mogul extraordinaire—is not going well. Each new scent reminds us of either cleaning supplies or the hairspray aisle of the local drugstore.

He’s getting frustrated.

“Keep working,” I tell him. “Fragrances need layers. You’re not done yet.”

These conversations remind me of a scene from a movie that replayed over and over in our minivan when our kids were little:

So many wonderful things are made up of layers: wine, chocolate, sandwiches. Parfaits.

We know this, but Donkey reminds us anyway, “Who doesn’t love a parfait?”

Or how about this one:

The best characters, like onions and trifles, have layers.

The layers make us interesting.

We’re quick to throw away the things we don’t like.

There’s a hole in our favorite jeans. Toss.
Leftovers in the fridge.
A bad day.

That art project currently sits atop the desk in my kitchen. It’s colorful and bright, and even though she didn’t add another layer, it reminds me of summer, of a lazy afternoon we spent crafting with materials we found in nature.

And my son’s fragrance experiment is keeping him occupied in a way I never expected. He wants to create something lasting. Who am I to argue with that? The smell coming from his makeshift office lets me know he’s still working.

The photo that illustrates this post is of the Peruvian Painted Mountain. What you see is layer upon layer of millions of years of history. Geologists tell us that each geological layer helps us better understand the world.

Nature is cool like that.

I want my children to know that their mistakes, though disappointing to them, are often the very things that make me love them more. The imperfections tell me something about their personality. I am a geologist learning how to better understand their world.

Layer upon layer, each its own sweet gift, a tapestry of a person’s history, reflections, experiences, and dreams.

First tries are not meant to be perfect. It’s easy to give up when things don’t go our way. But there’s beauty in the process. Beauty IS the process. It’s what it means to BECOME.

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The One Essential Ingredient that Makes Food (and Life) Even Better

The Beginning

When Gavin and I were first married, I was just learning how to be a homemaker. I missed 4-H the day we learned how to sew a button on a shirt, and I never had a Home Economics class in high school. Although my mom cooked every night, this was not an activity we did together. I guess I thought I would just be able to make stuff because my mom was good at it.

You learn how to cook by osmosis, right?


The first time I made mashed potatoes they turned out soupy and bland.

At 21, I was both health conscious and budget aware, so I made my signature mashed potatoes with margarine and skim milk.

Boy, was that a big mistake!

Good butter and real cream are essential to tasty mashed potatoes.

Since that first cooking fail, I’ve had many more disasters in the kitchen. Sometimes my disasters are the result of sweeping misguided attempts to act gourmet (like that time I tried to make a chocolate bowl using a balloon as my template) or just pure laziness (like that time I put the insert from the crock pot directly on the gas stove), but more often than not, my failings are the result of a single, seemingly inconsequential ingredient.

Like salt.

But any good cook will tell you salt isn’t inconsequential at all. Of all the spices I have in my cabinet (and I have more than 100), salt is the most important. If you leave it out, you’ll know.

The Question

Which got me thinking—is there ONE ingredient that’s essential to success in business and in life?

We create a recipe for success that includes hard skills like on-the-job training and experience, and soft skills like a strong work ethic, an ability to communicate effectively, and self-confidence.

But the most important thing—the one thing that ‘s absolutely essential to success—is someone who believes in you.

Someone who believes in you is the SALT that makes everything else work.

It reminds me of this verse we used to have painted over the fireplace in the keeping room of our old house:

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
— Colossians 4:6 NIV

Someone who believes in you (and tells you) is the most important thing.

The Lesson

It took months before I figured out I wasn’t really a bad cook; I was just using the wrong ingredients. Whole milk and real butter are ESSENTIAL to perfect mashed potatoes. But even after I started using those ingredients, sometimes I would still forget to add the salt.

In life, your words are like salt because there is nothing that hurts worse than an unkind word and nothing that soothes a wound quite like a kind one. I’m reminded how much we depend on them. From those first admonishments when language was just beginning and we heard this phrase:“use your words,” to the phrases we toss back and forth so flippantly in elementary school: “I’m rubber, you’re glue, whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you” to the lie that continues to sting long after the words have left our accuser’s lips: “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

Words matter. They are ESSENTIAL. That’s not new info. It’s like telling you the world is round. This post actually started out as an outline of five different things that I believe successful people do. As I wrote, though, I realized that success looks different for everybody. So I deleted a whole bunch of paragraphs. But even though our definition of success looks different, our validation of it shouldn’t. We should encourage one another and inspire one another to do the very special and unique things we’ve each been gifted to do. As I wrote, I realized the people I admire most, the ones who are building things and leading things and serving people, and creating beautiful art are doing it not for themselves, but for others.

And I realized something else: Every good thing that has ever come my way has been the result of a connection with someone who kindly said, “I want to help.” And likewise, the times when I have felt the loneliest and the worst about myself have been when someone has said something unkind to me.

I want to get life right. Right now, I’m trying to figure out how I can be the SALT for someone else.

One of the ways I’m doing that is by featuring women I admire on my weekly video cast, Mission Driven Monday. Simply go to our website and scroll through our blog. We post new content every single Monday. I hope you meet someone who inspires you. It’s our effort to validate the work Mission Driven Women are doing in the world today.

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Mission Driven Monday--Monica Lage

Meet Monica Lage!

What started as a senior project grew to be one of the premier entrepreneur camps in the country.

Meet Monica Lage, the founder of Break Into Business, where kids move from idea to pitch to profitable business in just five short days. Monica says launching Break Into Business and being present for her children is the hardest thing she's ever done. (And this is coming from a person who has an MBA from Harvard!) She makes it look easy, but don't be fooled--Monica has worked VERY, VERY hard.

One of the things I love most about the Break Into Business business model is its emphasis on generosity. That's a core value of Monica's, too, and it shines through loud and clear. Monica is following her mission, not the madness, and inspiring hundreds of kids along the way.

In THIS interview, Monica confesses that she's learning how to be INefficient. What? You'll have to watch to find out what she means.

Want to learn more about how your kid can be a part of Break Into Business? Click here!

If you have a child between the ages of 9-14 and live in the Atlanta area, this is a summer camp worth exploring!

Kids build real businesses and have the chance to earn real money. And this summer is extra special—camps just for GIRLS and even a camp for kids who want to learn more about SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP are available. Campers also have the opportunity to sign up for one of Break Into Business’s fall accelerator programs. USE CODE GIRLBOSS FOR $30 OFF GIRLS CAMP THROUGH 5/17/2019.

My own son participated in camp for four straight summers and loved every minute of it. He loved hanging out in Atlanta’s coolest co-working spaces, pitching his business, and coming home with cold, hard cash in his hands. I am a thoroughly satisfied customer and recommend B. Camp without reservation!

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The Best Answer to "What Are You Going to Do With Your Life?"

My daughter was so stressed out in high school. Not because the coursework was too hard or because the peer pressure was too much, but because no sooner did she say, “i’m a Freshman,” that invariably the next question out of someone’s mouth would be, “So have you started thinking about where you want to go to college?” Now she’s a freshman in college, and everywhere she goes, someone asks, “So what do you want to do when you graduate?”

Did YOU know what you wanted to do when you were a freshman in college?

There’s a lot of people who have stories about being in kindergarten and knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that they wanted to be a doctor or a teacher. They grew up and did the thing they dreamed of doing all their lives. But people like that are rare. And some of them found out AFTER going to college (after internships and clinicals and student teaching) that those careers weren’t right for them after all.

I can almost see my daughter’s jaw tense and shoulders slump when someone asks her this question. I totally get it because even as a 45 year old, I hate it when people ask me what I want to do. (I should know by now, right?)

Luckily, my husband has come up with a great answer:

“You know, I really don’t know what I want to do yet. I’m trying to focus on the person I want to become, so I’m taking classes in leadership and business as I prepare for what’s next.”

Don’t you just love that? Wouldn’t it be great if we all could focus more on the person we want to become rather than the thing we want to do?

On my way to where I am today, I worked as a trainer in a gym, a receptionist for a Chiropractor, the Member Services Director for a trade association, a consultant for for a developer, a researcher for an author, and dozens of volunteer positions in schools, hospices, churches, homeless shelters and other nonprofits. I’ve built my own nonprofit from scratch, written a children’s book, led book clubs and adventure clubs, and been a room parent and a team parent and all those things prepared me not only for what I’m doing now but for who I am becoming.

I feel like I’ve spent my whole life trying to prove that my work mattered. I’m tired of proving myself. I’ll never lead a Fortune 500 company or be a board room dynamo. No one is going to nominate me for a prestigious alumnae award, but I’m proud of the life I’ve built. It has to be enough—even when it doesn’t feel like it.

The next time someone asks me what I do, I’m going to say, “I study and write about character and leadership as I prepare for what’s next.”

And what’s that?

I don’t know yet, but I love the adventure of becoming me.

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Mission Driven Monday--Kim Gentry Meyer

Meet Kim Gentry Meyer!

Kim Meyer is an accomplished singer and songwriter with a passion for animal welfare. She's channeling her creativity and love for animals into a brand new project aimed at helping kids understand how to better care for animals. Kim is partnering with a children’s book author to write an accompanying soundtrack full of songs about animals. Doesn’t that sound like fun?

Kim is living the dream alongside her husband, Adam, in Boston, MA. In this conversation, we explore how you don't have to be the BEST at one thing as long as you can be PRETTY GOOD at two or three different things. "Use all you have," is a motto we won't soon forget. Thanks for following your mission, Kim!

When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me’
— Erma Bombeck

Important Links from this Episode:

Animal Welfare Work: What Baxter Started

Kim’s Music:

Connect with Kim: Instagram Handle and Facebook and

The children's songs she wrote for the two books will be available at this site: The website is currently being redone, but they will be up soon. Stay tuned!

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How Do I Know What I'm Supposed to Do With My Life?

Last week, I attended a magic show hosted by renowned magician, Peter Morrison. For a full hour, our party was mesmerized by sleight of hand tricks, mentalism, and illusion. Plus, Peter is an engaging personality with a twinkling eye and a winning smile. You can’t help but sit on the edge of your seat.

Between sets, he regaled us with personal stories of his journey as a magician. I was struck by this little tidbit: “I practiced 8-10 hours a day 7 days a week for five years.”


Is there anything you love so much you’d be willing to practice 10 hours a day for five full years? I often say, “I wish I could” when I see somebody doing something cool, never stopping to think how long it probably took them to get there.

That means the thing you love has to become your job before it’s actually your job. And it’s not rocket science—you will get better at whatever you practice.

So here’s two important questions to ponder:

  1. What’s the main thing that deserves your energy?

  2. Can you narrow your brand to discover the things you do really well?

Knowing who you are and what you want is a lifelong process, but the magic is in the process.

It’s time to start practicing now.

Pursue not only what interests you, but also what you’re good at. And remember what Greg McKeown said about priorities in his book, Essentialism.

Creating an essential intent is hard. It takes courage, insight, and foresight to see which activities and efforts will add up to your single highest point of contribution. It takes asking tough questions, making real trade-offs, and exercising serious discipline to cut out the competing priorities that distract us from our true intention. Yet it is worth the effort because only with real clarity of purpose can people, teams, and organizations fully mobilize and achieve something truly excellent
— Greg McKeown, Essentialism
  • Cultivate vulnerability. Believe it or not, this will actually give you more confidence!

  • Practice direction-setting. A lot of people start out with good intentions. Direction, not intention, determines destination.

  • Craft a process for the life you want. Be patient when it comes to the results. All rhythms also include seasons of rest. Be radically iterative through the process and you will find that you absolutely will improve over time.

“Who you are is continuously transforming through courageous creativity and a deep commitment to what you believe.”

I don’t know if I’ll ever love something enough to practice a full ten hours a day, and at this stage of life, I don’t have ten hours a day to devote to my one true love—but if I can find two or even five hours in a day, then that’s something worth pursuing.

What’s your thing?

Share in the comments below, and I’ll make a commitment to cheer you on!

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Mission Driven Monday--Amber Robinson

Meet Amber Robinson!

I met Amber at the Indiana Christian Writers Conference back in 2012. She was writing a book called Mercy Rising and working on a number of other projects. But she's not only a writer--she's a composer, pianist, and teacher, and her newest book, Piano Lessons for Kids, is making waves across the U.S. In this episode, we talk about Essentialism, Mission Statements, the lives we live, and the legacies we leave. I wish we lived in the same city because I know my life would be better if I could make time with Amber a regular part of it. Amber will inspire you to make music, create art, and just get out there and PLAY. Be like Amber and follow your mission, not the madness. I’m cheering for you!

Those who are happiest are those who do the most for others.
— Booker T. Washington

Thinking Tree Books: This is an awesome resource! You’ve heard of home-schooling and un-schooling, but have you ever heard of FUN-schooling?

Mercy Rising: Simple Ways to Practice Justice and Compassion

Piano Lessons for Kids: Piano Lessons for Kids is the inventive book that unleashes a student’s imagination and love for music! This self-paced, 168-page book spans a semester or a school year, depending how often you visit the subject – once or multiple times in a week.

Adults need no prior musical training and are encouraged to learn right along with their kids. The audio/video materials make this possible.

Students will learn not just to read notes, but also to hear music, compose, and tell a story with the piano – all with songs they really want to play. Separating it from other method books and online programs.

This book – with essential audio/video instruction – solves the problem of having to purchase separate books for note reading, music theory, listening skills, and composing – it’s all here, in one book.

Essentialism: This book by Greg McKeown is THE BOMB, and if you’ve ever struggled with saying YES to too many things, this is the book to help you prioritize well.

The 90:90:1 Rule: For the next 90 days, devote the first 90 minutes of your work day to the one best opportunity in your life. Nothing else. Zero distractions. Just get that project done. Period.

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