Originally shared as a series of social media posts, this is the origin story of my transformation from (a pretty darn good) status quo to (even more) extraordinary.
Have you been through the fire?
When I share my story, I often share that I wanted to be an astronaut for 20 years. I share that when my pre-LASIK eyesight shattered that dream 10 years ago, I was devastated.
Mostly for the sake of time, I usually skip ahead a few years. I share the gratitude letter I wrote to my astronaut dream and the powerful way it healed me.
I share my discoveries of what I really wanted when I set my sights on the stars.
I share that in my daily dance with the universe as a writer, speaker, coach, and human, I'm truly living my dream.
I don't often share the meandering path that led me from there to here.
In this post, I'm going to share some milestones on that path.
Moments that opened my eyes to the idea that I was here for more.
Invitations from the universe to dream bigger.
I'm going to share that even while I was still living an incredible life and having amazing experiences with people I respected, admired, and loved, my heart and soul yearned for something different.
These moments together created a critical mass of imperative to buck the status quo.
If you're going through the fire, trust that you are the phoenix. Trust that you will rise stronger.
Trust that your soul is preparing to lead you into something even bigger and better.
Trust that you are here for a truly extraordinary life.
Trust that you are already living that life. (Even if it doesn't feel like it.)
Trust that every step of your journey has played a critical role in you becoming who you are.
Trust that you have everything you need to create your most aligned, world-changing life.
I'm honored to be on this journey with you.
Do you ever feel outwardly pointed in one direction, but inwardly pointed in another?
In 2013 I went to a dear friend's wedding in Palo Alto, California. During my morning run through the main street of town, I noticed the many sidewalk cafes full of people talking, laughing, and enjoying breakfast together.
I was annoyed.
And a little angry.
Who were all these people (I confess, I might have called them "slackers" in my head) who had the TIME to sit around and enjoy themselves? Didn't they have jobs? Didn't they have work to do?
I mean, I was here for my friend's wedding, but surely these weren't all vacationers.
Could this possibly be normal for some people?
Of course, I wasn't really angry with them.
The part of me that judged them and called them slackers was secretly jealous.
Wow, what would it feel like to pause and just BE?
What would it feel like for a morning of connection, flow, and ease to be normal?
My life at that time consisted of 12-hour workdays, running in the dark before work, yoga as often as I could make it after work, a suitcase that lived on the living room floor ready to be repacked every time it was unpacked, and not a lot else.
Thank goodness for the running and yoga, which did help me stay balanced. I'm not sure I appreciated at the time how truly transformational they were for me, or how they were paving the way for the next phase of my life.
What I was just starting to realize was how ingrained it was in me to do all the things all the time.
Which led me to the annoyance and anger at the people enjoying a leisurely morning.
Now, were all those people in the sidewalk cafes really feeling leisurely, peaceful, and spacious?
Probably not. I'm sure they all had their own stressors and experienced the push and pull of daily life.
But they had prioritized this time. They'd prioritized their multi-dimensional wellness, whether they thought about it in those terms or not.
I wanted to be them.
My inner and outer lives were calling to be in harmony. They were calling to point in the same direction.
Can you relate? What's one small thing you can do today to bring your whole self into alignment?
Have you ever been in the presence of someone who felt totally aligned with their purpose? Have you ever thought, "I want THAT"?
In 2014 at the invitation of a mentor of mine, I joined a powerful group of women at a Montana ranch for a "Women's Rocky Mountain Rendezvous."
Amid mini cattle drives, cattle cutting practice and demonstrations, and confidence-building mountain horseback rides, I connected with authors, entrepreneurs, and other trailblazing women making a difference in the world.
In attendance was a German couple who made stunning jewelry. Getting to know them (and working on insanely challenging jigsaw puzzles with them late into the evenings) was one of the highlights of my trip.
As they would talk about their business, their faces and eyes lit up. Their children worked with them and played integral roles in the creation and backend processes, which they loved. Every morning they were excited to wake up and go to work.
This was obviously more than a business. It was an expression of who they were. It was soul work. It was life.
I want THAT, I thought to myself.
In that moment, I remember reflecting that throughout my whole life people had told me that I would change the world.
But for a while I had been starting to feel like I wasn't really living my purpose.
I knew that I was meant for something more than what I was doing at the time.
I didn't know what, but I knew that if I was as cool and powerful as everyone had always told me I was, I should be able to have what those German jewelers had.
I should be able to feel that excited to wake up in the morning and go to work.
I should be able to feel that alive and aligned.
Your Big Dream doesn't have to be something super concrete like "run a marathon on all seven continents." It can be a lifestyle. It can be the integration of soul work into life.
The soul work dream was getting louder and louder for me.
What dream is getting louder and louder for you?
What brings you to life?
A couple months after the Montana trip, I took a 3-day “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” workshop.
Habit 2 is “Begin With the End in Mind.” In this module we were asked to write about how we wanted to be remembered by those closest to us, what really mattered to us, what we really enjoyed doing, etc. Eventually it came time to write a personal mission statement.
One of my biggest takeaways was that what I wrote about had nothing to do with the work I was doing at the time.
The people, yes. I’ve always loved the people I worked with, even when I didn’t love the work itself.
In fact, one of the things that became really clear through my reflections was that what I really loved doing at work was talking to people, being creative, and designing team building activities.
I wrote, “I want to be a person who makes a true difference in the lives of others, who lives my passion(s) and inspires others to find and follow theirs – to make the world a happier place, one person at a time.”
What I considered to be my most important future contribution to others was “the inspiration to live naturally, fully, at the height of their own talents and gifts; to love freely and unconditionally; to use my own gifts appropriately.”
(And that's what I'm doing today!!! Dreams really do come true.)
In my mission statement I wrote:
💥 "Find the universe within each person and share it together."
💥"I love to inspire, I love to be inspired, and I will do that for a living and for life."
💥 "If I can excel to this extent in something I'm NOT passionate about, how much MORE can I excel and make a difference doing something I really AM passionate about?!"
I realized I wanted to be the person at the front of the room sharing this beautiful wisdom and inspiring others to find the best in themselves.
I also realized I didn't have to wait for the next phase of my life to do that.
"Follow my mission statement even in 'this' life," I wrote.
And I started to do that.
I've refined my mission over the years, and I'll share it later in this post.
In the meantime, what's YOUR mission?
What do you LOVE talking about? What makes you talk faster and get really animated?
I'll never forget the lunch conversation I had on a work trip in 2014.
On the plane, I'd started reading Arianna Huffington's new book, "Thrive."
Every word resonated.
By now I'd already started to contemplate what else was possible in my life.
I was on this trip with my engineering colleagues visiting a sister site of ours. Over lunch, the conversation turned to non-work topics.
Somehow my crazy hobbies of barefoot running and hot yoga came up. My friends asked me all sorts of questions.
I remember enthusiastically launching into the benefits of barefoot running, from literally grounding ourselves by connecting with the earth to improving running form, reducing stress on the joints, and harnessing the natural springs of our legs and feet.
I excitedly shared the benefits of hot yoga, from sweating out toxins and cleansing our systems to improving mind-body connection, focus, balance, and the willingness to give ourselves grace.
My friends were intrigued, though not about to try for themselves. Mostly they just shook their heads at me in friendly amusement.
I remember distinctly noticing in that conversation how alive and animated I became in talking about my passions.
I remember thinking to myself, "Wow, that's a lot more excited than I get when I talk about work."
Momentum was building. Signs from the universe were multiplying.
Change was coming.
Barefoot running and hot yoga gave me so much more than those benefits I shared with my friends.
They were holistic practices that shifted my way of being in the world.
They taught me mindfulness, a practice of presence in the moment that would become one of the most fundamental things I teach and share with others.
Everything I learned on the trail and on the yoga mat, I applied to everyday life.
As it should be.
We're here to integrate every facet of our lives into a thriving whole.
What profound life lessons can your (seemingly-random) hobbies teach you?
They're more than hobbies. They're a way of being.
I love chocolate.
And I’m an emotional eater.
In 2014 I already knew I ate more chocolate and other comfort foods than was good for me. I’d eat mindlessly on many occasions, usually after a long day at work when all I had energy for was sitting on the couch watching a favorite movie or binge watching Star Trek or MacGyver on DVD.
On one particular day that stands out in my memory, I stopped after work to buy a bag of Dove milk chocolates (my favorite). At home I took that bag into the kitchen, stood at the counter, and ate every single piece.
I confess I’d eaten a whole bag in one day before. But usually it was stretched over a longer period of time.
This moment shocked me awake.
“Whoa,” I thought. “Everyone in the outside world looks at me and sees this happy and successful person. But I don’t think truly happy and successful people stand at the kitchen counter and eat a whole bag of chocolate.”
I knew something was wrong.
I didn’t think in terms of “alignment” back then, but instinctively I knew that my life was out of alignment. I knew I had become increasingly unhappy inside, even though my natural optimism and cheerfulness with others kept me going at work.
Over the years I’ve become adept at finding the gift in challenging and painful life experiences.
The upshot of eating all that chocolate was that I probably read every inspirational "Dove Promises" message ever written on the inside of a chocolate wrapper.
Those messages spoke to my soul. They also inspired my creative spirit.
For a while I’d been collecting and saving my favorite chocolate wrapper messages along with the similarly inspiring messages from my tea bags.
One night I woke up with the idea to write a book of inspirational reflection called “Tea Bags and Chocolate Wrappers,” based on my musings about these powerful messages. (Check out this video about the book!)
But back to that moment in the kitchen… I knew something needed to change.
Something was about to.
By the way, I still delight in my Dove chocolates. But I don't eat the whole bag at once. I've learned to savor them.
November of 2014 found me in another personal/professional development workshop. Another experience that spoke to my soul of true priorities, aligned roles and goals, and taking time to rest, renew, and recharge.
In this workshop, the role of “Chief Dream Cheerleader” emerged for me. It described how I wanted to show up for my sister, but the seed was planted for it to become my truest role as a coach.
I laughed to myself recently when I re-read my notes from that workshop. Years later I’ve come full circle back to my deepest desire to support and cheer on the big dreamers of the world.
Our workshop facilitator could tell how enthusiastic I was about every facet of the experience. At the end, he left me with a set of the workshop videos and invited me to share them with others in my office for the next couple of months.
Ideas poured forth. Immediately I saw and felt the flow. Intuitively I knew how I would design a mini-workshop experience for my colleagues.
The next day I was more excited to go to work than I’d been in a long time.
I wrote in my gratitude journal, “I feel so filled with purpose, so motivated, to have this ‘teaching’ goal in front of me. First time in forever I go to work with a purpose that intrinsically is important to ME.”
The first time I delivered my mini-workshop, our in-house training manager told me I was a natural.
That kind of feedback continues to this day. And as I look back over my life, it's not surprising.
Inspiring people to find the best in themselves has always set my soul on fire.
The pause, the perspective shift, the epiphany, the aha, the mind-blown emoji moment... 🤯
The moment when someone sees themselves and their life in a totally new light.
The energy and enthusiasm that follow, as another human soul reclaims the power of the universe inside them.
This is what lights me up.
This is what I love.
And deep down, I've always known.
With all the momentum that was building, I imagine I would have left my active-duty military career anyway.
But I was given a clear moment of choice.
In 2015 I was selected to attend a professional military education course. Accepting would have meant a year in school plus 3 years of additional service commitment.
It was a very competitive process. The only options were to say yes and go, or to say no to your career altogether.
My career was mapped out for me. Go to school and do well, take a leadership position in my career field, then another, and another, and eventually become a general.
I looked down that road and felt dread.
I couldn’t imagine coming out on the other side feeling happy or fulfilled.
Though I didn’t know what I’d be leaping into if I left, everything on the other side of the leap felt expansive and exciting.
Just to be clear, I had really great bosses. I worked with great people. I’d had amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experiences and opportunities. From my first assignment out of college people had seen future stars on my shoulders.
But I had seen the life of someone with stars on her shoulders, and I didn’t want that life.
I'm grateful for every moment of my career. It was rewarding and fulfilling... until it wasn't.
The hardest part about my decision to leave was fearing that I would disappoint all the mentors and leaders who’d taken a chance on me, who’d opened doors for me, who believed in me, who saw in me the potential for leadership at the highest levels. I felt guilty for letting them down.
I should have given them more credit.
When I called my squadron commander and told him I was leaving, he was nothing but supportive.
When I walked into my wing commander’s office and told him, he was nothing but supportive.
As was (almost) everyone else in my world. And the ones who couldn't understand, well, they didn’t know the real me.
The real me IS here for leadership at the highest levels.
There is no higher level than the level of Soul.
What leadership is your Soul asking you to step into? Are you willing to listen?
Pulling It All Together
These catalyst moments took place from 2013-2015. They gave me a critical mass of imperative to buck the status quo and create something even more extraordinary for myself.
Creating something even more extraordinary for ourselves creates something even more extraordinary for the world.
It’s been quite a journey since then. I’ve had a lot more catalyst moments.
I’ve learned a lot more about who I am and what I do.
But the essence of who I am and what I do hasn’t really changed. Ever.
I’ve just grown more aware. I've gained a lot of life experience. I’ve learned to express and honor the true call of my soul.
So who am I and what do I do?
I’m The Barefoot Dancing Rocket Scientist.
I’m The Big Dream Breakthrough Coach.
I’m The Epic Life Speaker.
I'm always growing and evolving.
Above all, I’m ME.
My mission in life is to burn bright and warm human hearts.
My vision is 7.9+ billion humans loving themselves and owning how powerful, unique, and awesome they are.
My core values are gratitude, joy, and courage.
I'm here to inspire you to find the greatness that's already alive in you.
I'm here to inspire you to shine your light in the world.
If the universe is inviting you to dream bigger, I'd love to support you in answering the call. Explore ways we can work together here. I'll be your biggest fan until you become your own!