Power & Beauty

Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 2.44.47 PMI am honoured to be interviewed for EcoDiva’s Embracing Power & Beauty campaign. I first met Garcy, the co-founder of EcoDiva, in Palm Springs on a Loaded Bow retreat. What has struck me ever since is how much beauty there can be in power when it comes from the heart. Thank you Garcy for epitomizing the beauty of power.

EcoDiva: When do you feel most powerful?

Megan: I love this question! Mostly because I’ve just realized that I feel most powerful when I lead with my heart. When I first started doing this work, I didn’t always trust my emotions – I thought they were a sign of weakness. I thought that power was associated with someone who does not waver, does not quiver, does not cry. Now I know better. When my cheeks flush or my eyes water, it’s because I care so deeply about this work, about the people connected to this work. My ability to feel is one of my greatest gifts, and there is power in that.

EcoDiva: Being recognized as a “powerful woman” these days doesn’t always have a positive vibe that comes along with it. What does being a powerful woman mean to you?

Megan: A powerful woman lifts others up whenever she can. She doesn’t look for path of least resistance – she walks toward the fire. I believe the road ahead of us involves a massive re-structuring of business culture – we need to create work environments where people don’t have to choose between work and family, between stress and boredom. For me, a powerful woman sees beauty in vulnerability and strength in failure. She fights the good fight and knows when to listen.

EcoDiva: Do you have a personal mantra, or a quote that has been helping you lately?

Megan: I love the quote from Albert Einstein “Although I am a typical loner in my daily life, my awareness of belonging to the invisible community of those who strive for truth, beauty, and justice has prevented me from feelings of isolation.” Working on my own, I need to believe in that invisible community. Technology has actually helped me with that – with Twitter I connect with likeminded people around the world, through texting I stay in constant contact with my female entrepreneur breakfast club, and thanks to Skype, I can see my clients even when they are across the country. Although, there is nothing like meeting a friend for coffee, a client for lunch or going on a retreat with values-driven companies like Eco Diva Beauty.

Read my entire interview here!

What’s Your Tradecraft?

Take Courage Drop ShadowYou know those people who talk a big game? They have lots of ideas, many of which hold potential, and yet very few of them actualize. Well, that’s definitely not Katie Jeanes and Aaron Vidas.

Katie and Aaron are ‘those’ people – you know, the ones who make things happen. They get an idea, they talk it out, and then they commit to it. They have both started several businesses, and they have learned a lot along the way. When Katie first told me about their inspiration for Tradecraft, I thought it sounded really cool and hoped it would land somewhere tangible in the future. Less than a month later, they not only had a brand, they had built an entire community.

Tradecraft seeks to understand what motivates people, specifically entrepreneurs. We all have our own little ‘sayings’ – perhaps it’s a quote from a famous person, or a nugget of wisdom passed down from generation to generation. Those sayings get us through the tough times and remind us to savour the good times. Being an entrepreneur isn’t just about working for yourself; it’s about building something you believe in, something that the world needs. It’s about tapping into an experience we can all connect with. And that’s what Tradecraft is doing – they shine a light on the words that motivate us to keep going, despite the odds.

ElixirI often talk about The Hero’s Journey in my story sessions, and I truly believe that Katie and Aaron have made their way through the journey cycle and are standing at the top of the circle, holding onto the elixir. The elixir represents the wisdom they have gathered on their respective entrepreneurial journeys, and they are now completing this journey by sharing that elixir with the world.

The goal shouldn’t be to gain as much wisdom and knowledge as one can; the goal needs to be how we can then share that knowledge with the world, releasing it out into the open so that it can spawn new ideas, new inspirations. So thank you Katie and Aaron for planting new seeds of inspiration and for shining a light on the power of words.

My saying is It’s the stuff of life and I invite you to read my Tradecraft interview here, A Modern Day Mythologist.

Creating a Storytelling Culture

Hollyhock HeartA week on Cortes Island with 150 social entrepreneurs out to change the world can only lead to one thing…deep, deep gratitude.

I returned to Hollyhock’s Social Venture Institute last week and was greeted with a flood of friendly faces. This ‘business conference’ is often referred to as summer camp for entrepreneurs, and this year did little to disprove that reputation. For me, it offers sanctuary from the daily buzz of running my own business, a retreat to reset and recharge, and a place to connect and set new intentions. Last year’s post The Prism Effect gives you a sense of what to expect.

This year, I had the honour of co-facilitating a workshop with Amy Hartzler, a story maven who runs Do Good Better in Washington, D.C. Amy and I spent hours chatting about the rituals we bring into our work and how we celebrate the changing nature of our story. We then convened 50 entrepreneurs in the beautiful Kiakum room for our workshop How Passion, Ceremony and Narrative Create Brands We Remember. We were inspired to share the rituals that inspire our work, and invite everyone in the room to share how they mark and celebrate the stories that surround them.

One of the hardest things to do as a business owner is create a brand that people feel on an ongoing basis. In branding, it’s essential to have an inspiring narrative, a strong logo and powerful imagery. Yet it shouldn’t stop there. We need to move beyond storytelling and focus on story creation. How can we inspire our team, our clients, even ourselves to share the stories that matter to us daily? I believe it is by recognizing the patterns and rituals we have that make us feel safe and free to explore our story sphere – that place where our emotions reside – so that we can feel things without having to explain them.

It is up to every business owner to lead with the heart.

In order to create a story-making culture, here are some things that you can do:

  • Invite your team to gather around the same spot each day, or once a week, for a story sharing circle.
  • Host a retreat and invite your team to create the content depending on their interests.
  • Develop brand rituals, things that you do every single time you meet with a client or do an employee review.
  • Simple things, like lighting a candle, can be a great reminder to ponder your own story throughout the day.
  • Find fun ways to engage your clients so they feel comfortable sharing their story with you.
  • Listen. Ask an open-ended question and then listen. Don’t wait for your turn, just listen.
  • And once a year, travel to Hollyhock if you can. It’s a place where stories are born.

Stories are meant to be honoured. If you are trying to create a story making culture, be sure to create the safest space possible and thank those who share. Find ways to celebrate and bring ceremony back into the workplace, and above all – have fun! Our stories are our lifeblood, they keep us rooted and inspired all at the same time. They connect us to each other and help us form beautiful communities like this one, my beautiful, empowering Loaded Bow girls at SVI:

Loaded Bow at SVI

Loaded Bow at SVI

 

Passion, Ceremony & Ritual

Sunset

For me, the path to storytelling was an arduous one at first. I didn’t trust my own experience and instead looked to others to help define my vision. Many people I met along the way offered mentorship in the form of advice; specifically, they told me to avoid the touchy-feely trap of storytelling. They told me that businesses need tangible, concrete proof when it comes to communicating their message. They need fail-safes, messages that had been tried, tested and true. They want a formula.

For the first few years of my business, I tried to figure out that very formula. And to be honest, it worked out rather well. I collected stories, pulled out key messages, and created content that was keyword optimized or 140 character friendly. Yet, something was missing. An essential ingredient that I found in my Story Harvesting was being left out.

Part of my job is to talk to people. At my wedding party in May, a friend poked fun at me and my husband, describing to everyone what it is like to attend a Farmers’ Market with us. Yes, we do stop at almost every stall, and yes, we do talk to the farmers’ and artisans, asking questions about their business. Alright, sometimes we talk about other things, like what life events led them to open a Kiwi farm in Abbotsford. We love to hear their story. I see myself more as a story listener than storyteller.

So, when my clients enlist my support to talk to, or rather listen to, their staff, their clients and their friends, I take that very seriously. I’m not looking for a sound bite or a twitter post, I’m looking for something deeper, something pure and from the heart. When I find it, I know. I can’t go in with a list of questions and force that truth-telling to take place. I need to let my own guard down, share my vulnerability, and create a space where trust is present and stories are honoured.

In recent talks with friends and fellow entrepreneurs, we’ve talked a lot about ceremony and ritual. We talk about how we miss out on moments of celebration; we forget to acknowledge a new piece of wisdom, or we downplay a victory for fear of tooting our own horn. Yet, ceremony and ritual is how we get to fully absorb our significance, our contribution to the world. I now try and carve out time every week to honour my own growth, and to celebrate that growth with my community. Having a Breakfast Club with four other inspirational female entrepreneurs is a giant leap in the right direction :)

My interest in Mythology is deeply rooted in ceremony and ritual, and my goal for this year is to weave more of that into the work I do for others. In a few weeks, Amy Hartzler and I will co-present a workshop at Hollyhock’s Social Venture Institute on this very topic, and I will honour the occasion by having a moment of quiet amongst the old growth trees, absorbing the wisdom that flows in and out of each of us.

Walking the Hill

In Irish mythology, there is an ancient tale that when two people fall in love and decide to commit their lives to each other, they meet at sunrise on either side of a hill. They then walk up that hill separately, considering everything that makes them who they are. They think about their hopes and their dreams, their challenges and their fears. When they get to the top, they come together and share what they have discovered. They then talk about what their life will look like together, what they both want for their future and what obstacles they may encounter. As the sun sets, they walk down the hill together, hand in hand, as a sign of their commitment to both themselves as individuals and to each other as a couple. They then celebrate this commitment with those they love. From then on, every year on the same day they walk the hill as a symbol of their commitment.  

View More: http://thenickersons.pass.us/megan--johan

This myth is particularly important to me and Johan because it symbolizes a marriage that allows both people to hold true to their individual spirit, while encouraging the other to pursue their dreams. On April 26th, this story was told during our wedding vows as our rings were passed from person to person in a beautiful Ring Warming ceremony. Our rings were created by our friends Gen and Kevin of Hume Atelier with this Irish myth in mind.

View More: http://thenickersons.pass.us/megan--johanMine is a puzzle ring, two rings in one. The interior ring holds two points that represent each of us, the exterior ring holds a cross that for us symbolizes the hill we walked up and the hill we walked down. The centre part of the ring is where our commitment took place. It is an amazing thing to have a ring made just for you. It is even more powerful when it holds the spirit of a story told for hundreds of years and one that is so meaningful to us.

When Johan and I decided to get married, we knew that we wanted the event to bring our families together. Half of our guests were travelling from Sweden and so we wanted to invite them to experience the local culture. Tofino was the perfect setting to reflect our passion for local business – from seasonal food to micro brew, we incorporated the local community into every part of our weekend.

First, we hired Sheila and Shannon from Rare Earth to help us bring our vision to life. We indulged in amazing farm-to-table food and drinks from Red Can, Tofino Coffee and Tofino Brewing. We took to the seas with Ocean Outfitters, and we rested our heads at the magical Pacific Sands. We hired Sol Maya, a local glass artist, to create glass starfish for our guests, acting as both table decor and a gift to remember the weekend. And we had the most amazing photographers, The Nickersons, capturing the beautiful moments of our day. Every decision we made was intentional and echoed our passion for building community and sharing story.

What you get when you support local business is so much more than a transaction – you build friendships, share laughs, receive advice and connect with people on an emotional level. We are so grateful for everyone that came together to make our wedding so special.

There are many versions of marriage, and many ways to throw a wedding. We are all telling our own story and that is what makes it all so unbelievably special. Surrounding yourself with a community that supports you gives you the strength you need to create the story you have always wanted to live.

Umbrellas

 

My Loaded Bow

Armed with Community. 

Just over a year ago, I was invited to an evening called Loaded Bow. I didn’t know what to expect; all that I was told was that it was an evening for women entrepreneurs, and that I should bring a fellow female entrepreneur along. I brought my dear friend Theodora Lamb and proceeded to have one of the most memorable nights of the year, ten of us sharing our ‘Stories of Love’ and connecting on what it means to be a female business owner. It was the first of many beautiful nights with this community.

Photo by Caroline Boquist

Photo by Caroline Boquist

That first evening, I walked into a beautiful, new world. This world has introduced me to some of my closest friends, including Gen and Zoe, the founders of Loaded Bow. They started this experiment four years ago, self admittedly as a way to make new, awesome friends in Vancouver’s entrepreneurial space. Gen runs Hume Atelier, a bespoke jewellery studio with her husband Kevin, and Zoe Pawlak is a painter and collaborator, creating beautiful works of art in many different forms.

So much loves goes into and comes out of this community, so it was without hesitation that I said yes to a four day Loaded Bow retreat in Palm Springs this past weekend. 25 women gathered at the Ace Hotel (yes, it felt like a movie set!) for what can only be described as a Meeting of the Hearts. The theme of the weekend was Story, and four of us were invited to craft workshops that inspire storytelling.

Workshops

#1. Tell Me a Story. Lizzy Karp, of Raincity Chronicles, led us into the psyche of story listening, teaching us how we can craft questions that ignite curiosity. She reminded us that asking a question in a certain way can trigger memories and offer responses cloaked in emotion and intrigue.

#2. Archetype & Myth. I led the group through a personal Archetype experience, landing on an archetype that each person identifies with and a challenge getting in the way of fully becoming it. Then, I took everyone through the Hero’s Journey and we positioned ourselves in the circle, at one of the 12 stages of transformation. It was reassuring, to see so many others on the same journey.

#3. The C-Spot. Thara Viyali, Naturopath to many of us there, invited us into the story of stress. She asked us to consider our own relationship to stress and taught us about the effects of Cortisol and how we can find our own ‘C-spot’ by understanding how our body reacts to stress.

#4. Remembering the Future. Finally, Chloe Gow-Jarrett of Lululemon led us 20 years into the future where we connected with our future selves who then shared wisdom and insight based on ‘our’ life experiences.

Between all of that, we were privileged to have Lauren Roegele lead us in yoga and breathing exercises, harnessing the power of our individual story and collective experience throughout the weekend. It was nothing short of perfection the way that everyone wove into the tapestry curated by Gen and Zoe. I have never experienced the beauty of female friendship quite like this – it was a lightning bolt of love and a real, honest moment in time. It also didn’t hurt that we were in ultra hip land at the vibrant Ace Hotel where the party never stops despite the 108′ desert heat.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you to this beautiful community who continues to nourish every part of my world.

Photo by Jessica Karalash, Kurate Style

Photo by Jessica Karalash, kuratestyle.com

 

Story Visioning

archetypes

Every January, I reflect on all that has passed and I set intentions for the year to come. I’ve moved away from specific goal setting as it can often be rigid and onerous, plus when you run your own business you need to be nimble and I have found that the best way to be open to success is to focus on Story Visioning. Four years ago, I started vision boarding and it has not only impacted the growth of my business, it has also impacted the way I live my life.

As a passionate social entrepreneur, I see no division between my business life and my personal life. Everything is connected and every piece impacts the whole. My professional development sheds light on my personal life, and my personal relationships foster new work collaborations. Everything feeds into the same system: me. So when I started vision boarding, it wasn’t about just one area of my life; it all intersects, and it is at that intersection that true power can be harnessed.

We all live many story lines; some stories fill us with pride and others hold us back. Each story we tell ourselves is indicative of how we live our lives. From the different roles we play, to the different people we serve, it can be overwhelming to try and set a goal or an intention when you are not exactly sure what aspect of your life you are considering. Story Visioning is meant to help you understand and embrace all of the story lines you hold and find that sweet spot where everything intersects. That is where true power and influence is born, at that spot where everything you love, everything you do, everything you want to be, is acknowledged and appreciated.

Scribing

 

Story Visioning is a technique I am developing with a friend and colleague Theodora Lamb. Together, we are launching an event for female entrepreneurs in Vancouver focused on exploration and intention setting. This one-day event is the first step of a larger initiative to support female entrepreneurs by creating space, online and offline, to acknowledge and appreciate our many stories.

Understanding the narrative of our business is vital; understanding our own story in relation to that narrative is equally important.

Buy Local Week

Last night, we celebrated the launch of Buy Local Week in British Columbia at the LOCO Christmas party. I joined LOCOBC last year and it has opened my eyes to the power of local buying – not only from an economic standpoint, but also from a community aspect. Walking into GreenWorks last night, I recognized so many local business owners – business consultants, food producers, designers and craftspeople. It is amazing how sharing one simple value (that of supporting the local economy) can cut through all of the networking fuzz and initiate deep conversations. I truly value my LOCO membership, and I urge everyone to support their own local business community!

Oh, and check out this beautiful, informative infographic designed by the talented Lisa Hemingway of Backyard Creative – one of my business collaborators! It shows you the real impact local buying has and how it can directly affect each and every one of us.

So this week (and every week) when you buy anything, be sure to Buy Local!

The Art of Hosting

It is in the wander that new paths are formed.
It is in the wander that old habits are broken.
Yet, it is in the pause that we prepare for all that the wander will bring.

I love to wander. It is something my partner and I joke about – he likes to have a direction in mind before venturing out, whereas I like to wander and see what shows up. My career has been a bit of a wander; moving in and out of different conversations, building ideas and inspiration along the way. Never really sure of a final destination, but enjoying the journey of discovery. One of the main challenges for solopreneurs like myself is to pause and let what I have collected along the way sink in.

Enter the Art of Hosting, an approach to leadership that allows us to gather and reflect on the wisdom inside ourselves and within our community. I first heard about the Art of Hosting a few years ago when it seemed that every new person I met found a way to weave it into our conversation. Jung would call this ‘Synchronicity’ – learning about something only to have it appear in all aspects of your life. Joseph Campbell would perhaps refer to it as ‘The Call’, a beckoning of sorts, inviting you to poke your head in and see what lies on the other side. Last week, I accepted the call and attended a 4 day intensive Art of Hosting training on Bowen Island.

Arriving anywhere by ferry seems to add a layer of space to the journey. Space to sit and reflect as the vessel coasts across the water. Space to explore since there is no easy escape off an island. Space to imagine and space to be curious. Anticipation is futile, what will be, will be. Or as The Art of Hosting declares, ‘Whoever shows up are the right people to show up.”

I’ve participated in Art of Hosting activities before – World Café and Open Space Technology often make appearances in my workshops and retreats. Yet, I have never been so fully immersed in the philosophy and art of bringing people together. I first identified as a facilitator or convener last year when I realized that in bringing people together to share stories I was working in the depths of group dynamics. One of my favourite aspects of group work is the Circle Practice – placing people in a circle and giving them equal air time shifts the power away from a single leader and invites the group to redefine leadership.

When I tell people I practice storytelling, they often bring up campfires. While the work I do extends far beyond the fire pit, there is something to this reference. Sitting around a fire, we can hear each voice and see each face. We let our guards down, feeling protected under the night sky. True storytelling happens when we trust our own voice and practice the art of listening. My time on Bowen Island, albeit without campfire, reminded me to listen. Thankfully, I heard the most beautiful stories; stories of hope and stories of possibility.

And there is no greater reason to wander than that.

 

Thank you to Conrad for the beautiful photos that captured the essence of our time together on Bowen. 

Letting Go

I am fortunate enough to belong to many communities, including a beautiful Transformational Facilitation Group (TFG) of women in Vancouver. Our group consists of 11 women at similar points in our career who are all interested in using facilitation as a way of bringing about change. We meet once a month for a potluck dinner and talk about our practice or our business, and we share ways that we can collectively support each other. I was introduced to the group by my friend Erica who works with me at the HiVE and it has already proven to be a powerful reminder as to what happens when you bring passionate women together.

One of our members has been part of ALIA (Authentic Leadership in Action) for years and she invited us to last week’s ALIA West workshop in Vancouver. Leading up to this day, I was stressed with work, life and everything in between. I kept asking myself why I had signed up for a full day workshop in the middle of my busy season. And then I walked into the room.

Appropriately, the ALIA workshop was being held at the Centre for Peace and that is exactly what happened when I arrive – I felt at peace. It helped looking around the room and recognizing faces, either from my TFG or from my other communities of support. It also helped that I was stepping away my emails, my voicemails, my giant pile of To Do’s…and giving myself permission to plant my feet firmly and sink into the moment.

The Changing Face of Leadership: Mindfulness and Wise Action.

“It is our questions, our uncertainty, that leads us deeper. That is the one authentic truth that connects us all – we are all seeking, questioning and yearning for something else, beyond.” Wise words from our host Michael Chender, the Founder of ALIA in Nova Scotia. He went on to state that, “The obstacle is Fear – our confidence that we have the capabilities.”

The workshop was split into chapters, and we were just on the first page. Barbary Bash led us in a group meditation that bonded us on many different levels. We spoke of the challenges we face when trying to slow down our minds – the distractions in the room, in our heads, in our hearts. We opened up to each other, and we opened up to ourselves. ALIA is founded on three guiding principles: Meditation, Skill Learning and Creative Interaction. Well, this 8 hour workshop delivered all three in spades!

After settling into the day, we started exploring the 5 steps of Facilitation, and each presented a new understanding of leadership and wisdom. Barbara Bash led us in her beautiful Big Brush calligraphy as we explored each of the five stages of leadership.

1. ENTERING: This is about the way you enter a space, the way you begin a session. Entering sets the tone for all that is to come. Pause. Feel your body. Recognize your own fear and smile at it! Vulnerability is the only strong position.

2. EXPLORING: Not to be confused with proving pre-conceptions. Exploring is about inviting curiosity. It is about analyzing and understanding the systems at play, but it is also about listening to instinct and intuition, and ultimately recognizing patterns.

3. ACTING: This stage creates a profound energetic shift – clarity emerges and you commit! The path becomes clear and there is often a sense of hesitation…resist the fear and step into it.

4. COMPLETING: Acting sets off a series of consequences, and this stage involves coming back to the original intention. You have disturbed the system, but must not give in to second thoughts. Mistakes become stepping stones.

5. LETTING GO: Mark the occasion, bring ritual into the transition. Letting go does not need to fizzle out – it is about energizing toward the future. Be open and available to what comes next.

At the end of the day, we had stirred our own insecurities and hesitations as leaders, and we had found an approach that spoke to the wholeness of leadership. It was a beautiful, crisp Autumn day and my harvest feast came in the form of ALIA.