Spirit Driving Institute Leila Johnson – Transformation Teacher


What’s Going On – My Response to Charlottesville


Last week, Brett and I attended a great business marketing class. The instructor mentioned a long standing rule for businesses - don't share your views on politics or religion through your business. He stated that people assume their customers share the same views as them. And that posting your political or religious leanings can alienate your customers. All the participants nodded in agreement.

Then, this week happened and I can't be silent any longer. I'm not going to apologize if this alienates anyone.

The Charlottesville white nationalists rally and the responses from the president had me speechless for awhile. I shook my head knowing that white supremacy is still such a force. Even worse, I can't believe that we have a president who isn't bothered enough by it for my liking.

You see, Data-Scribe is owned by me and my husband, Brett - two black entrepreneurs who check the "Independent" box on our voter cards. Some of you might wonder what's the big deal in sharing that.

For more than half of the 14 years we've been in business, most of our clients were outside of New Mexico and we never met them in person. Also, we haven't posted pictures of ourselves in too many places. All of that was on purpose.

We noticed that staying largely anonymous online gave us a level playing field. Sometimes when people meet us first instead of seeing our website and portfolio first, they just treat us "differently". It's something that I'm sure other black business owners encounter, but don't like to admit.

This didn't stop us. We feel honored and humbled by all the times we've had a "seat at the table". The number of high profile projects we've worked on, client relationships we've built, and business experiences we've lived through are mind boggling anytime we take a minute to reminisce.

Our parents lived through the Civil Rights Movement. We feel so blessed to have had the opportunities we've had just one generation later. Also, there isn't a day that goes by that I don't wonder what my grandmother would think about the life I lead. I'm sure she would have a sense of pride. And we want to pass down that sense of pride in our heritage and gratitude for today to both of our daughters so that they can strive to do even better than we have.

We often play the "What would life have been like for you in the 1950s?" game with our older daughter. It's a way to show her how much she has to be grateful for and not to have a sense of entitlement. (Don't know if it's working, but, hey, we're trying!)

We ask her things like "Would we have lived in this neighborhood?" No. "Would you have gone to this school?" No. "Would you have had the white friends you have?" No.

Then we ask her "Why?". And she says "Because we're black and black people didn't get to have those things back then." Simplistic, but hopefully gets the point across.

So, now I think about that game in today's context and can't help but feel like we're going backwards. Could the white supremacy movement gain enough momentum that the 1950s picture I painted could once again become a reality? How do we deal with having a president who continues to reveal his true colors in increasingly disturbing ways? How do you encourage your young black children with the usual rhetoric of growing up to be whatever they dream about? How do you say, "You could even be president!" with a straight face...

Let me return to where I started with this post. As far as I can remember, this is the first post where I've mentioned anything related to politics and race. I was inspired by the CEOs of public companies sharing their views and disassociating from the president. It feels good to share how I've been feeling for so long in this way.

So, where do we go from here? My knee jerk reaction is to donate money to an advocacy or human rights group. That seems like an easy way out to make me feel like I'm doing something. But, how do you know which one and whether your donation is really making a difference?

I don't have the answers right now, but will continue to seek ways to make a difference. I'd love to hear what other small business owners do when they feel moved to take a social stand.

In the meantime, I'll continue to play the "1950s game" with our daughter and hope that those conditions remain a thing of the past.


Leaving a (Little) Legacy – Inspired by Steve Jobs

With the passing of Steve Jobs this week, I felt compelled to write about the legacy he has left behind. After hearing about it yesterday I wondered if there has been any other individual or company who has directly, and often indirectly, affected so many lives in our generation. My first computer was an Apple IIc. Back in the 80's I wouldn't have recognized Steve Jobs' name, but already his vision had an effect on my life. It sparked my lifelong love of computers and all technology.

Obviously the "little" reference in the title of this post does not refer to Steve Jobs in anyway. He left a huge legacy that will forever change the way we interact with each other and the rest of the world. I don't know how many of us will be able to leave such a large legacy. And that's OK, because I don't think that is the point.

When thinking about our Mission in life, we often feel that we have to do something big in order for it to be meaningful. You'll remember my prior post about Career Advancement Option #3 which allows you to Drive with Purpose: find a career that is meaningful and make changes as needed to fit your changing personal, professional, and spiritual goals in life. I also discussed A Hierarchy of Career Fulfillment that helps us to see if our career is meeting our needs.

One of the questions from that Hierarchy related to changing the world for the better. It's easy to get stuck on this question. Sometimes I look at what I do and wonder if it is making a difference. Does making a Web site for a nonprofit or small business really help anyone in the grand scheme of things? What I've realized is that we are here to serve others in some way and the work we do can make a difference even if it is in a small way. So much of the work that my company does involves creating the behind-the-scenes infrastructure that helps our wonderful clients do their work.

Here are just a few of the items from my list over the years:

  • Connecting individuals to locations where they can donate goods for cancer patients
  • Providing access to downloadable voter resources to promote democracy in underserved populations
  • Creating a hub for disabled workers to find work and support
  • Showcasing events and resources for healthcare professionals working in developing countries
  • Helping low-income parents find clothing for their children

When I look at it this way it brings a tear to my eye and gives me a renewed passion for my work. Sure, I'm not saving lives or winning Nobel Prizes, but my work is helping someone somewhere every minute of everyday. And that's enough for me.

Thanks to Steve Jobs for inspiring an industry and multiple generations of individuals and businesses!


An Assessment for Career Fulfillment

When it comes to your career, it's easy to take one of two Career Advancement Options:

  1. Go through your career blindly, taking whatever comes your way
  2. Overanalyze your career until you find the perfect fit

Career Advancement Option #1 means that you fly by the seat of your pants. While this can be freeing, it means that you aren't in the driver's seat taking control of your career.

Career Advancement Option #2 means that you are working so hard to find the right career, you aren't trusting that the Universe will present you with appropriate career options.

The most difficult one is the yet-to-be-mentioned Career Advancement Option #3. It is a middle-of-the-road and often underused option. Option #3 allows you to Drive with Purpose: find a career that is meaningful and make changes as needed to fit your changing personal, professional, and spiritual goals in life.

After going through a few different careers myself (biomedical sciences, high finance, insurance, and now information technology), I know what I'm talking about when it comes to those three options. I have adopted (and continue to adopt) all three at different points in my life.

  • I fall into Career Advancement Option #1 when I am fed up with what is going on and think that my efforts won't make a difference.
  • Career Advancement Option #2 becomes a reality if I feel absolutely certain of what I should be doing and want to orchestrate it for myself.
  • Career Advancement Option #3, although requiring more effort, brings the most career fulfillment for me and does the best job of meeting my personal, professional, and spiritual needs.

Our human needs can best be described via Maslow's hierarchy of needs. The lower level needs are the more basic ones that need to be satisfied first:

  1. Physiological Needs
  2. Security Needs
  3. Social Needs
  4. Esteem Needs
  5. Self-actualizing Needs

Career advancement would most likely fall in Level 4 or 5. In a nutshell, if you haven't eaten, you aren't too worried about personal growth activities!

Until now, I hadn't seen a similar model for assessing our career needs. I came across an article called "Beyond Wall Street and Sand Hill Road: Career Fulfillment for Bright Young Things" by Don Fornes, Founder & CEO, Software Advice. He has a nice breakdown called "A Hierarchy of Career Fulfillment". The article is geared toward young adults entering high finance. I encourage you to read it even if you're in a different industry since it contains some key insights on why we do the work that we do (i.e. it isn't (and shouldn't be) just about money.)

A pyramid showing 6 questions about career fulfillment

A Hierarchy of Career Fulfillment. Created by Don Fornes, Founder & CEO, Software Advice.

Are you able to answer "yes" to all of these questions about your career? If not, which ones are a "no" for you? Are there other questions that you would include? Or maybe you would place the questions in a different order.

Remember that you won't always be able to answer "yes" to all of these questions. Even if you have a "dream job", there will be days when you wonder what you got yourself into! That isn't always a reason to bail, however. Look at your current situation as a whole. Only you can decide what you need to feel fulfilled.

Try using this model to make it easier to adopt Career Advancement Option #3 allowing you to Drive with Purpose and find a career that is meaningful.


What September 11th Means to Me

On this 10th anniversary of September 11th, I am struck by many things. Today I'll talk about my personal reflections. I can't believe what a different life I lead now. And I can't believe how that event indirectly shaped my career path and personal life.

Please know that I always feel weird telling this story because it seems trivial in light of the tragedies that happened. Yet, it is something that I feel compelled to share. I hope this inspires you to find the many more powerful, inspirational stories that can help you make sense of the day.

A little over ten years ago, I was working at a mutual fund company in Denver whose headquarters was in the World Trade Center. I worked for the quality assurance team in their call center. I wasn't entirely happy with my job and wanted something different. After researching the different opportunities that were available in the company, I settled on applying to become a call center trainer. It looked like a fun job to me and I knew I had the qualifications.

On that Monday, September 10th, I turned in my job application to the local Human Resources Department and felt confident about the possibilities. Then, Tuesday rolled around. Of course, the office was chaotic. We were preparing for an onslaught of phone calls from shareholders wondering what was happening with their money. Instead, the call center was eerily silent. We were all glued to the televisions as we wondered what was happening to our fellow employees in the North Tower. Somehow all of our co-workers made it out of the building before it fell. Our bosses told our department to stay home the rest of the week because there really wasn't anything for us to do.

So, there I was at home staying glued to the television with my fear of leaving the house increasing every minute. My boyfriend at the time used to travel around the country as a corporate trainer for a different company. He was supposed to fly out to St. Louis on September 11th. But the training class was changed, so he flew out the day before. Since air traffic was grounded for over a week, he wasn't able to fly home as planned at the end of that week. It was strange being at home by myself all that time without being able to share this experience with him. That weekend, he rented a car and drove over 12 hours to make it home.

Things at work somewhat settled down after several weeks. It was around that time that I saw an announcement about the new trainers that were selected for the call center trainer positions. My name was not on the list. Being the overachiever that I am, I decided to check in with HR to find out why I wasn't selected and why I didn't even get the chance to interview. The HR associate looked through her paperwork and found that she didn't even have my job application on file. She asked when I turned it in. I told her it was on September 10th. She paused and then apologized saying that it must have gotten lost in all of the chaos.

I was upset, but after reflecting on things, I realized that this must have happened for a reason. It was also at that time that my boyfriend and I felt like we shouldn't waste time in our lives. We had been talking about getting married. Once he got back that weekend, our talks started to become more of a reality. We were married the following year and are still going strong. We also talked about what we really wanted to do career-wise and began to take steps toward becoming entrepreneurs. That became a reality in 2003.

Now that I look at my life as an a stay-at-home mom, wife, entrepreneur, and author, I can see several events that helped to get me where I am today. I am so thankful for my life.

On this anniversary, I was glued to the TV again, but this time watching the memorial events. As I listened to the stories of families and friends affected by the tragedies, I am reminded of many things:

The "stresses" in my life that really aren't that stressful

How quickly your life and the world can change

How important it is not to waste time on trivial things, but focus on your dreams and how you can achieve them

The importance of family and friends during the happy and sad times

I hope that my story can help you find a glimmer of hope and positivity today to help you move forward in your life.


Everybody’s talking, but is anyone listening?

You may have been wondering why I haven't been communicating as much through my usual channels lately (Twitter, Facebook, blog, newsletter, etc.). Maybe it's the introspective feeling that seems to accompany the Winter season. Or maybe it's something deeper.

You'll remember last month that I did some rebranding of my message and my site. In January, I started promoting my new classes through my usual channels. Somehow, something just didn't feel quite right, yet. I began to get weary of what was becoming the usual grind of social media and other content updates. It led me to have a conversation with my husband/business partner about this whole marketing process. I boiled it down to the title of this post: "Everybody's talking, but is anyone listening?"

As a society we tend to get bombarded with information and don't ever get away from it. I am a techie and completely understand being connected to some device for a large part of my day. Unfortunately, I don't think we unwind enough.

I subscribe to only about 10 e-mail newsletters of interest to my work through Spirit Driving Institute and sometimes that feels like too much. I began to read these newsletters with a different point of view. How many blogs, radio shows, newsletters, marketing opportunities, etc. do we need? And if everyone is trying so hard to be seen, get known, and deliver their message, who's left to read it?

Also, each time I would come back to my blog last month to write something new, I encountered a bunch of comments waiting for my approval. They weren't real responses, mind you. Just spam messages from people trying to ride the traffic wave from my site so that they could get a linkback.

So, there I was thinking about all of this during the time when I usually send out my newsletter. I was in the midst of feeling like I was contributing to the information overload for folks. One word kept resonating with me - SIMPLIFY. It's a great word that can apply to so many areas of life and business.

While I don't have the perfect solution to this yet, I have made a vow to myself. Instead of writing for the sake of writing or promoting myself for the sake of promoting, I am only going to do it when I feel moved to do so. I refuse to promote things out of obligation or just because everyone else is doing it that way.

Instead, I'm just going to have fun and find different ways to get out there that feel right to me. If you don't see as much from me, don't worry, I haven't disappeared. I'm just taking a breather and re-energizing to share something meaningful.

Until the next time. :)


Drive. Align. Shift.

You may have noticed that my site and blog have a new tagline that encompasses the work that I do: Drive. Align. Shift. It is a bold statement showing the progression we should all take to have a successful life. I have developed new courses around this concept to help you take the necessary steps to be fulfilled in all areas of your life.

Drive with Purpose.

Some people aren't even on the road. They just blindly go through life and let it happen to them instead of taking some responsibility. The easiest option for these folks is to complain about their job, house, spouse, kids, and everything else in between. Instead of looking at everyone else and every other circumstance, they should look within for the source of their problem - thinking that a lack of action will lead to change in their lives.

Believe it or not, this used to describe me many years ago. I've made a lot of changes in my life to get to where I am today. If you're interested in making a change, you have to make a commitment to Drive with Purpose.

Make no excuses. Get on the road and do something. If you're not driving, you're not living. Remember, though that navigating does not equal complete control. There are some things that you have to leave up to the Universe, but you must be a willing partner in order to move forward.

Align Your Goals.

Once you're driving on the road, you will have some work to do. Again, there are people who think it's good enough to just be on the road and watch everyone else. They have a false sense of security where they are and convince themselves that they are happy with life as it is. Usually these are the people who avoid changing their course and don't even bother setting goals.

I remember the times when I was frustrated with goal-setting because I was failing at my goals or it was taking too long to achieve them. If you want a better goal-setting and achievement strategy, you have to focus on how to Align Your Goals in all parts of your life.

It doesn't make sense to have goals that don't connect. We all have different roles that should connect and make you who you are. Goals that you make for each of these areas should complement each other. Also, you have to keep in mind that you may not achieve all of your goals in the way that you're expecting. Sometimes you Drive with Purpose and set a goal that is on-mission, but you don't reach that goal. There are other reasons for going through that experience.

Shift Your Perspective.

After being on the road for awhile and making some changes, the scenery will start to look monotonous. You've become familiar with the typical challenges you face and know how to overcome them. You hang around similar people and just breathe in each others' fumes. This is the time to really break out of your shell and do something different with your life.

I have been comfortable with my life at different times in the past and was afraid of making a change that could bring even more success and happiness. If you're content with where you are, but feel that more fulfillment could be just around the corner, your next step is to Shift Your Perspective.

Shifting involves doing a lot of inner work. You have to continue to let go and see the lessons in life as a way to allow you to see more of the world. Your purpose becomes clear. You see your life as an example for others. It can be scary to challenge some of your long-standing beliefs, but this is the only path to true growth.

I'm sure you saw yourself in at least one part of this progression. Check out my upcoming courses in the Drive. Align. Shift. Program. I would recommend starting from the beginning to get the most benefit from the program.