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.


Coming Full Circle

The Universe's interpretation of my request to make a professional change has come full circle. I continue to be intrigued by this journey.

One of my quiet prayers has been to use more of my writing and business analyst skills. (Thankfully, my louder prayers were largely ignored!) Over the past couple weeks, I have secured two long-term contracts that allow me to use both. The first one seemingly fell out of the sky by my being in the right place at the right time. It will allow me to provide technical editing services for a federal government project. The second one was the result of a quick, but thoughtful, e-mail response to a position posting. It will allow me to provide business analyst services for a quality assurance company.

When I initially started my business, I primarily provided writing services. Over the years, writing has always been a part of my work either behind-the-scenes within the business or formally when working with clients. I realize now that no matter what work I'm doing, I get my "fire", so to speak, from writing. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to use my skills and challenge myself. My goal was to do something new instead of trying to rehash anything from my prior professional paths. I believe that these new professional opportunities have allowed me to accomplished just that while coming full circle.

Sorry for being so cryptic and not naming companies, but I prefer to keep this confidential for now. I'll start working with these clients later this month and will post updates periodically.

So, my lesson for all of you is to keep the faith, stay happy, live in victory, and help others do the same. If you ever need a pick-me-up when your prayers seem to be taking a long time to be answered, try listening to Pharrell Williams' "Happy". I can't get through it without smiling!


Continuing the Journey

I have had a wonderful year of self-reflection. In looking back on my career, I have always made some type of career transition in the Spring. It's appropriate that I am writing this on the first full day of the season (our meteorologists made sure to clarify that Spring officially started at 11a MDT yesterday!).

Recently I purchased the book Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters 3.0. It has changed the way I look at myself. For the past 10+ years, I have primarily seen myself as the co-owner of Data-Scribe. Now, there's nothing wrong with this. It's just that my professional identity has BEEN this instead of having it be a PART of it. This book has helped me to define myself in a new way. You can see some of this reflected in my LinkedIn profile. For instance, I've added this blog and my food blog to my current positions and I've rebranded myself as an information professional, which ties in all of my skills. (NOTE: Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn as I am eager to grow my network!)


I Did It – Received My Masters of Divinity!

What a fabulous way for me to start 2014. I turned in my Master's thesis in November and heard back this month that I passed with flying colors! I now hold my Master of Divinity and am an ordained reverend through Wisdom of the Heart Church.

This accomplishment holds a very special place in my heart because I have been working on it off and on for 3 years and wrote my thesis about my daughter. It is titled, "Sharing Spiritual and Religious Beliefs with Your Preschool Child" and includes a nice library of research showing how parents of different religions and spiritual backgrounds share their beliefs. I weaved in my family story and the ways that my husband and I help our daughter to explore her world.

What a wonderful journey it's been. I have learned so much about myself and my place in the Universe. If anyone is interested in taking a similar journey, I highly recommend attending the University of Metaphysical Sciences.

I feel re-energized now and have relaunched my Spirit Driving Institute Website. You'll see some new Drive. Align. Shift. services for couples. I look forward to working with you and your partner to support you in your health & wellness, career, and spiritual journeys.


Why the Rearview Mirror is Small

I thought it was time to break radio silence since it's been 2 months since my last blog post. Coincidentally, I was inspired again by Joel Osteen this morning. He used a driving analogy that I, of course, couldn't pass up.

He talked about the rearview mirror being small and the front windshield being large because your past is not nearly as important as your future. Have you been stuck in the past and looking to it for meaning too often in your life?


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.


Being Thankful or Showing Off?

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. As a foodie, I love the fact that it has no pretense. It's all about food and fun. Then, comes the shopping and December holiday madness. :)

Thanksgiving is also about giving thanks (duh!). So, I thought it would be good to discuss the fine line between being thankful for what you have versus being boastful. This season is an ideal time to show thanks for what you have (and even what you don't have). It's basically about being happy with where you are in your life and understanding that the present serves a purpose.

At what point does being thankful turn into being boastful? When do people feel like you're just showing off? Do you feel uncomfortable talking about your success because you fear that it will be taken away? Do you worry that others will be jealous and not want to associate with you?

I find myself in an interesting position with this topic. As you know, I believe that success is about more than just money. So when I speak of being successful, I'm not saying that I'm rolling in the dough. At the same time as an author focused on success, are others expecting me to be "winning" in all aspects of my life and business 100% of the time?

I would love to hear how other authors, coaches, self-improvement gurus, etc. handle this same topic. Also for the entrepreneurs and professionals who are on their own success journey, how do you handle walking this fine line?


Is it possible to be too driven in your career?

As an entrepreneur, I have no shortage of business ideas. I often joke with my husband that there aren't enough lifetimes for me to live out all the careers I've thought of for myself. Thankfully, I don't try to do everything at once.

I'm sure many of you feel the same way. It does make we wonder, is it possible to be too driven in your career? And what does it mean to be too driven? If you can't rein in all of your ideas and try to do them all at once, what does that mean about your Personality? Do you just always have to be busy doing something?

When I think about things like this, I find it good to come up with a celebrity example. Ryan Seacrest comes to mind. Like him or not, you have to admire his entrepreneurial streak. Even if everyone decided to boycott American Idol, Ryan would not be out of a job. I watched The Oprah Winfrey Show a few months ago and saw him on there. He basically doesn't have a minute to himself. He is building wealth and creating assets. A good thing to do to ensure a secure future. But, I can't help but wonder if he is too driven. What else is he giving up by being so busy? Hopefully he has an exit strategy so that he doesn't have to keep up this schedule forever.

How about you? Are you more like Ryan Seacrest? Are you on the opposite end of the spectrum - not wanting to fill every moment of your day with activity? Or, are you somewhere in the middle?


Feeling Thankful With My Nose to the Grindstone

The past few weeks have been great. You may have noticed that I haven't been writing on my blog or interacting on Facebook or Twitter very much lately. Here's why.

During the summer, we usually experience a lull in our Web development business. Everything is pretty much status quo except for an occasional small project or support request. As we approach August, new projects tend to pick up. This summer has been no different.

I have experienced one significant change in the writing side of our business. We have always offered technical writing and content development services, but for the past 3 years the Web part has taken precedence. We were fortunate enough to get a contract to develop a business school curriculum. Sweet! (Thanks to Peri Pakroo for the referral!) I really feel like this connection was no accident. The Universe re-aligned me and I am feeling thankful.

You see, it wasn't too long ago that I remember telling my husband how much I missed writing. Sure, you'll find that I've had a chance to develop content for our business whether it be for our blogs, newsletters, or Web site. However, there's just something different about doing the work for someone else and helping them reach a goal. I've always enjoyed writing and felt like a piece of me was missing from our business since my focus was diverted to more technical matters.

Since I tend to take on the bulk of the writing work, I have had to shift my schedule and delegate responsibilities differently. The perfectionist side of me tends to come out right around this time. I have to trust that the work that I normally do is being taken care of. So, long story short, I also feel thankful because of the great team of people I work with (including my husband, of course). Things are just clicking and I haven't had to stress about it.

My Spirit is driving and I am enjoying the scenery!


Cruise Control Makes Me Feel Out of Control

As I mentioned in my last post, I had some insights about actual driving and Spirit Driving while on my recent roadtrip. This first one cracks me up.

When we're driving, my husband likes using the cruise control once we're on a nice stretch of highway without a lot of traffic. He always encourages me to do the same. I've used it a few times, but something about it makes me feel out of control. I always worry that I'm going to have to change lanes or slow down suddenly and that I'm going to forget which button to press.

My husband will say, "Don't worry. You know how to do it. Hold down this button to slow down and this one to speed up." Inevitably, when the time comes when I need to accelerate or decelerate, I get flustered and decide to stomp on the gas or the brake. It still accomplishes the same task, but defeats the purpose of cruise control. Then, I tell my husband, "See, I told you I would forget."

The reason this cracks me up so much is that our little exchange about driving is very similar to the way we converse about goals. It's very hard for me to just go with the flow. I'm always trying to plan ahead and anticipate the next step. I feel that I can only get ahead if I'm in control and don't have some outside force guiding me.

But, guess what? There are outside forces that guide all of us. They aren't steering for us, but they do help us to move forward. It might not be at the speed that we want. And it might not be exactly the way that we envisioned. Nevertheless, it's going to happen. And we can't completely control it. Yes, even the author of Driving to Success has to remind herself of this sometimes.

No matter how in control you feel when it comes to your goals, no amount of planning can guarantee "success". I put that in quotes because success defined in this way means getting what YOU want. If you've read my book, you'll know that that isn't the true definition of success. When your Spirit is driving, what you get in the end might look quite different from what you envisioned. But it is exactly where you needed to be.

While in Denver on vacation, I drove past my old graduate school and had a bit of a flashback. I remember going to the lab sometimes late at night and checking on an experiment. I would imagine the day when I would be a professor and have my own lab. Had I continued on that path, I would probably be finishing my postdoc or starting my first job in academia right about now. My goals revolved around that. I hadn't thought about having a family or having my own business in a completely different field.

Don't get me wrong. It's not that I've completely denounced that scientific part of myself. Sometimes I reminisce about my days doing experiments in the lab. I still have plans to incorporate that in my professional life, but in a different way. My Spirit has driven me elsewhere and I'm better for it.