“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” ~ Lao Tzu

The Preface

During the fall of 2009, I attended a week-long leadership workshop in North Carolina.  This was a wonderful learning and growth experience, and one I still hold close to me today.  The day I arrived, I sat next to a young woman, unknown to me at the time.  Our group that week was small – 7 participants.  And our time together was also, very much a "getting to know you at a deep level" experience. Good, good stuff.

Back to that young woman, though.  Her name…Angie Kenny.   A soul-filled person, supporting the growth of a  local hotel in neighboring Greensboro.  We connected over that week together, and have continued our friendship and support of each other since that time.

A few months after this workshop, Angie shared with me that her real passion was baking.  Not only that, she was going to give it a shot – going after her dream (awesome, isn't it!).  And that's exactly what she did – and today, nearly two years later, she has a thriving business, Zen Cat Gluten-Free Bakery, servicing the Greensboro area and the world!

Her motto:  Gluten-Free + Vegan + All Love (so, so fitting for this lovely soul!)

Read below as Angie shares a part of this journey toward her true peak.

Angie and Zen Cat Gluten-Free Bakery

I am a dreamer.  I’m also a Gemini, so I like to do a lot of things and dream up a lot of ideas.  I like to learn things to help me grow and to just have an experience with life.  I’ve moved away from the thought that you “choose one thing to do and do it”, career-wise.  I wasn’t conscious about this philosophy until I looked at my job history.  I’ve had experience in interior design, farming, filmmaking, serving afternoon tea, assisting a brilliant CEO and now working in a bakery.

This is not a status list; it’s from where I’ve traveled so I value it as a snapshot of my life.  I also see the trajectory of my choices.  One decision to learn a new skill set (read: overcome fear or reservation) became a stepping stone to the next learning experience.  I only had to apply (basically) one thing:  my heart.

Most of the “adult” career or job choices I’ve made were led by my heart and not by social pressures or a dollar sign.  Sure I wrote down the pros and cons of each move (I am an arduous list maker), weighed options, took a deep breath and took a dive…

My current position in life is no exception.  I am a baker.  I own Zen Cat Gluten-Free Bakery, and I started this business from my heart and with a few business skills picked up from my previous – full-time, salaried, with benefits! –  job at a very successful hotel and restaurant company.

My heart and my tummy moved me!  I had to go gluten-free a few years ago, which is not an easy lifestyle change.  I was hungry!  I couldn’t find any good cookie to eat and worse, I wasn’t able to eat my grandmother’s most delicious pumpkin cake.  I knew that if I was looking for something good to eat, then there were others out there looking for the same thing.

I realized that in helping myself to a good cookie, I could help others.  I would help others in opening a bakery business.  AND, I wanted to touch everyone, not just those who are gluten-free and vegan.   

This became part of Zen Cat’s mission statement:  to create great desserts and bakery products that are gluten-free and vegan (did I mention vegan??), that are more healthful and that appeal to everyone.  I want to bake with mindfulness, with love.  I want love and well-being to be the ingredients, along with organic sugar and fair trade cocoa.  You don’t have to be gluten-free or vegan to enjoy Zen Cat Bakery’s Oh Snap! Triple Ginger Cookie…you just have to love a good cookie! 

What this experience has brought me thus far:  joy, sweat, tears, happiness, fear, surprise, fatigue, discipline, determination, many friendly faces and love.  All those things you get when you are following your path of heart.

There are 2 things that keep me going

1 – When I ask myself “Can I do it, can I run a bakery business?”  I remember my husband’s reply when I asked him this question early on:  “You are doing it”.  Present moment lesson for me.

2 – Curiosity.  My CEO friend emphasized the act of being curious in life.  Ask questions, find answers.  This helps in figuring out new recipes, new markets, business strategies, and of course what makes me tick, what makes others tick.   

For good measure, there’s a 3rd – My dreams and ideas keep me going:  What’s next?  How can I grow the bakery?  What new healthful creation will people love to eat?  And the inevitable:  what comes after the bakery, what’s next on my life’s journey?


Angie has recently began selling her delicious baked goods through Etsy, opening the world up to her yummy treats!! (check them out – they are a delight!)

I've tried several of her products, and have JUST received my second batch of brownies (my favorite!!).   From the packaging, to the personal note of thanks, to  the care and love I know goes into everything she bakes – Angie has created amazing and delicious baked goods that satisfy a gluten-free diet, while not sacrificing taste that some might expect from gluten-free food.  I eat these just because they taste great!!

Keep up with Angie by visiting Zen Cat Gluten-Free Bakery, liking her Facebook page, and buying her deliciousness on Etsy!
 

Note: This is part of a series where I feature people who are on their true peak journey.  If you're interested in sharing your story, please contact me.

“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” ~ Lao Tzu

Today our guest is Christian Hollingsworth, from Smart Boy Designs.  Christian writes about blogging and life at his site, and has created an active community through the stories he weaves.

Below Christian shares a part his story, as he has continues his true peak journey.

Please read and enjoy…

I’m going to put it bluntly, straightforward from the beginning.

I found my true peak by forgiving myself and understanding that I make mistakes.

The past couple of months have been a whirlwind of learning for me. A time to ponder and consider the great questions of life. For a year I was serving as a service missionary in Colorado and then November of 2010 I got incredibly ill. At first it was thought to be the flu, but I never got better. Heart problems, stomach issues, joint pain and more. At this point, over seven months of being ill, the doctors still don’t know what is wrong.

It’s been during this time that I’ve grown the most.

Let’s Go Back a Little Bit

I feel like I’ve had a blessed life. A life full of opportunity and kindness given to me. Brought into my life my forces unbeknownst to me. Life has been handed to me – and I’ve always had no excuse (in my mind) to be my very best.

In short, I have always been my own worst enemy and critic.

Whether it’s a simple drawing or essay, I’ve always been the one to judge myself. The one to say I haven’t done my best. That little voice who distills in my mind – bringing the negativity. Do you ever feel that way? Do you ever feel like you’re the toughest person in the universe, on your own work and output? I often did, and still do sometimes.

I Choose to be Positive.

In order to fight it, I had to understand and firmly believe in a simple truth.

Negativity is not my natural spirit.

That’s not how I’m supposed to be. That’s not who I am. Those feelings are and were only the feelings of the negativity we face on a daily basis – that creeps in from the world.

From our youth we are often positive. We’re going to climb the highest mountains and be the next astronaut on the moon. We’re going to accomplish everything and take others with us. Then the world, people and our own selves start to voice their own opinion. They tell us it’s not possible, we can’t make it, and what we’re bringing to the table isn’t enough.

Don’t believe them.

My True Peak

Let’s go back to my original thoughts. Being ill.

It’s been during this time that I’ve been humbled to the core. I’ve been brought down to a tremendous low. It’s often during these times that we rise, and make something great out of the dust.

From being ill I’ve reached my True Peak – because I am quicker to forgive myself. I’ve come to understand that I will make mistakes, difficulty will arise – and that I have the power within to overcome.

That’s the true peak. That’s the peak we each face every day. The mountain we climb.

We’re going to make mistakes – but we’re also going to reach the peak, and summit.

It’s the happy message. The one we should be proud of.

I don’t know that I’ll ever fully reach my True Peak in this life, but do know that I reach smaller, less pronounced peaks each and every day. I’m still young, and have so much to learn.

I’ve got my backpack, filled with some tools of life – and I expect it’s going to be an interesting climb.

Christian Hollingsworth is the creator of Smart Boy Designs, where he talks about living your life to the fullest, with a special attention toward creating an online presence.  Keep up with Christian on Twitter and Facebook.

Note: This is part of a new series where I feature people who are on their true peak journey.  If you're interested in sharing your story, please contact me.

“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” ~ Lao Tzu

Today our guest is Gina Johnson, from goodthingz.  Gina is a life/business coach based out of Illinois.  About a year ago, she created the goodthingz site, as a way to really focus on the good things that were uplifting and energizing for her.  This is a wonderful story of how we truly become what we think.

Below Gina shares her story, as she has continues her true peak journey.

Please read and enjoy…

Almost one year ago, I decided to start a social networking site aimed at inspiring people to live positive and productive lives. goodthingz is the name of the site, and it is the home of the goodthingz movement.

What is this goodthingz movement all about?

Well, it is really about 3 main things.

  1. Choosing to be/ stay solution focused when dealing with negative events and/or people in life.
  2. Searching for and focusing on what is right in life rather than what is wrong in life.
  3. Celebrating one’s joys and interests with others, and in turn choosing to walk away from unnecessary drama and gossip.

All three of the above sentences can be summed up in four words, “Be the bright side”, and this is the goodthingz slogan.  It is a slogan that reminds me that my attitude and outlook are always my choice.
 

What inspired the goodthingz movement?

I was inspired to start the goodthingz movement after I had been posting on the goodthingz twitter site for about 6 months.  I started the goodthingz Twitter account because I was at a dark and lonely place in life. My dad had recently passed away, and I was simultaneously experiencing many other big changes, both personally and professionally. To say the least, there were a lot of stressors, and not a lot of obvious positives surrounding me at that time.

Unfortunately, I allowed my thinking to follow the course of the events/situations around me, and I immersed myself in a lot of negativity. Negativity bred negativity. Negative thoughts led to negative behaviors which attracted negative people. You get the idea; I chose to deal with life’s negatives by being negative, and my reward was unhappiness. Luckily, at some point, I realized I wasn’t going to get my life back on track until I made a point to get my thinking back on track. As a licensed mental health therapist and certified life coach, I was well aware that I could not just tell myself to think differently, more positively, that is. Instead, I needed a strategy, a way to structure my thinking and to follow up with positive/productive actions.

It was then that I decided to make a game out of it. I opened a twitter account, named it goodthingz and challenged myself to find 10 “good things” to post each day. I wish I could say that it was all downhill from there. No, I quickly learned that finding 10 good things to post each day was easier said than done. However, I was determined to feel better, and I knew an adventure in positive/productive thinking and behaving was the treatment I needed. I asked myself what I enjoyed before life (and I) had taken a negative turn, and I returned to those things (i.e., music, art, design, self help articles/books, movies, bicycles, photography, nature, etc). I then made  a point to post something from  those categories every day.

While at first, it felt as if I was going through the motions, it didn’t take long for me to start experiencing joy when looking and finding my good things for the day. Perhaps, more importantly I noticed that in my downtime, away from work, I was thinking differently, in a more positive/productive way. Rather than worrying or dwelling about the negatives in life, I was dealing with them and moving on. Moving on to learning more about an author that I  found while searching for my goodthingz site, or I was off to take a photo to share, or to look up a new song title.   I was making time for the good things and it was paying off. Possibly best of all, I was learning how to better connect with other people through positive things vs. negative things. All of the above left me feeling more energized and invigorated. Instead of feeling bogged down by life’s problems, goodthingz gave me more energy to work toward solving those problems. Slowly but surely I changed for the better and so did my life.

After 6 months of posting good things on Twitter and experiencing positive changes in my life, I decided that I would like to create a venue for other people to do the same. I took my idea to Surface 51, a local web and design firm,  that is comprised of people I genuinely like and trust. They were immediately on board and after a lot of hard work, the goodthingz site was up and running. We also have several plans for future development on the goodthingz site.

How to get involved with goodthingz

First, visit goodthingz and join our community! Next, find and share your good things with us.
 
Here are a few examples of how people are currently using the goodthingz site and contributing to the community.

  • To develop a more positive and productive mindset. Make a goal to find and post 2-3 good things a day. (It can be anything, a pic of something cool, a story about someone thoughtful, a great song you heard on the radio, or a piece of art your friend showed you.) Don’t sit back and wait for good things to cross your path; go searching for them and bring them to us! The acts of searching for and sharing good things day after day is a proven way to better your overall mindset and mood.
     
  • To maintain and grow an already positive and productive mindset. We are all adversely affected by negativity bias; searching for and sharing good things each day helps prevent negativity from taking hold of us. Even more, finding and sharing good things prevents stagnation and promotes growth.
     
  • To inspire, encourage and motivate others. By contributing to the goodthingz site you are helping to create a databank of good things…a databank that anyone can and will visit to find strength, encouragement, wisdom and humor. You never know when someone will tell you that your post made their day.
     
  • To build and store collections of good things unique to you. Goodthingz gives you one place to store all of the positives you find in life. Are there certain songs that motivate you, certain places that hold special memories, pictures that make you smile, videos that inspire you? Collect them and store them on your goodthingz page. What a great place to return, to share laughs with friends or to find some relief after a stressful day.

It is my hope that goodthingz will mean many things to many people. Perhaps it will mean inspiration to some, safety to others and hope to all.  I would love to see you there!

Gina Johnson is the founder of goodthingz movement, an online community to share all the things that inspire and energize.  Keep up with Gina on Twitter and on the goodthingz site.

Note: This is part of a new series where I feature people who are on their true peak journey.  If you're interested in sharing your story, please contact me.

“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” ~ Lao Tzu

Today, our guest is Jacqueline Way, from 365 Give | Changing The World One Day at a Time.  Jacqueline recently started on a quest to make a difference in our world, every day, and document that journey.  From that, her site has become a place to share something, every day , that is good in the world – from her, and from others making a difference in their own unique ways. 

Jacqueline shares her story of life, and of finding a deeper purpose in all that she does.

Please read and enjoy…

 

Do you ever wonder what your true calling is? Do you ever wonder why you are here or what the meaning of your life is?

What Is My Purpose?

I have asked myself this question often. It started when I began my own business in my late 20’s. I started in the wonderful world if fundraising. Previously, I had many opportunities to grow my business and get involved in the corporate world but I made a clear decision based on my “calling.”  I’m not religious but I heard this voice – that little voice we all have. It was calling to me and telling me to base my business on giving back. I didn’t have a million dollars to give away but I knew I could raise it through other people. Fifteen years later I have done just that. I have used my skills to raise more money than I could ever give by listening to my calling.

Then Comes Middle Age

Then I hit 40. Oh that magic age that makes us sit and reflect what we have done to date. All of a sudden I was half way through my life, I had a two year old and I wanted to do more (as if raising a child and running my own business wasn’t enough). But the voice was getting louder and louder.  I wanted to get to the end of my life and know I had done everything in my power to leave the world a better place for my beautiful son, his friends and future generations. I sat, (I had no choice I had broken my foot – the gifts life gives us!) I pondered, I thought, I wrote, I waited to be inspired. I waited..and waited…and waited… and then it came!

Inspiration!

It hit me one day when I asked myself some important questions.

  • When was I happiest?
  • What made me work until the wee hours of the night just because it made me happy?
  • If I was asked to get up in front of an audience with no preparation and speak passionately on one topic what would it be?
  • If I won a million dollars what would I do with it?

The Answers 

The answers were there, I just had to listen. The answers to all of my questions came back to the same thing. I wanted to change the world! Wow what a big statement from one person.

I wanted to inspire other people to give more in their lives. I wanted to find a way to make people understand that our everyday actions and choices could change the world. I’m not Bono or Oprah but I am someone. I am one person that could do something every day to make the world a better place. I had few financial resources to start a worldwide movement, little technical background but I had a vision and desire. I had passion, I was inspired and I had the drive to figure it out. I had one other thing as well that had been holding me back for far too long….

Fear

Have you ever been so scared to start something you know nothing about that you just don’t do it? I have done it many times. I have tons of brilliant ideas to change the world but fear always held me back.

  • What would people think?
  • Where would I get the money?
  • How would I do it alone?
  • Who do I think I am?

 Not this time. I had a son to think of and an example to set. What kind of an example was I setting if I let my fear get the best of me and let my life go by without at least trying. I took a deep breath and jumped. I asked for help and the perfect person appeared to hold my hand to get me going. I started a blog, 365give.ca. Eight months ago I didn’t even know what a blog was. But I had to write – everyday. It was going to be my mission. Do one thing to give back to the world everyday and blog about it. I did forget one thing about myself – I’m not a writer! I can ask people for money for a good cause, but I’m not a writer. I started writing every day. Then came the challenge to get my blog noticed. Twitter? Facebook? No one told me I had to become a social media expert so someone would read my writing! Ahhhh! In comes the fear – I don’t do social media. I do now. I’m not an expert but I do my best.

Happiness

Happiness comes in many shapes and sizes. It can be as simple as taking the first lick of your favourite ice-cream or lying on a beach listening to the waves. It can be a first kiss or your first born. The happiness your get from giving back every day is something no one can take from me. It doesn’t come and go, it doesn’t leave you or fade. Giving everyday has brought me a happiness that gets me up in the morning and drives me. It helps me write, it helps me Tweet and Facebook. It even keeps my fear at bay.

The greatest gift of giving is what you receive from it. The look on someone’s face, the first time your son picks up garbage to help the planet without any prompting. Or it could be a surprise email in your inbox from someone like Lance that inspires you to keep going.

Exploring

Taking the time to explore what it all means to you is time well spent. I have found my calling. It is giving. It has made me feel like I am moving in the direction I should be going. It will change and evolve as I move along this journey but I now know I am heading in the right direction.

What will you do to move in the direction you should be going? Will you listen?

Jacqueline Way is the founder of 365give, an online diary of one woman’s actions and impact in changing the world every day for 365days. 365give has the potential to create a movement of giving and a community of committed ”givers” that can educate and inspire future generations.  Keep up with Jacqueline on Twitter and Facebook.

Note:  Photos provided, in part, by Karen Somers Photography.