Bonus: Whitney English

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Whitney English is a powerful entrepreneur. She’s built multiple businesses through rocky terrain, all the while staying constant in her biggest endeavor: being mom.

In this interview look for:

  • How she describes the difference between vision, values and goals. Probably my favorite explanation of those concepts.
  • How to discover your own values.
  • How vision can follow and flow from gratitude.
  • Her new definition of “HEART” goals. I really liked that.

Notes from the conversation:

My process changes over time. Full disclosure: I’m the least consistent person you know, so what I do one day is different from what I'll do another day. But I have to have these judo life-hacks to help me manage my mind and my life. There's so many layers to that conversation… I could talk about goals, passions, basic tasks, this concept of living intentionally…

“Follow your passion” is a croc of crap

The whole entrepreneurship, follow your passion, follow your dream thing is a croc of crap. I have bootstrapped two businesses from nothing to 7 figures on 2 separate occasions in life, working on my 3rd right now. I love the process of bootstrapping something. Reflecting back on how I did it the first time, someone said "of course you did, you followed your passions." What? I mean, I like stationary, there are studies that show that having good looking writing stuff can make you more productive. But, when I started that business i had a background in retail stationary. I didn't follow my passion, I followed a knowledge space, something I knew about. It wasn't this big alignment thing, after a while my heart stopped singing about it. Actually, the business filed bankruptcy.

Instead, I learned to live in alignment with my values

Then, second business was going through the self discovery process of "why did the first business fail." Had my passions changed? It was this whole self awareness thing. Through the process of journalling I discovered I wasn't living my values. If you looked at how I spent my time and money — the two most valuable resources any entrepreneur has — I wasn't aligning my actions with my words. I said I wanted to be entrepreneur to spend more time with my family, but I was 60 hours a week at the office. I was saying one thing and doing another.

So, Day Designer, the second business, had to come from my values, I wanted to build it out of my values. So every decision we made was completely different. But again, I wasn't just following my passions, I knew how to do this stuff, I was following that knowledge base. And I DO love planning, totally. I had all these sticky notes all over my desk, a pile of paper in every corner, "If I could just get organized, my biz wouldn’t fail and my life wouldn't be in shambles." So, I started drawing grid lines on pieces of paper, if I had my schedule on one side and tasks on another, then I'd be OK. Now we're in Target, partnerships, etc. So, we've restructured a lot of thigns, still creative directing things but its been an awesome blessing to turn some of that stuff over to other people.

What are values?

I walked myself through this process of looking at any categories and asked myself "how do I spend my time and how do I spend my money?" I spend zero time on closet and wardrobe, I’m not a fashion person, minimum amount of investment, min amount of time. It's not a value. Going through the categories with this granularity, I came up with the top five values. What are the top 5 and what's a word I can associate with, which I made myself memorize, corny but it works for me.

My values are: faith, family, gratitude, creativity and personal growth.

When I looked at my life through the lens of behavior (how I spend my time and money) those were the 5 values that clearly spoke to me. These are what matters most… to me.

Find your own values and live from the inside out

How can you do this yourself? The first thing I’d say is: do the work, Trust the process. I went to onsite therapy center, it was great. "Trust the process" signs all over the place. Do the work, trust the process. When the feelings come, acknowledge them. Be kind to yourself, you have this feeling, this crappy feeling this good feeling, feel it. Don’t shut down and don't be afraid of it. Of all the hard work we’ll do in our lives, personal development is some of the easiest hard work we’ll do. It’s scary, but it’s a lot less sweaty than other hard work.

During this season it was really scary. Marriage on rocks, first biz failed, husband wasn't gainfully employed. We had no sense that anything was going to work out again. Growing up we had what we needed, but we were poor. I remember crying to my dad saying, "we're just gonna have to be content to be poor." There wasn’t a lot of opportunity or hope in the story when we started Day Designer. So, I was going through my vision/values stuff when things were very difficult, almost bleak.

Sometimes we have to let life flow from the inside out instead of trying to make “smart” or “right” decisions to satisfy the external world. That’s what a lot of my life was like, looking at the outside world and trying to think up strategies that would work, that would be smart, that would be “right” according to the other people in my life. So my head was filled with all this chatter all the time, all this worry, “what if we did this? What if we did that? What are they talking about? Is there something I don’t know? What should we be watching on television?” And so, for me personally, the shift towards looking from the inside out was huge. This is so much better; this is the thing I’ve been looking for my whole life, and it’s about surrendering to that, allowing that. But before all that is just the awareness of it.

Use gratitude

Gratitude is the root of so many things. My husband and I going through hard things and it's first world problems, but we're working through our own stuff and I've had to find gratitude. I'm like, "you know what, we need to say thank you, for all the crap, pain, etc. Say thank you for everything you’re letting go of right now.“ We've got all this change and shift going on, and the second I started being aware of the hard stuff, I started realizing we’re in this position to chase this crazy dream I’ve always had; I call it "adventure homeschool mom,” rent an RV and drive around the entire US. We're gonna go to Europe, let's go explore history. As soon as I started saying “thank you” and working with gratitude, this vision started revealing itself, and I realized it had been there for a long time.

Values, Vision and H.E.A.R.T. Goals

There's VALUES, like constellations, like a magnetic north we’ll be navigating by for the rest of our lives. And then there’s VISION which is like "let's head south.” And then there's GOALS which are like, "we have to be in Amarillo by morning."

When my business failed I thought, what's wrong with my goals? I looked at my list and realized I only had business goals. I didn't have faith and family goals, just business goals. I came up with this little acronym: HEART goals:

  • Help yourself (self care),
  • Everyone else (husband kids nothing trumps them but self care),
  • Attitude and Academics (What am I doing to learn and grow),
  • Resources (where my money goes, it's 4th not first, it’s a stewardship thing, not a driver),
  • Trade (business and career).

With Values and HEART goals there’s no fail or succeed, only progress

When I started using this process to not only plan bigger goals, I used that process for 5 year goals, ten year goals, 1 month goals, using a monthly calendar and asking “what am I going to work on this month? I asked myself in each of these categories what am I gonna work on? There's no fail or succeed, the only thing that matters on those is progress. That's one of my productivity hacks, let's go down this list, can I put a check mark beside each of these things and I can that moves the needle. Because the work in each of those HEART categories is its own reward.

I think when we start from that place of who you are, what are your values your strengths, your interests, the things that set your heart on fire, you can't guarantee they lead to entrepreneurial success. Most of the time I feel like entrepreneurs who have really succeeded are doing some of that but not that alone. If theres this thing that's burning within you, just hold it with open hands and see if it won't leave you alone. Put it on the task list, track it with a progress bar. For me starting another business right now, I've almost embarrassed myself trying things the last 6 months, flower popup shops, etc. There's no shame in dabbling, no shame in trying things out, open-handing the projects, holding them with open hands and if it comes back to me then I'll spend more time with it.

Our society is so good at saying "here's this high, chase it." but you'll always be looking for the next hit, it's so self serving. Maybe this world isn't about me, maybe it’s about helping others? Maybe it's about purpose instead of passion, more about your values, strengths, etc. How can you use those to serve other people?