Kids Need Goals Too

I sit staring a blank computer screen pondering…while a thousand things come to mind, those ideas don’t feel like the right thing to write about…my computer sits in a bright sunroom that looks out onto our street with sidewalks covered with what seems like six feet of snow. And even with all that snow, we get a lot of foot traffic… as I sit, looking out and continuing to ponder, a group of young people go by… even bundled up, you can tell it’s our next generation because they exude energy, laughing with their big, brightly colored pom-pom hats going down to the lake to skate in 13 degree weather.  And that got me inspired: our young people.

This past week I realized I was inspired by our young people and what our generation has too look forward to with the next generation.  Earlier this week, was the Alpine downhill state ski race. There were eight teams out of the entire state of Minnesota that made it to this grand finale so it is kind of a big deal.  And if you’ve ever watched Lindsey Vonn (congratulations on your beautiful career) it’s a sport of all or nothing. And the nothing comes in the form of painful crashes, slide outs and heartbreak.  These young people and their amazing coaches, spend two months, six days a week day in freezing cold temperatures practicing for this moment. The race consists of two runs. The final score is tabulated by the top four scores from the team of six skiers.  If you fall on either run, your pretty much done, and if two kids fall, it’s likely the team may not place. It’s unforgiving. And this is where I saw resilience. From schools all over Minnesota, these kids have a common bond and could cross over to console each other from whatever school when they didn’t go as fast as they wanted or the skid out and fell. I heard them congratulating and celebrate when others tore up that course and shredded it. At the end of that day,  when all the scores were tabulated, our boys’ team placed second and the girls third, nestled in between the powerhouse high schools of the sport. Our teams had never made the podium in the tens of years history of skiing for Minneapolis. One of the senior’s moms hugged me as the medals were being placed around the kids, she said with tears in her eyes, she was having a moment as this had been her sons goal since he started skiing alpine. All this time, effort and an amazing outcome in the Northwoods of Minnesota.  It was truly inspiring.

Kids need goals too, to realize what they need to work towards and persevere to attain them. I hope this helps shift your thinking about possibilities, gives you a little inspiration and if you have kiddos, have a conversation with them about what they want to achieve to get them thinking.  

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There is No Elevator to Success

As the holidays are upon us, we often see friends we haven’t gotten a chance to connect with over the year. Inevitably, we get the question, how’s the book and Shift & Spark?  And every once in a while, we get the question: “do you have any advice? I’m thinking of starting my own gig.” And while we love to hear of anyone flexing their entrepreneurial spirit it’s important they go in with their eyes wide open.  There are so many misconceptions about what ‘it’ really is. Usually with the assumption that there is only success on the other side without really understanding what’s behind the scenes. So for any of you thinking about that next thing being your own thing, here’s a little advice:

  1. Be prepared for the hard work. The truth is, it’s long hours, its sacrifice and you constantly need to be working ‘it’.  When you don’t, any momentum you’ve had stops. Consistency is key – set goals and make an annual plan, a monthly plan and a weekly plan to keep that momentum moving forward.
  2. Embrace all your successes, no matter how small. For us, it’s an email from a friend saying our book is exactly what she needed or partnering with other woman-owned business to highlight what we do and further the conversation. We may not have a big bank account but our business pays us in other ways.
  3. Be courageous enough to take the first step even if you can’t see the path ahead.  It’s okay if you keep your day job to give you income, health insurance, etc. If you’re serious about starting a business, do your research on what it is you think you want to do, make a business plan (including the financials) then if it still seems feasible,  go for it. In ten years, you can look back and realized all you’ve learned instead of regretting the fact you never started.

For a little more inspiration, you can check out some success really great stories (including ours) at My Founders Story.


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How to go from I can't to I can and achieve your goals

What’s stopping you from reaching (fill in the blank here)?

We talk to a lot of people exploring their goals and dreams and their why… They are realizing their need for “something” different. And that realization leads to curiosity (one of our favorite things). However, when the going gets tough it can also lead to “I can’t”:

  • look for a new job
  • follow my entrepreneurial spirit
  • bake that three-layer cake
  • (fill in the blank here)

“I can’t” can be full of excuses, lack of confidence and an inability to prioritize the things to do to start (or re-start) our journey to fulfillment.

When we get a stuck and need to get back on the road to curious, we try different things to get our tough going again and reach our (fill in the blank here). Here’s three of our favorites:

  1. Squash your inner bully: we can be really mean to ourselves saying hurtful things: “I look fat”, “This is way too hard, I can’t do it”.  Would your friends ever say this to you or vice versa? Next time your inner voice starts bullying, turn it around…indulge yourself with kindness instead.  Then keep saying nice things to yourself all day long.
  2. Volunteer: not only are you helping someone else, you are helping yourself. There is a ton of research around this topic, but who needs the research, you know how good it feels and it also helps put things in perspective.  Check out:
  3. Sing and dance: we like to call it a Dance-a-teria.  Put on your favorite music, close the curtains and have a dance party.  Or put on Wii Just Dance (the one in your basement that hasn’t been used in a while).  Or turn the volume up on your favorite tunes while doing the dishes. Just let yourself go. It is pure energy and just plain fun (especially with friends) and we all need a bit of that positive energy in our lives.


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Big Audacious Goals

Recently, we had the pleasure of attending an amazing night that celebrated vibrant woman and their stories at the first ever, Work Hard for the Money event in Minneapolis.  We laughed, we cried and we embraced all the beauty that makes us who we are. Dr. Claudia May was the first storyteller…she talked about audacity. Interestingly, that word has two very different meanings. Until recently, in our language, we’ve been using the the form of “she had the audacity to do (insert a rude or disrespectful behavior here)”.  Instead, she lets audacity shine in its other definition of  “willingness to take bold risks”.

It got us thinking about the concept of bold risks… and Big Audacious Goals (BAG). BAG is different for everyone. For some it may be to ride a rollercoaster, others to start their own business, or like our friend Sally Vardaman Johnson, develop and produce a night to engage woman who work hard for their money.  Sally came to us back in March with a BAG: she wanted to create a night of storytelling. Fast forward to October 9th and she was doing it. That first night back in March, we talked about the efforts, time commitment, money and the unknowns of never having produced a show. We are here to say Sally rocked her BAG because she knew no matter what was thrown at her, she is a strong, smart woman and she could do this.

How can you take that spirit and BAG it for yourself?

  1. Describe what it is you really want to accomplish: visualize what your future holds then write it down.
  2. Make a plan: starting from that vision, what are the three things you need to do to get there?
    • Now, in all honesty, those three things may have some “to-dos” of their own, know you have to start somewhere and once you start on your journey, things will fall into place.
  3.  Put some timing to your action: Dates can keep you accountable to your action. As Nelson Mandela said, “it always seems impossible until it’s done”.

Shift your thinking to I. M. Possible and you will BAG it.

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Start to be Great

“You don’t have to be great to start but you have to start to be great”

Apparently, in the spring of 2017, I was one of the few people who did not utterly consume S-Town, a podcast  from Serial and This American Life, that was downloaded more than 40 million times in its first two months. It tells the story of John B. McLemore, resident of Woodstock, Alabama, a complex genius, clockmaker and tinkerer. When I finish the seventh and last episode, I was yearning for more… I was left with more questions than answers. The story was not wrapped up in a nice little bow where all the mysteries were solved. Instead, it left me thinking and wishing I could know more. It reminded me that life is not a series of pretty little bows, it’s tangled, sometimes gnarly and sometimes calm.  While we yearn for the calm, it is in the chaos that change happens, as i realized in this podcast.

Change: you’ve been talking about getting a new job for a year now, eating healthier, saving money… If you were able to achieve these goals – great… but if not, are you stopping to ask yourself why?  Goals can be lofty OR you can start smaller and build from there. This is a very digestible article from Nicolas Cole to give you some ideas to get changing:

#shiftandspark #changeyourlife #findyourhappiness #jobsearch #careerchange

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Setting goals to design your life

We love different perspectives and Chris Guillebeau has a way of sharing unconventional strategies. After traveling the world (literally every country) between 2002 and 2013, he’s gained a unique world perspective and some fantastic advice for setting your goals and designing your life. Check out his blog below (an oldie but a goodie) – it’s worth the read.

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Who should you invite to your table? | Shift & Spark Blog

Who sits at your table?


She said: “In my head, I just haven’t quite figured out what I want to do”

We said: “Maybe you should talk to someone not in your head”

It’s that time of year, the look back to look forward. Did you set out with a goal and accomplish it?  Then celebrate.  Or is that goal going onto this year’s list?  That’s okay too… sometimes it takes a little more discovery before you can actually make it happen. The important thing is not to go it alone.

To put this in perspective think of an everyday task – like washing dishes and cleaning the kitchen. When you go it alone, it can take a while, but get your significant other, kids or even dinner guests (I know can you imagine) to help, the time flies by and it’s done. Why would or should decision-making be any different?  If you do it in a vacuum (aka solo) sometimes the outcome might just suck (yes, pun intended)… but add others’ perspectives and you’ve created potential. We like to think of this as a kitchen table – where lots of important conversations take place – who sits at yours to help you through?

As you look to this new year and consider what makes your 2018 list, start by inviting your team to your table, a group of people who will hold you accountable and cheer you on to greatness.  To give you a well-rounded approach, your team, your board of directors should be diverse – if you have all the likeminded thinkers, you may end up right back here next year.

Challenge yourself to find different sets of skills like:

  • Cheerleader – they offer their undying support and enthusiasm, they don’t need to know your skill set to know that you are awesome!
  • Good Listener -This person creates a safe environment for you to speak they give you the confidence to answer the questions and sort it all out.
  • Creative Problem Solver – they look at everything with a different perspective. They don’t get overly emotional; they use logic and some intuition to solve your problems.
  • Savvy Politician – They get the politics of the business/situation you’re in. They are amazing at navigating difficult situations.
  • The Straight Shooter – They tell it like it is…and they force you to be real with yourself.
  • Champion – They know your capabilities, inside and out, personally and professionally, could be a former boss or your “work” wife.

Who will hold you accountable for your 2018 goals? Who’s going to coach you, guide you or cheer you on to greatness?  You have that answer, now go and ask them for their help.

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Personal and Professional Goals

Why two sets of goals? Here’s why: We’re typically so focused on our career goals that we forget the me part and that can lead to unhappiness at work and at home. When our accomplishments are out of whack as to where we want to go as women, wife, mom, friend we can be left feeling empty or unfulfilled. Ask yourself, what do you need in your personal life to make you feel good about your professional life or vice versa. And then write them down. You may notice that your worlds may be competing with each other, for example you may want to spend more time with your kids, but you also want that promotion at work, but the stress of trying to achieve both is killing you. So maybe a good goal for you would be to spend more uninterrupted time with your kids, you know without checking your phone, or maybe it’s simply to adjust when you go in and when you go home. Personal and professional goals can coexist and they don’t have to be monumental to feel good, achieving the goal no matter how big will help you feel great and accomplished.

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Sally’s Job Hunt

The following was written by our dear friend Sally Vardaman Johnson.

Sally Vardaman Johnson is a health insurance professional and writer. She recently added standup comedy to her endeavors to stretch her creative muscles and show her kids you’re never too old to try something new.  You can read her occasional ponderings at, and follow her on Twitter at @vardaman_sally. 

Kathy Engen and I met years ago when our boys attended kindergarten together.  Those boys will soon start their last year of middle school.

At the time Kathy worked with an outplacement service helping recently laid off professionals find a new job – resume drafting, interview coaching and the like.  I barely knew her, but she said something back then that stuck with me.  She really believed there was a job for everyone.  Each person just needed to find it, and sometimes they need help doing so.  When I heard her say it, I immediately believed her.

Many years later, Kathy and Linda Heath published a book, gol: a curated guide to the modern day job hunt.  These women are kind, strong and generous contributors to our community.  Of course I was going to buy a copy to support them.  But I didn’t really need it.  Nope.  I am not the workbook type.

Not long after their publication date, however, my workplace changed rapidly.  Suddenly my own job seemed in jeopardy.  I am a self-supporting, single mother, and I was terrified.

You know what is really hard to do when you are scared?  Feel good about yourself and promote yourself.  Fear fans the flame of economic vulnerability.  I knew better than to panic, but I was not sure what to do instead.

Around that time Kathy and Linda appeared on a local news show promoting their new book.  They talked about returning to the workforce after a long hiatus to care for young children, which I had done a few years back.  It’s hard returning at first, and easy to get caught up doing work that draws praise.  You can find yourself following what other people think you should do, instead of discovering what you want to be doing.

I heard that description and instantly identified.  I did not even like my job, and already felt the environment did not fit me.  But the absence of my paycheck would be an immediate crisis for me.

On a quiet, cold Minnesota evening, I sat in front of a fire with my new copy of gol.  I shelved a swirl of negative thinking and excuses, and made myself work through the pages until I ran out of answers.  I was sad.  I felt I was on the wrong path and it was too late to fix it.

But gol, and my rising anxiety, pushed me into action.    I wrote down things I wanted professionally and personally, and stared at them side by side.  I thought I had considered such things in tandem, but seeing them on paper was powerful.  It grounded my thinking and helped me brainstorm what changes to my existing job would nudge me closer to a different path.    In 2012 Neil Gaiman gave a commencement speech to the University of the Arts.  In it he describes imaging your big goal as a mountain, and assessing opportunities by whether they move you toward or away from your mountain.

Over the next week I polished my resume and forced myself to send it out without overthinking it.  I broke from gol’s advice here and rushed it out the door.  I later discovered a horrifying typo on the cover letter of my first submission.  But hey, I got it out there.  That submission was to a company I had admired for a long time.  It won’t matter, I assured myself.  I don’t know anyone there.  I won’t get an interview.

Turns out I interviewed for two companies, one through a strong professional connection, and the one with my typo memorialized in its system.  Fortunately the algorithm gods plucked me from their database anyway.   These opportunities were both a better fit than my current job.  They required my strongest skill sets, ones not being utilized in my current role.

Here is where my list of personal and professional priorities mattered most.  I work in health insurance.  This is no childhood dream career.   In my list, my long term goals (ahem, dreams) simply could not be executed in the near term.  The most realistic incremental change I identified was to consider my vantage point – what parts of this complex and challenging industry would I be excited to see every day?  My current job was too far from the big solutions being developed.

As I moved through the interview process at each company, I hung my hat on this idea of vantage point.  It gave me something to work toward that mattered to me, rather than escaping a frightening situation.  I asked better questions and had more robust discussions with potential managers and coworkers.  This focus made me a better candidate.  By the way, both companies asked me almost the exact interview questions listed in gol.

Ultimately, I got the job at the company where I sent my typo, where I knew no one.  It was the one I wanted.  Two months in, I am finding my way and am so grateful for the change.  Fear and panic, however uncomfortable, spurred the change I needed.

As I settle into my new role, I think about those dreams I listed – the ones so far from where I am now.  In my mind I have built my mountain, as Gaiman said.  Change will come again, whether I initiate it or not.  My mountain is on paper, and it stares back at me.  I have taken a tiny step in its direction, and now I can begin to imagine the next one.


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Graduation Advice | Shift & Spark

Great advice for the graduate (and their parents too)

It’s the time of year again.  After 13 years of school it’s time for the next chapter. In the Midwest, we have a phenomenon called the graduation party.  These can be elaborate shindigs planned for years in advance with house and landscaping projects revolving around this celebration or a simple gathering of family and friends. Either way, these parties are a great way to rekindle your own friendships and check in with people you may not have seen for years.  It’s also a time when you or your child will be getting a ton of advice from all the well-wishers. 

Yep, there’s no shortage of advice out there.  So we’re going to join in on the fun and pass on this great article from the Wichita Eagle. It pretty much covers it all, makes us smile and nod in agreement. After the hats have flown high in the sky and the grad parties have come to an end – make sure you take the time to read these tidbits, we promise you’ll find something you like.  Tell us your favorite in the comments below.

Here’s to all you special graduates out there. Tomorrow starts today.  

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From Intention to Action to Achieve your Goals

“The most effective way to do it, is to do it.”                              --  Amelia Earhart We’ve all heard it a thousand times: starting is the hardest part. From starting your job search and updating your LinkedIn profile to eating healthier and making time for good friends and great wine, there is no shortage of to do’s to toss in the “I’ll...
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If you can dream it, you can do it.

Today, we are here to celebrate. January 12th marked the launch of our new book: gōl, a curated guide to the modern day job hunt. For our families and many of our dear friends, it has been a long ride - two years in the making from that fateful day we sat lunching and the idea of a book started...
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Say “I do” to Goal Setting

Let’s face it, goal setting can be overwhelming, frustrating, and challenging to say the least. It can also be exciting, inspiring and rewarding. So how do you go from overwhelming to exciting when it comes to goal setting? You give yourself permission to slow down and explore what it is that you really want. That means talking about your hopes...
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