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Peace: The Parting Gift

The Prince of Peace showed me early on that I have no reason to be afraid or have a troubled heart, but that it's really about the absence of something we consider unpleasant.

The peace that passes all understanding….well, let’s just say it took me a while to grasp it.

Two hours after law school graduation, I embarked on my journey into adulthood in a packed-to-the brim Cutlass Olds.

Destination: Miami

18 hours later, I walked to the front desk of the small, Art Deco-style Miami Beach residential hotel where I’d lived the previous summer.

The same building manager handed me the key to my efficiency unit and I walked up 3 flights of stairs. As I reached to insert the key, the unlocked door swung open and I was greeted by an awful stench and a floor littered with trash. I eased inside, peeked into the bathroom, and discovered the source of the disgusting odor.

Clearly, the wicked had not known peace (Isaiah 57:21).

The building manager didn’t ask why when I said I couldn’t live there after all.

I was a bit nonplussed, but I’d faced worse.

I am strong. I am invincible.

Chin up.

I drove across town, booked a room at the Holiday Inn in Coral Gables, and set out to find an apartment unlikely to have been squatted by drug addicts.

It was a quick search. Lease signed, I returned to the hotel and called home to explain the change of plans.

The next morning I reported to work—an eager legal eagle ready to begin my dream job as a corporate securities lawyer. Six new associates were ushered into a conference room, where we learned we would all be doing insurance defense work for two years.

My heart sank.

Fast forward one week. I felt less than invincible but still resilient.

I knew the Lord was in control, but despite a lifetime in church and a deep faith, I was a spiritual baby. If you grew up in a church culture that focused on fire insurance, you understand.

Peace was not flowing like a river.

Two weeks in, the AC on my car retired. I traded the Cutlass for a Suzuki Samurai thinking that would raise my spirits. Of course, things don’t bring peace.

Three weeks in, I was invited to accompany a junior partner to an early morning hearing at the courthouse. I’d worked on the case, so it seemed innocuous. Afterwards, he suggested we stop in at a nearby restaurant for breakfast. Who was I to object?

The Metro train back downtown was standing-room only, and we were scrunched in tightly in the middle of the car. The only place for my hand on the pole between us was at waist level—my waist. At first, I’d thought it was just the crowded train, but with the fourth bump and grind….lightbulb moment.

After this already auspicious start to my day, he invited me to his office, where I learned my new job also came with, as they say, fringe benefits. We could go out on his boat.

A few days later, I turned in my resignation and returned the signing bonus. It was the only choice I could make.

I am woman. With self-respect.

In that moment, I felt a brief shimmering glance of infinite peace in the midst of massive anxiety about my worldly future.

I think I made the right choice, although it changed the trajectory of my life.

As the Rolling Stones sang:

You can’t always get what you want, but sometimes you might find that you get what you need.

That month was life-altering for a 24-year-old, but the wisdom didn’t come quickly. Decades of refinement were required for diamonds to appear.

It turns out that peace really is about the absence of something—self.

When we let go of self, we make room for God to shine his light into our hearts and fill us with the Spirit in which we find true freedom. (2 Corinthians 3:1-6, 4:6, Romans 15:13, Galatians 6:8-10).

Simple, but not always easy. It requires daily practice.

A version of this post was originally published on

"And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how side and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,..." Ephesians 3:17-18. Sheree Martin

Grow Inspire Professional

Mind Meld with Copyblogger’s Brian Clark

Sometimes I think Copyblogger's Brian Clark installed trojan horse in my computer a few years ago when I joined the Authority community.

Or maybe he's just a mind-reader.

Of course, it might simply be a coincidence that has something to do with the fact that we're both non-practicing lawyers of similar age who discovered the internet in the early 90s, way before most of our generation, and we both escaped from the drudgery of law practice.

We also seem to have a similar taste in music.

And, just in case you're curious, this isn't a rant and it's not intended to be mean-spirited.

I feel a sense of validation, knowing that the brilliant Brian Clark comes up with many of the same ideas as I do—and succeeds at implementation.

And since this blog is where I tell my story of my own hero's journey, I thought I'd share this mini-epic—if only to serve as a reminder to myself that I am a hero who's generating the same ideas as early as those who are the masters of the internet universe.

Of course, I would also like to be one of the unemployable at Rainmaker Digital. I think I would make a great podcaster for their team.

[Tweet “The next great member of the @RainmakerFM @Copyblogger team should be @RealSheree”]

In any event, Brian is the “successful” one, at least in terms of business and finance. And I'm a Brian Clark/Copyblogger fan-girl.

Disclosure: I use Genesis framework on many of my websites (not this one) and I've been in the Authority community since 2013 and have paid for the Rainmaker platform since the beta days of July 2014. And I got to say hello to Henry Rollins at the 2015 Rainmaker Authority Conference. None of the links in this post are affiliate links.

Rainmaker Authority 2015 Sheree Martin and Henry Rollins, photo by Brad Crooks
Rainmaker Authority 2015 Photo by Brad Crooks

From Go-Go's and Emma Peel to Digital Media Empire

While I was busy making fan videos to accompany Go-Go's music and uploading those to my hand-coded website, where I blogged about the Go-Go's and TV's The Avengers, Brian was busy figuring out how to harness the power of the internet to build his first internet media empire.

Screenshot of TSMMedia website portal to the Go-Go's section from Wayback Machine Internet Archive

Here's one of my videos circa early 2002, available on YouTube thanks to ValleyEarl (After posting to YouTube in 2007, I took mine down, since I'm risk averse):

While I was stalled as a freelance writer doing long-form copywriting for ad agencies and working as freelance online editor for a couple of manufacturing trade sites, Brian was building his own online business portals.

In 2000, I could see the future and I wanted to be part of it, but I knew that my HTML coding skills weren't going to take me where I needed to go and I didn't have the capital to hire developers.

Like Brian Clark, I was reading Wired, Fast Company, and The Industry Standard.

I saw the future, I understood it. I'd been building “online” relationships since 1990. That's why I'd eagerly embraced the opportunity to do online content editing for Manufacturing Equipment News and Fabricating Equipment News.

I understood Free Agent Nation and the Brand Called You but I didn't have the tech chops to code or the financial resources to hire a developer.

In any event, I'd long since exhausted my 401k from law practice days trying to make it as a writer.

Before WordPress arrived in 2003 to make my life easier, the dot com bubble burst and my freelance writing work largely dried up by the middle of 2002.

So I gave up and finished my Ph.D.

Silly me.

On the plus side, I bought my first iPod in 2001 and was listening to podcasts from the beginning.

Great Minds, Great Instincts

If I've learned one thing over the past 3 years is that I apparently have VERY good instincts for what's coming next.

I've seen it in my own experience and, well, that's what Sally Hogshead has told me.

But the reality is this: I'm not the best implementer of my own ideas, in part because I'm too much of a DIYer.

My DIY mindset is driven by a combination of necessity, learned resilience from certain challenges of my childhood, and an innate desire to understand the how and why of pretty much everything.

The reality is that hiring others, or simply outsourcing simple projects, requires disposable cash. I outsource what I can, but mostly I DIY.

Like I said, I'm still paying for that Ph.D.

Like I said, silly me.

But I digress…..back to Brian Clark and my instincts….

Case in point….

In late March of this year, I happened to be scrolling through my Twitter feed before calling it a night. Something prompted me to click on a tweet from Brian Clark….

I had not, at that point, heard of Brian's project, even though I was receiving a variety of emails from Copyblogger, Rainmaker and Authority.

I'll confess to not reading many of the Copyblogger/Rainmaker emails in February and March–I was teaching 4 courses, had 3 preps, and was actually working on the Shinecast project.

Despite my lackluster open rate at times, I highly recommend Copyblogger, er, Rainmaker Digital resources.

Anyway, I clicked and discovered that Brian's site is about personal development centered around the themes of Health, Wealth and Wisdom. See The Ben Franklin Follies.

At another point in my life, I might have been deflated. Instead, it made me feel good about my vision, however poorly I've implemented it.

Tweet to Brian Clark

I thought about writing this blog post that evening but, like I said, I was busy with my last semester of teaching.

I was also in the midst of starting a new podcast, Birmingham Shines, which I planned to use as a promotional vehicle for my rollout of the expanded Shinecast® media empire.

Instead of writing a blog post about “great minds” or mind-melding, I filed the idea away in my head to write someday, or not.

We're Each On a Hero's Journey

A few days later, in early April 2015, I wrote my About page for the website.

And on that About page, I wrote this, pretty much in the form it appears here:

Each of us is a hero.

Our life is a journey.

On the path, we encounter the people, places and things we are given to teach us the lessons we need to move farther along the journey.

The mission of Shinecast® is to help you on this journey.

We can’t be the true hero of our own life unless we grow into the person we were meant to be.

Real. Authentic. Integrated.

Shinecast is where you find stories, inspiration and the tools to help you Discover, Grow, and Shine in all areas of your life.

The Shinecast vision is about living a whole, real and authentic life in the 21st century.

The Shinecast lifestyle is about achieving health, wealth, wisdom and happiness.

Although I published the About page on April 6, and made a few copyediting revisions since then, mainly to break up the paragraphs into shorter phrases, the essence of my message has been in development since late 2012.

You can see bits and pieces of it on my About page for The Ben Franklin Follies and here on my Shinecast Vision and Values page and in many posts on both websites.

The idea to use the hero's journey as my own metaphor came mainly through my use of the hero's journey as the framework for a freshman Communication Arts course I taught in Fall 2014.

I wanted to find a way to help students move beyond traditional academic essay writing and focus on storytelling.

Bluebird attempts to defend nest from snake Copyright 2013 Sheree MartinThe story behind this photo?

While doing yard work, a cacophony of chattering and screaming birds (of all stripes), prompted me to look up to see a snake slithering into this bird house, where the blue bird's nestlings were housed. I managed to grab my camera and capture a series of photos of the unsuccessful hero bird.

The message to the students in my class:

Each of us is a hero and we're on a hero's journey and we need to face our obstacles, fight our battles, and be transformed.

Aside from learning to tell better stories, I wanted the students to feel empowered as they began their college experience, rather than being stuck in a box that someone else created for them.

In the first class session, I scattered a bunch of boxes on the floor and asked the students to write a few paragraphs about what these boxes represented to them.

It was my way of getting acquainted. I don't like feeling boxed in.

I believe in the power of the hero's journey, so I decided to use it as the framework for all of the content I planned to create and publish under the Shinecast® brand.

The Shinecast mission is premised on the idea that life is a journey, we're on a path, and my Shinecast resources are intended to help shed some light along the way.

If you're interested, check out some of my podcasts on iTunes

  • Discover Grow Shinecast
  • Birmingham Shines
  • Ignite Alabama
  • Shine Springs Farm Shinecast

That Brian Clark Does It Again

So I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised a few days ago to hear Brian Clark talking about each of us being on a hero's journey in his Unemployable podcast conversation with Kathleen Shannon.

That episode is about what makes a brand (hint: it's not the logo) and the importance of authenticity in finding your brand identity.

So anyway, that coincidence was, as they say, the last straw.

I had to chime in with this blog post and my own hero's journey to this place I'm at in mid-September, 2015.

This isn't the whole story.

Even though this version is highly abbreviated, this blog post is long enough, as it is….Keep in mind that I'm a lawyer. We like words. Perhaps I'll use this blog post in my memoirs some day.

Flashback: Spring 2012

By late Spring 2012, I knew I was going to leave my academic position sooner than later.

I had have big, long-term plans for building my Shine Springs Farm and Apiary, so I started looking for ways to transform my blog, The Ben Franklin Follies, into something more than a variety show of content, where I let my curiosity determine what I'd write about or, occasionally, curate.

In September 2012, I started my first podcast, the Shine Springs Farm Shinecast, and quickly realized that:

(a) My love for audio content was stronger than ever. I'd majored in broadcasting in college, with an emphasis on radio, and had worked as a college radio DJ and weekend board operator for my university's big NPR-affiliate station.

(b) Podcasting was only going to get bigger and I wanted to have a whole stable of shows.

(c) The Shinecast was a cool name for a podcast and could be a key part of my branding.

If you listen to the earlier episodes, it's clear that I was learning podcasting, but you have to start somewhere……

From Podcasting to Online Courses

Fall 2012

The Shine Springs Farm Shinecast developed a small, but seemingly loyal, following.

Thanks to Copyblogger, I knew by that point that teaching and online courses were going to be huge, so I registered the domain, Teach Social Business, and put together a website where I would document how I was teaching a college-level social media/content marketing course I'd developed.

I intended to create some type of course to sell to other college professors who needed to teach a course in social media yet didn't fully understanding social media and content marketing.

I started posting to the Teach Social Business site and decided to take a few courses myself, to get a feel for how these online courses worked. It's still there, although it doesn't look very pretty right now.

Chris Brogan's Brave New Year

As it happened, my 50th birthday was coming up in November of 2012 and I'd been on a self-reflection and journaling binge through the Fall of 2012, trying to figure out how to transition out of my academic position into something entrepreneurial that would also support me at my current standard of living.

Chris Brogan happened to announce the launch of his Brave New Year course during the week of my birthday, which always falls around Thanksgiving. I signed up.

Over the next 60 days, I worked through Chris's course and was fairly active in the Brave Facebook group and Google+ community. I also did a couple of other small online courses and joined Corbett Barr's Fizzle program for about 6 months, just as it came out of the beta test.

One mistake I think I made in those months from December 2012 – February 2013 was to listen too much to the feedback I got when I posed questions to community members.

I remember sharing that I was going to develop a course to offer to college professors to help them teach social media and I distinctly remember getting a bit of pushback, including a comment from Chris Brogan that asked something to the effect: “What makes you think a college professor would buy your course?”

He may have meant this in the context of doing audience research, but I felt somewhat chastened. After all, it was Chris Brogan asking the question, not Joe Schmo.

Not long after that, Chris launched his own course, Social Media Mastery. I'm not sure if it had that exact name, originally, but that or a similar course came along not long after I put my idea on the table.

That was the first clue that my ideas had validity, even if I wasn't quite ready for prime-time.

Come On, Get Happy

File info documenting the creation date of Sheree Martin's Happy Life Manifesto

I've always loved my idea for The Ben Franklin Follies, even though I've never expressed it well or executed it well.

Because I'm so in love with it, I've also always been reluctant to let it go and move on.

I still don't know whether I should let it languish or revive The Ben Franklin Follies and I'm still trying to decide. I know all the psychology about sunk-costs and all that. But hey, Pal Joey gets a revival every now and then and The Ed Sullivan Show was huge (in its day).

Some of the blog posts get decent traffic (by my measure), especially for a site that's updated sporadically and is all over the map in terms of content.

The Ben Franklin Follies truly is a smörgåsbord, especially if you go deep into the archives.

In February 2013, I sat down and wrote the basic outline for how I could transform The Ben Franklin Follies into something bigger and better and more focused.

I thought of Ben's essay, “The Path to Happiness,” and the Poor Richard maxim: “Early to bed, early to wise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”

So I wrote my own Happy Life Manifesto about the path to a happy life.

When I set out to look for domains (such as the happy life project), I discovered someone named Gretchin Rubin had written a book called the Happiness Project. I'd never even heard of it. Not wanting to be influenced by her thinking, I avoided even looking at her website. I know she's successful. Props. I look forward to reading it someday soon.

I had still have plans to publish The Happy Life Manifesto as a book of short essays.

After a great deal of back-and-forth, I ultimately revamped the Ben Franklin Follies blog around the theme of helping my audience on the path to health, wealth and wisdom.

And I found someone in England to design a logo for the Ben Franklin Follies:

Logo for The Ben Franklin Follies

By the end of March 2013, I had a website re-design completed and seemed ready to move forward.

But I languished.

Not sure if it was fear, or just too much on my plate.

I got my first two colonies of honeybees in May 2013 and spent massive hours each week from late May through August doing my Shine Springs Farm thing. I loved every minute of it.

Becoming an Authority

In August 2013, as I turned my attention from farming back to teaching, I also turned my attention back to developing my online media empire.

I joined Copyblogger's Authority program and signed up for the first Authority event as soon as registration opened.

I managed to keep my blogging alive, but I continued to languish, seeking advice and letting the short-sightedness of others poke holes in my balloon.

Asking for help on health, wealth and wisdom

I got a couple of bits of meaningful feedback from and one naysayer who apparently didn't ready the part where I wrote that the existing content was all over the place and that I would be more focused in the future.

Of course, I let the naysayer's admonishment hold sway, at least for a while.

Turtles Eventually Win The Race

In the 20 or so months since my post to the Authority forum, I've continued to push forward, sometimes 2 feet forward, 23.9 inches back, but I'm making progress.

I've written an ebook on real food that's essentially ready for sale–just needs a final proof-reading (and a better cover).

In January 2015, I published this guest post on See Jane Write about finding your true north, living authentically, and the Shinecast® mission.

I may be slow out of the gate and slow to execute, but the beauty of the internet is that it's a big playground.

I still believe that I'll succeed and that my plans to offer valuable resources to help others on their path to health, wealth, wisdom and a happy life.

I hope you'll join me on the journey.

After all, we're heroes, even if Billy's fiancé didn't want him to be one.

For what it's worth, I prefer the DeFrancos, the Partridge Family, and the Osmonds (Crazy Horses, y'all).

Sheree Martin about to record a podcast interview at the home of her guest

Grow Professional

Coming Full Circle?

18 years ago—June 1997—I was in the midst of an internal struggle about what I should do next with my life.

On the outside, I was a successful lawyer. I was a shareholder in my law firm and, for the first time in my life, starting to make “real” money, by which I mean that I finally had enough to travel and invest after covering relatively modest living expenses and sizable student loans from law and tax school.

But despite the relative career security and stable financial situation, I was unfulfilled, both professionally and personally. I’d reached a place where I feared I was at the point of no return. Of course, that was probably not the reality of the immediate situation, but that’s what I felt at that point.

The Fork in the Road

I was 34 years old and it seemed like I was about to cross some threshold of life and professional standing that would close off opportunities.

If I stayed in my career as a lawyer, I would forgo the chance to make a significant change for years to come. Whether that was true or not, I don’t know. But that’s what I felt at that point.

I was at the proverbial fork in the road.

For several years I’d been grappling with whether I should be practicing law or doing something else, like writing which seemed to be at the core of my being. I would get up at 5 a.m. most days–sometimes 4–to do my “morning pages” in a journal and then write more professional stuff.

Throughout 1996 I sought the professional advice of others: Spiritual counseling through a pastoral counseling program in my community, professional career counseling, psychological counseling. I met with several professionals in fields I thought might be suitable to get guidance on careers in those fields.

I didn't have anyone in my family or circle of friends that I could call on for real, deep guidance. My brother was the most helpful, but even he could not offer anything more than support. A couple of the lawyers in my firm were as helpful as they could be when I shared things with them, but they could not define my happiness and my own future for me.

Confused & Uncertain

The whole process of counseling left me more confused and uncertain. I could not find a thread of consistency in any of the guidance I received from these others (all men, I recall in retrospect), other than impression that this was going to be something I had to figure out on my own.

I began to realize that the answers had to come from inside.

My heart-of-hearts felt that communication and creativity had to be the core of whatever I did, but I had not idea how to pursue that.

I’d been writing for several years, but had doubts about my ability to “make a living” as a writer. In those days, you still had to be picked by an editor, a publisher, a producer.

On a lark in Fall 1996 I enrolled in a graduate course in organizational communication and applied to take the GRE. I’d explored the possibility of moving from law into corporate communication, to focus on communications in crisis management.

I had been applying for executive-level positions in the PR and corporate communications field and to the extent I ever received feedback on my applications I was told that I was “overqualified” or “underqualified.”

Spiritual Discernment

My morning pages ritual included spiritual reading, writing and reflection and I was a frequent reader of Ecclesiastes. In 1997, as I approached the point of decision, I was deep into struggling with the words in the book of James.

I was very hung up on the faith vs. doubt message of James 1:5-8. I remember asking my brother, an ordained minister, to help me understand that passage.

I wanted to make a wise choice because I knew (or at least felt at the time) that I would be closing a door by leaving my career as a lawyer. I knew I could always practice law again, but I would be leaving a position of relative security and even if I returned to law I would be starting anew, to some extent.

What Goes Around

Anyway, here I am today in 2015 at a very similar point in my life.

In August 2014 I tendered my notice to Samford that I would be leaving the tenure-track position I had and leaving the University in May 2015, when my contract expired. So that decision has been made and is final and I am very confident that was the correct decision.

A few weeks ago, the pastor of my church—Avondale United Methodist—embarked on a summer sermon focus on the New Testament book of James. I’ve been very excited about that because James remains one of my go-to books when I’m perplexed and seeking guidance. That said, I haven’t studied or pondered it, deeply, in a couple of years.

As I began to re-read the first chapter of James on my own over the past few days, I began to focus words and phrases that I had not previously underlined.

This new focus was not of my own intention. As I read, my eyes are automatically drawn to the underlined verses and phrases, which I struggled with in the past, but my perception is different.

Today, I’m seeing the underlined passages in the light of other words not previously emphasized. For example:

“Count yourself supremely HAPPY [emphasis mine, today] in the knowledge that such testing of your faith makes for strength to endure.”

James 1:2

“HAPPY [emphasis mine, today] is the man who stands up to trial! Having passed that test he will receive in reward the life which God has promised to those who love him.”

James 1:12.

“But he who looks into the perfect law, the law that makes us free, and does not turn away, remembers what he hears; he acts on it, and by so acting he will find HAPPINESS.” [emphasis mine, today]

James 1:25

“…By so acting he will find happiness.”

Discovering the Path to Happiness

In February 2013 I sat down to write something that I called the Happy Life Manifesto–my thesis on happiness and what it takes to achieve a happiness, based on the lessons I’d learned in my 50 years of life.

I’d embarked on period of self-reflection in the second-half of 2012, in anticipation of my 50th birthday in late November of that year and you might say the Happy Life Manifesto was the summation of what I'd learned from that process.

What I’d recognized is that I was happy, in spite of an ongoing time of trial and tribulation in my job, uncertainty about the future, and occasional family challenges that still surfaced from time to time.

So it’s interesting to come today to the place where I’m in the midst of a major change in my life and no human certainty as to how it will play out and yet I feel happy and at peace and back in the book of James.

I’m finally moving to turn the Happy Life Manifesto in the book that I envisioned in 2013, when I was about half-way through writing the first iteration. But the thing is this: I don’t think I was fully ready then. Some of the pieces to the puzzle weren’t yet in place.

Happiness Is….

The first thesis in the Happy Life Manifesto is this:

It starts with Love.

When I was writing the Happy Life Manifesto, I wasn’t thinking specifically of the fruits of the spirit, the first of which is love.

Love came from an internalized message that had been growing inside over the past few decades, particularly in the years between 2004 and 2013.

But it’s an even stronger feeling inside today. I don’t think I was fully cognizant in 2013 of what it means to say “it starts with Love.” And for that reason, the book has had to wait until now, when I'm better equipped to write it.

Faith, Hope & Love

I think I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be in June 2015 and continuing to grow into the person and purpose I’m here for now.

I believe I’m in this place for a reason and a purpose.

I am moving in faith to take the actions each day that I discern to be the right ones to fulfill the purpose that I'm here for right now. I'm not perfect–I still get distracted and off-track, but I’m trying.

I’m trying to be the person I am–the person God designed and created.  And taking action in faith.

I have hope–I'm confident, not doubting (at least rarely having a flash of doubt).

And I'm trying, in faith, to BE love.

Love prevails.

[Writer's Note: This is something of a stream-of-consciousness first draft from my journal, edited slightly here for clarity. I write to think.]

Grow Inspire

My Three Words for 2015

My three words for 2015 are: Sceptre, Beams, Orchard

This year, I return to words that serve as metaphors. These three words are the windows to new opportunities and the windows that deliver illumination along the path that leads the way.

Sceptre is my window to authority and the power to speak.

Beams give strength, energy and direction.

Orchard is my window to commitment, design, patience and harvest.

Shout-out to Chris Brogan for inspiring me with the “my three words” practice, which I discovered back in 2010 or thereabouts.

[Tweet “Words are the windows that reveal how we see and shape our world. #3words”]


The sceptre is a symbol of authority and power. The person who holds the sceptre has the duty to act and the right to speak.

Sceptre is the word that came out of the blue to me and seemed to be unrelated to the other words on the short list I started working on a few weeks ago. I've never had a problem giving myself permission to take action, but I sometimes am reluctant to take charge or to speak “loudly.” Until I was around age 24, I wasn't reticent to take on leadership roles.

Something changed in my mid-20s, and I became more reserved, less willing to be “out front” in leadership roles, unwilling to tell my story. I didn't even want leadership roles anymore because I began to associate leadership with hubris and selling-out. I saw too many politicians and corporate-types seize power and then use it to destroy and/or pillage.

In the second half of 2014, I came to realize that I'd done a terrible job of telling my own story of successes, challenges, strengths. And that I'd done an even worse job of explaining how I've been helping others. I came to realize that by refusing to accept my strengths or use them in the public service of others, I had been, in effect, rejecting my calling.

The Sceptre serves as a reminder that I have accepted my mission, and that I have the duty, the power and the authority to speak and act in pursuit of the Shine vision that I've been given. The Shinecast (my focus in 2015) is a part of that mission, as is Shine Springs Farm.


Beams represent energy, strength, illumination and direction.

Energy is revealed through particles and waves that travel in beams.

We perceive light through waves of energy that is reflected off an object.

Navigational guidance comes through electromagnetic signals that are beamed to ships and planes.

Bars of heavy wood or metal serve as beams that support buildings. Without beams, a structure has no real foundation.

A beam also provides the balance to a scale. Think of the scales of justice. The beam is the cross-bar that enables balance.

I am both a recipient and transmitter of beams. I am a beam of light and energy to others.


The Orchard represents design, longevity, legacy.

An orchard requires planning, pruning, patience, and it lasts beyond one season. In the old days, when families lived off the land, orchards were investments for the future and a source (and sign) of wealth.

Orchards require attention to produce a meaningful harvest and the patience to allow nature to proceed at nature's pace.

A successful orchard is not, however, reflected in the industrial-style monoculture we see today in the giant orchards of corporate farms.

A flourishing orchard is filled with a diversity of life, provides habitat for an array of creatures, and delivers a bountiful harvest.

As much as I love gardening and growing things, I'm not using Orchard here in a literal sense, though. Orchard is not about a specific outcome. When the word “orchard” first popped in my head, I kept asking: “Why orchard? Why not garden?” The distinction is something I contemplated for hours, both actively and subconsciously.

For me in 2015, Orchard is about commitment, design, focused effort, pruning where necessary, patience and harvest. The Shine Vision is the orchard. The Shinecast Project and Shine Springs Farm are cornerstone species in the orchard.

What Are Your 3 Words for 2015?

So those are my three words for 2015: What are your three words?

Did you write a post about them? Leave a link below in the comments–I'd love to read your post and find out more about YOUR three words.

2015 is YOUR year to Shine.

[Tweet “2015 is my year to Shine.”]

My three words for 2013: Zoom, Vivace, Jazz

Zoom: Vision for a multi-media “empire” and related to my ability to zoom out to see the big-picture and zoom in to focus.

Vivace: An attitude and zest for life, happiness, health, fitness

Jazz: Improvisation within an ensemble. Great jazz is improvisational, but rarely do great jazz artists perform purely as a solo act.

Find out more about Zoom, Vivace & Jazz and the 2013 year in review here.

The original Zoom, Vivace & Jazz explanation via my post on The Ben Franklin Follies.

My three words for 2014: Now, Be, Do

Now: Focus on the now, live in the present moment.

Be: Be authentic, live true to myself, stop striving and simply “be” as my new mission unfolds.

Do: Take action, while letting go of the need to control results (see above).

Image Credits: Photo of the sceptre is from WikiCommons and in the public domain by creator Michal Maňas (Snek01).  Other Photos by Sheree Martin.

my #3words 2015 sceptre, beams, orchard and 3 words for past years are now, be, do and zoom vivace jazz, words in moleskine


The Unexpected for Thanksgiving

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, my mom fell down the stairs and broke her hip. She's been in a rehab hospital for a little over a week.

My brother and his wife drove in immediately from their home in Colorado and they were able to take care of some things for my parents while I continued to teach my classes. Canceling classes wasn't an option for me, so I couldn't be off work. Fortunately, we did not have classes on November 26 so I was able to get up (very early), take care of things at my house, and get on the road to the Shoals to meet with the case manager to discuss Mom's recovery and what she needed to return home upon discharge.

Since I love to cook, I assumed the role of family “chef” to prepare the Thanksgiving meal. Mom got a 4-hour pass to come home for some family time on Thanksgiving Day and Chip drove over to pick her up shortly after 11 a.m.

Despite the tumult that comes with a life-altering event, we had a great family Thanksgiving.

Although I'm always optimistic, I also knew that we have no assurance that most of our family could or would be together again for a future Thanksgiving and I wanted to make the meal special.

I wrote the rest of this post on the evening of November 27, from the kitchen in my parents' home. The house was quiet. My brother and nephew had taken mom back to the rehab hospital and were doing a bit of Christmas shopping. My sister-in-law and niece had gone to Tuscaloosa to visit other family. My dad was watching TV in the bedroom.

When I was writing in my journal, it was just me and a quiet house. Although the past two days had been long and busy, I had a sense of calmness I hadn't felt in a while.

I wanted to add my thoughts here, and decided to back-date the post to the time I wrote the handwritten journal entry just to keep things in the right sequence.

The Preparations

For health reasons, I prepare most meals from scratch and I buy the highest quality ingredients I can find and afford. I had hoped to get a local, pastured heritage turkey but the only supplier I could identify had already sold out.

I spent some time the Sunday and Monday before Thanksgiving checking out turkey and ham options at various grocery stories. On Tuesday, I stopped by Whole Foods on the way home from work and bought a fresh (not frozen) USDA certified organic turkey breast (the kind with bone-in, including back and wings) and a local Level 5+ wood-smoked ham. I was thrilled to get these two healthier options for meat because I won't eat meat or poultry from animals treated with antibiotics. My preference is very much for grass-fed, free-range, etc. These two choices were as close to that as I could find, under all the circumstances. I also picked up the remaining fresh produce I needed for the various dishes I would prepare.

I was exceptionally tired Tuesday night, so after making sure I had a few bags of groceries packed with the staples and non-refrigerated ingredients, I went to bed early.

I got up at 4 a.m. Wednesday morning. I woke up shortly after 2 and really never went to sleep. So at 4 I got up and baked the corn bread I needed to make the chicken and dressing.  I used organic cornmeal from McEwen & Son.

In addition to baking, I washed some clothes, finished loading my car and took care of several matters I needed to deal with before leaving my house for a few days.

I left Birmingham at 11 a.m. to make it to the rehab hospital in time  for a 2 p.m. meeting with Mom's case manager. I stopped by my parents' house to drop off the refrigerated items I had in a cooler and made it to the hospital just before 2. The meeting went well.

My drivers license was due to expire the next day, so I drove from the hospital to the Colbert County Health Department to pick up a certified copy of my birth certificate so I could get the Star ID. From there, I drove to the Alabama State Trooper's office in Sheffield and took care of the renewal just before they closed at 4 p.m. and returned to mom's hospital room to pick up some items she wanted me to take home.

When I left the hospital, I stopped by Aldi to pick a few more items we needed, then to Long Lewis Ford to have my tires rotated. Last stop was a local grocery store for a few more items I couldn't get at Aldi.

I made it back to my parents' house a little after 6 p.m. I was tired and extremely hungry because I hadn't eaten since 10 a.m. My “breakfast/lunch” had been a piece of baked fish and leftover roasted vegetables from the night before. Fortunately, that meal and a banana had kept me fueled pretty well.

My brother helped me unload my car and then I sautéed some Italian sausage for my nephew and me, which we ate with the Tromboncino squash relish I'd canned in September. Davis loved it so much, I made a second sausage for him after we'd eaten the first two.

Around 7, feeling properly nourished, I set about baking a pie pumpkin I'd bought from a local farmer at Pepper Place Market. I planned to use the pumpkin to make two pies and a batch of Down East Maine Pumpkin Bread.

Once the pumpkin was finished, I toasted the pumpkin seeds for us to enjoy as a snack.

By 9:30 p.m., I was pretty exhausted and ready to call it a night. I opted to sleep on the couch in the living room so I could get up early Thursday morning and start cooking without disturbing anyone.

As I fell asleep, I mentally created my plan of action for the next morning. We had arranged for mom to be home during midday, so we needed to eat around 12:30 to 1 p.m. and that meant I needed to have everything cooking in the right order.

  • Start with baking the pumpkin bread and muffins, to provide a light breakfast snack for anyone who wanted something early.
  • Then make the pumpkin pies, which could cook at the same temperature as I would need to properly reheat the ham (which was already cooked).
  • Add the ham to the oven while the pies were baking.
  • While the hame and pies were baking, make and knead the dough for herbed whole wheat rolls that I always make for Thanksgiving, so those could rise.
  • Put in the turkey breast around 9 a.m. to be finished by noon.
  • Make the dressing.
  • Prepare the various vegetable dishes.

I woke up just before dawn and lay on the sofa, thinking through my plan. I got up at 5:50 a.m., put on the coffee, and started implementing the plan.

The Menu

  • Organic Turkey Breast
  • Southern Smoked Ham
  • Cornbread Dressing (with a bit of chicken)
  • Roasted Parsnips, Delicata Squash, Sweet Potatoes and Acorn Squash
  • Sweet Potato Casserole
  • Broccoli Salad
  • Stewed Apples
  • Whole Wheat Herb Rolls
  • Pumpkin Bread
  • Pumpkin Pie

My preparations went like clock-work. Everything worked out perfectly. I worked alone in the kitchen from 6 until 9-ish, when my dad and brother drifted in and others started to wake up. It helped that no one was in the kitchen to disturb me during those early hours. I was very focused and in-the-moment. And thoroughly enjoying myself.

I love to cook and I love strategic planning so the logistics of making sure everything was finished on time in the right sequence was actually fun for me.

I had great help from my sister-in-law who washed and peeled the apples (grown in their yard in Colorado) and then washed and peeled the sweet potatoes and other vegetables for roasting. And my niece took care of washing and cutting the broccoli for the salad.

As scheduled, I had the turkey in the oven at 9 a.m. and the dressing in the crockpot by 10 a.m. At that point, I left the kitchen to shower and dress while my sister-in-law and niece took over to take care of getting the vegetables ready.

Chip left around 11 to pick up mom at the hospital and they returned shortly before noon. It took a bit of planning to get her up the back stairs in the wheel chair and into the house. But they were inside just before noon.

The Meal

I took the turkey out at 12:15 p.m. It appeared to be cooked perfectly. At that point, we were just waiting on the roasted vegetables to finish up. I put the rolls in around 12:25 and we were ready to eat within 10 minutes.

We enjoyed our Thanksgiving feast in the dining room. That gave us plenty of room and made it special.

Mom raved about all the great food and we all enjoyed good conversation and fellowship.

I think it might have been our best Thanksgiving in years, notwithstanding the uncertainty we face with mom's hip and the long recovery ahead.

I am grateful that the injury brought us all together. It was certainly unexpected and it breaks my heart that mom has to deal with the injury, but we are truly blessed to have each other and the chance to be together as a family.

I'll add some pictures later.


5 Recent TED Talks To Spark 2014

These 5 TEDx talks don't have the views as some of their more popular counterparts, probably because they've been released in the months since Fall 2012.

Each of these speakers offers specific tips and action steps for changing your life in positive ways.

The first three focus on selflessness and gratitude, while Priya Parker offers advice on overcoming fear and inertia to move forward in pursuit of a life where you thrive. Paul Wood shares guidance for breaking free of mental prisons. And I threw in a bonus video from Sean Aiken who reminds us to seek and find the thing that makes us feel alive.

Polly Young-Eisendrath TEDxMiddlebury

“Getting Free of Self-Importance is the Key to Happiness”

Dr. Polly Young-Eisendrath points out that “we are not the fixers or fashioners of our lives.” After defining self-importance and happiness, Dr. Young-Eisendrath talks about four of the self-conscious emotions (shame, guilt, envy and jealousy) that cause so many of us to choose self-importance over the spirit of oneness that yields the greatest happiness.

This TEDx talk is a great companion to those by Dr. Brene Brown.

Katia Sol TEDxMission

“The Transformative Power of Gratitude”

Dr. Katia Sol works with the Ecology of Leadership Program at the Regenerative Design Institute in California. The Ecology of Leadership Program asks:

What are the shifts that need to happen on an inner level that then will create the possibility for transformation on an outer level that we really want to see in our lives, in our communities and in our world.”

Katia shares these reasons about why gratitude is special:

It's an affirmation of life itself.

Turns our focus from the negative to the positive.

Opportunity for reframing — new lense on life.

Connects us to something greater than ourselves, cultivates a sense of wonder and awe.

[Tweet “Gratitude helps us recreate our communities from the inside out. Katia Sol”]

Jane Ransom TEDxChennai

“Discover The Three Keys of Gratitude to Unlock Your Happiest Life”

Jane Ransom also focuses on the power of the gratitude to transform our lives. Her work grows out of the science of neuroplasticity which centers on research that studies our capacity to reprogram our brains by changing what we focus on.

There's a minor audio glitch between approximately 12:25 until 14:15, but it's corrected. You can still hear Jane Ransom easily, but the audio level is much lower during that 2 minute interval.

[Tweet “”When you change yourself you change the world” – Jane Ransom”]

Priya Parker TEDxUHasselt

“How to Quit Your Life and Reboot”

Priya offers 7 techniques to help you overcome fear, quit your uninspired life and reboot. In her consulting and research work through her firm Thrive Labs, Priya has found that fear is the emotion that drives choices to remain in prestigious but unsatisfying professional careers.

The driving question Thrive Labs helps individuals and organizations to ask and answer is this:

What is the biggest need in the world that I might have the passion and capacity to address.


Paul Wood TEDxAuckland

“What's Your Prison?”

Prisons can be mental, as well as physical. Paul offers 5 steps to freedom.

Bonus Short Talk

Sean Aiken TEDxVancouver

“What Makes You Come Alive?”

Sean Aiken is well-known for his One-Week Job Project where he set out to work a different job each week for 52-weeks to find his passion. Although his approach isn't useful for most of us, his message about the work-consciousness revolution that's now underway is an important one.

Grow Inspire

The Happy Life Manifesto: Theses 1-19

The Happy Life Manifesto has 95 theses, just like Martin Luther. Here are the first 19.

1. It starts with love.

2.  You must believe #1.

3. You are worthy of love and capable of receiving and giving love.

4. You must believe #3.

5. Each of us is here for a reason. We each have a purpose. I have a purpose. You have a purpose.

6. It takes effort.

7. You are either growing or not.

8. If you are not growing, you are shriveling.

9. Growth means something has changed.

10. Change is good. (See #9.)

11. Growth comes from doing something new or doing something in a different way.

12. Growth is a process not an outcome.

13.  Growth requires uncertainty.

14. Uncertainty is good. (See #13).

15.  Uncertainty triggers fear.

16. We fear the unknown.

17. Our brains respond to all fears as if they were life-threatening.

18. Very little uncertainty is life-threatening.

19. Security is an illusion.

I just remembered that I committed to publishing a new blog post every day this month. Today, I was dodging lemons again. So I decided to just publish the first 19 theses from the first draft of my Happy Life Manifesto, written in February 2013.

I'm not sure if I have any family kinship to Martin Luther, but I like to imagine I do. In any event, Martin Luther was an Instigator.

The first draft of my intro to the Happy Life Manifesto.

Props to the following who probably influenced me. This is a partial list. I am tired.


Benjamin Franklin

Abraham Lincoln


Helen Keller

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Harper Lee, Atticus Finch & To Kill a Mockingbird

Mrs. Emma Peel See also: Martha Washington, Emma Peel & Ideas

Seth Godin

Kamal Ravikant

James Altucher

Srinivas Rao



Happy Life, Part 1

Earlier this year I began writing the Happy Life Manifesto. I intended to turn it into a Kindle book. Probably still will. But I feel like sharing a portion of it here, now.

So the rest of this post is from the original unedited, first draft of the intro to my manuscript for the Happy Life Manifesto, written in February 2013:

Happiness is a feeling of satisfaction, contentment and joy that comes from our WHOLE life, a life in which all the important pieces are integrated. If one piece of our life is out of balance for more than a brief period of time our life starts to disintegrate.

Imagine a pitcher of water. If the pitcher starts to crack, even a hairline crack leads to seepage.

Imagine a ball that's filled with water. If hairline crack or pinpoint puncture appears, the water will start to seep out. Eventually, the ball will collapse.

Imagine a balloon that's fully inflated. A tiny pinprick lets the air leak out.

That's disintegration.

We need to fill our lives, our pitchers, with certain things. These things are like links in a chain. But they are iterative and connected. They do not exist in chronological order. The absence of any one will ultimately lead to disintegration.

We need to do work that matters: Industry/Vocation/Calling

We need Community/Relationships/Family

We need a spiritiual connection, for me Christ.

We need health, which is built on three pillars:

Real Food

Movement (Exercise)


We need nature.

Recreation. Re-creation. Creation. See: nature.

Growth: No growth means atrophy. We much be challenged. If we stop learning, growing we will die.

Example: If our cells stop reproducing we will die physically.

Example: If our brains are no longer challenged, the cells shrivel and we lose mental faculties.

Example: If we don't work our physical body, our muscles atrophy and we die.

We are either growing or we are dying.

We need to be challenged. This is discovery + action.

Calling: Purpose

Connection: Spiritual & Relationships

Commitment: Community

Change: Growth

Discover. Inspire. Grow. Shine.


Are you with me? I hope so. I'd love to hear from you. Leave a comment below and share your notions of happiness and what makes a happy life.