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Heather Plett: Launching A Dream

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I absolutely love the photo above I took of the wonderful Heather Plett when she was at the Creative Dig Workshop this September. She loved it so much as well that it is the beautiful header to her blog Fumbling For Words—which, by the way, has had it’s fifth year anniversary yesterday—AND a HUGE give-away as well. After reading Heather’s soulful, inspiring interview on her Launching a Dream journey below–please be sure to enter to win a multitude of cool prizes on her blog HERE!!! Enjoy!

HI Heather! It is such a great pleasure to have you as a guest today at Dirty Footprints Studio. Could you please tell the Dirty Footprints Studio readers a little about yourself.

I like to describe myself as a “creative thinker and happy wanderer”. I love to do all kinds of creative things – writing, photography, painting, public speaking, blogging, facilitating creativity workshops – and I’m also quite passionate about travel, hence the moniker. (I’m writing this while sitting in the Montreal airport on my way to the East Coast). One of my other passions (yes, I have a lot of them) is justice for people who are marginalized. Professionally, I’m a communicator and leader. My title is “Director of Resources and Public Engagement” and I work for a non-profit organization assisting people in developing countries as they work to end their own hunger. I lead a team of staff and volunteers across Canada in public relations, fundraising, and hunger education. On the personal side – I’ve been married for over 16 years and I have three delightful daughters.

Thank you. Last week I had the opportunity to interview Sandy Dempsey of the Dreaming Cafe, and now this week you! What the readers probably don’t know is that we three had the fun adventure of hanging out this past September and spend time sharing in creativity when you too were a participant in the Creative Dig Workshop. I think you are an amazing chica who has loads of wisdom to share, so what a huge honor to have you here!

It was amazing to meet you too! Creative Dig was such an inspiring, enriching experience, I wish I could do it every year! I also wish I could have a monthly lunch date with you at Johnny Mangos!

When I met you earlier in the summer, you were busy launching a new website and business idea. For months, both of us actually dreamt of leaving our current jobs to pursue a life as a solopreneur. Then right around the same time, both of us stepped back from the bloggy/technological world for awhile and had powerful realizations about our journey and our Creative Juicy lives. Could you speak a little more about this and how taking a break from everything changed your perspective?

During the spring and summer, I was dealing with a lot of stress at work. It’s hard to describe exactly what was going on, but I’d reached a bit of a crossroads where I could either forge ahead with vision and passion into new ideas and new territory, or I could walk away and let someone else lead the team where I thought it should go. I’d made a big proposal to our board for a significant increase in our marketing funding as well as 2 new staff positions. It was approved in June, but not without some resistance from board members, staff… and – if I’m totally honest – even myself. When it was approved, I think I just got really, really scared of all of the pressure this was going to place on me and the resistance I’d have to push through. I was setting myself up for major potential failure, and when I failed, there would be a whole line of people waiting to say “I told you so”. I’d been a leader for about 10 years, but this was calling me to a whole new level of leadership and it was scaring the pants off me. On top of all that, 2 of my employees quit and conflicts among others arose, plus I was having some serious challenges with some consultants, so there was a lot of stressful stuff going on.

So I went into survival mode and looked for ways out of the pressure zone. I started reviving my dream of being a freelance writer and workshop facilitator. I started a new website – which was really exciting and energizing at the time – and I started building networks and communities online. My website was called “What are you giving away?” and I was trying to create a space where people would explore and learn to embrace and share their unique giftedness.

But a funny thing happened when I started pouring my energy into an online presence that I hoped would one day be a livelihood. For one thing, I realized that spending too much time on the internet can make one feel just like a child who’s lost at the fair where all the vendors are hawking games of chance telling you “you can’t lose! Just one toss of the ball and you’re guaranteed one of those huge teddy bears! C’mon – step right up!” It was a little overwhelming – there are a lot of snake oil salespeople online!

In addition to that lost and overwhelmed feeling, I realized that while I was doing all this dreaming and networking, my life was starting to unravel. Energy was being taken away from my kids, my friendships, my job, and my marriage and I wasn’t sure it was worth the cost.

One day, while I was crying over a mountain of laundry, I kind of snapped. I knew I’d fallen into an unhealthy spiral and I had to get out.

So I walked away. I quit blogging and tweeting and I re-focused my energy on my family and my career.

It turned out to be one of the best things I could have done.

Why I invited you to be a part of my December’s Launching of a Dream is because I think what you went through–by stepping back and really examining your life, job, and personal goals, helped you relaunch a dream you once had when you started working your current job. Do you think it is possible that sometimes we use our dreams as a form of escape from the parts of our lives that might be challenging us in ways we are uncomfortable or unfamiliar with?

Yes, I think that’s totally true. I wrote the above response before I read this question, so some of what I wrote there applies to this question. Even though I was passionate about my job and knew I was leading my team in the right direction, I was really, really scared. So I started to look for something else to dream about. Both dreams were equally valid, and some day I still hope to do more of the freelance work I’d been dreaming about, but the truth is, I hadn’t finished what I was meant to do at my job and I knew I would regret it if I walked away without at least trying.

I think it’s also true that sometimes the new dream is actually masking something that you’re trying to deny. At some point I realized that maybe the whole purpose of “What are you giving away?” was really about helping ME more fully embrace my leadership gift and move into it with more boldness.

How has letting go of some dreams helped you relax and appreciate your current job and your Creative Juicy Life even more?

When I stepped away from the internet, an amazing thing started to happen. I fell in love with my job again. I started to realize how much it meant to me and how much it suited my giftedness. I really do have one of the best jobs in the world and I can’t imagine how it could be more perfect for me. I get to do lots of writing, photography, and other creative things, inspire/encourage/lead people who are doing creative things (all for the cause of ending hunger), work on justice issues, travel all over the world, and meet the most fascinating people in places like Africa and Bangladesh – and right in my own backyard. On this trip to the East Coast, for example, I’ll be attending an art show where an artist has made paintings from some of my photos from India and Bangladesh (as well as others) and she’s selling them as a fundraiser for our organization. I also get to visit a restaurant that’s created a special bread recipe that they’re dedicating as a fundraiser for people who are hungry. (I’m calling it the “Bread and Art Tour”.) In between, I get to hang out with some amazing people, take pictures, make presentations, and write stories. What’s not to like?

What dreams do you actually plan to still hold onto and launch into your Creative Juicy Life in the future?

Not only did I fall back in love with my job, but I became inspired all over again to trust my ability to be an effective visionary, and creative leader. When I put the marketing proposal to the board in the Spring, I’d hired a consultant to prepare a social marketing strategy for us. Well, they’d done a fairly good job, but there were some pieces of their proposal that just didn’t work for us no matter how hard I tried to adapt them, and I had to take a step back and realize that after over five years in this job, few people knew this organization better than I do. It was a big “a-ha” moment for me when I realized that perhaps I was the expert and not them. As good as their ideas were, I knew that I had better ones and I had to take the risk and trust them.

This is giving me a chance to be creative and step into leadership in a whole new way and right now, I’m pretty excited about that. For example, with this trip to the art show, I’m starting to dream of new ways to incorporate art into our work. I’ve recently taken up watercolour painting myself and I’m SO excited about it!

Recently, I made a follow-up proposal to the board with my own ideas and vision, and an amazing thing happened. There was almost an audible sigh of relief in the room. Even though there were doubters before, suddenly almost everyone in the room was on my side – it was like they’d been waiting for me to step into my full capacity. It felt like such an amazing affirmation that I was headed in the right direction and that even if I fail, people will respect me for trying.

What exciting things do you have coming up and how can the Dirty Footprints Studio readers connect with you?

Even though most of my energy will be poured into my job and my family, I’ll never stop writing, taking pictures, and painting – because that’s just who I am. I get really grumpy if I don’t make space for creativity. You can find lots more of my writing, photos, and art work at www.fumblingforwords.blogspot.com.

Lately, I’ve been thinking I need to write more about authentic and creative leadership. It’s a little tricky to do that honestly on my blog, because people who know me in real life and know the people I lead are readers, and so I have to be careful about what I say. (Especially when it comes to the really tough stuff – like what it’s like to lead a team that’s dysfunctional. And how it feels to have to have a former employee drag you and your organization through the courts after being fired.) But I’ll be looking for ways of getting my ideas and personal experiences out there, because I think there is a need for more books and articles about and for people who are trying to be authentic leaders – especially those written from a female perspective. I’ve read a lot of leadership books, and most of them just leave me feeling inadequate. If I wrote one, it would be more honest and down-to-earth, and would offer more creative (and less cookie cutter) approaches than much of what I’ve read. It would be for the flawed and humble leader who sometimes quakes in fear in the face of challenge.

The other area that has intrigued me lately also combines some of my passions. It’s about the relationship between beauty and justice. Having traveled in several developing countries, I think there’s a strong correlation between the two and I’m not sure it’s been explored as much as it should be. I think that people who work in pursuit of beauty and art and those who work in pursuit of justice are working on pretty similar causes and are more connected than they may think.

Thank you once again Heather for being here and sharing in my Launching a Dream month!!! Big hugs!

Thank you so much for inviting me Connie! You are such an inspiration and I’m cheering for you and your big dream!

Peace & Love.

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