Mental Post-Its

Thoughts, Notes, and General Mental Mayhem

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Plywood Presents: Notes and Quotes

FullSizeRender 11This is a conference I look forward to every year. It’s fun, I’m able to see old friends, and it’s locally-focused. The last item is what makes it truly unique. The people who speak are not only inspiring, but most often, they’re doing something remarkable in the Atlanta area. So, while I love hearing big names from big companies, Plywood is really awesome because I can also usually say that the speaker or company is just miles away from me. It gives me plenty of chills and warm fuzzies.

Jeff Shinabarger, Plywood founder:

  • Sit with people that don’t sound like you.
  • Learn from people that you want to sound like.
  • Share with people that engage your advice.
  • Everyone has something to give. Everyone has something to learn.

Gregory Ellison, Fearless Dialogues:

  • Sometimes things have to break down to have a break through.
  • “The longest journey we have in life is from our heads to our hearts.” – a lady he knew growing up
  • “I don’t know how to change the world, but I can change the three feet around me.” – his Aunt Dottie

Hank Fortner, Adopt Together:

  • World Adoption Day
  • People who need love don’t care how old you are.
  • 19 million orphans in the world, 500K in US foster care, 25% of kids who age out of the system are homeless, 80% in jail, 30% are pregnant, 80% end up in prostitution and 56% wind up unemployed. The system is seriously failing these kids.
  • Family is the answer to almost everything.
  • Lots of organizations are doing great things, but they are all working piece-meal instead of in concert.
  • Barriers to adoption are finances, information and community.
  • Adopt Together allows micro financing for adoptions.
  • Lessons learned:
    • Always throw a party.
    • Never give up space.
    • Always remember the details.
    • Never get stuck in the details.
    • Always solve a problem.
    • Never burn a bridge.
    • Always tell your story.
    • Never lose your story.
    • Always give.
    • Never forget extrinsics.
    • Always make money.
    • Always say thank you!

Ron Clark, founder of the Ron Clark Academy:

  • Met everyone of his neighbors and invited them to be a part of the work in this run-down, dangerous neighborhood. It took four months.
  • Passion. Innovation. Creativity.
  • When you bring good energy to a place, negativity leaves.
  • Your team determines your success.
  • Spend 15 minutes on an idea. Decide if it should continue, and then leave it or pour your heart into it.
  • Live like it’s your life!
  • Treat fairly, not equally.
  • Put your energy into the people that actually make a difference, not the negative slackers.

Brian Pape, founder of MiiR:

  • Buy consumer products, then decide where we want the money to be sent. We get follow-up info about the progress of the projects.

Andrea Sreshta, Luminade:

  • Add water to the vessel as the battery. Remove water for the light to go out. Great for disasters and places with little/no light.

Curious Katheryn, 10-year-old entrepreneur:

Patrick, Nisolo shoes:

  • Artisan shoes, ethically-made
  • Focus on work culture. A good culture attracts the right people.
  • They own their supply chain.
  • Check out the book “Essentialism”

Tripp Crosby, producer, comedian, sketch artist:

  • It’s easy to take yourself too seriously.
  • When you’re obsessed with expanding, you risk enjoying the process. And when you’re not enjoying the process, you risk the opportunity to expand.
  • What’s the thing you should be enjoying but you’re not?

Brent Trapp, Booster:

  • Lead with outrageous care.
  • Notice the good things.
  • Obsessive commitment to investing in people.
  • Act like a friend.
  • Live with ridiculous joy.
  • Outrageous care breeds outrageous loyalty.
  • How will you treat your people?

Ruthie Lindsey, speaker/stylist:

  • Love people well.
  • You can live a beautiful life despite your pain and circumstance.
  • Choose joy.
  • There is always hope.
  • When we are open and honest, it forces others to do the same.
  • When we live in our pain, it’s all we can see. We need to find the joy so we can live there instead.
  • Pain can make us better and more whole.

Chris Marlowe, Help One Now:

  • Doing good can be simple and easy. Love first.
  • Find your fight.
    • Find something(s) that you can really dig deep with. Don’t spread yourself too thin. Help where you can.
    • Stick around for the transformation.
  • Go far. Go the distance. Give your life.
  • Go forward. Innovate. Care. Solve.
  • Doing good can be simple and significant.
  • Do good. Do good well. Do good together.

John Lewis, activist and US Representative:

  • We must care for the spark of divine in ourselves.
  • Love may be a slow process, but it’s always worth it.
  • There is power in peace.
  • There is a price to be paid for the work of peace. You must decide if you’re willing to pay it.
  • Without music, the Civil Rights movement would’ve been like a bird without wings. We’d often sing to each other across our cells, both men and women, because we were separated by both gender and race.
  • When you see injustice, make a little noise. Don’t stay silent.
  • “Just love the hell out of everybody.” – MLK
  • Get into good trouble.

Safia Minney, People Tree clothing:

  • Check out her “True Cost” documentary about slavery in the process of making clothes.

Travis Mason, Public Policy and Government Relations at Google X:

  • Macro behaviors are derived from micro moments.
  • Reverse assumptions.
  • Combine domains.
  • Invite the novice.
  • Its the difference that makes the difference.

Kim Biddle, Saving Innocence project:

  • LA County  rescues from child sex trafficking.
  • Average age for trafficking victims is 12-14.
  • 100K children are trafficked per year in the US.
  • We are connected, and deeply affect one another.
  • We are all human. Empathy begins at that place.
  • Impact is relational.
  • Choose to love.
  • Know your season. Run the race. Rest when needed.
  • Keep yourself seen. Cultivate community. Get professional mentors. Find spiritual mentors. Redesign your failures.


2013 Reading List


It was a great year for reading! I’ve already made it through 44 books this year, which is double last year’s reach of 22 books. I’m pretty proud! By the time I finish this year, I’ll hit 47. It’s by far a personal record. If I had a gold star, I’d give it to myself. 😉

And just so we’re clear, by reading I mean listening. I get through almost all of my books via It’s fantastic, especially if you have a long commute like I do. Highly recommend. It takes a little getting used to, especially if you are not typically an auditory learner. So, yes, there is plenty of tuning out and rewinding in the beginning. But now that I’m used to it, I love it. It makes car time so much better.

An interesting trend for me this year was fiction. I don’t generally read much fiction. Because I really don’t like to read, I typically read nonfiction in order to learn. It’s more of a means to an end because I like learning. But this year, I sort of got hooked on fiction books. And I already have several more planned to begin 2014, namely the Divergent series since the movie looks good.

Without further adieu, here’s what got my attention this year:

I’m currently listening to The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkein since the second movie comes out next week. And then, I have two Advent books I’m trying to get through before the end of the year: Advent Conspiracy by Rick McKinley, Chris Seay and Greg Holder and God is in the Manger by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I think these three will be an excellent way to finish out the year.

Did you read any good books this year?

What should I put on my list for next year?


(Note: Amazon links are affiliate links.)

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TEDxPeachtree Highlights

TEDxPTG+BlackWell, it finally arrived—my last conference of the year. It was fun to make a Tedx event the last of my 2013 rounds. I’ve never attended one of these before, and was really looking forward to it. I’d still love to make it to the mother ship one day, but for now this will do.

TEDxPeachtree wasn’t dissimilar from other conferences I attended, which I think I was expecting it to be, but it was a lot of fun nonetheless. There were a few speakers I was familiar with, but most of them were new to me which I enjoy.

Here are a few little gems I pulled from the Atlanta TED Talks:

Jeff Shinabarger, Activist Philanthropist

  • We will be known by the problems we solve.
  • To give generously is to give freely with nothing expected in return.
  • Define for yourself what is enough. (want vs. need)
  • Sometimes we don’t need more gifts. Sometimes we need each others presence.
  • Everyone has something to give.

Rashid Nuri, Urban Farmer

  • Know who grows your food.
  • Quality food is the most important factor in being healthy.
  • We eat 31% more packaged food than fresh food. We are a sick country.
  • The soil is the solution.
  • There is no culture without agriculture.
  • Quality food is a right.
  • Urban agriculture could be the solution to universal healthcare.

Rossin, Portrait Artist

  • Grace is the answer. Everything else is second best.
  • Kindness is the all-seeing eye of the soul.
  • You paint your portrait on your surroundings.

Nathan Sawaya, Brick Artist

  • You don’t have to build what’s on the front of the box.

Aurora Robson, Activist Artist

  • Waste is displaced abundance.
  • It’s easy to ignore a problem you can’t see.

Marshall Seese Jr., Music Making Entrepreneur

  • Freedom + Constraints = Empowerment
  • Constraints prevent you from being overwhelmed.

Mark Riedl, A.I. Researcher

  • If you aren’t scared of failure, you aren’t working on the right problem.
  • Innovation requires both the idea and the implementation.
  • Creativity builds society.

Wanda Hopkins-McClure, Educator and Silo-Buster

  • Innovation in education will happen one teacher, one student, one classroom at a time.
  • Great teachers encourage you to risk and fail.
  • Great teachers encourage you to think about who you are.

Daphne Greenberg, Adult Literacy Advocate

  • Acknowledging our medley of voices brings us one step closer to an inclusive society.
  • 1 in 6 adults reads at an elementary level.
  • This epidemic affects us all. (Healthcare, economy, interaction, etc.)
  • People develop amazing coping skills.
  • Adult literacy is a social justice.
  • A determinant of a child’s success in school is dependent on the mother’s reading skills.

Mary Frances Bowley, Healer and Guardian

  • We can’t sit here anymore and watch the bullies steal the childhood of our daughters.
  • In Atlanta, 100 girls are sold for sex every night.
  • 37-55 is the average age of a john.
  • The way we order food at a restaurant is the way a john orders a girl.
  • Protecting and restoring is the way to end trafficking.

Lisa Earle McLeod, Author

  • It’s not our truths that cause problems, it is our belief in their exclusivity.
  • Compromise is the problem, not the solution. You miss seeing what is possible.
  • Whenever we get stressed, we tend to default.
  • Find your Noble Purpose. It’s your North Star. Use it as your filter.

Neale Martin, Author

  • If you want to change your life, you must change your habits.
  • It’s not enough to be inspired.
  • Discipline changes behavior.
  • Disrupt the old habit. Create a new habit. Create a powerful reinforcement. Repeat it until it feels normal.


Well, that’s a wrap. I did a lot of learning this year, and hope to continue that tradition in 2014. Until then, it’s back to my Netflix queue. 😉

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Plywood Presents 2013

Plywood logoThis week I attended Plywood Presents for the third year. It’s a really fun and unique Atlanta conference, in a city where conferences seem to happen around the clock. Plywood centers around social innovation, with the motto, “We will be known by the problems we solve.” Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?

Plywood Swag

Plywood Swag

While the speakers are great, seeing friends from other local orgs is fun, and some days you just need a break from the norm, my favorite thing is always simply learning about people and companies doing really great things. To me, it’s most inspiring just to share air with people who are changing the world. It’s as if there’s a new horizon, and we’re all standing at the edge of it together.

I can always count on this community to challenge me to be better. And in an every day way, it helps me see new places to put my money where my mouth is—companies and people I can support with my voice and dollars that share my values.

Here are the amazing places and people I learned about this week:

Do yourself a favor, and check out these companies. They are doing some great work, and they need our support. And don’t forget to join us next year at Plywood Presents!

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Double Book Review: 7 by Jen Hatmaker and More or Less by Jeff Shinabarger

These two books just go so well together, I thought I’d pair them up. I apologize for the length, but hang with me. I think, and hope, it will be worth it.

Cover art found on Jen Hatmaker's blog

Cover art found on Jen Hatmaker’s blog

In pursuit of my SIMPLIFY theme for 2013, I found two books that did a doozy on me in recent months. The first, which I absolutely adored, was 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker. In fact, I adored it so much that I think I recommended it to just about anyone who would listen to me during the time I was going through it. I was fascinated and obsessed. (If you’re reading this and haven’t picked it up yet, get to it!)

In the book, Jen confronts both the issues of having too much and what to do about it. She chooses seven areas to focus on: food, clothes, spending, media, possessions, waste and stress. I can relate to all of those, so I knew I was in for a ride.

Jen focused on each of these seven excess areas for one month. So for 30 days, her world revolved around the subject of food excess, as one example. She gave her self clear parameters to follow, and blogged about the social experiments as a way to both write her book and stay accountable. Before you think it’s too overwhelming to consider in your life, let me tell you that she had several women going through this process with her, and they chose milder forms of the experiment. They served as her sounding board, encouragement, supporters and accountability partners. They kept her going. And because they were doing some form of the project, she had people to relate to along the way. That had to make it a lot easier, though it was still pretty extreme.

FOOD: She and her husband were in the process of adopting two children from Ethiopia, and she knew their lives were much more restrictive than her own. They were limited in what was available to them in many ways, including what they could eat. So she chose seven food items to eat for the entire month. As you can imagine, she got pretty sick of everything rather quickly, but still realized she got to choose her options rather than having them determined for her due to her geography and social status.

CLOTHES: Jen saw all the clothes in her closet that she didn’t wear regularly, and determined that would be another great area to tackle. She chose, you guessed it, seven items to wear for the month, including PJ’s, shoes and accessories. Wow. And this is a woman who speaks on a regular basis. This month she realized how much she worried about her appearance, and what others thought of her.

SPENDING: We all spend on silly things or wasteful things or inconsequential things. And we just spend too much. Debt is a huge problem in our society. So, Jen’s family went on a spending freeze. They bought essentials only, and realized how much extra they buy because it’s available or just because they can. They even started carpooling more to spend less gas money. This month allowed her to donate money to places she really felt good about giving it, and where it would make a real difference.

MEDIA: Over-saturated and over-stimulated. She looked around and saw all the gadgets her family used from phones to computers to iPads to gaming systems, and put a halt to it. She was worried about this month in particular because it was summer, and she was afraid she wouldn’t know what to do with three small children. But it ended up being a great month with a lot of new memories and time for their family to be together. They rediscovered their creativity, and found lots of ways to have fun together for less because of the previous month.

POSSESSIONS: The clothes month really helped shape this one. Jen discovered she had, after hand counting everything, over 200 items in her closet that she rarely if ever wore (including shoes, accessories, etc). So she decided to give away seven things each day for the entire day. It seems like a lot, but just looking around my apartment, I could probably do it when you get down to the drawers and under the bed. This action cut excess from everyone’s closet, things forgotten about in the basement, and extra stuff in the garage, and she realized that she still had more than enough afterward. And their church has a large homeless ministry, so many of the items, especially clothes, were immediately used by someone else with immense gratitude.

WASTE: Jen lives in Austin, and it’s a pretty green city. She’d never been one who recycled or lived green in any way, so she learned a lot from friends during this month. One of the best things she did for her family was getting them to eat better. She realized all the foods in her pantry and fridge were processed, and harming their health. So they began eating more healthy and learned to take better care of their home and neighborhood. She said she was sort of dreading this month, but really ended up learning a lot and loving it. (I would probably be classified as a “tree hugger” by my friends and family, and this chapter was definitely one I think most anyone would enjoy nonetheless.)

STRESS: Seriously, who can’t relate? Jen learned to say no a lot to things this month, and really focused on the necessary and her family. Her time was more free to enjoy what was happening in front of her, rather than worrying about a lot of other things.

OVERALL: It’s an awesome book. I will read it again. It’s fun and funny and easy to read. I think a lot of people would enjoy this, maybe more than they expect to. And again, I think there are so many lessons for all of us living in a blessed society.

My biggest takeaway? It was something that I’d heard before, but it hit me at just the right time—and now it plagues me. She referenced a quote or study, can’t remember because I’m more about the gist than the precise, about the fact that if you have more than your means and you’re only wasting it on yourself, you’re actually stealing from others and from society. People may have issue with the fact that they earned it, and should be able to spend it how they see. And I guess there’s room for that argument. But when there are so many people living without their basic needs being met, and so many others of us live in excess, there’s a real problem there. That weighs on my heart, heavily. We’ve already seen, and know at money doesn’t buy happiness, and having “things” don’t equal contentment. Yet we keep acquiring. US is largely a wealthy nation, and even still, things like prescription drugs and depression are on the rise. (See my previous Tweet from this week.) That has to tell us something. That needs to make us act differently.


Cover art found Plywood People

Cover art found on Plywood People

Jeff Shinabarger is someone I’ve been around for several years now. He’s spoken at several conferences I’ve attended, is friends with some of my friends, and I’ve also been to his Plywood People event three times. (I’m even carrying around one of their bags right now as my summer purse.) I love what he’s up to here in Atlanta, and have great admiration for his social ingenuity and ability to bring people together to do great things.

So when he teased this book, More or Less: Choosing a Lifestyle of Excessive Generosity, I was ready to and waiting for it’s release. And it didn’t disappoint. Of course, how could it with a forward by Bob Goff? Plus, fun stories about people and places I personally know! (There are a lot of extras on the book website, which is really cool.)

Jeff, like me I think, sort of stumbled upon this notion of cutting the clutter. Not that it’s a new concept, but it’s the birth of something new within us. It’s a step that led to a path that led to a crossroad that led to a journey. It’s become a part of us. He was led there by a homeless man in his neighborhood. I think I was led there by a thousand things over many years. (It takes me a while.) But the outcome is the same, the tension between more and less. It’s not always a comfortable place to be, but it is a place ripe for growth, and as he points out, generosity.

I think the thing I appreciated most about this book were many of the creative ways he and his friends are learning these lessons, and what they are doing differently now. It’s about learning these lessons in the context of community. You may think, and you are largely right, than Jen Hatmaker’s experiment is extreme. But Jeff’s version is much more subtle. It’s about dinner parties and wedding registries and community gardening and conversation. It’s about the art of discovering along the way. It’s about the journey. And it’s about generosity.

Over the years, I’ve tried to work on my budget. I’ve tried to spend less and acquire less. I’ve tried. I’ve more often failed. But I think when I started to tip the scale, it became about focusing on a life of generosity. I wanted it less for me, and more for others. To borrow from above, I didn’t want to steal from others. I want to do better because I am accountable. And I have met many, face-to-face, who can have a different life if I live differently.

Therefore I choose less, so I can give more.


WRAP UP: While the two styles outlined above are very different, I identify well with both of them. I’ve done some excess purging, and I’ve done some at a slow pace. But the point is that I’m on my way, and I won’t look back.

If you’re still hanging with me, first of all, I appreciate it. Second of all, I honestly hope something I said will make you think, and therefore act, differently. It’s never too late.

I am a Christian, and therefore, I believe all that I have is not mine but that I am a steward of it. Unfortunately, I think I’ve too often acted like it is mine, and therefore, it was hard to start letting go. I always seem to want more! But now I feel much more comfortable with it. I love donating clothes and items, knowing personally the people it will benefit. And I do suggest that, know the people when you can. Dropping off items at Goodwill is a tax ride-off. Taking items to a shelter you volunteer for is a whole new world. When you’re invested, compassion abounds. And we all benefit from more compassion.

I know we’re a bit past spring cleaning, but summer is a great time to make changes, too. Consider living with less to gain, and give, more. I have no regrets. Nothing I’ve donated or given away has been missed. There’s always that fear, I think, but don’t let that rule your actions. Try it, and see how it goes. Start small. You probably won’t look back either.


BONUS MATERIAL: During my four hours of watching Ted Talks today (How does 17 minutes become four hours!?!?!), I stumbled across two really awesome videos that describe these principles well. Have a look.

Graham Hill: Less stuff, more happiness

Richard Wilkinson: How economic inequality harms societies

(Some of the second was a little over my head, but still really good and interesting so hang with it.)


(Note: Amazon links are affiliate links.)