I know this sounds a bit cheesy, but when I started RuffleButts, I had long prayed for a career change that would allow me to "do good". I had tossed around ideas to start a non-profit but didn't know how to direct my passions. I considered being a public speaker, but didn't really have much to say (and I dislike being the center of attention, which is likely not an asset in this career path!). I wanted to write a book, but writing is far from my strong suit. It was then that my answer came, crystal clear, RuffleButts was my calling.
To most, they would say that starting a children's clothing line, covering baby's booties in ruffles, is not saving the world. Well, you are totally right, but RuffleButts was my path to contributing something greater. It is on this path that we try to contribute daily. If it is just making a customer's day a little brighter with stellar customer service, or making a grandma smile at the sight of her 1st grand-baby in sweet ruffles, or being blessed to share our financial successes with others in need; it is these small victories that we feel are giving back to the world that is good to us.
So, I write these little lessons below in hopes that just one of them gives you some sort of little 'gift'. It may be a prayer that you prayed of your own, or maybe just a little lesson that you have yet to stumble upon in your own life. Maybe it saves you just one little heartbreak or hiccup. Maybe you're already here with me, but know of someone in their own valley. It is with this hope that I share some of my personal life lessons learned to date, often not the easy way.
1) People-pleasing ways rarely please anyone in the long-run.
For many years, I made decisions based mostly on what would please others. Although making others happy is still extremely important to me, it is not at the sacrifice of what I know to be true and best in my own heart. The best gift age has given me is the ability to care much less of what others think, and instead living for what I believe to be best and right. It brings an amazing clarity to life decisions.
2) Anything in life really worth having requires TREMENDOUS effort.
The cool thing, I have found, is most often it works out that the more effort it requires, the more worth having/rewarding it turns out to be. It is nice to remember this when something seems extraordinarily difficult...I can rest easy knowing that it will be one of the most rewarding, and almost always worth every ounce of effort I put in. My best examples here are marriage and children...at times a bit (ok, let's get real here....very) exhausting, but by far, the two (well, three really) most valuable things in my life.
3) As soon as you lose humbleness and gratitude you will be voted off.
This is my 'Survivor Theory', of which my employees are likely tired of hearing about. See, after 10+ years of watching Survivor, I have learned that 90% of the time, the moment the player begins telling the camera that they are the "puppet master" or the "master" of the game, the moment they are bashing others and feeling indestructible is the moment they are voted off. And even with the few exceptions when they actually stayed in the game for a few more episodes, rarely are they rewarded with the $1M prize. I think this theory translates from game to life...the moment you stop operating with gratitude is the moment you lose.
4) Do the right thing, you get the right results.
This applies to so much in life. It's as simple as doing your job right, working hard, and getting the results that you are working so hard to achieve. It may not be tomorrow (and sometimes feels like an eternity), but if you continue doing the right thing, working hard, not taking shortcuts or slacking off, the results will come. Same for life on a bigger scale...you treat people the right way, appreciate your customers, invest in your relationships, operate with ethics and gratitude...it all comes back around, pretty much guaranteed in one way or another.
5) Finding a career that is rewarding and even inspiring is truly possible.
I wanted so badly to believe this when I was in my early twenties, although I pretty much wanted to burn every "do what you love and the money will follow" book that I read! They made it sound so simple, "just follow your passion" they would taunt me. Problem was, I wasn't sure what exactly that meant! I wish someone would have just told me, "work harder than everyone else...at least make yourself proud at the end of everyday for giving it your best", "if you don't do it with heart and maximum efforts, then don't do it at all", "spend time figuring out what drives and excites you, then try to find a career that ignites those things in some way", and "God's timing is not always your timing".
6) Sometimes you have to go through the 'gunk' to get to the 'glory'.
This very much follows my comment about God's timing. I have learned to accept this over the years. Sometimes I need to follow a path that is not only unpleasant, but also unclear in order to prepare me for the glory on the other side. Even though I feel I am ready, and sometimes beyond ready, looking back, I understand much better why I had to take the 'not so pretty' path to prepare. I will use my children to explain my theory here...it was more than two years before Aubrey was conceived that I began 'trying' to get pregnant. It was with tears, joy, and ultimately patience that I received her into my life following years of question, and the miscarriage of another child. It was certainly not an easy path, but prepared my heart with patience and faith.
7) Suck it up!
Sounds a little harsh, right? Well, let me make this promise to you...there is someone out there who's got it worse. Life is tough sometimes, but it is your choice what to do with that. Is your glass half empty or just half full of opportunity to be filled? I look back at opportunities I had in my life when I chose a pity-party instead of a celebration. I watch this go down with people over and over again. Life goes by fast, you are never the only one struggling, it will NEVER fix your problems to bring down those around you, and it is never as bad looking back. The one who ultimately pays the price for your pity-party is you! It is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
8) The last, but in my opinion, MOST IMPORTANT gift I have to give...when uncertain or lost, PRAY ABOUT IT.
I have learned, especially from my twenties to my thirties, that I do not have all of the answers, and neither does anyone else. The only place I can turn for guaranteed peace and direction is God. I, like many others, often forget this, but if I look back on the best decisions of my life, it is not with coincidence that I remember turning to God in search of the answer.
I certainly know that I have so much more to learn, but only wish I would have received these valuable lessons earlier in life. Then again, as stubborn as I am, I likely would have been determined to fall and learn them on my own! Anyhow, it is with a humble heart and hope that just one word of this touches your life in a positive way.
So, I had this small realization last night, though not sure why it took me so long to realize this. Mark, Aubrey and I were driving home from a big night out at Moe's Burritos and it dawned on me that I have spent my whole life focused so much on the future, that I didn't always stop to appreciate the present. I turned to him and said, "do you realize that at every stage in your life, you have more responsibility?" He said that he had heard this story on a Christian radio station about a dad telling his son that he will never have less responsibility than he has at this moment in his life. This is so true!! And it doesn't really matter what point in time that moment may be. Until you reach retirement, you pretty much just keep piling on the responsibilities.
I realized that my entire life has been spent anxious to reach the next stage in my life...in grade school, I wanted nothing more than to be a teenager in high school. Once I was in high school, I just wanted to graduate and move off to college. I went to night-school the entire summer following my Junior year in order to graduate a year early. I moved out of my mom's house and off to college at 17 - more responsibility. In college, I was only concentrated on my career, so I worked at a radio station and took some of my classes in the evening - more responsibility. When I finally graduated, again a semester early (after cramming way too many classes into my schedule), I was so excited to start my big career. I hated it!! I thought, "this is what I have been working so hard my entire life to achieve?" Everyday was the same, I was unfulfilled, and I realized that I never took the time to have fun. I quit my job, took another job, and got a puppy - more responsibility. I bought a townhouse - again more responsibility! At this point, I felt like I had accomplished many of the things on my 'to-do list', next down was the whole family thing. I then met my husband, and was married less than a year later (that is a whole other story in itself!!) - yet again, more responsibility. This story could go on and on, but to get to the point, we bought a home, moved a few times, started RuffleButts, and then came our precious Aubrey. Holy cow, more RESPONSIBILITY!!
So, I realized last night, that I totally and completely love my life and every single one of my responsibilities (okay, maybe not the whole house-cleaning thing), but for the most part, I wouldn't change a thing. I just wish that someone would have told me (I'm sure they did, but knowing me, I just didn't listen), to stop and smell the roses...to party a little more in college, to lay on the couch a little more in high school, to spend more time with my friends and family, before we were all consumed by life's responsibilities. Then, I realized, that although life is super crazy right now, and I've never had more responsibilities, that I need to take time to stop and enjoy my life. I should cuddle with my husband when Aubrey goes to bed at night, I should kiss on her every bit I can while she'll still let me, I should go out to lunch with girlfriends even if I'm behind at work. Life is short, it goes by fast, so yes, you probably have more responsibilities right now than you ever have before, but enjoy this moment, cause I guarantee you'll have more in the future!
So I am usually one of those grouchy non-forwarders, not because I don't appreciate the inspiration, but because I am just overwhelmed by the number of emails in my inbox, and the sight of Fwd: screams "time-waster" at me! With that said, I received the story below from a friend today and it is so worth your time. This is exactly what I was trying to convey with our last "Smile Project" !
Please use this as a reminder and inspiration that you have the opportunity to leave a legacy everyday. Take just a few minutes out of your day today to share your blessings with someone who needs them.
From the email received today:
I am a mother of three (ages 14, 12, 3) and have recently completed my college degree. The last class I had to take was Sociology. The teacher was absolutely inspiring with the qualities that I wish every human being had been graced with. Her last project of the term was called, 'Smile.'
The class was asked to go out and smile at three people and document their reactions. I am a very friendly person and always smile at everyone and say hello anyway. So, I thought this would be a piece of cake, literally.
Soon after we were assigned the project, my husband, youngest son, and I went out to McDonald's one crisp March morning. It was just our way of sharing special playtime with our son. We were standing in line, waiting to be served, when all of a sudden everyone around us began to back away, and then even my husband did. I did not move an inch... an overwhelming feeling of panic welled up inside of me as I turned to see why they had moved.
As I turned around I smelled a horrible 'dirty body' smell, and there standing behind me were two poor homeless men. As I looked down at the short gentleman, close to me, he was 'smiling'. His beautiful sky blue eyes were full of God's Light as he searched for acceptance. He said, 'Good day' as he counted the few coins he had been clutching. The second man fumbled with his hands as he stood behind his friend. I realized the second man was mentally challenged and the blue-eyed gentleman was his salvation. I held my tears as I stood there with them.
The young lady at the counter asked him what they wanted. He said, 'Coffee is all Miss' because that was all they could afford. (If they wanted to sit in the restaurant and warm up, they had to buy something. He just wanted to be warm). Then I really felt it - the compulsion was so great I almost reached out and embraced the little man with the blue eyes. That is when I noticed all eyes in the restaurant were set on me, judging my every action.
I smiled and asked the young lady behind the counter to give me two more breakfast meals on a separate tray. I then walked around the corner to the table that the men had chosen as a resting spot. I put the tray on the table and laid my hand on the blue-eyed gentleman's cold hand. He looked up at me, with tears in his eyes, and said, 'Thank you.' I leaned over, began to pat his hand and said, 'I did not do this for you. God is here working through me to give you hope.'
I started to cry as I walked away to join my husband and son. When I sat down my husband smiled at me and said, 'That is why God gave you to me, Honey, to give me hope.' We held hands for a moment and at that time, we knew that only because of the Grace that we had been given were we able to give.
We are not church goers, but we are believers. That day showed me the pure Light of God's sweet love. I returned to college, on the last evening of class, with this story in hand.
I graduated with one of the biggest lessons I would ever learn: UNCONDITIONAL ACCEPTANCE.