From Crushed Creative to Published Children’s Author: Ellen Watkins Transformation Story
Have you ever felt so completely overwhelmed and stuck in your reality that you reached some kind of breaking point? Have you ever lost touch with that innate creativity we all have when we’re children, only to wake up 20 years later and realize you’re working the grind just like everyone else?
This week we want to get real. Like, really real and share with you a story from your fellow Live Your Legend community member, Ellen Watkins.
The truth is, it’s easy to share success stories and read all about those who have ‘made it’, but we know the real magic comes when together, as a community, we share our stories of struggle, from digging into what didn’t work so well, and in doing so, uncovering the strategies we each use to rise above it all.
And the funny thing is, sometimes the most powerful strategies for doing work you love and making a difference are the simplest of all, which is why we human beings, who like to over-complicate life, usually miss them altogether! And in Ellen Watkins’ case, this couldn’t be more accurate.
Her journey spans two decades from being completely disconnected from her creative side to publishing a children’s book, creating artwork, and launching a project to create 52 images in 52 weeks. And Ellen tapped into a strategy that is crazy simple and that made ALL the difference.
But before we uncover what that super simple strategy is, first a little bit about Ellen…
Today, Ellen Watkins is a writer, creator, facilitator, adventurer, connector and self-proclaimed ‘champion of happiness’. She is fiercely committed to helping people of all walks of life achieve happiness and inspiration by helping them foster creativity, build connections, and nurture meaningful relationships, ultimately building a better life for us all!
But it certainly wasn’t always this way…
For more than 20 years, she tried to push down this creative spirit, and for many years she succeeded:
- At the early age of 8, she vividly remembers making cards for her teacher but was told they weren’t good enough and so she stopped.
- In Junior High School, when her art teacher told her she did it wrong, she got mad and stopped.
But, then in college after taking an art class for one of her majors it all connected again. Out of school, she was painting and showing all over, selling cards of her work at each show. She even had a print vendor wanting to sell prints of her work.
But soon enough she got caught up in the ‘business side’ of art, trying to make it right for others, trying to push beyond the ‘10% of artists who make it’ and she got stuck again:
- Stuck in someone else’s idea of what it should look like, what it should be, and how it should be done.
- Stuck in the business side of art.
- And soon she changed focus toward the corporate world and slowly she lost her spark and joy for the creative side of her work. She quit creating altogether.
For the next twenty years Ellen created a great life helping Fortune 100 companies with their training needs and leading teams to success. She traveled the world and met incredible people from all nations and walks of life. She met and married an incredible man, had a son she never expected to have, and made the conscious decision to pursue what made her happy. But something deep down was still missing.
She kept hearing a voice inside her head: Create. Create. Create. But she kept pushing it down. Her past hurt of failing was strong and she didn’t want to feel or hear that ‘not good enough’ voice again.
It was during this time that she took her first LYL course: How to Connect with Anyone and joined one of the Mastermind groups where she got access to coaching. Suddenly the voice became louder and more frequent: Write. Create. Facilitate. It could no longer be ignored.
One of the first things Ellen did during her time in the Connect With Anyone course was to reignite her creativity again. How? She decided to set herself a creative challenge and in her own words: “It was because of this course, the coaching and the community, that I reconnected with my creative self and started my 52 images in 52 weeks challenge.”
Fast forward two years, and Ellen is now on a mission to create a million nuggets of happiness around the world by helping others reconnect with their creative spirit through workshops, coaching, children’s books, and beautiful art cards at her website Ellen Jenny Watkins.
So, what’s this super simple secret that Ellen employs to get her into serious momentum?
It’s what Ellen refers to as ‘daily, small, incremental progress’. She started to schedule just 5 minutes a day to create. And it changed everything.
Join us in this fun interview with Ellen as we get very real about what it takes to make an impact in the world and hear Ellen share how her approach of just five minutes a day has led to her creating a business, publishing a children’s book, landing up on the 2015 stage at World Domination Summit, and reconnecting not only with her creative side, but to herself again.
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She took lots of little steps on a daily basis… simple as that. She decided to move forward instead of stay stuck. She wasn’t willing to settle for what was. She believed her life could be more, so she took action to discover what that looked like.
And here are some highlights in Ellen’s own words, describing her incredible journey over the past few years…
Life Before LYL
I was a Digital Marketing Manager at a Fortune 100 company. I managed a team of email marketers and although I didn’t care much about email, I created a global training program and got to connect with many people (and even travel) around the world.
I had created a great life and made the ‘hard decisions’ to choose my happiness. But then I reached a plateau in my career and realized I wasn’t fulfilled, I needed to change, but I wasn’t sure how.
- Life was ‘normal’. Rushing around every day, waking up at 6am, longing for coffee, getting our son up and ready for school. Dropping him off, and getting to work around 8am. Meetings, meetings and more meetings.
- Our son was so frustrated that he felt rushed all the time. We argued a lot and he was only 4! At the end of each crazy day I’d try to reset and quiet my mind that just kept on saying “This is what I worked hard for!? This job I purposely chose is killing me quietly.”
- I made all the right choices to get a job I loved, and yet I was miserable.
The Wake-up Call
It was the Spring of 2013 and one night at dinner, during a particularly rough patch at work, my husband innocently asked, ‘How was your day?” And I just started crying at the dinner table. I looked over at my son and I thought… THIS IS NOT OK! This is not what I want to show him. This is not the woman, wife, mother I want to show up as in life.
- I knew I had to change this now. I knew I had to do it for me… but I had to do it for them, too. They matter. THIS matters and if I don’t change this, I’m going to regret it for the rest of my life and I’m going to damage the most important relationships in my life.
- Going to a job you ‘kind of like’ to leaves you coming home half dead, without passion, without excitement. I looked at my son and decided that I wanted to show him that he had more to look forward to.
Enter Live Your Legend
The main problem I had was I didn’t know what I loved anymore. I’d been following Zen Habits for a while and I saw one day there was a link to the LYL site. I followed it and the message there really spoke to me. ‘Do work you love’.
I’d lost confidence in myself and my abilities to know what that was anymore. I knew I needed help and I kept thinking I needed a coach, a good coach. But I didn’t know where to begin to look and find someone I could trust.
- Then it happened. LYL launched their next How to Connect With Anyone (CWA) course…and they were offering coaching as part of the package. I was IN.
- After CWA, joining the Start A Blog Challenge was the accountability I needed during the year of 52 images. It gave me a voice and kept me going. Even if only a few were reading it, it was a powerful motivator and avenue for exploration.
- Although overwhelming at times, I referred to the questionnaire and the resources in the Passionate Work Toolkit many, many times. I answered the questions with ‘free flowing’ writing. It was very interesting to see what came out. As a matter of fact, I think that was where I wrote a statement about creating a children’s book which, a few years later, I successfully published.
- Being the first LYL Local Host gave me some connections to people in the area. It showed me the importance of just showing up to create a space where people can come. Although I had to step down from that role due to other commitments, the connections have lasted and it’s great to be a part of the local community.
Bumps in the Road
Dealing with the negative self talk in my head was difficult. The constant nagging voice saying you’re not good enough, you don’t matter, just go to work and tune out the pain.
- Being ok with imperfection. Before I started this project, I’d get stifled with wanting ‘perfect’ pictures. That’s part of why I stopped creating 20 years ago. I’d get stuck in the image of what I thought it should be, of what I should be. It stopped being fun. There was more to it, but this was a big one.
- Another challenge was what to do after the initial 52 images were created. Now what? Now what do I do. I had this vision of something bigger than myself… something that impacted others, but I wasn’t sure what that was, or how it looked, or how to make ‘it’ happen.
- By just doing what I love (even for 5 minutes at a time), I’m a better wife, mother and friend. I show up more in life and have more energy and excitement for my future.
- Writing, designing, and publishing my first children’s book and first in a series: Caterpillar and Snail which tells the tale of what happens when we discover that no adventure is too big or too small to undertake if it’s what you’re called to do.
- Speaking on stage in front of 3,000+ people at World Domination Summit last year sharing my story.
- Creating a line of hand-drawn cards and sharing my artwork through an online store to give love and smiles that will last forever and create a deeper connection with those you love most.
- Offering services including speaking, workshops, coaching and challenging others to create their own 52-in-52 challenge to reconnect with themselves once again.
The LYL Advantage
As mentioned before, the Connect with Anyone course was the marker for powerful change for me. There is something to be said about having access to people who know you and have seen you at your most scared and vulnerable. They know how far I’ve come and how much courage it takes.
The tools that helped me the most were:
- How to Connect with Anyone
- Start a Blog Challenge
- Free subscriber’s Passionate Work Toolkit
- Free weekly articles
As a busy, full-time working mom, wife and friend, my time is seriously limited. Some days I only had 5 minutes of time and my progress for that day would simply be me setting up my work station: a pencil and paper and that was it!
- The full transition to creating my business and website, while continuing to juggle a full-time job took 2-3 years.
Living Your Legend Today
Words cannot describe the feeling I get when I talk about the book I wrote and created and hear the stories from it. Now I’m crying happy tears!
Although my ‘normal’ day is actually pretty similar to before and I still have my day-job, I now work from home and have no commute.
Now I have this strong sense that this is what I’m meant to do: inspiring, teaching and connecting others. It’s such a far cry from the dinner table and that awful empty feeling of that night in the Spring of 2013. I’ll never forget it… and it makes THIS so much more special because I went through it and came out the other end.
Connect with Ellen and learn more here:
And for the comments… Ellen is happy to answer your questions, so please post some good ones below!
A huge thanks to Ellen for sharing her story and we can’t wait to hear from more of you out there making your unique imprint on the world.
Here’s to reconnecting with yourself and making small, incremental progress!
-The Live Your Legend Team
P.S. We will be opening the doors to the How to Connect With Anyone course again soon! Make sure you join our waitlist to be the first to find out when the doors officially open!