Author's Posts

Lis Williams

Be Creative by AWE Partners

Understanding Your Purpose As An Entrepreneur

  • November 2, 2017
  • Lis Williams

Entrepreneurship is not a hobby! It’s the act of creating and a calling that comes from the... Continue Reading

The Entrepreneurial Adventure

As an undergraduate studying business at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, my Finance 101 class was held in a large auditorium with hundreds of students.  On the first day, the professor got up on stage and began his lecture with this…

“The purpose of a business is to increase shareholder profits.”  He then went on to describe how this might be accomplished.

But I wasn’t paying attention because I was stuck on the first sentence. I couldn’t believe it.  I couldn’t believe that was what it was all about or that was the only reason someone went into business.

(And if it was true, I couldn’t believe I’d chosen to study business.)

Perhaps I was naïve in thinking there were more important reasons because that was the go-go 80s when it was all about the money.  In truth, there was more going on than I recognized.

I didn’t realize (way back then) that I would always believe there is more to business than just making money.  

Fast forward some 30+ years to the launch of, what is now, AWE Partners. As I was getting up and running I heard – on more than one occasion, “If you’re not making money, it’s not a business – it’s a hobby.”  And again, I was somewhat struck by that declaration.

So what is a hobby, exactly? It’s defined as: an activity of interest pursued for pleasure or relaxation and not as a main occupation. Ask any hard-working, nose to the grindstone entrepreneur.  Entrepreneurship is not a hobby! But I realized why the focus on profit alone seemed so limiting.

Because it is. Entrepreneurship is so much more than that!

Be Creative

I totally get that we want to make money in business. I understand the importance of revenue generation and profit maximization.  I have an undergraduate degree in finance and an MBA from one of the most prestigious business schools in the world.  I worked at two premier global corporations.  I have learned from the best.  I get it!

But here’s what I didn’t know when I launched my business: I didn’t know that entrepreneurship was my way of expressing my creativity in the world. And that owning a business was my way of becoming.  I didn’t know that AWE Partners was my destiny.

Yes, I want to make money.  But I also want to empower my clients to be as effective as possible with their giving and investing so that we can begin to move the needle on our social challenges.  I want to inspire entrepreneurs to be part of the solution and make their “AWE-thentic Impact” in the world.  I want to build a community of AWE-dacious women who support each other in pursuing their soul’s calling in life.  I want to create, what I call, a “Movement Toward Meaning”!

And through it all, I want to test my limits and learn more about myself, my gifts and talents, my passions, and my purpose.

But if I never made a dime the journey would still be worth it. My life is so much richer, so much more abundant, and so much more than I could have ever imagined.  All because I had the courage to take a chance on being an entrepreneur.

Know Your Calling

What if I had listened to those who told me it was a hobby if I wasn’t making money?  What if I quit before the money came in because I thought no one would take me seriously?  And what if I thought that not making money meant I didn’t have what it took to be an entrepreneur?

I know a woman who started a really cool business with an awesome mission (and much needed in our world). But she didn’t make money in the first couple years so she let it fade away. She had to find a way to support her family so I understand why she did it.

She happened to be one of the women who told me that no money equaled “just a hobby.”  Apparently, she believed this. What do I believe? I think she just needed more time and encouragement. As entrepreneurs, we have to decide – just like a writer, actor, artist, etc. – that this is our calling.

Think about it…

Would we ever tell a writer that if they’re not making money they’re not really a writer, it’s just a hobby?  Or an actress who is waitressing that she’s not really an actress until she makes money at her craft? Or would we ever tell a starving artist not to keep painting unless she can make a sale?

Of course not! Because that is who they are. In the depth of their soul they see themselves as a writer, or an actress, or a painter.  Even if they don’t have the money to show for it – just yet. They know who they are and who they are meant to be – and we should never squash somebody’s dream because of money.

(Unless we’re their parent and they’re still living in our basement well into their 30s. Then let’s maybe have a chat.)

Entrepreneurship is the act of creating.  It is a calling. It takes amazing courage, dedication, discipline, and hard work.  And typically takes a lot of years before you can support yourself from the profits it generates.

But like any other creative endeavor, the glory is not in the destination – it’s in the journey. It’s the inner energy it unleashes and the connection to our soul.  It’s the entrepreneurial adventure and I encourage my fellow adventurers not to give up the dream. We need you. So go out there and be AWE-dacious!

Put On Your Wings

  • October 5, 2017
  • Lis Williams

In my office on the third floor of our home sits a big, green, overstuffed chair. I purchased... Continue Reading

In my office on the third floor of our home sits a big, green, overstuffed chair. I purchased it when my kids were little. I wanted a comfy place where we could all snuggle and read. When we moved to Chicago, the chair was too big for my bedroom, so we brought it up to the third floor.

At the time, that space was my retreat, the place where I would meditate, journal, and do yoga. It was also the place where I faced my shadows, the parts of myself that needed to be healed of grief, anger, guilt, and fear. It’s where I ultimately found peace and joy. And it’s the place where God called me up and out of my comfort zone.

Are you being called out of your comfort zone?

I didn’t want to go. I liked it there. I felt good where I was—good about God, good about myself, and good about my life. My comfort zone was safe, cozy, and easy. And I didn’t have to get up and out of my comfort zone, because my husband had a job. He could keep working and take care of us, and I could continue to be a stay-at-home mom. True, my children were growing up and would be leaving home in the not so distant future, so I would not have been able to keep that title forever. But I probably could have faked it for a few more years without anyone knowing.

The truth was, I couldn’t kid myself. I knew what I had to do. I had to get up and out of the big, green chair. It was time to trade in the backpack of excuses I had been carrying for a fresh, new set of wings. I couldn’t keep the backpack because we all have a weight limit, and if we’re carrying too much baggage, we won’t be able to fly. And it was time for me to learn how to fly.

No more excuses!

I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go, but I knew I was being lured out from that place of comfort. You see, we can run from God’s dreams for us, but we can’t hide. And sometimes we just have to grow into them. That’s often what the second half of life is all about. I know this to be true because in my own life, I have heard two callings.

I discovered my first calling after I left the corporate world, determined not to sell my soul for the sake of my career. I then dabbled in some entrepreneurial pursuits, none of which garnered much success or fulfillment. At thirty-one years old, I had my first child. And the minute I saw him, I knew I had found my purpose. For the first time in my life I knew I was exactly where I was meant to be. So I took a sabbatical from my career—a really long sabbatical—and immersed myself in the world of motherhood.

But there was always a nagging feeling that I had left something undone, that I had not peaked, that I had another purpose in my life.

Something was left undone

What I didn’t anticipate was that being a stay-at-home mom would have an impact on my self-confidence. I didn’t know that when it was time to think about going back out into the “real world,” I would have to face fears I didn’t even know I had. And the deepest fear of all was that I didn’t have what it takes to make my dream come true.

I knew I wanted to own my own business, and I knew I wanted it to be mission-driven. But I had no real role models. No one in my family had ever owned a business. In fact, most of the women in my family had taken the traditional route of staying home and raising kids. So I started looking outside my family to female role models who were succeeding as entrepreneurs. I am forever grateful to a cadre of women—most of whom I’ve never met—who encouraged me to step outside my comfort zone and follow my dream.

I am grateful to all of the women who encouraged me

I listened to Dr. Christiane Northrup’s radio program, Flourish, every Wednesday morning, and I drank in her wisdom and encouragement. I enrolled in Marie Forleo’s B-School to learn how to market myself in the age of the internet. I listened to Arianna Huffington talk about how to maintain balance in her Thrive class, and I learned to embrace my feminine power through Claire Zammit’s online program. I even attended a small group mentoring program called Raising the Bar hosted by Jean Houston at her home in Ashland, Oregon. And slowly but surely, my courage increased until I was ready to put it all out there and launch my business.

It’s not easy to do the thing we know we need to do. It’s not easy to put yourself out there for the world to see and risk failure, criticism, and defeat. But the alternative is unbearable. You absolutely don’t want to get to the end of your life and wonder what would have happened if you had just taken a chance and followed your dream.

It’s not easy to risk failure but the alternative is unbearable

And here’s the other great thing that happens when you’re outside your comfort zone: You feel the need for God, all the time. You call on him more and rely on his strength and guidance. And that’s always a good thing. That space outside your comfort zone is wide open, sacred space that is unbounded and unfettered. It’s where I spend most of my time now. I guess you could say I’m becoming comfortable being uncomfortable.

My time had come. My desire, my dream, and my destiny were calling. The only question that remained was what it would look like.

Get comfortable being uncomfortable

I wanted to create something that fully expressed who I was and what mattered most to me. It would have to integrate my spirituality, love of entrepreneurship, passion for empowering women and children, and deep desire to serve humanity in a way that had social impact. If it could somehow incorporate my love of wine, that would be an added bonus.

AWE Partners was birthed from the depth of my soul with a mission to encourage, inspire, and empower women to make their awe-thentic impact by sharing their gifts and talents in service to the universe. Believing that entrepreneurship has the power to not only lift women up but to solve our most challenging social ills, I chose to work closely with heart-centered entrepreneurs who want to align their business mission with their cause-related passion.

I saw that it wasn’t enough to simply make money as an entrepreneur and keep that corner of life segregated from the larger world and the impact many of us long to have on it. If women could link their entrepreneurship with their passion to give back to the world, real change could happen.

You have the ability to effect real change

To do that, I also saw that like me, most women needed and even longed to do the self-exploration necessary to rebuild themselves where they were broken, become unstuck, take their self-confidence to the next level, and otherwise take themselves to a place of greater authenticity and self-understanding so their giving could be intentional. When women explore who they are, they ultimately also discover what they have to give and how they want to give it.

But when it comes to making the connection between who they are as women and who they can be as philanthropists, many successful women have remained grounded, like airplanes waiting on a runway for the fog to dissipate. In essence, they just need help dissipating that fog so they can spread their wings and fly. And when that happens, they can help others soar.

So come on.  Put on your wings and let’s learn how to fly!

Be AWE-dacious!

Shatter Your Glass Ceiling

  • September 1, 2017
  • Lis Williams

Not so long ago, I had one of those experiences when I knew I was being taught a... Continue Reading

Not so long ago, I had one of those experiences when I knew I was being taught a very important lesson by life. But that knowledge did not stop the pain from being excruciating. It all began when my husband and I took our youngest son to an appointment with a college counselor. In two short years I will be sending my second and last child off to college, which is sure to bring out a whole host of other life lessons.

Life lessons can be painful

What was supposed to be a first step in the long road to college acceptance triggered something in me that I had no idea was hiding out. Our conversation centered around who my son was and what he was looking for in a college. We discussed his academic credentials and his desire to play soccer. We talked about the size of the school he would like to attend, the geographic locations he preferred, and what he thought he’d like to study.

Then the counselor asked my son about his extracurricular activities. She told him that he would need to begin creating his activity list and printed out a copy of one that a former client had prepared. The implication was that without an impeccable activity list, his chance of getting into an elite institution was questionable, despite his stellar academic record and the fact that he just happens to be a terrific kid. (Yes, that’s his mother talking, but it’s true, dammit!) We finished our discussion and parted ways.

On the car ride home, I began pondering the fact that the playing field is not level. It’s not fair that every child can’t afford to hire a college counselor whose job it is to do everything they can to get that child into the best possible school. It’s not fair that every child can’t hire a writer to edit their college essays. It’s not fair that every child can’t afford to hire a tutor to help them prepare for their college entrance exams or get a better grade in their litany of AP classes that, apparently, they shouldn’t be in anyway if they need a tutor! Is it just me or is that insanity? Life’s not fair! But we already knew that.

Life’s not fair but we knew that

Then I glanced at the activity list the counselor had printed out and gasped. This so-called teenager had accomplished more in his four years of high school than most people accomplish in a lifetime of careers. Before turning eighteen, this prodigy was the vice president of one of the top math teams in the state. He was the president of his school’s physics, engineering, and technology club, which was working on remotely operated vehicles. He was a math tutor. He had taken a college course at Northwestern, a summer camp on number theory at Stanford, and studied black holes and quantum mechanics at Brown. I wondered why the hell he was going to college because it seemed to me that he already had the equivalent of a college education.

My first thought was that someone had permitted this young boy to miss his childhood. They had encouraged him to do everything “right” so he could get into the best educational institution in the country. They thought that would make him happy and successful in life, so they had pushed him to grow up quickly, thus providing him an edge in a race to nowhere. And, sadly, he had obeyed.

Mind you, I did not know that any of these things were true. It could be said that they were the hallucinations rumbling around in my head in response to that activity sheet.

But it’s what happened next that led to my awakening. I started to question myself and continued with that questioning for days. Why hadn’t I encouraged my son to stick with math club, even though he found it boring? Why hadn’t I signed him up for engineering camp instead of a leadership conference? Might he have done research with a professor some summer instead of playing soccer? In fact, why had I let him play soccer or anything else outdoors when he was little instead of studying advanced science and math indoors?

But it didn’t stop there. No, I went on to question every decision I had ever made about my older son who was already at the “wrong” college. Why did I not force my brilliant, rebellious son to get the grades he was capable of in high school even though he was bored and loathed studying? Why didn’t I insist that he fully annotate the novel Cat’s Eye even though it’s a book that only women in midlife would enjoy? Why didn’t I let him continue to participate in Model UN, despite the fact that the weekend conferences were “supervised” by college students and the kids were drinking and smoking pot? Why on earth did I think that a college focused on growing the mind, body, spirit, and emotions would serve him well in life?

And what about earlier in his life? Why hadn’t I insisted that he stay in Boy Scouts so he could achieve the coveted Eagle Scout badge even though the only activity he enjoyed was spelunking? Why hadn’t I breast fed longer? Why hadn’t I played more classical music to my growing fetus? Why hadn’t I gotten pregnant when I was younger and my cells were more robust? Why, why, why?

Why? Why? Why?

Not long after that visit with the college counselor, I began having back pain. Being very in tune with the mind-body connection, I knew my body was sending me a message. I just wasn’t sure what it was.

As fate would have it, the spirituality center near my home was holding a retreat on the Sedona Method, which teaches that a sense of lack and our desire for control, security, and approval give rise to our emotions. Those desires make us feel insecure because we believe we are lacking something we need to feel complete. The balm that heals is loving, unconditional presence. Was it possible that my endless self-questioning following that meeting stemmed from a sense of lack? Did I feel I lacked the ability to control what was happening with my sons? Did I feel insecure about my children’s futures and my ability to make decisions that would impact their futures in a positive way? Was I seeking the approval of my peers and the larger world based on what college my boys attended?

Yes! Yes! Yes! It was a breakthrough. I eased up on myself and the back pain lessened.

But three days later, I was writhing in pain on my family room floor. Perhaps I didn’t have it all figured out after all. Three Advil capsules later, along with some heat and stretching, and I was able to sit upright enough to try working through the emotions. What was I resisting? What wall was blocking my ability to move forward? As I thought more about it, I realized that it was not a wall but a ceiling—my inner glass ceiling. That ceiling had been hanging over my head for a long time, and there were words etched in the glass: You’re not good enough.

Do you have an inner glass ceiling?

It was a stunning realization. I had not seen myself as a person who thought she wasn’t good enough, and I could not imagine anyone ever telling me that when I was growing up. But then I began thinking about it. One time in elementary school, I wasn’t invited to a party. In seventh grade, I was cut from the cheerleading squad, and in eighth grade, my friends decided to room with someone else during a trip to Washington, DC. I ran for class secretary once and lost, and more than once, I liked a boy who didn’t like me back. I got a D on an assignment. A boyfriend broke up with me. I dropped a college class because I was failing it. I applied for a job I didn’t get and started a business that didn’t get off the ground.  The mistakes I feared I’d made parenting had plenty of company for what I might have subconsciously thought were my failures in life.

Were these all examples of not being good enough? At some level within me, they apparently were. They were just normal, everyday experiences of growing up and growing out into the world, but at some level, they had stung badly enough that I had internalized them as evidence I wasn’t good enough. Buried deep within my psyche, that feeling had created a glass ceiling.

I knew I wasn’t alone in this. Those interior thoughts and feelings create walls, ceilings, and entire houses that keep us trapped. By our own making, we are kept in our place—our nice, safe place. There is, of course, a problem with it. It may feel comfortable some of the time, but it is actually a small, tight space. It’s hard to breathe in there. It’s hard to move freely.

That cramped space restrains us until we have had enough and refuse to let it contain us anymore. When the life force inside us that has always been there begins to bubble, churn, and push its way out of the depths of the soul, the truth of who we are emerges.

Sometimes that happens in a fit of unbearable back pain; sometimes it happens in even more uncomfortable ways.

Eventually the truth must emerge

Now here’s the truth: You are good enough. You always have been good enough. You always will be good enough. You don’t have to change. You don’t have to do or be anything to be good enough. You already are.

Not only are you good enough, you are magnificent! You are brilliant, beautiful, gifted, talented, and beloved. You are a daughter of the king, which makes you a princess.

And so am I.

How do I know these things? I know them because when we explore ourselves at depth, when we peel away everything that is not authentically us, what is left is the true, authentic self. And that is not only good enough, it is a wondrous thing.

Your authentic self is a wondrous thing!

When we don’t know that we’re good enough, right down to the level of our DNA, we play small. And we don’t think we could possibly be enough to have something to give to others. If we actually do make little forays into the world of sharing our gifts, we don’t show up fully. We don’t take the risks necessary to make lasting change. We don’t shine our light.

But we are good enough. And together we just might light the world on fire.

Anyone have a match?

Be AWE-dacious!


Be Brave! AWE Partners

Facing the Dark

  • July 27, 2017
  • Lis Williams

One night when my husband and I were in the city having dinner with friends one of my... Continue Reading

One night when my husband and I were in the city having dinner with friends one of my sons, who was sixteen at the time, was home alone in our safe, suburban community. We unexpectedly had a call from him saying the electric company had just left a message that they would be turning off the power for about four hours. As I was talking to him, the power shut down and he was immersed in the pitch black silence of the night.

My son, who I had never known to be afraid of the dark, was petrified and his voice began to shake. I called my neighbor, who rushed over to get him and take him to their back porch where the light of their fire pit was blazing and their family was huddled together.

We’re all afraid of the dark

We’re all afraid of the dark in some way. Some are afraid of the dark thoughts that creep in as they lie awake in the wee hours of the night. Others might be afraid of the darkness spewed out at us and our children through social media, crude song lyrics, and violent video games and movies. And many of us are afraid of the darkness that appears to be engulfing our world in hurt, pain, and suffering.

So what do you do with all this darkness? How do you navigate it? How do you do your part to be light in the darkness without being overcome with fear, grief, and despair? The answer is this: You have walk toward it and look for the light.

Look for the light!

When I was in my twenties, I was a member of Old St. Michael’s, a big, beautiful church in the city. The 7:00 p.m. Mass on Sunday night was packed with young adults in their twenties and thirties. The church was alive with energy. I ran the peace and social justice committee, which organized a variety of service projects in our community.

One Sunday morning, I was standing in the back of the church hosting a table for those interested in joining our committee. Before Mass ended, a stereotypical “bag lady” walked into the church. I immediately hoped she would not come my way because I had no idea how to deal with her. Yet she came right up to me, looked me in the eye, and politely asked a question. “Where can I leave this donation for the food pantry?” Then she held out a bag full of canned goods.

I was stunned by her action and my prejudice.

Wake-up Call #1

Around that same time, my husband and I regularly delivered meals prepared by members of our parish to a homeless shelter in the community. We helped serve the meals and then stayed to clean up. It occurred to us it might be nice to spend a little time with the guests and get to know them better, so we decided to get a group together to play board games after the meal. We usually had to do some encouraging before we had enough people to play, and we split up in teams so more could participate.

A lot of the people who came to the shelter did not look homeless. They just looked down on their luck. But some looked to be dealing with serious issues. One Sunday, a man who appeared to be among those with mental illness approached the table I was at to ask if he could join us. I could see the concern on the faces of everyone at the table, including the homeless individuals. But there was no way I could say no, so he joined in.

The game we were playing was Chicago Trivia. There were questions about the city’s history that covered every decade, and except for one man, none of us could answer them. The outcast, the man who looked disheveled and out of sorts, knew every answer. Who was this guy? What had happened to him and why was he here?

Wake-up Call #2

I could go on and on about all of the times I have seen light in the dark. Even if it’s just a light bulb that goes off in my own head when I realize that what I thought was real isn’t. Where I thought there was only darkness, there was light. It had just gotten buried, and it just needed someone to see its truth.

What if we need the dark to appreciate the light? What if we need to experience fear, suffering, and sorrow to savor the peace, joy, and love? What if the way out of the darkness is not to run from it but to run to it and find out what it has to teach us? We might not be able to fix every problem, but we can try. We might not be able to stop every injustice, but we can be with people in their suffering.

What does the dark have to teach us?

Everything looks dark until you get up close and take a good look. Sometimes you learn things about the people you serve, and sometimes you learn things you never knew about yourself. And when that happens, the illumination spreads far beyond that one thing. But before that can happen, you have to open the door and approach the darkness with curiosity and willingness to understand it.

It doesn’t help for us to get sucked into the darkness, so how do we step into it without getting lost? We need to be sure our own light is strong. That’s why soul care and self-care are so important for light bearers.

Just like a tree needs sun and rain to live and grow and burst into a flame of color, we, too, need the light and the dark to become all that we are meant to become. In time, we just might find that we’re no longer afraid of the dark!

Be AWE-dacious!

Step Out, AWE Partners

The Other Side of Fear and Failure

  • July 6, 2017
  • Lis Williams

If you want to be a light bearer in the world, and you do because we need you... Continue Reading

“A healthy fear keeps you from dying. An unhealthy fear keeps you from living.” – Lis Williams

If you want to be a light bearer in the world, and you do because we need you out there, you’re going to have to face your fears. And you’re going to have to be willing to fail. To fall down, get back up, brush yourself off, and keep going.

Failing isn’t fun, and we rarely like to talk about our failures. But in truth, we all fail. We all make mistakes. If we could just stop making such a big deal of it, we would realize that our failures lead to our successes.

Fail your way to Success

When I was in my 20’s, I was in graduate school at night and working during the day. I had a group presentation that I had been preparing for, but the night before the presentation I was unexpectedly invited to a Cubs game. Never one to pass up an opportunity to spend an evening at Wrigley Field, I chose to go to the game instead of practicing my presentation. I had given many presentations in my life and wasn’t concerned in the least.

My group of four got up to present the next night in class, and when the first presenter finished I was up. I got up in front of the class of about twenty with my cue cards and slides and began to speak. But, as I was talking, I realized that I really didn’t know what I was going to say next. Rather than winging it like I had done many times before, I froze. That would have been bad enough, but despite the fact that my brain had frozen, my mouth was moving, babbling in an incoherent fashion. I heard myself, but I was unable to stop.

The audience was clearly uncomfortable by the disaster they were witnessing. One woman in front kept smiling and nodding encouragingly hoping I would recover my composure. Others just kept looking down perhaps in belief that I might be able to get through my part of the presentation if no one was paying attention. Even the professor was doing his best not to notice. I eventually stopped babbling and turned it over to the next presenter.

When we finished our presentation and headed back to our seats, a break was announced. I quickly left the building to take a walk and try to regain my composure. I wanted to leave and go home, but I had left all of my belongings back in the classroom. I would have to go back in and face my peers. Somehow I managed.

A moment changes everything

Nothing that embarrassing had ever happened to me. I had failed before, but I had never failed so publicly. What I learned that day was that I could fail in a big, public way, and it changed everything for me. I began to be afraid. I never wanted to have that experience again, and I was afraid that I might. I didn’t understand what had happened, nor did I understand what had brought it on. Only later did I come to see it for what it was: my first panic attack.

I became afraid to speak in public, even in small groups. Then my fear began to carry over to other areas of my life. I became claustrophobic on elevators and in skyscrapers, and I had panic attacks on airplanes. I began planning my life around avoiding situations that might be uncomfortable. My life revolved around my fears.

My life revolved around my fears

It was awful, and I knew it had to stop. I finally said to myself, no more! I’m not living like this. I will not let fear keep me from doing something that I want or need to do in life. I realized that to get over my fears, I had to step outside of myself. I had to get over my ego. I had to care less about what others thought of me and more about what I could do for others – even when it was scary. I began to face my fears head on, did things that scared me, and risked embarrassment.

And here’s the truth of it: We don’t just fail once and we don’t just get the opportunity to face our fears once. We get those opportunities with some frequency, and if you want to be a light in the darkness, you will let your failures point the route to success, face your fears, and be willing to step into the darkness now and then.

Don’t let fear keep you from doing the things you need to do

I can assure you it is so much better to be in the water, flailing around, not knowing how to swim, than it is to be standing on the shore afraid to jump in. If more of us would just admit to our fears and our failures, it would encourage others to do the same. Then no one would be left standing on the shore.

Who’s up for a swim?

Be AWE-dacious!

Light the Dark and Heal the World

  • June 1, 2017
  • Lis Williams

Last year marked the election of the 45th President of the United States of America. This will undoubtedly... Continue Reading

Last year marked the election of the 45th President of the United States of America. This will undoubtedly be one of those moments that you’ll remember forever. Where were you when you learned that Hillary Clinton had lost and Donald Trump was our new President?

The range of emotions surrounding the announcement spans the spectrum between disgust and exuberance. Some see this as our darkest moment. Others see hope on the horizon.

But for another group of people, this election doesn’t really change anything. By itself, it is neither dark nor light. It just is. Another step in the ongoing unfolding of our shared Creation story.

So is it really possible to “live in this world but not be of it”? In other words, can we somehow rise above the growing sense of chaos and darkness that seems to permeate our existence? Can what happens on the outside leave untouched the peace and joy we feel within?

Can we rise above the chaos and darkness?

Yes! But it’s not easy. This is where soul care becomes critical. Let me explain…

Before I stepped back into the “work world” I was a stay-at-home mom. As many of you parents know, that is a misnomer – I was rarely at home. If I wasn’t carpooling my children to and from school and activities and play dates, I was volunteering at their schools, at our church, and in our community.

I always had the desire to use my gifts and talents to try to “make things better”. I would identify a situation that I thought could be improved and try to figure out how to do so.

I always wanted to make things better

I thought I had the best of intentions and was just being helpful. But as conflicts would arise I found myself getting angry; angry at our institutions that were doing it all wrong, angry at all the idiots who couldn’t get it right, and angry that the world couldn’t be perfect for my precious little children.

It took many years before I realized that the anger I was feeling wasn’t all about what was going on out there. The anger was actually inside of me.

The anger within colored how I saw the world

And it was the anger within that colored how I saw the world outside and how I interacted with my fellow citizens. It really wasn’t the most effective way of being.

So, I finally decided to stop trying to fix things on the outside. Instead, I turned inward to heal the darkness that had settled and re-ignite the light that had dimmed.

Then everything changed! The world didn’t look so dark anymore. People didn’t piss me off as much. Situations didn’t seem hopeless.

Everything changed when I healed the darkness within

As peace and joy began to well up within, I began to see light in the darkness. And I knew I had to share my new-found perspective. When we clear the blockages within, we can then become a vessel through which God pours His love to us, and through us, and out into a hurting world.

It’s not so much about fixing things. It’s about being invited into the darkness (which is holy, too) to share our light. This, in turn, disperses the darkness and empowers those we touch to see their own light, revealing their inner beauty, strength, creativity, and genius.

The darkness is holy, too

No matter who we are, what we have to offer, or how we choose to show up in the world, one thing is true for all of us – we are all called to be light in the dark and heal the world.

You won’t be alone on this journey, there are many other bearers of light. You know them. They come from all walks of life, but they’re doing exactly what they’re meant to do, and you can tell by the glow that surrounds them.

So whatever your calling, whatever your vocation, whatever your purpose; make it one of light, of healing, of service, of love. Because each act of love raises the vibrational level of the planet, and we all want to be part of something bigger than ourselves.

Be part of something bigger than yourself

You want to know what the meaning of your life is? This is it – trust me.

Now go light your world!

Be AWE-dacious!

Feel It All The Way Through

  • May 4, 2017
  • Lis Williams

There’s a space between chapters in life that can be difficult to accept. It’s a transition time. What... Continue Reading

There’s a space between chapters in life that can be difficult to accept. It’s a transition time. What some refer to as “liminal space”. It’s when you know what “has been” is ending. But you’re not yet sure what’s to come.

Sometimes we’re happy to have a chapter in our life close. Especially if it’s been a challenging or frustrating time. Other times it’s not so easy to let go of what was. Particularly, if we can’t see what’s up ahead.

The reality is that transitions are an inevitable part of life. Circumstances are always changing. Nothing stays the same.

Nothing stays the same

So what do we do with this? How do we navigate these times in our lives in a way that is healthy and hopeful and open to growth?

I believe the answer is we have to immerse ourselves fully in the place of uncertainty. We have to feel it completely. The fear, the sorrow, the anticipation, the hope. We have to make space for grace.

My oldest son left for college this past fall. I knew it was coming. He made it through four years of high school, took all the college tests, filled out the applications, selected his roommates and housing, yadda, yadda, yadda.

And he was so ready. He couldn’t wait to get out of high school, move out of the house, leave our tiny community, and venture into the great unknown.

I was ready, too. The high school years had been challenging and I had had enough of it. I was ready for him to be in a new environment. To test his wings. To grow up and into the amazing man I knew he had the potential to be.

But despite all the joy at what the future holds for him, there is an incredible aching for what we’re all leaving behind.

Sometimes we ache for what we’re leaving behind

For the past 19 years, he’s rarely slept a night away from us. Other than a few overnight camp trips, we’ve always been together. We ate meals together, we talked every day. I saw his face and could touch him and know he was o.k.

But now that’s all changed. And not just for a while, but forever. Despite the all too common experience of “boomerang” kids, the reality is that he will likely never live under my roof again for any length of time. Our lives will never again be so intertwined.

And I know that’s the way it’s supposed to be. I know. I get that. It’s healthy, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. I know he can’t live with me forever.

But even though I know all these things, it doesn’t really make it any easier. It hurts like hell to let him go.

When he came home for the first time at Thanksgiving it had been eight weeks since he’d been here. And when I looked in his bedroom I saw his suitcase. In the bathroom was his toiletry kit. And it hit me that he’s just visiting. He’s a visitor now. His life is elsewhere.

Of course, this is his home. And wherever I live he can always come home. But it won’t always be his home. He will eventually create his own home. And ours will be a place he visits.

Around the time he was leaving for college there were a lot of Facebook posts about kids heading off to school and the sorrow felt by their mothers. There was a comment from a woman saying something to the effect of, “Send your son off to war and then tell me how hard it is to watch him leave.” Ouch! I can’t even imagine how overwhelmingly difficult that would be and I feel for women who send their children off to war. It would be utterly heartbreaking.

So my initial response was to stop feeling sorry for myself and get over it. It could be so much worse. But the truth is that’s not the healthy response. I used to do that a lot. Pretend everything was o.k. and not really feel my feelings.

It’s not healthy to stuff your feelings

But not feeling your feelings doesn’t make them go away. They just get stuck. In your body. And eventually they have to come out. Often through fits of tears or anger. Or else through physical pain and illness.

The answer isn’t to suck it up. The answer isn’t to count your blessings and move on. As my bestie Donna says, “Sometimes you gotta stick with the ick.”

We have to feel our feelings. Even and especially the hard ones. We have to feel them all the way through so that we can incorporate them into our being. We need to learn what they have to teach us about ourselves and about life. We have to let them make us human so that we can experience the Divine.

Feel your feelings all the way through

In The Other Side of Chaos, Margaret Silf says that transitions are uncomfortable but that, “…it is often precisely those times when we are dislodged and forced to leave our accustomed comfort zones to embrace (or resist!) a new phase of our lives that we really do receive an invitation to begin to set ourselves free.”

The space between chapters is sacred space. It’s the space where earth and heaven meet. Where we come to know ourselves and discover the deeper meaning and purpose in our lives.

Stay there long enough to glimpse the beauty and wonder of what was and what is to come.

Be AWE-dacious!

We Need You Out There!

  • April 6, 2017
  • Lis Williams

Whew! We’ve gone through a lot of information about social impact. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t worry. There’s... Continue Reading

Whew! We’ve gone through a lot of information about social impact. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t worry. There’s no hurry and I’m not going anywhere. I’ll be right here by your side along your path to AWE-thentic impact.

If you’re not quite ready to pull out your checkbook or have “The Talk” with your financial advisor, that’s ok. There are plenty of other ways to get started. The important thing is that you begin where you are.

Begin where you are

I believe the best way to get to know an organization before donating or committing to a board position is to volunteer. Volunteering gives you a front-row seat to the inner workings of a non-profit.

You can either volunteer to do whatever they need or be specific about the skills and talents you would like to share. Either way, you will come to know the staff, their mission and programming, the culture of the organization, how things work (and don’t work), who they serve, and how effective they are.

Volunteering gives you a front row seat

Look for an organization in your community that is addressing a cause you feel passionate about. Or, if you want to step out of your comfort zone a bit there are a number of companies that help match you with an organization that can use your help. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Catchafire ( A community of individuals striving to push the social good sector forward by focusing on efficient and effective ways to give back. One way they do this is by matching professionals with nonprofits based on their skills, cause interest and time availability.
  • Taproot Foundation ( Connects non-profits and social change organizations with passionate, skilled volunteers who share their expertise pro bono. Through their programs, business professionals deliver marketing, strategy, HR, and IT solutions that organizations need to achieve their missions.
  • Volunteer Match ( Believes everyone should have the chance to make a difference. That’s why they make it easy for good people and good causes to connect. They’ve connected millions of people with a great place to volunteer and helped tens of thousands of organizations better leverage volunteers to create real impact.
  • WomenOnCall ( Creates opportunities for professional women to volunteer in a more meaningful way by effectively and efficiently aligning their skills, expertise and interests with short-term, high-impact volunteer opportunities.

What are you waiting for? The world needs your gifts and talents, skills and knowledge, wisdom and love. Who knows where the path might take you?  Just begin!

Be AWE-dacious!

The Allure of Impact Investing

  • March 2, 2017
  • Lis Williams

Is it possible to align your values and investments? Yes! By investing in companies that care about more... Continue Reading

Is it possible to align your values and investments? Yes!

By investing in companies that care about more than just the bottom line.

Align your values and investments

Through impact investing you can invest in companies, organizations, and funds whose mission is to generate social and environmental impact alongside a financial return.

Originally called socially responsible investing, it was previously limited to screening stocks or industries. For example, negative or avoidance screening meant you chose not to invest in companies whose products or services were considered harmful such as tobacco, gambling, and pornography. Affirmative screening sought out investments in industries that provided positive benefits such as renewable energy, clean transportation, and natural foods and cleaning products.

Today, socially conscious investors screen their investments using the environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria. Environmental criteria look at how a company performs as a steward of the natural environment. Social criteria examine how a company manages relationships with its employees, suppliers, customers, and the communities where it operates. Governance deals with a company’s leadership, executive pay, audits and internal controls, and shareholder rights.

Historically, a sustainable and responsible investment approach did not provide the same financial returns as a more traditional approach that focused exclusively on profits. But that is changing! Data now shows that investments focused on sustainable, long-term social and environmental impact often outperform the market.

Invest for profit and purpose

The industry is still in its infancy and there are challenges to be overcome, but the potential is exciting. One of the greatest challenges is measuring impact. Better quality and more simplified data is critical to make real, large-scale, and lasting differences for people and our planet.

Big name financial players are stepping into the arena which means your financial advisor may be ready to have the discussion if you haven’t already. I’ll be writing more about social enterprises and impact investing in the future so stay tuned.

Be AWE-dacious!

The Promise of Social Enterprises

  • February 2, 2017
  • Lis Williams

Supporting organizations that are doing good by sharing your time, talent, and treasure isn’t the only way to... Continue Reading

Supporting organizations that are doing good by sharing your time, talent, and treasure isn’t the only way to make your authentic impact. You can also make an impact through conscious choices about how you spend your money.

As an entrepreneur and philanthropist I’m giddy about social enterprises – businesses whose purpose is to change the world for the common good. Here’s why.

How you spend can change the world for the common good

Many of our social problems remain unsolved due to declining government funding, lack of impact from Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs, and little social innovation from the non-profit sector.

Arguably, one of the greatest challenges facing non-profits is lack of funding. There’s just never enough money to do the things they need to do to make the difference they want to make.

To overcome this challenge many non-profits launch earned-income ventures. In other words, they create a business that earns profits which can then be used to fund the organization’s programming.

An example is “fee for service” in which a non-profit charges for the services it offers its beneficiaries. When possible to do so, this is a fabulous way to create an on-going revenue stream.

Social enterprises use the power of the marketplace to advance their mission

Even more exciting are the abundance of for-profit and not-for-profit social enterprises that use the methods and disciplines of business and the power of the marketplace to advance their social, environmental and human justice agendas. According to the Social Enterprise Alliance, these enterprises are distinguished from other types of businesses, nonprofits and government agencies by three characteristics:

  • The organization directly addresses an intractable social need and serves the common good, either through its products and services or through the number of disadvantaged people it employs
  • Commercial activity is a strong revenue driver
  • The common good is its primary purpose

Around the globe there are a multitude of ideas being implemented to address unmet needs in affordable healthcare, safe water, housing, alternative energy, climate change, education, job training, agriculture, finance, and more.

On the spectrum, social enterprises fall between a traditional non-profit which is reliant on philanthropy and a traditional for-profit whose purpose is exclusively revenue generation.

Profit and Purpose!

Who doesn’t love purchasing from a company with a double bottom line? Profit and Purpose!

For example, Method Cleaning Products whose founders “set out to change the world by creating beautiful cleaning products that are as kind to the planet as they are tough on dirt”.

Or Warby Parker which offers designer eyewear at a revolutionary price while leading the way for socially conscious businesses. Recognizing that almost one billion people worldwide lack access to glasses and therefore cannot effectively learn or work, the company partners with non-profits to ensure that for every pair of glasses sold, a pair is distributed to someone in need. I got me a pair!

And I purchase all of my skin care products from two socially conscious companies, Ann Marie Gianni Skincare and Beauty Counter. Both companies insist on using only safe, non-toxic ingredients in their products and educate their customers about making healthy choices for themselves and their families.

But shopping isn’t the only way to support these organizations. If the social enterprise is a non-profit you can donate directly.

Or, give to a fund which then invests in the company. One of my favorite examples is Acumen Fund founded by Jacqueline Novogratz. The organization raises charitable funds, but instead of giving them away, it makes investments in entrepreneurs who are willing to take on some of the world’s toughest challenges in areas where governments and charities are often failing. Additionally, they work alongside the entrepreneurs offering management advice, technical help, and connections to a wider network of talent.

It takes patient capital to address the world’s toughest challenges

Acumen Fund’s results are measured in social as well as financial terms using an investment style they term “patient capital”. Their investment is longer-term as many of these businesses take years to grow and face enormous challenges to sustainability.

One last thing. Have you had a conversation with your financial advisor about supporting social enterprises through impact investing? It might just be time. Join me next month to learn more.

Be AWE-dacious!