The Best Compliment Karen Ever Received

Here are my answers to some of the 25 Not-Too-Scary Life Questions Worth Asking Yourself. The first question isn’t from the list but I wanted to explain my image choice.

Why did you choose the image of a poppy?

Some years ago, I was at a waterfront art festival. There was lots of gorgeous art for sale, but nothing was more spectacular than a large original painting of red poppies in a field. I walked away from that painting many times over the course of the day, but I could never stay away for long. I felt peaceful and uplifted just looking at that art.

The painting was a steal at $500 but I didn’t buy it. I had never purchased art before and I couldn’t justify purchasing something that expensive for myself.

I have thought about that painting many times over the years. Now I value myself enough to make sure that I spend time appreciating the beauty in the world and, when I can afford it, I even try to have some of that beauty on the walls of my home. 

What is your favourite quote? Why?

Don’t ask what the world needs.

Ask what makes you come alive and go do it,

Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.

Howard Thurman


I love the Howard Thurman quote to the right. As much as I believe that education is what the world needs, I chose it as a career because it made me come alive. That worked very well. When I left education and wasn’t sure what new activities would make me come alive, I realized how easy it was to default into wondering what the world needed. This quote appeared in my life at just the right time to keep me on the path of searching for the work that would fill me with joyful energy.

What is the best compliment you have ever received?

A friend once called me a “learner on steroids.” I love that! I want to always be learning and I’m so happy to finally be at a point in my life where I have time and opportunity to learn about all sorts of different things that aren’t work-related.

When do you have trouble saying No?

 If someone needs help, I have trouble saying ‘No’. That makes me sound so noble and giving. In truth, my motivation is often that I don’t want to disappoint the person because then they might not like me or might not think me noble and giving. I still put far too much stock in other people’s opinions of me. I’m a work in progress.

What would you like to stop doing?

I’d like to stop being so self-critical. It is deeply exhausting and demoralizing. And worse, when I beat myself up I also find I’m more judgmental about other people.

If you won a lottery, what would you do with the money? Assume the win was big enough that you easily took care of family and friends.

I would give creative people the gift of time. When I wanted to write a book, I took a year’s unpaid leave of absence from work. That felt risky but at least I had the kind of job where a leave was possible, and a line of credit at the bank that would see me accumulating debt but afloat for the year. If I won a big lottery, I would set up a foundation where people would have their expenses covered for a year or more so they could devote their time and attention to working on their dream project. And if it were a really big lottery win and I had the energy for it, I’d also create a retreat space where those same people could come for a month to kickstart their work with space, time, encouragement, and new learning.

What is the best piece of advice you were ever given?

My father was a very wise man, a highly creative problem-solver and inventor. He used to say, “When someone gives you two choices, look for the third.” I’ve always found that advice such a great reminder to think beyond the obvious, especially important whenever I feel trapped between two not-so-great options.

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2 comments

  1. Hi Karen,
    I can hear and feel your determination balanced with some despondency about Shyla. I wonder what happened to her to make her behave this way for such a long period of time. Did you receive any history about her? But knowing you you will do the right thing for her and hopefully things will continue to improve even more than your list in your blog. I am particularly interested in your story because Jeff is considering getting a rescue dog. I would love him to hear Shyla’s story and I will be sure to share this with him when we get home.
    On another note I love your father’s quote. I can see him saying it with a twinkle in his eye! See you soon.

  2. Hi Fran,
    I think that early experiences shape dogs, just as they do humans. Shylah’s two months on the streets and eight months in a shelter have delayed her and given her trust issues. But it’s okay. We’re going to work it out. It’s just a LOT of work, which sometimes makes me feel really weary.
    Please feel free to give Jeff the Profound Journey address and encourage him to read all of the Shylah posts.
    Thanks for reminding me about my dad’s quote. It’s really appropriate for stuff that’s happening in my life right now yet I’d forgotten all about it.
    I can’t wait to see you, Fran. When do you get home?

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