Guest Blog: Movie Inspired Style from Kabuki

Shelley Yu, designer and creator of Kabuki Designs shares the story of overcoming the early struggles of building her own fashion line and the chance inspiration that turned it all around….


For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved fashion. Some of my earliest memories are of my mother making beautiful dresses for my sister and I. When I was 10 years old, I decided my dream was to become a fashion designer.

Many years later, Tokyo opened the floodgates for me and I took my first steps in approaching this dream. Some years after that, in April of 2011, Toronto became the birthplace of my line Kabuki Designs (which means Beautiful Clothes in Japanese).


I found my first two years in business to be quite a struggle as I worked to define the Kabuki style. I had brought over my design and pattern-making experience from the markets in Japan, and initially brought the same popular style elements to my own line, but found the Canadian marketplace didn’t seem to quite understand it. It seemed the aesthetics of eastern women and western women were not the same. This I could clearly see, but just couldn’t figure out how to bridge the gap.

“Find a routine daytime job and your life will be easier!”

“Never give up as this is the only career brings you no regret!”

There were always these two conflicting voices in my mind and it was enough to drive me mad. I can honestly say I became afraid of a new season coming because I just didn’t know what to make next.

In March of 2013, my family and I took a trip to Taiwan. On the airplane, I randomly switched the TV channels – I had no interest in any shows – I was annoyed that I hadn’t made progress or had any ideas about the new collections I was to be working on. I turned on the classic movie channel and Audrey Hepburn’s “How to Steal a Million” caught my eye.


When I first saw Audrey’s photo many years ago, I was attracted to her beauty, her elegance, and her intelligence.  That’s about the time I started to believe that God is indeed making perfect humans! She at once became my forever idol.  While watching the movie, I imagined being her personal stylist – what I would dress her in…?

Then there suddenly an unexpected idea hit mind — why not consider my customers as my idols and style them?


After the vacation, a simple but classic new Kabuki style was born along with 2013FW collections. I named all the pieces after characters played by Audrey Hepburn. And of course, the Audrey dress became the biggest hit among them!


My pattern making master Sensei Kondo, who used to work for Cristobal Balenciaga in Paris, taught me that the first thing to be considered when making a garment is to make sure the person in it feeling cozy. The fabrics and the silhouette must be not only flattering but also comfortable. I must say I’m grateful to have studied human anatomy at the medical university so many years ago – it most certainly helps me in pattern-making, crafting pretty silhouettes that move easily.


Thank you all for supporting and encouraging me and Kabuki through the years!

(This is the first blog I’ve written in English. I want to thank Laura-Jean who helped me with writing and editing!)

Shelley Yu



Love Letter From Laura-Jean


One evening as we were winding down, my seven year old son Dexter got excited out of the blue and said, “Awesome!  The day after tomorrow is chocolate milk day!”  It was one of those gorgeous little parenting moments that brings tears to my eyes.  I just loved that he could be so excited about this little weekly treat they get at school, and that he looked forward to something so simple with such enthusiasm.


That attitude stuck with me.  I really took it to heart, and started looking for all there is to celebrate in my everyday life.

Like most entrepreneurs, I still have my share of stress and worry about the juggling act that is my life and my businesses. I see how that stress and worry is just pretty much garbage.  Knowing that it’s garbage doesn’t make it go away instantly, but I can choose a different frame of mind in that moment.

Looking forward to chocolate milk day, metaphorically speaking, is a perfect trick to displace stress, worry or boredom and create a whole new way of being.  We all have tons to celebrate in our lives.  Really, tons.  Take a look right now in your life and see.  What is already there to celebrate?  And what could you create to celebrate?

For me, there’s my amazing business and the people in the community who help it thrive; the designers, staff and you, our wonderful customers – who all believe in this dream I made up 10 years ago – this is one of the best things on my list of things to celebrate.

I have Stuart, my little rescue dog, snoozing beside me as I write this.  He just sighed and snuggled a little closer. Him being this cozy and cute, and our family having found him to adopt is something to celebrate.

Today, everything worked out so that I could pick up my son from school and complete this blog from home.  His friend Jacob was coming with us, and entertained me all the way home with stories about how he is the only seven year old in the world legally allowed to work for money, but right now they just pay him in cookies (it sounds like he helps his mom at the restaurant she works at but it’s hard to know how accurate his story is).  That little joyous walk home with two boys is something to celebrate.

There has been some sunshine today after a lot of grey days.  I picked up some great cheese from Kensington Market which I forgot about, so I had a surprise awesome snack when I got home.  My mother-in-law’s pasta.  Wearing pink.  A call from an old friend out of the blue.  Brand new socks. Uninterrupted bubble baths.  Family game night.  Coffee dates with girlfriends.  Playing old records.  A Saturday matinee with my son… Once I start listing things, it’s hard to stop!

So really, anytime you’re bummed out, bored or stressed, just take a moment to look at what you have to celebrate.  Remember to create your own chocolate milk days, and then don’t forget to look forward to them!  Dexter may have just hit on the whole secret to happiness in his own awesome seven year old way.



Talking Business With The World’s #1 Small Business Guru – Michael E. Gerber – Part Two

Our CEO and founder, Laura-Jean recently had the opportunity to spend time with her business mentor, Michael E. Gerber. In part two of the two part series, she shares the advice she received from Michael and the impact it’s had already!

Continued from Part 1

 Never, in all those years, did I dream that I would sit down and have a conversation with Michael E. Gerber about my business – about Fresh Collective – for almost an hour.  In this conversation, he just GOT everything I’ve been trying to do and articulated it in his magical way.

Michael meeting participants at The Art of Small Business

Michael meeting participants at The Art of Small Business

As I sat transfixed and reminding myself to breathe, I said

“Yes, this is everything I’ve been trying to do and build and create for the past five years or so and it just came out of your mouth.  I can’t believe it.”

He chuckled and said,

“That is the next thing for you to do.  That’s it.  The secret sauce.  And you will do it.  You can do it.  And you’re going to do it.  And I know the next thing you’re going to ask is ‘But Michael, how do I do it?” and I don’t know.  But you do and you will.  You’re a natural.”  *

Yes, he’s right!  I do know – and I will know.  That’s the next thing for me to do -and I’ve already started.

* (Quotes are approximations of what was actually said.  I didn’t take notes.  I mostly tried to not faint.)

Michael Gerber delivering his talk at The Art of Small Business conference

Michael Gerber delivering his talk at The Art of Small Business conference


As I was working on this blog post, an email came through from Mr. Michael E. Gerber himself, in response to a thank you email I sent to him through his assistant.  This is an exact quote, copied and pasted:

 “Bret sent me the delightful email you sent through him, and it was truly delightful.  As are you, Laura Jean.  The fire in your eyes betrays the vitality that lives in your heart and soul.  Share all with everyone unstintingly, Laura Jean.  Without fear.  Without self-recrimination. Without any limitations whatsoever.  Give them all the room to do what they so naturally do, and to be touched by you and your innocence.  Yes, innocence, Laura Jean. There is nothing more spectacular than innocence.

Love, Michael”

You see, what Michael understands about business that so few others do, is that for those of us who approach it with passion, with all our heart and soul and treat it as a purpose for living, as I do, that it really is an art, a creation, poetry.  It comes alive and through businesses that are created in this way, humanity is celebrated.

The business becomes less about the “stuff” that is bought and sold, and more about the how and why around the stuff.  Why is it there? How was it made or sourced and why? How is it sold?  How is the business a celebration of what is essentially human about living our lives on this earth in this time?  How does it bring people together?  How does it express love, joy and beauty?  So few business owners dare to take on these big questions, and yet, what an amazing inspiring world it would be if business owners did!

I’m curious.  What do you think it was that he – the world’s #1 small business guru, seller of 8 million books worldwide – said were my next steps?

What do YOU see as the next step for Fresh Collective to build into our business?  I’d love to hear what you see is there for us to work on. Please email me here with what your thoughts are! (select my name from the drop down menu).



Where have we been?!

Boy oh boy…
It’s been a long journey to fall this season! We have had so many exciting and interesting changes happening in our business over the last few months, we didn’t have the opportunity to update our blog as much as we should have.

We’ve been busy behind the scenes creating a new set of articles from some of our fantastic designers and product partners, which we will be releasing weekly.

We apologize for the delay in getting these out to you – but at long last, here is our first blog post from one of our newest partners, enCircled. We LOVE her fantastic Chrysalis Cardi that can be worn 8 ways. A fantastic, versatile piece that can take you from day to night, from runway to play ground – It’s so fabulous! But enough about what we think! Here’s enCircled designer Kristi’s first blog post sharing how the idea for the Chrysalis Cardi came to be.


Like every Entrepreneurial dream, our Chrysalis Cardi started with an idea!
Written by Kristi, Chief Fashionpreneur, enCircled

I was packing for a yoga retreat in Costa Rica. It was the night before and as I zipped up my suitcase, the zipper broke. Luckily, being an avid traveler, I had several pieces of luggage, however the next largest suitcase was half the size of the one that I packed!
Frustrated, I started pulling stuff out of the suitcase… what don’t I need? What could I do without? Was there anything that I could wear multiple times, multiple ways?
I realized I packed a ton of stuff that would likely only be worn once (a frequent traveler faux pas!) so I attempted to edit.

There were two items I’d packed that were on my radar for unpacking. First, my grey circle scarf and secondly, my grey wrap cardigan. It was snowing in Toronto and the plane might be cold, but surely I could do with one of the two?
I’d bought the circle scarf with the intention of wearing it multiple ways. It came with a card showing 25 ways to wear but I’d never attempted any of them. I was hopeful that I could make the scarf into a cardigan and therefore could ditch my wrap cardigan from my suitcase.

As I sat there at 10pm the night before a 5am flight, I tried to figure out how to create the looks with the infinity scarf. It was tricky!

To make the various looks, I had to use safety pins, or tie the scarf, which resulted in an incredibly messy look. It looked like I was trying to make a scarf into something it wasn’t supposed to be. The fabric was see-through so that eliminated the possibility of it doubling as a dress, and the edges weren’t hemmed, which made the scarf look shabby. The infinity scarf was not as multifunctional as I hoped!

I longed for a piece of clothing that could be worn a few different ways really well. I didn’t need to turn a scarf into a bag. I just wanted something versatile that could take the place of a few things in my suitcase, perhaps a dress, a cardigan, and a scarf. So I designed it.
This is how the Chrysalis Cardi came to be.

Immediately when I returned from Costa Rica, I began designing the piece.
I’m a self-taught designer, so the product development took time. I started with the 8 key looks I wanted to create and backed into a design that could deliver all of them in an effortless and iconic way.


I sketched a rough pattern and created samples at home, playing around with what ‘attachments’ to use to hold the various looks together without requiring buttons, tying or pinning. I finally landed on heavy-duty metal snaps, hidden cleverly along the hemline!
The fabric selection was key– I knew I wanted something sustainable, eco-friendly, luxurious that was opaque, easy to travel with, colorfast and non-piling. This led me to Modal, which is derived from beechwood tree fiber.

I wanted it made in Canada and found a production contractor just north of Toronto who believed in my design concept and worked with me to refine the design. We produced our first run last year, and our second this year with many more runs to come!
Today, the Chrysalis Cardi can be worn over 8 different ways from an infinity scarf, to a one-shoulder dress, tunic, cape, halter top, and of course, a cardigan.
Each Chrysalis Cardi comes with a detailed instructional look book, as well as access to our {Members Only} videos on

Every day, new looks are discovered – my customer’s have so much fun playing around the garment and trying new ways to wear.

The Chrysalis Cardi looks like what it’s supposed to be. When you’re wearing it as a dress, it’s classic evening wear. When it’s a cardi, it’s a cozy cocoon wrap.

The Chrysalis Cardi as an original cardigan (top left) the X-back halter (bottom left), the grecian tunic (top right) and a one shoulder dress (bottom right).

The Chrysalis Cardi as an original cardigan (top left) the X-back halter (bottom left), the grecian tunic (top right) and a one shoulder dress (bottom right).


My Chrysalis Cardi has taken the place of a handful of things in my suitcase and closet. I am able to travel lighter, and live with less.

I’m now working on our second design – a versatile t-shirt that can be worn over 6 different ways. It will take you from the office to a night out, to Sunday brunch. Like the Chrysalis Cardi, in this next piece we will be pushing the boundaries of design in a mindful and purposeful way.
Stop by Fresh Collective and pick up your Chrysalis Cardi today!
I truly hope it becomes the most versatile piece of clothing that you will ever own.

Kristi is the Chief Fashionpreneur of enCircled. enCircled creates ethical, sustainable and versatile women’s apparel, manufactured in Canada from eco-conscious fabrics. enCircled’s first design, the Chrysalis Cardi is available at all Fresh Collective locations in Raspberry, Black and Cobalt. For more information, check out or follow enCircled on Facebook



The Swagger Coach – Nesting: An Organizational Tale

swagger coach

If I have one addiction, it’s shopping. I’m a sucker for fun fashion, expressive pieces, cool textures and playful colours. I have a lot of fun dressing myself, and I am lucky to have a partner who indulges me by allowing me to act as his own personal style consultant. I love playing dress-up so very much that I found myself a job with a great company which allows me to play dress-up all day long, and get paid for it. I think I hit the jackpot.

I’ve always sung the praises of items which can transition your wardrobe from season to season, and finding new ways to wear items which you already own. I love shopping, yes, but I also know that we’re real people with real budgets and real rent and hydro and car bills to pay, so I really emphasize the versatility of certain items which will help you get the best bang for your buck.

Last weekend, I was meandering around my apartment, and I realized that I had lots of everything. This everything has a place, yes, but instead of having one area where I keep, say, hair accessories, I had several. One special spot in almost every room. I also noticed that our black-and-white decor which once seemed modern and cool, had become a bit bland for my tastes. I set out, mentally re-organizing our place, room by room. After only a few hours and a lot of garbage runs, I cleared out our junk, sorted the keepers and tidied everything. I was really impressed with the turnout, so during the week, I treated our place to some new bits and pieces, ranging from fun little art pieces to a whole new TV bench. I have planned a painting party for next weekend which will give our place a fun splash of colour. Today, I’ll be sharing some of the simple tips I used to makeover my apartment, and how to create an oasis out of chaos with little pocket damage and only a few hours of work.



The easiest way to re-do a room? A fresh coat of paint. You can add interest with a focus wall painted in a vibrant hue, or add warmth to white walls with a toasty tan colour. Keep the use of the room in mind too. For example, if you’d like your washroom to take on the feel of a calm, spa-like atmosphere, painting the walls a rubber-ducky yellow may not be the most soothing on the eyes. Similarly, painting your breakfast area a dull shade of blue-grey may cast a lethargic shadow on your day. Colour is directly tied to mood, so consider who will be using the room, and when, and pick accordingly. Also, while fresh matte paint is lovely, it can definitely attract scuffs and smudges, especially in light colours. Picking an eggshell or semi-gloss paint will provide low-maintenance walls for years… or until you decide to redecorate again! I’ve become increasingly smitten with vintage-looking furniture too, and a coat of paint can be distressed with sandpaper or steel wool, creating a romantic, old-world feel for your ho-hum furniture too. Inspired by my black-and-white Miz Mooz Patsy shoes, I’ll be transforming my dove grey walls to bright white, with jet-black trim to make our new seafoam furniture pop! Easy and affordable!




Simple. We use what we like. By investing in organizational items and fixtures, you’ll be far more prone to using them. Forget about the pre-established organizational containers and find your own. Have more necklaces that you’d normally fit into one of those tiny jewellery boxes? (Like I do! I have more Curious Oddities and Sailor Girl jewellery than I know what to do with!) Skip it and find an interesting cork board and fun pushpins and space it out as you need. Loads of purses? Pass on typical purse hangers and opt for S-hooks, hanging them along an easy-to-instal secondary garment rail. Customizable closet organizers are wonderful because they allow you to alter your space to accommodate your needs. That way, you don’t have a gaping space where you’ve hung two long dresses, while the tiny spot for tops is jam-packed. Organizing in a way that works for you is important. If you normally blow-dry your hair in the bedroom, store your dryer and brushes there. If you ONLY read in the living room, placing your bookshelves in the same room will avoid displaced clutter. Do you take your shoes off before you enter the home? Keeping space free for a shoe cabinet will relieve your hallway of old-shoe landmines and streamline your entrance way. Storing things in visually attractive containers will encourage you to sort them more often, and making them easy-access will ensure you get all the use out of the garments and accessories you have.



If you’re like me, you have a lot of little things. Little things which often don’t really have a “right place”. So I will say this once, and I’ll hope that it doesn’t get abused: Having a junk drawer is okay. For the rest of the stuff, even if it IS organized impeccably, any collection of items which is visually accessible can look like clutter. So, rather than storing it away and having to fish for it later, add a barrier to contain the items. For example, having a shelf full of DVDs can take away from colour or themed decor, so placing them inside a cabinet with doors will keep them accessible but out of sight, creating that much more of a neat environment. Rather than having a dozen bottles of perfume scattered across your dresser, place them inside a neat, little, patterned box which matches the theme of the room. I’ve grabbed some cute fabric boxes in patterns similar to our Mandala Design and Annie50 fabrics. Leaving some items free can create a cool effect too, as you’ll read next, but for non-exciting items which have little to no artistic or decor value, keep these guys tucked away so that the focus of the room is on the fun stuff.


To totally contradict what’s written above, we’ll chat about the few times that bunches of “organized chaos” is attractive in a home. Some of our jewellery designers do this when setting up their cases, to make the small space visually dynamic and interesting. Scattering small clusters of colour co-ordinated items (like books, candles, or vintage-looking glass bottles) can create a warm, inviting and interesting vibe for your space. Typical statuettes and photo frames can easily be replaced by quirkier items, which are intended solely for decor. This does not mean that you should crack out your Mum’s old 60s blender and plop it on a side table, but rather display items you truly enjoy and ones which have a story or history behind them, and can act as discussion topics. No one is fascinated with your son’s collection of toy cars, but they do want to hear about the adorable vintage alarm clock which is sitting on your mantel.


Impulse buying happens when a person reacts to a product which they were instantly attracted to. We’re rarely attracted to a neutral, safe curtain, or to a muted throw pillow. If you see something which really grabs your attention, think of how fabulous it’ll look incorporated into your place! Its those instant “wow” moments and the items which inspire them, which are so telling of our style and tastes. For example, our stores always showcase our most vibrant, and exciting items prominently, because we know our customers will love them, and we want to make it easy for you to find what you need. Taking ‘risks;’ on things like coloured rugs, textured vases and oversized clocks can bring about a totally fresh vibe for your home! So, if you’re browsing your favourite home store, and you come across an item which draws your attention, find one in a colour which suits your theme (an accent colour, not a neutral! No cheating!) and bring it home with you! Its those touches of design flare, like a chevron curtain, or a crystal-look chandelier, which give your place character, taste and personality. Go crazy, have fun, and make your space YOURS!

Love Letter from Laura-Jean: Four Simple Questions

love letter copy copy

I’ve been on a mission to better myself as a business leader, including taking a lot of development courses. What these courses have opened up for me was much more than I expected. In every area of my life – business and personal – the same themes play out. I stop myself in the same ways from creating what I say I want in my life.

I’ll share with you one little exercise I’ve been doing that you can take on if you really want access to having everything work in your life. Continue reading

The Swagger Coach: Achieving the Unachievable

swagger coach

In the next few years, I’d like to learn to drive, learn to cook, de-clutter my everything, plan my wedding, and become a big-boss-lady-person for Fresh Collective. That’s a lot to take on, being the chronic procrastinator that I am, and is exhausting to think about on muggy hot days like today, when even putting on pants is a labour. This week at work, our Regional Manager, Jane (hey Jane!) chatted with us management folk about the value of goal-setting, and how to set realistic, productive goals in our lives and for our business. I liked the concept so much, I thought I’d share it with you folks. Perhaps you can find some use in this for yourself. Perhaps you can print it off and leave it for your partner who’s been putting off doing Obscure Chore #346 for seven months now.
So I read over the worksheet Jane left us to play around with, and although the “system” is simple, its commonly overlooked. People tend to go from step one to step four, then step seven, then they realize it’s not going smoothly so they abandon it and start something else. Planning is the key to achieving any goal, and laying out your road map of what you want to accomplish and how you want to accomplish it, will make a big difference in the ease in execution of the task. Today we’re going to learn to set SMART goals. No, they’re not the opposite of dumb goals. SMART goals are goals that follow the S.M.A.R.T. format. What’s this, you ask? Read on, loveys.
Continue reading

The Swagger Coach: Goldilocks and the Media – A Tale of Establishing “Just Right”

swagger coach
“This one’s too big. This one’s too small. THIS one’s JUUUUUUST right!”
What is “just right”? What is the exact weight, the exact measurements of the body which is slim but athletic, curvy but fit, strong but feminine? When is slim TOO slim, and when is curvy TOO curvy? Moreso, why do we think we have the ability to judge this?

When I was transitioning from middle school to high school, my best friend Mary* and I were separated, resulting in us attending two different schools. About three weeks in, I got a tearful call from her. She said that she had fled the guidance counselor’s office after being confronted by two teachers, the guidance counselor, the vice principal and a nutritionist, and told that they were there to “help her become healthy again”. She had been pulled into the guidance counselor’s office before, and been asked questions about her eating habits, but nothing to the degree of what happened that afternoon.
Continue reading

The Swagger Coach: Show Some Skin

swagger coach
“Bingo wings””Thunder thighs”

“Pot belly”

“These old saggers”

Isn’t that terrible? If we had friends who described our bodies this way, we’d show them the door and de-friend them on Facebook. Hell, we’d even unfollow them on Instagram. But somehow, I’ve actually overheard these terms coming out of the mouths of my own customers. These are beautiful, funny women who have wicked fashion sense and often report getting oodles of compliments on the items they get during their trips to my store. Yet, despite the endless positive feedback they’re given on their appearance, they still seem to zero in on tiny, subtle and irrelevant issues they see within their bodies, and they allow this impression to totally overtake how they see themselves when they take a look in the mirror.
“how would you describe your body? Now how would your best friend describe it?”
image source: Dove’s Real Women Campaign

Women, young and old, need to love the bodies they’re given. Each unique shape has a unique formula for dressing, which allows the wearer (that’s you!) to play up or down their features and attributes, without swathing themselves in layers of loose-fitting gauzy fabric from head to toe. In grey or black. Because those are the most slimming, right?

First off, let me say this: You know that “trouble part” that you hate? That part that you’re hyper-conscious of throughout the day, and the first area you check/adjust/fuss over in bathroom mirrors? Yeah, that part. NO ONE ELSE NOTICES IT. No one. People, especially women, are too concerned either with their own trouble areas, or with totally unrelated things (like your awesome shoes, or that cute dog across the street, or what time they have to pick up their kids at, or their overdue Rogers bill) to notice your less-than-toned arms. Visual attention is a fun thing to play with, since it’s TOTALLY up to the individual to direct where the eyes of others go. Will you have passersby notice that you keep fiddling with the hem on your skirt? Or will you have them notice the awesome skirt itself, as it blows in the breeze and shows off its fun print and vibrant colours? Will people recognize you as the lady who wears all black, all year, or as the woman who has awesome fashion sense in any season and takes risks with fun shapes and patterns? People notice what you draw attention to. Picking, adjusting, pulling, fiddling, etcetera brings the eye towards the area. The viewer is noticing that you’re wearing garments you’re not comfortable in. So, if you HAVE to pick and fiddle, donate the item. If you truly don’t NEED to adjust, don’t.

“The layered look being taken too literally.”

So now that we’ve covered the fact that NO ONE notices your tiny, ridiculous areas of insecurities, we can move forward boldly and with a spirit of fun, playfulness and liveliness! Rather than donning a floor-length maxi dress with sleeves on a muggy day in July, get familiar with flattering cuts and learning to create effects using colour, shape and texture. For example, a wide, squared neckline will bring the eye towards the face. Tiered, textured skirts with uneven hems can lengthen and slim legs, and a well tailored blouse made from a soft but structured fabric can nip the appearance of love handles. Going sleeveless does not mean going directly to straps. A more wearable and comfortable style is 30’s inspired (Thanks, Gatsby!), and offers a full shoulder sans sleeve. (That means you can wear a real bra with it! No more of those ridiculous plastic straps! Rejoice!)

Ladies, unless you’re legitimately photosensitive, or a vampire who twinkles in the sun like unicorn droppings, realize that it’s okay, no, its expected, that you’ll be showing some skin when the weather gets warm. A little calf or upper arm never killed anyone. Basically, by draping yourself in fabric during the hottest days of the month for the sheer purpose of diverting attention from your ‘problem areas’, you’re working against yourself, by being the lady dressed like a mummy on the beach. Don’t be the mummy lady.

We’ve been waiting for this weather for months, girls. Months of evil, cold, bitter, windy winter, and we’re finally liberated from our parkas and woolen tights. Take it while its here!
“What a lovely July afternoon!”

The Swagger Coach: Put’em up, Put’em up: On Courage

swagger coach

“What makes a king out of a slave? Courage! What makes the flag on the mast to wave? Courage! What makes the elephant charge his tusk in the misty mist, or the dusky dusk? What makes the muskrat guard his musk? Courage! What makes the sphinx the seventh wonder? Courage! What makes the dawn come up like thunder? Courage! What makes the Hottentot so hot? What puts the “ape” in apricot? What have they got that I ain’t got?”

The Cowardly Lion got it right. I mean, I don’t expect to model my behaviour after a territorial muskrat, but you get the picture.

I’ve been conducting a bit of an experiment amongst my friends. I’ve asked people if they consider themselves to be courageous, or when the last time they demonstrated courage was. I tried this on about five or six people. EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM replied stating that no, they did not identify as a “courageous” person by nature, and most could not recall the last time they demonstrated courage. In fact, a handful of them identified ME as the most courageous person they know, and when I asked why, they (in various different explanations) said that they felt that way because I’m outgoing and boisterous. Funny, I saw the total opposite, but since I’m privy to my own inner-head workings, I was the wiser.

I do identify as a courageous person (not all the time, but some of the time. I possess the ability to be courageous and try to tap into that when its needed) but I also identify many of my friends as courageous as well. I pointed out one instance to a friend who has taken on a rigorous fitness routine, and in just a few short weeks has seen a big change in her body and how she feels. That, along with (at the time of publishing) 9 weeks without smoking, have worked wonders in beating sluggishness. She said that she decided to take action not out of courage, but simply because she felt that it was time to start living a healthier lifestyle. I told her that I totally thought that committing to that kind of routine required courage; Courage to hold herself accountable, courage to change her lifestyle and habits so drastically, and courage to share this with her friends and allow us into that aspect of her life. She accused me of being a “cheerleader”, and told me that she didn’t think she was doing anything worth recognition. I pointed out another instance to another friend, when she applied and was hired for a position she thought she was unqualified for. She responded that yes, she took the chance, but it didn’t require any “real courage”. I asked why she would have applied if she thought there was truly no way she’d get the job, but she played down her initiative and chalked it up to a “might as well” mentality. These chicks are courageous, whether they know it or not.

So that go me thinking, what exactly is “real courage”? Is it jumping in front of a moving train to save 6-year old Jimmy who’s tied to the tracks? Is it being a rock for a loved one who’s going through a hard time? Is it trying something you think you may fail at? We quantify courage as a trait which is manifested through grand, dramatic gestures and intentions, yet we totally fail to recognize the day-to-day situations where we show courage. How lame is that? It definitely takes courage to make a change in your life, be it in the workplace, in your personal habits, in your communications or in the relationships you maintain. I see courage in interactions around me every single day, from the women who come into my store and try on a dress in a more-vibrant-than-they’re-used-to hue, to the folks who picket and protest for the causes they believe in on the street and in the market, to the moms who balance work and children and being a partner with all the other tasks the day has in store for them. Courage, courage, courage.

This week’s point to ponder is where YOU’RE showing courage in your life. Consider all the little areas in which you push yourself that much further, or follow the steps as rationally as they maybe should be followed, and the little victories you claim as a result. Are you a great leader in your workplace? Are you an amazing friend to those around you, and unwaveringly reliable? Are you the problem solver in your family, or the one who cools things down as the serene voice of wisdom? Consider all the tiny flickering moments of courage in your days and weeks, and give yourself credit for the ways YOU are a courageous force to be reckoned with!

I may be a Leo, but I'm no cowardly lion!

I may be a Leo, but I’m no cowardly lion!

(PIC LION) : I may be a Leo but I’m no Cowardly Lion!