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What’s the Most Important Lesson You’ve Learned Along Your Journey?

Every twist in our story, challenge we face, and obstacle we overcome is an important part of our story. These difficulties make us stronger and wiser and prepare us for what’s ahead. As we grow and succeed we may imagine that soon the challenges will fade away, but in our conversations with business owners, artists, creatives, academics, and others we have learned that the most common experience is that challenges never go away – instead they get more complex as we grow and succeed. Our ability to to thrive therefore depends heavily on our ability to learn from our experiences and so we are asking some of the city’s best and brightest: What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned along your journey?

Ericka Harris | Teacher of health | fitness and the arts for all ages

The most important lesson that I have learned in my journey so far is …my time is valuable. Time is precious and you can never get it back. Time is limited and ultimately no one knows how much time they truly have left in this beautiful life. There was a season that I got really caught up in work and it began to consume me, I wasn’t getting paid anymore to do all the “extra” I was doing, I was stressed out and overworked. My family did not get the best of me. That is when I decided to work for myself, create my own schedule and my own workload especially with a new baby on the way. There is nothing like a rapidly growing newborn to remind you that time can truly fly by. When I look back on my life I will never look back and say “Man, I regret not working all those extra hours.” What I would regret is not spending enough time with the people I love and spending my time doing what I love.


Justin Velazquez | Entrepreneur | Gay Chef and Outdoors Enthusiast

The most important thing I have learned in my journey is finding and loving myself. I came out in my early 20’s and the road to get there was very difficult. However, this marked the end of one journey and the beginning of a new one. I had to learn who I really was for the first time, because I was essentially living as a different person for so many years. Letting go of my own stereotypes of what it meant to be gay and what others thought was very difficult. I really had to learn who I really was and learn how to love new parts of me I never new. Whether you are struggling to come out, start your own business, finish school, or whatever new journey you are embarking on there are parts in your journey that you will have to learn to love yourself. At the end of the day if you can’t love yourself then you are setting yourself up for failure before you even begin. Believe in who you are, follow your passion, love others and love yourself.


Katelyn Duffy | Gluten Free & Allergen Food Blogger

The most important lesson I have learned in my journey so far is to have FUN! If you are not having fun then you are truly not enjoying what you are doing. Since gluten free and allergen blogging is my passion I never want it to feel like work. I always want to enjoy the food, people, and the experience. I think this applies to a lot of things in life and if you aren’t having fun then go figure out what truly makes you happy!


Tara Johnson (White)| Wellness & Nutrition Consultant | Volunteer | Advocate

Tara White

I’ve learned that the desires of the heart were placed there for a reason. And it is up to an individual to listen, to manifest their own dreams. To feel for their true desire and act. For to feel, is to live.
#FishingForWellness #BeWellWithT #AZBassFisherwoman

Megan Gladney | SAHM | Maker | Carefree Highway MKT

The biggest lesson I have learned in my journey thus far…Follow up on everything you say you will do for a client.  After 20 years in sales, I realized my customers chose to go with me, not always because of my product or service…but because they knew I was honest and I followed through.  Having a client trust you is the biggest compliment.


Saiber Soland | Aesthetician

Nobody is going to be at your funeral talking about how much money you had. Help people while you have the chance and do what you can to make the world a better place.


Madison Klug | Artist of Intermedia

Absorb everything, regret nothing.


Allison Cohan and Tiffani Marsh | Co-Founders of Quaintly Curated Studios

On our journey so far we have learned the lesson of balance.  Launching a new business in the height of the holiday season was a great challenge for us. We were holding down full time jobs, managing child and family responsibilities and carving out time to collaborate on our vision for QCS.  As our passion project became a reality and we launched, we had to manage our time in a new way. Each of us picking up where the other left off, engaging with our followers and staying committed to building our brand. We are so excited for 2020! Our scenes are carefully curated with hand crafted touches that are perfect for families, kiddos, couples, even fur babies! We are so thankful for the clients that have joined us on this journey. We look forward to helping more families capture photographic memories and milestones in a unique and affordable way.


Ivana Venema-Nunez (aka Ivana Iguana) | student journalist

The most important lesson I’ve learned in my journey so far is to enjoy the present, work for the future and learn from your past.
IGTV: NotSoPoliTEAcal

lucas taylor | photographer | artist

Model: Lauren Goodwin @_folklaur

The most important lesson I have learned in my journey so far is to stay in the present. It is good to have goals and dreams of a bigger brighter future, but sometiems we get caught up in the future and what we could have. While we forget what we have and experience right now.  Staying in the moment is difficult but I have learned that even just a little bit a day is worth the effort.


Marian Mitchell | Integrative Nutrition Health Coach

Sara Bishop Photography

The most important lesson I’ve learned so far is that no matter what the diagnosis is, solid nutrition is the foundation for healing and getting your life back. Getting help with learning how to eat for regaining your health reduces your frustration, overwhelm, and loneliness.

Meredith Wood | full time student

The most important lesson I’ve learned is that it pays to be patient; with everything. People, pets, yourself. Failure is part of success and patience will always be a key facet of those two.


Lauren Castro | Owner & Creative Designer of Hammer & Stain Phoenix

Hammer & Stain

The most important lesson I have learned on this wild journey so far is that I need to celebrate all of the small things that come along the way. Success does not come easy and it won’t come knocking on the door. Everyday I have to put in hours of hard work no matter how I feel so if I don’t celebrate the little things that keep me going, what is left to keep me moving forward? Everyday I focus on my dreams and keep striving to get there!

Zack Taylor | tattoo artist & motorcycle builder

The most important lesson for me has been…lead with passion and good intention…everything else will fall into place…trying to curate your creativity to everyones taste will lead you further from your success and happiness.


Josh Whiteley | L.Ac. (licensed acupuncturist)

The most important lesson I’ve learned on my journey so far- Life will be filled with many ups and downs. Find a way to be happy, strong, and grateful in all circumstances.

Jackie Centrella | Owner of Centrella Candles | Mom | Life Enthusiast

There are so many lessons I’ve learned along the way, it is impossible to narrow it down to one, so I will share a few I believe will propel you in life! First things first! Wake up in the morning and set your intention for the day. Have a vision. Say a chant. Dance in your underwear. Do anything that gets your blood pumping! Believe in yourself! Don’t let fear and worry stop you from living your dreams. If there’s something you’re unsure of, consult with those who have walked the path before you. Learn from them, take notes, ask questions, you’d be surprised how many successful people truly enjoy giving their advice! Choose your close friends wisely. Surround yourself with those who speak about visions and ideas, not people. And lastly, be grateful for where you are today. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Pop Up Markets Every Sunday At Fuego Bistro

Lauren Buman | Wedding Photographer

Take your time and enjoy the process. You can’t learn it all overnight and even if you could you’d lose the unique talents that make you you!

Evelor Savior | Branding Strategist & Host of the Impact Influencer Podcast

Peace of mind is the key to long term happiness and wellbeing.

I’ve shifted my focus from being hard on myself to embracing my life’s journey with the current pace that it’s moving at, to being patient with myself and feeling grateful for the blessings that are coming. I stopped comparing my own progress to other people’s successes on Instagram.

I’ve discovered how easy it is to sustain the feeling of happiness throughout the day when I am at peace with all the different aspects of my life.

I started accepting myself fully for exactly who I Am. This subtle shift helped me create the space for me to be even more creative and most importantly, to enjoy life with an open heart.

May Everyone on Earth live a blessed life beyond their wildest dreams.



Christy Parkinson | Photographer

An important lesson I have learned in my journey this far, is to always be fair. Even to yourself.


Kelly Thomas Ops Business Mgr | Photographer  | Sunset Connoisseur

Following a twenty five year hiatus from the arts, I have recently rediscovered my passion for landscape and nature photography. Making up for lost time, I now find myself involved in a flurry of photography treks. Where I find beautiful desert landscape, silent slot canyons, mountains and cityscapes.

What I’ve learned in my journey so far is don’t get caught up in the technical aspect of capturing the perfect image, you will lose focus on what’s important. Experience your surroundings first with your heart, then capture it with your camera.

Surround yourself with mentors and friends who inspire, push and encourage you to become better version of yourself and vice versa.

One of the most important things I’ve learned is, you live everyday, and you only die once, so make the most of it. There is no guarantee for tomorrow, all we have is the present. Stay present in the moment and be mindful.

An important tip, never wear sandals when walking through cholla cacti.

Sasha Graham | Author of Milo does not like Mornings: A Tiny Ninja Book

Librarian at the Mustang Library

So. Many. Things.

Recently a biggie is how many people out there really, really don’t like mornings. My debut children’s book is called Milo does not like Mornings and the reaction from parents has been extraordinary. Apparently, the struggle to get our kids out of bed and ready for school in the morning is universal. I see you parents, hang in there!

Ava Soaps | Mom and Daughter homemade soap-making duo

The most important lesson we have learned During this journey so far is not loosing sight of why we started. While the small side Income has been very helpful while my husband is in dental school we originally started this to create something fun together and to teach Ava (my 4 year old daughter) what the efforts of hard work and creativity can do for her. We can get really busy sometimes and I have to take over, but in the end I always have to stop, pause, and remember that this business was started for her. It has helped me slow down and enjoy these moments I will never get back with her at such a cute and fun age even more!


Todd M. Casey | Fine Artist | Teacher  & Author

It’s hard to say that there is just one lesson that I’ve learned that was more important than others. However, I like the quote by Friedrich Nieztche “The serpent that cannot cast its skin has to die. As well the minds which are prevented from changing their opinions: they cease to be mind.” Being able to stay open minded is important in life and in learning. Don’t hang on to your old self, continue to cast off that old skin daily to gain more wisdom.


Nails by Bobby

Be nice, be kind and smile to others!


Victoria Villa | creator and owner of B+B!

So far my journey has been a huge blessing to my family! I would say the biggest lesson my business has taught me, is to be patient and believe in myself! I was given some amazing opportunities this past year that I was definitely nervous about. I had all these ideas that I didn’t know if anyone would like! So I trusted my gut, took the leap of faith, and it was a success! We are small but we are growing slowly and I cannot wait to see what I can accomplish in the new year!

Monica Stanley | Photographer

Erica Williams

There are so many, but the one that many might find surprising is, networking with your peers. Your peers, whatever industry you are in,  are your community, not your competition! I have gained so many friendships through the photography community! I have worked alongside them, been inspired and encouraged by them, and believe it or not, they are also a great source of referrals as well! When my peers send clients to me, because either they are not available or it is a job they would not normally do, for whatever reason,  they can trust without a doubt that I will provide great service and quality too! There is plenty of space for us all to create, and when we work together, we better the community as a whole! XOXO Monica

Anastacia, Leticia, and Alicia | Co-Owners | Sisters

Take the leap. We are in our “humble beginning”. We are growing into a place where all individuals with all kinds of strengths and weaknesses, who come in all shapes and sizes can feel welcomed. We were nervous to start a business, but felt it was important that we show our own children as well as The West Valley that dance can be pursued by anyone, anywhere. We all still have our day jobs, as teachers, and raising our own families so we were worried we couldn’t fit it all. It has been a challenge to balance everything, but we know our priorities and realize we are growing something special. We understand how hard a “humble beginning” is, and our partners understand as well. It’s not only an important lesson for us as far as putting in “work”, but we also feel it’s an important lesson to pass onto our children.

Kristin Beasley | Speech-Language Pathologist  | Dance instructor  | Real estate agent | Wife and mom of three

The most important lesson that I’ve learned along this journey is the importance of creating and nurturing authentic connections with the people in your life. The power of building and investing in the relationships with others goes beyond any skill, expertise, or knowledge you hold. As a native to Arizona, I’ve developed relationships with families and individuals over the past decades that have become the roots to my professional and personal life.

Ramona Amenakpor | Fashion Designer

In the process of becoming a fashion designer, there has been many challenges and mistakes. Learning when to correct my mistakes, without dwelling on them too much, is one of the biggest challenges so far in my journey. It is quite easy to lose focus, and drift when you’re working for yourself, because you do not have anyone to keep you accountable. However, in the long run, I’ve learned that dwelling on the past, is just another way of preventing myself from moving forward to better things, and learning from my mistakes.



Will & Faith Vance | REALTORS

The most important thing I’ve learned on my journey- is that you have to be willing to take it! It took my husband several years to get me to agree to leave everything I knew and loved in Ohio. Family, friends, jobs- but he saw that our opportunity was greater in Arizona, I just had to get past the fear of the change. But the journey itself has taught us to be resourceful and resilient. Sometimes the tougher the journey, the more growth that’s possible.


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