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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?

Bree Fillion | Professional Thrifter and Part Time Clothing Reseller

The most important lesson I’ve learned is to stay true to yourself and your brand. At the beginning of my journey, I got so caught up mimicking the actions of other resellers. I sourced the same clothing brands, thinking I would have the same success. Not only did this not move the needle forward in my business, it also didn’t excite and energize me. I learned over time that this isn’t someone else’s business, it’s my own. If I wanted to find success and my voice within the community, I had to do it on my own terms. Now, I source and sell pieces that fit into my own personal brand and style, not someone else’s.

Layla Ray | Moto athlete  | Fitness Coach

It only takes one person to believe in you to achieve success.  Commit everyday even on the days you want to give up.
Youtube: 801 moto chic

Benjamin Irons | Sound Healing Artist

Maria Lopez

The most important lesson I’ve learned on my journey so far is that just because something doesn’t work out the way you planned does not mean that you failed. Chances are something better is being created for you. Be patient, stay the course.

Stephanie Kelly | Blogger and Recruiter

I think the most important lesson I’ve learned – and this applies to both my personal and professional life – is that not everyone is going to like you, and that’s GREAT! I used to think it was just something you’d have to accept when you’re in any sort of public work, but I’ve come to realize that not being everyone’s cup of tea just makes the connections you have more meaningful. I believe this applies whether you’re making friends, nailing that job interview, or posting content you’re proud of.


Bentley Siimone | Boutique Owner and Content Creator

The most important lesson, we must all take heed to, is to protect our hearts. When it comes to success the rent is due daily. No matter how much you’ve attained a particular lifestyle, your heart and your thrive will always be on the front line. The passion in your heart is what molds your craft. Always love yourself enough to accomplish being you. Allow passion to lead and love will follow. Many blessings to you all. Thank you for having me.



Nikoleta Krstic | Programmer

Having friends is nice but what ever you do wrong in your life your family will always have your back, not your friends.


Van Thu Nguyen aka Van Revival | Brand Strategist | Biohacker, & Chief Visionary Officer

Dorothee Brand

The most important lesson I’ve learned in my journey so far is how vital it is to cultivate resilience and if along the road you come across trauma, create an environment that promotes post-traumatic growth and if you have PTSD learn how to manage it to foster high performance in the workplace, for yourself and your employees.

In business, there will be failures. It is whether or not you end up failing forward or leading your business to absolute failure. It’s easy to let things outside of work, such as personal issues that can hinder your ability to make great decisions or distract you from your business. According to the National Council of Behavioral Health, 70% of adults in the United States have experienced trauma at least once and over 90% of public behavioral health clients. Your ability to manage extreme stress will impact your overall happiness, health, and how well you show up for your stakeholders.

One of the best ways you can prepare yourself and mitigate the risk of failure is to develop resilience. In 2019, AZ Business Magazine ranks Arizona as the fifth-best state to launch a startup with a business survival rate of 49.10%.

Resiliency is our ability to adapt and recover from stressors. Resilient people find ways to turn adversity into opportunities to grow from rather than dwell on mistakes so they can move forward.

It is made of five pillars: self-awareness, positive relationships, self-care, mindfulness & purpose.

There is a toughness in resilient people. They can handle the reality of loss, success, heartbreak, failure, and challenges like a warrior. They can focus on solving problems and will rise in the face adversity rather than break. Whatever their pursuit may be, they give their full attention and nothing less. They are committed to achieving goals, but flexible enough to adapt when things don’t go according to plan. In the midst of hardship, my cousin, a businessman, said to me, “adapt or perish.” A part of H.G. Wells’ quote. My commitment to reinvention is what gave rise to my personal brand Van Revival. Reinvention is a survival skill to help you adapt to change. It’s a commitment I made to myself, to growth and development, so I can continue to build a better version of myself and really push the boundaries to see how far I can go.

The traits of emotionally resilient people are extremely useful in business.

They maintain a positive outlook even when times are tough.

They have the desire to achieve solid goals.

They take responsibility.

They prioritize well.

They are happy for others’ success and tend to surround themselves with people more successful than themselves. Inspired from within and inspiring others.

They are goal-oriented and competitive with themselves.

They are visionaries.

They maintain healthy relationships.

They are grateful and understand success is a privilege.

They don’t view themselves as victims and focus on what they have control over and on things that make the most impact.

If you’ve experienced trauma, in order to not just “survive” but thrive, learning how to facilitate healing and get to post-traumatic growth is vital to removing emotional blocks that are in the way of your success. Untreated PTSD can put someone in analysis paralysis, which in the long run will lead to the death of your business. Something I previously experienced.

Some great ways to build resilience

1. Practice cognitive restructuring to respond well to negative situations.

2. Get quality sleep, eat foods that help you function at your best, and functional movement exercises. That way your body can cope better during stressful times and help you make better choices.

3. Build self-love and self-confidence

4. Choose to respond in a calm logical manner to crises.
5. Learn how to set and achieve goals that align with your values

6. Be flexible. Expect the unexpected

Some ways to facilitate post-traumatic growth

1. SMART (Stress Management and Resiliency Training) or MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction)

2. Reality Therapy

3. Accelerated Resolution therapy

4. Body-Mind Psychotherapy
LinkedIn: @VanRevival

Carlos Vazquez | Tattoo and pencil artist

So far in my tattoo/life journey, I’ve learned to be patient. I’m 23 now and I started tattooing when I was 15, so roughly 8 years later I’m now seeing the fruits of my labor blossom. I can only speak from my personal experience of wanting my craft to be the highest quality, whether it were my drawings or tattoos but in the beginning it seemed that the things I was trying to accomplish were almost impossible. I wanted clients, recognition, and to be successful in a field that required having skill in not only art and tattooing but in communication as well. All were skills that take a lot of time in acquiring. Luckily, I had lots of positive individuals cross my path and give me the little pushes and words of encouragement I needed to keep moving forward. I pat myself on the back every once in a while to thank myself for not giving up on my journey despite the moments of hardship I went through because “life” does happen and it doesn’t care how passionate you are about your craft or where you are in life. Not to veer off too much but another very Important lesson Ive learned is not to compare myself or my career to anyone else’s. We are now living in a time where social media tends to set the standards on what is socially acceptable, which can sometimes have an impact on how you view yourself. I’ve learned to remember that not one person is the same, we all learn and grow at different paces, whether it be in life or the craft you’re pursuing. And that is perfectly okay. Everyone makes mistakes but most people don’t post those things on social media so DON’T BEAT YOURSELF UP. Just keep moving forward.


Dr. Vernet A. Joseph – Productivity Strategist | Ambassador | Veteran | Speaker

The most important lesson that I have learned along my journey is to never take things for granted and appreciate the relationships that you have. In life, all you have are unique opportunities for growth, but you must acknowledge and take advantage of them. Nothing is impossible unless you stop trying to achieve it. I have been blessed to have many successful roles in my life from serving my country on and off the battlefield as a military officer, to being a serial entrepreneur in multiple industries, to being an international speaker, and author of 25 books to include 5 bestsellers; and so much more. It’s an honor to live this life. I just want to say thank you to every person that I have been privileged to encounter throughout these years. Many of you will say that I have empowered, impacted inspired or motivated you but honestly, you are the ones who have blessed my life. I recognize and appreciate that relationships are the best currency in the world. My challenge to all of you who may be reading this is to live your most productive life to the fullest and on purpose.
On all social media: @drvajoseph

Caylee Chinen | Yelp Employee and Founder of a sustainable swimwear line, Erme Swim

You will get out as much as you put in. Everything that you want to achieve or do takes time a patience.

Most importantly, do what you love. When you work towards something that you enjoy, you will continue to work hard and never get bored.



Jennifer Hernandez | Food Blogger and Photographer

I started my food blog for fun and to share my love of cooking! I had no idea there was so much information and other food blogs out there.

I’ve learned to embrace my passion for cooking and to enjoy the journey! The pictures are an added bonus… describing a photo only goes so far. I want people to feel they can literally taste how good the picture looks.

Sia Square | Baking Enthusiast | Owner

I have learned to not overwhelm myself. And to know that my only competition is myself. I don’t strive to be better than anyone but my past self. That alone could stress a person out. There are so many different bakeries out there that a person could go to, but what sets me apart from others is simple. It’s Me. No other place has me. My personality and the love that I put into my craft shows when someone tastes what I make. I’m very thankful for the small support system that I have. I don’t think I would have had the courage to even be where I am, if it weren’t for the people rooting for my success.

Rose LeVeque | Third-Generation Functional Potter

The most important lesson I’ve learned throughout my journey so far would be to not give up. It is so difficult starting up any type of business so the best thing you can do, is to not be afraid to ask questions and really put yourself out there!

There are always times that will be harder and It would be a lot easier to go back to a 9-5 job but being able to fulfill your dreams is worth every minute of struggle to succeed.


Amber Lopez | Co-founder and Creative Genius and Luis Lopez | Co-founder and Life of the Party

To have fun! When you take life too seriously, sometimes you overlook the present moment and how much fun we can have when we’re truly connecting with one another. When we do this, that’s when you start creating  memories that can be cherished forever. That is why we founded Sol Vibes Photo Booth. We wanted to give people a fun way to capture their memories!

Carolina Garcia | Mother | Artist | Creator

The most important lesson I’ve learned in my journey so far is to appreciate every day here on Earth, and not take anything for granted.


Shelby Knoles | Interior designer and owner of Willow & Co. Interior design company

The most important thing I have learned in my journey as a designer and business owner is the importance of communication. I find it so important to be upfront, honest, and maintain a steady and constant line of communication with my clients.  I have been able to establish a friendship with my clients and attribute this success to good communication!


Emily Christensen | Wife & Business Owner

Focus on the little joys and the things that bring you happiness and make sure you have gratitude for those things first. This has helped me get through difficult transitions, and hard times with ease and peace of mind.


Jennifer Tasche | freelance makeup artist

Letting go of the past is the healthiest thing you can do for yourself. Each day is a new day to create the best version of yourself.


Sydney Stempfley | Owner of SOULcial Studio, a Phoenix-based social media marketing agency

Like Nike says, “Just do it.”

I’ve always wanted to start my own business. The problem was, I had no idea what to do or where to start. To put it simply, I didn’t have a plan.

I was just a girl with ideas and a dream.

I grew up a competitive gymnast, diver and cheerleader. I was always in the pursuit of perfection.

I realized that, as a new business owner, I had to push past perfection.

I had to stop obsessing over the small details for once in my life and just do it.

Emily Caitlin Burks | Photographer | Writer | Musician, & Early Childhood Professional

That I can do as much as I think I can.

“She believed she could, so she did.”

Imagine. Bloom. Adapt.

Discover with joy, your own epic tale of strength, fight, delicate wonderings, torn yet beautiful pieces, the grounding effect of the simple things, and allowing yourself to discover the power of vulnerability. Let yourself align your life to the passion and vivaciousness that is possible when you stop working for a living, and live for your work. Pushing through the cloud of fear holding you to your “what if I fail?” self-destruct button, teaches you to keep jumping into your next chance rather than drowning in your own misperception of your worth.
DO it, scared.

Beyond your fear is opportunity to imagine that our differences are what create the tapestry of this crazy, wonderful, and when looked at closely, shared human life. Everyone has a story. Altogether, peace can first allow your inner world to gain a momentum into destiny, but it can also create a better place for all of us to live. Passion, freedom, and unconditional love make living worth the pain and process of growth and self-development.

Brad Gast said this about gritty perseverance, and not giving up your belief in better things:

No matter what happens, no matter how far you seem to be away from where you want to be, never stop believing that you will somehow make it. Have an unrelenting belief that things will work out, that the long road has a purpose, that the things that you desire may not happen today, but they will happen. Continue to persist and persevere.

As a photographer, authenticity is in everything I do. Simplicity is wrapped up in complexity, and even the most basic things in life can be discovered and rediscovered as something new. Yet often, I will find myself circling back to my roots, basic instincts, and the passions and curiosities that consistently have sparked life, clarity, and light into my individual identity. In moments of pain, quiet musings of existence, and sensorial explorations of this beautiful world we live in, our true gifts and happy journeys can be found. We often become obsessed, jealous, or shameful of our lack of perfection or equal abilities, instead of inspired or encouraged by other peoples’ visions. We forget what’s most important to us, as artists of our own lives, to create and live like human beings, all with our own giftings, abilities, treasures of the soul, insights, perspectives, failures, mistakes, and experiences that are weaved into the epic kaleidoscope that is our existence in this universe. Our modern world is consistent in blasting blame, feeling shame, and advising others instead of talking to ourselves. Our own thoughts, visions, ideas, and ways of inspiration and life process are singular to us, yet in the most raw and real US we are, we will find connection to others in ways the illusion of perfection and the walls of fear have kept us from really understanding.

Do not be afraid to be yourself, imagine the possibility that in living truthfully and adapting honestly and messily will keep you from the prison of the mundane and regret of never trying.

To me, never feeling alive and regretting the choices you never made, hurts more than failing and getting back up again to a new beginning.

Keep going ; your story isn’t over.

I finish this entry with a quote from a man with a story that helped radicalize my fierceness of identity and nonconformity to the mundane or the popular:

“The words that follow ‘I am’ follow you. Choose carefully how you describe yourself.”
– Rock Thomas


Jill Maher | Nutrition and Health Coach

The most important lesson I’ve learned in my journey working with hundreds of clients is achieving one’s ultimate health/nutrition goal(s) requires a lifetime of overall consistency. Extreme/crash diets and inconsistent behavior never result in success – when we try to force ourselves to operate in the extreme, we fail. People who make the best choices possible most days, and indulge when they really want to (without beating themselves up) achieve long-term success.

Ashley Chessin | Realtor and lover of all things design

Life is too short to do things that don’t fulfill us or aren’t working. Never forget that you can always make a change no matter how difficult it seems. If you’re unhappy, unappreciated, or just bored – make moves to find what moves you!


Kevin & Rany Karst | Parents | Entrepreneurs and Fitness Enthusiasts

We’ve learned so many valuable lessons along the way but the lesson that stands out the most is “don’t be afraid to fail”, in fact, seek failure because that’s where all the lessons are. You often hear people say they’re afraid to fail and because of that fear most will never achieve that higher level of success. We’ve learned early on that failure was not only a necessary part of growth but also plays a huge role in success.

Jessie Murphin | mother & Motherkin co-founder

The most important thing I’ve learned since starting this Phoenix motherhood community AND being a mother in general, is how important it is to have your village. It’s okay to not do it all. Especially on your own.


Amber and Mark Pierce | Founders

Julius Schlosburg, @catsphotoshoot

Being a business owner is not for the faint of heart. We don’t have a pool of mentors or investors to rely on. We are our own mentors, our own investors. We’ve chosen to invest in ourselves. Our operation lies in our hands—we are the research and developers, marketers, creators, and decision makers. Through that, we’ve learned to always trust our instincts, as they’ve never failed us.

We’ve also learned there is a fine line between hard work and workaholism. It’s all too easy to get sucked into the cycle of “After this project I’ll have time to…” But, there’s always another project. There will always be more work to be done. So we take the time to enjoy our coffee, to create for creativity’s sake, or in Mark’s case, to ride his bike in the wilderness for weeks on end. Balance is key.

Rico Lavender | Designer and Entrepreneur

I’ve learned that you cannot get far without good people alongside you. If there was anything that stuck with me early in my career it was that it is important to foster good relationships with people in your industry because at some point you will cross paths again and the more friends you have the more opportunities you will have because of them.

Shela Yu | Professional Relaxation Therapist & Artist

Amy Elizabeth Bruce @amylizzi

The most important lesson I have learned on this journey so far is how to take responsibility for my own happiness. We hold so much more power within our own minds and bodies than we let ourselves believe. Once I was able to break the chains that linked my happiness to other people’s opinions and ideas I was able to free myself from a lot of unnecessary misery. My life has gotten a whole lot brighter and lighter because of it, and now, my work is to help others do the same for themselves.


Vesna Bailey | Author of the Award-winning NOTES Giftbooks Collection

I think all of life is an evolving journey defined by distinct chapters, and each chapter reveals it’s own teachings if we are paying attention. At this point in my life, I am seeing that to be clear on one’s own life convictions,  and to live by our own bottom line is like having a compass that will guide us through making good decisions and choices regardless of what surprises life may throw our way. Being aware, kind, just, and compassionate is a responsibility that belongs to each of us, especially when the circumstances may not be convenient for us at the moment; those are the moments of promise that build us individually as well as collectively to heights untold. One of the final Notes in my books reads, “You matter. It matters. Live a life that matters.” – I tried to raise my own children with this all-encompassing backdrop, and it seems that so many other mothers and fathers from all walks of life are also finding their own voice and heart in the NOTES – ultimately the NOTES are every parent’s words. I am beyond honoured and grateful for the opportunity to inspire our next generation of children, parents, and hopefully our community leaders, in this way.


Maggie Norris | Owner | Chef Instructor Whisked Away Cooking School

Life Created

This is a very tough question because I have learned so many lessons along the way! I would say the most important and definitely the toughest has been learning to accept failure. Whether it is an idea that flops, a class that doesn’t fill up or a less than perfect review I have come to realize that these are just springboards to another opportunity. Don’t get me wrong, when things don’t work out it still stings, but it is easier to accept, learn and continue to move forward.



Bringing in 2020 with all the positive energy and dance moves!

Store Athleta Phoenix

Our team has come up with the following: There is no denying that times will get hard and life will not go exactly as planned, however through these times it is essential to remember that we are not alone. As easy as it is to isolate yourself, if you take a moment to step back, you will find  a hand that is ready to help pick you up or someone who at the very least can understand.


Stephanie Silva | Owner | Celebration Sweets Maker at Sweet Boutique Bakehouse

The most important thing I have learned on this journey so far is to lean in and trust my instincts, embrace challenging times as growth opportunities and appreciate the small wins!


Johni Cesario | Brand Photographer

Denise Marie

Give myself grace.  As a business owner it is important to give yourself grace.  It is important to not be so harsh on yourself, especially when you are doing the best you can.  It’s easy to experience set-backs or bad days but the true test is how to take these days and use them as learning experiences, that matters. I try to talk to myself in a way that I would speak to my best friend. When I start speaking negative thoughts to myself I notice it becomes that much easier to experience self-doubt or self-sabotage. Even that, overtime the more critical we are to ourselves the easier it is to fuel our minds with doubt and to tear ourselves down. I remind myself to be compassionate and gentle to because it is so easy to dig a dark hole, especially as a business owner that operate independently from a team. I do the best that I can and give myself grace and ease throughout my day, because it helps me to stay on the road to success. I honor my time and stay conscious of when I need to slow down and breath.

Tammy Auther | Jewelry Designer & Owner of Tammy Auther Designs

The most important lesson I’ve learned as a small business owner is perseverance!  The jewelry industry is a competitive field, so it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day grind, or compare my business model to others, but by staying passionate about my product and interacting daily with my awesome customers helps me stay focused and appreciate the journey!

Brooke Samuelian | A Modern Senior Photographer

One of the things I have learned is be True to yourself.  If you are always looking around at everyone else’s success and comparing them to your faults you will never succeed.  See yourself as being successful and you will be. 

Stephen Konopka | Go Getter | Dreamer | Fighter

If you were to get any advice from me which 1 would you chose to be the most important lesson for you? Maybe you can combine them? Have Fun!

1)- Show up to a shoot prepared with a positive outlook! ie: All your geer with backups! Bodies lights lenses batteries cards and or film, and most importantly,,, your SMILE!

2)- Make a plan and stick with it but at the same time be receptive! Changes may occur, stay quiet, look & listen, specially on an outdoor shoot when you have to be more concerned about lighting and composition because when outdoors these are not a certainty and change rapidly, either one will make or break the shot so timing or “planning” is everything!

Ultimately you’re the one in charge! Nobody else is pushing that shutter button but you! What your pictures turn out to look like will be the difference between professional or amiture hour. It’s up to you on how far you go and there’s always something to learn if you’re willing.

I’ve been shooting for 40, 45+ years and I’m still learning something new and looking forward to seeing how it’s done better, so it’s easier for me! I’m sorry there isn’t just 1 lesson I can give you to make “Magic” happen because I’m still learning.

TreLee | Singer | model | actress

I’ve learned that everyone has the same fears.  You can either let that fear kill your dreams or choose to overcome.  I consider myself to be a late bloomer, but I am happy about what I have been able accomplish thus far.  There have been so many things that I kept myself from doing because I was too afraid to stand out.  I will continue to move in silence with my wife by my side, still on my journey.   I have accomplished some pretty great things. My biggest accomplishment yet, my sons Marqaun and TraMar.  Love you boys!  My mom told me that there are so many things in life worth fighting for, make sure you are number 1. Thank you, mom (Faye Forrest).

“Live your life for you, and everything else will fall into place.  – Me”
Everywhere: @mstrelee

Samantha Kade | Actress & Producer

The most important lesson I’ve learned in my journey so far is that listening to your gut is always the right answer. The soft voice in your head or that rapid flutter of emotion have your best interests in mind. Listen to them. The second lesson is take the time to reflect and marvel on where you are in life and what you’ve accomplished. Be in awe of yourself for a minute. Enjoy a little dance of joy that your hard work is paying off even if it doesn’t always seem that way. You probably are someone’s success story and don’t even know it. If I may, just one more nugget of wisdom, don’t give all your energy to people who give you nothing in return. Please. You will thank me one day.

Dr. Vernet A. Joseph | Productivity Strategist | Ambassador | Veteran | Speaker

The most important lesson that I have learned along my journey is to never take things for granted and appreciate the relationships that you have. In life, all you have are unique opportunities for growth, but you must acknowledge and take advantage of them. Nothing is impossible unless you stop trying to achieve it. I have been blessed to have many successful roles in my life from serving my country on and off the battlefield as a military officer, to being a serial entrepreneur in multiple industries, to being an international speaker, and author of 25 books to include 5 bestsellers; and so much more. It’s an honor to live this life. I just want to say thank you to every person that I have been privileged to encounter throughout these years. Many of you will say that I have empowered, impacted inspired or motivated you but honestly, you are the ones who have blessed my life. I recognize and appreciate that relationships are the best currency in the world. My challenge to all of you who may be reading this is to live your most productive life to the fullest and on purpose.

Isai Guerrero | Mortgage Broker and Family Man

Photo credits: my 8 year old daughter

I recently made the transition from a Big Box Lender to a Mortgage Broker because I am able to help my clients purchasing or refinancing a home with better pricing, more loan options, easier qualifications, and all of this gives me the time to serve the local community. The most important lesson that I have learned during this time is that journeys cannot be done alone. They should be done with a small group of role models, mentors, and people who share similar values. By surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals, one has the ability to scale, develop, and have a good time while doing so. The journey then becomes a passion and passion always leads to success. For anyone who is having trouble locating role models, I would start by identifying the places/companies that they admire and share similar values, following them and their leaders, and reaching out to them proactively and eventually ask them if they have time to share their stories with you (perhaps over coffee). Be curious and most importantly ask them how you can give back to them – even if its just sharing their content.

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