BEING Well: My Journey to Passion & Harmonious Well-being

I’m no stranger to hard work, but I remember the first time someone told me to “work smart, not hard.” It was a pivotal moment for me. There are some things we know we know, but when we hear them out loud, they just strike us in a certain type of way. Like, “wheeeew, GIRL! I needed to hear that!” I carried her advice to me as a mantra of sorts. I would hear that girlfriend in my head saying “work smarter, not harder” when I was making things too complicated in my business or life in general.

I’m a dedicated mom of two happy, energetic kids, the wife of a serial entrepreneur, a business owner, life coach, trainer, and content creator—all of which take up a lot of time—especially since I too love to socialize, stay in shape, and keep it poppin’! I’m dedicated to my loved ones and passionate about my work, but sometimes it feels like there is just not enough time to fully engage in both. We’re pulled in so many directions—gotta work, gotta show up, gotta look good, gotta get ahead, gotta, gotta, gotta! But how we feel while we’re doing it all is what matters most. If it doesn’t feel right, it’s likely a sign that something or someone needs to change.

Me and my husband, mom and kids, Jaana & Jackson

Me and my husband, mom and kids, Jaana & Jackson

I’ve pivoted a few times in my career. I’m grateful to have had the insight and intuition to know when it’s time for something new. I have always been intentional about aligning my work with my passions and strengths in an effort to be happy and live a purpose-driven life. Purpose evolves as we do.

My early career was in entertainment, working with companies like FIJI Water, Pernod Ricard, Innercity Broadcasting, Olympia Entertainment, and one of my favorites-Frontline Marketing. I enjoyed it, learned A LOT managing national programs, tours, events and sponsor budgets and I was ready to move on. At the time, I was 26, single, with a condo in Florida and a cute little BMW. My previous business was a service-based biz and I knew I wanted a product based biz. I didn’t want to do what everyone else was doing so I started getting creative with what “doing something different” could look like.

My love for fashion and dogs, my design skills and my passion for creative expression led me to explore the pet industry and—whoa was it full of potential! I’m talking $62 billion industry and this was then. My little hobby of designing and making urban-chic dog accessories had a lot of potential. Ambitious by nature and now highly motivated, I started going to the design district in New York and making samples with local factories. I kept researching and I couldn’t find anyone that looked like me or anything on the market with the urban flair that my designs had, so I brought them to market.

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Over seven solid years, I wore every hat in the company when I needed to and built Kane & Couture into a successful pet accessory and apparel company. My products were selling through major retailers like Henri Bendel’s and Macy’s and we were in over a hundred pet boutiques across the U.S. and even had some international accounts. Then I got onto Shark Tank and did a solid and sassy job at holding my own in front of the Sharks. I walked away with a deal with Daymond John and Lori Grenier. I was doing it! BUT—my deal with the sharks was contingent upon me reaching my projections on my own before they would give me any financial investment. I tried y’all. And I burned myself TF OUT! I worked hard and not smart. I was under pressure. But as I always say,

No Pressure, No Diamonds

As I evolved and my priorities became different, it became obvious it was time to make a change. Now what? I had become known as “that chick with the cute dog stuff who was on Shark Tank”—cute to some, admirable to others, but not enough for me anymore. While building my company, I got married, gave birth to my first child, became more of myself and realized, I don’t want to put this much time and energy into this type of work anymore. Period. Full stop.

Again, it was time to take a step back and ask myself some serious questions. Some people get stuck at that point. I am not good at sitting in discomfort. Like-I would be that child who wanted my diaper changed right away. I don’t like sitting in shit. So once I realized my passion was not in my work anymore, I had a strong internal urge to start figuring out what would be next. I was older, ready to have another baby and keep working towards my optimum goals (whole ‘nother story I’ll tell one day).

I started by examining my values, skills, experiences, strengths and desires through journaling, visioning and meditation. I was good at designing, sourcing, merchandising, and marketing, sales and events, but what I realized I loved most about my work was engaging with people, having good conversations and creating value. I was good at motivating people, helping them work through their problems, and plan for their success—the optimistic friend for sure!

One day, a light bulb went off. I thought, “I love reading self-help, personal mastery, professional development and books on spirituality—I mean like LOVVVE—way more than average. I love writing. I love helping and empowering people. I love producing and hosting events. I love speaking to groups. I love problem solving. I love working with women and kids-especially those of color. I love being creative. I knew what I loved and I had 13 years of experience as an entrepreneur. The question I next asked myself was: what would it look like for me to start a career that makes the most of my unique qualities and abilities?

We are only as evolved as the questions we ask ourselves.
— Amber Lee Forrester
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I started small and dipped my toe into what could become my new career.

A friend of mine met a principle of a Jersey City high school who identified a lack of self-esteem and support of the girls at his school. He wanted to do something to uplift and pour into them. She and I created a 3 day young women’s empowerment program for the students of the school. For three days we covered topics that ranged from self-esteem and self-care to financial literacy and career tips. We brought in experts and inspirational women to speak and engage with them. I loved every moment of it and knew I was 50 steps closer to where I wanted to be.

Then I went in up to my waist.

I partnered with a friend of a friend who was PR pro, had gotten a yoga certification, and was looking to expand beyond the confines of her career. Together we created a four-day wellness retreat to Grenada. The Glow Up Wellness Retreat attracted over 60 women who came, challenged themselves mentally and physically (I had them climbing waterfalls and all!), shed some baggage, picked up some tools and inspiration, met new friends and left feeling uplifted and empowered. I was ecstatic, like More Please! Successfully executing the retreat positioned me as a wellness influencer—I mean I was like C list, but I was in there. It felt good. Now what?

Long story short, my partner and I weren’t on the same page. I wasn’t feeling the harmony in our collaboration and I felt my creativity was stifled.

Knowing what we value most lets us know when we are in unacceptable situations.
— Amber Lee Forrester

I’m a butterfly and I refuse to be caged. Separating from my partner was scary because we had built so much together over a year in working together. I didn’t want to start over from scratch, but my gut said go and I did.

The next step was me boldly jumping in full-body—hair wet and all!

I failed to mention that I gave birth to a whole ‘nother human during this process. Just four months before the Glow Up Retreat, I gave birth to my second child. I worked the whole way to and through. So now, I was starting over with a 6 month old son and a daughter who loves nothing more than spending time with me. But in order to be truly happy and fulfilled, I have to be free to keep working in the direction of my big picture dreams. High heels, high hopes!

To develop programming and material for the camp, retreat, and speaking engagements I was doing, I used a curation of content from my favorite books on self-improvement, professional development, personal mastery, and spirituality as the foundation. Through teaching what I had learned, I was able to not only help people learn and grow, but also to deepen my understanding and the application of what I was learning. I was witnessing the beginning of transformation in the people I was working with and now sought a way to offer continued support, skills and tools to help them make sustainable positive change and live life to the fullest. I was a closet psychologist in my head anyway, so I decided to further my education, gain more tools and “go back to school” to get a certification in Applied Positive Psychology (the science of human flourishing) and life coaching.

I’m a Mermaid

So now I’m full in. In late 2017, I founded the Quartz Wellness Collective—a collective of experts, influencers and organizations that collaborate to create uplifting events, engaging experiences and impactful workshops that guide and support women and young adults on their journeys to personal and professional mastery. As a life and career coach and trainer, I work primarily with women, mothers, business owners and young adults, helping them discover their authentic potential and create a sustainable strategy for living the lives of their dreams. I’m loving it! My son is almost two now, my daughter is almost 8 and I’m grinding it out. I have an essential life skills training program that encapsulates all of this called the Flow & Flourish Method that I offer to organizations, schools and groups of individuals and I’m writing a book.

Sounds good, right? But, things are not yet ideal. I’m still a work in progress. My next chapter is still unfolding. I’m highly optimistic about what’s to come, which makes me ambitious, but ambition can throw even those of us who know better out of balance.

The key to working smarter, not harder lives between what psychologists call harmonious versus obsessive passion.

Finding our sweet spots is not always easy. In positive psychology, we define a sweet spot as the place at the interception of what you love to do, what you’re good at, what you can get paid to do, what the world needs from you. Through reflection and self-assessment, I had again found my sweet spot. I was passionate about my work, but found myself becoming obsessive in pursuing my dream. I was neglecting other areas of my life, overly concerned about the how’s and who’s and how quickly. I wasn’t sleeping. I wasn’t fully engaged at home and I wasn’t working out. Uh ohhhhh. I heard that girlfriend again telling me to work smarter, not harder.

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So here are some tips for me and anyone else who seeks to uncover the intersection between passion and well-being: The goal is to be harmonious, balanced and joyful. Like all emotions, strengths and values, passion exists on a scale—a spectrum if you will. We can have no passion or too much passion. How do we find our balance? How do we cultivate harmonious passion? I have 12 tips for finding and sustaining harmonious passion in our lives:

  1. Get clear about what you value and what’s important to you

  2. Get clear about what you’re good at and what you love to do

  3. Get clear about who you want to work with and the value of what you offer

  4. Set your standards

  5. Trust the process

  6. Make intentional decisions that support you and your vision

  7. Be bold and authentic

  8. Be resilient: optimism and understanding your why can get you through almost any how

  9. Recognize the “Moments that Matter” (Thanking Kim Paige for that one)

  10. Take time to reflect, revisit and re-tool your plan for your future

  11. Take time to replenish, re-fuel and spend time with loved ones

  12. Be grateful

We discussed this and more on February 12th, 2019 at Tory Sport in Flatiron.

Along with the audience, I was grateful to soak in their wisdom and savored every word they shared.

Check out the BE WELL: Find Your Passion event recap to learn more about how you can find your passion and be well.

I will continue working with The Colored Girl with a joint mission of empowering women of color with the skills, tools and support to achieve optimal well-being, happiness, community and success.

Tori Elizabeth and Victory Jones will join the Quartz Wellness Collective in Costa Rica in April 2019 for the Vibrate Higher Women’s Wellness Retreat, an intimate vacation for the healing, connection and strengthening of the minds, bodies and spirits of purpose-driven women. The retreat dates are April 22-27th at the Pura Vida Retreat and Spa Center. Packages range from $1250-2200 per person and include your stay, all meals, all classes and workshops, a TCG BE WELL experience, airport transport from and to SJO airport and a hot springs excursion. TCG guests will also receive a complimentary one hour life coaching session with Amber. For more information, click HERE.

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Amber Forrester