Coming Alive

January 11, 2017
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“If you can’t do something right, then don’t do it at all.”  Ouch.  This little “old school” saying, often repeated to me by my Daddy, was the basis for my success and my burnout.

Growing up on James Island, I watched my Daddy become a successful football coach (winning the SC State Football Championship for James Island High School in 1968) and having the tremendous respect and loyalty of so many boys and girls that grew up under his leadership. He loved that role and because of that he was successful. I saw him take a hobby of growing camellias and turn that into a passion and religion.  He grew them (over 600 plants), cultivated them, won awards for them, helped create Camellia Societies about them, became an expert on them and was known for them.  He was a competitor but more importantly he loved his camellias and it showed.  And that’s why he was so successful.


So while I was given a standard to do my best, that “old school” saying came with limitations.  I was less apt to try something if I didn’t think I could succeed.  I worried about failure instead of understanding that failure brings new knowledge and growth.  As I maneuvered through my career and corporate America, I worked beyond hard, often sacrificing a balanced life for a hardworking, successful career.

And while my Daddy was showing me that when you love what you do you will be successful, you will have fun, and you will come alive; the tapes running in my head were “only do it if you can succeed”.  Wow, I missed the point completely.  So when he was frail, and not doing well, and my work asked more of me in regards to time, travel and distance from him, and he said to me “you need to quit”, I thought he was losing it. He always wanted me to work, sometimes asking, “did you get a raise yet?”.  How could I quit? I had worked hard to get to a place of …working even harder (?).  Shortly after that conversation, he passed away. And he left me with the best gift I have ever gotten.

The gift of purpose.  And I never saw it coming.

My Daddy loved his family home.  As rental property for the last 30 years, it was run down and I was embarrassed by it. We would ride by and he would say how much he loved that house, and my husband and I would just look at each other.  He saw something we didn’t see.  We saw a run-down mess, he saw memories and love.  So when he passed away, and we had the chance to renovate the home that my great grandparents built, and that he grew up in, and that my grandmother grew up in, I had a purpose.  No experience, no reason to believe I could do this or would be successful at it. But I knew this would be something he would have done if he could, and it gave me courage and purpose.  Courage to quit my job and retire.  And the purpose to restore the home back to it’s original single family home and to bring another generation (the fourth) into this family home.

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So (with the encouragement of my husband and lots of girlfriends), I jumped all in and did something completely out of character, embarked on something I had no idea how to do. And amazing things started happening.  The fear, uncertainty and doubt of the project never showed up, at least in my mind.  I only saw the positive, the potential, and the purpose. People helped me along the way, new friends and family connections were made, I gave myself permission to try things I have never done, and I learned some new lessons.

  1. Go for it
  2. Be patient with yourself
  3. It’s ok to fail – because even with failure there is growth
  4. Ask for help
  5. Stop and smell the flowers
  6. Run towards the things that make you come alive

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File Jan 08, 2 00 33 PMSo now I am looking for that next purpose.  I am casting a wide net to see what I love to do, what else I will be passionate about, doing things that I like to do but may be marginal at (like growing camellias).  I am exploring and seeking to uncover my gifts. As authors Richard J. Leider and David A. Shapiro outline in their book, Whistle While You Work: Heeding Your Calling, answering the following simple questions can reveal your calling and lead to new realms of success and fulfillment.

  1. What gifts do I give to others naturally?
  2. What gifts do I have that I most enjoy?
  3. What gifts do I have that I give most often?

Because our own individual gifts are what make us come alive and “what the world needs is people who have come alive,” Howard Thurman.

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  • Reply Lisa Cooper Porter January 11, 2017 at 7:22 pm

    Hi English! Your sister posted something on Facebook today and referenced your blog. I’m Loving it! I remember you a little bit. I’m between you two girls. Maybe you’re one of my brothers’, Jon or Jan Cooper, ages… anyway…!
    I shared with Beth my memory of your Daddy. I was a little girl- 10 in 1968- when your Daddy coached the James Island Football team to a championship. My Daddy was on the Booster Club. Which is a little funny because at that point he had two daughters in high school. But he loved sports and loved people and the BC was a great group of people. He headed the group in raising money to buy your family a station wagon!! I remember being at the football game when they drove it on to the field. I think your family was all out there- that’s how I remember it.
    What a wonderful place to grow up! So many wonderful people.
    Your house is beautiful! My husband and I thought we’d buy an old house to renovate but as a young couple starting to look for a first home, we realized that his height (6’6″) was kicking us out of that arena. At least here in Utah- where architecture is …well, the log cabins from the 1850s are few and in museums now, so homes really start from the 1870s. I’d say the big group of homes would be the 1930s/40s. They are still beautiful but only the largest (read millions of dollars) would fit my husband! So I love “visiting” old houses through blogs and home shows. We ending up building houses and I love that,too. Lots of memories going to furniture stores, paint and lighting stores…when my parents built in Fort Johnson Estates.
    I’m looking forward to more fun posts. And I’m adding some of your restaurant mentions to my must visit list for next trip home!
    There’s NO place like Charleston and whenever I tell someone new where I’m from, if they’ve been there, they will tell me it’s their favorite place they’ve ever been. Utah is so wonderful, but I’d have to agree with them! Have a great day!

    • Reply English January 11, 2017 at 11:46 pm

      Lisa, thanks SO MUCH for your reply!! I totally remember riding in the station wagon out on the football field to present it to Daddy… tapped into a memory I hadn’t thought about in years….will definately be subject for a future post. Yes, Charleston is wonderful! I know you miss it but I am sure you have wonderful experiences that you cannot find in Charleston! Thanks for “tuning” in and I hope you keep in touch! Take care!

  • Reply Savannah January 12, 2017 at 2:02 pm

    This is such a sweet post, you are so lucky to have these memories. I know your dad is proud.


    • Reply English January 13, 2017 at 2:08 pm

      Thank you Savannah,! We think so too!

  • Reply Kelley @ Coastal Kelder January 12, 2017 at 2:36 pm

    I love this, English! It’s funny how the sometimes it takes time to realize what someone really means, or what a quote or something said really means for you and your life!

    • Reply English January 13, 2017 at 2:11 pm

      I know Kelley. You are wise to know that now and to pay attention to it!

  • Reply Sydney @ Queen of the Food Age January 12, 2017 at 7:22 pm

    I love this! The message behind the whole post is super inspiring, especially since I’m trying to follow this advice in my own life with my new self-employment career.

    • Reply English January 13, 2017 at 2:14 pm

      Good luck! I know this is something we know, “do what you love”, but to actually DO IT for a living or for your future, well it is easy to get sidetracked. Thanks for your comments ~ I am glad it resonated!

  • Reply Erin, Attention to Darling January 14, 2017 at 10:46 pm

    This is such a great post, I love this message and truly believe it as well. I’ve always been one not to jump in unless I think I can do it 100%, but I’m finding that if your heart is telling you to “go!” you should go.

    Erin, Attention to Darling

    • Reply English January 16, 2017 at 5:35 pm

      Thanks Erin,! I think listening to our hearts and not our heads is key!!

  • Reply Gina January 25, 2017 at 3:52 pm

    How did I miss this post?? This is awesome! And I can’t wait to see the fruits of your labor very, very soon!

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