“If you stand for nothing, you fall for everything”

We asked the community to tell us about the values and principles that guide their lives and businesses.

Abraham Gutsioglou, Ph.D. | Author | Virtual Keynote Speaker | Passionate About Transformations and Creating the Future

Diversity of thought and seeing the world through different perspectives. This is the foundation of my values and philosophy in life. My goal is to help people to think differently about themselves and the world around them. Read more>>

Jamie Castro | Casting Director & Acting Coach

Trust. To have trust in someone is truly a beautiful thing. You have to feel very strong and stay true to what is in your heart in order to trust someone else. Sometimes it takes so much more than that to trust yourself. To fully trust yourself is to know how your mind & body work in connection with one another. And this year I have gotten to know myself so much better that I can trust in my curiosity to try something different & take new chances. Through my efforts I’ve become much better at trusting my own intuition & instincts. If you asked who showed up for me this year, I would say “I did” and that feels pretty good. Read more>>

Paul Nelson | Trombonist and Composer

It matters most to me to be genuine in my interactions with others as well as to be genuine in any work that I do. I like to live by the mindset that our ideas come across with the most clarity when we give our sincere and best effort. That guides my interactions with others and how I approach my work. Read more>>

Tui Asau | Actor Producer Director

Integrity. Hands down. It’s a driving force and the cornerstone that all other pieces can be worked from. The simplicity of giving your word and keeping your word reverberates throughout the rest of your being and throughout your work. A person who keeps their word — especially to themselves — and will do anything and everything to do so is worth their weight in gold. At least, to me. Read more>>

Hélène CHOYER | Music Composer

One value I always think of when I create is what I called artistic honesty – I Believe that the artist has a total freedom but needs to be aware and honest in their work. In music and art in general an, we often quote other’s cultures music, we borrow, we get inspired. As a creator, you are responsible to study and make conscious artistic choices before showing your work to the world. If I want to use a music instrument I am not familiar with in my compositions, I take time to study them, to know where they come from, and how to use them originally. After knowing those informations – I have the freedom to use it in a new way. Read more>>

Morgan McKensey | Wardrobe Stylist & Creative Director

I really value the power of word of mouth/recommendations! It is a special and great thing to have someone recommend or talk about you and your accomplishments on your behalf and it’s super important in uplifting people in your community, especially in the art/creative space. It’s so important to work with and keep people around you to motivate, inspire and support, especially since the people we keep around are a reflection of us. I’ve made it a personal principal that if I have the chance to present or connect someone I know with a relevant opportunity, that I would in hopes that someone else would look out for me that way. There have been several great opportunities, including my current internship, that I have been apart of due to someone else vouching for me and it honestly warms my heart. Read more>>

Cody Dear | Musician

“Authenticity” is the most important principle for me as an artist. Like most musicians, it takes some time to find your musical identity. With the rapid growth of social media and streaming platforms making a surplus of music so easily obtainable and in your face all the time, it’s hard not to compare yourself to others on a day-to-day basis. It wasn’t until after I graduated from college that I tried to finally lead my own band playing the music I genuinely wanted to play, and not necessarily what would please the most people. My band plays jazz…funk…rnb…gospel…instrumental music? I was always into a very wide variety of genres growing up which ultimately led me to the type of music I compose today. It took a couple of years (or a lot of them), but I eventually accepted the fact that I loved to write and play this sort of mishmash music that drew influence from all of these different styles. I learned it was harder to market the music, but it was more genuine to me. Read more>>

Sophia Kiuchi | Illustrator and Designer, Student at ArtCenter College of Design

Maintaining a healthy relationship between work and play has always been a struggle point for me, and it’s been especially amplified in my college experience. My journey at ArtCenter is akin to jumping out of a boat into a vast open ocean. Although I felt much adrenaline and excitement to explore a new world, I found myself full of panic as soon as I broke the surface. Not to be dramatic, but the first few terms in school were a living hell. The heavy workloads, sleepless nights, and my amateur time management skills, took quite a toll on my body, psyche, and sadly, my creativity. I experienced a burnout period that left me incredibly unconfident as an artist. Yes, it is ironic that an art school left me feeling creatively unsatisfied, but of course I am only speaking on my personal experience. In retrospect, this burnout was in large part due to allowing my work to consume me. I viewed the open sea—this new environment—as a place of doom that I had to relinquish every ounce of my energy and livelihood to. Read more>>

Macy Swaim | Professional Dancer

The principle that matters most to me in my life as well as in my work is that of authenticity. My foundation for every thought, action, creation, and decision is to move with my utmost genuine heart and mind. I believe authenticity speaks beyond its time as it shares a love and passion for every human who is approached by you. My truthful work will read across worlds by relation and being vulnerable. My real human will create connections that will serve me and stay with me for life. Authenticity aligns with so many qualities that contribute to a wonderful person, and it is a quality every human should strive for, as we are such special individuals and should never shy away from our honest selves. Read more>>

Abigail Steckler | Filmmaker, Owner of Little Scorpion Studios

Moral courage is the principle that matters most to me, in my personal life and in business. It’s what I aim to highlight and promote as the very basis of my production company, Little Scorpion. To me, moral courage means standing up for what is right, even (and most especially) in the face of adversity. As children, we’re all taught to do the “right” thing, to be honest, not to bully, not to lie or cheat. But in the adult world, there are always complications, relentless fears and pressures. The course of action that has the most integrity is rarely the easiest one. It can feel simpler to put profit before people, and turn a blind eye to atrocities. So that means making the effort, often at a cost to one’s self, to do the right thing, to help others, to be honest and fair in all dealings, is that much more admirable. I founded Little Scorpion Studios to celebrate moral courage. We tell the stories of people and organizations who have dedicated their lives and resources to improving the lots of others. Read more>>

Joshua Jones | Poet/Writer & Advocate

Authenticity and perseverance matters most to me. So many people try to replicate what other people are doing instead of staying true to themselves. Be “authentically you” and don’t allow people to enter into your realm and cause you discomfort. Be 100% you if you know for a fact that the moves you are making are the right moves and you are indeed on the right track. It doesn’t matter what the world thinks of you or how they perceive you because emotions change in an instant but your authenticity can remain stable forever if you do not waiver. Be passionate about what you do and take time to do it well. Don’t live your life looking out the rear view mirror because you will crash and burn. Be hopeful for what is ahead of you. Though you fall then again you rise open your eyes and realize that pain is only for a season. Read more>>

Nagiarry Porcena-Meneus | Storyteller, Writer, Archivist, Meditation Guide & Human Geography Advocate

Living in a meditative flow is vital to me. It is a sacred practice that nurtures me home to the present moment, to the lifeline of my breath. Just as mother’s womb rooted for and embraced the seed of my growth, life is doing the same daily. I am supported by billions of organisms and interconnected with the multifaceted ways that creation, keeps on being. Just as you are. And so, we are. The practice of remembering that all is aligning as intended is freeing. There are webs of choices intermingling in each moment, visible and invisible. They can be from me, from us, earth, cosmos, and all in between. And so I gift my love by being in tune with this flow and my role within it. I trust in the journey, through the uncertainty, to experience the highest forms of love. River flows, so can I follow the course of my journey. Read more>>

Kevin Van Den Elzen | Drummer, Bandleader, Educator and Contractor

In a musical sense, trust is the most important value to me. I trust my fellow bandmembers fully, because I know we will be able to create and improvise together. That only can happen when there’s trust in each other. As a bandleader, I trust my fellow bandmembers that they will prepare the music and be on time for a rehearsal or gig. From that standpoint, anything can happen musically. Read more>>

Vanessa McKernan | Painter

Protect and respect your studio time. For me this means committing to a specific number of hours each day where I will be in my studio painting. Respecting this time means staying away from social media and emails and staying focused on my painting or drawing. I might stare at the canvas for 30 minutes without making a single mark but for me that is still time invested in the work. Looking is a very important part of painting. Protecting the time means letting the other people in my life know that I am not available during those hours. So for me this means scheduling child care and then not planning a zoom call or lunch with a friend in the middle of studio time. Multi-tasking is the death of creativity for me. If I stay focused on the work, it is amazing what I can accomplish in 4-5 hours. Read more>>

Lauren Evans | Artists & Associate Professor

Throughout my life, I have been told I have a strong work ethic. It was not something I was necessarily aware of nor was it something I consciously sought to develop. But as I lived my life and built my career as an artist it became the value I could always fall back on, the value that allowed me to face and overcome many of the challenges an artist faces. As a child, I had dyslexia. It was a time when people didn’t know how to recognize it let alone how to help a child who was dealing with it. Teachers would accuse me of not studying for tests or procrastinating on assignments. They accused me of being lazy or worse yet inferred I was not as smart as my friends and sisters. It was deeply embarrassing. I was traumatized. It would have been easy to believe my teachers and just give up. But I had friends and family who believed in me, encouraged me and helped me find ways to overcome my dyslexia. Read more>>

April McPherson | Jewelry Maker & Small Business Owner

As with anything in my life, the core of Trail Folk Designs and being the face of a small business is to be genuine. Show up, be yourself, and connect with others that are all just living the human experience together. For me social media & the internet can be a mixed bag sometimes simply because it does provide an outlet for people to be a bit more fabricated than they might be in person. But there is also a beautiful side to it that allows folks to actually be transparent and vulnerable, which I love and appreciate so much! For me being genuine and connecting isn’t just about a value in running a small business. It’s something I also try to practice in every day life because I feel (perhaps more than ever) the human race really needs that. If you create a product or service and a genuine connection with a customer/supporter/follower, you’re now also giving them something to believe in. Read more>>