By Dee Williams
I’ve been writing about gratitude this year, and the upcoming holiday weekend brings me full circle to several folks who have not only offered me their friendship, but have profoundly altered my course by providing inspiration and encouragement when I needed it most.
On Memorial Day Weekend 11 years ago, I hosted a building party. My friends called it, “An old-fashioned barn-raising in the heart of the city.” We began building my tiny house, and in a matter of hours, the walls were up and sheathed, and my friends left me to contemplate the roof design. At the end of the day I remember feeling equal parts freaked out and exhilarated, and those feelings continued for the next three months as I worked toward finishing my house.
That day I discovered how important it was to lean into the generosity of my friends, who brought beer, pizza, hammers and “A football helmet, just in case.” I also realized that if I wanted to actually finish the house, I’d need that inspiration and encouragement in regular doses, and that’s where my friends really came in. I built my house myself, that’s true, but I never would have mustered the temerity to start or the determination to finish if it weren’t for my dear, sweet friends. In truth, when you peel back the “I did it!” veneer, you find that there likely wouldn’t be a little house if it weren’t for them, starting with that weekend in May 2004.
I think this is true with all creative works and bold acts. Ralph Waldo Emerson offered, “Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.” And that’s exactly what I’ve found lately through the works of my friends. Here are just a few:
Yuichi Takeuchi of Japan, a tiny house builder and one of my favorite people on the planet. He invited me to participate in a workshop near Mt Fuji last year, and I’ll never forget his advice when I told him that I was nervous: “Oh Dee, there’s no nerves here. All you have to do is be kind, make people feel welcomed, and everything will be thumbs up.” His attitude, insight and woodworking ability completely floored me, and his advice was spot-on. My Japanese experience changed me, and Yuichi’s advice continues to help me in a thousand different settings.
Jenn Berney, who helped edit my book and told me in a thousand ways, “You can do this!” She just published an awesome essay in the New York Times about kids and bees, and teaching tolerance and kindness. She completely inspired me with the end of her piece, a snapshot of her son in the backyard, tending to a bee: “I realized what the bees had taught him… that every small part of the system counts for something.” And so it goes with the gift of inspiration: every ounce counts.
Scott Crabtree of Happy Brain Science, one of the most contagiously optimistic people on the planet. Scott met with PAD for just an hour or so, but in those few brilliant moments he completely inspired us to re-connect with why we’re doing what we’re doing, and encouraged us to dive into what sincerely makes us happy as individuals and as a business. I’ve never had a meeting that was so thought provoking, where I also laughed so much.
Jeremy Beesley recently launched Small is Beautiful, a documentary that follows four people through building their tiny houses. I loved the movie, not only because it was beautifully shot, but also because it showed the inherent joy AND soul-crushing challenge of learning to walk with equal parts humility and gratitude. Building isn’t for sissies, which is why a good posse and a few cheerleaders are essential.
Inspiration is Contagious
Having seen how important these moments of inspiration have been for me, I’m trying to devote more time to getting out there and trying to be a spark for others. Next month I’m going down to San Diego to speak at an event called The Vine, described not as a how-to workshop, but “an inspire-to workshop—a wellspring to renew creativity and purpose.” And in July I’m returning to Chris Guillebeau’s World Domination Summit in Portland to lead “Microhousing 101,” a two-hour event that’s open to the public, geared toward helping people understand the lay of the land in small housing and how to find their place in it.
I hope you find the inspiration and encouragement you’re looking for, whether at a big event designed to psych you up, or closer to home, in your own backyard – in the people who surround you, and this beautiful planet that is calling us to go out and play hard, work hard, and love even more. If you’re starting something big this weekend, whether you’re building a tiny house or opening any other kind of new chapter in your life, believe me: “YOU CAN DO IT!” Just lean on your friends, and gather all your sparks of inspiration until you get a cozy little fire going.