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Traverse City Startup Story: Introducing a New Outdoor, Imaginative Product for Kids!

We’ve been really focused over the last few months sprinting toward the launch of our shop later this spring. Because it’s been such an intense period, the launch itself feels like the finish line. But the truth, of course, is that the launch is just the starting line of a marathon, not the finish line of a sprint. This is a perspective that we’re really trying to keep at the top of our minds.

Indeed, maintaining a present state of mind is critical to succeed in any endeavour. “Success” in this context does not mean achieving fame or fortune, however. It means achieving a sense of purpose and fulfillment in one’s work.

That’s the problem with solely focusing on the end result: Personal satisfaction rarely comes from the end, but rather from all that came before it. “It’s the journey, not the destination” is cliche, but it’s true. Heather and I have both run marathons, and it’s not the end of the 26.2 mile race we both remember most, and are most proud of. It’s the hundreds of training miles we logged in the weeks leading up to it.

This principle applies even more acutely when it comes to work, because the stakes are much higher. With the possible exception of sleep, most people spend more time working than they do engaging in any other activity in their lives.

I’ve seen both sides of this issue up close and personal, and the distinctions are profound. When I practiced in large law firm environments, some of my colleagues (myself included) were hyper-focused on achieving future milestones like making partner and making enough money to retire. The problem was that in the process we traded off present happiness – especially those of us who disliked what we were doing – for uncertain future happiness. Because we were unhappy in the journey, we tended to up our spending and lifestyles along the way in hopes of quick hits of dopamine. Then we found ourselves stuck on a hedonic hamster wheel which robbed us of the safety, security and freedom down the road that we thought our pain and suffering would afford us in retirement.

This is the problem with suffering through the processes of life and work: What if the end isn’t what you really want?

The flip-side of this is the person who learns to love the process. Each day isn’t drudgery, it’s another opportunity for fulfillment. Retirement isn’t the aim: Why would you fixate on retirement if you love what you do?

Process-oriented thinking is particularly important in connection with creative endeavours. Creating, as author Elizabeth Gilbert explains, is both uncertain and rewarding in itself:

Creativity itself doesn’t care at all about results – the only thing it craves is the process. Learn to love the process and let whatever happens next happen, without fussing too much about it. Work like a monk, or a mule, or some other representative metaphor for diligence. Love the work. Destiny will do what it wants with you, regardless.

As we move through our own creative startup journey, we’re trying to take Gilbert’s words to heart. We’re trying to recognize the importance and the joy in our present activities; to be mindful in every moment and each step of the journey.

Our operating principle is: Focus on the act of creating. Always be making things. The end result? Who knows, but it’s hard to fail when you love what you do along the way.

A New Product Introduction: The Fairy Trails Field Guide

We’ve been asked many times why we decided to start Life and Whim. The answer to this question has evolved, as we’ve evolved, over the last 15 months. At first it was an opportunity to document and process the changes in our family life, and our careers, after moving to a new town. Over time, however, it helped us to understand and frame what mattered most to us, particularly when it came to how we wanted to raise our kids. More than anything, it helped us learn how much we loved sharing our love for the the great outdoors with our girls.

As we took the next step and began the process of transforming Life and Whim from a blog to a business, our mission became clear: Life and Whim is, and always will be, focused on encouraging, inspiring and empowering kids and their families to get outside, get active and have fun in nature.

This mission is what led us to build the Fairy Trails in a forest in Traverse City. It’s also what motivated us to create the next product that we’re revealing, which will be available when our shop launches: The Fairy Trails Field Guide.

The Fairy Trails Field Guide is for kids. It’s part coloring book, part field notes journal, and part outdoor activity guide. And it’s all about having fun in nature. It allows kids to color, catalog and capture their outdoor adventures.


The coloring pages are inspired by the Fairy Trails, and capture the type of terrain, animals, and fairy houses you might see while out on the trails. Many of the drawings derive from and relate to the illustrations that you’ll see on the pages of a children’s picture book (also about the Fairy Trails) that will be published later this year.

The journal pages harken back to the days of Lewis and Clark who, like other explorers, kept detailed records of their journeys. They wrote about the land they traveled through, the weather, the people they met, and the animals they saw. They mapped their routes and noted the terrain and landmarks they passed.

Whether it’s on a forest trail or in their own backyard, kids will have the chance to record their own outdoor observations using The Fairy Trails Field Guide.

There are also fun activities outlined in the guide, such as an outdoor “hunt and seek” adventure, where kids are encouraged to find and gather a list of natural materials, such as a colorful rock or shell, twigs and leaves. There’s even an envelope secured within the pages of the guide that kids can use to store their newfound treasure.

But don’t worry, these items won’t simply languish in the book, because kids can use them to build a fairy house of their own. They can utilize some of the blank, “free-sketching” pages of the book to design their fairy dwelling.

We had a lot of fun creating The Fairy Trails Field Guide. Our hope is that the games, activities and illustrations in the book will help get kids outside and using their imaginations and creativity.

We’d like to thank and recognize two people who played integral roles in helping us to create The Fairy Trails Field Guide. We enlisted Rose Soma, who has helped with a number of our initiatives, to illustrate Heather’s vision for the coloring book pages. And Rachel Jezowski, who is Heather’s “right hand” in our marketing agency and in bringing our new Life and Whim Vision to life, has been integral in designing the book.

Save the Date for Some Fairy Fun!

Last, but definitely not least, please block-out the afternoon of June 3 on your calendar. As the weather has become nicer, we’ve noticed more and more people out building and exploring on the Fairy Trails. We’re planning a magical event for June 3 on the Fairy Trails – there will be fun, music and, of course, lots of new, awesome fairy houses to discover on the trails. Keep an eye out for the big announcement in May!