Shelly L. Francis is author of The Courage Way: Leading and Living with Integrity. Shelly L. Francis has been the marketing and communications director at the Center for Courage & Renewal since mid-2012. Before coming to the Center, Shelly directed trade marketing and publicity for multi-media publisher Sounds True, Inc. Her career has spanned international program management, web design, corporate communications, trade journals, and software manuals. The common thread throughout her career has been bringing to light best-kept secrets — technology, services, resources, ideas — while bringing people together to facilitate collective impact and good work. Shelly wrote The Courage Way: Leading and Living with Integrity on behalf of the Center for Courage & Renewal.
What do I do best?
The one and maybe only thing I think I do better than anyone else is being Shelly L. Francis, with all my gifts and foibles. I’d like to think I show up most of the time as my whole self, being authentic—I don’t always, but I strive to. What I love to do best is to be in the flow of putting creative ideas together that help people access their inner resourcefulness. I love looking for metaphors and synchronicity that add meaning to the every day life of being a human.
What makes me the best version of myself?
The most important characteristic that has gotten me to where I am today is trusting that if I’m faced with a challenge, it’s because I have chosen soul-deep to learn from the situation (dangit!). You could call that having a growth mindset.
What are my aspirations?
I’m not sure I separate personal from business aspirations, except in the sense of the scale. I aspire to walk my talk, live my best life and make a positive difference in the lives of other people. I aim to contribute my gifts toward making the world a better place—without burning out! I say that creativity is my caffeine, so I aspire to make a life and a living by staying awake with my creativity. Writing is my art and I like to combine words with images and be braver about sharing those expressions more broadly. I’d like to feel as articulate out loud as I feel in my (final-draft) writing voice.
My Biggest Success?
Maya Angelou once said of her son that he was her monument. I’m extremely proud of the person my son has become, so I’m proud of bringing him into the world and bringing him up as someone who is authentic, a bright light, and compassionate.
I can also point to certain projects throughout my career that I’m proud of, and the ongoing theme has been where I’ve combined technology and creativity that resulted in great ideas being accessible to more people. Most recently I’m proud of writing The Courage Way book, which describes a social technology that helps leaders be wholehearted, trustworthy humans.
My Most Challenging Moment?
This goes way back to when I was around 11 years old. I was at the neighborhood indoor swimming pool in the deep-end and another little girl, who wasn’t well liked, jumped in the water to play with a group of us, and clung to me. I couldn’t stay afloat. The only thing I could think of to say was “F__k off”. Her face fell and she dog-paddled away. I saw the great pain in her eyes, knowing I’d caused it with my words. I had decided to be cruel to save myself from drowning—and regretted hurting someone because I couldn’t think of another option. I wish I could say I never did that again, but it did ingrain in me a desire to be kind, especially with my spoken words. I’ve come to realize there’s a downside to having a bias toward kindness, when you mistake being “nice” as a reason not to be honest or not to speak up. “Nice” and “kind” are not necessarily the same thing. I believe it’s possible to make wise and hard decisions with kindness, but it may require more time and imagination and honest conversation to find the right path.
I love collecting words to live by, so I can’t pick just one. Here are two quotes that have guided me most in recent years:
(1) Violence is what happens when we don’t know what else to do with our own suffering,” by Parker J. Palmer and also by Parker (2) Self-care is never a selfish act—it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer others.”
My Favorite People/Role Models?
People who inspire me the most are the ones who have the courage to speak up and give voice to their own experience to serve a greater good. Most recently I’m inspired by the teens in Florida (and beyond) who are part of the #NeverAgain movement to change gun control laws so that shootings, in schools especially but overall, someday become a thing of the past.
My Favorite Places/Destinations?
I love uncrowded beaches where I can feel the tide and sense the connection point between land and sea. I have been lucky to travel many places with my work and love going places where I get to meet people I’ve been corresponding with; one such highlight was New Zealand. I also love “going home” to visit family and friends in Colorado, Chicago and Philadelphia.
My Favorite Products/Objects?
Pens with purple ink, specifically Pilot G-2 07 pens with refills. Seashell fragments, especially the spiral eyes of moonsnails; and small stones that I can stack. Also wooden art manikins.
My Current Passions?
After three years of 24/7 working on a book project (The Courage Way), which I loved, I’m enjoying being in the “in between” phase of big projects right now. I am passionate about finding joy and balance in the unfolding of what’s next. I’m pondering the idea of “presence.” I feel like the universe is calling me to live into what I’ve been writing about—which is leading a life of integrity. I define that as aligning who I am with what I do.