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What’s the Most Important Lesson You’ve Learned Along Your Journey?

Every twist in our story, challenge we face, and obstacle we overcome is an important part of our story. These difficulties make us stronger and wiser and prepare us for what’s ahead. As we grow and succeed we may imagine that soon the challenges will fade away, but in our conversations with business owners, artists, creatives, academics, and others we have learned that the most common experience is that challenges never go away – instead they get more complex as we grow and succeed. Our ability to to thrive therefore depends heavily on our ability to learn from our experiences and so we are asking some of the city’s best and brightest: What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned along your journey?

Machalla Breanne | Student

One important lesson I have learned that the only person who’s happiness should matter is your own. So why live your day to day life trying to be like or impress someone else?


Erin Sloan | Portrait Photographer

Through my journey as a professional photographer, I’ve learned that it’s so important to be true to yourself and your art.  For every person that doesn’t like what you offer, there is someone that will. When people hire you, they want to see your vision represented, not what you think they want.  So if you have a creative (or crazy!) idea, reach for it.

The DJ -“DJ OSO FLAKO” Marcos Galaz and The Photographer | (Lalo Gomez) of the photo

I used to try and live up to what people expected out of me. I Tried to be somebody to make more friends. It wasn’t until I accepted who I really was inside that freed me. Now I realize my small circle is all I ever really needed.
-Marcos Galaz

The Most important lesson (so Far) has been to work with what you have, focus on yourself and just start. It’s easy to get stuck comparing yourself to others and wishing you had better equipment, telling yourself  “I’ll start once I acquire that new camera” as an example. Its not always about having the greater gear, it’s about what you can create with the tools you already have. Your creativity is what can set you apart which is why its important to focus on yourself and see that you start and finish every project.
-Lalo Gomez

Randee Stratton | Restaurant/Retailer Tenant Representation Broker

Doing the right thing never goes out of style and follow your instincts, they are going to be right.

Skye Susalla | Photographer

The greatest feeling, passion that I discovered
From my travels is how important our family and friends are and will always continue to be .
When My guy, Joe and I were in Italy last summer we were able to go to Matera to meet His Italian side of the family .  Not only were they gracious, funny and extremely endearing, but made us feel like we had known one another . For a lifetime , which only family can do!
Now our families have multiplied instilling a renewed LOVE and appreciation for ALL!


The Urban Renewal Project | Hip-hop/Jazz Band

We frequently talk about the idea of “missing the forest for the trees” as it applies to creating music, maintaining personal relationships, and managing work and finances. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in daily affairs and start making all your decisions based on the factors that happen to be affecting you in that moment, but that kind of approach just results in treading water and heightened levels of anxiety. Arguing over the volume of the snare drum on day 3 of mixing, or passing on a really cool performance opportunity because it doesn’t pay as much as another recent show. Always remember why you’re doing the things you do and what your long-term goals are. If something is serving the ultimate purpose, then it’s probably worth it!

Andrea Rogers | Licensed Esthetician

There are 1,001 people around me that do the same job as I do. How do I stand out?
Know your gifts! Strengthen those gifts! Lean into your instincts and do not be afraid to put yourself out there! You will find your people, and your people will find you!

Sabrina Cyrus | Model & Concept Artist

Surround yourself with GOOD. That means listening to music with good messages, reading inspiring books, and nurturing healthy relationships with people who lift you up.
When good things in life became my norm, it was difficult to keep toxic people and negativity around. Does your environment challenge and inspire you? Are your influences guiding you to be the best version of yourself?


Ryan Manalili – Singer/Songwriter from Oceanside, CA

The most important lesson I’ve learned in my journey so far is very well represented by the Italian phrase, “Ancora Imparo”. A phrase meaning: Yet, I am learning.
There is always room to learn, there’s always room to grow. I learn something new everyday, whether it’s in terms of music, or just learning something new about myself. Once you accept the fact that you are, and will always be a student, you will build a healthy relationship with others and more importantly, yourself.


Barbara Lisowski | Former Biologist recently Ignited Artist

The most important life lesson I’ve learned is to listen my intuition and not allow the opinions of others affect me, especially as Art is subjective and can be very personal.  At the end of the day, do what you know is right, follow your dreams and do what you love, let go of guilt about being an Artist.


Samantha O’Brien | Realtor®

As I go forward in my journey as a Realtor, I cherish the opportunity to pass on what I’ve learned to my clients so that they can find their dream home and build wealth. This motivates me to learn more about the industry daily. I’ve never had such a passion to soak in as much information about a topic as possible and an important lesson I’ve learned, is that while I’m teaching my clients about real estate I tend to find that I’m also learning lessons from them about personal interaction, family and how people who aren’t exactly like me live their daily lives. I love the fact that I get to meet new people every day and learn a little bit about where they come from and what they do and they inspire me daily.


Carly Lynch | CarlyCosmetic Makeup Artistry

The only thing that stood between me and my goals were excuses as to why it wasn’t the right time. There is no such thing as a perfect time you just have to trust yourself and seize every opportunity.


Nicolas Luna | Taco Lover and Insurance Broker

Don’t lose touch with your existing customers. I know we need to continue to grow as a business, but keeping a customer is easier than finding a new one. Providing great services and always keeping in touch (without being a salesperson) with your existing customer base will always work out in the long run with referrals.


Ashlyn Dadkhah | Jewelry Designer & Educator

The most important lesson I’ve learned so far in this journey is that in order to get what you want (not only out of a small business, but also all the different aspects of your life, your personal, financial, educational, creative, and social-emotional parts of your life) it is imperative that you a s k for it. You may have to knock on many doors until someone lets you in, but if you never knock, you’ll never know who might let you in.

Dasha D | Russian girl living Cali life

The most important lesson I’ve learned on my journey so far is that it is okay to be different from others. We are all one of a kind.


Joe Gardner | Photographer

Do something simply because you enjoy doing it, not to gain approval as you may never get it.
I had to realize that approval and validation from others may never happen for me and by focusing on those as markers for success, I’d lost sight of the real measure of success, which is happiness and enjoyment. It’s okay to be bad at something, so long as you’re enjoying it. Paradoxically, this means you’re actually succeeding at your new goal of being happier.

Andrew Wombacher | Film photographer / Director

I’ve learned in my journey that the only ones who succeed in the art world are the obsessives and the relentless. So be obsessive, and relentless in whatever you do.

Stacy Small | CEO/Founder of Elite Travel International and author of Why Not Me?!?

I have learned to always have faith that no matter what is happening in life (or while traveling), it is always happening FOR us not TO us. There is always a lesson to come from every challenge, and on the business side, it’s made me a really skilled first-world problem solver, and on the personal side, a stronger more empathetic and accepting person who knows how to let the little stuff go and focus on what really matters: Choosing Joy and Living Your Dreams.

Emily Thomas | Community & Service at lululemon UTC | Storyteller | Weightlifting Competitor

The most important lesson I’ve learned in my journey thus far has been to be in the practice of self inquiry and introspection, get clear on your values and purpose, use them to follow your bliss, and never settle.


Liz Lyon | Founder of Lion Fit Apparel & NASM Health and Fitness Professional

Being alone and being lonely are not the same thing. Being on your own and enjoying your own company is priceless. Traveling or exploring the world by yourself is okay; it’s  better than okay, it’s wonderful. When you realize that you can do things on your own and enjoy your own company, the world is your playground. Some of  My favorite adventures have been solo trips, with great music and my own thoughts.

Cindy de Groot | Dance & Relaxercise Instructor | Owner Across Caribe Tours

Not to have fear to make new choices, to take a leap, a risk, a jump into the unknown, and stepping out of your comfort zone! It means growth, transformation and if you do it from your true heart with full belief, only beautiful and better things can manifest itself.
Every single day when you wake up you’ll have that chance again, to do things different and to make a new choice for yourself.
Too many people get stuck in a life that doesn’t fulfill them, trying to live up to the standards and pressure of society and depending on others to fill the void within. Tomorrow again, you have a choice, to face your fears and cut loose from poisoning, non-satisfying relationships, marriages and jobs. Set yourself free, trust yourself!
I speak from experience. I chased and I cut loose. I left The Netherlands 9 years ago with a one way ticket, a backpack and no itinerary. Crossed 3 times around the globe and look where in ended up; Carlsbad, single mom of 2 and happily creating the life I envision. My backpack now filled with lots of stories, lessons and experiences i collected along my journey.

Virtina Valdez | White Collar worker, home bartender, cocktail enthusiasts and podcaster

I hate to sound cliché but the most important lesson I’ve learned in my journey is the beauty of my journey, and to not be afraid to continue the journey that is life. Taking the chance to move from Indiana to San Diego 6 years ago was an insane aspiration but I made the choice to do it. And that journey in itself was, just to get to California, was….as they say in the workplace, a great development opportunity. Jokes aside, as they say, pressure creates diamonds, the journey builds character.  Cultivating my identity as an adult post 30 (eek), becoming a wife, working to be the best version of myself and to take a leap to create a brand that focuses on my love of craft cocktails, pop culture, and exposing myself, blemishes and all, to the world, has been a rocky, tumultuous journey. But as a dedicated pessimist, this journey has taught me the value of perseverance, positivity, patience and the love and appreciation of alliteration.


Sina Faton | CEO of Enchanted Bikinis and Pharmacist

The most important lesson I’ve learned in my journey so far is to listen to our customers and audience. With social media it is easy to get this type of insight and feedback, it’s a free tool and it is definitely worth it to understand what our target audience is looking for in order to fill their needs and come out with the products they actually will buy.


Becky Launder | Direct Sales Trainer & Strategist

Big question! As a mom and a business owner, I’ve learned that you just have to roll with it. There’s seasons for launches, for growth spurts, for slowing down, for reflection and for speeding up. As soon as you think you’ve figured it out, things change and it’s time to figure it out again. With a little bit of coffee… and maybe some wine — anything is possible! Think big. Dream bigger. 

Liz Goetz | With Love Event Decor

I have learned that is it absolutely possible to have the life that you envision for yourself.   I resigned from my career after 7 years to work from home. Leaving a stable career to go into the unknown, was scary…and it didn’t help that many people were trying to sway me from leaving. I had a vision of what I wanted my life to look like, it consisted of working from home doing something I loved. Now 4 1/2 years and 2 babies later I am so thankful I had the courage to leave! Now I work from home doing something creative while being the stay at home mom I dreamed of.  If you have a vision of what you want your life to be, go after it with everything you’ve got! Follow your heart, believe in yourself, and prove yourself right. It’s possible you too can live the life you want!


Patty Graham | (PG Fitness) Personal Trainer

The most important lesson I’ve learned so far is that I must keep learning. The world of fitness it vast and it is always changing. The more I know, the more I can apply to and help my clients. Also, Knowing what your clients and community want and need helps build quality relationships. I love the community I have become a part of and the amazing people I meet everyday.


Capt Cash | Cosplayer & Nerd Extraordinaire

The most important lesson I’ve learned is that you have to be who you are, not who the world wants you to be.  Love yourself for who you are and pursue those passions.  Never be afraid to let your freak flag fly.  Hopefully that’s not too fortune cookie.


Jen Hanson | Laser engraving and cutting

As I approach two years of running my own little business, I’d have to say the most important lesson I have learned so far is to ride (and enjoy) the roller coaster.  There are many ups and downs, milestones celebrated and doubts to fight, especially in the beginning.  It is so important to dig your feet in, keep moving forward and stay focused on what you want you and your company to represent.  When things may start to feel stale, it means you have conquered your current work load, embrace it and acknowledge that change is about to happen to keep you growing in what you do.


Domaniece | Imjussayinthopodcast & Music A&R

I have learned that dedication and determination is something you have to strive for everyday, giving up or not completing your life goals aren’t option.

Emily Taber-Moore | Founder of Henry Rose Interior Design

Olivia Hayo

The most important lesson I’ve learned as a designer is to just say ‘yes’!  Allow yourself to embrace new opportunities because it may very well lead you down a beautiful unprecedented path.  Be adaptable, but stay true to yourself and design with conviction.  You’ll never know if you never try.


Kayla Stewart | Youtuber & Adventure Travel Blogger

The most important lesson I have learned in my journey so far is to never give up, be your biggest fan & live to do what you love. Time passes by so quickly and we all go through traumatic events but it is what we do during and after those hardships that matter most. Just never give up and if you want to do something, just do it and don’t let yourself get in the way of that process. I love the Tony Robbins quote: “Stop being afraid of what could go wrong, and start being excited for what could go right.”


Nirit Wigdor | SanDiegoEats Founder & Chief Eater

If you want something, you’ve got to work on it and put in the time. Nothing happens over night. It all takes hours of hard work, consistency, and a plan.


Bea Prescilla Sharp | Wedding & Event Planner and Makeup Artist

Coordination & Styling: Occasions by Bea Prescilla Linen Rental: Concepts Event Design Candy Apples and Desserts: Roni’s Sugar Creations Cake: Oh for Cakes Sake Backdrop: Tania Fischer Design

I have learned that we are infinitely capable of doing what our passions are; we just have to commit to it.  You do this by indefinitely learning absolutely everything you can about your specific industry.  Get the education you need; read the books that others have written so you could pick their brain; get an internship or volunteer under someone well-rounded to gain knowledge and experience; and find all the videos and articles you can online to gain more insight.  It’s easy to look at others who are more established and get that feeling of insecurity.  However, I’ve had to remind myself that they, too, are a person just like me, who took advantage of the resources available to us to get to where they are.  Success didn’t happen for them overnight, and with that success came failure.  However, they looked at their failures not as faults and reasons to give up, but as an opportunity to grow and do better next time.  The quote, “when one door closes, another one opens,” is true, BUT I have learned that you have to walk to that door and open it yourself.  It won’t come to you by sitting around and doing nothing.  The world is truly our oyster, and everything we need to learn about our passion is within reach.  You just have to take the time to commit to it if you want to succeed and reach your goals.

Mark Paolera | Hodgkins Lymphoma Survivor | Natural Care Products Formulator | Kinesiology Student

The most important lesson I have learned in my journey so far is; no matter how daunting the path may seem, there is always a reason to keep moving and to be mindful of others while on the move.

Nicole Blanchard | Illustrator and Comic Artist

Nicole Blanchard

I would have to say that the most important lesson I’ve learned throughout my journey (not just in life but as an artist) thus far has been to simply relax. It’s best not to get too caught up in the accomplishments of others. Everyone goes at their own pace; sometimes that means slower than others and that’s fine. I used to find it disheartening looking at other people who were doing what I perceived to be “better” than me, but it’s good to remember that hard work, practice, and time will eventually get you were you want to be. You’ll eventually see the fruits of your labor.

Rafael R. Meneses | Founder + Chief Creative of Deconstructive Media

It’s difficult to nail it down to one lesson.  I continue to learn each day.  I can say that one of the hardest things to learn was to be patient and to trust the process, but always hustle.  You can’t sit back and hope for things to work out for the best. You need to move, stay focus, and adapt when necessary.  Inspiration doesn’t always come knocking at your door, you have work to find it.  People assume creativity is a mystic art that comes with the snap of a finger.  It’s doesn’t.  It takes a lot of hard work to develop nothing into something great.

Jennie Spies | Wife | Mom and Friend

Don’t focus on trying to emulate someone you see as successful. Focus on YOU.” Staying true to yourself and your vision is the true key to happiness and success.


Les Spellman | Owner, Spellman performance

Don’t quit. Gotta go through the wilderness to experience the “promised land”. Learned this through reading exodus. They had to experience the worst things on their journey to appreciate what the other side had to offer.

Hana Rasoul | hair and makeup artist

During my journey as a hair and makeup artist; I have learned it is crucial to work in a field you’re passionate about despite fears and financial uncertainties. Once I realized fear is merely an illusion, it was no longer an obstacle to overcome and my business began to flourish.


Scott Taylor | Property Management | Photographer

Jimmy Diego Ferrari

The most important lesson I have learned is to have patience, especially in photography. Trying to capture the perfect shot can take a lot of preparation, scouting of the right location, weather conditions, which lens to use and camera angles. So you need to have the patience to be able to control all the elements of a good photograph. While enjoying the scenery and having a great time, shooting alone or with other photographers. I have a favorite quote from Ansel Adams which sums up my photography skills: “You don’t take a photograph, you make it”


Mary Piazza | Massage Therapist and Labor Doula

A hundred million lessons flood my brain when thinking of a good answer to this question because I believe life teaches me lessons everyday and all hold an important place in my journey. One particular lesson that I’ve held near and dear to my heart came from my Mother who I look up to in so many ways. She said, “In life we are given hardships and we can either expand or contract from them. It is our choice.” I take that lesson with me through all the varies obstacles my life has thrown me. I realize I have the choice to either grow from any pain, suffering, heartache, loss and challenge that comes my way or I can crumble. I can either lean into it or run away from it. I choose to expand. It’s the only way I can keep going and fulfill my goals and dreams of what I believe I’m here to do. It helps me dive deeper into myself and who I am so that I can be more present and whole for the people who come across my path and need my help.


Josef Gutierrez | Photographer & Landscape Architect

The most important lesson I’ve learned is a basic one: Just have fun with it. It’s the one thing I always fall back on, especially when there’s stress involved with a project or I’m stuck in a creative block. It allows me to trust everything I know and put it to use freely. I feel it brings out my best work, whether in the office or when out shooting. Ultimately, it helps my passion for making photos grow more and more.

Greg Cali | Creator of TheCaliLife Productions

Be passionate about what you do with your time, and never give up on what you want. 

D’Laney , Q and Walter | Creator, The Activated Podcast

The most important lesson we’ve learned in our journey is to trust the process process enjoy the journey. Trust that everything will work out in your favor, and enjoy the moments that come along in the journey.


Jalen Fields | Masters of Business Administration

The most important lesson I’ve learned on my journey so far is that consistent work ethic and patience will take you very far in life.


Ava Victoria | Soon to be Licensed Cosmetologist

The most important lesson I’ve learned in my journey so far is that I needed to let go of the mindset “I’ll be happy when…” and find joy in the landmarks on the way to my bigger goals.


EVE Custom Cosmetics | Specialists in custom cosmetics and leaders in skin tone color technology

Life is about learning that challenges, failures, imperfections and diversity are beautiful and powerful. Be sure what you want and be sure about yourself. When you stay true to yourself you can achieve anything.


Eric Branch | Aircraft Mechanic and Car Enthusiast

I would say the most important thing I’ve learned on my 31 year journey is to always listen to yourself, trust your feelings, and never be afraid to speak up.


Victor Vasquez | Healthcare Digital Marketer and Founder of 415 Creative

The most important lesson I’ve learned on my journey is that authenticity and honesty typically lead to stronger partnerships. The more authentic and honest you are with your customers, the more they see you as a trusted advisor and long-term partner. For us, helping doctors establish a digital presence and assisting in growing their private practices has been very rewarding. Every time we can help a doctor be found and look great online, we know we’ve done our job! Our journey in helping medical and dental practices succeed online is just getting started and we’re looking forward to the future.

Emma | creative | baker and designer

Your creative limits are just ones that you put on yourself. Don’t be afraid to take the risk, attempt something you have never done before, and think outside of your “scope”. I like. To take classes in different mediums as at the end of the day we are all just creatives and we have selected a medium of choice. Practicing with another may spark new ideas”.

Jennifer | Owner of Jayd Products

Being in business is like picking around a box of chocolates.  Sometimes there are surprises, sometimes it’s nuts, but overall it’s a great experience.  It’s all about mindset.  Once upon a time i would have believed I was incapable .  Now I just do it.  Everything can be learned or outsourced when needed.  My business journey is truly a gift of chocolates.


Yvette Vanessa | Home Baker & cake decorator

Through baking I’ve learned many lessons. One of these being to never give up on what interest you the most, in my case it’s baking. I have been working on this dream for many years and have overcome many obstacles, but I never give and always make the most of each opportunity. Sometimes things don’t go as planned but my biggest reward is always seeing my clients face of satisfaction and happiness when I deliver a cake. From each situation or cake order I always learn something new. From which then I try to make it a lesson for my next cake. It’s never a failure but rather a lesson learned. I always give my best to each order ,whether it’s a small cake or something bigger, I strive to make the best of each order with lots of perseverance, hard work and love.


Kahila Hedayatzadeh, M.A., MFT | Breakthrough Coach

The most valuable lesson I’ve learned in this journey is the idea that life will continue to teach you valuable lessons through unexpected challenges. These challenges are not meant as a form of punishment. Instead what life is doing is revealing to you, your strengths, and values. As well as increasing your ability for a deeper love for self and others. What I’ve learned to say is “I may not like the feeling(s) of this situation- but it’s here now-what can I learn from it, and how can I bounce back stronger than before.” My life motto is “life can try to knock me down- but I will get back up with a stronger punch every single time.” Part of being resilient is knowing that resilience is the very nature of being a human being. Sometimes we lose sight of our own strengths and self-regulation. The act of resilience is the knowing that “I’ve gotten through this before, so I can do it again.” Ask yourself: “what limiting beliefs are standing in my way?” and “what can I do in this moment to start the process of overcoming this obstacle or pain?”. A word of advice, seek help if you need a trusted individual to help you see your pain with a different lens. Most of us are willing to seek treatment when we are physically ill or in pain, however, we are ashamed to ask for help when our mental and emotional being is challenged. Remember, it is okay to be human. It’s okay to say, “I can’t seem to break through the mental and emotional blocks I am facing and need guidance to overcome past pain.” Nothing in life is permanent. So love deeply, laugh out loud, and allow the painful moments to teach you life-changing lessons. 

Paulina Salazar | Real Estate Advocate & Brook Hancock | Real Estate Business Developer

From the large-scale of interviews we’ve had and our own business experience we’ve come to a consensus that it’s more about selling you and your passion than your product or service. People buy into you because you are doing what you love and they can sense that. Life’s too short to waste time doing something you don’t want to do. There will always be ups and down in business, but when you find something that not only aligns with your passion but also with your core beliefs and values it makes those lows a lot easier to ride out and your chances of succeeding increase significantly.


Tracy Benson | Health & Wellness Coach

The most important lesson I’ve learned in my journey so far, is that I can never stop learning! 

Madele Flores | Beauty Influencer

One important lesson I’ve learned in my journey so far is that a closed mouth doesn’t get fed. You can be talented but you won’t be guaranteed success unless you’re fighting for what you want and getting yourself out there. Dedication is key.


Brooke Nevins | Fashion Designer

Fashion, to me, is not about the latest trends, looking pretty, or wearing what I’m told.  I think fashion can be a much more personal and empowering idea.  Fashion is an outlet of expression.  When I choose what I am going to wear, it is an extension of what I am feeling.  I think that message can be powerful, especially for children who are beginning to learn who they are, where they fit in, and how they can individualize themselves with confidence in the real world.  There is no right or wrong answer, but it is important to listen to your inner self, which is the most important lesson I have learned through my journey.  Fashion is not a one size fits all and some times it can be very overwhelming to figure it all out.  So, as long as you pay attention to your personal ideas, you can confidently wear just about anything that makes you feel good inside.

Melissa LaFara | Astrologer | Tarot Consultant & All-Around Creative

The most valuable lesson I’ve learned so far is the acceptance that our journeys are always twisting and turning! Many of the significant life events we encounter along the way are in fact fateful experiences that seek to provide us with an in-depth understanding around who we are at the core while also instilling wisdom for what lies ahead. Invoking the spirit of curiosity is what keeps life not only fresh, but also helps the necessary process of surrender, for if we can align with hope for the future we can make peace with the past. Life is an alchemical experience and I’ve learned to live in the now to the best of my ability, because that is where the magic is! I’ve also learned that Mother Nature and its creatures all need our help more than ever, and I do my part each day to be a conscious citizen in the conservation of Planet Earth! 

Isra Daineh | behavioral analyst | health coach

Do not let stressors consume you, rather find the power to conquer each stressor, one day at a time – meanwhile enjoy this time, as you can’t get it back, so it’s the most valuable.


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