UAC 109 | Cultivating Community


Vanessa Dawson, an Event Coordinator, Stylist, and Founder of KIN Events, talks about cultivating community and curating shared experiences through working with local creatives. Based in Venice, Vanessa gives her take on working a nine to five versus being self-employed through her experiences and the realities self-employed people face that brings self-doubt. Vanessa then dives into boundaries, why setting boundaries brings benefits, especially in making decisions in crossroads. Vanessa shares her faith and her walk with God through her passion with great attention to detail, a keen eye for design, love for harmony, and logistical mastery.

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Fellowship Ft. Vanessa Dawson: Creating Kin, Cultivating Community, And Choosing Self-Employment

This is a show all about learning how to live a good life. We believe that it takes living with intention in the tension because life inevitably is filled with tensions that we get to live in the midst of daily. The best way to do that is with intentionality, in our humble opinion. I am excited about sharing this episode. Before we get to what this episode is about, I’d love to remind and encourage you as I always do, if you would be able to, willing to and be kind as to leave us a rating and review on iTunes. That is one of the easiest and best ways to show us some love.

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The Up & Comers Show is proud to support The Giving Keys, an LA-based social impact jewelry brand that’s working to end homelessness through employment. Their collection of jewelry and accessories is designed to inspire people through a core collection of keys with hand stamped inspiring words and fashion pieces. Each key is hand stamped with a word of choice and all products are assembled, packaged, and shipped from downtown LA by people transitioning out of homelessness.

In addition to words, The Giving Keys engraves necklaces with initials, religious symbols, hearts, semi-colon, and Greek letters to name a few. Since its inception, The Giving Keys has provided more than 120 jobs to people transitioning out of homelessness. It’s remarkable. As many of you are aware, homelessness is a growing crisis, especially here in LA. A solid job can be a long-term solution for breaking those cycles of generational poverty and homelessness. I’ve personally been able to check out their space and we’ve also had their President, Brit Gilmore on our show, episode 71. They’re awesome gifts for yourself and for others. It’s an awesome way to wear your word of the year, as we’ve talked about on this show and name it and claim it. If you’d like to help support their mission, you can purchase a piece of jewelry at and select retailers in the US, Canada, and their downtown LA flagship. For all of our audience, they are offering a 20% discount code by using the code UP20. Thanks for helping be the change that you wish to see in the world.

This is a fellowship episode. As you may know, I do interviews and fellowship episodes. The difference is that fellowship episodes are much more of a peer-to-peer conversation that’s a little bit shorter and focused on several different themes that we hash out together. Whereas an interview is much more of a long-form deep dive into a person’s story. We have a good friend of mine, Vanessa Dawson. Who is Vanessa? She’s a Venice-based event coordinator and stylist who works with local creatives to curate shared experiences and cultivate community, motivated by seeing people genuinely on cloud nine as they share life events with one another. She is the driving force to make any vision come to life. With a diverse set of experiences from large scale social gatherings of 300-plus people to intimate fireside panel discussions, Vanessa can see any event through. Her attention to detail, a keen eye for design, love for harmony and logistical mastery, ensure that each and every event highlights the artistry and runs like a well-oiled machine.

She is the owner of a company called KIN Events, which you can find all about at She’s an LA-based event producer. This is an awesome conversation about some of the things a lot of you will relate to. Things like the difference between traditional employment versus self-employment and transitioning back and forth, as she went in one route and went the other route and is now back into self-employment. It’s cool to know her perspective on the trade-offs on both sides of the equation. We talked about a balance in life setting boundaries, fears and dealing with anxiety or taking on risk. We talked a lot about impacting communities, creating community, culture and plugging into your local community the good that is found in that. It’s a lot of awesome conversations. I hope you sit back, relax, and enjoy this fellowship episode with Vanessa Dawson.

Vanessa Dawson, welcome to the show.

Thank you. I’m glad to hang out with you.

Life gets pretty complicated. We always have twenty different choices and there’s always something new. Click To Tweet

It’s going to be a fun conversation. I’ve wanted to have you on for a while. I’m glad we finally made this happen. We are in the heart of Los Angeles. Tell me about your favorite nickname of all time? One of my favorite for you is V Daws. It rolls off the tongue nicely. Do you have any favorite nicknames from childhood, from college or now?

Banessa was my other nickname. My family is Mexican so the Vs are Bs. That’s what I was called when I was raised. Now it’s V. V is easy and smooth. V Das, I don’t mind it. It’s for you.

Do you think that the trend of saying, “V True,” is taking your name and stealing your thunder? A lot of people now say, “That’s V Cool or that’s V True,” it’s super trending.

No, I like that. Sometimes I want to say that and be like V and add it in but that might start out starting to nickname for me.

It could be. V Cool. I’m going to stick with V Daws. Our friendship got started on a rocky start.

Are you going to mention it? I can’t mention it.

There are some mixed reviews on how this started. Some people have said that I threw a water bottle in your car, which I do not believe is true. Here we are many years later. It’s fun to see things come full circle.

I’m thankful for your friendship years later.

It’s been a long time. It has been a few years, probably. Where are you from originally?

I’m from Temecula, California. Southern California is about 1.5 hours outside of LA.

How would you describe Temecula?

Temecula is a wine country. It has hot air balloons, a desert, a beautiful calm place, but at the same time, it’s slow, which is nice to go home to.

Your next-door neighbor is Murietta. I feel that Murietta and the company birthed the SoCal Bro Movement. The dirt bikes like the action sports, voting, the lakes, and those things, it was insane. I had a lot of golf tournaments down in Temecula Creek back in the day so I’m familiar. Shout-out to Josh Oaks, a former teammate down there with his fam. I love giving shout-outs. It’s fun. Where do you reside now?

UAC 109 | Cultivating Community

I live in Mar Vista right next to Venice, which we’ll tie that in later.

How long have you been in that community?

I’ve been in Mar Vista for a few years now.

That’s a good chunk of change. People’s view of Venice is interesting because when you look at Venice from the outside in, it’s a place that is diverse and abrasive. A lot of people would say it’s weird or wacky but when you’re in that community, it’s a whole different experience, probably because people only see the boardwalk and that’s their whole impression of the entire place. It is such a beautiful community and it has a lot of great people in it. It feels small for some reason. When you’re in Venice, it feels small.

If you’re going to come to LA and you want a small town within the city, Venice is your place. Everyone’s walking by each other and riding bikes. You run into the same people at Erewhon so there’s always that community that’s doesn’t seem like it, but it weirdly is. The boardwalk is something that’s crazy there but even that, not all the people on the boardwalk know each other. It’s cool and such a neat opportunity to see a community amongst a place that people say is isolating. It’s a unique place and I love it. It’s definitely home.

What drew you to the area initially?

A few years ago, I started working at Blue Bottle Coffee on Abbot Kinney. From there, it was getting to know the locals. They’d come in for their coffee day-to-day so building relationships with them opened that place up to my heart more. I would say it took a little bit of time. The first year I thought it was weird. It was a rich place and didn’t love it. At the time, I was living in South Central, which is such a big contrast. Over time, I loved the people there. I realize that even there’s a lot of money, a lot of people there don’t act like it. They’re not above anyone else. They are down to earth and free-loving people.

What was that like moving from South Central to Mar Vista? That is a massive cultural difference, even though it’s only probably 30 miles.

It’s only four miles.

Yet, it’s a world apart. What was that transition like for you? Before that even, share a little bit about why you were in South Central. What led you there?

Originally, I moved to South Central right after college to help with the church plant called Cornerstone South LA. I was living there with four different families that started this small church they were reaching out to the community. There are the kids going to the elementary school to any kids that are on the streets hanging out. They would reach out to them and bring them into the church. That was the way to get to the parents and bringing the whole family. I started living down there to help out and be part of that community and build and show hospitality to the people that lived there.

Life is not sustainable if you’re doing things on your own. Click To Tweet

I moved down there after college and from there, I was working on Abbott Kinney. That was a weird contrast where it felt weird living in a place and working somewhere completely different economically. It’s such a big contrast. I didn’t want to be spread thin. I want what I do to be intentional and to be planted and rooted. There’s much power behind that so I took the leap of faith and moved west. I decided to put all my efforts into one area, to work there, shop there and be fully engaged in the community 100%. I took the leap over and it’s been great. Culturally, in that area, there are a lot of gangs in Venice so there’s still that grit there that is similar. I don’t feel that there’s a culture shock. It was smooth overall. Working there first led to an easy transition to moving there and making my life full in one place.

What did your time in South Central teach you or give you as a person?

I would definitely say being in South LA is a humbling thing. It’s humbling because you see people there with day-to-day struggles, “I’m going to grab my coffee and chill around the streets.” People are trying to hustle and survive. It’s humbling, “God, I could be in the same place. There’s no difference between my life or their life. You’ve shown me grace in a way that spared me from those things.” That’s one big thing. As a perspective, going into a place now where I’m in Venice, you want to bring that aspect of people, diversity and understanding and be able to talk through in a way that’s not one-sided but I can talk from the other side of things too. That sense of knowledge and experience has helped in life perspective with the people I’m around now.

It is something that you can’t learn without experience, surrounding, embracing or involving yourself in that life. I’m working with Good City Mentors a bit. I went down to South LA for some mentoring once a week for about three months. Being around that community, you do see a whole different lens. It’s super humbling what you said. That is such a needed thing. We need to be humbled always. As humans, we need to be continually humbled. There are plenty of opportunities for that. Being able to bring that perspective into a new place where it helps us see humans as humans a lot more versus as all these other things we put on top of them as our identity, which isn’t our identity. It allows us that empathy to relate to humanity in a deeper sense.

It’s interesting because one thing I’ve been talking a lot about with people is, and we talked about this a little bit too, LA is such a demanding place to live. Every day you’re confronted with this tension that there are people living in mansions as much as people living on the street and everything in between. You see that on a daily basis. There’s someone driving a car that’s worth more than you and you see someone who wants a water bottle. You see that every day and you’re faced with this crazy tension of, “How do I live within this and make sense of it?” It does require a lot more of you. There is an unhealthy version of it. If you’re working in Abbot Kinney and you’re living in South Central, that’s almost an unhealthy version of tension. It’s too separated. It’s almost too distinct to where you’re not able to thrive in that environment because you’re in too much tension and pressure.

There’s a lot of energy spent adapting. You can go from one block to the next and you’re going to have to adapt. It feels like different worlds in a sense. There’s too much time spent adapting from one to the other and you’re stuck. You live in one place, be there and make that your root and plant it. That’s something that at reality, we’re talking about a lot. It’s being planted and rooted amidst exile. We’re in Babylon and this is an exile. What does it look like to be fully rooted and rooted by streams of water as it talks about in Solomon? That’s huge and has been life-changing. It’s rooting in one spot and being faithful.

UAC 109 | Cultivating Community

It’s a whole different mode. It’s counter-cultural now because the cultures praise is for things that are novel. What’s new, exciting, flashy, newsworthy and God’s like, “No. It’s being planted, rooted and stable in one place and location over a long period of time developing this root system and foundation for you to grow tall upon.” It doesn’t happen in a second or overnight. How long has it felt for you to feel start feeling planted and rigid in Mar Vista and Venice? It’s been a few years now. What’s that process been like for you?

I would definitely say it took about two years to feel rooted and planted. In Blue Bottle you can get to know a lot of the locals but now that I am a little bit more removed. I’m finding little ways like going to the farmer’s markets. That’s helped in seeing people that I know there or going to the same Trader Joe’s, those types of things. I don’t think I pressed into that until the fourth year. Now it’s, even more, being more aware of it. I wasn’t super aware of it before, “I need to do this. I need to make life a little bit simpler.” Life gets pretty complicated and we always have twenty different choices. There’s always somewhere new. What does it look like to go to the same gas station? It’s the little things like that. The fourth-year has felt planted and rooted by everyday things like going to the same cleaner. That’s the biggest thing.

It’s making a choice for community and the relationship side of things, not the transactional side. The transaction is way easier than the relationship, but the relationship is way more meaningful. I’ve found that’s it’s the same for me. I’ve been in Glendale and it’s cool because coming in, I was trying to find norms, rhythms, routines, and seeing all the cool places that it has around my neighborhood. Now, I care more about, “I want to go to my spots.” I like the people there. I want to develop relations with the people there. I want to start getting to know my neighbors more. It’s those things. It is a process and takes time but it’s a different intention and focus. If you go into something wanting to make an impact on a human, it changes the way you see things or do things. It does take effort and intention. It doesn’t only happen.

It’s valuing other people much more. It could be that guy at that local taco shop that you go to. You value their life that it’s like, “No. I’m not going to find the coolest next thing,” which is great. There are many cool places to check out, but what does it look like to see them. It’s wild to me that they get caught off guard that you’re coming in over and over weekly. Maybe every Sunday you go in there to get your chicken flautas. It’s wild because they’re like, “You’re here again?” What that looks to them is creating that relationship and build on it. We’re at that point where now you’re telling me hard things and I can pray for you. What does it look like to build up to that? It takes a little more thinking on how you can make that happen in those rhythms.

In a place like LA, it’s hard because it can feel overwhelmingly big, but in a place Kansas or other places in the country, it’s still as hard because it can be the monotonous daily doldrums of life where it’s like, “I see them again, cool.” How do you make it even when it’s monotonous or maybe less novel? How do you still make it novel and interesting? How can you still be interested in someone that you’ve seen every week? Both scenarios have unique problems to get the face in it. We still have to put the effort and the intention forward.

People, whether or not they are consciously aware of it, they experience that and that experience is what changes people for better. That’s the point. How do we deepen relationships who are deeper connected with this thing called life and humanity so we can make a difference in the world and ultimately glorify God more? The cool thing is coffee shops are a great catalyst for the community because it’s an easy bridge. Everyone knows that they’re going to coffee shops for some life and energy. Also, to have some space to get ready for the day, detached from the day or whatever it may be.

They come in and they know nothing bad is going to happen. They know they’re coming in and they’re about to be happy. A lot of them come in and they might even come in with, “Let me tell you the stresses of my day.” I’ve had BJ Novak come in and he’s like, “Do people talk to you about their life problems?” I’m like, “Yeah. It’s like being a bartender.” For some people, they go to a bar and they’ll talk to a bartender for hours.

You’re like the daytime bartenders.

Also, getting their fix. They want to talk. That’s a good way to have people open up. Coffee shops are huge.

It’s awesome and I’m a big fan.

It’s not prideful to know what you’re good at. Click To Tweet

We know you love your coffee.

You still haven’t worked on an event with me, soon though hopefully.

There was one time.

We did?

At church. At Legacy.

That was an event.

It was fun.

There are a couple of other things that we’re for sure going to talk about, but I want to talk about your specialty which is the community. We’ve been talking about investing in a local community. For feedback, I’ve enjoyed watching you pour into the community and be rooted. In LA, it’s hard to do that and people don’t necessarily see the importance of it because it’s transitory. A lot of people come and go or they move to a different part or seasons change, all these different moving pieces. To invest in the community is it’s special and it stands out. I applaud you for that. One of the things that you are pouring into as well is not only in a broader community, but creating community through the power of events. Tell me a little bit about KIN Events. What is KIN Events?

KIN means family. That’s the root of what the vision behind KIN Events so it’s doing event production. That is basically this rooted in being in Venice. It’s supporting the local kin and family and that saying, “It takes a village.” I 100% stand behind that. What does it look like to build a community? You’re bringing in vendors, catering, DJ and all these different aspects of an event to create this experience but why not dive into what it looks like to support your local community in that. Let’s not only buy local groceries. That’s great. I love that. Farmer’s markets are great, but let’s also think about that in an event world. Events are huge marketing-wise. Event marketing is taking over and every brand wants to do events. It’s bringing in those people that highlight what it looks like to go local.

Now that’s the biggest part from my heart is doing KIN and bringing that to the Venice community and doing events for the community with the community and through the community. Using different skills, you can highlight and bolster that sense of collective. That’s huge. We live in such an individual or about our community. What does it look like if everyone plays this part? We’re all hanging out and creating events for brands but also, creating events for each other. I’m focused on Venice and bringing in clients that maybe want to have a brand awareness event, they want to throw it in Venice and want it to be for the community. That’s what I specialize in.

UAC 109 | Cultivating Community

You hit the nail on the head by the individualization piece. With postmodernism, it’s all about individual autonomy and we’ve seen it all over a decade or so that it has been about this individualization. It’s the ebbs and flow of life. It’s always, “You flow this way and you go this way.” We’re starting to see it shift back to meanings found in relationships. If it’s only me and there are no other people.

We can flow together. We don’t have to try and push everyone out of our lane so we can flow on our own lane. There’s a perfect synergy. You talk to me about this a lot in coaching. What’s a win-win? That’s huge and that’s also something that I’m bringing into every conversation. What does it look like to have a win-win? Also, flow with people. Why do things alone? We’re not made to.

If people know that you’re for them as much as they’re for you, they can be for you. This doesn’t need to be a competition. Competition is great. Trust me, I love competing. We saw that when we played a lot of games. I get competitive. A lot of people get competitive. That’s great but life is not only about competition. Life is existence and it’s best done in partnership. How do we come together? That’s what’s beautiful even in events. There has to be a partnership and collaboration. It won’t happen otherwise. You can’t do it on your own. Events are a combination of people.

You’d definitely burn out if you do it on your own. It’s not sustainable. I don’t think any part of life is sustainable if you’re doing things on your own. Why are you trying?

It’s interesting because LA is a place where events rain. LA is all about the events. If you had to come out with 1 or 2 key objectives that are the foundation for any event, what are those? There are some that are specific to an individual event, but as a whole from the planning side, what are the things that you always want to see come from an event as a result of it or a fruit of it? What would be the cornerstone values or things that you want those events that you’re involved with to produce? It can be a generalized base level.

There’s going to be other aspects that are great and I’m excited to see all the aspects that come out of each event, whether they’re good or bad because that’s where it’s like, “Don’t do that again. We’ll do this.” Number one, people feel valued. People feel connected, loved and cared for. That comes from being loved by God. We’re loved well. How do I show people who are maybe lonely or whoever that’s attending and whether it be this millionaire from Beverly Hills to some kid on the street? It doesn’t matter. Everyone still needs that. That’s one of those things, talking and going back to South LA versus Abbot Kinney. That’s where I also had to humble myself and remember that even wealthy people need Jesus.

What does it look like to throw events for the wealthiest person or not and show them both sides that they’re valued and loved and cared for and to celebrate life? First of all, it’s valuing people, showing that they matter. There’s also the second aspect of not only giving someone one more thing to do. You can go on any website like EventBrite. There are going to be 30 things to do. That’s not an issue. It’s celebrating life and having that golden thread through each event. That’s one thing I love. It’s being able to show that life is valuable, a gift and precious. How do I weave that into each event? Whether it be a birthday party I’m doing and highlighting that. Maybe there’s that moment where I can go talk to the birthday boy and be like, “I’m glad you’re born. Jesus loves you,” whatever it is. Even at weddings and celebrating life. That’s big if I can showcase the celebration of that and having people be like, “Life is amazing. Why?” Maybe there are questions of, “How am I blessed?” Who knows? I only have to be faithful and keep planning, plan well and keep going and be faithful to the fact that God has called me to something that’s stressful and uncomfortable but the reward is much better. If I can leave it to two, those are the two.

It’s a strong foundation too because that is a true north that we can point to and be like, “Regardless of all the specifics and details that may or may not have gotten figured out or didn’t go exactly as planned. If these two pieces were accomplished, praise God, it was a success.” Defining what that success is important because a lot of times we let other people define it before us and that’s a dangerous recipe. There’s always something to do but there’s a big difference between something to do versus something worth doing. That distinction is massively important. A lot of times if we aren’t thoughtful and intentional about it, we’re going to have something to do but to make it something worth doing is special.

I’ve been listening to different podcasts about being busy. It’s doesn’t mean that you’re busy, that you’re doing anything. That’s something I struggle with, “I’ve got another meeting. Let me go run to this and let me go run to that.” There’s always something but that doesn’t mean it’s good. Good job. You filled yourself up with more things to do that anyone else could do. It’s not anything special to fill your schedule with back-to-back things. Maybe it’s you postponing that one thing you know you need to do and you’re doing other things that don’t have priority. That’s the big thing is highlighting things that we should be doing.

I faced this. We were recording on Monday and we got back from a trip and I had a lot of things coming up and the busyness is the easy default. A lot of self-employed people or entrepreneurs find themselves with this list of to-do or this task list and it’s pretty long. You get to a point in the day where you keep avoiding the thing that you know you need to do because it’s going to take the most effort and energy and your perfectionist tendencies come out. You’re like, “I want to make sure I do it to the best of my ability. If I’m not perfectly ready for that, I should wait and do these other things.” You keep putting it off. Sit down and do it. You are getting in your own way. The only thing that changes that is by doing the work and this is a daily battle for most of us. I was like, “Thane, you are an idiot. Sit down and work on this because that’s the only way it gets done.”

Be okay with not doing all the time, just be. Click To Tweet

A couple of years ago, one of the neighbors gave me a book, Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. She talked about doing and pushing something. Granted you’re not going to throw things at a wall and expect a masterpiece. You also have to do something and don’t wait for perfection because it kills creativity. That’s one thing I know I’ve had to get past as setting up a business. Every step doesn’t have to be perfect and we talked about that. Not every contract is going to be spotless, I hope so, legally, but for proposals or brochures or whatever. It’s going to mold. It’s going to mesh day-to-day. Start pushing things out and over time you’re going to refine it and it’s better to do that one, get it out there and go from there.

The power of iterating is huge. We always think that whatever we do is binding, it’s not. You’re going to do something, you’re going to learn from it, you get to iterate and you get to do it again and repeat over and over again. That’s how you learn and get better. It’s not by waiting until you’ve perfected it because it’s impossible. We all do that, that’s what’s fascinating. This is something I’m curious to hear your perspective on, part of your career path has been an interesting journey in the sense that you’ve gone back and forth a little bit between traditional employment and self-employment. Give a little bit of an overview of your career path and we’ll get to dive in a little bit into the trade-off on both sides.

I was working at Blue Bottle, that’s part-time. I’m still doing side gigs, doing event planning, weddings and project by project. I started working for a company full-time, from 9:00 to 5:00, sometimes 9:00 to 9:00, whatever it is and as it goes. I was doing Monday through Friday consistently and it felt good, I was starting to get a little proud of myself and when I say proud, not exactly the good kind of proud. I was in that job from 9:00 to 5:00 for about a year and in June that door was closed. I had this moment of figuring out what was next, if I want to stay in the traditional 9:00 to 5:00 and have that salaried job and those benefits or if I wanted to go on my own and pave the road to go forward on that. It’s been good now I’m on my own and have an independent and flexible schedule. There’s definitely a trade-off. There are the pros and cons of each.

Even before you got into the 9:00 to 5:00, you were considering what it would look like to go on your own and evaluating whether or not that’s what you felt called to.

After Blue Bottle, about a month of trying to start event planning and starting my own business, it was weird. I am a sucker for security, consistency and structure. For me, I didn’t like not having my day-to-day place to go to, when I know I have somewhere to be every day. It’s the sense of like, “I’m okay. I’m good. As long as I keep going to work, I’ll be okay.” There’s that sense of doubt uphold me. When I went off on my own to start KIN, it took about a month, I hated it. I didn’t like being alone, I didn’t love the solopreneur life and working from random shops, like coffee shops and coworking spaces. It wasn’t my thing at the time. Still, I don’t think God totally is even though for me it was more of a, “I don’t like this because it’s not comfortable.” I stopped. God definitely worked in that, it wasn’t the right timing. That’s when I went into the 9:00 to 5:00.

What were the biggest things that shifted from that point to now and embracing that? What changed or what shifted within you to help you embrace the discomfort? The discomfort didn’t change, right?

No, it didn’t. The change happened when I found out that the clubhouse, the 9:00 to 5:00 job was closing down and I knew my first instinct was like, “Jump on it, Vanessa. You’ve got this. Go find that event planning company. Work your way. As long as you put in that work, you’ll be okay. Go start.” That’s my natural inclination is like, “Jump on it. Fix it. Work it out. Go. You better swim.” With this situation specifically, I don’t know. God doesn’t need permission. I didn’t give him permission and I didn’t even pray about it too much. I felt it and he’s like, “You don’t need to look. You don’t need to toil and figure it out right off the bat. Rest and be right there and take time.”

It took about three weeks before I even started looking for anything or doing any type of work towards like, “What’s next?” I took that time to date God and date myself and understanding what the things God has called me to and equipped me for. That’s the one that you spruced on when we talked and sat with that like, “What is it that God has made me for?” There’s a uniqueness there and embrace it. It’s not prideful to want to know what skills you have and what you’re good at. I always shied away from that because it seems prideful, it seems like, “Be chill and be a servant and don’t ruffle things.” God works in that. God shows his blessings and receive and be in it and be okay with not doing all the time.

That’s what I did for three weeks and then from there, I went on a trip to Joshua Tree. I did a solo trip for a couple of days and fasted, prayed, and spent time with God. He spoke through Deuteronomy, which Israel is in exile and they’re out there in the wilderness, they’re not in the Promised Land yet. It’s Deuteronomy 1:30. He’s talking about it like, “I fight for you. I go before you.” I woke up that morning, I’m going chronologically from Genesis 1 through the Bible, through the Old Testament. It wasn’t like I was searching topics and that’s funny because I would normally, but somehow God is like, “No, you’re going chronologically. Don’t get distracted.”

On the day I woke up in Joshua Tree, it was on Deuteronomy 1, it happened to be. I read through that and he was like, “I go before you as a father goes for his child. Why are you being fearful?” They’re like, “They’re much bigger than us. They’re so much more powerful.” They’re scared and fearful and he’s like, “Why? You’re being disobedient.” From there, the perspective changed when a lot of power that comes from knowing that, it’s like you’re sitting on your father’s knee and you’re surrounded. There’s that aspect of nothing that can change anything. Nothing that I do and nothing that is around me these fearful, they can be bigger and they could be more experienced in the event world, but God creates and he’s the one that paves the way and trailblazers ahead.

UAC 109 | Cultivating Community

There is this Enneagram Six, being fearful and doubtful, self-doubt. I had to wrestle with that and he paves a way and there’s no sense of me in that. There’s no way I’m going to figure this all out without him going with me, no matter which option I chose, whether it’s traditional or on my own. Embracing discomfort, security and comfort was my thing. Having that job, telling people like, “I’m good. I’m set. I don’t rely on anybody.” It was something that God had to break down and be like, “You’re not going to be comfortable and you’re going to rely on me.” My relationship with God is cool, to be able to call on him no matter what. He’s my first go-to now, before it’s like, “I’m going to call my friends.” Which was easy, but now it’s like, “I’m going to call up to God.” He’s my father, he knows and he’s calling me, “I want to help you out.” That’s the biggest shift. Situationally nothing has changed, which is weird because we always want to get out of our situation. It’s the perspective and God and it’s the grace of God.

One thing you mentioned was the fear, doubt, and the self-doubt, those are things that don’t go away with a snap of the fingers. Those are always readily available. As you’re embracing discomfort and where you find yourself, what are the things that help you in overcoming those fears or those doubts or moving forward in spite of doubts or fears that are there? What do you find helpful for that?

It’s first acknowledging it like accepting, that’s the way of breaking down the power that those things can have over you. Denying them and denying that you’re fearful or pushing it to the back, it gives it power but accepting it, it weakens fear and doubts where you’re like, “That’s my natural inclination.” At the same time, “That’s not who I am.” We have a spirit of love and self-control and not a spirit of fear and what does it look like to walk in that identity forward like, “Here it was. If I’m living and I’m near to God, here’s where I am. Here’s what I’m called.”

Living in the fact that we have all the strength we need and the identity of being in Christ, one huge thing is knowing that we have the mind of Christ. It’s like, “Why am I self-doubting?” He has so much more power to overcome and give me supernatural thoughts and strengths and different ways that I can trust. If I’m sitting near, he’s flowing in and staying there. Stay, abide and trust that from there, you can trust yourself and that’s hard. A lot of us do self-doubt and feel we’re not equipped. Time and experience help stay close and being right there had helped weaken those doubts and fears.

There’s much power to the contrast between recognizing and embracing versus running away from and ignoring. A lot of times when we have fears or doubts, our default tendency will be to run away from them and try to outrun them or to ignore them and pretend they don’t exist and both of those options are futile and fleeting, they don’t last. If we recognize and embrace it, then we transform that fear into a friend and ally and saying, “I see that you’re there, you’re making me stronger. I get to work on becoming comfortable with uncomfortable things and I get to reset my perspective to see through God’s eyes, not my eyes.”

It’s not me, it’s God in me, and that’s limitless. It’s powerful. Even your process in thinking through the transition, because it’s true of all of us for making decisions, your first instinct is that gut intuition, that emotional, reactionary gut response, and that’s a helpful thing, the fact it’s like, “Go. Figure it out and do.” That’s adaptable. It’s a survival mechanism. It’s a great thing. We should trust that to some degree. It’s a helpful thing. What you did after is the most important and that’s resting and taking time to wait and seek him. If we waited on the Lord in every decision, we can’t make a bad decision because that’s what he wants. He wants us to wait on him and seek him and we get in trouble when we don’t do that.

You illustrated beautifully that process. There’s an emotional reaction response which we use as an evaluation and is helpful. There’s an intellectual pros and cons list response where we evaluate rationally, but then there’s a spiritual response of waiting. Waiting on the Lord, resting in him, depending on him and trusting that he’s going to do what he’s going to do and then we get to partner with him in that. It’s a beautiful thing. What are some of the things that you’ve had to learn or learn from the experience so far is getting into the self-employment path? What has this experience taught you so far?

Being self-employed, schedule and having consistency day-to-day, there can be meetings every day of the week, for all I know. The biggest thing is having a structure before and after your workday. We talk about morning routines, nighttime routines. You’re not in control of anything. We’re not in control of our da-to-day in a sense there are time blocks that you can be like, “I’m not going to take phone calls or meetings.” In the same sense, it’s part of being on your own. You’re not in that consistent schedule of being at an office, there is that but what it is capitalizing on the morning to have your routine, something that you are in control of. Wake up, you stretch, whatever your routine is, drink your water, get ready for the day mentally, emotionally and spiritually, all of it. You’re in control.

The biggest thing is realizing the importance of discipline, consistency and taking care of your mornings or your night and having boundaries. Those are your times that you set aside that is not going to be touched and making it consistent and even then it’s also boundaries of, what does it look like? Boundaries have a bad connotation, but healthy boundaries are important. I’ve learned that if you’re going to keep moving forward on this trajectory of success and what is it going to look like down the road? You start boundaries early on and I’m learning. We’ve had those conversations of boundaries with clients, boundaries with anything, time blocks.

Boundaries, disciplines and convictions, these are words that for some reason, we have angst about. It’s human of us because we have some natural opposition to these words, when in reality, they’re the thing that frees us up to do our best work and to be most flourishing in life. Those are the things that are the most important, yet why do we start having this cringing? It’s like, “Discipline. I don’t like that word.” Jocko Willink, Discipline Equals Freedom, it’s like, “That’s it.” Same with boundaries, boundaries are saying that you know your limitations. You know what you’re willing and not willing to do. Living with character and integrity is the same thing. We do have these little stigmas around these words, which is funny to me. It’s human of us but it’s not helpful.

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Boundaries are good. Boundaries show you where your responsibility starts and ends. Also, within those boundaries, you have freedom. You think about a family and they have a fence around their yard, within that yard, that child is going to be free to play and do whatever they want and feel good. In the same sense, it’s like having boundaries in work life. What does that mean to tell your clients like, “I can only be contacted within these hours and making sure you’re not spreading yourself.” That’s the best time management. Don’t spread yourself from 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM every day because you probably aren’t going to feel great. I’ve had that week where I’ve done that and it doesn’t work. In transparency, I’ve learned that transparency is huge when starting a business and working with people, they are going to respect you a lot more if you tell them, “This is the time I’m going to be in communication with you. Other than that, here’s my off time.” That’s a boundary, communicating where you are.

The only way we learn it is by doing it. We do get better with practice. We do get better by doing it, and we see the fruit of it by experiencing it. It still takes effort. Having those morning routines in place to create the structure, this morning with how much I knew I had on my schedule, it was hard for me to believe in the morning routine. I chose to sleep in instead of doing my workout and that was a decision I made in the morning because of the lack of sleep. That ended up leading to me sleeping a little bit later than I had expected or planned on. I have a decision, do I jump right into what I feel is urgent or do I do what I know is urgent, which is my morning routine, and I was able to do it. Half of the practice was me reminding myself that this is more important than anything else. I have to do that multiple times during this morning routine time because I had a hard time believing it. It was important for me to still follow through with it, to preach and believe that truth that the tyranny of the urgent never dies. That doesn’t mean it’s the most important thing to do.

Over time it’s creating those boundaries and even your schedule, here’s what I do, here’s what I don’t do, and all those things, it saves energy down the road. It seems like it’s more energy upfront because you’re having to take that mental energy and be like, “This is what I do.” It does take time but it makes life easier long run. You don’t have to go and ruminate and think about all these other like, “I didn’t tell this client this and now they’re doing this.” It saves you so much time. Being upfront and being transparent and also having boundaries helps with spending time with decision-making. If you have more set up boundaries in your day-to-day, you don’t have to think about, “Now what?” You already have many decisions to make being an entrepreneur than to add on because you’re not being clear with who you are and who you’re not and what is within your scope and what’s not. All those things can be done easy upfront and then your brain is freed for what you’re supposed to be doing.

It is true in many aspects of life. The most important things, the decisions or disciplines or anything are always requiring more energy up front, but have more rewards down the road, more benefits long-term. Delayed gratification is the mantra. I have all the things that are beneficial. That is such an important and helpful thing to focus on or remember, remind yourselves up because it doesn’t necessarily change the experience but helps us believe in it more when we’re doing it.

It doesn’t sound fun. It sounds like one of those things you’re like, “Delayed gratification. Okay, cool.”

It allows us to level up. Once we get that to where it’s a benefit down the long-term, then we get to add in a new thing on top of that, where now we’re fighting for that, but this is already in its flow, and then we get to add another piece into its flow. It’s cool to see them stack on each other.

It’s like Jenga, you’re stacking up.

When you think about friends or people in your life or people that may be reading, there’s always this dilemma that people have, “Should I stay at my job or should I try to do something on my own?” That’s becoming more and more of a common question because it’s more readily available than ever before and there are a lot of great opportunities. What ways would you encourage others to think about this process of determining which path or which one they’re best suited for? What are the things that you think would be helpful to think about or questions to even ask yourself if you’re in one of those places?

First would be evaluating where you’re at, like, “Why?” That’s such a good question for everything. I was pressed a lot at masters, it’s like, “Why do we do what we do?” I would say, “Why are you where you’re at?” For me, I had to ask that question like, “Why am I here?” It was definitely God who sent a situation, but over time you reevaluate and reassess. It’s something that God gives us and he opens doors and closes doors, but there’s also the aspect of re-evaluating and reassessing why we are where we are. I know one thing for me was security and that’s where I had to know more. Evaluating on the why and then also evaluating why are you created and called in equipped and assessing that and flushing that out a comparison to where you’re at/in comparison to that other option that you’re thinking through and where does that lineup? Do you see where you’re creative?

If you’re working and accounting, maybe there’s a way to be creative there and maybe there’s a different position within and who knows, it might work better with this other area that you’re thinking through. There are ways that you can reassess. Years ago, I was different than who I am now and if I don’t reassess there’s no growth there. For me, it’s taking every six months, at the end of the year I’ll reassess like, “Where am I? What am I called to?” I feel like God is pressing on my heart and growing from there and seeing its trajectories. It’s never set in stone and we’re never locked into something. It’s like being fluid, it flows. Be fluid and be flexible to move around and let God move you.

UAC 109 | Cultivating Community

Big Magic

Is that your worthy year? Is that right?

Yes. It’s been two years of flow.

Reassessing is important, that’s one of the best rhythms we can develop. It’s funny because we forget of its importance like, “We reassessed. We’re good.” I can keep coasting, I can keep cruising. Winston Churchill said, “To be perfect is to be constantly changing.” I was like, “That’s good.” It’s a good gut check for us to be thinking, “Have I reassessed? What’s a healthy rhythm for reassessing? How can I incorporate that into my life in a way that’s helpful and beneficial that keeps me moving forward and not spinning circles, which usually means moving backward.” That’s a helpful focus for people, and even why, that’s the most crucial question ever. What is the thing you’re most excited about?

I don’t even know. Things pop up. There’s a cool thing when you get affirmation not from people, even situations sometimes aren’t going to be affirming, but when you see God lined up and you’re seeing him work and affirm where he’s called you, things fall into place and then you’re excited to see where else. It’s weird because normally I’d be like, “Now I got this project for myself.” It’s wild that I don’t feel that way. I don’t feel I’ve gotten myself projects. There’s an aspect that God’s gifted me and being good with people and building relationships, nonetheless, it’s been completely him throwing things random connections. It’s exciting, I’m on my toes waiting for the next and God is going to be like, “Here you go.” It’s not like, “Here’s another thing.”

Learning so much more about God and understanding him so much more and being amazed by him. For a while, it was the coast, be cool, chill, God is chill, we’re chill, everything’s the same old same old. God maneuvers things and his specialty of producing. I produce events, he produces the way. It’s cool waiting for God to keep doing what he does. I don’t feel it’s up to me, which is cool. A lot of times I feel the weight is on my shoulders and its letting go of that pride that thinks, “It’s up to me. I’ve got to make it work. I’ve got to produce.” Those three weeks of waiting, like, “I’ve got to go do it.” It’s letting God do it and realizing he’s creative. Our creativity is a mere glimpse of his creativity. It’s cool to be amazed and marveled through a career, which is weird because I’ve never been career-focused and it’s wild.

There’s such a cool thing when we have integration. I feel I’m hearing you talk about too. When your life is integrated, it’s not this segmented box of this is my God time, this my work time, this is my me time, this is my people time. Some of that is helpful for us to have some shifting from one mode to another, but when it’s all connected and integrated together, then it’s creating that awe and wonder versus that complacency, they breed the opposite. For complacent, it’s not going to produce awe and wonder. You have to be in a place of amazement and awe and wonder to produce more of that. This has been awesome. We’ve got one question to go, that is something I ask every guest that comes on the show. If you were able to send a morning text reminder to every up and comer out there, what would you say and why?

I do want to send text reminders to people. Run DMC, he was like a pastor but hip hop pastor and he would send out verses to all his friends in the morning while he’s sitting and taking a bubble bath. That’s what I think of. I might do that, who knows? We’ll see. I would say, “Receive.” A lot of times we feel guilty for receiving. We don’t feel we should and it’s almost this self-deprecating thing. We feel we have to earn everything, all the time. It makes sense. You earn it then, now I can receive it and be okay. Learning to receive even if you don’t feel worthy, you might not feel you should receive but that’s a way to honor God, give him Gloria, and receive.

There are many things that he offers us that we don’t tap into enough. There are a lot of times where I’m like, “I don’t want you to help me out with growing, I need to earn this. What are you talking about?” God is like, “Let me bless you through other people and receive.” That’s one big thing through this, receive this person’s connection to this other person and they want to be like, “Vanessa is this event producer.” “No.” Don’t do that. Receive it and be okay like, “They’re willing to promote that I do event production.” Receive it. We’re not going to always know or expect, it might look differently, be willing to receive it.

God might show up in some way that you don’t realize and you might not be ready to receive but receive it. Someone was telling me a little story about a guy who’s up on a house and there’s a flood. The flood is getting higher and people are coming by on a boat and he’s like, “I don’t need help. Let me wait until God will rescue me.” Someone comes on a boat and the next one comes by and it’s getting a couple of feet higher and higher, he’s like, “I’m good.” The water is up to his neck and he’s like, “I’m good. God will save me.” He gets to heaven and God is like, “What happened? I tried to save you and you didn’t want to receive it.” You don’t realize God could be using the most mundane things and being open.

Receive, that’s a good word. V Daws, this has been fun. Where do people find out about all the happenings on the event planning side?

You can go to Also on Instagram, @KINEventCo. Find me. Look me up.

Send a shout-out and say, “What’s up?” Be ready for that morning text saying, “Receive.” Thank you so much for coming on. This has been awesome. It’s going to bless and encourage a lot of people.

Thanks for having me.

Until next time, we hope you have an up and coming week.

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About Vanessa Dawson

UAC 109 | Cultivating CommunityA detailed event planner with a passion to create memorable experiences for a community. Strong commitment to excellence, keen awareness to detail and effective multitasking.

Determined team player ready to produce all aspects of an event in order to make a client’s aspirations a reality.

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