Stories of Bold | Carlyn Shaw

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Living Bold means being a badass! If we are not bold for ourselves, who will be bold for us? I say, don’t live like you are dying! Live like you have just received the greatest gift each day, the gift of life.”  


Meet Carlyn Shaw, founder of Strangers to Friends. Her work is 100% bold and, it’s changing lives—including her own.

Check out her Story of Bold

Leanne Tibiatowski (LT): While many of us politely pass by others each day, you choose to seize opportunities and connect. Will you tell us how the Strangers to Friends started? What was your inspiration? Describe “the” moment that you knew this was something that required action.

Carlyn Shaw (CS): In 2009, after being let go from a job, I attended a networking event. It dawned on me, without a job, I didn’t have a “business card.” It didn’t feel like a proper exchange when I said, “can you save me in your phone as the blonde gal you met that is open to learning about your opportunities?”

This ah-ha moment led me to Kinko’s to create my first Connection Cards. Name: that was easy. Next: job title. I was clear that I didn’t want to label myself with my previous title, RN Recruiter. Then it clicked: I turn strangers into friends. THAT,  is what I do for a living! No, it didn’t pay the bills (at first), but I didn’t want to present myself with “what I do” but rather, “who I am.”

Little did I know these cards would be the start of so much magic! I quickly learned that it’s not always about approaching, it’s about being approachable.

Once I stepped into this fun journey, everywhere I turned I chose to be open.

With each new connection, I shifted a life, or someone shifted mine. The blessing I gifted myself with these business cards flew off the charts. The synchronicities were rapid, and right on time.

Now, 7 years since my first cards, I have a blog, a fun social media presence, and friends who regularly call to tell me, “I stranger to friended someone today!” THAT makes me so happy.

I host monthly “Strangers to Friends” happy hours, and partner with local businesses to create events where I have so much fun facilitating authentic connections!  

LT: Will you describe what you have learned from staying open to people you don’t know, how has this bold action impacted your life?

CS: My learning is ongoing; something new with each exchange of a Connection Card.

I learned to be brave. I was terrified to launch my events. “Strangers to Friends” was my personal baby, but I longed to share it with my community. I had no idea if anyone would come; obviously, it takes “strangers” to have these events. Ten months after pressing the ‘publish’ button on Meetup, I have over 1200 members. The shift from igniting connections is priceless.  

I have learned that what you want to manifest in your life presents itself through people. People are the path to possibility.

I’ve learned to stay open, to help others become more receptive to each other. It’s part of my purpose.

Every day we have an opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life. Maybe it’s a simple smile. Maybe it’s listening. Maybe I ask for help, at the same time someone longs to feel needed. Perhaps it’s a random act of kindness; the act of giving and receiving is so powerful. I don’t know about you, but if I want to feel good, I will help another person feel good.

Focusing on connecting with people, and connecting people, has filled my life with more blessings than I can count.

LT: To me, your life overflows with authenticity and bravery. You recently had a traumatic accident in which your front teeth were completely knocked out. At a time when many of us would want to hide and stay undercover, you boldly illustrated your experience through pictures and stories along the way. Will you tell us why you chose to share and, what that disclosure felt like?

CS: To sum it up, I’d had a number of not so great things happen over a few months. When I found myself on the pavement, staring at the sky, in so much pain, and so much blood present, I surrendered. I told the Universe I couldn’t take anymore, and I meant it. I was angry. I was tired. I felt defeated.

They say when you hit rock bottom you can only go up, and I fully believe it. I heard my inner voice tell me to post photos of my face, not for attention or sympathy, but to be honest, truthful, and to carry no shame about a freak accident I did not choose. So, I shared the story, pictures and all.

I didn’t know the journey of getting new teeth would take a year. That I’d eventually write a blog post that, to this day, continues to find people on this planet struggling with the loss of their teeth. That losing my teeth would break my heart open and serve as the catalyst to so much self-love.

Through the process of losing my teeth and surrendering to the moment, I began to feel deeply, rather than the familiar numbness. I feel like it brought me back to life. For months prior, I could not cry—after the accident, I sobbed. And the more I cried, the better I felt. The more honestly I shared, the stronger I became at speaking my truth. A painful setback  became a beautiful stepping stone. And yeah, I loved dressing up for Halloween. I mean, the more I laugh with life, the more I love living.

LT: What does living bold mean to you?

CS: Living boldly is not asking for permission to be your authentic self. It’s following your heart, and really trusting all your mad crazy ideas can happen, even without a safety net.

It’s not having attachment to an outcome but believing in yourself. It is saying yes when others say no, because you are guided to do so. It’s accepting people as teachers; the ones who open your heart and the ones you curse.

Being Bold is being BRAVE!

We have one life to live in this body. We are constantly given choices on what to do with it: how it looks and moves, what we feed it, who we share it with, how we talk to it, and how we heal it.

At the end of the day, only I have the final say of how I choose to honor my body, my mind, and my soul. As do you.

Mistakes happen when we live bold. And that’s OK! Mistakes are opportunities for us to learn and grow.

Being bold is letting go of the “story” that keeps us stuck.

When I am scared, I ask myself, “Can I live with myself if I don’t do this? Where is my fear coming from?” I’m happy that everything I’ve been too scared to do, I did eventually do. We control how quickly we step into our courageous self.

Join the boldness revolution and be as badass as Carlyn > 

LT: The Boldness Challenge is designed to support people in recognizing the powerful opportunities present each day. How do you recognize these moments? Does your body cue you? Do you feel a rush of adrenalin? Do you have an inner voice that says,Go!”?

CS: Once upon a time, me and my inner voice did not get along. Now, we’re great friends! When my voice tells me to approach certain people, I listen. Once I hear that message or get a feeling to do something, it takes way more energy to avoid it than to step through it!

We can “face it” or “fuck it.”I tend to let fear be my fuel.

Fear is a funny thing. We can confuse it with other emotions. It feels completely different when it comes from my head than intuitively from my heart.

The fear that keeps us small and holds us back from greatness, is not intuitive fear, that’s our ego. It’s all in the mind.

And therefore — it can be overcome. I can’t pretend I don’t know what needs to be done, it only comes down to how long I let myself ride the emotional roller coaster before I do it.

LT: What is one thing about ‘living life’ that you hope everyone discovers?

CS: Life will toss us curve balls as well as slam dunks. We have the power to respond from a place of negativity orempowerment, optimism, and victory.

Make decisions that take you in the direction of your goal. Don’t expect a quick fix, do the work!

Life is a journey… and it can be bumpy, yet most of these bumps are what uniquely define us as individuals. These bumps can be setbacks or stepping stones. Don’t take life too seriously. Money comes and goes. Even friends come and go. It’s OK!!!

We impact our future by what we decide to do today. It’s all connected. So, TRUST IT! LIVE IT! LOVE IT! Be Bold — and be YOU.

Carlyn is participating in  the Boldness Challenge while she is traveling Bali.
Are you ready to be badass and bold?

Join the 66-Day Boldness Challenge right now!

leanne_tibiatowskiLeanne is a content strategist, creative, and producer who is driven when developing products that help others discover greater health and happiness. Her diverse knowledge base includes emotional literacy, leadership development, holistic living, grief, trauma, bereavement, family life, and the healing arts. With 18 years experience, Leanne creates digital and live experiences that are evocative and make a difference. Recently she served as Director of Content and Production for Joy of Living Media, Inc. and Director of Content Development, Sr. Editor for Oprah & Deepak’s 21-Day Meditation Experience.

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