Personal Development can be playful — so much of the personal growth work I see emphasized focuses on working through traumas, identifying limiting beliefs, working on habits that are holding us back. It tends to be focused on what’s wrong instead of what’s right, and also be heavier emotional work. I think it’s just as important to explore what lights you up and awakens your inner child — that wonder and amazement you’d feel while playing.
The COVID19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives. But sometimes disruptions can be times of opportunity. Many people’s livelihoods have been hurt by the pandemic. But some saw this as an opportune time to take their lives in a new direction.
As a part of this series called “How I Was Able To Pivot To A New Exciting Opportunity Because Of The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ashley Hannah.
Ashley is a former social media marketing agency owner turned activity book creator — think Lisa Frank meets Tony Robbins packaged up into an issue of Highlights. She has decided that joy and happiness were her compass for success. Her new venture is creating activity books that are relaxing and empowering because she truly knows that more fun, play, and joy are the key to success in both life and business.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
Growing up I was an awkward only child that struggled to make friends. Glasses, braces, and joining the middle school marching band definitely didn’t help my situation. As a result, I became very close with my parents and grandparents. While my family and imagination provided me with the comfort and companionship I needed early on, I later learned to abandon every quirky thing about me in order to “fit in” and “be normal”.
And boy did I do that efficiently.
I spent my college years surrounded by friends but was always chasing what other people defined as success, fun, or “cool”. I didn’t prioritize the things that brought me joy or fulfillment because I wanted to be liked by others. At the time, I thought I was happy — but looking back I can see how I wasn’t being true to myself.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My grandpa used to always say, “it’s only money.” and that attitude towards life is something that has definitely been instilled with me. He felt that money wasn’t something worth worrying or stressing about. It wasn’t something to put pressure on or chase. It was only money… so don’t place too much importance on it.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
When I was in high school I watched the movie “The Secret” which left a massive impact on my life. The concept of being intentional with our thoughts and words deeply resonated with me and I’d always have it in the back of my mind as I faced difficulties. That’s one of the things that sparked my interest in personal development work.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before the Pandemic began?
Before the pandemic, I was running a social media marketing agency. I had successfully built and scaled the agency over the course of about six years. As time went on with the Pandemic, the situation started looking grimmer and grimmer. I was losing a client or two each month, and by the time I truly decided to pivot, I was down to one.
What did you do to pivot as a result of the Pandemic?
I finally shut down the doors to my agency, and started creating (of all things) personal development activity books. It’s combined all the quirky and fun things I love — art, illustrating, books, self-reflection, and silly activities. (Personal development is allowed to be FUN and PLAYFUL.)
Can you tell us about the specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path?
There was this very strange feeling as my social media agency fell apart. I was losing clients, but also felt happier and less stressed (despite not knowing where the next dollar was going to come from). I also had this strange trust that everything was falling apart so everything can fall together.
How are things going with this new initiative?
Things are going slowly but steadily. I have a FREE “COVID Sucks, But Your Life Doesn’t” activity book that many people are having fun with, and I’m getting ready to launch my “Gratitude” activity book very soon.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Over the course of the last year, I’ve really developed an incredible group of friends that appreciate my “quirks.” They encourage my creativity… to be different and follow my heart. This has helped me value myself, build confidence and comfort with being myself.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
Around May, more towards the start of COVID I was missing all of my friends a lot. I started sending them care packages which was a 15 page activity book I had created with crayons and smelly pens. The activity book included things like a word scramble that decoded a letter that explained how much I missed them, a word search with all the positive qualities I saw in them, and a maze to escape the coronavirus.
My goal was to put a smile on their face and give them a little something to do. After I had created that book, the joy I felt from designing it stuck with me. As my agency fell apart, I kept coming back to how fun that was… and how I wanted to feel that every day and not just every once in a while.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- You can’t do it all on your own. — I’ve wasted so many hours trying to figure out how to do “all the things” when in reality, I’d be better off working with an expert. Many times, it’s worth investing in the right people to do the right things so you can focus on your zone of genius.
- Personal Development can be playful — so much of the personal growth work I see emphasized focuses on working through traumas, identifying limiting beliefs, working on habits that are holding us back. It tends to be focused on what’s wrong instead of what’s right, and also be heavier emotional work. I think it’s just as important to explore what lights you up and awakens your inner child — that wonder and amazement you’d feel while playing.
- Speak up about your goals — I used to tell myself all the time, “Once I accomplish this, then I’ll reach out to XYZ about a collab” or “I’ll try to add this service to my business.” You can’t wait though. If you’re inspired or interested in something, just start talking to people about it, try pitching it and throwing it out there before you’re ready… that’s what attracts the opportunities to you.
- The version you have now will not be the final version. Don’t get stuck! — I used to get stuck in wanting to perfect things before getting them out into the world. One example is the name of my agency. I’d get stuck for a month or so and not want to promote myself because I wasn’t sure of my name or website. The reality is I ended up changing the name of it about 3 or 4 times. And that’s totally okay. Just go out there and start building and know that once something no longer resonates you can change it. This version isn’t the “final and forever” version.
- You’re worthy and valuable just as you are. — I’ve always thought that I needed to add one more degree to my resume, one more year of experience, or one more case study in order to “really” be an expert. Again, that’s not the case. You need confidence more than anything. Others will see you the way you see yourself, so make sure you’re seeing the value in YOU.
So many of us have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. Can you share the strategies that you have used to optimize your mental wellness during this stressful period?
Avoid the news and sit down with one of my activity books. 🙂 Sometimes you just have to disconnect from everything else, and reconnect with yourself.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
For everyone to be brave and bold enough to build their life based on what brings them the most joy and laughter. (Not what makes them the most money.)
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
The Author SARK. She writes a ton of personal development books in colorful markers. I read many of them when I was in high school and her expression always felt like such a reflection of my own heart and mind. I’ve always found comfort in her pages, and think I would find just as much comfort in getting to know her.
How can our readers follow you online?
Instagram — — @WorldIWant
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!