Bringing Out The Best In Others with Stephanie Willoughby | UYGW26

Today we welcome an award-winning, published photographer, and the founder of Little Love Stories Photography, Stephanie Willoughby. Stephanie shares the struggles and joys she experiences doing her Great Work.

Join us as we discuss:

02:44 The connection and benefits of Photography – How photography affects generations.

09:21 How Stephanie’s visual artistry story evolved.

16:25 From photographing her baby to photographing families.

17:36 You have to photograph 100 – 200 newborns before you know what you’re doing. Newborn photography is the hardest and the slowest to develop.

19:46 Some of the struggles that Stephanie had to overcome to live her way into this current great work.

30:54 The People with a Growth Mindset – Fixed Mindset versus someone who’s not a Fixed Mindset.

37:32 When you’re not trying to maintain the illusion of perfection in everyone’s eyes, you can listen to the voice inside of you.

38:37 Just try it on! What’s the trouble in trying it on?

About the Guest:

Stephanie Willoughby is an award winning, published photographer, and the founder of Little Love Stories Photography, a photography company that focuses on newborn, maternity, and family photography. Stephanie is the proud Mother of 3 exceptionally wise children, 6 plucky chickens, and 2 scruffy dogs. Stephanie and her Husband manage their small farm in the suburbs of New Jersey, where she runs her business and works hard at becoming a better version of herself.

www.littlelovestories.com

@littlelovestoriesphotgraphy

About the Host:

Dr. Amanda Crowell is a cognitive psychologist, speaker, author and coach changing our perspective on the world of work. It IS possible to do Great Work– launch a successful business, make a scientific discovery, raise a tight-knit family, or manage a global remote team– without sacrificing your health, happiness and relationships.

Amanda is the Author of the forthcoming book, Great Work: Do What Matter Most Without Sacrificing Everything Else, and the creator of the Great Work Journals. Amanda’s TEDx talk has received more than a million views and has been featured on TED’s Ideas blog and Ted Shorts.

Her ideas have also been featured on NPR, Al Jazeera, The Wall Street Journal, Quartz, and Thrive Global.

Sponsored By The Aligned Time Journal

The Unleashing Your Great Work podcast is sponsored by the Aligned Time Journal! The Aligned Time Journal is here to answer the question “But HOW?” How can we figure out what our Great Work is? How can we get started, stay with it, and finish our Great Work so it can go out in the world and have an impact?

Click here to learn more, and try it out for yourself!

For more information about the Unleashing YOUR Great Work podcast or to learn more about Dr. Amanda Crowell, check out my website: amandacrowell.com

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Transcript
Dr. Amanda Crowell:

Welcome to unleashing your great work, a podcast about doing the work that matters the most to you. I'm your host, Dr. Amanda Crowell, a cognitive psychologist, coach, and the creator of the great work journals. Every week on this podcast, we are asking the big questions. What is great work? And why does it matter so much to us? What does it take to do more of your great work without sacrificing everything else? And how does the world change when more people are doing more of the work that matters the most to them? So whether your great work is building your own small business, or managing a remote team at a multinational company, you'll find insight and answers here.

Dr. Amanda Crowell:

Welcome everybody to unleashing your great work. Today. I am super excited to talk to Stephanie Willoughby, who is an award winning published photographer, and the founder of little love stories, a photography company that focuses on newborn maternity and family photography. Stephanie is the proud mother of three exceptionally wise children, six plucky chickens, and two scruffy dogs. Stephanie and her husband managed their small farm in the suburbs of New Jersey, where she runs her business and works hard at becoming a better version of herself. Well, what a great bio. Thank you. Podcast, Stephanie,

Stephanie Willoughby:

thank you so much for having me.

Dr. Amanda Crowell:

Yes, I can't wait to hear all of your wisdom, maybe perhaps all of it taken from your exceptionally wise children, we'll find out, we will be well, well, let's start where we always start, tell us a little bit about your great work.

Stephanie Willoughby:

So I listen to your podcast. And over the last couple of weeks, I've been kind of taking notes on the things that you have said and other people have said, and it really got me thinking about great work, because initially when I was thinking about what is great work, I was thinking, I would say to you, my great work is photography. But the fact of the matter is, is that when I really like broke it down and kind of figured out, like, what great work is to me, what I kept circling back to is like, the fact that I think what my great work is, is that I'm able to connect with people. And through that connection, I get to be a storyteller and a Memory Maker. And I feel like that truly is the gift of the work that I do. So I feel like photography is my work that I really, really love and adore. However, what makes it great is really the connection that I have to the people that I get to photograph and how that will affect generations, long after us. Right. So at some point, like, I won't exist on this earth, and neither will they, but like 100 years from now, how I chose to tell their story and capture that is how another person is going to see their like great, great grandfather, or, you know, their dad when he was really young. And I think about that a lot and the responsibility of that a lot. And I think for me, that's what makes my work really great.

Dr. Amanda Crowell:

Wow, I love that so much. And it really just resonates that sense of a legacy of leaving a little bit of not, it's not a little bit of them. It's not a little bit of you. It's like a little piece of your connection. This love. Yes,

Stephanie Willoughby:

absolutely. It's so cool, too, because I feel like I have one of those jobs. It's really lovely job, it's really wonderful. And it makes me super happy. And you know, I really have the benefit of being with people at their best moments. You know, nobody's calling you in to photograph something that's incredibly hard or scary or sad. And there are photographers that do that type of work, you know, journalistic photographers, and God bless them. But for me, I'm called in when there's something to celebrate. So I really get to vibe off of there really excited or good energy. And I get to add a little bit of mine into that, and then I get so much more than I give my job, you know, and then there's this other half of it like you're pointing out the legacy of it that I'm not necessarily thinking about when I'm in the moment with them. But when I'm in the edit with their photos, I'm blinking like okay, it's really important to me that I capture this correctly or that I don't make their skin tone too far from realistic because this is how someone's going to remember this time in their lives and then later on how someone else is going to view or see a person who has long since been gone, so, yeah, it's a really it's a great job and it is really great work.

Dr. Amanda Crowell:

Yeah. And I have to imagine that people choose you for these moments, in part because you also have celebratory energy as a person, would you? Would you agree with that?

Stephanie Willoughby:

I would agree with that. I don't know how great I am in adulting. I've never about that a lot this weekend. Great. I like being an actual adult. But I'm really great at being a super, like, happy, I will meet you where you're at, like, Let's never have surface conversation. Let's just get full into it. And I can match anyone's excitement. And I do I find that to be a gift that I have. And I'm grateful for.

Dr. Amanda Crowell:

Yeah, and and perhaps elevate their excitement. I feel like I have experienced Stephanie and I live in just just for the listeners. Stephanie and I live in the same town. And we became friends. Most of all, while we were waiting for our children to finish their baseball games, while you were watching the baseball games. I was waiting for the baseball games to finish so I could celebrate with my child who did baseball things. And I feel like many times I start out in my sort of baseline state, and then I talk to you and I'm happier. And that is quite a quite a gift for people. And has that always been the case for you? Have you always been somebody who just sees the best in people? And what has that been sort of a lifelong thing for you? What's it been like for you?

Stephanie Willoughby:

Yes, it really has been a lifelong thing. And it's such a it's such a lovely compliment to get I'm not even sure I'm deserving of all of that. But I do think in general, I'm, I've always been a very happy person. And I, I really, I always say like I don't, I don't I think it's like super popular to be like I don't like people or I don't want to end. And it's kind of like the same way people say that they hate their job. I don't even know if that's true. For most people, I think it's just something we say. Because it's like popular opinion. But I actually really enjoy people. And I don't need anyone to be just like me, I'm just very like interested in everybody's story. And I find that I've always had an ability to no matter what we're discussing. And obviously, like when I was younger, it wasn't things that are as serious as it is now, like politics or religion or whatever. But I kind of appreciate almost anybody's point of view, I may not agree with it. But I do really enjoy this about myself that I've always sort of been able to talk to anyone about anything. But I think that sort of skill gets really honed when I also was like never the kind of kid when I was in school that was going to be like an A plus student, like school never came really easily to me. But I'll chat with you about anything, and it'll be really fun, like, hanging out. And I can talk about the super important things that are not tangible. But I was never going to be the kid that like got, you know, straight A's or even straight B's that just like was not not my game at all. But I met a lot of really great people who were really willing to help me, mostly because I think they just either a felt bad for me, or B thought she was helping her. So that's kind of where I landed. But yeah, it's kind of a cool, it's, it's a good little party trick I suppose to have in your back pocket. Like, I just really like I enjoy people. And I like talking about all the things and you know, relating with them. And I've always always enjoyed that.

Dr. Amanda Crowell:

Yeah, that's awesome. So you, so you combine this sort of love for people and this ability to celebrate with them and to help them feel even more excited about the thing that's happening than maybe they did at the beginning. With really quite an amazing aesthetic. I had to I have to be honest, I lurk on your your little love stories Instagram page. Now I don't you know, I'm not actually somebody who like I have children and I love them. But as far as like pictures of babies, and you know, I'm much more likely to go follow a bunch of dogs on Instagram, but there's something about your photography, that's really so lovely. And I'm wondering, how has your sort of visual artistry story evolved? Have you always been artistic and and sort of that way or?

Stephanie Willoughby:

Yeah, that that's so sweet of you to say thank you. I really have to love my photography as well because I think that ultimately it's just about being honest. Right? Like I am not the type of photographer that has a bunch of kids in front of me and tells them to say cheese or to smile. I do not I will never tell them to smile. What I do say to them is like how are you feeling today? Like what do you what are you thinking about like, what happened today? How has it been? I haven't seen you in a little bit. Did you get bigger? Show me how you got bigger. You know, like, we have all these crazy conversations myself and these kiddos. And the last thing I will say to them is like, I just want you to, like, hang out with me in front of this lens. And let's see what happens, you know, because I think there's nothing worse than like a forced smile. But in regards to your question, yeah, I have always been really creative. I don't know, I didn't really find the path of photography right away, though. I've been a photographer my whole life. You know, when I was younger, I think my mom had like, one compliment, I will always give her as like she was really good at reading who we were and what we would be good at. So I took photography classes from very young and then my parents built me a dark room. Basement. Yeah, this is like, you know, the late 80s, early 90s. So you could still do dark

Dr. Amanda Crowell:

down there with those chemicals.

Stephanie Willoughby:

Exactly, yeah. I was probably about six months seventh grade, when I started, I had taken this like local photography class. And it was the first time I've been exposed to like manual settings. And I want to say it was photographing things like a flower or you know, you don't have subjects of like your friends or anything. So it would just be stuff that I saw around our house or outside or whatever. And then I had this dark room. And at the time, you could still buy the chemicals, you cannot do that. Now they are not sold in the US. And selling Yeah, yeah, you have to like go international. Truly, or be like market market. It's on the dark web now. Time it was like you could just you would mix the chemicals. And then you can have it all downstairs and I would like you know, create these photographs. And they would all be matched and black and white because that's the only thing I knew how to do. And I would like kind of put them up and look at them. And then as time went on, I did get an automatic camera. Again, not digital, but automatic and it would take photos of everything and all of our friends and all of our events and all the things that unfolded and it take video of things on our camcorder. I've just always been into storytelling in that way. And then when I was in high school, the back of my closet door, I had like taken all the photos had them all developed or I developed them and I would like cut them out and make this collage and a hot glue gun them on the back of my closet door. And it made over the four years of high school like this massive basically like a story arc of you know, my friends and myself and that's what I did for fun. I was a real real fun girl apparently because it sounds like a room. Hot glue gun. Glue gunning and going to the craft store like the second I could drive it remember going to like the scrapbook store and being like this is wild. Like let's go do this. Look at all this paper. So much paper and stickers. Yeah. Yeah, obviously party animal over here. But yeah, so I had always done photography. And then as I got older, I really got into theater. It was never a sports kid. I really thought I wanted to be an actress. And my parents were like, not super in favor of that. I wanted to go to NYU I wanted to leave for New York very badly. I grew up in the Midwest, and I was like I had this bee in my bonnet. From the time I was in about seventh grade. I'm like, I'm going to New York. I'm going to be an artist. I might be an actress, this might be amazing. And they were like, you can go to New York. I got into NYU, they're like we will pay for NYU. But you absolutely are not allowed to go to theater school. You can wow. Yeah, you can if you get into NYU film school, you can go to NYU film school and you can become a producer or journalist but you absolutely cannot be an actress. Or the or they won't pay for it. I said okay. And

Dr. Amanda Crowell:

and what was it about being an actress that they were totally against?

Stephanie Willoughby:

I think it was the money part of it. And I think it was also just like the struggle part of it. I don't think that they had a lot of faith that I would be able to, like make something out of my life with that. Like I don't I think it wasn't so much that they were worried I'd be like living on the streets. I think it was more just like, I think they were worried about like me being in New York and then like a starving artist and how is she going to like, you know, get her life together. But it turned out I'm actually kind of grateful that I did not go because it's not it's actually not even a hobby of mine now. Yeah. Which is so funny. Like I think about that now and I'm like I would never get on the stage and like to but for a very long time I did when I was a kid. You know? So anyway, I studied photography. While I was at NYU. I studied film and television. I did become a television producer. And then it wasn't until after I had my first first child that I started sort of thinking like, television life wasn't that sustainable with kids because I was a post production supervisor. So I would look at the edits in the footage that came in all day. And do color correction with the editors work with the editors, sometimes I would edit and but I'd be there all night like 312 in the morning, and it's just when you have a little one, it's just not, not something you can really do.

Dr. Amanda Crowell:

And then what kind of TV was it that you were that things were coming in all day.

Stephanie Willoughby:ty TV. So this is in like the:Dr. Amanda Crowell:

Yeah, then you really would get hundreds of hours of footage,

Stephanie Willoughby:

oh, my gosh, so much budget, you have edit banks, you've got, you know, like six editors working on something. But when you're supervising the editors, and you yourself are an editor, and I always sort of had an eye for color and color correction. And so I'm doing all of these things, which was really cool work. And watching down shows, somebody has to watch every show before it goes to air to make sure that there's no, you know, nothing wrong in the edit and that the story is told correctly. So that was my job. And I really, really loved that job. But I did not love it more than my baby, right? So

Dr. Amanda Crowell:

you never saw who I never

Stephanie Willoughby:

saw. And, you know, we had a nanny, I was living in Brooklyn, like we were living that life. And it was, it was cool. But like, at that time, there really weren't a lot of female producers that I was aware of that had kids. And I knew I wanted more kids and knew we wanted to move to Jersey. And so I kind of had to start figuring out like, what, what was going to be next. And that's when I was like photographing my baby and being like, maybe I will do this. Because I also could not afford a photographer to photograph my baby. So I was like, Yeah, I'm going to bust out that camera from film school. And I sure dad, like I just started photographing, Gracie. And, you know, asking friends if I could photograph their families? And that's kind of how it all started to evolve at that point.

Dr. Amanda Crowell:

And what has it grown to how many you know, families? Do you do? How do you how do you share about your self? Like, how do you get your business? Like, what's that been the business side of it? How's that been?

Stephanie Willoughby:

Yeah, it's, well, it was slow to start, because whenever you're a newborn photographer, you have to probably I would say you have to photograph like, I don't know, 100 200 newborns before you know what you're doing. And it seems like a really simple thing. But it's, it's there's angles, there's ways to do it. And then there's of course, the most important thing being baby safety. So I knew I was like a family photographer, I kind of got that part going first, because that doesn't, that was more of an aesthetic thing. It's just like, I think this location is pretty, I think you should wear these colors. Meet me here. Let's see what happens. You can do candidates and it's more playful and fun. And then maternity was something that I kind of had to be skilled into, I started doing retreats and things from people who really knew what they were doing to figure out what the angles for that was. But again, you're working with adults, and there's no safety issue. So the newborn part was actually the the hardest to develop and the slowest to develop. But it's my most popular session now. So I feel like you know, starting with, like just families around town, which I think is so funny, because I see some of the kids I practice on now who are in second grade, third grade, fourth grade, and I just want to apologize to their parents, because that was horrible. I looked at those photos, and I'm like, Oh my God, I pray you never like to just throw them out. They were awful. Compared to now. Right? But everybody has to be kidding. And, you know, those early days, I was working like one Saturday a month and now I work. You know, I probably have I don't know about six sessions a week, if not more. You know, a lot. Yeah, it is a lot. And, and it's it's kind of wonderful. You know, I don't have very many days where I'm not holding an infant or hanging out with someone who's pregnant or a family and I just I really love it. It's really fun.

Dr. Amanda Crowell:

Oh, wow. Well, that's, that's a good segue to one of my favorite questions, which is, you know, doing great work is, is something we love, right? And it's almost always something that has some hiccups to it. It requires some learning and some overcoming and some, I think becoming of who we need to be in order to do this work to the best of our potential. And I'm curious from you, like what were some of the struggles that you had to overcome to really kind of live your way into this current great work?

Stephanie Willoughby:

Yeah, I you know, it's so interesting. I feel like the biggest obstacle for me is Always me. And I don't I really don't think it comes from anything. any outside influences. I'm really lucky that I married a person who, from the beginning really just trusted me and was, you know, he has a very stable normal person job. And we're very grateful for it. But he loves his work so much. And he's so happy he like gets up and is like whistling and can't wait to get to work. And he has these incredible days and my husband's in education. And I think it's a really challenging job. But he like, absolutely loves and adores that. And I didn't really have that example growing up. I mean, my parents worked, I would say they had, they love their work. And I wouldn't say they had like, they would have said that their work was like this great work, right? Maybe, maybe on occasion, or at times, but general, there was they kind of carried that same attitude that most Americans and people do, which is like, I gotta get up and go to work. It's a grind, blah, blah, blah, right? But Matt has always had this, like, isn't this the best thing ever, we get to do what we love. And so when I was starting out, and we have these kids, and we were so poor, and so broke, and so underwater, and I'm just kind of like, just trust me, that was like a really heavy lift, because he was like, Okay. And then he did, and I don't even know that I could have done that with him. To be really honest, I was just sort of like, super lucky that he loved his work and was stable. And then he was just like, yeah, you'll figure it out. But it does put a ton of pressure on me, right and on myself, because I can't let down these little humans that I created. And I, I certainly can't get let down this man who has put all of his faith in me figuring this out. So I would say like, the biggest struggle really was having to sort of put my head down and be like, you can do this, you can make a career out of this, you can make money doing this. And you can somehow get to the point where you're not working every weekend, because as my kids have gotten older, they're involved in so many different things. And I don't want to miss a second of it. I didn't ever want to miss a second of it. I, you know, like, to me, the great work that sort of happened was really happening when it was like my backup against a wall. Like, you know, so that was the struggle, the struggle was just being confident enough in myself. And, and just kind of keep going even when it didn't for a really long time. Look, I wasn't producing the work that I wanted, ultimately, right. Like, I thought it should look like this, but I wasn't skilled enough to get it to that place. So for a long time, you're studying other people, and you're looking at what they do. And you're like, wait, okay, okay, maybe you do this, maybe I'll try this. And you're trying all these different things. And then you sort of get to the point where you're like, it doesn't have to look like any of that. It's got to look like whatever my great work looks like. Yeah. And that was a struggle. Because I think for any of us, like putting a lot of faith in yourself is hard. Because, you know, you're still just a human and you've got to like, everybody's telling you to manifest your energy and concentrate on this. And like, you know, like, Don't be jealous. Don't be envious. You know, like, mate, but but make money but like, Don't overcharge and don't undersell yourself, girl boss like, all these like, you're just like, I mostly just want to go to make it softball game and connect with people. And I like looking at pretty things. So like, how can we make that work? Right. So I think that was really the biggest struggle for me, it was just like, not, I just did not want to let anyone down. I didn't want to, like have wasted my parents money at NYU. I didn't want to, you know, have my children not have the life that I had envisioned for them. And I did not want to let Matt down because he had put so much faith and trust in me. And in the end, it all worked out. But yeah, there were a lot of years in there where it was kind of like iffy, like, Okay, I think this is this could work and then eventually, you just kind of keep doing it and it became a thing.

Dr. Amanda Crowell:

I think a lot of people back away from their great work for exactly that reason. I mean, it comes in a lot of different packages. Like for some people it's about, I don't want to fail in front of other people. Sometimes it's that feeling that you're describing of like just not wanting to let anyone down. And it can really, it can really, I think suppress and push people into ways of being that are not really natural to them, like procrastination or rumination or like all of these things that that really are just like these manifestations of these of these worries. And I'm wondering, what did you have to realize in order to stay in it? I mean, to some extent you said like your back was against the wall there. There was no other option. But when that's the case, it's you. I'm sure you weren't in a panicked sort of anxious, hot mess state for all those years. Like there was some movement, there were some realizations, some insights like what did you learn about yourself? How did you manage that? Stuff struggle?

Stephanie Willoughby:

Oh, that's such a great question. I think I'm still to an extent managing a little bit of the struggle, except now I kind of have more of an ebb and flow to it. I've been doing it for so long that I don't panic when I have a week that I'm not working versus a week where I am right. But it's so interesting that you phrase it like that, Amanda, because I think about this all the time, I can't explain how many people will say to me, You're so lucky, you got so lucky. Because I think from the outside looking in, I do kind of make my own schedule, I have an amazing business manager who manages a lot of the stuff I don't want to do and have no real desire to do like, you know, my calendar and your contracts and all of that stuff, right? So I get a lot of You're so lucky. And then I meet a lot of people, and it's usually the people who are telling me how lucky I am, where they're like, I have to go to this job. I don't want to be there. But I really can't figure out what it is that I want to do. But like, and then when I talk to them six months from now, they're still at these jobs that they really hate. And I always think like, Yeah, I've been I have had a very blessed life, there is no doubt about that. Right. And I have been pretty lucky. But a lot of it is really just, I don't have a fear of failure that I think most people do. I don't know why I don't have that fear of failure. I think honestly, like, and you would know more about this than me by far. But honestly, I think a lot of it is I was not a great student in school. And I was never told what I was going to be right. Like I was never in gifted and talented. Nobody really had this expectation that I was going to be a doctor or lawyer work on Wall Street. So in a way, it's really freeing. And I have come to think of that as a gift now, because I think if like, I don't know, if I was really good at math, somebody might have suggested I become an accountant or an architect. And because I was the actual opposite of good at math, or like, you know, I could write pretty well, but I didn't know all the punctuation. Nobody was ever, like you should go into literature, you should become a publisher or whatever. So I just never had a fear of failing, because I don't think the expectation for me was that I was going to be one of the little pegged things that we call in society as like

Dr. Amanda Crowell:

a, like a one of these official jobs official job,

Stephanie Willoughby:

right? I didn't have that, right. So I kind of got to be, I kind of got to explore. And I got to figure out, like, what makes me really happy. And so I do get sometimes frustrated because I'm like, I'm not really lucky. I just was really brave. And I think that's something that like now that I'm 41 I really have taken on and then like yeah, that's kind of a great thing about me. And I'm really grateful that I, I have been able to sort of like fight the scary parts with just like reminding myself like, Hey, you're really brave. You moved to New York, when you were 17. You, you know, had these experiences you lived on your own, you've had roommates, you've had friends, you've gone on vacation, like, whatever it is, like whatever the circumstances were and even the struggling things like I think that like, ultimately, I just kind of have always fallen back on. No, you're really brave. And that's sort of the dialogue that comes in my head, especially when things are scary when it comes to business or like you know, I'm looking down the barrel, as I'm sure you are, in many of your listeners are to kids going to college. I don't really know how all of this is going to work. Right. But I'm hoping that like some of the grit and some of the bravery. And then some of the sort of like, don't be led by fear rubs off on my kids, because that has been genuinely like the greatest gift that I have been given.

Dr. Amanda Crowell:

Yeah, well, what what that brings up for me is like in the world of education, we talk a fair amount or I do anyways about the like our beliefs about like who we are as intellectual thinking learning people, sometimes they call it the growth mindset. And like, do you hold the belief that through effort over time with the right strategies, you could do basically anything like you might realize, like that's very far away over there, matrix algebra, but with effort over time and the right help, I can do that. And what's interesting is that like as a as a su Super Duper pass a logical High Achiever myself, like just everything had to be like exactly right at all times. You know, one of the interesting things I learned about the growth mindset and really helps me kind of like reel it in is the realization that what we need to understand is that there is no actual perfection. There is no there like that. That's all a ruse that that's all in. Like, what's the word I'm looking for? Like a, an illusion, right? It's an illusion. Anyway, it falls apart of House of Cards, paper, tiger, like all of those things. And yet, if you spend your whole life maintaining the paper, tiger, like with your thing of tape, right, like taping up every time it gets a little tear, that becomes your identity. It's a really unfortunate burden to carry as a person, you know. And what's fascinating out of the growth mindset research is that the people in the world who don't really have a fixed mindset, because that's that sort of like I have to maintain this image, or everyone's going to discover it, I'm a massive fraud. And then my life is over is basically how the fixed mindset feels. The People with a growth mindset just naturally are the ones who like, often went into a special education or had IEPs, or struggled with something and needed tutoring, and like someone is going to have to help me, because they're the ones who experienced a struggle, a strategy and an improvement. And that lived experience is what sort of grounds you into real body knowing that whatever it is, that's happening, I can find my way through it. I don't have to already know, nobody has to believe in me, but me. And I feel like that's part of what you're describing, too. And that does give somebody the ability to be more courageous. Because what do you really have to know in life, other than I trust me, I know that I can figure this out. This, even if it's really hard, I'm here with me. And I've

Stephanie Willoughby:

got those 100% I am so grateful this is recorded, because I'm going to play it back all the time, I did not really know about the growth mindset, not in the way that you just described it. I've heard of it, obviously. But like, it's just oh my god, you just hit on so many amazing and wonderful things. And I genuinely feel like what you are saying has been true for me, I did not have an IEP when I was growing up. But I had enough experiences where it was like all these people are doing so much better than you. In this like very, I went to private school my whole life. In this private school, like you're kind of the bottom of the barrel. And, and I was working really hard to maintain that placement. But there comes a point where you just sort of accept, I am never going to beat y'all at this game. So I'm just doing my own thing after a game. I'm opting out of the game like that's okay. And it's completely fair, that you do your thing. And you do that well, because I'm just going to be over here doing my thing. And doing that well. And so much of what you just said with my oldest child, she is the exact opposite of me. She's more like her dad. She is a brilliant student. Things come very easily to her. She's also incredibly athletic. She got the gift of being incredibly tall. She has everything that on paper would make kind of for the most perfect little life that you could live, right? Except that she has a fixed mindset. And we saw it very early on. And when she was, you know, 910 years old. We put her into softball, and that was super strategic on our perch. She happened to like softball, which was helpful, but baseball and softball as you know, Amanda because we have, you know, a kid who plays baseball. This is a game of failure. Yeah. And like it's a game of failure and it's a game of averages and where if you hit the ball three times out of 10 You are a frickin bazillion dollar athlete right? That's what it is. We are throwing a spinning ball in space at your head and objective here is that you hit it just at it but he did it in such a way right it like tricks the nine people in the field. And it's just it's insanity. It is like the hardest thing in sport to play and I love it with my entire being because you will never perfect baseball, or softball. You're never ever going to happen. I don't care how great you are. You can be Jennie Finch herself. You are never going to get up to that plate and hit every time you're not gonna Pitch Perfect game every time. That is why those those types of things and the people who played a really, really, really well are far and few between and we all know their names, even if you've never watched a baseball game. Like you know, Hank Aaron, you know who Babe Ruth is right on, because that's how hard it is to do this. Well, and I have seen with her, this is how we learn to manage her perfection. We went from a kid who would and I'm not getting you be on the pitcher's mound, crying, tears flowing down her face, because she just wanted to strike every play every single time. And it was never going to happen in the hardest thing I've ever done as a parent is sit there and watch that kid fail time after time after time after time. But you know what, three years later, maybe more now, she has stopped crying. And when she strikes out, or she does, or she gets a walk, if she's pitching, or whatever, whatever that particular game gave her or did not give her, she treats the wins

Stephanie Willoughby:

like she does the losses and it makes me feel like we are kind of giving her something that is not natural to her. It's like the one thing I got natural to me, my daughter did not get at all right. And we have seen her really just grow as a person. And I pray that she's able to carry that, that feeling through life. Because right now she's like a head down focus. She wants to be a physician. She thinks she knows what kind of physician she wants. And that's great. But like, again, you're not going to save every life, right? Like you're not going to get it right every time. And you need to like learn to accept that now. So anyway, just everything you said. It's just so poignant. And so perfect, because that's exactly right. I think if we all kind of figured out how to sit with our failures, yeah, that's the thing with a sport, it's embarrassing, right. And, you know, you feel like you've let people down. It's like the whole thing. And with just like being a person, you know, it comes in a lot of different forms. But I did learn that really early on. And I think it just made me brave to try other things. And I, you know, I really, I really am super grateful for all of it. Because I really, really love my work. And I really, really love my life. And I really, really feel like I didn't, I didn't let sort of the other things stop me. And I'm grateful for that very

Dr. Amanda Crowell:

well. And when you're not trying to maintain the illusion of perfection in everyone's eyes, like looking around every corner to look and see like where people might notice that you made a mistake or point out that you didn't do it right or tell you that you're going to slowly or whatever, if you're not fixated on that, then you can actually listen to the voice inside of you. That is always there saying, hey, go pick up the camera pointed at that kid, what's that, like? You can follow that voice as it leads you to the place where the big courage is worth it. 100% It's a shot. Because it's really, really in my heart. It's really for me, as opposed to what are the six things I'm allowed to do in my life? I could be a doctor or a lawyer. You know, like you said that official jobs? And then you don't even allow yourself to imagine? And then what a shame that is. What have we lost as a species? Oh, my gosh, artists, writers. Like what if we lost? It's so crazy to

Stephanie Willoughby:

have my famous phrase, I use this all the time. Let's just try it on. Yeah, right. Like, what's the trouble in trying it on? I do this with my business a lot, too. There's a lot of things I'm like, I think we could maybe, maybe I'll start making my own announcements. I'm not a graphic designer, but like, what's the harm and try and get on? Let's try it on. Let's just try it on. So I sit there with my business manager all the time. And I'm like, I get an idea. And then we execute it. You know, like I came into this year and I was thinking I do a ton of cake smashes that celebrate little wins, first birthdays? What if I made an at home kit? What would that look like? How do you do that? Like, what is that word? It's really cute. I have just did you know, I was like, she helped me with some research. I've never been like a person who did merchandising in my life. And then I was suddenly like, Oh, I know. Okay, I learned this. And that was really satisfying. And honestly, by the time we got all the materials and sourced everything and figured out how you explain choking and like what's my liability and consulted with a lawyer and you know, like all these things. Yeah. And then by the time that kit finally arrived, I was like, I put it together. It's like oh, that was nice, but I almost don't even need it to be successful. I I kind of feel like the victory was in doing it. Yeah. And I feel like that about almost everything right? I keep planting a vegetable garden and every year it just fails.

Dr. Amanda Crowell:

I can only grow two things. So now we have to go It ends one with tomatoes, and one with Swiss chard because that's the only thing I can grow with

Stephanie Willoughby:

Swiss chard sounds fancy, I was gonna say I can only get a cucumber and some squash and we're always like, what do you do with this now? Like, it's massive. And I've got a groundhog living on our property who keeps eating everything? Oh my god. But you know what I planted every year? Because yeah, what's the harm? Try it on, just try it on. And I wish more adults would just try something on like, not every hobby is going to be your career, you know, like, and that's fine. But like there's no harm and just letting yourself dream a little and just try it on. And live

Dr. Amanda Crowell:

a little live into liberal at all? Yes. Right. Like, no, we can't really think our way into being someone new. We really have to live our way into it. Yeah, like the cake. The smash cake kit is such a great example of like, you think when you have no experience that this these are the four steps that will be involved in that and then you live through it. You're like, wow, I'm now like, so in awe of what is required in this world and the people who do things, something really lovely about that. I agree completely. Well, I love it. I'm so happy that we were here having this conversation, too. Yeah. So tell us how we can learn more about you. If we live in Essex County, New Jersey, you will take our pictures but

Stephanie Willoughby:

I don't know. Yes, we do. So I'm on Instagram and Facebook always under little love stories photography I gave up on Twitter long ago. I don't understand how to use it. I'm not gonna try now. My website is little love stories.com So you can always find me there. And thank you so happy to meet new families and friends and chat more about epic failures and epic growth as a result of it.

Dr. Amanda Crowell:

Love it. Well, thank you so much for your time. I'm so very grateful.

Stephanie Willoughby:

Oh, thank you again, it's great to talk to you.


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