Inspiring Women Series: Heather Thorkelson

Inspiring-Women - Heather-Thorkelson

Heather is one of those women who I truly find inspiring from her location independent business to the life that she lives as a result of it. She is currently on an exhibition to Antarctica! I hope you find something inspiring to take away from her interview.

Name, occupation, blog/website:

Heather Thorkelson, Location Independent Small Business Strategist at

Please tell us a little about you:

I spend my days working with people who want to create unconventional livelihoods, putting the pieces together for a sustainable and profitable online-based business. Between November and March I also spend some time working as an expedition guide on a ship in Antarctica; just to mix things up so I don’t get stale in my business and also because hey – how cool to get paid to go see penguins and whales in Antarctica! I’ve lived long-term in 6 countries outside of my home, Canada, and traveled to 43 more of them. My unofficial title is Architect of Freedom because I love to help people create frameworks within which they can find their own freedom and not give up financial security.

Three of your favorite things to get you through the day (apps/drink/workout):

Napping, laughing, and Google Calendar. Maybe not as sexy as green juice and some fancy iPhone app, but it’s the truth! At this stage in my business, I’m really committed to enjoyment and that means a good laugh and letting my brain rest when it needs/wants to. Google Calendar is crucial to keep me on top of my client appointments because I’d forget every single one otherwise.

Who are you inspired by, and why?

Bjork – Partially because she’s Icelandic (I’m half Icelandic) and she was able to break onto the international scene, making the rest of the little volcanic island proud. But mostly because she’s a creative genius who creates for creation’s sake. Because she works without the limitations of trying to create something for the popular masses, she’s able to do things (both musical and educational) that other people don’t even dream of.

Ze Frank – Also a creative genius who manages to weave a stellar sense of humour into almost everything he does. He’s an adult who hasn’t lost the uncorrupted wonder and humility of a child. I love pretty much everything Ze produces.

James Altucher – Honest and vulnerable, James is a freaking phenomenal storyteller and teacher. His consistent and hard-earned message of not wasting your life living by default is so needed and so well delivered on his blog and in his FB posts. I think everyone who wants to live a better life should be reading his stuff regularly.

To get where you are today, how did you ‘feel the fear and move through it’ anyway? Where there any moments you thought you’d just simply, quit?

Funny that you ask that because for about a decade before I became an entrepreneur, my personal email account had the tagline at the bottom of every email, “Feel the fear and do it anyway.” Of course in the first two years of my business, I felt like quitting many times. But I never once truly thought that I would. Even when I was sobbing on the bathroom floor and super stressed about money, the thing that always got me through was the knowledge that there was no Plan B nor did I want there to be. The fact is, I never ever want to work for someone else again (except for when I contract in Antarctica but that’s quite a different thing). And I was willing to tolerate as much mental badminton with myself as it took to move through my own resistance and make my livelihood a reality. I knew what I was capable of and I knew that any negative thoughts or bad days were transient. So I breathed through it and kept on going.

We always want to know how others balance it all, and I’m sure you feel like you don’t, but tell us some ways on how you stay on top of your game. What gets left behind, what gets top priority, and what helps you stay grounded?

I stay on top of my game by only focusing on the things that are truly the most important. I prioritize the must-do’s, delegate the should-do’s to my virtual assistant, and let everything else slide. If I get to them, that’s great. But if I don’t because I’m driving along a fjord in Iceland (as I am right now as I write this) then who cares!? So much gets left behind and it doesn’t really matter as long as my business feels in good shape, my clients are taken care of, and I’m excited about projects I’m working on. I like spending the rest of my time enjoying the scenery rather than thinking about my to-do list.

What are your must-have tools to keep on top of every day tasks as well as your busy life?

Gmail and associated apps like Boomerang and the EmailGame
Google Calendar
Magic Jack (for permanent Toronto phone number no matter where I am in the world)

Living intentionally takes action and dedication, is there a specific moment in your life where you made the decision to live intentionally? Or has it always been the way you’ve lived life?

I had a pretty crap upbringing. Our home was not a nice place to be, and after my parents split when I was ten years old, I pretty much had to raise myself. I remember hiding in my closet at night when I was about 11 or 12 years old writing in my journal at a particularly low point. I wrote a letter of encouragement to myself saying that it was imperative that I keep on going and become the woman and leader I was meant to be. I wrote that the only reason life was so bad at that point was because the adults in my life were calling all the shots, but as soon as I was free (i.e.; living away from home) that I would be able to carve my own path and live a beautiful life. I left home at 17 and never looked back. And fortunately, I made younger me quite proud in the long run.

How has your life changed since you’ve been living it intentionally?

Well, I’ve never felt particularly beholden to anyone or anything. I can honestly say that I’ve felt like the master of my own destiny for most of my adult life, and that’s pretty empowering.

How have family/friends been supportive?

My family are just used to me because it’s been this way since I left home. And my friends are supportive because this is how everyone has always known me. For most of my friends, I’m That Friend – the one who’s out there making things happen and having adventures. They don’t know me any other way and thankfully, love me for who I am even though I forget birthdays and don’t come to visit often enough.

Do you have any rituals or friends you call upon when you need extra support or encouragement?

I have a couple of friends I like to jump on Skype with to give me perspective or a laugh if I’m struggling with something. That always does the trick. That, or a good nap. The key is to never take yourself or your work too seriously.

What is one piece of advice you’d give to someone who wants to live intentionally but doesn’t know where to start?

Look at where you’ve become complacent. Where have you settled for ‘good enough’? Those are always the areas in which you aren’t being true to yourself and it’s really tough to live intentionally when parts of you have resigned themselves to playing small. Start there and break those habits/alter those relationships to be more aligned with what you want your life to be.

Where do you look to draw from when you want inspiration, visual or narrative, for the life you intend to live?

I try to always surround myself with only the best people – people who are examples of living well, living with generosity and compassion for themselves and others.

I’m always inspired to hear what other people’s dreams are, what dream of yours are you currently working towards that you envision happening in the next year?

In terms of life in general, I feel very much like I’m living the best life I have in me. I really love how I spend my days and months, and the people I spend them with. In terms of business, I’m about to launch a program called the LEAP Guide for people in jobs who want to make the leap into working freelance with their skill set. I’ve never been this excited about anything in my business because of the sheer potential for it to change people’s lives. I’m launching it with a partner and we’re going to build it out over 2015 to become the go-to resource for wanna-be freelancers. Stay tuned!

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