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We dissolve stuck and rewrite patterns. We apply radical playfulness to life (when we feel like it!), embarking on internal adventures (credo of Safety First). We have a fake band called Solved By Cake. We build invisible sanctuaries, invent words and worlds, breathe awe and wonder.

We are not impressed by monsters. Except when we are. We explore the connections between internal territories and surrounding environment to learn what marvelously supportive delicious space feels like, and how to take exquisite care of ourselves. We transform things.* We glow wild.**

* For example: Desire, fear, worry, pain-and-trauma, boundaries, that problematic word which rhymes with flaweductivity.

** Fair warning: Self-fluency has been known to lead to extremely subversive behavior, including treasuring yourself unconditionally, unapologetically taking up space, experiencing outrageously improbable levels of self-acceptance, and general rejoicing in aliveness.



I have been looking for a special word to describe the kinds of companies and organizations whose culture, essence and qualities I admire.

The businesses whose superpowers I’m invoking when I make decisions for my own business.

–> The Fluent Self, Inc — aka the pirate ship and our new island and the port we’re building… :)

So I consulted with metaphor mouse, and the word we ended up with was beacons.


They emit light.

They penetrate fog. They give off signals — signals that can act as both warning or celebration. They show you where you could go, if you wanted to. And the word is related to beckon, which is kind of awesome.

So. Here are the beacons for my business. Note that not all of them share similar business models — what I’m looking at instead is essence, qualities and that jumbled thing we call culture.


I’ve referenced Zingerman’s in a number of posts — as early on as Betty Boop is my business coach (nearly three years ago).

They were featured in the excellent book Small Giants, whose subtitle — Companies that choose to be great instead of big — pretty much sums up my entire philosophy.

Instead of becoming a chain, they intentionally stayed local, to huge success.

And — in an inspiring have-cake–eat-it-too way, they’re still a thriving international company, due to the magic of the internet. Now they have a giant side business based on mail order, and they run business trainings on how to replicate what they’ve done.

There are a couple dozen other things I admire about them but in the interest of brevity, here are three:

  • the quirky, silly, light-hearted, playful, colorful, distinctive graphic look and feel.
  • the ridiculously high quality of training for all employees, which is very much based on the concept of sovereignty, even if they don’t call it that.
  • the endless creative and non-traditional ways they’ve found to innovate (bacon camp!) and expand (the candy manufactory!).

The qualities that I’m inspired by:

Creativity, play, sovereignty, joyfulness, courage, expansiveness, service, certainty, trust, possibility.

Roller Derby!

Specifically WFTDA, the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association, but also the larger culture beyond the official organization. Everything from the derby nerds network to the drag names to the boutfits.

I love all of it.

And I am especially in awe of the way a massive organization made up of a ton of moving parts has been able to face the growth challenges that come with going from tiny to enormous in just a few years.

The qualities that I’m inspired by:

Fearlessness, power, order, trust, agility, adaptability, grace, speed, creativity, play.

Also the inclusivity: once you’re in derby, you’re derby for life. There is such an atmosphere of welcoming and belonging.

And the fun. The fact that even as a fast-changing, highly competitive athletic experience, there’s still a lot of room for fun. And for tutu-and/or-kilt-wearing referees.

Last night I taught a Shiva Nata class with the bad-ass Guns N Rollers (the team I sponsor), and it was seriously the most fun I have ever had working with athletes. We tore it up, but in the spirit of silliness. IT WAS AMAZING!

Michael Port.

This is an interesting one, because Michael and I have really different styles, in terms of marketing, voice, products, pretty much everything. There’s a lot we don’t necessarily agree on.

So maybe not a stylistic beacon or a content beacon, but a beacon in how he thinks about business and how he approaches it. I admire him.

Michael is the one who taught me about how to work with a team pirate crew, as I call it. He taught me how to hire and how to train.

I’ve learned other useful things from him as well. Like how to have deep love for your people without getting sucked into their stuff.

And the thing that I secretly think of as the inverse hourglass approach.

The qualities that I’m inspired by:

Trust, order, structure, caring, compassion, spaciousness, motivation, drive, love.

And there’s also something in there about belonging. Making room for people.

My friend Hiro and my uncle Svevo.

Two bright, creative, self-aware, fun-loving entrepreneurs, each of whom manages to live in a really sovereign way.

When they work on their businesses, they do it through play and experimentation.

Business does not get in the way of the desire to nap or go for a walk.

A feeling of urgency is a sign that there’s some internal stuff to investigate and check in with, not something that they assume is reality.

The qualities that I’m inspired by:

They do business the way they do everything else: in integrity, wholeness, patience, simplicity, wonder and delight.

Also: Comfort, trust, kindness, play, light-heartedness, provision, patience and forgiveness.


The McMenamins brothers have done all sorts of spectacular things with unlikely and often abandoned buildings, in Oregon and Washington.

Like Zingerman’s, they’re another example of going big while staying local — and finding ways to grow and expand without trying to be everywhere at once or taking the bullying low road.

Cough. Starbucks.

The McMenamins spaces are all different, but they all share a similar feel, and similar warmth and goofiness.

And the concept of three-dollar-movies while getting beer and pizza delivered to your seat has made them beloved of Portlanders in particular.

Like with anything that grows, there are as many people who dislike them as like them, but I’m still hugely impressed by the choices they have made.

The qualities that I’m inspired by:

Experimentation, play, leadership, structure, innovation, conscious expansion, building community, delight in small details.

Those are my beacons.

These are the people, businesses and qualities that I’m keeping in mind as I steer the pirate ship towards bigger things and the adventures to come.

Sometimes when I’m feeling unsure of the future, I ask myself what Svevo would do, or how I’d solve a particular problem if I were the McMenamins brothers.

Having beacons doesn’t necessarily always tell me where to go, but it tells me that someone else has crossed these waters before.

And it gives me hope and inspiration. I can’t get lost if I follow the qualities.

Play with me? Comment zen for today…

I would absolutely love to know who your beacons are (in business, blogging or life in general), and what you’re inspired by.

As always, we’re all working on our stuff. Business is a trigger-filled topic and so we tread gently with other people’s stuff and let them have their own experience.

Not interested in: Arguing. People are entitled to their own beacons. No one is implying that their beacons should be your beacons. If you happen to dislike any of my beacons, that’s not information that needs to be shared.

What I would love: Thoughts on beacons and who/what your beacons are or might be, and anything related to this practice of finding the qualities.

That is all. Much love to all the commenter mice, the Beloved Lurkers and anyone who reads.

18 Responses to Beacons.

  1. Oh, how I love this, Havi! Beacons!

    You, my dear, are a beacon.

    And my favorite part: “Business does not get in the way of the desire to nap or go for a walk.”

    Because I so desperately need that lesson, over and over and over again.


  2. tara says:

    Also, Kelly of Copylicious.
    Scratch, the local brick oven bakery. They have a sign over the door that says “not for everyone.” Love that!
    tara recently posted… In which sparkly shoes and a handknit invisibility cloak make taxes funner

  3. Hiro Boga
    Twitter: HiroBoga

    Havi, my dear, I’m so honored to be one of your beacons. You are a light for me too.

    Your love and integrity, your commitment to shine the light of truth through your business, your playful, creative spirit, inspire me.

    Your friendship holds and sustains me when the ground under my feet feels shaky.

    Thank you for your beautiful light…

    Love, Hiro
    Hiro Boga recently posted… How do you serve

  4. Linda Eaves
    Twitter: lindaeaves

    Zeitgeist coffee – Pioneer Square Seattle.


    “As an independent business we fulfill a niche in the community to combine these three elements– Atmosphere, Art, and High-quality coffee in a unique way.”

    They have great soup too. Get there early. Soup is good.

  5. Leni says:

    You! Love your business!

    Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab! Their monthly and seasonal thingies mean that even after you make a purchase, you WANT to go back check.

    New Belguim Brewery. Wind powered beer!

    A couple years Future Me! I think i’m getting gentle guidance from her.

  6. Kylie
    Twitter: kyliewriteshere

    To be entirely honest, I don’t know who my beacons are. Well, you’re certainly one, Havi. But let’s see if I can figure it out a bit. I think people tend to be beacons for me more than businesses.

    Havi: Irreverence, play, acceptance, modeling what you teach.

    Elizabeth Halt: Wonder, delight, curiosity, warmth.

    Dolly Parton (or what I know of her): Irreverence (again), glitziness, outspoken-ness, affection for the margins.

    Tim Gunn (what I know of him): Elegance, graciousness, candor, warmth, sensitivity.

    I’m now inspired to find out who else my beacons are, and to then deduce all the fun stuff that teaches me about my own business. Yay!

  7. kat says:

    I’m from Ann Arbor, and my heart leapt when you mentioned Zingerman’s. It’s so true: the employees are ridiculously welcoming, cheerful, and empowered…and the food is incredible. Zingerman’s!

    And hmmm….I’ll have to think further about my beacons — but I’ll just add to the chorus and say that I’d count you as one. Thank you, thank you (which seems an inadequate response to beacon-ing but it’s what I have at the moment).

  8. Kathleen Avins
    Twitter: spiralsongkat

    Just for a second there, I mis-read the title of today’s post as “Bacons.” And then I read about Bacon Camp! Well!

    Well, of course, you are a beacon to me, Havi — of many things, but the one that’s uppermost in my mind right now is the power to be yourself, to claim your own space and make your own rules — and have a duck for a business partner — in a calm and loving way, and to make that work for you. You help me to believe that I can have a tiny blue teddy bear, and carry a journal with me everywhere I go, and sing softly to myself in supermarkets and train stations, and read children’s books, and essentially just be myself, too, and make that work, and know that I can be a gift to others, just as I am. (And write absurdly run-on sentences when I feel like it. Or sentence fragments. Either one.)

    Speaking of ducks — and hippos, and cows, and also of children’s books — Sandra Boynton is a beacon for me as well. There is a beautifully and powerfully weird humor running through everything she does, and it just leaves me with a feeling of, “Oh! Oh! There are people like that in the world! Well, that’s all right, then!” And anyone who describes her website as having “a rather jaunty confibulation of exuberant irrelevance, followed almost invariably by wistful longing, though it’s subtle” is okay in my book.
    Kathleen Avins recently posted… Minimum daily requirements

  9. Eve
    Twitter: evejacques

    My beacons are all kind of dorky :)


    Needs no introduction.

    The qualities that I’m inspired by:

    Love, compassion, creativity, beauty, joy, generosity, forgiveness, peace, patience, hope.

    Mary Poppins

    Also needs no introduction. 

    The qualities that I’m inspired by:

    Wonder, mystery, things that can’t be explained in words. (That one goes for God too.) Playfulness. Finding the element of fun in every job that must be done. Reconciliation, mending, healing. Possibility. Nurture. Order that isn’t icky. Adventure within safety. Truth within fantasy. Pondering the questions. Turning things upside-down. New perspectives. Opposites that are both true. The magic that is everyday life. Teaching. Learning. The wind of change.

    Okay, so many of these go for God too.


    A Japanese anime heroine whose own beacon is a prince she met as a child. She liked him so much that she decided to become a prince herself. :)

    The qualities that I’m inspired by:

    Strength, nobility, sovereignty, courage, confidence, individuality, androgyny, idealism, determination, generosity, simplicity.


    Need no introduction.

    The qualities that I’m inspired by:




    The qualities that I’m inspired by:

    Playfulness, openness, flow, permission, compassion, self-befriending, silliness (the good kind), patience, peace, creativity (hey, you got a few in common with God too), imagination, humour, curiosity, changing patterns, new perspectives, teaching, learning (and you got some in common with Mary Poppins!) being a helper mouse (Mary is totally a helper mouse too) sovereignty, flow, adaptability, experimentation, sweetness, generosity, individuality, intelligence, friendliness, boundaries, insight. 
    Eve recently posted… Easter Babble

  10. Mary Jane Thomas
    Twitter: Mararose10

    Beacons. This is just great :-).

    My first beacon is my equine veterinarian. She is totally about her clients, first the horses, and then their humans. She always looks for the elegant solution, is warm, empathic, and highly competent. She stays on the cutting edge, manages her ego, and creates an atmosphere of partnership with her clients. She goes above and beyond always, while staying in her space and her boundaries. I love my mare more than anything in my life, and I trust my vet with her. That trust has been earned over time.

    Another beacon is The Fluent Self. You, Havi. I’m sort of a newbie here and more of a lurker, but I am totally a fan. Your writing rocks my world! Some stuff I have especially loved: PTSD, Skipping Stones, Seven Things. I USE these things. There are many more. I dig your humor and the creative turn of phrase in sharing Truth. I love how you share your intimate process in a way that is totally helpful.
    How can you top “Thowing Shoes?” I am starting to use your evocative phrases within my own mind. I love the thing you write about how we all have our stuff…. at your comment session. Yes.

    Another is Hiro, whose work I found through you. I am engrossed in her Sovereignity work, how to live from the inside out, and it is truly life-changing. Hiro is on a level few beings ever achieve, and she is amazingly generous in sharing her wisdom.
    Mary Jane Thomas recently posted… Reflections on Hero Worship

  11. Reba
    Twitter: rrreba


    thank you so much for sharing your fondness for Sandra Boynton – I have just spent the last little while being delighted and grinning at her website.

    @ Havi

    I am cheering for you, being a beacon to so many people, including me, but mostly I am cheering at the outpouring of love and appreciation towards you that was inspired by your outpouring of love and appreciation towards others… awesomeness in so many ways.

    Love love love
    Reba x

  12. Aaron Fung
    Twitter: AaronHFung

    I like your list!

    My compliments to the metaphor mouse; I like the use of word “beacon” in this context.

    In you I have a beacon of playfulness and creativity applied to the usually too serious field of business.

    I really like how you renamed your business team “pirate crew” and have a rubber duck for a business partner. :-)

    Nietzsche says somewhere (paraphrasing from my notes because I lost my copy of the Portable Nietzsche): Seek out what you love and admire in your self-chosen educators – that is who you are, your true self. “What have you really loved till now?”

    In Nietzsche’s philosophy I admire the affirmation of life, not with Stoic resolve, but with joy and laughter.

    I want to extend this concept of the beacon beyond the discipline of business and apply it to my own area of the visual arts:

    One of my beacons is Rembrandt van Rijn not only for the depth of space he creates through technique, but also for the the psychological depth displayed within his work.

    Quality I’m inspired by:

    Depth is my current mantra for my life; when I become overwhelmed, flustered, I go deeper and seek the calm beneath the surface, beneath the torrents and tempests of daily life; I have a feeling that is where insight may be found.

    If nothing else, I am entranced by the beautiful mystery beyond the superficial mask of reality.

    Respectfully yours,

  13. Beth
    Twitter: BethNotLiz

    Ohh! I love EVERYONE’s beacons. Thanks for sharing.

    Havi & The Fluent Self
    Qualities I admire:
    Playfulness, risk-taking, wackiness, freedom from others’ perceptions of the correct framework, community

    Trader Joes:
    I love this grocery store. I love the food, the advertisements, the packaging, and the employees. No matter what my day was before TJs, I always leave in a better mood.
    Qualities I admire:
    Humor, attention to the entire experience

    Felicia Day
    Not only does Felicia have connections to the Whedonverse (Buffy fans? Anyone? Bueller?), she incorporated her online gaming into her work and created a web series (The Guild)
    Qualities I admire:
    get-up-and-go-ness, lack of vanity, communication

    A gyrotonic & pilates studio, the atmosphere is really warm & nurturing. I can’t really afford to go regularly, but they sent me a free session for my birthday ANYWAY. Isn’t that sweet?
    Qualities I admire:
    Appreciation, lack of judgement, kindness

    I could probably go on, but I think that’s a good starting place. Heaven knows I’ll be mulling this one for a long time. :)

  14. Amy
    Twitter: playwithamy


    This is very helpful. I am glowing!

    One beacon for me who is more popular in Europe than the states, is Author Doris Lessing.

    If you readers don’t know who Doris is yet, you are in for a Treat. I recommend starting with “Martha Quest.”

    Her qualities that inspire me:

    Shrewd observational skills, outing what people are really thinking, jaw-dropping vocabulary, guts, refusal to be categorized even to the point of being obstinate like when she scoffed at the Nobel Prize or when she (repeatedly) spoke out about how she does not wish to be categorized as a feminist…generally brilliant.

    Can you tell I’m in love? Hee.

    (Note: Doris is heavy on critical thinking, she is not light-hearted. So I like to balance her books with a child fairy tale or something else light and creamy).

    Thank you Havi.
    Amy recently posted… The Stupidity Of Self-Improvement-Speak

  15. Riin
    Twitter: happyfuzzyyarn

    And if you go to Zingerman’s on your birthday, they give you 6 free bagels! And they are awesome bagels!

    I’m inspired by all the fiber peeps I know who do it full time, proving it can be done. They’re all my mentors whether they know it or not.
    Riin recently posted… I’m back from Greencastle

  16. Jane
    Twitter: JaneOfArdis

    Firstly you Havi – for having Selma. For proving that you don’t have to be anodyne and featureless to be successful and to gain trust. For showing that you do not have to have just one thing.

    And my grandfather who built an incredibly succesfully business growing and selling organic vegetables before it was even a thing. Because he was completley himself and people loved him for it. For the aeesthetic beauty of his displays. For proving that you can do something that you love and still make money. For being original. For doing things that no-one else had thought of.

    And Belladonna. For not getting her teeth ‘fixed’ or not having tattoos or being tanned. For making films with women who are different from the porn star stereotype and them being wildly succesfull. For not being ashamed.

  17. Becca
    Twitter: beccapronchick

    My beacons include:

    Mother nature in all her spring time glory.

    Stephanie Saline (stellawordsmith.com) because she suggested I follow you Havi. Smart girl.

    My cat Sophia Loren.

    My beloved life partner for his humor, love and most of all – patience.

    Jon Carroll who writes a delightful column on the back of the Datebook section of the San Francisco Chronicle.

    The ferry boat from Vallejo to San Francisco to attend a museum and a play followed by a wonderful dinner.

    The Oxbow Market in Napa, California.

    Meditation and gardening.

    Qualities I admire:

    Gentleness, humor, goofiness, trust, openness, courage.

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