Today I’d like to introduce you to another very inspiring woman: Carla White is a designer and entrepreneur who created the Gratitude Journal app for the iPhone. Shooting straight to #2 in the Lifestyles category within its first week (and receiving nearly all 5 star reviews) Carla made the app for just $500, working on the designs, managing the development and doing all her own promotion. She worked on the project between 5am – 7am before heading to her day job as an IT consultant for a government agency in Sioux Falls, South Dakota – true dedication, non? I love the simplicity of Carla’s design, and how an idea that’s seemingly so simple can be so powerful. Carla's planning to leave her day job in the summer to continue growing her business and has recently hired a life coach to help her get there. I’m already wishing we lived closer to each other as I can tell that an hour in this woman’s company would be inspirational dynamite!
SC: What inspired you to start writing a gratitude journal? How has it affected your life?
CW: In March 2008 I participated in Oprah's A New Earth series (weekly web casts discussing the book by Eckhart Tolle). I don't usually watch Oprah, but my sister recommended we do this together; we were trying to pull each other out of the funk we were still in from my father's death a couple years earlier. Reading that book really opened my eyes about being in the present. It also made me hungry for more so I started listening to Oprah's Soul Series podcasts. And that's where I first learned about keeping a gratitude journal.
I started my first journal in June 2008. At the time I was overweight, drinking too much, worried about losing my job, and struggled to get out of bed. I'm now a totally different person. After two months of daily gratitude I lost 20 pounds, my job turned around, I drastically cut my drinking, I started yoga, won some races, and my relationship with my husband was better than ever. My life has been improving by leaps and bounds ever since. My complexion glows, I've made all sorts of wonderful new friends, my income is strong, and my health has never been better — both mentally and physically.
I love that the Gratitude Journal app is a fusion of new-age theory and an ultra high-tech device – why create an app for a phone and not, say, just write a book?
It's funny you ask that. When I first came up with the idea for the app, I was out for a walk having a conversation with god. It went a little like this:
me: ‘I really want to tell everyone the power of gratitude, but how? How can I give back?’
my head: ‘I know, write a book!’
me: ‘Say what girlfriend? How about we try something a little more within our reach?’
my heart: ‘Why not do something with the talents you already have? Like your design and computer skills?’
me: ‘Now we're talking…’
my heart: ‘You love your iPod Touch, why not tap into that audience and create something for them?’
me: ‘I know! I'll create a gratitude journal for the iPhone!’
my heart: ‘…and donate your earnings.’
And there you have it, out of thin air the idea come to me from my heart. It was a way for me to contribute to the world using my strongest talents. To share the power of gratitude.
You worked on the Gratitude Journal app from 5am to 7am every morning before work – that sounds like true dedication to me! What kept you motivated?
There were plenty of mornings where I dragged myself out of bed and sat in front of my computer blurry eyed telling myself, ‘Okay, Carla, engage the brain. You can do this.’ And slowly my strength would surface and I made my way through it. Driving to work I listen to the news on the radio about people losing jobs, their life savings, and their homes. I knew we have to approach this differently. Change has to come from within each of us. To overcome this we have to change our attitudes by recognizing what we do have instead of what we don't. If I could get just one person to think differently, it was well worth my early morning sacrifices. That's what kept me going.
On your website it says: ‘Carla is on a mission to create a life of financial independence while bringing meaning and purpose to others people's lives.’ I love this! Many people would think that those two goals are mutually exclusive – what’s your take on it?
I believe the two are deeply intertwined. I have created businesses in the past with the intent to get rich. They were a struggle and brought me nothing but headaches. Now everything I create is with the sole purpose to help others — to improve at least one person's life. And it's been an absolute blast. Not only that, it's also been a huge success. If you create something with the intention is to improve others' lives, then the universe will provide everything you need to accomplish that.
You seem to be blessed with an entrepreneurial mind – how did you find yourself on this path?
My parents had a farm and five kids, so they had to be extremely entrepreneurial to get by. They taught me how to bargain, shop around, be resourceful and the value of investing in long-term relationships. Once I was on my own and traveling the world, everything I learned kicked into gear. I was constantly on the look out for mentors, picking up everything I could from other successful people. My husband is the best entrepreneur I’ve ever met and has coached me through two businesses. I'm grateful to have his endless knowledge at my fingertips.
Who and what inspires you?
The universe inspires me most. Whenever I have a problem I can't solve, be it a design or a personal issue, I toss it out to universe. I ask that my heart and eyes are open to notice the solution and to trust my intuition. Never has the universe failed me.
I'm also inspired by others’ creativity. It's the universe speaking through them. I love how unique and vast everyone's creations are. It's reflective of how unique and vast each one of us are. We all have everything we need right now to be creative and contribute.
What books/music/artists etc do you love? Could you share some recommendations?
A New Earth – Eckhart Tolle
Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life – Wayne Dyer
Simple Abundance – Sarah Ban Breathnach
Broken Open – Elizabeth Lesser
The Art of the Start – Guy Kawasaki
Four Hour Work Week – ya, threw that one in there….
The Piano Tuner – Daniel Mason
A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
Life of Pi – Yann Martel
Valley of the Dolls – Jacqueline Susann
I love starting my day with Nina Simone's song Feeling Good. My latest find is a group called One Eskimo. Degas and Klee were my first loves in art- with each exhibit I take in, my crushes and flames grow and now there are too many to count. My favourite movie of all time is Harold and Maude – it has a killer Cat Stevens sound track!
How do you switch off from work at the end of the day?
Switching off is important to me because th
at's when I receive new ideas. I have to walk away from my computer and engage my right brain. I usually go for a run reciting mantras in my head like ‘I love life and life loves me.’ I try to clear all my thoughts while soaking in mother nature. I'll also do yoga and meditate for a while. Anything to shut down that left brain.
Then I come home, put on some good music and make dinner with my husband. We love cooking. We have a relaxing dinner and afterwards go for a walk together; this is the time when we share ideas and really talk. They're the perfect end to the day.
I have a dream I want to achieve but I don’t know where to begin – what would be your advice for making it a reality?
I really believe in the power of visualization. When I created Gratitude Journal, I took a screen shot of the App Store site and put Gratitude Journal in the number one position. I had this on my desk the entire time I was creating the app.
Vision boards are extremely powerful. My last vision board had images of women public speaking. At the time I created it I had zero speaking engagements, now I have about one a week. See yourself achieving your dream; believe you can do it, trust your instincts and keep going.
A percentage of your sales goes to charity – how important is this to you?
Giving back is just as important as expressing gratitude. When you practice these two things daily, the universe keeps providing to you. Giving doesn't always mean donating money either. We all have something we can give. It can be your time, your advice, or an introduction for someone looking for a job.
It's only recently that I discovered the real power of giving. I signed up for a project to give something away everyday for 29 days – I started about a week ago and since then I can't believe the good fortune that has come my way. The more you give out, the more that comes back to you. Donating is a privilege and I love doing it.
Has being a woman in the technological world been a help or a hindrance?
I'm always inspired by other IT women; products and designs are so male dominated, we need more female contribution. I was concerned my gender would be a problem when it came to hiring a developer. I thought they would try to walk all over me, but every relationship I've had with developers has worked out like a dream. In fact, I wonder if they enjoy working with a female more.
Being female set me apart from the other 95% iPhone app owners. I get a lot of support from other female entrepreneurs. I love it when women work together helping each other succeed.
What’s your motto?
No fear. I had it on a sticker on my car when I drove coast to coast across the US — twice. Then I put it on my backpack as I traveled the globe. Fear stops us from being our true selves. And fear is based on things that already happened to us in the past. They're done, so stop fearing them. Move on and trust your instincts. Never has anything been even half as bad as I imagined in my head. A new motto that keeps popping in my head is just one word and I think the true purpose of life. And that is ‘love’.
You're having a dinner party and can choose six famous people from the past or present – who would you invite?
That's a tough one. It would be nice to have Ghandi, Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, Isaiah and Loa-Tzu get together for a pow-wow to discuss religious beliefs, but that conversation might be too heavy. In which case I'd pick Marilyn Monroe, Maya Angelo, Tom Waits, Nina Simone, Jimmy Carter and my great-great Grandpa.
And lastly, what are you working on at the moment?
I'm busy with two big projects right now. The first one is an ebook which will be available in a couple weeks. It's called Inside Secrets to an iPhone App and is the non-technical guide to creating your own iPhone app. I can't wait to see the new apps it leads to!
I'm also working on a second app that complements Gratitude Journal quite nicely which I hope to have released in May. It's another app designed to bring you happiness and prosperity.
Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with us, Carla! Don’t you all feel inspired now? There's going to be some MAJOR gratitude journaling happening tonight in this house…
There's other stuff I was going to write about today but i can't get past my thoughts for Natasha Richardson's family. She and Liam Neeson were one of those Hollywood couples you could genuinely like as their marriage seemed to be solid and they weren't too flashy; perhaps his working-class Irish background grounded her acting dynasty roots. I can think of a few films I've seen her act in, and though she wasn't particularly on my celebrity radar I'm always a little intrigued by English actresses who do well in the States – maybe you hope it'll rub off on you, somehow – the girl done good, as we'd say.
I'm sitting here at my computer on what is turning out to be another gloriously sunny day and i find i am in tears. I've always had a keen ability to empathise, and when something like
this happens this goes into overdrive and i'm transported back to my own
experience of devastating loss; the numbing shock, like ice water in your veins; the suddenness of it all; the absolute horror of the silent moment when you realise that they are gone, and how you experience this over and over and over again, for days and weeks and months. My heart aches for how her family are feeling right now.
It's common to hear trite comments about how we must hug those we love close to us in the face of such a loss, and yes, that is true and we should do that, but more than ever today i just want to take a gigantic bite out of life and devour it, greedily, messily, completely. If it was my photo on the obituaries page, i'd want the words below it to paint a picture of a life lived to the max, a life that touched others, a life that made a difference.
So today i honour Natasha Richardson; I hope she devoured her life, every thrilling glorious moment of it.