James Chartrand got my attention early on in my foray into social media. I was intrigued by her humour, wit and presence, whether on a Men With Pens blog post or in a 140 character tweet.
And yes, you read that right.
Her story is both shocking and inspiring, and like many who commented on this initial reveal, I was surprised that it’s still an issue in this century.
The tagline for this series is Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things, and James is a perfect example of what I mean by that.
She did what needed to be done – to raise a family, have a successful and fulfilling career, and thrive in a society that still takes issue with gender.
What’s uncommon is that she did it without fanfare. She simply did what it took.
The lesson in that IS extraordinary.
It’s easy to let circumstances stop you. At some point, you’ve probably thought, “It’s not the right time to…start a business, pursue your dream, commit to a relationship” etc.
Newsflash: It’s NEVER the right time. The circumstances and your reasons will always be there. That’s life. But you can choose to focus on what you want instead. Reasons or results. Choose.
That’s the part of James’ story that really inspires me. She had a lot of reasons – to play small, get a job and survive. But she didn’t. She took a bold, gauntlet-has-been-thrown stand for living life on her terms.
I was already a fan when I listened to James’ interview with Srini on BlogcastFM. Quirky, down to earth and so endearingly Canadian, it’d be true to say I’ve now got a girl crush on my fellow Canuck!
I told myself I wouldn’t gush (but what the hell, eh James?) – I love the site, love the writing and my newest business goal is to have a Men With Pens full site makeover within the next year!
I was moved by James’ responses to the questions, and it is with real pleasure (and a bit of Canuck pride) that I share them with you now.
James Chartrand of Men With Pens
Note from James to get the ball rolling (and because it made me smile):
I gotta say, this was the toughest interview EVER. I took one look at the questions and sat back and thought, “What’ll I answer to this?!” I like to give good, thoughtful interviews, but I’d never been asked questions that were deep and meaningful in this way. So first of all, thank you, for having asked the questions that I feel are important enough to take nearly a week to answer (after lots of thought) and second… I hate you 😉
1. Why are you here?
This was the toughest question. The simple answer to, “Why are you here?” is, “Because I was born.” From there, answering further could spiral into zen-like answers of existentialism and whatnot… but let’s take it a more literal way and apply it in the sense of “why are you here… NOW?”
I’m here because first and foremost, I want to create a rich, successful life that brings me happiness. By rich and successful, I don’t necessarily mean financially – money’s nice, but it’s essentially simply a means to a goal, right? When you have all the money in the world, what do you want?
So I’ll now answer that – what do I want?
I want to have security, safety and comfort. I want to know I can buy what I’d like fairly easily. I want my family to never have to worry about whether they can actually have the things they need – a nice home, a good education, and a foundation for their future. I want a small circle of close friends and mutually beneficial relationships that leave all parties thankful and grateful for having good people in their lives.
I want to be respected for my ideas and my thoughts, and I want to use those to create impact and change in other people’s lives. I want to be able to work on projects that leave me feeling fulfilled and satisfied, ones that are both enjoyable to me and useful to others. I want the knowledge that I can always land on my feet and the liberty to work towards my goals, whatever they may be.
(Note from me: As a coach, I love how James’ reframed “Why are you here?” into “What do you want?” the most basic of all questions, yet often, the most difficult to answer.)
2. What is your future self calling for?
Businesswise, my future self would love a nice office in Montreal, several plane trips to visit clients throughout the year, important contracts with clients who appreciate my counsel and who produce results from them, and financial security.
Personally, my future self wants to maintain the good relationships I have with close friends and to nurture new ones so that I always have a tight group of people in my life and that we always support each other and share victories, no matter where we are or what we’re experiencing.
3. How do you honour that calling?
I’m very conscious of the business and personal moves I make and always try to take decisions that match my beliefs, values and goals. I work on reducing and eliminating limiting aspects, from external to internal, and always strive to be a better person, every day of my life.
(Note from me: Y’all know by now that I love any talk of values right? She’s really speaking my language here; is it any wonder I have a crush?)
4. What is both effortless and life-giving to you?
Friendship. Strong friendship. Once I’ve established a good relationship with a person and have reached the point of declaration of friendship, I’m always there for that person in an honest, respectful and supportive way, insomuch as I can provide this to the person.
Assistance is another. I’ve rarely turned down someone who has come to me asking for help, even if all I can do is be quietly supportive. I like to help others who want and need the help, and I’m always willing to listen and be there when people need me.
5. What do you do better than anyone else?
To say I do something better than *anyone* else seems incredibly arrogant – an old coach of mine once told me, “You can always improve. You are never done learning.” And thus, I believe there’s always someone who has mastered an area more than I have… which is awesome, because that means I can always learn more about what I love.
What I do well, though, includes a few things: I like to question the rules and look at all the options. I can think up fast, easy solutions or improvements on the fly – ones that actually get results. I enjoy writing and taking on challenges… and of course winning them 🙂
(Note from me: People often think arrogant, but I’m coming more from a place of ownership – owning what we each do best!)
6. What is extraordinary about your work?
My work gets results. My work actually changes people’s lives for the better, quickly and in a way that’s very noticeable. My copywriting clients make more money. My blog readers achieve better success. My writing coach students gain more confidence and ease. My design clients … well, they just take home the gold cup of victories.
Is any of that extraordinary? No – but it sure is rare in today’s world, and I’m very proud that I own a business that creates impact, change and positive opportunities for people… often beyond their expectations.
7. What is guaranteed to inspire you?
A business problem. The second someone says they’re struggling with this or that, or they need help with, or they can’t see a solution, or they’d like ideas… well, I’m all over that. I’m sitting up straighter, perking up and saying, “What about this? And you could do this – ooh, and here’s why that’ll work, and this is how it’ll be better, and you could even do this…”
Psychology is another area that inspires me. I studied to have a private practice but left this area in favour of business, writing, marketing and design – which was fortunate, because the two areas blend nicely to create even greater impact.
But I digress. Psychology as a whole interests, intrigues and inspires me. I love learning about people and how they work, what they react to. I enjoy looking at different perspectives and ways of thinking and could probably spend most of my life happily ensconced in an interesting textbook!
8. What will your epitaph say if you’ve lived life on your terms?
“Much loved, very missed. You’re always in our hearts.”
End note: My answers (without having looked at how other people answer) feel incredibly egotistical and self-important. That said, I didn’t edit anything about this piece and wrote it top to bottom without correcting, rereading or changing a word. From the heart is the best way for these things, isn’t it?
James Chartrand is the pen name of a thirty-something leading copywriter, web business expert, book author and recognized online entrepreneur from Montreal, Canada and the founder and owner of Men with Pens.
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