Shelly Francis, author of The Courage Way: Leading and Living with Integrity (2018). is the founder of Creative Courage Press, an independent publishing company based in Palisade, Colorado that is dedicated to bringing forth “refreshing ideas for leading change from the heart.” With a career that has spanned a range of industries, Shelly’s life mission is to "be in the flow of putting creative ideas together that help people access their inner resourcefulness,” she says. “I love looking for metaphors and synchronicity that add meaning to the everyday life of being a human.”
Shelly has long been passionate about the idea of creating courage for the complexity of being human. “My work as a publisher and author coach/companion is about amplifying ‘voice and agency’ of people with remarkable and relevant ideas,” she says. “To me, ‘voice and agency’ is code word for courage. I believe the world is calling for courage of all kinds, and we can each be exemplars of courage without even realizing it.”
In writing The Courage Way, Shelly discovered there are many types of courage (physical, moral, social, creative and collective), and that courage takes trust. “Courage isn't just something you do on the spur of the moment but can be cultivated,” she reflects. “I love the idea that ‘courage exists in the space between us.’ How do we create more courage by creating trust and community, and connecting to our true selves (our identity, our story, including gifts and shadows)? There are so many complex issues without a single cause or solution, and every social institution needs reinvented, which means we need awake people to show up, stay awake, and bring their gifts to bear toward positive change. It takes courage and living with integrity to do so.”
In 2018, Shelly became a “free-range” writer, speaker, and author, coach-companion-consultant. She has worked in a range of business sectors from government and publishing to high tech and health care, and found herself veering toward the “consciousness” sector. From 2012-2018, she served as the Marketing and Communications Director of the nonprofit Center for Courage and Renewal, founded by Parker Palmer, following her role as Associate Director of Marketing for multimedia publisher Sounds True, Inc. from 2007-2012.
Shelly says the common thread throughout her career has been bringing to light best-kept secrets. “I bring people together to facilitate collective impact and good work.” The first book she launched for Creative Courage Press this year is Resilient Threads: Weaving Joy and Meaning into Well-Being by Dr. Mukta Panda. “I feel strongly about the well-being of caregivers – whether that means physicians, nurses, family caregivers, or other healers, and that means also caring about self-care of us and them,” she says. “That’s a big reason why Resilient Threads is the first book for Creative Courage Press.”
Shelly laughs that her initials are like true SeLF, the first of 5 key ingredients she identifies in The Courage Way as to how leaders have learned to cultivate courage:
“Our basic premise is that inside of each person is the essential self who continues to grow and yet somehow, deep down, remains constant. Every person has access to this inner source of truth, named in various wisdom traditions as identity and integrity, inner teacher, heart, inner compass, spirit, or soul. Your true self is a source of guidance and strength that helps you find your way through life’s complexities and challenges. When you begin to listen to and trust the truest part of yourself, your choices and relationships flow from that trust, begetting more trust.”
The next ingredient is Trust, in ourselves and in each other. “Trustworthy relationships create the conditions for people to flourish and for positive change to arise.” Community is the third ingredient, which Shelly conceptualizes as “solitudes alone together” and a “community of inquiry.” The final ingredients, or key practices, are Paradox and Reflection. “We can learn to practice paradox by recognizing that the polarities that come with being human (life and death, love and loss) are ‘both-ands’ rather than ‘either-ors.’ We can learn to let those tensions hold us in ways that stretch our hearts and minds open to new insights and possibilities.” Reflection, Shelly argues, cultivates more ways of knowing and learning that complement the mind and emotions but draw from a deeper place: intuition, imagination, and innermost being. “Reflection is a practice that can be enriched by the mirroring of trust-worthy companions.”
Shelly encourages readers and listeners to consider the five ingredients as something they can “hold in their hand” or write on their hand, with true self being on one’s index finger, followed by trust (middle finger), community (ring finger), paradox (pinky), and ending with reflection on one’s thumb.
Shelly is also a photographer – and coined a new job title, “meta-phor-tographer” – because when she takes pictures, she is looking for an underlying metaphor that will inspire and delight people and encourage them to reflect. Shelly enjoys using elephants as a metaphor for courage and wholeness, which shows up in her business logo and Instagram feed.
Shelly strives to find joy and balance in the unfolding of what’s next. She’s currently working on two more books tentatively titled The Reframe Game and RE: The Elephants. “I’m pondering the idea of ‘presence.’ I feel like the universe is calling me to live into what I’ve been writing about – which is leading a life of integrity. I define that as aligning who I am with what I do.”Join us in conversation with this author and publisher who is using her voice and agency in service of courageous and whole-hearted living.
Creativity is my caffeine. I love being in the flow of putting ideas together that reveal a metaphor or a message about connecting to one's inner resourcefulness. I have been involved in writing and making books since I was eight years old at least, if not earlier. In the past two years I have become an author coach/companion and started a small publishing company called Creative Courage Press. I am focused on amplifying the voices of remarkable authors and their refreshing ideas that speak to the interplay of courage and creativity for the complexity of being human. The first book I published was Resilient Threads by Dr. Mukta Panda, a guest on Awakin in May.
I often say that synchronicity is my religion. There was a day in 2012 when I was finishing my first book and choosing a quote for my About the Author page. I choose a quote from the book Let Your Life Speak by Parker Palmer. I was introduced to his work in a women's writing program, where I had written my memoir about surviving cancer as a caregiver and embracing life when it changes. That evening, the woman who led that writing program sent me an email saying there was a job opening at the nonprofit Parker founded, the Center for Courage & Renewal in Seattle. My son was going off to college soon and I was ready for a change, wanting to move to the West Coast from Denver. The shorter story is that I applied for and landed the job. Working there for six years was a major influence on my life and led to me meeting so many amazing people, learning transformative ideas, and writing The Courage Way book.
For my college graduation, my dad gave me the book, "Do What You Love, The Money Will Follow." He was a self-employed architect most of his career, which meant he had a home office when I was in high school. His first love was restoring antique cars and being an artist. That gesture gave me courage to pursue purpose and meaning as much as "making a living." It also instilled a value for how to approach honoring work and family commitments.
Going to an elephant refuge and spending time being with elephants. I don't know that I will ever get to meet the first elephant who inspired me back in 4th grade (she was an elephant who could roller skate) but I'd like to meet the woman who rescued her from being the mascot at a tire store and has gone on to advocate for many more elephants.
Let's create more courage.