2013 Spring

Five Rules to Live & Die By to Find Work That Lights You on Fire by Julie Schumacher

Molly Rudberg is quite the powerhouse. She's positively vibrating with energy and enthusiasm and passion and interest and likes nothing more than to help others vibrate too. She was an obvious person to bring to our Spring '13 salon, which was all about Starter Stories. We asked Molly to share some tips on how to start living and working with a fire in your belly. Molly Rudberg

As a Reinvention Coach and Organizational Catalyst, I travel around the working world discussing passion, purpose, and personal brand. I work with people looking to make the most of their work lives. And, I gotta say, I love my work.

Wherever I go, whether I’m talking to people new to the work force or veteran executives, people in creative industries or more buttoned up 9-to-5’ers, there are three questions that consistently come up. Since part of my job is seeing, identifying, and finding meaning in patterns, I figured that means it’s time to look at those questions a bit deeper.

Three Questions I Get Asked. A lot. *How do I connect to meaningful work? *What can I consistently do to produce work that lights me (and the world) on fire? *Where can I find tools or resources to make this happen for myself and/or employees?

Before I give you some answers, here’s why I keep getting asked the same questions. Executives, mid-level managers, employees, and entrepreneurs—all acting without intention every day. Instead of brimming with intention they are knee deep in work that brings, instead, disconnect, exhaustion, and unhappiness.

And let me tell ya – it’s killin’ lots of people’s fires. And that kills me.

The alternative isn’t just an easy walk in the park. It’s called work, right? Finding our purpose, passion, and ultimately, personal brand in our vocation, it takes work. It is a commitment we make with ourselves to pursue only the very best and brightest for ourselves. It requires getting out of our head and back in to our entire being—looking at the whole instead of what lies immediately in front of or within us. It’s a connection with a higher self that refuses the busy, chaotic, disconnected life we’re living at work and demands a deeper dialogue around what matters only to us.

So how do you go from an empty tank run on caffeine, nicotine, and crushed dreams to a tank bursting with enthusiasm and ideas at work?


There are Five Rules I live by every day that keep me on track and continually offer up a new perspective on working and living. Commit to even just one and you’ll find that organically the others show up, too.

1. The Grand Experiment.

View your career as one big experiment. Remember science class in junior high with beakers and Bunsen burners? Remember mixing and matching, lots of smoke and different color liquids, laughing and failing over and over and finally creating and experiencing success?

View your career in the same mindset. Place yourself in different professional roles, evaluate your experiences, ask a different set of questions, inject different people, places, and goals, dare to fail. Fail spectacularly and pick yourself back up. Analyze like a scientist what brings happiness, exhaustion, electricity. Drill down, dig, discover, and demand for yourself. Be the beaker. Be the liquid. Be the fire.  Remember, failing is just another avenue on a long road toward finding your true work calling.

What it looks like: Choose to inject something or someone new in to your work world today. For extra points, choose someone or something that scares you!20130530_FORTH-6619

2. Choose Risk. 

“Life is inherently risky. There is only one big risk you should avoid at all costs, and that is the risk of doing nothing.” – Denis Waitley

Everyone talks that game—but not everyone actually DOES it, actually actively selects risk.  I thought for a long time, to risk was to choose death. Yet I woke up feeling less and less alive as I stayed in my safe, warm bud. I was warm, but that was about it. I wanted to be on fire.

It wasn’t until I peeked out of that safe space that I saw the enormous world of opportunity and possibility that awaited me. From people to projects to learning new skills and tools—my work world has expanded beyond comprehension as I watched myself gain, fall short, gain again and grow. I now choose risk every day. It’s an active choice. I dare myself to grow.

What it looks like: Observe something that feels safe today. Imagine a new possibility for your work through risk. Choose to step toward it. Notice how it changes your work and world. Make this a daily ritual.

3. Redefine Success

Our entire lives we’ve been told by parents, society, teachers, religion, you name it to follow a certain map to follow a certain route to get to a certain place. A map that has straight lines, very few rest stops, no detours, and very little fun. The map reads something like this:

“Follow this rule/person/thing/job/money.” “Don’t step out of line.” “Don’t challenge or question.” “My way or the highway.” “Don’t be yourself.”

The working world has changed and a new set of rules is emerging. This new world has a new map. It requires us to question everything. To find our career calling, we must smash those old routes and beliefs. Re-define what a successful life and work means to YOU—and shitcan all other thoughts. Do not limit yourself to the traditional career path and preconceptions of success. Think broader, bolder. Live only in your own defined, hi-def version of success.

What it looks like: What is one belief or story you have about yourself related to work that requires challenge? Do that.  Challenge, re-imagine, change. Rinse, repeat.


20130530_FORTH-63664.Find your tribe

Your community will be a place of support, friendship and power. Feed it, nourish it, protect it, and support the hell out of it.

These will be the people who show up to your speeches and clap the loudest, tell you the truth when you fall short, hold your hand when you’re afraid, and challenge you to rise to your true calling, values ,and potential. These are the people who feed your fire—and stick around to feel (and celebrate) the flames.

Find your tribe of people. Nurture those relationships. Give more than you get. When you forget who or what you were meant to do in your work (which  happens to every single one of us), you turn toward your tribe.

What it looks like: Name one person in your working world you consider part of your tribe. Have you formally acknowledged and thanked them for their support? Gratitude for those who are there. Think about a personality or approach you need in your tribe. Seek them out, boldly.

5. Ready, Set, GO

You’ve done the hard work. All done, right?

Not quite. Now you need to take action. Stay in meaningful, intentional motion. If you wait for opportunity to plop in your lap, or your work purpose to appear before you in bright lights, you risk stagnation—or worse, a career that resembles a corpse.

Wild work success isn’t about going through the motions without intention. It’s about sharing your energy, enthusiasm, and authentic star power with the working world, right now and forever more.  Your true calling will only be able to withstand you for so long.

What it looks like: That project you’re scared to go after?  The person you’re afraid to approach?  That piece you can’t seem to write? Do it. Now. Like, RIGHT NOW. It won’t be perfect. But it will propel you forward in to a world that is waiting for you.


Like what you read? Check out Molly's site to learn more about her work. Connect with her on LinkedIn or follow her on Twitter for major inspiration.

Forth Cocktail by Julie Schumacher

Olivia Suchman Joffrey. This woman. I mean, c'mon. She designs and makes kick ass wedding invitations at Vigilante Paper (her Rebel Bride Guide is phenomenal, and free( and explores an unconventional life on her blog Vigilante Living. When she sent us an email the week after the Spring '13 Forth, she talked about the magic of Forth as a well-made cocktail and said she had an illo in mind. Oh boy did she.

If you've been curious about just what happens at a salon, this might help explain it. And to Olivia, we say "Chin chin, rad lady." Forth Cocktail_Vigilante Paper


With our Spring '14 salon nary a week away, we're excited to shake & stir with a new batch of wonderful women. Curious about the meringues? Here's a recipe.

Forth Follow Up With Jill Salzman by Julie Schumacher

Jill Salzman is currently growing her third entrepreneurial venture, The Founding Moms, the world’s first and only kid-friendly collective of monthly meetups for mom entrepreneurs. She's also a sought-after speaker, published author, e-book editor, and podcaster. Jill was a natural fit for our Spring salon focused on starter stories. She starts more things before breakfast than most of us will in a lifetime. Here, she shares how community and business are connected. 20130530_FORTH-6323 (1)

It still baffles me every time someone asks, "Why is building a community so important to your business?" I am nothing without my community. My community is nothing without me. It's such a part of (my) human nature that I can't see a world—or a business—without it. It also seems to be a challenge for many folks to try and conquer. How does one build this thing called "community?" Where do all the people come from? How do you get them there? And why on Earth would they have any interest in what I'm doing?

The first community I ever watched grow like crazy belonged to The Grateful Dead. Their fans were dreaded. And smelly. And so rabid that they created a monster of a brand and sold thousands upon thousands of concert tickets, CD's and t-shirts. One day, it occurred to me that Oprah was doing the same thing. Her audience not only liked her, they loved—even obsessed—about her with a religious fervor that has since only been matched by Justin Bieber's Beliebers.

There was a common thread throughout all of these communities that I was noticing, and as both a music junkie and a Barbra Streisand fan, I knew Babs was right: People who need people are the luckiest people in the world. What she did not sing, though, was that they were quite profitable, too.

In my early entrepreneurial days, I assigned myself the task of helping touring bands grow their fan bases. I became a student of social media. I watched bigger artists' sales methods and applied them to local bands. I became a professional roadie, helping my clients put up band posters around town and selling their CD's at the back table in the music venue. For each and every band I championed, there was a fanbase. The intensity of their love for the artist grew only if the band fed them.

That was the first principle I learned: A community can only grow if there is mutual admiration. Fans can't do it alone, and the "host" (for lack of a better term), can't thrive on adoration alone, either. It's one big happy lovefest of a feedback loop. I took what I learned from those days and have applied it to every business I've started since. It's worked every time.

My latest venture, The Founding Moms, began as a self-serving meetup to help me understand how to juggle running a business with raising a baby. In four years we've gone from one monthly 10-person meetup in one small village to monthly meetups for mom entrepreneurs in 41 cities in 7 countries around the world. It blows my mind—still!—that so many women identify with this "entrepreneurial mom" thing and yet it makes so much sense.

So, I spend most of my time getting feedback from our members, building on their needs, and asking for more feedback to continue building. It's really the only way I know how to build a company at this point. As I write this I'm realizing that my mantra really should be: "No community? No company." Let's ™ it just in case.

That's really what drew me to Forth. There are a lot of communities that exist now to help women in business, or that help women help other women. But Forth instills something stronger. Something more intimate. The caliber of person who showed up to my first Forth event was extraordinary. I'd never met such a diverse group of women who were ready, from the get-go, to open up and talk about business issues—and at times, personal issues—so openly. It was refreshing, to say the least. I had a ball. And having run an organization that supports women entrepreneurs for years—it takes a lot for me to find a community-building event refreshing. I'm honored to be associated with Forth. Tickles me pink, actually.

Hip hip to high caliber, diverse, rad women. 20130530_FORTH-6467

Forth Follow Up: Finding Power in Home with Cheryl Muñoz by Julie Schumacher

Cheryl Muñoz is a community builder and entrepreneur with the heart of a poet and eye of an artist. As the co-director of the Sugar Beet Co-op, Cheryl's taken a neighborhood idea and brought it to fruition, all while supporting local farming and advocating and educating for smart food choices along the way. Almost a year ago, she attended our first Forth, a Spring event dedicated to the courage and excitement of starting something new. With final lease negotiations moving forward, everyone at Forth is thrilled to see the successes of one of our own. In this Forth Follow up, she shares on the rooting power of home...from where so many journeys and stories start. 20130530_FORTH-6618

I have drifted too long.

That is, I had drifted long enough to know that I am home now. Home in so many ways, with my family, with my things, with my big ideas and with my challenges and regrets. We are all comfortable with each other here in this rickety bungalow. The sound of the front door opening and the distinct foot fall of the children and animals and husband who make this home with me. It’s what I know.

This comfort in chosen company, I reflect, did not come easy to me. Of course, I had sisters and friends and parents that brought me up well, but I rarely felt accountable or fully needed. Through school I met well-meaning people who guided me, brought out my talents and encouraged me, but I was never asked to stay and give my all. I was always pushed forward towards something unknown but “greater." No matter how genuine the friendships were, in the back of my mind I knew we’d go our separate ways, seeking a person or a place that would ask us to stay and settle in. We’d find community one day.

Community can be defined as regional, historical, political, or you know, in those ways that we have little say in but are somehow part of. We are just gathered up, accounted for, and shown off to boast a narrative that translates to power. The power, though, is someone else’s.

I learned my own lesson about community, though, when I started taking my power back and began to define my own identity. No longer would I be a starving artist, an undereducated girl from Kentucky, a flighty one with no followthrough or a wild card. As I let all that go I started to appreciate the clean slate that I had created as the perfect place to build a new narrative of self.

New beginnings let love in and seven years ago, my brand new husband and I were expecting our first baby. There was no one to push me forward to find the next best thing or to challenge me to find my path. Rather, I woke up each day to a little family that expected me to be there.

They needed me and I longed to feel needed more than anything. Creating a family is perhaps the most meaningful step I have taken towards creating community. Pregnant with our second child, my husband and I moved to Oak Park which so easily became home to us. Oak Park, with it’s treelined streets and beautiful architecture also has an undercurrent of unrest. I soon met many neighbors who were involved in social justice work, fighting for fair housing and better schools and raising up and caring for those who are struggling.

My purpose evolved from caring for my family to caring for my community. In my work, it's through the Sugar Beet. But it's elsewhere, too, where that purpose of home roots me in my power. My congregation at Unity Temple said that I was needed at the food pantry, at the preschool class, at the fundraiser. My son’s principal said I was needed at the school picnic, at the community garden, at the public forum. I was needed to babysit, bring food for sick neighbors and help with someone’s garden. I was, for the first time, asked to stay, settle in, and give of myself.

I found myself return.

The idea of fulfilling work—a job that reflects our passions, talents, and values—is a modern invention while creating community is an ancient one. I found my life's work by collaborating with neighbors to build a community-owned grocery store that celebrates local artisans and farmers, The Sugar Beet Co-op. I believe that communities like Forth are essential to realizing our dreams for meaningful and fulfilling work that satisfies much more than the bottom line.

Cheers to that Cheryl. Cheers to that. We can't wait to see what this Spring has in store for you and The Sugar Beet.


2013, an instagram retrospective by Kelly Allison

We three Forths take so much pleasure in planning each of our seasonal salons. From the basic thematic elements, to the cuisine, to the way we set the table -- every detail is intentional. Our hope is to create a rich environment that is welcoming, nurturing, and inspiring all at once. Through the lens of Instagram, we're able to see how our welcome is received. Thank you to all of our guests, for joining us on this first year's journey, and to all of our insta-photo contributors, for cherishing the details with us.

S P R I N G  S A L O N

instagram feed

Instagram contributors (in no particular order)  mrudbergvicelightadeleyoungstepbrightlykallisonphoto


See the rest of the seasonal retrospectives after the jump.


S U M M E R   S A L O N

forth chicago instagramInstagram contributors (in no particular order) paigeworthy, lepapierstudio, refindjoy, kellitaylor, stepbrightly, kallisonphoto


A U T U M N   S A L O N

forth chicago autumn salonInstagram contributors (in no particular order)  nimblewell, johanna_wh, estera_style, manamica, odevron, shannoncologne, wellturnedwords, stepbrightly, kallisonphoto


W I N T E R   S A L O N

winter instagram feedInstagram contributors (in no particular order) soniaroselli, lepapierstudio, odevron, jessicamjacobs, mrudberg, paigeworthy, estera_style, alikucz, kellitaylor, annetruppe, shannoncologne, rachelalcorn, wellturnedwords, stepbrightly, kallisonphoto

Creating the right ambiance for an event by Lisa Guillot

Janelle from Re:find Joy shares her Forth experience with us:Forth Chicago event planning and styling

Forth Chicago event planning and styling

Forth Chicago is one of those events that you dream will some day come along. As an intimate seasonal salon for women, I really felt a connection to this event and what they were trying to accomplish. I was absolutely overjoyed when the ladies of Forth invited me along to provide props and assist with styling. 

Creating the right ambiance for any event takes the right combination of artistry, thoughtfulness, and attention to detail. It is important to me that attendants FEEL something, and this was especially true of the Forth Chicago events. Here we were, putting a group of women in a room together who had never met...and yet we were hoping they would feel comfortable and welcomed enough that they would open up to each other. . . and they did!

I think this had something to do with setting the stage. With each event came a theme, and we made sure to express our intentions in every detail. From the food and table settings, to decor and lighting, we wanted to make these women comfortable from the moment they stepped through the doorway.

For the Spring Forth, our intention was the idea of starting something big. With this bold idea, we wanted a strong color scheme so we went with jewel tones. I pulled props that reminded me of strength…goblets in rich violets and amber, bold green glass floral containers, and I topped it off with gold-tiered trays and platters. Every detail was decadent and bright.

Forth Chicago event planning and styling

forth props 4

It was my hope that pieces from my collections would help create the right atmosphere. I believe that props are meant to be a backdrop of sorts, an accompaniment to the real star. They are there to make everything ELSE look good. I always try to think about this when choosing pieces. I pay attention to textures and surfaces that will not only compliment the items around them, but that will call to each other from across the space. It is important to see the big picture, even while choosing such seemingly insignificant details.

With every new client or event comes a new set of rules and parameters. It's quite an adventure, with ever-changing terrain. That's the best part of the job! I love to play with different ideas to create new displays, to take people to another place. Creating in any way is a magical thing, and I hope people continue to appreciate the beauty of it. Forth allows for such magic, because each event is a new canvas, and the atmosphere is already buzzing with energy. When you are a part of something this powerful, you carry that energy with you long after the event has passed. Forth is an outlet for transformation, positivity and growth.

Thank you so much for sharing your insight Janelle! We love the atmosphere and ambiance that you, and your carefully curated props and objects provide the Forth events.

Expecting the Unexpected by Kelly Allison

Forth Chicago styling
When Lisa brought the idea of Forth to the table, I didn't quite know what to think. The words BRILLIANT! WONDERFUL! INCREDIBLE! and INSPIRED! were all in the front of my mind, and I was beyond thrilled that she wanted me to be a part of her brain child. But even though I was so excited about this new venture, I was more than a touch overwhelmed by the thought of trying to start from scratch & create something that had so much potential. I never would have been the voice of dissent out loud, but my inner nay-sayer waivered somewhere between 'how the heck can we begin to pull it off when all three of us are entrepreneurs & moms, to boot?' and, perhaps more importantly, 'what if nobody gets it?'
Forth Chicago stylish women
Within seconds of our first brain storming meeting, I knew Julie, Lisa and myself were more than equipped to pull it off. With Lisa's calm determination & unending stream of ideas, Julie's creative energy & kitchen prowess, and my propensity to say 'yes' to nearly everything that's handed to me, we had a sure-fire winning team.

Forth-Chicago thinking

The moment of truth came when we presented our first attendees with the proposed plan for our evening together. Instead of the blank stares or requests for clarification that I was worried we'd receive, we were met with eager participation that surpassed my wildest imagination. I was blown away with just how much people GOT it! As Forth Chicago, and as a group of bright women looking for human connection, we were gifted with each attendees presence. True presence. Each person was in the moment, and every single one of us relished in how wonderful it felt.
And my hope is that, if you ask our guests today whether the feeling lingers, they'd tell you they're still flying a bit higher than before that wonderful night in April.