Multidisciplinary artist, entrepreneur and creative activist Ali Nelson didn’t always think of herself as an artist. But in 2008, everything changed with a series of tragic events — a divorce before the age of 23, a death of a close friend, a car crash with a drunk driver that led to a brain injury — that would change her life forever. Losing up to 60% of her verbal and cognitive abilities, Ali started making things, creating piece after piece in an attempt to process it all. This began the unfolding of finding her voice and discovery of making things for a passionate living.
Today, Ali Nelson is the woman who letters behind the well-known social media handle — Ali Makes Things. Her life has been a magical, messy and unexpected journey that has led her to work with notable companies such as American Greetings, Shutterfly, Madewell, Kula Project, Warner Brothers Kohler and even the pope. Her various creative projects (including the creation of her monthly Fun Mail subscription), global explorations and social engagement have led her to believe that carefully crafted work can open new doors, spark conversations, evoke emotion and ignite us toward meaningful action.
In this conversation, Branden and Ali talk about how making things is a kind of magical portal, powered by the the belief that art has power when matched with our true voice when it has been found — often our life’s greatest work and greatest accomplishment.
Author and speaker Allison Fallon is someone who has lived into this idea that telling the truth about yourself is the hardest thing we can do, but the beginning of something really beautiful. Like many of us, she’s realized that something amazing happens when we realize we don’t have total control and are forced to surrender to a force that is bigger than ourselves.
Ally has written and published more than 10 books, coached hundreds of writers, developed multiple writing curriculums, worked as a managing editor at Donald Miller’s Storyline and recently finished writing her latest book, Indestructible. Indestructible tells the shocking story of a marriage that didn’t go as planned, the truth that shattered everything, and the beautiful unfolding around the realization that saving her marriage wasn’t worth losing herself. Through her hopeful journey, she’s learned to heal and grow stronger — because when chaos is present, change is often imminent.
In this conversation, Branden and Ally talk about seeing tragedy as an opportunity to shatter the barrier that’s between us and all the love we’ve ever wanted.
Do you believe that the catalyst for most things we create and move toward in our lives — is perhaps a broken heart? Do you think that tragedy is the underlying spark of our most important work?
For photographer and world-traveler Theron Humphrey, this statement has been one of the truest statements for the trajectory of his life. And it’s been a wild one. Theron is well-known on social media for his adventures with his coonhound Maddie. They’ve travelled the world together and started documenting their travels on Instagram when most of us didn’t know what that was. He’s a photographer who has also published two delightful books — “Maddie on Things” and “Maddie Lounging on Things” — capturing the hearts and imaginations of dog and adventure lovers all around the world.
In this conversation, Branden and Theron unpack the necessary component of doing one’s internal work. They dive deep into how the inward process and journey can bring us to a place where we realize our worth — with or without our accomplishments.
In 2010, the conflict in Somalia was raging heavily and the majority of Mogadishu and the South Central Regions of Somalia were lost to the control of the Al-Qaeda linked terrorist group al-Shabab. Somali-Canadian social activist, Ilwad Elman, living in Canada at the time, left the safety of her new home in North America to return to her home country of Somalia. Even in the midst of terrorism, conflict, and violence, Ilwad has remained in Somalia ever since — working for peace, security, and empowerment in creative and innovative ways.
Today, Ilwad Elman is known for her work at the Elman Peace and Human Rights Center in Mogadishu alongside her mother Fartuun Adan, the NGO's founder. She was voted the African Young Personality of the Year during the 2016 Africa Youth Awards. She is also the feature story in Issue 03 of the Goodnewspaper.
In this conversation, Branden and Ilwad discuss the opportunity we all have been give to live with intentionality and the opportunity to serve our communities. There is joy when we choose to educate ourselves in what is happening in our cities, and collaborate in order to add value.
How do we maintain resilience and consistency in the midst of opposition? The Women’s March was the largest single-day protest in US history—bringing together more than 3.3 million people in 500 US cities. And Linda Sarsour, a rising household name in the United States, was a big reason why that happened. But that doesn’t come without significant backlash and criticism even while promoting a message that advocates for the dignity and respect of all human beings.
Linda Sarsour is an award winning Brooklyn born Palestinian-American-Muslim racial justice and civil rights activist, community organizer, social media maverick, and mother of three. Linda has been at the forefront of major social justice campaigns both locally in New York City and nationally — particularly gaining national attention for her advocacy on behalf of American Muslims and as a co-chair of the Women's March. She is the former Executive Director of the Arab American Association of New York, co-founder of Muslims for Ferguson, and a member of the NY Justice League.
In this conversation, Branden and Linda discuss the power of choosing to embrace diversity — leaning into things that are divisive even though they are uncomfortable.
(Oh, and here’s the link to our Facebook Discussion group that we gave a shout-out to in the episode: https://www.facebook.com/groups/goodgoodgoodco/)
Award-winning writer Esmé Wang knows from personal experience how tough it is to be ambitious and deal with limitation. She is a woman who lives with chronic illness, including late-stage Lyme disease and schizoaffective disorder. She believes that just because one lives with limitations — whether they be caregiving responsibilities, disability, chronic illness, or any other life circumstance that cause you to feel fenced in, doesn’t mean a person can’t leave a legacy of creative resilience.
Esmé Weijun Wang is a novelist and essayist. Her debut novel, The Border of Paradise, was called a Best Book of 2016 by NPR and one of the 25 Best Novels of 2016 by Electric Literature. She was named by Granta as one of the “Best of Young American Novelists” in 2017, and is the recipient of the Graywolf Nonfiction Prize for her forthcoming essay collection, The Collected Schizophrenias. In her blog, The Unexpected Shape, she provides resources that assist ambitious people who live with limitations
In this conversation, Branden and Esmé tackle the question of why people living with illness need both the practice and living-out of resilience in their daily lives — and how boundaries laid out in life’s game can make things more interesting.
Becca Stevens is an author, speaker, social entrepreneur, founder and president of Thistle Farms. After experiencing the death of her father and subsequent child abuse when she was 5, Becca longed to open a sanctuary for survivors offering a loving community. In 1997, five women who had experienced trafficking, violence, and addiction were welcomed home.
20 years later, Thistle Farms continues to welcome women with free residence that provide housing, medical care, therapy and education for two years. Residents and graduates earn income through one of four social enterprises. Becca has been featured in the New York Times, on ABC World News and NPR, was recently named a 2016 CNN Hero and a White House “Champion of Change" in 2011. Her newest book, Love Heals, was published in 2017.
In this conversation, Branden and Becca go deep into the shared humanity, peace and harmony that we all long for — and ultimately, how to create the time and space for healing to happen.
What if our deepest fears are shining guideposts, lighting the way to what we truly want in life? Instead of pushing them aside, what happens if we begin listening to our fears—and allow them to lead us bravely into the unknown?
Author and illustrator Meera Lee Patel has taken the big, scary concept of fear and crafted a personal, yet universal love letter to it in her newest book My Friend Fear: Finding Magic in the Unknown. Using her own experience with anxiety, Patel help readers examines fear — where it comes from, how it can hold you back, and how it can be harnessed into a power for good.
In this Sounds Good conversation, Branden and Meera go deep into the difference between leading lives that are driven by curiosity or security — and the power of changing the story that your fear tells you.
We are so much more than our bodies or anyone’s opinion of it. We have too much to offer and too much important work to do to spend time worrying about catching up to society’s standards that all-too-often silence our self-assuredness.
Dana Falsetti is an advocate for women who want to find the confidence to live life more fully. Originally known for her strength in yoga, Dana now uses her platform to inspire critical thinking, self-awareness, and confidence across multiple media including her podcast, public speaking engagements, writing, and brand partnerships — in addition to her international yoga workshops.
She has been featured in print and online publications including but not limited to: Seventeen, People, Shape, Upworthy, Mantra, NY Magazine.. In addition, she was the 2017 Shorty Award winner in the Health and Wellness category.
In this conversation, Branden and Dana dive deep into the need for us all to come home to ourselves — and eventually, showing up in the world exactly who we are and lifting the collective consciousness.
Author, speaker, and life coach Natalie Norton’s life has been put through the ringer. She is no stranger to pain. Tragedy began with the unexpected death of her younger brother in 2007. After this event, her life slowly unraveled over the next few years with the death of her youngest son, a failed adoption of 3 beautiful children who had been living in Natalie’s home for 2 years when the state unexpectedly reunified them with their biological mother. Furthermore, a sudden ‘brain surge’/seizure left Natalie unable to communicate, remember her own name or identify her children as her own. Most recently, her 11 year old son was struck by a a compact SUV while crossing the street — leaving him no option but to spend a month in the ICU. Today, his recovery is still ongoing.
This unbelievably painful sequence of events is a mapping of Natalie’s life that, miraculously, has lead her to conclude that it’s worth sticking around for the miracle.
In this conversation, Branden and Natalie delve deep into the truth of why a personal commitment to passion and drive changes everything and the idea that our lives are meant to be so much more than the pain inside of it.
Today, there are good reasons to doubt the effectiveness of many elements of conventional activism—oftentimes marked by aggression, extreme extroversion and violence. Award-winning campaigner Sarah Corbett started looking for alternatives that appealed to the introvert, namely, craftivism. Sarah’s gentle protest approach to craftivism aims to change the world with deliberate, thoughtful actions that provoke reflection and respectful conversation instead of aggression and division.
She’s a world-traveling storyteller, has given several TEDx Talks and wrote A Little Book of Craftivism which was published in 2013, and How To Be A Craftivist, published in 2017. Also notable to mention, Malala has attended one of her workshops.
In this conversation, Branden and Sarah chat about how craftivism can be for everyone. From skilled crafters to burnt out activists, gentle protest can be for those people who want to challenge injustice in the world but don’t know what to do, where to start or how to prioritize their energies and time.
Our ability to empathize, belong and love rests on our willingness to be vulnerable. In order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen, really seen.
Jenna Kutcher is passionate about showing something deeper than perfect online. She’s a small-town Wisconsin girl who has single-handedly built a six-figure income photography business, fostered a massive social media following and currently hosts and produces the podcast “The Goal Digger Podcast” where she uses her platform to share the deepest parts of herself with intention.
In this conversation, Branden and Jenna go beneath the surface of her story — her journey of how she sees herself, her second miscarriage and the what no one told her about working for yourself.
Most of us become impatient in the process and loathe uncertainty. However, Liz Vice has reconciled this truth in a profound way by learning to soar despite roadblocks in her story. While battling with an autoimmune disease for 7 years, Liz felt she had to reconcile with the fact that she would have to forfeit her dreams — instead, her life took a turn for the spectacular.
Raised in Portland, Oregon — Liz Vice is a gospel and R&B singer and currently the music director at Hope Brooklyn while balancing touring, playing venues and festivals around the country. She has worked on the background casting for commercial and feature films such as Portlandia, Green Room, the A-List and C.O.G as well as employed by Weiden+Kennedy — an independent advertising agency responsible for clients like Airbnb, Coca Cola, Nike and Old Spice. However, Vice’s path toward film and music was not a straight one, but, rather, shaped by the dreams others had for her.
In this conversation, Branden and Liz discuss the power of calling amidst medical roadblocks and the importance of surrounding yourself by people who won’t let you quit.
Meet Flynn Coleman, a modern-day wonder woman in the world of social justice and advocacy. She’s an international human rights lawyer, educator, author and CEO of Malena, a socially conscious fashion line that focuses on empowering women artisans around the world. She has worked with the United Nations, the United States federal government, and corporations and human rights organizations around the world.
Flynn is a contributing writer for such publications as HuffPost, Global Citizen, and Darling Magazine. Flynn is also the founding fellow at the Grunin Center for Law and Social Entrepreneurship at NYU School of Law. Her passion is celebrating humanity’s diversity while constantly drawing attention to the truth that we’re all just one conversation, one smile, one laugh away from connecting with anybody else.
In this conversation, Branden and Flynn get down to the nitty gritty and discuss the idea that no one can save everything. Flynn helps us discover that this knowledge frees us up to give our energy to do the things that matter to us — and to surround ourselves around the people and causes that make us feel alive.
Every single day, it feels like the media and politicians want us to think that we live in a dangerous world filled with monsters. Inside spaces like prisons, the news wants us to believe that there is nothing redemptive inside, only disappointment and violence, rather than looking at the people inside with compassion and commonality. Nigel Poor, is a social activist, artist and co-creator of the podcast Ear Hustle who has given her life to this idea.
Nigel Poor is a visual artist whose work explores the various ways people make a mark and leave behind evidence of their existence. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally. In 2011, Nigel got involved with San Quentin State Prison as a volunteer teacher for the Prison University Project. In 2013 she started working with a group of incarcerated men producing a radio project that eventually turned into Ear Hustle — the winner of Radiotopia's Podquest contest in 2016, chosen from more than 1500 international entries.
In this conversation, Branden and Nigel chat about the important in rallying a belief that commonality and compassion might be some of the most powerful forces on Earth.
The world knows Candace Payne as “Chewbacca Mom,” the wife and mother of two from Dallas who captured the hearts of nearly 200 million people around the world with nothing but a toy Chewbacca mask, a smartphone, and 4 minutes of infectious laughter.
Candace’s viral moment of simple joy became Facebook Live’s top video. But what the video doesn’t show is Candace’s storied journey of daunting obstacles on the way to the joy-filled life—extreme poverty, past trauma, and struggles with self-worth. She recently wrote a book called, Laugh It Up!, where she tells the rest of the story behind the woman in the mask.
In this conversation, Branden and Candace chat about the unlimited positivity and possibility that each day holds if we choose to move toward defiant joy.
Does it ever feel like our souls hold massive record collections: melodies, rhythms and bass lines? Memories that ask you to dance and memories that haunt you in a minor key? Lies that become soundtracks to your days while truths play too softly to be heard? Spoken word poet, author and speaker Amena Brown seems to think so.
Amena Brown’s broken records played messages about how she wasn’t worthy to be loved. The author of five spoken word albums and two nonfiction books (including ‘How to Fix A Broken Record’), Amena performs and speaks at events from coffeehouses to arenas with a mix of poetry, humor, and storytelling.
In this conversation, Branden and Amena explore and debunk the myth that we have to always be searching for the adrenaline in order to make profound work or do impactful things.
The British born essayist, Pico Lyer, once said, “We don’t travel to move, we travel to be moved.” There is a unique power in global experiences that takes us outside our comfort zones and shapes our empathy. Abby Falik is one of those individuals who have discovered this power.
Abby is the Founder & CEO of Global Citizen Year, an innovative ‘for-purpose social venture’ on a mission to make it normal for kids to choose a ‘bridge year’ abroad after high school: an experience that builds self-awareness, global skills and grit.
Abby is a recognized expert on social innovation and the changing landscape of education. She has been featured by Forbes, NPR, The Washington Post and The New York Times. In 2016, Fast Company named her one of the 100 Most Creative People in Business.
In this conversation, Branden and Abby go deep into the philosophy behind the importance of travel and the strength in pursuing a possibility that is not yet happening.
The 1979 Iranian revolution radically shaped who Firuzeh Mahmoudi is today. She grew up witnessing massive rallies, captivated by the excitement, chaos, and hope. Years later, when protests erupted in 2009, Firuzeh — with no prior experience — organized concurrent rallies in 110 cities in support of the Iranian protesters – the largest global day of support for Iran in history.
She is now the founder and director of United for Iran, an independent nonprofit based in San Francisco that works for civil liberties in Iran — with a special emphasis on using technology to fight injustice.
In this conversation, Branden and Firuzeh talk about how working to advance civil liberties globally by advocating for human rights, supporting civil society, and engaging citizens all over the world can be the most challenging and rewarding work a person can be a part of.
Before Dr. Tererai Trent became Oprah’s “favorite guest of all time,” she was a woman with a forgotten dream and a profound desire to recreate our world for the better.
Born in rural Zimbabwe, Dr. Trent is one of the most internationally recognized voices for quality education and women’s empowerment today. She’s the author of ‘The Awakened Woman: Remembering and Reigniting Our Sacred Dreams’ — a book that shares her story of how she planted her dreams deep in the earth and they prayed they would grow and break the cycle of oppression of women today.
In this conversation, Branden and Dr. Trent go deep into the heart of the power of an awakened woman and why our dreams will have greater meaning when they are tied to the betterment of your community.
Clint Smith is a poet whose work goes beyond passion and straight into the world of social engagement — his work creatively invites his listeners out of ignorance and into the world of a real and authentic kind of empathy.
Clint Smith is a writer, teacher, and Ph.D. Candidate at Harvard University. He is a 2014 National Poetry Slam champion, an Individual World Poetry Slam Finalist, and author of the poetry collection Counting Descent. His writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and The Guardian,and he has delivered two popular TED Talks, The Danger of Silence & How to Raise a Black Son in America.
In this conversation, Branden and Clint go in deep into the heart of our work of building a better world coming from an understanding of how the world has already been built.
Seconds before Kevin Walsh was about to attempt suicide in 2007, he received an unexpected phone call from his first crush, Blake. That phone call saved his life. Now, a decade later, the two are married.
Not many people had heard their story until Kevin posted his story on Quora in answer to the question, “What is one moment in your life you thought could only happen in a movie?” His response went viral and was then featured on HuffPost, Buzzfeed, The Independent, and People.
In this episode, Branden, Kevin, and Blake go deep into the human struggle to find a reason to stay until tomorrow and the power of speaking our love for each other out loud.
When Cody Goldberg and his wife received the news that their daughter, Harper, was diagnosed with a condition that would require her to use a wheelchair for the rest of her life, it would change everything. More specifically, it would make Cody a forever zealot for inclusion of children experiencing disability in playgrounds across America after realizing how alienated they are from them by design. As a graduate of NYU in film and television who then pursued careers at Red Bull and Adidas, Cody has never accepted the idea that you have to let go of play.
He’s currently the Executive Director of Harper’s Playground, a non-profit that is dedicated to leading with the belief that the power of a well-designed and realized inclusive play space can truly transform a community.
In this episode, Branden and Cody chat about the work of being radically inclusive one playground at a time and how we can all benefit from more play.
Former prosecutor, Adam Foss is a fierce voice for compassion in criminal justice reform. He’s currently the founder of Prosecutor Impact, a non-profit organization built around the mission of improving community safety in the US by requiring better incentives and more measurable metrics for success beyond, simply, “cases won.”.
Not only did he advise President Barack Obama on criminal justice reform, but he was also named the 2017 Nelson Mandela Changemaker of the Year. There is no other way to describe Adam Foss but as a 21st century ‘Giant of Justice’.
Recorded together at Life is Good HQ in Boston, Branden and Adam discuss the difference between sympathy and empathy and gain a better understanding of the most important actor in the criminal justice system: the prosecutor.
Drake White is an American country music singer and songwriter from Alabama with a passion for storytelling. With his passionate delivery from the stage, White seems to have inherited his grandfather’s ability to touch crowds with a sermon. However, White stresses that he isn’t a preacher, but doesn’t see a problem with putting his own methods for surviving the world out there.
He’s most popular for his debut single, "Simple Life," for his label release early in 2013. A year later, White signed with Big Machine affiliate Dot Records. In August 2016, Dot released White's debut album, Spark. Most recently, he has been nominated by the CMA for ‘Entertainer of the Year’.
Drake has found the beauty between the partnership of drive and creativity. In this conversation, Branden and Drake talk songwriting, investing in others and living outside the rulebook.
Thank you to Talkspace for sponsoring this week’s episode. Go to talkspace.com/sounds and enter coupon code COUPON to get $30 off your first month.