Imagination, According to 9 Austinites

By Laura Bond Williams – February 1, 2022

At every moment, we are changing – intentionally or not. We may be changing jobs, relationships, habits or hobbies. Sometimes circumstances change, and so do we. 

In March 2020, billions of people responded to the pandemic, and some changed their lives and goals on purpose. Their experiences reveal strategies for pursuing possibilities in life, even when unprecedented circumstances force our response. 

But first, imagination

An outline of a lightbulb.

How do we know what’s possible? Brooke Castillo, an Austin-based entrepreneur and founder of The Life Coach School, says we must teach ourselves.

“The only place you’re going to find it is in your imagination, and you have to teach yourself

what’s possible for you,” Castillo says. “You’re the only one who can do it.”

Imaginations — and transformations — are as unique as fingerprints, but people pursuing new possibilities share similar habits, whether it be fitness routines or a commitment to reflecting, learning and sharing knowledge. Our imaginations produce diverse creations: businesses, experiences, classes, physical and virtual spaces, and more.

Pursuing imagination to grow

Austin entrepreneur Mike Michaels’ mission is to make awesome experiences for people. As the creator of the 16-year-old Austin Events Wall Calendar, he helps people discover destinations, events and experiences the city offers. When the pandemic began, he expected in-person events and calendar sales to take a hit. 

Mike Michaels.

Credit to Tal Leeds

Michaels renewed his focus on another product of his imagination called the Eureka Room, an “immersive experience” that’s fun, curious and absurd. He pursues this mission as an In Real Life Experience Designer.

In the process of developing the Eureka Room, he began writing every day and has published the equivalent of four novels on his blog. He’s also meditated daily for more than 600 days and read 53 books in 2021. 

Michaels says imagination helps solve problems for which he doesn’t have solutions. His goal is to move the Eureka Room to a new location in 2022. 

Reesa Woolf Ph.D.

Public speaking trainer Reesa Woolf Ph.D. also saw her business surge in March 2020, especially when people couldn’t hide in the back of an in-person conference room anymore when using Zoom.

She put her imagination to work to edit her book, “Mr. Bear Speaks Without Fear.” The increased workload also prompted her to balance work and leisure to ride her bike and take walks.

Ellie Herring.

Ellie Herring, the creator of Electric Esthetics, also had her life flipped when she was fired from her marketing job in Denver, Colorado. She spent months exploring possible new careers through books and podcasts. She discovered esthetics training and enrolled in a 600-hour program to be an esthetician. Upon graduation, she moved to Austin, her hometown.

“It took some time,” Herring says. “If I hadn’t remained curious and kept looking, I don’t know if I would have ended up here.” 

Trusting imagination to create change

In early 2020, Lea Ketchum, now a trainer and mindset coach, found herself on the path of self-sabotage until she decided to change without looking back. She stopped drinking, started eating well and found her voice, a life partner and community.

Lea Ketchum.

Ketchum started working out 30 minutes a day but soon realized that working out didn’t automatically fix everything — instead, it was a catalyst to eating better, feeling better and becoming more comfortable connecting with others.

“My ability to dream and believe the impossible was integral in my life’s transformation,” Ketchum says. “I saw a woman who was at peace, happy, healthy, energetic, full of love, successful, financially free and so much more. I knew she was within me, because I imagined her existence, and I chose to do everything in my power to make her a reality.”

Ketchum also recognizes that this transformation is never over.

As long as I live, there will always be more to learn, heal and grow with,” Ketchum says. “When we become comfortable, we stop making progress.”

Business owner Lori Kendall also started a job in December 2019. She says she reached a new level in her life and career trajectory after starting sobriety in 2017. 

Lori Kendall.

In March 2020, Kendall was laid off, which was like watching her hero’s journey crash and burn. After months of disappointment in her job search, she realized she was the only business owner who would always have her best interests in mind.

Kendall started Brand + Design + Create by using her imagination to propel the concept and business plan, taking a thought and slowly turning it into a reality. 

“(Creating my business) was scary,” Kendall says. “But also, it had that element of satisfaction, whenever you push yourself and find out what you can do.”

She likens the first year of business to making the first pancake.

“The first pancake is always messy and all over the place,” Kendall says. “But you have to make that first one, in order to get these nice, beautiful, well-made ones later.”

Samantha Connors.

Another Austinite, Samantha Connors, says March 2020 was a dark time with an uncertain future. As a health and wellness professional and lifelong competitive swimmer, she left her job at a sauna studio and changes came quickly — new jobs as a swim coach and real estate agent, a wedding and a new house. She hired a fitness and nutrition coach to get back on track.

“I used to strive for happiness, but just as sadness and anger are fleeting emotions, so is happiness,” Connors says. “To be and feel whole is an entirely different concept… 2020 definitely made me reevaluate what and who was most important.”

Imagining new ways of working with technology

John Jung.

John Jung is a commercial videographer and filmmaker for the Austin Board of Realtors. When the pandemic hit, he learned to adapt their digital media production to the virtual world. When people started returning to the workplace, he created a studio to produce hybrid events.

In 2020, Jung discovered endurance cycling and a 65-mile, 7-hour urban loop from his home in North Austin to Govalle and back. He uses visualization to plan and relieve stress, whether that’s a live virtual event, video shoot or long weekend bike ride.

Alia Khan.

Another innovator, Alia Khan, prefers the terms “innovation” and “flexibility” to describe the mental gymnastics involved in navigating the pandemic as a business owner. She moved herself and her business from Washington D.C. to Austin in 2019 and opened Oak + Lotus Yoga three months before lockdown. 

“To me, imagination is the beautiful, whimsical, creative part of my brain that has allowed me to design two uniquely beautiful studios and create magical experiences,” Khan says. “Thanks to the magic of the Internet, I am still able to serve my amazing D.C. community while building a new one here in Austin.”

Another example of new opportunities arising includes the experience of David Voss, who teaches dance, yoga and tai chi to veterans receiving care at the Austin VA Clinic. But COVID-19 changed the way he worked, and he adapted by moving his classes online.

David Voss.

As a veteran of the U.S. Army and the entertainment industry, Voss says his creativity flows when he is moving. 

“(Through) a simple jog at the trails, dancing or tai chi, creative thoughts come to mind for new dances, videos and ways to address things in general,” Voss says. “During these ‘movement moments,’ I let my imagination open to explore different possibilities and new connections.”

Yes, imaginations are as unique as our fingerprints, but when we put them in motion, we create new experiences and connections that are the sweetest fruits for all.


About the Author

Laura smiling.

Laura Bond Williams is a certified Pilates teacher and professional life coach helping clients discover new ways of moving through life with ease and awareness. She loves a good Broadway dance class or “Thriller” flash mob and is happy to take the stage anywhere, from the Long Center to a parking lot. 


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