Grow Your Gifts

Lisanne Eng, Founder of Makana Arts

Lisanne Eng, Founder of Makana Arts

Guest blogger, Lisanne Eng of Makana Arts, shares her story in our series of posts on the topic of self care.

Five years ago, I was your classic Silicon Valley type A workaholic. At the time, I thought I worked hard and played hard, but in reality, I was overstressing myself altogether whether it was in the context of work, or so called “play.” In general, I often felt like I was bouncing from one activity to the next as if I were racing to complete a checklist of life that I strategically created for myself to fulfill whatever goals I was focused on at the time. What truly mattered to me had gotten very lost along the way of life as I had become so consumed by my career. When I had hit a point of total disenchantment while at my last startup job, I realized something had to change. Significantly. Years of accumulated stress had converged to an undeniable head both emotionally and physically. 

So I did something bold - I quit my job with nothing else lined up or any real idea of what I was going to do in the long run. It was both uncomfortable and scary, but I knew I had to do it and luckily my husband was incredibly supportive of this. I spent an enormous amount of time soul searching to understand what matters to me the most. I fought with myself over so many things. It was during that time that my mom told me that I should be more “Hawaiian”. While I grew up in Hawaii, but I am not technically of Hawaiian descent. Instead, I am considered “local” and what my mom meant by her comment is that I needed embrace the mindset unique to the culture of islands which is centered around embracing aloha – love, gratitude, connection, laughter and life. Had I really lost sight of this? My roots in Hawaii are very much a big part of who I am, and I guess I needed a reminder of that. Taking this recommendation to heart and considering other key elements of me, including the driven, type A part, I started my own business originally called Makana Succulents. I rechanneled my much of energy and experience in product development, marketing and sales, and added a large dose of my very dormant artistic side to create a small business focused on handcrafted concrete planters and unique succulent arrangements. I chose the tagline “Grow Your Gifts” because it was all about life’s gifts in so many ways. Makana is Hawaiian word for gift and “Grow your Gifts” is a personal reminder to cultivate what matters the most and share it with the rest of the world. It’s kind of like my own personal “aloha” and it reflects so much about me. Since then, my small business project has evolved from just planters and succulents into an exploration of art, design and making things. I now operate under the name Makana Arts and have recently joined an artist community which is a bit of dream that I think I denied myself of pursuing a long, long time ago. 

What I have learned is that sometimes less is actually more and slow is actually better and stronger. Slowing down is so difficult in today’s world as we are bombarded with various distractions vying for our attention. It feels like it is way worse here in Silicon Valley. But when we slow down it forces us to see what is right in front of us with more clarity. Looking back, I realize this is all part of the process centered around taking care of oneself – appreciating what really matters and putting one’s energy, heart and soul into those things whatever they may be. These are “gifts” in life and also the things stay with us for a long time. 

Whatever your gifts are – people, talents/abilities, time, experiences - appreciate them and grow them!