The Future is Pro-Choice

With gas prices on a runaway train and corporations making record profits during a recession, there isn’t really much for voters on the left to get fired up about this next election.

Or, at least, that was the case until the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent reversal of  Roe v. Wade.

Now even Republicans are ready to march in blue.

It’s not going to make me too popular to say this but, as an Independent voter who knows how these games are often played, I’m not too worried about the Roe v. Wade reversal. I see it as an open door to move a woman’s access to reproductive healthcare into this century — rather than relying on the dated, and somewhat problematic, Roe v. Wade case.

Progress is a pendulum. As a society, we rarely get things right out of the gate and it is typical to overcorrect one way – then the other – before we find homeostasis and a communal balance in the middle.

And sensibilities have definitely changed in the decades since Roe v. Wade made history. So have perspectives on what it means to be Pro-Life and Pro-Choice.

Pro-Life & Pro-Choice in the 20th Century

Once upon last century, you could get away with voting “Pro-Life” if you were voting for your own conscience. If you would never get an abortion, it was considered fair to vote accordingly to express your values as part of a community standard.

Back then, if you voted “Pro-Choice,” the social assumption was that you were a person who might want to get an abortion at some point and were voting for your right to do so.

Those standards are gone.

Pro-Life in 2022

Today, if you are “Pro-Life,” you believe that any healthy woman who gets pregnant should be required to carry the baby to term. Full stop.

You believe you have the right to make moral choices for your neighbor.

You argue that a pregnant woman made her choice when she had sex (or had sex forced upon her) – even if:

  • the contraception she used at the time failed
  • she isn’t ready to be a mother
  • the father isn’t one she’d choose for a child
  • she just had a night of fun that didn’t turn out as planned
  • the child has a medical condition that indicates and short, challenging life
  • … whatever

If you are Pro-Life today, the position you must defend is that any woman who finds herself pregnant has lost her right to not be a mother. She must carry the child to term and either raise it herself or grant the child to an agency to sell to someone else through adoption.

She cannot choose to terminate the pregnancy.

If you are Pro-Life, you consider voluntary termination unethical and unnatural, even though the child in her womb might naturally self-abort during any stage of the pregnancy – first trimester … second trimester … third trimester … stillborn.

All of these are outcomes that might be chosen for the mother by natural selection but, if you are Pro-Life, you believe that the mother has no right to make this decision herself.

Only God or nature can terminate a pregnancy. Not her.

That is the ground you must defend if are Pro-Life in 2022: That you’d never do it so neither can anyone else.

By law.

If a woman becomes pregnant and is capable of carrying a baby to term, she must. Period. If she doesn’t, she is a criminal and subject to prosecution.

Pro-Choice in 2022

If you are Pro-Choice, you believe that a woman should have a choice in if she becomes a mother, when, and with whom.

Perhaps you would never personally get an abortion yourself, but you acknowledge that as your choice and allow that the world is a diverse place with people in all types of circumstances.

You understand that women become pregnant under all sorts of scenarios– some desirable and some less desirable. You believe a woman has a right to a “Reset” button when it comes to whether or not she is tied to a man, a child, or a memory for the rest of her life.

You allow for all sorts of scenarios when determining whether it’s the right time for a woman to have a baby. Maybe:

  • she went out for a night of fun and walked away with more than she planned for
  • she’s being abused and doesn’t know how to stop it
  • she tried to break up with a guy and he got her pregnant to lock her in
  • she’s madly in love but not ready for parenthood
  • she already has children and doesn’t have the ability to support more
  • … anything

If you are Pro-Choice in 2022, you believe that a woman has a right to look at her own situation, say, “Not now,” and receive professional, safe, respectful care.

Those are the lines in the sand.

Current Community Standards are Overwhelmingly Pro-Choice

Anyone is welcome to stand wherever they like on the issue but if you imagine that the majority of U.S. citizens don’t believe in a woman’s right to say “Not now” when it comes to having a baby, you are incorrect.

Gen X, Gen Y, and Gen Z are all overwhelmingly Pro-Choice. It is a majority-held cultural value now.

This is why I’m certain that the reversal of Roe v. Wade is simply setting the stage for a massive pendulum swing away from anything that looks like a Handsmaid’s Tale.

When history looks back on this moment, I feel confident it will say that the Supreme Court Justices actually did the Pro-Choice movement a huge favor. Why?

Because the U.S. Supreme Court just swung the pendulum back to the 1980s in the middle of a generation that was raised by Gen X.

And no one raised in the 1980s wants to go back to those talking points. They’ve seen how they play out and are not interested in a replay.

The course correction on allowing a woman to decide when and if she becomes a mother will be swift. I’d argue that the only thing democrats have to worry about is that it will be so swift that it won’t impact the upcoming elections in the way they prefer.

Not that it should anyway.

Democratic leadership has had more than enough time and opportunities to solidify Roe v. Wade into law over the past half century. But they haven’t – mostly because they still like it as a single-voter-issue bargaining chip.

And their voters know it.

I personally don’t know a single democrat who doesn’t see the Left’s failure of leadership in this area as intentional manipulation of a hot-topic issue. They’ve lost faith in any politician — except maybe AOC — doing anything and are simply ready to make the change themselves.

They’ll do this in many different ways, but one of the ways I’m most interested in watching is how they’re going to start making Jury Nullification a thing.

Because it’s totally going to start being a thing if women and doctors start getting prosecuted in restrictive states.

If you’re unfamiliar with jury nullification, it’s the finding of a jury that a law shouldn’t be a law and, therefore, even if the person on trial is technically guilty of breaking every letter of it, the accused is not in the wrong.

The law is.

Jury nullification puts the law on trial, not the person. And you’d better bet it will become a rampant phenomenon if mothers and doctors start getting prosecuted for terminating pregnancies according to unforgiving state laws.

Today’s generation waits for no politician. They are more than willing to subvert the system themselves. In fact, they’re chomping at the bit to do it.

Change is Coming

So if you are Pro-Life and you’re celebrating, you can stop now. The U.S. Supreme Court did your cause no favors this summer.

The good news is that you still have a right to carry all your pregnancies to term. The bad news is that community standards no longer support you making that decision for your neighbor.

If you are Pro-Choice, congratulations. It may not look like it, but the winds just shifted massively in your favor.

If current, impotent leaders don’t step up, it doesn’t matter. Community standards are on your side and you can rewrite the laws yourself without wasting your time, money, and effort marching for the attention of politicians — only to have them workshop your talking points into rallying speeches intended to draw your support as they continue to avoid taking action.

That old-school merry-go-round is a dying model and the new model is to replace anyone not taking action.

Be bold, or get out.

And a women’s right to choose just might be the issue that gets this new model organized and ready to take on an entitled establishment.

We shall see.

Regardless, the future will be Pro-Choice.

The good news is that anyone can still be Pro-Life – they just can’t make their neighbor be Pro-Life … just like their neighbor can’t force them to be Pro-Choice.

Because who wants their neighbors deciding if they have a baby or an abortion?

No one.

And that’s why the future is Pro-Choice.

Diving Light

we are not here to ascend;
we are here to dive like stars
into the abyss of night
until darkness surrounds us
so we can release our light
— unveiling the unknown
and bringing it into sight.

No, we are not here to retreat
to the glory of our former homes
but to transcend the void like adventurers
mapping paths to greater roads.

So, dive, my stars!
Descend to unconquered depths
to plant your beacon
on the path to what’s next.


Happy Holidays & a Bold New Year

I officially declare 2022 “the Year of the indoGOAT” … but more on that later.

Oh, what a year it’s been.

The best of times

The worst of times

Routine times

Quarantine times

Everything in between

If you’re like me:

  • this year went fast — REALLY fast
  • everything changed, yet nothing changed
  • you did a bit more navel-gazing than usual
  • you said goodbye to more people than you were expecting to

If you weren’t like me, you:

  • traveled a lot
  • embarked on new adventures
  • went to no funerals
  • enjoyed working remotely in an industry you hope to retire in

Honestly, I hope your year was far more adventurous and dynamic than mine. Because this year was a bit heavy for me.

The year before that was a bit heavy, too.

And I must confess that multiple unexpected deaths mixed in with bouts of quarantine and fruitless routines really gives one a lot to ponder on.

And all my pondering has led me to the same conclusion: Time is short, doubt is pointless, and if you have something to give then it’s time to get in the game.

To do that, I need your help.


If you’ve known me a while, I rarely ask for help and I certainly don’t ask for Christmas presents. But this year I’m asking for both.

This year, for Christmas, will you become my patron for the year of 2022?

Starting at $5 per month, you can fund (and vote on what you want to fund) projects throughout the year.

Projects you can expect to see include:

  • Books
  • Art
  • Videos
  • Podcasts
  • Clothing
  • & MORE

I’m seriously going to give you so much value for your investment that it’s silly. But that’s what you get when you give me a budget to create with.

Building Brick-by-Brick

For every $5 gift, a gold brick will light up on “The Yellow Brick Wall.”

(Can you see the 4 sponsored bricks that are lit up? Take note of how small they look on your screen. This is relevant later.)

If you don’t know what the Yellow Brick Wall is yet, I’ll save you the long story for now.

Long Story Short: The Yellow Brick Wall is a time capsule. Wherever it appears, guests can paint over its gold in black-and-white (NO COLORS, including grey). People can write words, paint pictures, and leave any image they like.

It is a snapshot of a record of time, place, dynamics, and people.

There are no rules of what one can or cannot depict on the wall, only the promise history will remember what you valued over gold.

But more on that later…

How It Works

Think of things this way:

  • Each $5 sponsors a brick on the Yellow Brick Wall
  • When a brick is sponsored, it changes from dark to gold with your first name & last initial on it

Bricks can be gold-lit:

  • 1-by-1
  • in groups
  • in blocks of 60, or more, to depict custom images

And for those of you wondering if you can advertise on the Yellow Brick Wall –which will be featured on my home page ALL of 2022, the answer is:


Not only will whatever BLACK-AND-WHITE image of your choice be featured on my site all year, but it will also have a PERMANENT SPOT on the Yellow Brick Wall when I mint the final image as an NFT at the end of the year.

For those of you wondering: Why a minimum of 60 bricks for custom images?

Well, if you look at the image of the brick wall above, you will see that the individual bricks are quite small/illegible on different screens.

Custom images need enough real estate to be seen.

Simple as that.

Voting For Projects

I’m starting a Patreon, where projects will be pitched, voted on, and completed in order of interest.

But you can also vote outside of Patreon and use Venmo to vote in the memo space.

  • Projects will have an allotment of bricks that need to be sponsored to begin
  • Patrons can choose to have their monthly subscription cast votes
  • Bricks — even custom-image groups of bricks — can be purchased separately to cast votes
  • If no projects are greenlit, I will work on whatever I want in the meantime

EXAMPLE: Let’s say that Pimpernel 4 is one of the projects and it gets funded. I will then make writing Pimpernel 4 my full-time focus until it is done.

Then everyone pledging $15 or more a month will get it for free.

Sound fun?


Then follow me on Patreon or Venmo me.

And may the Year of the IndiGOAT begin!

New Beginnings

For the past several weeks, groups of twenty-something influencers have been pushing an idea out into the Twitter-verse:

Disappear for 6 months

they all urge, then follow up with something like:

Spend those months working on yourself then come back a powerhouse.

I hated this advice so much that I unfollowed people who made a habit of tweeting it into my feed.


As someone who had disappeared for over a year, I saw the call to action as terrible advice. Being out of the loop that long, I felt out-of-sync, siloed, and uncertain of how to reconnect or move forward.

Given my experience, I refused to believe influencers claiming that I had gained a superpower along the way.

But had I?

Is Disappearing a Superpower?

It’s indisputable that I have changed since I “disappeared” off of social media.

For one, several people have passed away in the past year.

A year ago, I had living aunts and uncles. Now, I don’t.

All the family members of the generations preceding me are no longer with us, leaving my siblings, cousins, and me as the oldest generation living.

Friends have passed, too.

In the past year, I’ve abandoned dreams, questioned everything, worked building the visions of others, and spent more hours than I dare count meditating about it all.

My conclusion?

We are here to rise and shine. And that means I need to start working on my polish.

Long story short

I’ve had a good solid year to reflect on life, what we do with it, what others are willing to do with our time on this earth — if we let them — and I’ve decided it’s time to be ambitious.

It’s time to be honest about all the reasons my courage has failed in the past, find the vision required to show up day-in, day-out, and build something amazing.

So here we go.

I am building Z LABYRINTH through words, art, social media, and merch.

I’ll be building bit-by-bit, brick-by-brick — bricks I am allowing you to sponsor, btw.

Route 44: Here We Come

Right around my birthday, a friend gave me a dare:

Get back online.
Provide value.
If you do, I bet you could get 100,000 people to tip you
$5 before your next birthday.

A pretty ambitious dare, but isn’t that what good friends are for? To readily see in us what we are slow to see in ourselves and occasionally taunt us about it?

Another long story short: I accepted the dare and jokingly named it Route 44 (after my age).

Now, here I am at the beginning of the road … gazing at the horizon upon which I am about to build.

Everything to come is going to be a journey. And, like any journey, it requires a budget to make the journey and invest in the vision.

The journey to build Z Labyrinth is one that unfolds as we go and a vision built one sponsored brick at a time.

Sponsor a Brick for $5

blank Yellow Brick Wall brick

Like what I’m creating and want to become a permanent part of my creative legacy?

Click here to donate $5 to sponsor on a brick and put your name on the Yellow Brick Wall of Z Labyrinth.

Want to sponsor more than one brick?

The first $5 will ALWAYS put your name on a brick


you can sponsor multiple bricks and use the space to display the image of your choice in that space.

(NOTE: The image must fit the bricks you’ve sponsored — MORE INFO COMING SOON!)

To learn more, DM @SheralynPratt on Twitter or Instagram or click here (link coming soon) for more information.

Palm Reading: A Class I Never Thought I’d End Up Teaching

In the next few weeks, I’ll be teaching a class on a topic I never would have imagined: Palm Reading.

Drawing of a palm

I tend to be a random person, in general, but even I must admit that my ability to read palms is one of the more random things about me. I started learning to read palms as a teenager. I was a skeptic at the time — eager to reveal how dumb palm reading was.

Imagine my surprise when I couldn’t disprove it.

Then imagine my bigger surprise when random people I’d never met started walking up to me in public and asking me to read their palms.

Then imagine me baffled when I’d do it for free at events and end up with lines out the door.

Now, as someone who can make the odd claim of having probably read over 1,000 palms as a hobby, I can tell you that palm reading is misunderstood by most people.

Part of this has to do with the fact that so many cold readers or psychics use palms as a prop while “reading” you via some other mode. This is not palm reading.

Others misunderstand palmistry as being some sort of voodoo dark art, whereby insights are gained through psychic means. It’s not.

In concept, palm reading isn’t much different than acupressure or face reading.

Take this woman, for example:

elderly smiling woman

Few people would consider it voodoo to take a look at the lines on her face and deduce that she’s a person who has smiled and laughed a lot in her life. It seems obvious.

Similarly, a reflexology foot map like this wouldn’t strike most people as psychic magic:

Reflexology foot zone map

It’s simply a map that is either accurate or inaccurate in its claims.

Palmistry is the same level of deduction applied to a different body part. It is a compilation of observations about the shape, size, skin quality, nail quality of the hand, along with an analysis of the ever-changing lines and mounds on the inside palm.

Did you know that the lines and mounds on your hand can change pretty significantly within six months?

They can.

Palmistry is the study of why this happens, and the zones of the hands impacted by different thought patterns and physical actions.

At its core, palm reading is an observable science that can be performed without any need for faith or belief. Either the observations are accurate, or they are not.

End of story.

Once you know the zones and the types of lines you are looking for, “reading” the palm becomes nearly as straight forward as reading text on a page. The only real bias is where the “reader” likes to look and what they are comfortable saying to the person sitting across from them.

There is a textbook read for most lines, mounds, and features, however. These are what I’ll be teaching those basics in my class, including:

  • Parts of the hand that DON’T change (and what they mean)
  • Parts of the hand that DO change (and what they mean)
  • Zone maps
  • Common major/minor lines & markings

Either these concepts hold true when applied across a wide population, or they don’t. And it’s my experience that they inexplicably do.

Teaching this class is going to fun. Like all things palmistry, the opportunity came and found me. In the past month, I’ve had 4 people approach me and ask me if I would teach. I promised I would it if 8 people signed up.

Once 8 people sign up, I’ll live up to my word. So that’s where things are now.

All I know is that my random desire to disprove palmistry as a teen has led me onto many unforeseen paths ever since. And I’ve enjoyed them all.

I’ve received some of the greatest insights of my life while reading the lines on other people’s palms. It’s an odd thing to say, but it’s also true.

It’s my conclusion — after 25 years and over 1,000 palms — that palm reading passes the Useful Mirror Test as a tool one can use for moments of personal reflection. I’ve enjoyed exploring it across the years and am happy to pass the tools on to others to do the same.

As far as randomly insightful skillsets go, palmistry is a good one!

The Secret to Success: You Have All You Need to Start Right Where You Are

Last month, I was pondering what a strange ride life is and sketched this.

Shadow Box Theater Comic by Sheralyn Pratt

Life’s funny.

We all come to the same place with different eyes and develop a different picture of what joy is, what success looks like, and what stories we want to tell.

It’s pretty amazing.

As humans, we are infinite perspectives creating infinite outcomes on a planet that spins like clockwork and supports life without prejudice. The tricks to survival are an observable science. When things don’t follow that pattern of science, we call them miracles, magic, outliers, or flukes.

Meanwhile, we’re all on the same stage trying to make the best of it all while playing our part in our societies as a whole.

Some of us decide to be doctors. Others become architects. Some are chefs or mechanics. Some spend their lives being artists, musicians, or psychiatrists, or some other type of creator.

We all play a role.

I, for example, am a storyteller.

I’ve been a lot of other things in my life — worn a lot of different hats in a lot of roles. But no matter where I go or who I meet, the storyteller in me never sleeps.

Even when I quit writing altogether to pursue more practical and predictable sources of income, I’ll meet up with people and they’ll say to my face. “You’re a storyteller. Why aren’t you putting more into that?”

This is beyond flattering but also a reminder that — for as many books as I’ve written — I’ve never really gone all-in on myself and my vision for storytelling.

Why not?

I see where I want to be … and where I am … and the gap in between and always think, “I just need more practice. I’ll get there someday.”

I’ve had this same thought since I was a teenager.

It’s funny how the idea of not being enough doesn’t really age along with the rest of us. A QUARTER OF A CENTURY later and the thought that I need another 20 years of work still feels as convincing now as it did back then — pumping the brakes on my vision of things.

You see, I’ve always written stories, but I’ve also always wanted them to be illustrated — not necessarily like a graphic novel, but like a children’s book … for adults.

In my mind, there doesn’t need to be pictures on every page, but enough to do some mental lifting on world building.

Back in my teens, I imagined would do the writing and some awesome illustrator would come on board to illustrate.

I was 18 the first time I asked an illustrator to partner with me on a story.

After explaining my vision to them with wild enthusiasm, I noticed that the artist wasn’t smiling back at me. His brow remained furrowed and he avoided eye contact before politely replying that he didn’t think he was good enough to illustrate yet and … once he was that good, he would follow his own vision.

It was the first of many rejections.

So I accepted that I needed to become a better — more successful — writer to attract a talented illustrator. I had to succeed on my own merits to attract a publisher or an artist who illustrated for a living who saw my stories as a good way to make money.

With this goal in mind, I learned to write in other ways that didn’t rely on pictures to tell a story — ultimately, writing novels that many of you may have read.

Pimpernel series by Sheralyn Pratt

I considered them practice, did it part-time, worked other jobs for income, and never really went all-in on establishing myself as a novelist.

Then 2020 hit.

My mom died suddenly right before COVID hit, then quarantined dropped, and my creativity went bye-bye. 👋👋

We all responded differently to quarantine. Some learned to garden. Some got closer to family. Some lost family. Some lost their jobs. Some increased their income. LOTS of people moved.

Through it all, I was like a spinning compass that had lost its north who kept wandering well-trodden paths trying to find it again.

It was like yelling into a vaccuum. Nothing seemed to bounce or have resonance.

I didn’t know what to do or how to find direction again.

When I asked others, they all came back with the same question: “What brings you joy?”

When I applied to work for companies, their question was: “You’re an author. What is your motivation for staying with us if we hire you? What if inspiration or success strikes in six months? Where will you be in a year?

I was completely ready to give up on my own creativity and move permanently into the corporate world to play a role in someone else’s vision but, for the first time in my life, not a single employer was interested in me.

Meanwhile, I wanted someone to tell me which direction North was, but everyone who knew said it could not be pointed to, only found by following personal joy within.

Yet I was stressed out of my mind, which masked feeling joy about anything. Even thoughts that should have made me happy stressed me out because they were so impractical and put in the position of doing sales for my own product — something I have always felt anxious doing.

Like many, I can promote and sell others quite well, but tend to go small when it comes to advocating for myself. I like to imagine that if something is good it will sell itself.


PSA: That’s not how the market works. Believing you can succeed without strategic promotion just a comforting delusion for people who are shy of spotlights.

Anyway, one thing did happen in 2020 that was new: I drew something.


2020 comic. Shark volcano by Sheralyn Pratt

I liked it. It made me laugh. And it was a time when laughter was a bit scarce so I posted it.

And the reaction was overwhelmingly positive.

An artist friend I’ve know for decades even called me and said, “Did you really draw that? Because I’m kind of weirding out that you can do that.”

I wasn’t sure how to take that comment, but stuck with taking it as a compliment and made another comic:

2020 comic by Sheralyn Pratt: Rock, paper, scissors

Again, there was really positive feedback.

So I started drawing other things, like:

Muse Coccoon sketch for Z Labyrinth story
Tree of Life sketch by Sheralyn Pratt
Sketch of the Tree of Life in Bahrain
Drawing of a budding rose by Sheralyn Pratt
A budding rose in my front yard

… and more.

And while none of these sketches compare to the art of people I admire and would wish to hire, I realization has settled in over the past year-and-a-half:

I am good enough to be my own illustrator as I start down the path I first pitched to someone 25 YEARS AGO. I don’t need to wait on anyone else to start writing stories the way I want to write them.

These stories may not be perfect out of the gate. There will be a learning curve for discovering which words can become pictures and vice versa. But I don’t need another 25 years to get started.

I can do it now.

And I am.

I’ll outline HOW in my next blog, but this is the backstory to it all.

It’s time to stop telling myself that what I want to do lies down some distant rode and requires someone else to carry the load.

That is simply not true.

I can write and draw well enough to get started on my own — even if I would prefer to be better. That is simply ego.

Objectively speaking, I am good enough.

On the stage of life, I can pick both the pictures and the words to tell a story and find an audience who loves the play I offer.

All I need to do is get my act together and hold the spotlight when it lands on me, and not bow out of sight and pass it on to someone who’s more “ready.”

I’m ready.

And if you have $10-25 of disposable income, you are ready to support me if you value what I’m doing.

So it’s time to find my people and do this thing while overtly asking you to support my work if you like what I bring.

Let the play begin!

The Foundation of Your Brand Mansion: Reputation Bedrock

Your reputation is the bedrock of your brand.

In the previous post we discussed how your brand is what others say about you when you’re not in the room.

But wait, you may be thinking. If I’m not in the room, how can I know what people are saying?

In short, you don’t. Not unless you have recording equipment or spies.

This is why social media posts and customer reviews are your gold mine for discovering what both genuine and disingenuous customers are saying about you. 

Strong brands use these volunteer testimonials like the tools they are to establish and amplify their reputation. They do this by determining what they want to be known for in advance and rewarding customers who chime in on all the right notes.

Your Reputation is What You Deliver

A company’s reputation is based on what they deliver for their customers day-in, day-out. This means you need to ask yourself:

  • What experience do you provide that no one else does?
  • What problem do you solve that your competitors fall short on?

REMEMBER: Your brand is NOT what you hope to manifest in the future, but what you can reliably deliver today.

If you’re selling something aspirational or something that doesn’t exist yet, you are an influencer or a coach. Not a brand.

Brands sell something that exists and can benefit their customers immediately.

FOR EXAMPLE: Back in the 20th Century, Nike made you a shoe and told you to “just do it.” You could go buy their shoes and immediately be better equipped to perform in athletic spaces than if you wore everyday shoes.

How well you performed in your new shoes was still up to you and your skill levle, but Nike made it so your shoes were not the excuse for performing poorly.

This is what brands do: They offer customers a concrete way to level up in exchange for money.

It sounds cold when phrased like that, but it is what it is and defining how your customers level up with you is a reputation you need to define and nurture as you start and grow.

This is why:

Establishing Your Reputation Bedrock is Important

Your Reputation Bedrock is the ground your Brand Mansion is built on. And it’s important that you establish your own solid ground because market ground is naturally shifty. 

The market will toss you to-and-fro, if you let it, then trash your mansion with no regrets. The only way to stop that is to lay the groundwork for what you will be judged on no matter where the market happens to be at the moment.

The good news is:

Defining your Reputation Bedrock is easy. A child can do it. 

All you need is:

  • 2 pieces of paper
  • A pen/pencil
  • A lists of qualities you want to be known for
  • Access to reviews
  • about an hour of focus time

Once you have all these set aside, it’s time to run an objective self-assessment about the value you bring to your market.

START BY brainstorming answers to the following questions on the first piece of paper:

  • What are the most common comments people make about your product?
  • What adjectives describe your benefits your designs provide?
  • How does your product make customers feel?
  • In what ways do you out-perform the competition?
  • In what ways does your competition out-perform you?

Treat your answers like a word cloud — writing down everything you can think of.

If a theme repeats, write it down again and again. Let the redundancy show. This is the paper where everything gets a voice. You’ll edit later.

NEXT, grab the second sheet of paper and draw the outline of a rough rock on it. 

It doesn’t have to be fancy. It can look like this:

outline of rough rock

All you need is a simple outline of a rock to transform into a solid foundation for your brand’s reputation.

But before you you do that, you need to infuse it with your brand.

STEP 1: Go gather all the reviews you can about your brand and products.

STEP 2: Read through each review.

  • If you LIKE a word/phrase someone used to describe you, I want you to write that word/phrase somewhere IN THE MIDDLE of the rock. 
  • If you DON’T like a word/phrase used to describe your brand, I want you to write it AROUND THE BORDER of the rock.
rough rock with text in the middle

STEP 3: Repeat Step 2 until you have a rock containing all the keywords that accurately reflect what others are posting about you online.

STEP 4: Then pull out your brainstorming paper. Add any items not reflected in customer feedback and everything that is redundant.

Again, anything you want to keep as part of your brand, write toward the center. Anything you want gone, write around the edge.

STEP 5: Once your rock is fully filled out, start chipping away at the edges.

The outside frame of the rough edges of your rock should contain all the qualities you don’t want to amplify in your brand. So now it’s time to cut them out of your brand in one of two ways:

  • Remove the cause for the experience
  • Remove the expectation you will provide the experience

How To Clean Up Your Reputation

FOR EXAMPLE: Let’s say a customer gave a small business owner a 3-star review because their product didn’t ship right away. Their order took 3 DAYS to ship and the customer was mad enough about this to leave an unhappy review.


How can the brand owner who has this complaint around the rough edges of his rock address the issue and limit negative reviews in the future?


Remove the cause: Change policy to always ship within 24 hours.

Remove the expectation: Create clear, branded language that items ship within 3 business days, visible both in item descriptions and at check out.

Once the issue is addressed with an on-brand deliverable, the business owner can chip that rough edge off the business’s reputation rock and move on to the next rough edge.

But let’s say there’s a negative claim that’s just a big, fat lie coming from someone looking to get something for free. Or maybe it’s a competitor throwing shade on a burner account.

These are free cuts. You’ll address these items in a different way on a different day but, if they’re not based in reality, get rid of them for now.

Only address genuine feedback with your bedrock.

AND REMEMBER: Just because someone has a critique, doesn’t mean you need to bend over backwards as a brand to address it. In each case, simply decide whether you want to:

  • Remove the cause for the complaint
  • Remove the expectation behind the complaint

FOR EXAMPLE: Let’s say you sell hiking shoes and someone complains that they’re not waterproof. And it’s true: they’re not.

But someone bought the shoes, crossed a river in them, then had a miserable hike afterward.

To remove the cause for the complaint, you’d have to make the shoes waterproof. But that’s literally not the design of them, so removing the cause for the complaint isn’t reasonable.

Changing the expectation is. Especially if current ad copy skirts around how the shoes perform on all terrains.

To limit future negative reviews, you could change the language of the ad copy to say something like: The perfect hiking shoe in dry climates, then remove any language that implies your shoe does well in water and move on.

Make your promises simple and clear so that any reasonable customer has your back on complaints that are off-brand.

If you position your shoe as the perfect desert shoe and someone leaves a review crying that it doesn’t swim well, all your target customers are going to think, Uh. Yeah. It’s a desert hiking shoe. It’s made to breathe and wick away moisture, not swim. Duh.

And the negative review might actually end up supporting your claim and get your a sale.

You don’t need to get rid of negative reviews. You just need to be so deliberate in your delivery that all negative comments are off-brand demands.

To do this, REPEAT the refining process of removing all the negative labels associated with your brand until you have a smooth edge around your rock and ONLY on-brand words and phrases in the middle.

Smooth rectangle of a Reputation Bedrock

Once all the off-brand critiques are addressed and removed, the positive deliverables remaining represent your reputation bedrock.

Smooth the resulting shape out until it’s level and perfect to build a mansion on. Then bury it in the ground — metaphorically speaking.

No one needs to see this but you. You never need to speak of this rock or explain what’s written on it to anyone else.

You have the firm ground you need to build on. No matter how the market shakes around you, you know what you’re delivering and your customers know what they can expect when you deliver.

That’s your bedrock.

Now it’s time to build up.


The Huntsman: Chapter One

an original short story from the world of the Pimpernel

Picture of castle on a wooded hill with the moon in the background. Image by @waytogonate on Instagram
Image by @waytogonate on Instagram. Follow him for stunning pictures of his world travels!

Once upon this one time, a young queen lived in a mountain castle.

The queen was said to be equal parts heartless and cunning, with a visage that charmed even snakes with its beauty — a quality she often used to enchant those who threatened her before indenturing them to servitude.

But looks weren’t the queen’s only tool against her enemies. On her sixteenth birthday, her magician father had also gifted her a charmed mirror that would answer honestly whenever she asked it anything.

And the young queen had asked the mirror the same question every day since. 

After rising and grooming for the day each morning, the queen stood before her mirror and asked: “Mirror, mirror, on the wall, show me how my enemies will fall.”

In reply to her query, the queen saw visions of how to ensure no one got the upper hand on her that day. And she followed those visions to the letter. After all, being flawless was kind of her thing, and maintaining that facade did not come easily. Even with a magic mirror.

One morning, as the queen dressed for brunch with her best frenemy, everything seemed normal … routine … no different than any other day.

Well, okay, one thing was different: she’d never worn the royal blue tunic dress before. And, as the queen stepped in front of the mirror, she nearly took her own breath away as she did a 360-turn to check the fit.

“Loves it,” she cooed to her reflection, admiring how the fabric contoured over her hips. The rich fabric also flawlessly matched the sapphires in the royal necklace she wore everywhere she went. “I’ll take one in every color.”

“Yes, Your Majesty,” her attendant said from the side of the room.

The queen kept her eyes on the mirror. “That is all. You’re excused. I will be down shortly.”

“Yes, Your Majesty,” the attendant said. Then she disappeared behind a door and shut it behind her.

Finally alone for the most important part of her day, the queen took three steps closer to her reflection, admired her perfection for one more glancing moment, then completed her morning routine. 

“Mirror, mirror, on the wall, show me how my enemies will fall.”

In reply, the queen’s reflection morphed into a swirling of colors on the mirror’s surface that resolved into a reflection of a different space. 

The queen knew the place well. It was the restaurant she would be visiting that day.

“Only one possible vexation exists in Her Majesty’s day,” the mirror replied, revealing a blue-eyed figure peeking out from under the shroud of a little, rust hoodie. “My suggestion is to simply stay out of her way.” 

“Stay out of the way of some fashionless pauper?” the queen scoffed, even as she leaned in to get a better look at the woman’s eyes and skin. The queen would never admit it out loud, but her challenger of the day was quite beautiful for a nobody. “Who is she?”

“She is Shade to the Cobalt Pimpernel,” the mirror replied. “And you have no business with her master. Therefore, she has no business with you. Leave her alone, and she will ignore you.”

“Good,” the queen replied. “Show me how to defeat her anyway.”

Then the mirror did something quite odd. It hesitated before making its response. “There will not be a problem unless you make one, Your Majesty.”

“Nonsense,” the queen replied. “I never start trouble. I only finish it. And she looks like trouble. Now show me how to defeat this Little Rust Riding Hood.”

“I … cannot,” replied the mirror. “The way to overcome trouble today is to ignore it.”

It was then that the queen’s mood turned and her true colors became more apparent.

“I am queen,” she warned the mirror, taking a step forward. “I am in control of all those around me, or I am nothing. And I refuse to leave anything to chance! Now show me how to defeat this Shade of a Pimpernel. Everything you’ve got. I want to see it.”

“I have … nothing to show,” the mirror replied. “If you choose to engage her, the outcome is the same. No exceptions. Thus, your course of action is simply not to engage.”

“No!” the queen screamed in disdain as she reached out with both hands for the mirror’s frame and ripped the ornate fixture from the wall with all the strength she had in her. “Unacceptable!”

The mirror hit the marble floor below and shattered, sending shards of glass skittering everywhere — one of which nicked the queen on the side of her foot.

“Ow!” she hissed in pain, glaring at the mess she’d just made. “You’re a jerk until the end, aren’t you?”

The mirror didn’t reply, nor did the queen expect it to, as she reached for the servant’s bell and gave it a ring. The response was instant.

“You rang, Your Majesty?” her butler said, stepping into the room.

“Send in the surgeon to look at my foot,” she commanded.

“Will that be all, Your Majesty?”

She rolled her eyes at the man. “And re-forge my mirror. Obviously.”

“Of course, my Queen. If that is all, then your security detail is ready for departure and awaits you in the lobby.”

Her security detail. Yuck. What a sour-faced lot. It had been decades since they inspired proper fear in anyone and the queen found herself rather annoyed at the thought of seeing them.

It was then an idea struck the queen and she blurted out, “No!”

Her butler froze, awaiting further instruction as the idea finished forming in her mind.

“I don’t want a security detail today,” the queen declared. She already knew she didn’t need it anyway, thanks to her mirror’s prophecy. No one at the restaurant had any desire to harm her. “I want a hunter. Someone who never misses…”

A cat-like smile curved her lips as she realized who would be perfect.

“Go grab the Huntsman for me and tell him we’re going on a date to one of the finest restaurants on this planet. But tell him his meal will not be free. He will pose as my date, since security is not allowed inside. But …” She grinned wickedly. “… dueling patrons are. And I’m going to need him to kill someone for me.”

“The Huntsman, Your Majesty?” the butler asked, sounding uncertain. “I do not recall such a person. Where should I seek him?”

“In the dungeon, of course,” she said dismissively. “Right where he should be. Go prepare him for brunch while the surgeon sees to my injury. I’ll expect the Huntsman waiting on the plane when I am finished.”

“Yes, Your Majesty,” the butler said, then disappeared to the other side of the door as the queen took a seat and awaited treatment for her feet.