Transformation Fire

“Fame or integrity: which is more important? Money or happiness: which is more valuable? Success or failure: which is more destructive? If you look to others for fulfillment, you will never truly be fulfilled. If your happiness depends on money, you will never be happy with yourself. Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.”
– Lao Tzu, Tao De Ching

About 12 years ago, I answered a phone call that would forever change the course of my life. I was offered a mind-blowing position with a media company in Austin, Texas. The promotion would mean uprooting my family, an upper management position and an enormous salary. The money was insane at several times the six-figure salary I was bringing in at the time, and included bonuses, benefits and an unlimited expense account. Talk about an ego boost and fork in the road!

Or, was it?

The job offer came from a charismatic former colleague who was also a master negotiator who courted me over several weeks, certain I should step up my game, get rich, and come on board. Part of me was jumping up and down thinking, “Hell Yes! This is it! This is my chance to manifest a lifestyle most people can only dream about. I will become a millionaire!” The other part of me was overwhelmed with all of the changes that would come with the shiny new role and lifestyle transformation. My intuition was telling me to consider the offer with great consideration and care.

While praying, stressing and weighing my options, a friend gave me a copy of the chapter above from the Tao Te Ching. I invite you to read it again now. Lao Tzu’s ancient prose became my gateway to discovering my spirituality and ultimately choosing happiness over fame and fortune. I was so moved by the passage that I bought a copy of the Tao De Ching and have read it several times over the years. This profound quote is displayed on the wall above my sacred altar to this day.

Ultimately, after several conversations and with the understanding that there was nothing lacking in our lives, my husband and I chose to stay put. We were happy and comfortable. The financial rewards for taking on a new high-powered position were not enough of a draw to move away from our family, the shores of Lake Michigan and the small town values we resonated with. At the time, I was already working lots of hours and a new career would mean even less time with my sweet family.

I chose my family first. I chose happiness over stacks of cash. I chose to rejoice in the way things were.

No regrets.

A dream job offer and a passage of the Tao De Ching changed everything for me. It was as if the shades had been lifted to brighten up my world. In that experience, I became inspired to celebrate my life. This meant it was time to let go of choices, roles and behaviors that were not serving me well to make room for more peace, gratitude and joy. Little did I know at the time, I was taking my first steps on the journey of spiraling back to the center of who I really am (and have been), all along.

I remained in my role as a television ad sales director until I was no longer interested in dancing in a cage for a paycheck. The freedom to move through my life on my own terms was beckoning and the Universe was listening. After 14 years of service, I unlocked my golden handcuffs to follow my passion and never looked back.

Since liberating myself from the rat race and reclaiming my feminine sovereignty, I’ve enjoyed dozens of creative and life altering experiences. I took a liking to photography and painting. I wrote my first book and co-authored four more. I sat in silent retreat, became a yoga teacher, journaled my heart out, smudged my face off, embraced my shadow and participated in several healing sweat lodge ceremonies.

What a gorgeous turn of affairs to spiral back to the center of who you really are (and have been), all along.

About five years ago, I co-founded the wildly popular Anxiety Slayer podcast to wipe out the fear and discomfort of anxiety while learning to manage my stress and anxiety. In late 2012, I created this blog where women come for a soulful, sensual and sacred experience. My Sacred Heart Teachings program was born after some deep healing work around my broken relationship with my father. So many gifts have been birthed since I said no, let go and stepped into my power.

I love mentoring women to break free of their golden handcuffs, empty relationships and dormant lifestyles. My mission is to model what reclaiming feminine sovereignty looks like for women. It’s an honor to witness, mentor and put the spotlight on women who walk in beauty.

I invite you to step into the transformational fire of your spirituality and self-growth. Give thanks. Learn to be content. Invite peace. Practice self-care. Dig deep. Choose Happiness. Explore the stirrings of your soul.

You already have everything you need inside of you. As Lao Tzu said, When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.


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About Shann Vander Leek

Shann Vander Leek

Shann is a Transformational Leader, Award-Winning Podcaster, Best-Selling Author, Voice Over Talent, Podcast Coach, and Producer. She lives in the village of Suttons Bay, Michigan with her beloved husband and mouthy old cat. This Goddess Shines!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Kelly Oct 22, 2014, 7:36 am

    Thank you for sharing your journey and also the quite… i just copied it as a reminder to my myself to stay inward and not outward… XO

    • Shann Oct 22, 2014, 5:23 pm

      Hi Kelly,
      My pleasure. Thank you for your kindness. XO

  • Debra Reble Oct 22, 2014, 7:48 am

    Wow thank you Shann for your heartfelt and vulnerable sharing…Empowers me to embrace happiness as my state of being and it comes from enriching relationships, wealthy creative work and abundant moments of freedom. I too let the rat race in 2000 to start my own business and have never looked back…best fork in the road I ever chose. Blessings my friend and much love

    • Shann Oct 22, 2014, 5:24 pm

      My pleasure. Here’s to taking the road less traveled! Big love. XO

  • Andrea Patten Oct 22, 2014, 8:25 am

    Odd that it’s so easy to frame decisions as “either/or.” It sounds to me like you made space for BOTH money and happiness. I love the reading you shared, especially the end of it: “Rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” Gratitude.

    • Shann Oct 22, 2014, 5:30 pm

      Andrea, Thank you so much. I love the end of the chapter too. Lao Tzu really made me think about comparison, contrast and drilling down to what matters most.

  • Sheila Callaham Oct 22, 2014, 8:48 am

    What an inspirational sharing! Your current life sounds so much more exciting than the golden handcuffs — so much more en”rich”ing! 😉

    • Shann Oct 22, 2014, 5:31 pm


      Thanks so much. I loved my former professional life until I didn’t! This version certainly suits me now. XO

  • Chara Oct 22, 2014, 9:26 am

    Shann, what I most appreciate about this article is how fully you tell us about the beautiful outcomes of your choice to refuse the high-powered job. It’s very heartening to know that your life is all the more fulfilling, rich, and service-oriented because of the choice you made.

    • Shann Oct 22, 2014, 5:34 pm

      Thank you for your kindness. I glad you enjoyed my story. Your take away summary makes me feel so sweet. Big LOVE. XO

  • Laurie Seymour Oct 22, 2014, 10:19 am

    My choices are determined by many factors, the most important being the sense of alignment and integrity that I feel. Like Andrea said, it isn’t either/or. Riches appear on so many levels.

    It’s lovely to feel how you celebrate yourself in your choices!

    • Shann Oct 22, 2014, 5:37 pm

      Integrity and alignment are two of the most important factors in the choices I make as well. Thanks for your kind comment. Here’s to celebrating our precious lives!
      So much love. XO

  • Lisa Marie Rosati Oct 22, 2014, 10:35 am

    When we choose our soul work and what stokes our creative fires we are truly rich. Great article Shann! I for one am so happy that you choose to leave behind corporate America to help empower women! Lisa

    • Shann Oct 22, 2014, 5:39 pm

      Right on soul sister! AND..If I hadn’t left, I would have never met you!
      I agree that uplifting women is a marvelous use of my time. MUAH! XO

  • Joy Balma Oct 22, 2014, 1:44 pm

    Bravo Shann! I love when you say you recognized that nothing was lacking in your life!! Funny thing is that we don’t actually need more money if we have enough…especially if it comes with golden handcuffs. What we really is our sacred contribution, our creative self-expression, our freedom and time to enjoy our loved ones. Joy

    • Shann Oct 22, 2014, 5:41 pm

      Many thanks for your kindness. Here’s to making a sacred contributions though our creativity and feminine sovereignty. XO

  • Minette Oct 22, 2014, 1:52 pm

    What a great reflection on how to make a powerful decision. Thanks for sharing your story and your journey to reclaim your feminine sovereignty. What an incredible gift to be able to follow this journey to yourself. Beautiful manifestation and modeling of living a lifestyle of your own design.

    • Shann Oct 22, 2014, 5:43 pm


      Thank you. I’m tickled to live my life on my own terms and hope to inspire others to do the same. XO

  • Debra Oakland Oct 22, 2014, 2:10 pm

    Shann, this story is important on so many levels. When money is a main objective, the heart and soul are not honored. Embracing family, happiness, peace and abundance (completely different energy than money) and our true path trumps all the cash in the world. You made the right decision and were not hypnotized by the outer world. Bravo to you and Cheers to designing your own life beautifully from the inside out!

    • Shann Oct 22, 2014, 5:45 pm

      What a powerful take away and summary. Thank you for celebrating with me. You are a love! XO

  • Nadia Oct 22, 2014, 5:01 pm

    I believe both is possible. Money AND happiness. But how money can come to you is a whole different story. Money can come to you in ways that make you happy, keep you balanced, healthy, rooted in bliss and gratitude.
    But it can also come to you in ways that will stress you, uproot you, make you unhealthy and sick, suck the life force out of you, and keep you from the things you TRULY appreciate.
    So good for YOU! So happy you made a soulful choice! And now get to live by this formula Prosperity = Money + Happiness + Sustainability

    • Shann Oct 22, 2014, 5:47 pm

      I agree that both are possible. I LOVE your prosperity formula. Thanks for your kindness and support. XO

  • Candi Oct 22, 2014, 5:29 pm

    I love your story. It’s all about being true to yourself and not seeking approval from the world. It took me a long time to learn this valuable life lesson – Paulo Cohelo’s The Alchemist helped me when I was finally ready to trust.

    One thing I notice about the college freshmen I teach today are the healthy attitudes they have about following their dreams vs. earning a ton of money. Most of them say they’re going for the dreams.

    • Shann Oct 22, 2014, 5:51 pm


      Thank you. The Alchemist is such a great read. I actually read it before my career transition. Powerful. I’m thrilled to know that your students have healthy attitudes about following their dreams! This is definitely a paradigm shift from old school thinking. Big LOVE! XO

  • Betsy/Zen Mama Oct 23, 2014, 9:11 pm

    What a wonderful post and what a wonderful decision you made! I do think you can have it all and have the abundance of happiness and well, abundance! But it isn’t always in the form of money. I have a copy of the Tao De Ching. I also have an interpretation book by Wayne Dyer that I really love and read all the time.
    Thanks for an inspiring post!

    • Shann Oct 24, 2014, 8:18 am

      Thanks so much! I read and still refer to Dr. Dyer’s interpretation of the Dao as well. Blessings to you. XO

  • Tina van Leuven Oct 24, 2014, 12:06 am

    What a beautiful article Shann! I love the way you described the shiny invitation and how that passage by Lao Tzu appeared… those divine winks have a way of showing up at key defining moments;)
    So true, isn’t it? If money has been made to be the source of your happiness than you’ll never be fulfilled. Yet when choosing to honour the calling of your heart and let that guide you, you’ll live on purpose and money has a space to be welcomed and received in your life to sustain you fully expressing the divinity you are. Love it! You’re such an inspiring and wonderful example of what’s possible!
    Joyful blessings, Tina

    • Shann Oct 24, 2014, 8:19 am

      Thank you for your kindness.
      Here’s to noticing divine winks and following the callings of our hearts.
      Big Love!

  • Donna Hudson Nov 9, 2014, 11:00 am

    Thank you for sharing your experience on whether money or love is more important to have in our lives. I have always lived by the motto–money can never buy happiness. Anyone can have all the money in their lives, but if it doesn’t make you happy, then maybe it’s time to focus on loving.