a left brain girl in a right brain world

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I Choose to Be






You know that feeling when you’re on a rollercoaster and you are lingering, for a slight second, at the very top of a giant peak. Your heart races, your hands shake, and time stands still as you prepare yourself for the fall. With a single swoosh, you plunge forward and the rush overtakes you.

That is a bit how 2015 felt. Exhilarating, at moments terrifying, joy filled and surreal.

In January, I packed up and left home for the entire first month of the year – traveling to California, Hawaii and New Zealand. I documented love stories in new places. I stepped to the edge of my comfort zone: hiked up mountains, swam through coral reefs, walked through fields of sheep, watched the sunrise from the top of a volcano, and photographed in the pouring rain. I spoke at conferences from Charleston to Scottsdale to Carmel and met the most inspiring people along the way. I launched the Rising Tide Society alongside my best friends and found myself speechless as I witnessed a dream become a reality.

I worked harder than I have ever worked in my entire life. Too hard, actually. I found myself overwhelmed by the very thing I love most and shared my greatest struggle as an entrepreneur in November. Oh friends, sharing that post was downright scary, but so unbelievably worth it.

Shortly thereafter, I started making tough choices and giving myself the permission to say no. I set stricter boundaries around my time and began outlining what my definition of success should truly look like.

Hawaii Travel Photographs by Natalie Franke PhotographyHanauma Bay on Oahu | Hawaii Travel Photographs

Last week, I spent a lot of time reflecting on the year and dreaming about the possibilities for 2016. When we went to my in laws house for breakfast, my mother in law was talking about choosing a word for the year and she asked me:

What is your word for 2016?

It took me a moment and without hesitation I responded… “Fearless. This year, I want to be fearless.”

The minute the word escaped my lips, I wanted so badly to take it back. Why couldn’t I have said something easier or perhaps safer? Being fearless means taking big risks… And that terrifies me. Ironic, huh?

Maui_Wedding_Photographer_Opihi_Love_PhotoNew Zealand Travel Photographs by Natalie Franke PhotographyNew Zealand Travel Photographs by Natalie Franke Photography

So that got me to thinking, what does it truly mean to be fearless? Other than jumping out of a plane or walking on flaming hot coals in my bare feet – how can I live fearlessly in my day to day life?

The answer came in the form of my favorite twenty-first century philosopher… Taylor Swift.

“Fearless is not the absense of fear. It’s not being completely unafraid.
To me, Fearless is having fears. Fearless is having doubts. Lots of them.
To me, Fearless is living in spite of those things that scare you to death.”

― Taylor Swift

Oh, how I love that girl. She’s right. Being fearless doesn’t mean living without fear. It means charging forward towards the things that scare you with hands shaking and knees weak… And doing them anyway.

Loving people who have hurt you, forgiving those who have wronged you is fearless. Looking in the mirror and choosing to love the flawed person staring back is fearless. Building a business, raising a family, fighting for your marriage when times get tough… I believe there is nothing more courageous than that.

The fearless ones are the people who get up every day and take the path less chosen because they know it is the right thing to do. They have integrity when there is an easy way out. The choose love when others choose hate. They understand that the odds are stacked against them and yet they chase after their dreams anyway.

New Zealand Destination Wedding Photographer | Natalie Franke PhotographyNew Zealand Destination Wedding Photographer | Natalie Franke Photography

So what would you choose? If you had to pick a single word to guide your goals for the New Year, what would it be? Tranquility, balance, or mindful perhaps? Or maybe it’s creativity, renewal, or imagination?

What is your word for the New Year?

And in the spirit of being fearless, a lot of my goals this year involve stepping outside of my comfort zone and dreaming even bigger with the Rising Tide Society. We have a brand new website design today including an interactive Tuesdays Together Map + Webinars to sign up for!

are you nerding out?

Great news: there’s more where that came from! I have a whole library of resources waiting for you - consider it your personal brain-fuel bookshelf. The only thing you need to bring? A cup of coffee.


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Add Your Comment


  1. Laura

    January 4th, 2016 at 8:11 am

    What a perfect motivational word and I know it will take yout far!

  2. Christa Rae

    January 4th, 2016 at 8:12 am

    This post is amazing, Natalie! I love your word for the year and I cannot wait to see all that this year has in store for you. Taylor Swift is definitely one of the best philosophers of our time. 😉

  3. Anna Arpasi

    January 4th, 2016 at 8:12 am

    LOVE THIS!! Although I’m gonna have to think about my word for sure. <3

  4. Jennifer

    January 4th, 2016 at 8:27 am

    What a great post. I best 2016 will be everything you want it to be!

  5. Lindsay

    January 4th, 2016 at 8:35 am

    What a fantastic post! I have two words this year…PURPOSE + RELEASE. Growing up, our family members always pulled two “angel cards” (tiny stack of cards with meaningful words on them to be used 1,000’s of ways) on New Year’s Day to set our intentions for the new year. My husband and I resurrected this tradition beginning with 2016, and we both got “purpose,” he got “courage” while I got “release” 🙂 we’ll take ’em!!

  6. Brooke Michelle

    January 4th, 2016 at 8:52 am

    I always love your honesty and ability to step out of your comfort zone. You got this! I hope 2016 is so good to you!

  7. Brittany

    January 4th, 2016 at 9:03 am

    This is so refreshing. My word is unapologetic and I had the same feeling of wanting to take the word back because it definitely not safe. But I realized that I have fought so hard for this dream and giving in to naysayers and my own insecurities is not an option!

  8. Mandy

    January 4th, 2016 at 9:32 am

    I have “fearless” tattooed on my wrist to remember Taylor’s words that you quoted above! They’re so true 🙂 #iswearimnotataylorjunkie

  9. Lauren R Swann

    January 4th, 2016 at 10:30 am

    My word for the year is Adventure!! 🙂 Choosing to step out of my comfort zone and into new adventures all around me!

  10. Sarah Bradshaw

    January 4th, 2016 at 10:47 am

    I love you so many millions of times over.

    I don’t have a specific word for the year yet (we hosted so many people over the holidays that my planning got pushed to this week), but I know that time management/stewardship is my educational focus. I’m learning everything I can about how to use time better— for workplace efficiency, to slow down and just BE when appropriate, and to dig deep into relationships and grow my love for others.

  11. Kati Mallory

    January 4th, 2016 at 10:52 am

    My word for the year is RAW. I’m also a photographer, and just want to let go of all the rules and things that I feel limit me, and shoot more raw moments. More emotions, more fleeting moments, more unnoticed details. I want to let go of the constant pressure of taking the perfect photograph, and shoot from the heart.

    Loved this post from you, and totally agree with everything you said in your Greatest Struggle post, too. In many ways, I felt the same in 2015 – where I said yes to too many things, and in turn said no to building my own life. A quote I recently saw that I liked said, “I did not quit my 9-5 to work 24/7.” Such a good reminder that working for ourselves is a gift, but to remember that it’s not everything.

    Best of luck in the new year! I can’t wait to see the beautiful places and memories you capture!

  12. Heather Baker

    January 4th, 2016 at 11:41 am

    I love your way with words, Natalie! Thank you for sharing this! I think my word is Purpose. I want to truly discover that, and what God’s will is for my life and how I can use the gifts he has given me to better serve others around me.

    Love you!

  13. Jen Araya

    January 4th, 2016 at 12:11 pm

    You are so inspirational! Love this! My word would be ADVENTUROUS! This will allow me to let loose a little bit more and take on those new challenges and opportunities. Go with the flow more often versus always having a plan.

  14. Krista

    January 4th, 2016 at 2:17 pm

    Somehow your posts always come at the right time! Figuring out my word for 2016 while channeling some FEARLESS Natalie Franke/Taylor Swift will surely make this drive to DC by myself far less stressful
    Can’t wait to see you tomorrow!

  15. Angela Powell Woulfe, Photographer

    January 4th, 2016 at 2:43 pm

    I can’t wait to see more of your fearless year!! It is so important to use words to express ourselves, as well as photos…and when the two combine, it is magic!

  16. TahJah Harmony

    January 4th, 2016 at 4:20 pm

    Fearless is also my 2016 word! However, my word was inspired by Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic and not the T-Swift! Haha..I love that quote though!

    You are indeed Fearless, and have shown me in many ways how to be fearless! Thanks for always sharing your heart Natalie!

  17. Jessica Frey

    January 4th, 2016 at 5:00 pm

    Ooh, wonderful post – what an incredible 2015 you had sweet friend! Praying 2016 is even better and full of personal and professional accomplishments and balance! I’m working on my word, but love the post and am encouraged to dig deeper for a more refreshing year ahead. Hugs!!

  18. WE CHOOSE TO BE… | Ashley Photography

    January 4th, 2016 at 11:36 pm

    […] plus 2!  We are so thankful to him for being so good to us.   Thanks to Natalie Franke and her post, we are describing ourselves for the 2016 year.  We aren’t ones to really make resolutions […]

  19. Rachel Hegarty

    January 5th, 2016 at 11:22 am

    Super inspiring post (as usual!). I think my word for 2016 is going to be “creative.” Yes!

  20. Alison Jefferies // J'Adorn Designs

    January 5th, 2016 at 11:57 am

    Such a great post, Natalie. I read it a couple days ago and have been absorbing it, while thinking about what my word will be for the year. I’ve come up with POSITIVE, which has a twofold meaning for me. First, I’m intentionally going to cultivate a non-negative mindset, toward myself, the world, and my work. I want to be a force for good and encouragement in the world, and I can’t do that if I’m tearing myself and others down. The second meaning has to do with confidence – as in, “I’m POSITIVE that I can do this!” I’m going to attack my work and summit new professional peaks. 2015 blew away all of my expectations for what J’Adorn Designs could be, and I’m excited to see what 2016 will hold when I approach it with confidence and an open, joyous heart.

  21. reportaż ślubny warszawa

    January 17th, 2016 at 4:29 pm

    Wow. Amazing post 😉

  22. Mark Sheffield

    January 25th, 2016 at 10:42 am

    This is a lovely and creative post. So well thought out

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