Beyond The Checklist

025 How Finding Joy for Yourself Will Help You Share Light with Others with Nicole Utley


Darla: [00:00:00] Welcome to the Spiritually Minded Women podcast. This is Darla so happy to be with you today for another episode. I’ve got an interview for you today, and I’m really excited to introduce you to my new friend, Nicole Utley. I think you are really going to love what she has to share. So Nicole, welcome to the podcast.

Nicole: [00:00:43] Hi, thank you.

Darla: [00:00:45] So happy that you’re here. Could you just take a minute and just tell me a little bit more about you? Introduce yourself. 

Sure. So I am 28 years old, probably one of the last, like single women in Utah Valley. I’m surprised how many of us are still out there, but just living the single life and honestly I love it.

I’m super excited to get married someday, but until then I’ve just been doing a ton of passion projects and I’m Jack of all trades in the hobby department. And so I have a million things that I have tried and keep up, but I’m just mediocre at most of them. But to me it’s really fun because it’s, it allows me to connect with almost anybody that I meet on some level on some hobby.

And the past few years I’ve gotten really into gatherings, just throwing smaller events and parties and all that kind of stuff. And that’s been a huge a huge portion of the passion projects that I’ve been doing. And then recently I’ve launched an online magazine about passion projects.

Just because it’s a topic that I’m more familiar with. And I realized that a lot of people don’t really know what they are or why they’re worth doing. And so that’s something I just feel really drawn to to help people with. 

I love that when you were saying that you dabble in all these different hobbies and it helps you relate and connect with other people, it made me think of this story that I read in a book about President Hinckley.

I don’t know if you’ve ever heard this, but it was several different apostles that he had traveled with like Neal A. Maxwell. President Nelson, even sharing how President Hinckley could relate to anyone because he had read a lot and he knew a lot and he could relate with the janitor or the server, or he could relate with the CEO or the president of a nation or whatever, because he just had learned so much in his life.

So I think you’re like President Hinckley. That’s what I want to say. 

I love that story. He could be interested in everyone because he knew a lot about a lot of different things; he had developed himself. So I think you’re a great example of that too. So I’m excited to hear what you have to share about passion projects.

And I want to start off because one of the things that you talked to me about before was your love of gathering people together and I think you said it started with a book and just how you’ve done that and what that has meant in your life and how that has really become a big part of your journey on the covenant path.

So tell me Nicole, about how this all started for you with gathering. 

Nicole: [00:03:09] So I read a book a few years ago it’s called The Art of Gathering and I would highly recommend it to everybody. Actually I have recommended it, so every single friend,, You can actually, there used to be a feature on audible where you could share a book with somebody.

And if it was the first time that they had gotten that book then, or had received a book from a friend, then they get it for free. And it actually, I had shared it so many times, but it gave me a warning that says you can’t share this book anymore.

So it’s by Priya Parker. If you want to put it in the show notes or something, but we can do that. It just talks about the premise is that pretty much anytime if you’re not alone, then you’re with somebody. And so we’ve spent so much of our lives in gathering formal and informal. There’s obviously like a church gathering.

There’s a gala. There’s parties, that kind of stuff. That’s formal gatherings, but a lot of it is also dinner with your family or your relief society meeting or= just being one-on-one with a friend and that’s the gathering. And she said that she just talks about how we leave a lot of that up to chance if we are just following the same template that we always follow for those things, your kids having a birthday party, you pick a Batman theme, you buy all the decorations, everybody comes over and that’s fine and that’s fun. But we can really do a lot if we pick a purpose for our gatherings and work backwards from that, it helps you make a lot of decisions around that gathering.

So she talks about for example, if you are having a wedding and your purpose is to have it be an intimate event, then maybe you don’t invite everybody that you ever knew. Anyways, that’s where it started. I read that and it just got me jazzed. And so I called a friend and she and I planned this really crazy basically a speed dating party.

We got 15 guys and 15 girls that we knew that didn’t all know each other and we called it the rendezvous.. And it was basically really unorthodox speed dating. So we made people, like we, we gave them a packet and we’re like, okay, for this round, you’re going to pull out that pen and you’re going to draw a portrait of the person that you’re with or pull out the string and we’re going to do a three legged scavenger hunt, or we did, I can’t even remember just so many random things.

And it was just a hoot. It was like, no, but everyone was just like, I don’t know what this is, but it’s definitely something I’ve never done before. So I got things rolling and we kept throwing other events like that. And I just love the idea that you can just pick your purpose. First dates in Provo get super old, super fast, especially when you’re up to my age. And we just wanted to change that up and you can do that with any gathering, really picking a purpose and really focusing on the people that it’s for and then working outwards from there. 

Darla: [00:06:01] I love that. It sounds super fun.

And I really love that you took the time to think what do the people that I want to invite to this gathering need? Like they don’t need another standard meeting someone else that single or first date or whatever, and you flipped it on its head and thought of something new. I love that.

I think that is such, so creative and it really goes down to, you were thinking of the needs of the people that, that you were trying to gather. So what have been some of the spiritual aspects of you learning how to gather other people? 

Nicole: [00:06:32] I think first of all kind of the confidence to do it because I’m definitely an extrovert, but I don’t consider myself the life of the party.

Like I’m not the entertainer at gatherings like that. But I think that when you are planning for people, it’s the way that the Savior works. It’s thinking of their needs and thinking of how to meet those needs and planning something around them. And you just lose that self-consciousness that you have. Oh, are they going to like my party? Is this going to be fun enough for everybody? Because it’s focused on them then of course it’s going to be good for them. And I’ve noticed that the more that you’re connected to heaven. When I’m feeling self-conscious, it’s usually because I’m just focused very internally. And the times that I really take time to connect with Heavenly Father and with the Savior and remember my worth from Them, then it doesn’t feel like I need to prove that worth outwardly by planning this amazing thing, I’m able to feel fine with myself, and then instead focus on the people that are coming. 

Darla: [00:07:32] Yeah, it feels like I was thinking when you were talking it feels like a very Christ-like thing to do to gather people for the purpose of helping them. And you said when you feel centered with Him, then you don’t worry about yourself and that’s how Christ operated.

Like it’s a very Christ-like thing to focus on other people and to gather them for that reason. I love all those spiritual things that you shared. I would also like to know, like, how have you seen gathering? I know it’s we think of gathering thing, we plan a party or, we plan an event and people come over.

What about the informal ways that we do it? W hat do you think about that? 

Nicole: [00:08:04] I think those, like sometimes are a little bit less planned, but there’s still a lot that you can do to make them memorable. There’s another book that I’ll recommend called The Art of Making Memories. And then there’s another one called The Power of Moments.

And both of those talk about making these moments that stick out. Even if it’s just on the fly using things like the more senses that you can add to a moment, then the more memorable it will be. So if there’s if there’s a certain food that you’re making that you haven’t had before, and that it’s really specific to that moment, then anytime you have that food, you’ll remember that time that you had together.

And so sometimes I think it’s just a matter of, hey, we’re together. Let’s go grab lunch. Let’s go somewhere totally bizarre. Or let’s go somewhere different that we haven’t gotten before. Or for example, we had a road trip with our family when I was a teenager and there was a song that my dad made us learn on the road trip.

It was a repeating, like a, kind of a, just a goofy song. And so we sang it over and over. And now I can’t hear that whole album without thinking of that road trips. So it’s just adding unique or new, or really like sensory touches to moments that are informal that can make them more memorable.

Darla: [00:09:12] Okay. I really love what you’re saying about using the senses and just being mindful of, I think we can gather, and it doesn’t have to be this big party that we plan, but just being mindful of using those things. And I love that you’re giving us like a whole book list to read.

Cause I think that’s great, making memories and being able to take those everyday moments and just make them more special. I think that everybody wants to be able to do that. So I really love that, that you’re sharing that with us. Okay. So another thing that we talked about before that you, then you mentioned this, when you introduce yourself is talking about passion projects and that you have a lot of them.

So first of all, if someone doesn’t know what a passion project is, how would you define that? What does that mean to you? 

Nicole: [00:09:50] I would say it’s literally just a project that you do because you want to. I asked a friend yesterday actually how she would define it because that’s something I’ve struggled with explaining to people until you see them.

And then you’re like, oh, okay. It’s literally just something that I want to do. But she said, often people are waiting for permission to do something, but if a friend came and asked you like, Hey, will you help me do this thing? And you just felt totally excited about it. What would that thing be? 

Darla: [00:10:15] Yeah, something that gets you excited that you’re not like trying to make money or have any ulterior motives, it’s just something that you really want to do.

So what are some examples of the passion project projects that you’ve pursued in your life? 

Nicole: [00:10:26] So this year I actually gave myself a challenge. The only goal I have set for 21, 2021 so far is to do a passion project every week. And some of them are going to be bigger, but a lot of them have just been small things.

I, my grandpa, he has this amazing soup recipe for ham hock and beans. And I have always loved eating it, but I’ve never learned how to make it. So we called him, we had we had a ham, so we had a ham hock and we just called them and said, Hey, can we schedule a day to come have dinner with you? And will you teach us this recipe?

And we went over and we learned it from him and we stayed and played games, but it was just the best thing. And we got really ambitious and we sewed and I don’t. But we sewed an advent calendar for Valentine’s day for a friend that one of our friends live in Norway. We met her here. Oh, she’s the one that I threw the rendezvous with.

So we’re super tight. But she is my region and is back home and I know has been feeling like lonely, I think, just with all for frontier. So anyway, we made an advent calendar and we just stuffed it with all sorts of little things with like tons attached and pictures of us and a QR code to a Valentine’s playlist that we made just random, tiny things, and we mailed it out and.

Anyway, it was just like an ambitious project given that I don’t quilt or anything, but we and then just last week, this was embarrassing, but I’m going to share it anyway. Sometimes I feel childish about passion projects, but I think that’s the point is when you look at kids, they’re not thinking about how is this going to build my portfolio or like, how’s this going to look in an interview?

They’re just, they just do what they want to do. And it just brings them joy. Anyway last week I took apart my toaster and I replaced, I went to Lowe’s and I got Springs and I replaced the spring and it was a stronger spring. So now when my toast pops up, it pops up like two feet in the air.

Anyway, I just I’ve always thought it would be so funny to walk by, like in those morning montage, morning, montages in movies, where they get up and they walk by the toaster and the toast is popped out and they like swipe it out of the air. So we literally made that happen in real life. 

I am totally loving this, that you are just like, it’s you’re seizing the day.

Like you’re not waiting for anything. You’re just getting out there and improving yourself and having fun. And I think that is so great. How have you seen the things that you have developed in yourself, how have you been able to bless other people by doing those things? 

With skills or passion projects specifically, or?

Darla: [00:12:56] I think it could be, either way gathering with passion projects, with the skills that you’ve developed. You just seem like someone ,that is very into personal development and trying to improve yourself and 

Nicole: [00:13:07] I think a lot of it is just developing the skill of thinking outside the box and taking something that you want to improve and then just thinking, or, just thinking of anything in your life, that’s okay, this is how it’s normally done. How could we change it in a fun, creative way? Or how could we change it in a way that’s going to serve people better? There was I actually had a really cool experience in college.

I worked with my mom. She works with a guy. Dave Kozlowski. He runs a podcast called Light the Fight, which is amazing. 

Darla: [00:13:38] I’ve interviewed David. He is amazing. 

Nicole: [00:13:42] Oh, okay. So he runs a group called Quit Trippin that’s for teens. That’s a support group, but not for anything specific just for teens to come.

And he has prompts and helps them, talk about how they’re doing. And anyway, so we did some advertising. I had got some kids from the ad program that were my peers and we did some advertising consulting for him. And he made us go to the group obviously, so we could experience it.

So months later I had a Bishop asked me to teach Relief Society lesson and he gave me this story or an article from The Friend that was about being lonely. And I didn’t totally understand. I was like, I don’t really know what to teach from this article.

It’s just a story of people being lonely. And he just explained that there was a lot of sisters struggling with depression and loneliness and different things in our ward. And he just said figure it out. So I asked him if I could do something like the support group that I had gone to.

And he gave me permission. To protect everybody’s vulnerability I didn’t want to make people share things just right out. So what we did is at the beginning of the lesson, we gave everybody a note card and they folded it in half and we said, okay, I’m half write a funny or crazy like adulting experience that you’ve had lately.

And because a lot of people had just moved to college or we’re all young adults just trying to figure out life. So that was one half of the card and on the other half we asked them to write something that they were struggling with. And then we put all that. We sent a bowl around, everybody put them in and we drew each other’s out and read them.

And it was so powerful. So we didn’t want people to feel like they were on the spot, especially because it was a brand new year, so people didn’t know each other.

And so we made it anonymous. At the Quit Trippin group that Dave does they do this thing where if you’re feeling it, if somebody drops something and you don’t really know what to say, or you don’t want to respond and you’re in the moment you just do to pass over your heart.

And so we did that in this Relief Society lesson, anyway. And so people would read things and it was amazing how many of them repeated. And I think everybody thought that they were alone in the struggles. But there were things, just that I feel super lonely. I don’t have any friends here and I feel really intimidated by all these beautiful, amazing girls.

Some of them were I’m dealing with same sex attraction, and I feel embarrassed to let anybody know that. Just all sorts of stuff. I was super impressed and really grateful for how vulnerable everybody was. And then we had, I had maybe 10 or 15 minutes left at the end of that to share some doctrine and kind of tie that all in and let everybody know that Heavenly Father loves them, but it ended up being a really cool lesson because it was just, we took a normal template of a lesson and totally obliterated it.

But because everybody was so vulnerable and shared, it just ended up being this really spiritual experience. And I think people felt closer to each other starting that year out. 

Darla: [00:16:41] I have to unpack this. This is so good on so many levels. I love that you had the courage to go to your Bishop and do something that’s a little bit, it’s a lot outside of the box of what a Sunday lesson would normally be.

But I feel like you were in tune and you knew what your sisters needed and you’d have these experiences that you were able to bring in and then you were able to bless their lives so much. I bet you nobody in that Relief Society will ever forget that lesson. I bet they’ll go their whole lives and never forget that lesson. I just love how you leaned into your gifts and you followed the spirit and you were able to do that. And I think that’s just so important. It’s like the message I want to share on this podcast all the time is that just be who you are. Don’t be afraid to be who you are. You don’t have to fit into this cookie cutter.

Like we have this ideal of how we think our Relief Society lessons should go. And if you had just stuck to that, you would not have been able to impact people. I’m getting really excited like this. This is so great. I love that you’re, setting that example that, the church’s not being a member of this church and being on the covenant path is not one size fits all.

You can lean into your gifts and you can do things in a way that makes sense to you. And then you’re going to reach people that maybe would not otherwise be reached. I love that. So excited. I don’t even know if I have a question about that, but I just think it is so good that you are recognizing what Heavenly Father has given you and you’re using it to help bless other people.

I think that could be a theme for everything we’ve talked about. You’re always looking for ways to bless other people. I want to bring it back around. So what would you say to someone who is wanting to tap into either a passion project or trying to gather other people, or just looking for ways that they can use what they’ve been blessed with and maybe they feel like they don’t fit in that cookie cutter that we sometimes try to put ourselves in.

What would you say to that person to just step outside of that and to just really be who they are and embrace their own journey? 

Nicole: [00:18:33] I think we’ve all been there at some point. It’s really scary to do anything that feels outside of the mold. But that’s one reason that I love passion projects because I feel like very often people feel like I’m having a midlife crisis or a quarter-life crisis, but, I need to do something.

And they feel like they need to justify it by making money, so they start a business or they feel like it needs to be something huge, so they a lot of people like, I’m so glad that you have started a podcast, but not everybody has to start a podcast. 

Darla: [00:19:02] And I totally agree. 

Nicole: [00:19:03] So I think a lot of people try to go big for it and that’s awesome.

But a lot of people going big and scary. So then it’s the choice between. What going like starting a business or doing nothing. And so I think that passion projects are an awesome bite sized way to just start, just do something. And my best advice would be to just sit down and maybe it does write out a hundred things, but you’ve never done that you want to do.

Or Dave calls it a Tupperware list because he says a bucket list gives you too much time. If you’ve got something in a Tupperware in your fridge, you’ve got three days, five days to eat it, then you’ve got, it’s done. So he says to make a Tupperware list. 

It makes you act, it makes you actually get out and do it.

Exactly. So I think just starting out and just writing out anything that you feel drawn to do, and that doesn’t mean you have to do it, but allowing yourself the freedom to write out anything and then pick something. And if it feels too big, chunk it down. If you’ve always wanted to write a book, write a children’s book, or write a chapter of a book and just give yourself permission to just do something small even if it feels crazy, just if people ask, why are you doing this? Or what are you doing? Or, how dare you just tell them it’s a passion project and that is your excuse. 

Darla: [00:20:18] I am so in love with this, cause I’m thinking about in my life like the example you used of calling up your grandpa to learn how to make this ham, hock and beans that he makes, it’s so simple. That’s such a simple thing, but I can see so many blessings. I could come into your life from that. And so I’m trying to, I’m sitting here thinking what are those little things that would just, give me joy and help me feel fulfilled.

And I love that you’re giving us this advice. This is so good. So good. So I do have one final question for you since we are talking about journeying on the covenant path, and this is all part of your journey and thank you so much for everything that you’ve shared. But my final question is how have you seen and felt the Savior in your journey on the covenant path? 

Nicole: [00:20:59] I feel like the, in the way that the scriptures say all good things come from God. And I just think that embracing the things that make us feel joy. Sometimes I feel it’s easy to feel guilty for doing something that’s just for joy for yourself. But when you have that light, it’s so much easier to share.

I think the times that I have felt closest to the Savior on my journey are just when I’m really trying to connect. And sometimes that’s connecting with other people and sometimes that’s just having those moments of connection with Heavenly Father. I noticed that the times that I feel the most self-conscious or anxious about the world, or I’m capable are the times that I have not taken time to really commune with the spirit on a daily basis.

And the times that I really do take time, I’m just filled with light and I feel more inspired with what to do or who to help or how to reach out. Or even in my own life, I just feel filled like whole, and I don’t know, I don’t think there’s really like some huge secret to having a strong testimony other than just the consistency of stayingconnected to the Savior and I’m learning a lot more about how to let Him help me with just feeling strong and and allowing myself to, to use that light, to bless others and just ask go to him and ask him not trying to do it all on my own, but just praying more like there’s probably somebody out there today that I could help. Help me to recognize that or as I’m planning things, even praying, like I appreciate that you prayed at the beginning of the podcast. That’s super thoughtful. So I think overall, I just, I feel the Savior closest when I am serving people and I’m not like, I hope I don’t paint myself as like a Saint. I’m not. And I do all sorts of stuff for my own joy and for fun. But I do think that cultivating that light, so I live with my sister and our two friends and we try to do roommate prayer. And when we do, we often pray that our apartment will just be a place of light that when people come, whether it’s for something spiritual or just for something like grilled cheese that it will be a place that people can at least feel the spirit. So if they are less active or they are struggling, it’s not necessarily us preaching to them, but it’s just a place that they can come and be able to feel the spirit in some measure. And hopefully leave closer to the Savior.

Darla: [00:23:44] That’s all so beautiful. Nicole, thank you so much for everything that you’ve shared. I really have loved getting to know you and talking to you and I’m, can’t wait to share this with other people because so many people need to hear what you have shared today. 

Nicole. This has been so great talking to you. Thank you so much. If people want to learn more about you and what you share, where can they find you? 

Nicole: [00:24:05] Thank you. Thanks for having me. You can find me on Instagram @theradicalrendezvous. And also on my new podcast also called The Radical Rendezvous.

That will just be a whole exposition of everything that I’ve learned about event planning and hopefully a really fun, deep dive into things that other people are doing that are kind of unconventional around that. 

Darla: [00:24:26] I love everything that you’ve shared and we will definitely put all of that information, The Radical Rendezvous podcast, Instagram, we’ll put that in the show notes and just would encourage everyone to go and check out Nicole.

Nicole: [00:24:40] Thank you so much. 

Darla: [00:24:41] Thank you.

 And now here are this week’s journal questions. 

Nicole talked about how we spend a lot of our lives gathering, but we leave so much about gathering up to chance. Think about a gathering that you may plan in the future. 

What is the purpose of the gathering? What are the needs of the people who will attend? How can you use the gathering to meet those needs? How can you focus on those attending instead of worrying how the event will make you look? 

What are your unique gifts? 

List some of the gifts you’ve been blessed with in your journal. How can your gifts bless someone else? Write out ways you can use the gifts God created you with to help someone else. 

Are you waiting for permission to do something for the sole purpose of giving yourself joy? 

What is something you could make into your very own passion project? Write down one thing you’ve always wanted to do and then act and go do it. Record in your journal, how you felt after you did it.