Good, Thoughtful Hosts #306: Inspiration from Your Inner Circle with Kendra Santa Cruz

Administrative assistant Kendra Santa Cruz talks about how her brother — the writer Michaelbrent Collings — inspires her, and how looking to those close to you can be a great way to motivate yourself.

Listen to the full TED talk:…e_psychosis_of_lies.

Episode #306 Transcript | Listen on SoundCloud

Producer 00:00
Today’s special guest:

Kendra SantaCruz 00:03
Hi, I’m Kendra SantaCruz from the Boise office with Cushing Terrell. I am an administrative assistant, so I kind of do a little bit of everything and nothing else in time. My main expertise, I would say, would be specifications. So I work on a lot of project manuals across the firm.

Sarah Steimer 00:20
Keeping everything running. I love it. So Kendra, tell me if you would what or who is your inspiration?

Kendra SantaCruz 00:29
After thinking about the question, I the first thing that popped into mind is my is my oldest brother, Michaelbrent Collings. He’s an amazing man, just all around, amazing person, but mostly he’s just so tenacious, and he’s gone through so much struggle and has still succeeded. He’s, you know, self published over 50 books within like, 14 years to keep his family, you know, going and keeping things running. And he’s just had to deal with so many things in his physical and mental spheres that has truly inspired me to keep going no matter what, and to find a way.

Sarah Steimer 01:04
Hi everyone. It’s Sarah Steimer with another episode of Good, Thoughtful Hosts, and today we’re talking about inspiration that hits close to home. We’re talking about being inspired by people we know personally. Last episode, we discussed how Jimmy Talarico was inspired by David Lynch. But today we’re taking a far more personal approach. We can read about or listen to how a famous person or leader approaches their creative process as a way to inspire us, but watching the way someone works close up can inspire us in a completely different way. I was at a museum recently, and something that came to my attention was the fact that I’ve read so many descriptions of an artist’s work that involves their own community. And there’s a reason that creative people like to surround themselves with other creatives. It helps to motivate them, push them and consider an angle that maybe they hadn’t before. And these personal inspirations don’t have to be a circle of fellow artists, as our guest today will tell you they can be family and — as her inspiration, her brother — discusses in a TED talk, an aha moment can even come from a young fan.

Michaelbrent Collings 02:21
But I’m talking to this family, and they’re fantastic, and I’m signing books, and all of a sudden I hear a little boy’s voice scream, that’s the best book in the whole wide world. And I look down and there’s eight year old Superman pointing at one of my books, and in the next moment, he pushes all the books away, takes off his cape, the source of his power, lays it across the table, grabs a Sharpie, and says, “sign this.” I’m a responsible adult. So I said, No, that’s the source of your power. You don’t want me to ruin it. And this little boy looks at me, tears in his eyes, in the eyes of Superman, the person I had wanted to be, and he says, “Don’t you understand that signing my cape will make it better and make it more powerful?”

Sarah Steimer 03:28
So now, of course, he is a creative guy himself. So what is it about? You know, you mentioned that, you know, watching him keep going and doing things for his family and so forth has been really inspiring to you. Let’s talk about the creative end. What about maybe his using his creativity to provide for the family and overcome obstacles has been inspiring for you?

Kendra SantaCruz 03:52
Well, for him, there’s really, there’s no limits. You know, he’s he’s best known for a writing horror, which he’s one of the best in the world. In my opinion, there’s things he’s written that I will not even touch because they’re so scary, but he’s also expanded to pretty much every genre there is. He’s done comedy, he’s done realistic, he’s done fantasy. He wrote a huge thing about California, Construction Law. He used to be a lawyer. He’s written children’s books. He’s written young adult books, even a series of Western romances under a pseudonym, because, you know, he just keeps going and figures out what he needs to do to keep things rolling. And that’s really inspired me, because often in this industry, where we’re thrown many curveballs, and sometimes it seems a little insurmountable, but then I think, Okay, this is possible. We can do this. We can do anything, if we just find a way.

Sarah Steimer 04:49
That’s really interesting to me too, that he chose to go the path of tapping into his creativity to help make ends meet because I think a lot of people think, okay, if I just need to get there, I’m going to maybe do something. I hate to say less creative, because I think there’s creativity in every job and every line of work there is, but I don’t think everyone thinks to tap their creativity to get there. What, what does that meant to you, and maybe, how has that inspired you to use your own creativity when it was time to sort of put the pedal to the metal or get things done.

Kendra SantaCruz 05:28
Well, again, he started off as a lawyer, you know, he he’s brilliant, so he knew he could do it, and he did it fine. But that, that creativeness, that he was missing, it really brought things to life for him. You know, you can do a job day in, day out and make money, but he needed something that fulfilled him, something that he loved, something that inspired him. And he was luckily able to manage to turn that into his business. You know, he self, self published. So he did all his covers is he did everything editing, everything whatsoever to do with the book. He did self promotion, all these things. And you know, that’s proven to me that, first of all, I can do anything, but secondly, I need to do something that I love, something that fulfills me, something that I feel is inspiring to me, and a lot of that is within Cushing Terrell, I find it very inspiring the work that we do and the quality that we put forth the things we have in place to make sure that we’re doing the best job we possibly can. It struck me when I was first starting in Cushing Terrell, it was CTA then, and the head of the Office sat me down one time because he was writing a check for a job error, and he said, I want you to know that, you know, we take responsibility for this. We want to make sure we’re doing the best job that we can. If we can’t, we make it right. And that really made an impact on me, that not only are we doing what we need to do and what we should be doing, but we are doing the best we possibly can for our clients as well. We are not just there to bake a buck. We are there to do quality work and to inspire others through the design that our people do and through the amazing processes they establish to make sure things go as smoothly as possible for our clients.

Sarah Steimer 07:20
Yeah. I mean, it sounds really like it’s important to you that there is this cycle of inspiration too. So yes, you may be inspired by your brother, but also the work that you’re doing and then the work that the company is doing, it helps to inspire other people in maybe their workplace. If that’s something that Cushing Terrell clients, you know, it’s just, it’s this ongoing cycle of inspiration. I would love to know, was there a time that maybe you really needed a little bit of inspiration, whether it was in a creative sense or just to keep going, that you specifically reached out to your brother or that little spark?

Kendra SantaCruz 07:57
Well, as I mentioned, he has had some mental and physical issues. He has severe depression, and pretty much the only thing keeping going at certain times is his faith and his family. And there have been times where I’m just I felt overloaded, because, like I said, I do all these different projects for different people, and it gets muddled sometimes, because there’s so many different things pulling me in so many directions. And I know that, you know, I can reach out to him, and he can give me a moment of peace where he can understand that things go crazy in the world and in your world. But we can keep going, keep making things the best we can. We can keep doing amazing things, even if it’s a little crazy at times,

Sarah Steimer 08:43
And when is it not? Yeah.

Kendra SantaCruz 08:45
Exactly. And this doesn’t I learned that things get crazy and I just have to breathe. And that’s something that, again, he’s taught me, because sometimes you just have to breathe and get through it, to get back into that state of really loving everything around you and what’s happening, and being able to to see all the amazing stuff that maybe I can’t see at the moment, because I’m so I’m so befuddled at times.

Sarah Steimer 09:11
Yeah, so what is it? It’s something that I was thinking about earlier, before we hopped on the call, was how so many people are maybe inspired by someone a little bit more famous that they may or may not come into contact with, or somebody that has always just been a little farther from them, you know, maybe a leader in the industry, something like that. And it’s not to say that there’s anything wrong by being inspired by someone who is a bit further removed. But what is it like for you to be inspired by someone who you could pick up your phone and text or pick up your phone or, you know his history, you grew up with him. You know, you’ve known him since a young age, obviously. But what does that mean to be able to have that sort of really close connection with the person that inspires you?

Kendra SantaCruz 09:57
It is beyond amazing. You know. Know, a lot of people are inspired by different things that are, like you say, further away, which I am too. I have things that inspire me elsewhere, but I find the personal connection to be the most inspiring. Because, like you said, I’ve seen what he’s gone through, I’ve felt what Steve’s going through. I’ve been involved in things he’s going through. And so it makes it more impactful. Because, you know, people meeting him and noticing him might not know anything about what he’s been through and what he goes through to do what he does, but I do so that means that I understand just how much that smile means. I know how much him being able to create these amazing, fantastical worlds in his books means he doesn’t live in those worlds, but he creates such amazing places.

Sarah Steimer 10:45
Would you say it’s almost like knowing how the magician does his tricks or her tricks?

Kendra SantaCruz 10:51
A little bit, but it’s still, even though I know it’s still mind boggling what he’s been through, I’m truly blessed that my whole family inspires me in different ways, because they all have such different personalities and features that they’re really amazing at. But you know, I can draw on those strengths. Because if I needed something answered that I don’t know, I can ask this sibling or that sibling, or my mom or my dad, but because I know again, I’ve seen what they’ve gone through, I really feel deeply for them and with them. So it makes it all the more great that they are doing what they do.

Sarah Steimer 11:30
So there’s an intimacy in the inspiration, would you say?

Kendra SantaCruz 11:33
Yes. And you know, everything that he accomplishes, I am all behind it. You know, he just did a new book with an actual publisher. It’s this first non self published thing, and I have been posting on Facebook. I read it, I listened to it at Audible, and I love it. I love not only the story, which is fantastic and really fun and entertaining, but I also know what it took him to do this. I know how hard you’ve worked to make this happen, and how hard he still works to make these amazing things happen. So it really, it makes it instead of he’s just on a pedestal, you know, far away, he’s up close to me, and I see him standing on that high rise, going, wow. How did you get up there?

Sarah Steimer 12:20
Oh, I love the way you put that. It’s just such a fun thing to hear someone get so excited about. I mean, yes, let’s say, for instance, this is pardon the analogy here, but sure, you can get excited if there’s like, a new Beyonce album coming out, and there’s a certain sort of energy that’s behind that, but Beyonce doesn’t need your help to promote her. You know, very different about getting excited about someone who is close to you and what they’re doing, it sort of feeds your own energy. Do you find that when he’s, you know, hitting those benchmarks of success, you know, like you said, it’s his first published book by an outside publisher, not being self published when he’s hitting these new and exciting benchmarks. Do you feel that energy driving what you do as well? Kind of being able to feed off of that a little bit?

Kendra SantaCruz 13:10
Oh yeah, because, like I said, I see him doing all these things, and I’m like, okay, I can do this. I can do anything I put my mind to. I can I’m insane that I enjoy doing specifications. Most people find me crazy, but they love me because they don’t like doing what I do. Yeah, we need you, but I really do. Because when he’s you know, I see him reaching these benchmarks. I see how hard he works, and I know that I can too, that I can reach these goals. I can finish this project manual in time. I can get this all together. I can do it because I know it’s in me, just like it’s in him. I can do it. I can do anything. I can put my mind to. I can figure out a way.

Sarah Steimer 13:52
Hmm, if you had to give someone, maybe a little bit of advice for why it’s worthwhile to tap inspiration from someone who’s close to them, whether it’s a family member, a good friend, maybe someone who’s just in their community, someone they volunteer with. What have you. Why would you tell them it’s worthwhile to look to someone near them to draw some creative inspiration or just motivation even?

Kendra SantaCruz 14:20
Well, I would say it’s definitely worthwhile, and because it’s a two way street, because not only is it doing me good by meeting this person and finding out about them and understanding the amazing things that they do in creating or in doing whatever is inspiring to you about it, but it also helps them. I think that you know when someone appreciates you and understands that you’re working really hard and that you’re doing these things, that you’re creating these amazing places or buildings, or that you feel validated as well, even though you might be doing something you love to do, and you’re inspired by yourself knowing that other people see that you. Gives them a boost as well. And honestly, who better than people close to you? Your friends and family deserve a boost more than them? I mean, I love it when people you know give me a boost. When they say you did a great job. You You figured this out, good job. And I think, yeah, I did it, and I give myself a high five Pat in the back, and it just feels good. So why not spread that goodness to the people closest to you?

Sarah Steimer 15:26
You’re really bringing up something that we have not talked about in this season of the podcast at all, which I so appreciate, which is that give and take, it really does mean something to be able to turn to someone and say, Hey, you really inspired me, or you really motivated me, or you just, you really you made me think, and to be able to have like you’re saying that two way exchange that’s only going to motivate that person more, that’s only going to drive them to create more, to do more, which will then in turn inspire more people more times.

Kendra SantaCruz 16:02
It’s just a cycle of awesomeness. It’s a cycle of inspiration. Yeah, yeah.

Sarah Steimer 16:07
And, and that’s, I’m laughing, because it just, it does, I know that feeling, and it does feel so good. It’s a self driving car in a way, you know, it just, it continues to go, go, go. That’s not a good analogy. I’ll come up with something else. But

Kendra SantaCruz 16:20
it’s contagious. Inspiration is contagious. It’s like a smile. If I smile at someone passing down the street, they tend to smile back. If I notice how someone’s doing something amazingly creative and awesome, then they might inspire someone else because they feel better about what they’re doing, or they might appreciate someone else’s work for the same reason. So it kind of, it’s contagious. And I like that kind of contagion.

Sarah Steimer 16:47
Yeah, you know, I think a lot about how it seems like there used to be this, or at least it used to be more common that there’d be communities of artists, you know, you’d hear about, maybe everyone down in the valley in California getting together, like your Joni Mitchells and your Neil Youngs and all that, I always think to myself, like, Okay, well, then who’s everyone getting together with today? You see them at award shows, but are they sitting around talking about, you know, the music that they’re making and this and that, and because it feels like there are these really community driven artist groups, and that certainly still exists, don’t get me wrong, you know, I know plenty of people who do that, but it makes you think, Oh, well, duh, of course. They all hang out together. They’re all sitting around, inspiring one another.

Kendra SantaCruz 17:31
Yes, exactly. And I think that a lot of it is, you know, it still exists, just not the way that we used to hear about, you know, we don’t have these round circles of people just jamming and less so now we have online venues. We have conventions. We can go to and we can go to see panels and Ted Talks and all these different things where we can feel inspiration through these communities that we engage with.

Sarah Steimer 17:56
Yeah. I mean, it’s, it’s, these are modern salons, right? These are modern, salon. Well, Kendra, those are really most of my questions that I had for you today. Was there anything else that you wanted to mention either about your brother? Feel free to pitch that new book if you want, or just about, just about inspiration in general?

Kendra SantaCruz 18:14
Well, I would love to pitch his book. It’s Grimmworld, and it’s kind of a modern take on the Grimm fairy tales with a couple of kids that just they’re real kids. I again inspiration. He writes these characters like they’re real people. I was reading his book and I was going, Yeah, I remember thinking like that when it was, you know, 10 years old or whatever. I remember thinking just like that, and just laughing out loud and enjoying just the sheer really fun of the story. But it’s really important to be able to, you know, like I said, find something that inspires you and that entertainment can be inspiring too just because he writes fun books that I enjoy reading, and scary books that I read some but not all because they’re too scary, they can be inspiring in that they can show me a different world while I’m working and going through all these specifications I can be in my mind, diving into this grim world and thinking about these kids going to the witch’s house and the Hansel and Gretel thing and all these great things while I’m doing kind of the nuts and bolts of the business, which may not be entertaining to others, but it is to me.

Sarah Steimer 19:22
Well, I and I’m not even kidding when I say this, you are truly motivating me when I get off of our chat here to text my friend who also writes horror to see if he knows of your brother, which I’m sure he does. That’s also a really cool community of horror writers, and he’s someone who always inspires me to write more so you are. I hope you know how much you’re helping to grow this circle, grow this chain of inspiration, as I’ll call it right now. You know it really it does matter to talk to the people in your life and see what’s peaking their interest and sort of how it can help to motivate you as. Well. So thank you for continuing this, and you know, kind of putting this little like virtual smile out there. I’ll call it.

Kendra SantaCruz 20:09
I appreciate that. Kind of, one of my goals in life is to do that. But thank you for that.

Sarah Steimer 20:14
Perfect. Thank you so much for joining us. Kendra, I appreciate it.

Kendra SantaCruz 20:17
My pleasure.

Producer 20:25
Music for Good, Thoughtful Hosts was written, produced, and performed by Sam Clapp. Our moderator is Sarah Steimer. Editing by Travis Estvold. And a special thanks to our content development team, Amanda Herzberg and Marni Moore. For more information about the podcast, visit Thanks for listening.

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