Sunny Surroundings

Keep Shining Girl Scouts

I was recently asked to speak at the Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles Gold Award Ceremony. While I was eager to say yes, I had no idea how truly inspiring these Gold Award recipients would be. These young women exemplify motivation, persistence, gumption, and grace. While it saddens me to say that I was not a Girl Scout, I hope that one day I can have a daughter so that she may be a Girl Scout. The organization is that amazing.


There’s a big reason why I think we need more programs like Girl Scouts. It was not until after my college graduation that I realized how truly unprepared I was to take on the world. Perhaps it was my lack of initiation or the heavy emphasis on research and theory from college but there was something crucial missing from my training: how to SURVIVE.


While our schools teach us about the quadratic formula, Thomas Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase, and the anatomy of a fetal pig (or frog or cat, etc.), we were forgetting something major. Maybe you were lucky enough to have parents take time to educate you further but ultimately, many of us are missing the essentials. These include the following:

  • How to establish credit and effectively use a credit card
  • How to purchase stock and save funds proactively
  • How to rent an apartment and someday purchase a home
  • How to cook a meal other than macaroni and cereal
  • How to maintain happy and healthy relationships

Are you catching my drift? We’ve been so busy teaching to the test every year, we’ve forgotten how to help kids not only survive, but THRIVE. And this is why I love Girl Scouts.


Girl Scouts teaches young women the most valuable lessons.—these are lessons where you earn a patch but never a grade. These are lessons that we may innately know as adults but sometimes forget to teach to children. We can’t always remember pre-calculus or even algebra for that matter, and so we hire teachers. But investing? Laundry? Friendship? Kids are supposed to watch and observe and if they miss it, too bad. Sometimes we forget that if school isn’t in session and there’s no bell to start class, students don’t need to keep learning. But I think it’s what happens after school hours—like talks at the coffee table or drives in the car—when kids can truly learn the most valuable lessons. We just have to make sure our parents are sharing and our kids are listening.


Because parents are so cramped for time, they don’t always have the time or energy to educate their kids on these life lessons. There will be another time—another moment when it will matter more. That’s what we say as the days turn into weeks and into months and into years. And then it’s graduation time…except the graduate doesn’t know how to iron their graduation gown.

What I love about Girl Scouts is that they don’t wait. You’re never too young to learn…even if you’re a Daisy or a Brownie. They take the precious time to TEACH young women what others think is innate. Children are not born knowing how to prepare effective business plans, rise to leadership roles, or simply connect with others. By taking the time to train these Girl Scouts on the building blocks of a successful life, they are able to truly shine as they reach adulthood. They are not the college students fumbling to find out the answers (like I was), they are the ones exceling and moving one step ahead. They are ready in every sense of the word.

With the Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles CEO: Lise Luttgens

With the Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles CEO: Lise Luttgens

While those Girl Scout cookies are darn delicious (even just the smell of the Trefoil cookie candle they gave me is intoxicating), they are teaching young women invaluable lessons. They are learning how to network, approach and interact with adults, organize money, and set challenging goals. They also get to experience the reward of meeting those goals and thus they are motivated to reach higher. Hence the prestigious Gold Award years later.


When the big day came, I asked a question before my keynote. I was quickly corrected. I said, “How many hours does it take to win the Gold Award?” To which the Marketing Director replied, “Our Girl Scouts don’t win the Gold Award…they EARN it.” I think that says it all.

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

A New Way with Words

6e9676f3f9dd138aeb61791cf36f7bf3My dear friend Hannah was visiting from out of town this week and I always love listening to her talk. She uses words that I haven’t heard since studying for the GRE, like “caustic” or “amalgamate.” I complimented Hannah on her verbose vocabulary, and then I remembered why she has such a great range with words.

Hannah is an avid reader. Even when we were friends in middle school, Hannah was always turning a page and even describes herself as a bookworm. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve seen what a gift it is—to have the passion to read. It has always been a little humdrum for me…something that I know I’m supposed to do, but hasn’t always been a genuine pleasure. If given the choice, I would pick a movie over a novel any day. And I think it’s a shame.

Movies are fleeting; they offer a few hours of surface level emotions. The hard-hitting movies that grab on to your soul for a few days are few and far between. But books…they build you up in more ways than one. Not only do you come away with a stronger vocabulary, you have a deeper perspective into the human mind. You can momentarily live a thousand different lives if you read a thousand different books.

So I’m setting a challenge for myself. I’m going to read every day…either a novel, a nonfiction, the newspaper…whatever it might be. Rather than just watching movies as my way to wind down, I’m going to attempt to reprogram myself to choose reading rather than watching. I am choosing to keep my mind sharp and active. Maybe I’ll even through in some Sudoku puzzles while I’m at it.

So here’s to more reading and taking the erudite approach…

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

Like a Tightrope

I’ve been speaking a lot about the power of vulnerability lately. One thing I’ve noticed when I ask the audience a question, they freeze like they just took the polar bear plunge. I remember being that audience member myself, avoiding attention with all my power. Raising my hand would be like sticking my hand in a bucket of ice: unpleasantly shocking.

I think this is one of the weakest links of my generation. We fear attention. Is this because we worry that our peers will judge us? That we will look uneducated? Maybe it’s the sheer nervousness that comes with the first word you speak and suddenly one hundred heads spin toward you?

We have to be brave though. Brave with our words and our actions. We can’t let fear hold us back from speaking our truth. I love the Sara Bareillis song, “Brave” because she preaches just that, “Say what you want to say, and let the words fall out. I want to see you be brave.”

That’s my wish for our generation as well; that we will be brave. That we will ask questions because we are genuinely curious. That we will apply for things we don’t think we will get…we might. That we will try out for a team we don’t think we will make…we might.

If we never ask, the answer will always be no.

Be brave with your life. Believe in yourself and trust that you will be okay, no matter what the outcome.

TightropeMy dad has used an analogy about parenting that has always stayed in my mind. Parents encourage their children to walk on the tightrope. They encourage them to take those brave steps. But if they fall, and they will as each child practices, the parents are there to catch them as a safety net. They are not a hammock to fall asleep on, rather the safety net springs you back up. And then you walk on the tightrope again, until you come to the other side. Eventually you will make it.

We need to keep taking those bold, brave steps outward and trust that even if we do fall, we will spring back up. We’re all learning.

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook