Golden nuggets from the book “Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance” by Jonathan Fields.

01 | We can put all our energy into perfecting things

02 | And still be biting our nails uncertain of what people will think

03 | The quickest way to manage unknowns

04 | And create certainty is to put it out there and test

05 | Think of it as an opportunity to explore

06 | Knowing, too, that nothing is guaranteed

Progress Over Perfection

Do you tend to overthink and overachieve like I have been known to do? It takes work to unlearn our conditioning around productivity, performance, and outcome. When fast, instant, quick, cheap is celebrated and people are focused on transactions rather than transformation we end up with band-aid solutions. Perhaps effective in the short-term, it’s not sustainable. When building on a weak foundation, whatever is built on top will eventually fall apart, along with its people.

Do you worry about things that haven’t happened yet, so you over prepare for that sales call or proposal or product launch or design review and are exhausted because you’re overworked (and working yet another late night). What happens when the prospective client still says no? It’s crushing. When we don’t have clear boundaries, we lose a part of ourselves each time.

When the method is to push on through and create in a vacuum in order to “stay ahead” of potential problems, we can lose time, energy, and money putting in a ton of effort, thinking we’ve covered all the basis–never mind the biggest variable that we can’t control–human behavior. Insert real people and the outcome is varied.

Focus on the Process, rather than the Outcome

When approaching work with an attitude of exploration, embracing of process, progress over perfection, small consistent cycles of review- feedback-revision we make space for co-creation, collaboration, and ability to pivot when needed to move in the right direction.

Let the Client In On the Journey

With creative work, I bring clients in early and often during critical points of a project. This way the lines of communication, connection, and building trust are open. Any potential concerns can be addressed right away, rather than at the eleventh hour.

By letting the client into the process, they can witness real change from beginning to end. They see the work it takes and value it more through understanding that you don’t wave a magic wand. Most importantly, the client has a sense of ownership of their brand (after all, it is their business and money). You’ll be seen as a hero for guiding the client to succeed in expression of their vision.

Let me know if any of this rings true for you on either spectrum. What are you doing in your relationship building and process that work well and what areas can be improved?

Image Credits: Sunset Notes by Van Cooley, Hero Image by Harry Sandhu


Slow Down

I take a ton of notes from conversations, events, books, videos, an idyl walk. All day, every day. The act of writing is visual and helps me remember golden nuggets and integrate insights (or aha moments). It took me years to learn how not to frantically jot down everything I heard and instead, trust myself to be present enough, actively listening, to receive the messages that are meant for me.

Now, I only note what resonates most. By doing so, I find things stick better and there is less mental clutter. Win! Having space in my head to feel, connect dots, and create are essential outcomes. We could all learn how to be bored and use that time to play, explore, think with no agenda. How many of you have days filled with responsibilities and supporting others?

I’m declaring boredom an act of self-care. Give yourself permission to rest.

I’ve recently been exploring digital writing on the iPad and it has been a game changer. These notes were taken during a group coaching call with Chris Do of The Futur, for which I am a proGroup member. It was a conversation about Road Blocks. Primarily focused on content creation, pricing negotiation, and articulating value.

What’s great about apps like Good Notes is that your handwriting is searchable (well, I can’t vouch for the legibility of others’ writing) and the notes can be converted to text. Essentially, I can google my brain! I have lots of analog notebooks and sketchbooks that I revisit in a different way, but it would be wonderful if I could search those books digitally. I’ve been slowly transcribing those notes manually through voice dictation and typing so that someday I can access that knowledge more easily.

Do you take notes and what have you found to be useful? Since I am a newbie to embracing tech (a kid from the 80s–I’m all about analog) are their iPad apps that you absolutely love? Share in the comments what the app is for, if it’s not apparent, and what you find most impactful.

Image Credits: Graphical Recordings by Van Cooley



Hello Sunshine!

I am a Brand Design Strategist, Identity Coach, and Community Cultivator guiding creative visionary entrepreneurs to own their Otherness so that they can share their magic fully with the world.

Sunset Notes

This space is for stories, wisdom, learnings, resources, art, conversations, announcements, and whatever else is at my table. Stay wildly curious alongside me on this journey of personal and entrepreneurial growth.

My Journey

I have been an entrepreneur for 15 years, but didn’t quite fit into the pants of leadership and running my business in a healthy way until about year 12. The first several years were spent working in my business and moving along organically through referrals, while also raising two kids and taking care of my family. It was not sustainable or stable and it caused a decline in my health. I was burnt toast, feeling stuck, and overwhelmed with indecision.

At a crossroads, I had a decision to make. Close shop and return to agency work or pivot in a new direction. It took several months to get out of the fog, but I chose to look at my business with a new lens. I moved away from a one stop graphic design shop and focused on the parts that I was most impactful–foundational brand and identity strategy, building and nurturing client relationships, guiding visualization and distilling stories that are at the heart and essence of the people who make a brand shine.

I did that for a few years and while that was happening, I started giving back generously to the creative communities that supported me. I host a creative womxn’s community of The Futur ProGroup and through this experience found a natural calling to leadership and group facilitation. So I began running workshops for creative agencies to align project teams / stakeholders around a singular vision; creating safe spaces where all voices are heard and decisions can be made collaboratively together. Then I pivoted again, during the pandemic (or what I like to call Cocooning Season) to expand my offerings to include Identity Coaching for creatively minded people.

Unfolding Purpose Through Brave Action

What I’m learning is that with every brave intentional action taken, the path before you unfolds. When you stay wildly curious and present, beautiful opportunities emerge. You move intentionally towards your greater purpose and stand firmly, guided by your inner knowing. As a coach, my approach is to help you see yourself fully from a place of strength and own who you are so that you are not afraid to use your gifts. We need more creative thinkers, visionaries, weird, odd, outsiders, innovators to show up for the betterment of everyone in our communities and future generations.

For Fun

I’m based in sometimes sunny, mostly rainy Portland, Oregon and partner with clients globally. As creative outlets I enjoy hip hop dance, food & travel photography, and cut paper art. I drink my coffee black. Love to cook. Mincing garlic is therapy. Yes. Don’t argue with me on this. Food is life and meant to be savored. Slow. Best when meals are shared with others.

I’ve always been empathic and highly sensitive to the energy of people and places. Am practicing meditation, learning how to find peace in stillness. Raising two creative kids that remind me how to be present and that I am resilient, capable of finding harmony, even in the midst of uncertainty.


I love having conversations and hearing your stories so if you ever feel called to share or connect, post in the comments or direct message me on media channels.

For new business / coaching inquiries go to contacts page: Say Hello.

Van Cooley // Founder of Left of Sunset

Image Credits: Cut Paper Art by Van Cooley


Chasing Light

A few years ago, I distinctly remember feeling a deep restlessness. It was an unidentifiable dull ache that I could not brush off. I didn’t know what was happening. I had a sense that there was something more for me.

I was standing in my kitchen, suddenly overcome with tears. Crying isn’t unusual for me. I cry when I’m happy. I cry when I’m sad. I cry when I see other people crying. But in this instance, I realized that the unexpected tears were happening more frequently. Random times and out of no where. I wondered why?

To channel energy, I decided to start a year in photos on instagram. Creating and consistent action gets me moving and unstuck. To make the project more doable, I only shared photos taken and processed with my iPhone to limit the creative parameters and make it easy to share quickly. Keeping me from overthinking or procrastinating. Don’t get me wrong, it took me some time to find a rhythm. I did not post every day. Some days I felt uninspired. By day 365, I had formed a new habit and felt a void, if I did not continue. So I continued.

What I learned is that there are many benefits of photography that go beyond documenting memories and collecting beautiful images. It encourages:

Slowing down. Being present. The stillness makes space for connecting and clarity.

Seeing differently. Noticing the beauty in each moment. Celebrating the extra in ordinary.

Having gratitude. Encouraging feelings of joy. Something deeper and more sustaining than fleeting happiness.

Keeping a journal of any kind is a way to collect evidence, makes sense of what is typically uncertain, unconscious, and intangible. It’s the visualization of dreams, feelings, abstract thoughts. Allowing us to connect dots. The year in photo project helped me tap into parts of myself that I had forgotten or been too busy to acknowledge. Playing, gave me permission to explore opportunities for rediscovery and acceptance of myself. I saw things that in the past I could have easily missed because I was rushing from one thing to the next.

On long wandering walks, I consistently witness that when I follow my curiosity, staying open and present, I stumble upon the most unusual light sources. Over time, I have learned to take these as cues. “What is the message that is meant for me?” This has become one of the most profound questions to ask in any experience where I feel conflicted and at a crossroads.

There is on distinct moment that brought it all home for me. I was walking home from school with my kids and feeling preoccupied with a client project. My daughter is chattering about her awesome day. Suddenly, I was snapped out of my thoughts, when my youngest squeals in delight. She’s running off ahead and ends up at a tree to touch the bark. I catch up to her. “Wow,” I thought, we have walked by this tree for years and never noticed. Taking my daughters cue, I have since adopted this mode of marveling. A practice of finding joy–the extra–in ordinary.

So back to that moment in my kitchen. I have learned to see that crying is an indication that there is something meaningful at the root. To dig deeper. Rather than it being a weakness or embarrassing, as I had learned at a very young age because I was teased or criticized. An opinion that I had maintained as truth throughout my adult life. I began to embrace crying as strength, courage, and love. A light. A light that I chase.

My given name means Silver Lining.

I learned that the restlessness I felt was me not being in alignment with who I am. For me to feel grounded, means to be from a place of hopeful optimism and I had lost my way only temporarily. By making intentional choices, I gained a sense of time and energy abundance that fuels my creativity in a sustainable way. I invite you to be the maker of your life, rather than waiting for it to arrive. The unfolding happens with each step that you take. Seek and create moments that bring joy throughout your day. What gives you reasons for being so that you can show up fully? Identify what lights you up. We all have stories inside of us ready to radiate.

Let me know in the comments how this resonates with you.


We must bring our own light to the darkness.”
– Charles Bukowski

Fun Fact. My given name in Vietnamese is Khánh Vân, the respective meaning is “Celebrate” and “Cloud”. I have adopted this to mean “Silver Lining” because it’s not coincidental that one of my gifts is optimism. Being able to see the brighter side of any situation by looking for the lessons gives meaning to the unknown. Reveals opportunities.

Image Credits: All photos by Van Cooley