Stand Tall & Speak From the Heart: How to Find Your Way

Graduation from university left Arianna Merritt, MEd, jobless and feeling lost, hopeless and unworthy. Instead of giving up on her dreams, she drew on her courage and dove into the unknown waters of blogging and entrepreneurship. She is now so grateful for her struggle as it lead her to find her purpose in life: empowering people en route to becoming their best selves! The platform she created from the ground up, The Self-Discovery Retreat (formerly Arianna’s Random Thoughts) is now in it’s 7th year and remains a safe haven for people globally seeking hope and brightness on their journey. Even well known leaders have shown up at the beach.  Through all her writing & teaching, Arianna guides people from self-doubt and vulnerability to a place of inner strength and perseverance. She wants all her visitors to know that: You matter. You are not alone. Things will get better. 


Arianna Merritt, M.Ed., is a Learning and Engagement Specialist, and the Founder of the award-winning blog,  The Self-Discovery Retreat. She received her B.Sc. Honours from Carleton University, and her M.Ed. at the University of Toronto/OISE, where she was a Varsity Blues Rower.  


Photo Credit: KGOODPHOTO
Photo Credit: KGOODPHOTO

Book Designer:


Tara Jacek Thompson is a Graphic Designer and Marketing professional based in the Nashville, Tennessee area with a supporting background in sales and customer service. Tara graduated from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in 2010 with a BFA in Graphic Design and can get lost in the curves of an ampersand. She began her professional career in the promotional product industry providing marketing and sales for Fortune 500 companies while maintaining brand standards. Tara is currently a marketing coordinator for a commercial real estate company providing graphic design and strategic marketing.

We met through the blogging community when we were both new grads and young professionals in our twenties starting our careers. After getting to know Tara online and admiring her work, I had to ask her to design my first book.  I shared with her my vision of a travel journal theme with lots of pictures and fun graphics and she took it from there.  The cover reflects a journal a backpacker would carry with them. I am so grateful for Tara for turning my vision into reality! This is Tara's first book design.

Tara, what does this book mean to you?

As the designer of the Stand Tall & Speak From the Heart's appearance, the book to me was always Arianna's shared personal experience. Stand Tall & Speak From the Heart has always been a deep and thoughtful shared experience that shares very simple truths that we still need someone to show us: Be brave. You are not alone. Keep your head high. Know your truth.

Simple truths that we don't always follow but Arianna's deep meaning paves the path.

Why is it important for women to stand tall and speak from the heart?

It's no secret women are still at a disadvantage. Whether it's an outside force or that close minded voice within ourselves, women as a whole still struggle with stand up for ourselves and seeking our truth. We hide ourselves and our feelings because we can be scared or want to conform. Though men do have this problem as well, as women this struggle has plagued us from the very beginning and still does everyday. Without our voices ringing out, we can't move forward.

Love how we helped each other find our way. You can also read why many professionals from around the world believe in the standing tall & speaking from the heart in my "Speaking From the Heart Interview series."

Learn how the book is encouraging others to Stand Tall & Speak From the Heart by reading the Reviews!

Book Reviews

Judge, Writer’s Digest 21st Annual Self-Published Book Awards

"What a charming person Arianna Merritt is! Her book is as easy to read (and as encouraging) as the wall of a close friend on Facebook. In fact, the book itself is like Socrates-meets-Facebook in the sense that it is a treasure trove of worldly wisdom, meant to help readers overcome the doubts and fears that drag them down each day. It is a book that will help people realize they are not alone in their dilemmas.

In essence, the entries are like blog posts meant to hook the everyday reader, the person surfing the web for courage or encouragement. Fear of FailureEveryone Starts out a NoviceFinding Your Strength and Law of Attraction are all titles indicative of the way this clever author has put her finger on the very pulse of mundane concerns.

Apart from the writing, which is friendly and helpful, I love the graphics. This books has the energy of young people because it is by young people. Tara Jacek's design infuses the book with vigor. I like the choice of pictures/mounting as well as the emphasis on quotes in larger fonts. "

Tara Jacek, Designer, “Stand Tall & Speak From the Heart"

“Arianna is an amazing sharer of experience. Her words are true and relatable. For this project, I got to work with the talented Arianna Merritt of Arianna's Random Thoughts. Arianna is a talented writer with a strong interest in people's stories and growing stronger. She was gracious enough to let me design her first book. Arianna wanted a travel journal theme and lots of pictures. She provided the theme and photos - I took it from there. The cover reflects a journal a backpacker would carry with them. The debossed compass and monogram reflect Arianna and her travels. The book is a balance between organization and freedom. I pulled out quotes and added handwritten elements. Photos and notes are placed into the layout to reflect a scrapbook. "

David Reagan, Ed.D.

"Wow – your book is GREAT……..I really enjoyed reading it ….hard to put down.  You have the GIFT of writing that is engaging, informative, and thought provoking– perfect!!"

Shantelle Przybylo, Canadian Soprano

"Congratulations Arianna!!! What a fantastic read! I started reading this and I truly could not put it down. I loved reading about all of your experiences and discoveries on how to cope in times of hardships, external judgement and self doubt. Everyone at some point in their life has and/ will experience these situations and Arianna does a wonderful job in providing the tools to rise above such struggles. It is through hearing Arianna's discoveries that we too can find the courage to "stand tall and speak from the heart." I strongly encourage everyone to read this!"

TJ, lawyer and long-time reader of Arianna's Random Thoughts

"After reading Arianna’s book ‘Stand Tall & Speak from the Heart’ I am really inspired by Arianna’s ability to be vulnerable and speak confidently from her own heart. Although she has written about many powerful and important life lessons, for me the one that stood out the most was the importance of talking about our struggles and not just our success. In today’s world everyone wants a quick ticket to success yet nobody really wants to hear about the pain, sweat and tears that it takes to get there. I am really honoured to know Arianna and to benefit from all of her advice about how we can travel fearlessly in the direction of our dreams. I am sure wewill continue to hear more of her great advice in her future endeavours!"

Scott L Vannatter, Author and Blogger

"Arianna and I have become blog friends.  She asked me to read her book "Stand Tall & Speak From the Heart:  How to Find Your Way" and give it a review.  I was more than happy to do so.  Her writing brightens my day and helps fill it with positivity.  The book will help the reader to see that you truly do need to "stand tall" and to "speak from the heart" in order to have a successful and eventful life.  Many, if not all, of her beliefs coincide with my own, so it was a great reinforcement of how I choose to live my own life.  She states things as they are and how she feels about them.  There is no way for you to read this book and not walk away with several nuggets of improvement as well as a general overall feeling that life is great and you can be, too."

John, Writer and Long-time follower of Arianna's Random Thoughts

"Using her warm and inviting style, Arianna helps readers express their voice by sharing the invaluable lessons of how she found her own."