Latchkey lesson: You are more capable than you know.

When I was twelve, the day before summer camp my mom asked if I had figured out the bus schedule.

“Why would have to do that?” I asked my voice dripping with adolescent contempt.

“Because you’ll be taking it.” She said as if it was obvious, which just goes to show snark is genetic.

It wasn’t obvious to me. I’d never taken the bus before and TJ Middle School was two and a half miles away! It might as well have been the moon!  Needless to say, I was not happy, and even less so when I discovered that the trip would require a 1/2 mile walk to the bus stop and a transfer to a different bus.

“Why won’t you drive me like everyone else,” I groaned. My mom ignored my wheedling and to add insult to injury, didn’t even bother walking me to the bus stop that first day. Nor was she sympathetic to my tales of missing buses, missed transfers, lates buses, or accidentally taking the express to the Pentagon in the middle of rush hour.

My mom didn’t have time for my guff.

Whether it was her intention or not, I learned how to navigate public transportation and to this day have no fear of hopping on trains and buses from DC to Rome. When I approach new problems, and new skills I think back to how scared I was on that first day and how that fear went away and was replaced with the confidence to ride public transpo like a native.
It reminds me that I’m more capable than I think and,

Fear is just part of the process.

Designing Change from the Start: No Project Too Small

Ever been frustrated that a new technology, tool or process failed to “take off”? If you’ve worked in a company bigger than five people, chances are you have.  Who hasn’t dealt with leadership inconsistency, poor front-line implementation, little accountability, or my personal pet peeve — 11th-hour revisions that overwrite previous work and minimize the team’s contributions.

A human-centered design process is one of my favorite tools for enacting change and circumventing these kinds of issues. I like it for many reasons:

First, you can “sense” during the education and ideation phases, the level of commitment and enthusiasm of stakeholders. I wish organizations had the courage to “kill” more projects early on based on these “subtle” factors. If leadership and the resource don’t engage at the beginning of the process, that is an indication that the project doesn’t have the right support at least not at that time.

Second, design workshops should cultivate input and insight across groups, BUs, services and hierarchies. The problem is:

Creativity is not hierarchical

When done right idea generation workshops should be energizing, inspiring and result in new insights and clarity on objectives — new ambassadors and champions. Tom and David Kelley talk about having “ground troops” and “air support” for launching creative initiatives. Design your innovation and change management process with the understanding that

People may resist change but they love being a part of the solution!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Prototyping 4 Fun

What better way to spend Sunday night than prototyping with other creatives?!

A little background. I’ve been friends with Gillian, Janelle, Sheridan, and Ebele for a while These ladies represent Blockface Design Studio, 2 Hounds media, Sheribomb.com, and the Positivity Clinic, respectively.  What’s one of the many things we have in common?

We’re all obsessed with creativity, flow, how to light folks up, get inspired and stay inspired.

Being a successful creative means that you are able to mindfully manage those emotional vicissitudes between manic flow bliss and the counterbalancing ebb, which, as we tell our mentees, can also come in the form of wet blanket clients and co-workers. How well you handle the blues and cultivate creative resilience is probably the biggest determinant to creative success.  Each of us has our high vibe go-to happiness hacks. This Sunday we finally got around to doing some community prototyping and ideating. So many great ideas and inspirations.

Stay tuned for what emerges!  

Interested in creativity, hackathons, mindfulness, and happiness? Round 2 is coming in two weeks! DMV folks can join the meetup https://www.meetup.com/MATAGI-Makers-Artists-Entrepreneurs/

 

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Be Great. Do B.A.T.T.L.E.

Aristotle –or his translator depending on how you look at it — said greatness is determined by what you do every day. In that spirit, I’ve been enjoying using the mnemonic “B.A.T.T.L.E.”  for a few weeks now. I write the word “Battle” vertically in my calendar then challenge myself to record something no matter how small next to each letter, as follows:

B = Bold/Brave. Do something every day that gets you out of your comfort zone. Maybe it’s trying something new,  admitting vulnerability, launching a new venture, contacting one of your heroes, etc.

A = Aid/Assist. Help at least one person a day. Maybe you offer to make a professional connection, maybe you do the dishes when it’s not your turn, maybe you mentor someone.  Helping others makes us feel good, improves our confidence and feeling of self-worth – not to mentions adds a bit of wonder and kindness to the world.

T = Think. Meditate! If you can’t find five minutes in your day, that probably means you need twenty! If you’re “not good” at meditating download an app, journal in your morning pages or try a walking/movement based meditation.

T = Thank. Make sure to intentionally and sincerely express gratitude at least once a day, preferably multiple times in a day.

L = Listen/Learn. Listen with the aim of understanding. There is no better way to express respect. Listening is also an excellent way to learn, but I’ve also snuck in this 2nd L because learning and growing make me happy!

E = Enjoy. Don’t forget to celebrate, and enjoy your success. We can get so caught up in the flow and the process we forget to express our wins! Practice celebrating your wins and honoring your effort! Take the time to appreciate and feel your successes!!*

I chose these things because I do them every day, they don’t take a lot of time (you can knock them all out in less than 1/2 hour), and I know they make me happy. If this doesn’t work for you – create a mnemonic that does.

 

 

*”E” is by far the hardest one for me to do. I have good self-care habits (sleep, exercise, meditate, chocolate). Still, I have struggled with reprograming my brain to savor and recognize success. My limbic brain screams “don’t rest on your laurels. never settle. always improve.” That part of my brain is kind of a stupid jerk — but like all jerks, it’s just a matter of getting to the underlying fears.

 

Image: from WikiCommons

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No Good Deed…

I’ve had this exact conversation in many forms (that’s me on the right). For the record, I’m mostly joking. Still, who among us hasn’t set out to do a favor and over-extended themselves. Maybe you got a flat tire while picking up a friend from IAD, or your friend ruined the tool/car/dress you lent them, or you threw out your shoulder lifting a futon four flights, or that “thirty-minute” chat turned into a huge drain on your time with a super needy “mentee.” Fortunately,

As we get older we learn to set boundaries, to prioritize, and to say no.

In the process, we,  hopefully, learn to respect other folk’s boundaries. If you want to get good at being helpful, practice. Like athletes who stay within 60 – 80% of their optimal heart rate during training, you can grow your “helping muscle” by staying within your limits and volunteering on a regular basis.

Do what you can, but don’t feel bad when you say no to overextension.

Think of it as saying yes to your real priorities.

 

File Under: 30-minute prototype cartoon, can’t pour from an empty glass

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2018 resolution: Separate “self” from confidence

“Self-confidence” and “confidence” are often used interchangeably. I’d actually argue that the former is an oxymoron.  The modified term is misleading, implying that confidence springs from within and may reflect unintentional cultural bias.

I’ve learned the hard way that I am more confident, i.e. certain of achieving a particular outcome when I am aligned with my client needs. First, because helping others gives me energy and improves my enthusiasm. Second, it provides a feedback. Third, it keeps me aligned with the end goal. All three of these factors improve the probability of success.  I’m pleased to see popular coaches like Tony Robbins actually starting to talk about this, coaching folks to focus on the value they have to give.

When confidence is only the manifestation of one’s internal monologue it is actually what we term “arrogance.”  Of course, arrogance can accelerate a career trajectory by taking on risks and “hustling” – unfortunately, a culture that can not distinguish between confident proficiency with arrogant heroics runs the risk of rewarding self-centered thinking over collaboration.

The takeaway for my creative clients is this. Notice whether your environment understands the distinction between confidence and the appearance of confidence. If you are a collaborator in an organization that does not appreciate or recognize your contributions, you probably will not succeed in the way that you need.

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Three ways to engage participants during a design sprint

Your dream clients are the ones that inspire you. That’s how I felt Friday night leading a UX journey map sprint with Victor Ehienulo of Plugged Services.  Plugged Services is a start-up, recruiting platform focused on improving the job-hunting process for diversity candidates. It’s driven by analytics, matching candidates with cultures that value diversity and fit their unique skills.

General Assembly generously provided space and even offered up their happy hour. Beer in hand, we demo’d the app to thirty proto UX and Design Thinkers – before we rolled up our sleeves and asked them to share their own experiences.

It can be difficult to get a bunch of strangers to share, especially when many of those experiences touch on their fundamental feelings of self-worth. Job-hunting and money talk can be deeply personal and scary. It touches on our most basic parts of the brain – our fight for survival. It can also be a disempowering experience, being judged over and over. This is especially true for diversity candidates. They don’t have the data or experience to give them the perspective to confirm their instincts that yes indeed the hiring process is rigged against them.

Through the discussion, many of them learned that they faced similar obstacles. They shared resources, hacks, and tips for improving the process.  To get them to that place we first:

  1. Set the ground rules.

The first thing we did was state why we were there and the ground rules for the workshop. We asked them to reserve judgment, treat others with respect, listen, actively participate and make sure to grab a beer before happy hour ends.

  1. Share the “why”

Victor kicked off the demo by first sharing his reason for starting Plugged. Coming back to Howard to help with recruiting for Microsoft, he met an international student who had lost his mother, who was also his sponsor. As a born and bred Nigerian, Victor empathized deeply with the student who was faced with the task of securing employment in the midst of grief. Having been on both sides of the equation, he knew there had to be a better way.

  1. Make it easy to be vulnerable

Using a process we lifted from Create& and Brllnt, we asked participants to write their “pain points” and “bliss points” for each phase of the “journey.” At the end of each exercise, a volunteer randomly read a post-it and described how that experience might feel. Others built on to comments, sharing common experiences and how they coped.

 

The Double Whammy – Diversity and Debt

Given that most of the participants were in their early twenties, debt and paying off student loans was a big topic of conversation.  Many were frustrated having made investments in their education only to find the opportunities weren’t there after graduation. Facing a mountain of debt, and a lengthier job-hunting process, it’s little wonder that many of them can’t hold out for the right fit and/or feel stuck in jobs that undervalue them.

Starting out on the right foot

Plugged knows the value of starting out on the right foot. Finding the right organizations that value all candidates and are committed to success, begins a virtuous cycle that gives candidates opportunities to do their best work and thrive.

UX sessions like these remind us of why we do what we do. They serve to reinforce our commitment to empowering candidates with the tools, data, and mindset to succeed, for themselves, for their families and communities, and for the economic value that they bring to our country, definitively proving that an inclusive economy is a stronger, better and more resilient economy.

With that in mind, we’re super excited for 2018 and the new year!

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New Product Launch – Objects for Mindfulness!!

We launched our first Kickstarter!

This came out of initial mini incubation sessions with a handful of MATAGI artists. It started with a simple idea. What stories do our things tell? More importantly, can we create mindful artifacts that help folks to align and connect with their truth and ideals? Below is our response to those questions.

About this Kickstarter.

I think we can all agree that 2016 was not a great year for women. I was watching the way women were treated in the news and media – and I felt as the kids say “triggered.” For pretty much my entire life I have sucked up “TIGHTROPE” feedback – you may know it by other names like the double bind, gaslighting, or just know it as the tension between being seen as a bitch or a pushover, a harpy or cream puff.

It was 2016 for f-s sake! How was this still a thing! So I mediated, which is what I do when my blood gets hot and like Uma I know better than to speak when I’m angry. I asked the question of the universe. “What kind of woman has permission to be strong?” The answer came to me from nature – mama bears.

After considerable study and research, I found out that I wasn’t alone in my ability to fiercely advocate for others – while coming across as milquetoast when advocating for myself. In fact, there was plenty of science that seemed to indicate this was pretty common!  I was fed up and decided I needed something to remind me of my right to be fierce but also let others know, I wasn’t going to choose between bitch or sweetheart I was both and that was a good thing!!

 

 

 

What Play Taught Me

For years when I spoke about ultimate Frisbee, I’d refer to it vaguely as “a sport.” Like my comic book collection, Frisbee always felt too fringe and out of the mainstream to explain. From 1997 through 2008 I played on a variety of competitive club teams making it all the way to U.S. Club Nationals, in 1998, 1999, 2000, 2007, and 2008.

For a time, ultimate was my bliss.

A now ex-boyfriend once told me that I was too intense. To him, it seemed when I played, ultimate was work. To be honest, I had no idea what the problem was. I told him, “Hell yeah! It’s work!” (It also probably explains why we didn’t last.)

In New York, teams still chant:

New York! Do Work! New York! Do Work! New York! Do Work!

I get fired up just thinking about it.

I learned so much on the field, about; grit, friendship, leadership, teamwork, confidence, and setting goals. Competing internationally expanded the way I think about my place in my world, connecting me with an unbelievable community.  Ultimate transformed me. It’s even impacted how I think about art and that magical state of flow.

You see, when your team is clicking, ultimate players call that “flow.” It is a force of nature and a thing of beauty.  I mean, look at me I’m 5’ 3”, I’m not really above average physically – but I’m smart, and I can practice and I can train and I got skills. I know, when I’m surrounded by my teammates, my soulmates, in the flow, we are unstoppable.

Ultimate taught me that’s what want. I don’t want “fun”. I want more.

I want bliss.

I want flow.

 

 

Inspired by: What Play Can Teach Us

 

 

Shout out to all my teammates from: Sol, Philly Peppers, Donkey Bomb, Animal, 7Express, Ambush, BLU and all the good folks at WAFC, WUDI, and PADA. xoxo

Pay attention to where you pay attention

A lot of positive psychology trumpets the importance of being selective about where you give your attention. That’s why gratitude practices, are such powerful things. Evolutionarily, are brains are programmed to identify problems and spot dangers – basically, we’re wired for negativity. That made sense when we could be eaten by lions, but is a bit out of proportion when dealing with a challenging client of an annoying co-worker.

It’s a big world out there with near infinite things to focus on – at the same time as we have a limited amount of time, energy, and enthusiasm. If you have a choice, why wouldn’t you focus on the good? Not only will it make you happier but it leads to positive results.

Look where you want to go.

Of course, the classic example of this is when you skid on ice, you look where you want to go, i.e. the road not at the tree you want to avoid. If you are a Nascar driver you focus on the open field and not the wall.