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.

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Is “Yes and” humanity’s salvation?

I’ve just come from TedX MidAtlantic 2017 and that has me thinking about equity, equality, what’s wrong with the world and how we might fix it. As a yogi, Star Wars Fan, and student of life, game theory, and the Tao; the answer is obvious.

We are out of balance.

My job as a creative, innovator strategist, I convince people to make cool things. It’s a lot of fun and totally awesome, but surprisingly difficult to get folks to step into their genius. One thing I know for certain is that creativity is fundamentally about connecting ideas and making something new.

Creativity is all about “AND”

Somewhere along the way, our (western) culture started to become all about exclusivity,  hierarchy, judging right from wrong, good from bad and in the process our focus has become increasingly focused on what we don’t have and what we should be. However, in our quest to have it all – we forget to appreciate the joy of enough.

Not building happiness neural pathways is a problem. We accept the default hierarchies that were handed to us by generations that did not have enough. When enough folks do that our reality stagnates. So what can we do?

Notice when you’re defaulting…

… to the patterns of behavior you inherited.

Look at the list below. Notice where you gravitate.  Many of were raised to believe one side is better than the other. That’s not true. The real magic lies in the joining of each side, in the spaces between and the combination of two.

There can be no giving without taking, no light without dark. Things that were once only a dream are now certain, just as those things that were once certain often dissolve into dreams.  In between our past and our future, we are present. Ok, I’ll stop sounding like yoga hopped up on a bunch of fortune cookies and leave you with one final thought.

The answer isn’t one or the other, the answer lies in an enthusiastic “yes, and!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4 hacks for enjoying the writing process

This week I’ve had a bunch of clients “confess” how much they really hate writing. You can hear the stress as they say things like, “I know. I know. I ‘should be writing more because of…” You can fill in the blank with everything from, “SEO”, to “maintaining their brand”, to “audience engagement”, or even “because everyone says so”. The first thing I remind them is,

Always question your “shoulds”

My clients are invariably creative, brilliant, hard-working people. Hard-working people often get stuck in their “shoulds.” However, as creative folks we get to hack away at those “shoulds”, reframe the task, and get to doing the work that lights us up! Personally, I actually love writing but I get stuck too. I’m constantly experimenting with my process to write more effectively. Here are some of my current “hacks” you might find useful.
1. Leverage what you are already doing. This can work in multiple ways. You can curate your blog posts into a book, talk, or webinar – or expand a talk into a book. A client conversation or project can also lead to key insights for a content series. In another post, I’ll tell you about how your intake process can drive content. The benefit of working iteratively is that you can test your material and learn what resonants and what doesn’t.
2. Make it an interview – This is great for folks who are oral storytellers. In “Big Magic” Liz Gilbert wrote that Brené Brown did a version of this for one of her books. If you can’t get someone to interview you- consider interviewing yourself.  Use the “Voice to Text” on your phone to capture your thoughts. I love this because my best ideas come when I am walking or driving, and can’t stop to easily write. (There is actual science behind why this works.) You can invest in software but the hacky version is to open up your email, click in the body, hit the little microphone icon and talk. Fifteen minutes later you should have at least 1000 words. That’s almost an entire first draft! I also recommend getting some leverage. Send your draft to an assistant or teammate for feedback or edits. You may even ask them to …
3. Apply a standard outline – For an average post I generally include:
  1. A hook.
  2. A summary / Why they care
  3. Details & examples
  4. Wrap up with a “call to action”

It’s your basic outline for every piece of non-fiction (see articles, clickbait, essays, white papers, academic papers etc.). If I’m feeling inspired I’ll layer in some storytelling color (i.e. dialogue, description, emotion etc.).

4. Pay Attention to what hooks you – Nowadays, I’ve curated my list quite a lot but I still occasionally click on newspaper and Medium articles. I pay attention to why I clicked and what I liked about their writing.
The one thing I did not talk about is agonizing over edits and making it perfect before you share it with anyone. I think the reason for that is obvious, there is no good reason to agonize. Your job is to come up with great content. Self-editing is a slow inefficient, painful process and probably not the best use of your time. If you enjoy it, great, but if you don’t get help, or find an audience that appreciates great (if it’s imperfectly edited) content.
Writing this I used at least three of these techniques, can you tell? If this was useful you may want to check out this post or sign up for my email list for monthly updates and a free copy of my e-book, “What’s Next.”
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Asking for (and giving) permission

It’s now been a full year since I left on sabbatical from the corporate world. After nearly twenty years of working for other people, I wanted to spend some time working on my “art.” For me, art included writing fiction and starting my own “creative incubator.” I also wanted to get out of the corporate machinery, in order to FEEL my impact.

I’m not going to lie, it’s been scary.

I was sorely out of practice with cultivating client relationships from start to finish. I KNEW what I had to do, but the DOING is always the challenge. I was also shifting from a very conservative, risk-averse environment and it took me awhile to get comfortable representing more daring ideas.

I’m still not comfortable with it all, but I’m learning to do it anyway. I’ve given myself permission to experiment, explore and to make art. It’s been awesome and I am so grateful to have had this opportunity.

Which is why MATAGI is issuing a challenge. To everyone who needs a little push, a dare, or encouragement to be creative, try something new and venture into the unknown.

Tell us what kind of permission you most want or need right now — for a chance to win a $100 Amazon gift certificate.

Click here for submission link and contest rules.

Below are some of the permissions, big and small, I’ve given myself over the past year. 

  • Permission to not worry about what other people think.
  • Permission to write to my favorite authors and ask for advice (sidenote: Seth Godin, Angela Duckworth, Laszlo Bock and Wil Wheaton – actually wrote back – how cool is that!)
  • Permission to take what I learned in corporate America-things like facilitating Idea Generation workshops-and share it with my community!
  • Permission to start my own business with a bold vision for creating sustainable creativity.
  • Permission to create new products to support that vision
  • Permission to ask for help
  • Permission to offer help
  • Permission to be honest (and kind)
  • Permission to speak truth to power.
  • Permission to take care of myself first
  • Permission to try new things
  • Permission to try and to fail (but hopefully succeed)
  • Permission to do weird things – like teach yoga even though that’s not something Yale MBAs should do
  • Permission to get angry and pissed off and not be a calm cool collected zen yogi
  • Permission to lean into my strengths and not worry so much about my weaknesses.
  • Permission to get into the flow and do my thing
  • Permission to write a Pride and Prejudice sequel even though I am not British and I don’t have my Ph.D. in Regency manner
  • Permission to do my best
  • Permission to do my “good enough”
  • Permission to say no
  • Permission to lead
  • Permission to follow
  • Permission to forgive (others and myself)
  • Permission to change
  • Permission to live in the moment
  • Permission to ask that others treat me the way I treat them – and to leave them behind when they fail to live up to that expectation

Thanks to everyone who’s inspired me and keeps inspiring me!

 

Open Letter to a PYT Professional

Last night I was at a design collaboration workshop. A very bright, talented young designer commented that sometimes she has difficulties “proving herself” to clients. For a bit of context, she is also very pretty and looks to be in her early twenties. (Sidenote: It amazes me how much we ladies internalize the way we are seen – and how that gets in the way of doing the work.) What I wish I had time to tell her is what I tell many of my clients and what I wished someone had told me in my twenties:

You don’t have to “prove yourself”

Your need to prove yourself is a waste of time. I get it. You’re a hard worker, I get that you’re capable and you’re awesome and you want to be known for your hard work. I get that this urge is very likely hard-wired into your DNA, passed on from your parents and grandparents. I get that you may be young, or old, and don’t fit your organization’s “default” for what your role is. I get that you may even see others, entitled dilettantes, succeeding, lazy jerks taking credit for work that is not theirs and I get that you want to distance yourself from them; prove that you are a “roll up your sleeves capable brilliant creative doer.”

Whatever your reasons the impulse to “prove yourself” is visceral and powerful. But all that energy is pulling you down. At its core, your impulse to prove yourself, is based in doubt and fear.

Do not work for people who doubt you…

… this includes yourself. People who don’t believe in you will be waiting for you to fail, rather than working for you to succeed. You know that you can either a. do the work and/or b. are smart enough to figure out how to do it even if you haven’t done it a million times, so,

Focus on the work.

If you have to work for doubters – either from your client or colleagues – confront it head-on but do it professionally. Tell them you are sensing their hesitancy and ask what they are seeing that makes them doubt the project’s success – don’t make it about you.

It is possible they are seeing something you aren’t – or maybe they are nervous nellies or maybe they are biased jerks who don’t like PYTs. Whatever the cause, doubt, and aversion to risk lead to suboptimal outcomes – don’t tolerate that jibberjabber. Be aware of it, but don’t focus on it.

Shade is weakened by light, so shine on!

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Coffeeshop Advice: Sit at the big table.

I love the trend of community tables at coffee shops. Big dining room size tables are great for spreading out my sketchbook, laptop, coffee, phone, planner, and reading materials. They are also great places to connect, meet community folks, practice listening, get ideas, test the market and get inspiration.

Today I got feedback and advice from a former dean of a law school, a doctor, and retiree from a company for which I want to work. That’s a pretty good ROI for the price of a cup of coffee.

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Your Success Portfolio – Balancing Grit, Talent, Tribe and Grace

Have you ever had that dream? The one where you are taking a test that you haven’t prepared for? I often think of that when I read about success habits.  “Wait?!  What?! – I should have been eating avocado toast and chia smoothies all along!? Why didn’t anyone tell me!”

Then I remind myself 1. not to be a dope 2. not to compare myself to click back lists and 3. that I am already pretty darn successful. However, those thoughts prompted me to take a step back and ask the question.

If I knew then what I know now…

… what would I do differently? Working with a lot of soon-to-be graduates, recent graduates, and parents, I get asked that question a lot.  Looking back, I would have taken a more holistic view across the four areas below. I would have pushed myself to strengthen my weaknesses (for me those lie in the areas of Tribe and Grace).

  1. Grit. Whether we finish what we start.
  2. Talent. How we cultivate our talents and gifts.
  3. Tribe. Who supports us, beginning with the family we’re born into and the tribe we cultivate throughout our life.
  4. Grace. This is perhaps the hardest to define and is often overlooked, but it includes timing, luck, confidence, and the invisible forces of society and nature.

The good news is we can also grow and affect all of these areas – yes even our luck. There is also a strong interdependency among them, when you grow one you often grow another.

No wo/hu/man is an island.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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You have to be confident to be humble

“Start with a beginner’s mind” is an oft repeated mantra for design thinkers. It’s meant to encourage expansive, non judgemental observation – and open up new connections and possibilities. That’s because design thinking — unlike engineering or business thinking — is not about applying known solutions. Design thinking techniques are good for messy, complex, hard-to-define problems that require exploration and creativity, aka wicked problems.

Solving such problems often require humility, a willingness to learn, to empathize, to be wrong, to share credit and collaborate with people wherever they may be in the hierarchy.

The best design thinkers and creatives do all of the above. They’re geniuses, but you’d hardly recognize them as such. Their approach is antithetical to what western society thinks of as confident badasses. Yet, that’s what they are.

Can you recognize a creative badass?

Five Mindsets For Creative Success

If you consider yourself to be creative, chances are you are already pretty good at these five mindsets. Taken all together they represent “growth orientation.” For most creatives, this is what is necessary for real happiness. In my opinion it’s worth checking in periodically with each mindset, especially if you start to feel stuck. Below are some thoughts around each.

  1. Be Curious. Cultivating a sense of wonder and an anthropologist’s habit of seeing the world with a fresh set of eyes will help you avoid boredom. It can also help you train your mind to be more optimistic which has been proven to open folks up to more opportunities. Cultivating curiosity can help to train your mind to avoid premature judgment and convergent thinking.  *Julia Cameron suggest going on artist’s dates, in her seminal book the Artist Way, as a way to cultivate curiosity
  2. Bias to Act. Get it done! Successful start-ups have shown that “done” is often better than “perfect.” This mindset is especially important for introverts and folks who are super strong in strategy and learning. I like Todd Henry’s developer paradigm which includes Map, Mesh and Make. I often challenge myself to GET OUT OF MY MIND – which is a call to not all being daring and a bit crazy, but also to stop thinking and start doing.

    With the shift happening between digital economy and classic economy. It used to be that quality was superior to quantity. That may be true at the end of the process, but in early stages quantity trumps quality. What does that mean for you? *Start to practice letting go of perfection and making lots of small bets. Test, improve, repeat quickly and often.

    When you get traction, go big!

  3. Reframe. You can get almost any answer if you can form the right question. One of my favorite quotes from Voltaire is to judge a person by their questions not their answers. Some problems, i.e. gravity problems, don’t have the solutions want to solve.

    There is wisdom in picking your battles

    It also makes me think about the ubiquitous monkey trap story and how emotions get us stuck. (If you don’t know the story, the hungry monkey reaches into a bottle with a narrow neck and tries to pull out a banana and gets stuck. Instead of letting go and trying something different – like breaking the bottle or trying to shake it out – it holds on until it passes out.) Reframing is possibly the most powerful mindset available to us. *Check in with your assumptions, focus and apply your creativity strategically at the beginning of the process when it can have the most impact.

  4. Process Orientation. Over time, and with experience, we all gain perspective. Understanding that innovation is a process, that there are both highs and lows, can help with decision making and balancing risks over time. It also reminds me that creativity is a skill. My experience playing competitive sports taught me that in order to improve complex skills one must both strengthen the necessary muscles and practice until that skill is second nature. * Learn to love the journey as well as the destination.
  5. Radical Collaboration. Among many things, I’m a yogi, artist, historian, strategist, former competitive Frisbee player, science fiction writer, behavioral econ geek, dog momma, coach, data analyst, teacher, and marketer. Those things may all seem disjointed – but I can tell you how training my dog has given me insight into collaboration, or how writing science fiction helps me teach yoga.

    Ideas collide and the real magic happens.

    We are all centers of radical collaboration, if you’ve ever used a technique for coaching your child on a co-worker, or used a teamwork skill to hack your day to day life – SURPRISE!  you’re a radical collaborator. Now think what happens when you pull together folks with completely different skillsets.   *Push yourself to meet new people, get good at engaging them, listen and create a space for them to open up!

    New Meetups are being scheduled for September. Stay Tuned.