After many years practicing design thinking, I now can’t separate how I work from how design thinking works; it’s just part of my muscle memory. When I decided earlier in 2018 to put my career on a new path and commit to coaches training, I assumed I’d be starting from scratch and building up entirely new muscles. But what’s surprised me most is how similar, and also complementary, design thinking and coaching really are.Read More
Since 2009, I've been writing about community, social innovation, corporate social responsibility and sustainability on my blog, The Changebase. Browse by topic area below, or check out my latest posts.
I have always been a believer in putting out into the Universe the energy, ideas and intentions that I have for myself. After all, if you don’t lead with what you want, how will the Universe ever know what to send your way?
As I’ve been finding my way through a recent career transition moment, I’ve noticed that others are also finding themselves in moments of change, of questioning: Where am I heading? What is my North Star? Is there even just one ‘right’ North Star for me, or perhaps am I in search of a constellation of stars, or a different galaxy altogether?
Then, one night as I sat eyes closed on a red-eye flight – literally on a journey across time and space – the Universe popped into my head with a message:
I am a Wayfinder.Read More
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
Ferris Bueller immortalized those words (many) years ago, but as my own life swirls around me, I now realize he was right. Our small day-to-day decisions may not seem important – let alone life-altering – but taken in aggregate, these smaller choices add up to the life you’re living right now, at this very moment.
The funny thing I’m learning about life is that often there’s a script we hold onto in our heads, the play-by-play of 'how my life will end up’ – and then there is reality. Like two paths diverging in a wood, the direction our lives actually takes often diverges from the script we’ve written in our heads.
Case in point: I’m from California, I’ve spent almost my entire life in California, and the script in my head has always said that I would live in California. And then, three years ago, I went ‘off-script’ and moved to Washington DC. Although that felt like a small decision at the time – ‘I can always move back!’ I swore to myself – I now realize that this seemingly-tiny change has completely altered the path of my life.
How do we manage the distance between the path we thought our life would take, and the path we’re actually on? My theory is that making sense of this gap and managing it is what makes us Grownups. In fact, in my own experience I’m learning that much of adulthood is about understanding and reconciling the distance between these two paths. Sometimes this means finding ways to course correct and bring the two paths back in line with each other. Other times this actually means celebrating the new direction my life has taken, and appreciating that the script I had in my head could have never envisioned a path better than the one I’m on.
How are your two paths diverging or converging? What gaps between paths have been easy to manage as you’ve grown into adulthood, and which ones have been harder to reconcile?
As Ferris so wisely told us, it’s in our best interest to take stock of our lives every so often and evaluate how we’re doing. The piece that Ferris missed, however, is that it’s not just about taking stock, but about actively managing the direction we’re heading in.
Whether you’re taking time to reflect once a year, once a month, or once a week, it’s important to practice giving yourself the time and space to check in, evaluate how you’re doing and identify the steps you may want to take to make changes. This may be in a journal, in your own head on a walk, or over coffee with a trusted friend or mentor. In the end, it’s this practice of reflection combined with forward planning that matters, not the method. Over time, this thoughtful work will help you not only see more clearly where you might have gone off-track, but also open your eyes to the places where going off-script resulted in serendipitous opportunities, new discoveries and important life lessons.
And that, in my opinion, is truly the definition of being a Grownup.
This Field Note comes from Easton, Pennsylvania – the home of the Crayola Factory. Imagine this: a four story building dedicated to all things crayons: the history, the colors, the creativity. Of course, in addition to playing and coloring, there’s also a lot of opportunity for parents to shop – new crayons, new toys, and much more. Recently my husband Dan and I took our son Eli to this crayon heaven and while Eli was ensconced in the experience, I noticed a few things...Read More
As a child of Silicon Valley, I’m no stranger to the mantra of failure as a virtue. Fail fast to succeed sooner, they say. Failure is often talked about as a badge of honor, a show of strength and resilience, not something to hide or shy away from.
When you take a risk, you open yourself up to the possibility of failure. Thinking on my career over the last 15 years or so, I’ve actually taken a number of risks. I moved across the country to go to business school on a hunch that I needed to learn more and get exposure to new ideas. I accepted a job at IDEO without a lick of design training, all on instinct that the risk would lead me somewhere good in the end. I even agreed to move my entire family to Washington, DC to join a new startup in government, the Presidential Innovation Fellows program – a huge risk given that almost nothing about the Fellowship was fully tested and set in stone.
Recently I took one of the biggest professional risks of my career: signing on to open up the first US office for a talented organization of engineers, designers and technology strategists based in Europe. Talk about an untested experiment – this opportunity was all about trusting my instincts and jumping into the unknown. Yet again, taking a risk.
Thinking about it more, this big risk – saying yes to the job – was actually made up of a series of smaller risks that I also agreed to take on. Like a collection of puzzle pieces coming together and forming the whole. For this opportunity I took a risk joining a team I didn’t know, but that I instantly respected and connected with. I took a risk creating a role for myself that included new challenges and unexplored responsibilities, but that I was certain would help me flex new muscles and grow as a person. I even took a risk on the content of the work, moving out of my comfort zone of ‘easy’ topics and diving head first into novel conversations and vocabulary.
Everything about this big risk was exciting, fresh, invigorating and challenging – and I loved every minute of it.
Unfortunately, yesterday I found out that this big risk I took – the one where I jumped into the unknown and embraced the experiment of trying – didn’t work out. Does that mean I failed?
As our old pal Tennyson said, ‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” For relationships of all kinds, even professional ones, the truth is we have to take risks. We have to trust that we’re making a good choice based on the information we have, and then we have to be prepared to take a leap of faith on the rest of it. Really, everything is a risk. In the good moments of this latest risk, I laughed, I had fun, I enjoyed my teammates and our shared experiences together. In the bad moments of this risk, I struggled, I gritted my teeth, I toughed it out, and yes, sometimes I even cried. And in the end, taking this risk forced me to stretch myself, learn new things and become a stronger leader.
Taking risks requires bravery. It requires being vulnerable, opening yourself up to something untested and unknown, and spreading your arms out wide to see what comes back to you. In this way taking a risk – whether in a new professional capacity, in a new personal relationship, or in some other way – is actually the opposite of failure. You fail when you say no instead of yes. You fail when you don’t try. You fail when you don’t learn.
In the end, I took a risk. I tried something new. And it didn’t work out. But no – I definitely didn’t fail.
So to all my fellow risk-takers out there, I say, ‘Onward!’ Oh, and to anyone who’s hiring, I’m ready to say yes to my next risk.