Introducing Wayfinders Collective

Introducing Wayfinders Collective

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.

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Navigating Adulthood

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“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. 

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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.
 

A Love Letter to Risk Taking

 A favorite window sign in Palo Alto, ground zero for risks, failure and resilience.

A favorite window sign in Palo Alto, ground zero for risks, failure and resilience.

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.

My Thanksgiving is Perpetual

 Channeling my inner gratitude...

As a creature of habit (as most humans are), I find the opportunity to try something new both exhilarating and daunting - precisely because it's a chance to go "off schedule."

This weekend I had the opportunity to attend a yoga class - a class I'd never been to before and that was completely off schedule. And, like most spontaneous occasions, it was a total blessing in disguise. Here's why.

At the end of the class - my arms and legs sore and achy, but my heart feeling full - the teacher closed with this quote:

I am thankful for who I am. I am thankful for what I have. My Thanksgiving is perpetual. 

Sometimes quotes take a few minutes to sink in with true meaning, but this one grounded me right away. My thanksgiving is perpetual. What a lovely thought to carry me through the weekend. 

Since this yoga class, though, this idea has kept coming back to me. The thought that my thankfulness, my sense of appreciation could be felt not just on Thanksgiving Day, but everyday, that my thankfulness could be perpetual… Something about it just speaks to me and where I am in my life right now. 

After some reflection, I've decided this idea of having a full cup of thankfulness, one that's filled to the brim, overflowing each and every day and every moment, resonates for two important reasons. One of them is obvious and easy; the other one takes work. 

First the obvious part - in order to feel thankful, we must be aware of the things in our lives to be thankful for. This point is all about perspective. And boy, I do have so much, and more importantly, so many people to be thankful for. To be able to look at my son - in quiet moments, in funny ones, in sad ones and everything in between - and know in my heart that he feels loved unconditionally. To have a life partner who accepted me for who I was when he married me, and whose love now seems to expand like an elastic rubber band to continue accepting me no matter how I grow and change. To have family and friends who truly listen, who show up and give as much as they can of themselves to support me and my family.

My thanksgiving is perpetual. 

But the second reason this quote resonates is a bit more complex, more layered with purpose and intention. This is about choosing to live a life – really to build a life – that is so authentic to you and your values that it becomes easier and easier for you to continue to fill up your gratitude cup and see it overflow, every day, for the rest of your life. If I want my thanksgiving to be perpetual, I must make choices and tweaks and edits that help me align my outer life with my inner life. This, I think, is where the rubber really meets the road, as they say. And it is, I think, where you'll find the difference between feeling thankful on Thanksgiving, and truly feeling like you are laying the groundwork to feel and experience thankfulness day by day, moment to moment.

My thanksgiving is perpetual. 

Now sure, we can't possibly feel thankful all the time. There is always frustration, challenge, and pain and sometimes the best we can do is hold on tight and work through whatever's right in front of us. But when we’re done, after the water has ceased to be choppy, I believe we are also capable of experiencing gratitude and appreciation for what those challenges taught us, the way they changed us – and that we made it through to the other side. 

With so much heartache and so many inexplicable things happening around the world, I struggle sometimes to make sense of what's happening outside of my own little life, my own little family. I may not be able to ever understand or control what happens to others, but I can control how I feel about my life, the interactions I have with others, and the choices big and small that I make and that make up my life.

If ever I was looking for a mantra, a touch stone that I would like to hold on to, it's certainly this:

I am thankful for who I am. I am thankful for what I have. My thanksgiving is truly perpetual.

PS: Wonder what others are saying about gratitude this time of year? Here are a couple of new favorites that have inspired my thinking this week: