Design Thinker : Strategist : Mom : Leader : Artist
I care deeply about holistic experiences.
I think about people and how to best tell the story of their interaction with the world. I think about how to make better products and services in the future that solve real problems. I think about how to ease people’s pain and make their lives better. I think about beauty, design and typography. I think about psychology and motivation.
I like to share my art and beautiful quotes, wisdom, poems and tips from myself and other brilliant people around crafting your personal story, philosophy, creativity, motivation, the power of our senses, the beauty of attention, life by design, user experience, leadership, intentional living and more.
Nonsense, in my experience, is the main pathway to creative synthesis on a large scale, in the divine ways that no one really understands. Incremental improvements are always possible and can be “rationalized” into existence using traditional ways of thinking or “logic”. Vision and strategy come from practicing the Art of Nonsense. I don’t love the “left brain” + “right brain” metaphor, scientifically speaking its very over simplified. The way that our conscious thought forms and the patterns we have in our brain are very inter-twined with past behaviors as well as with our body and instincts that are subconscious. So, if we spoke in simply the left and right brain speak, we’d just be surface scratching all the factors of what allows our thoughts to tell us what to do (conation). Where do emotions come into play with this metaphor? When does the subconscious tickle our soul and tell us to do something else if we limit ourselves to such an over simplified view? Often, people like to box themselves into a category of how they think. “I don’t have a creative bone in my body,” or “Rational thought is most important.” The truth is simply many have not been culturally trained to flex our creative muscles. Why? Because they way there is FUN. Fun can’t possibly be good at work, so we don’t value it. What a backwards way of thinking. It is precisely the things that get us out of our normal thought patterns and allow us to laugh and play that allow our brains to be creative and synthesize supposedly unrelated things into the Realm of the Possible. We use technology and science to mask our creative muscles these days. Creativity is a muscle and it can be trained. But not by learning to swipe or type. Certainly not by droning away at emails and meetings. Returning to my point, not making sense is a direct pathway to creativity. There are various tricks and tools of the trade to get you into this place, but first, you need to know why being in the non-sensical place is a good thing for you and your life. What’s at stake by a society that is not trained on how to be truly creative and seek nonsense? In my opinion, everything because we will not see how to solve problems at their root and will continue to increment. Take a quick stroll to Pinterest and you’ll find plenty of reminders on how to get back to being creative. They are all ways to break out of a block or a rut. That is most definitely the first step to getting to Nonsense. But nonsense is not something most people seek. They seek the more socially accepted work: “creative”. We want our lives to make sense to us so we can feel in control. Its a fundamental human instinct. Tapping into the “nonsense” is freeing us from the limits of thinking we have total control. Consider the possibility of training your mind to play, to seek out nonsense and whimsy as a pathway to a more creative, healthy and yes, rationally happy...read more
Sparkle. Always the reminder that leads me back to laughter and an awe of life’s possibilities. A dear friend once told me I was “Sparkly”. I appreciated the complement, but didn’t realize that my unique lens on life was to notice the beauty in tiny and shiny things. While I often can take a macro view, there is so much beauty in zooming in on life. There is literally sparkle in every thing that light touches. The tiny specks of a violet flower, the frost glowing off a fall leaf. In you – you are after all scientifically speaking simply star dust reflecting light as well as every other living and non-living thing on this planet. Whenever I am blue, I return to myself through some form of sparkly remembrance. Yesterday, I attended a conference in Denver that I should have been feeling really inspired about. Shoulds are not super useful when you are feeling blue. I couldn’t figure out how to get out of my funk. The day felt “wasted” with so much always vying for my time. So, I went to a Mexican restaurant and ate some yummy food and wrote in my journal. As I was sitting there, I noticed an almost annoying amount of flickering light out of the corner of my eye. The plastic from the jeep wrangler outside the restaurant was twinkling light and reflecting a constant disco ball flicker at me as if saying, “Look at me, I’m sparkly, too!” Every time I experience a flicker in my life, I now remember that every single thing has its way of shimmering. Every thing has its unique way of finding the light, reflecting it back to the world and helping us wake up. Even when it seems to be fairly dark, things can still have this affect. Light comes out of darkness endlessly in my experience of the world....read more
There is a woman that holds stop signs for kids to cross the street near where I drop off my daughter for school in the morning. She literally waves to every single person and car that drives by, every single day. I’ve wondered what led her to that path, if she has an intention placed behind every wave. If she once was a big-wig executive and now chooses to wave at people and help kids cross the street. She has become part of my routine in the morning. Same with the old man that I walk by at the lake. I don’t know their names, but I know their kindness. I rely on it. If they are not there, I’d wonder where they went off to. This is the sort of person I want to be. The person that shows kindness to all without having to know them. Simple kindness. Being human has its side effects. Phobias, complexes, feelings. Sheesh, what is a busy person to do? It is so very understandable why so much of our adult world is choosing to numb out. To turn towards escapes and alternate realities. This reality right in front of us is ugly, messy, scary, uncomfortable and darn right painful often. Why would any one turn towards pain? It hurts. A lot. It really is not up to anyone else to decide when to end suffering for someone, that’s up to us individually. We get to feel through our own experience and make adjustments, the responsibility is our own. I realized this week how little self compassion I have been giving to myself. How I hold judgement and compassion and 700 other emotions at the same time from different view points. A life of complexity like that ought to be confusing. The truth is, I tend to over-complicate. When I get too far off my path, the one I intend to become as opposed to the one I am showing up as, I try to remember who I’d like to be. I can’t get to being that with lots of self loathing for how I failed or made a mistake. That self critic is basically not helpful, not even a little bit. So, I choose to return to love, to kindness. Knowing that I will fail again. Knowing that I am massively imperfect. When we over simplify, that too can be harmful. Language and boxes come from simplification. Typically when it comes to human behavior, there is much, much more at play than the results of people’s actions and words. So much more, we will never know all the reasons and interconnections for how things happen and why. So, remembering the complexity of life, of the myriad of ways that people are living and worlds they have to walk through (typically in some type of battle ground or another), gives me the ability to step back and pause. To remember to return to kindness. ...read more
Eckhart Tolle wrote a book called the Power of Now. Presence is what its referring to, being truly here and able to be embodied and show up in each moment. Today I attended a lovely talk at a Denver Salesforce User Group. The VP of Communities, Erica Kuhl, discussed our immediacy culture and how far the pendulum has swung with our needs for something immediately being met by modern day consumers. Convenience and urgency tied into consumer spending habits seems to be the focus of many new ideas and startups. I am intrigued by the polar difference in the meaning of “Now” with Tolle and the meaning of “Now” in our modern culture. To most, Now means meet my consumer needs immediately. Now means I should have every possible desire satisfied and met immediately. Here’s the HUGE issue with this way of living… it leaves most of us feeling empty at some point in our lives. We disconnect from our real needs and fill every moment up with artificial and ever increasing needs for more – more knowledge, more things, more distractions. If we fill every waking moment with to dos or distraction based numbing (TV, games, etc) and increase our ability to manifest by making everything appear at the drop of a hat, there is no space in our life for us to feel the beauty of the natural world around us. There is less space to experience one thing for more than five minutes. We have a new need and think we need more because it is so very easy to have more. Our basic needs are getting met and so we add and add until we don’t realize we have filled our lives with doing and our beingness is not connected to what really matters most: human connection. Today I was listening to the TED talk about slowing down. They discussed a new movement called: “Slow TV” where each minute of an experienced is filmed, unedited and uninterrupted and played as it is. This apparently is filling a need for an “unbroken story” and feeds a part of us as a culture that is hungry for real stories and not edited, ADHD, perfected stories. Slow TV shows it just as it is and has a calming effect to give us permission to slow down and participate in the incremental pace of real, human life. Now, perhaps you could argue some of the modern ways of fulfilling our needs are helping free our time for more connection with ourselves and others. Perhaps. Its a balancing act certainly. Convenience is not wrong. However, expecting everything and everyone to arrange their universe around yours is setting yourself up for disappointment at some point. What would happen if we were able to slow down so that there was more space in our life for meaningful connection, purposeful work, soulful discovery and play? Would we still need all those things? Would we still want a life filled with escapes? From my experience, when I face my fears and my pain rather than filling my emptiness with things I feel really good. The urgency around what I need to get or do recedes into a more reasonable ebb and flow with the natural flow of time. Sometimes I find comfort in re-doing a...read more
Sometimes I wonder why humans try to express artistic efforts when Nature is so much better at it. Then, I realize, I too, am Nature. Some of my colleagues recently attended an inspiring talk in Denver with speaker, Austin Knight. He led a talk titled “Design is not Art.” So polarizing is this statement for creative professionals that it can lead to healthy dialogue and conversation. We invited him to a lunch brown bag last week and continued the conversation. The two terms of course are not the same if you look at the deeper meaning to each of term. Everyone is a designer. Everything is designed. That does not mean that everything is designed well or with intention and feedback from end users. Conscious or intentional design is the type I believe that Austin is referring to, however every human is a creator designing the world around us. Design could be looked at as a process, however that is too narrow of a focus for this lens. Design is in reality a practice. A mindset and a commitment to continuous, intentional living and creating. Design for other people ought to involve them in the process, thus the reason that user experience or user-centered design was born. Design as a practice means that it is a personal commitment to understanding your role in creating both your world and the world around you. It is certainly embodying principles that Austin talks about such as humility, empathy and self reflection. Everything we do has an impact on others, however its our job to determine how large the impact and how much input and inclusion we need to ensure we design the right systems, tools, events and services for the world to improve as a collective. Art can be seen as an outcome or as as a skill acquired through practice. Art, on the other hand, is really an outcome of a design expression. The practice of designing the world around us can be expressed in many ways. Art is often referred to as the opposite of science. Design is not a scientific process as some want to believe. It can be systemized and turned into a repetitive, relatively reliable process, but it is not inherently science. Art is often seen as a highly creative, intuitive sense of self expression. However, that too is hard to nail down in a term. Is there an Art to the practice of Design? Of course there is. There is art and science to most of life’s greatest challenges. There is intuition and process. As an outcome, art lands in the hearts of others and makes an impact. Art does not have to make an emotional impact for it to be art. Plus, our emotional reactions are not separate from our cognitive reactions, they are intertwined. As an adjective, art is loosely synonymous to creativity. Creativity also is an active engagement in the expression of the world around us. Some, such as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, believe that creativity itself does not exist without someone – some Other – to accept the creativity as new and...read more
Perfectionism is not a useful trait in today’s ever-changing world. While it is important to strive for excellence, greatness does not equate to perfection. I learn this over and over again in life. Action and progress trump indecision and endless, unquantified iteration. Analysis paralysis is a thing. Move on, get going! As an experience strategist, folks I work with assume that I think that all the details matter and add up to a whole. That it is every tiny detail that will make an impact. That’s just simply not the case. What matters is the moments that are most tied to emotional experiences and thus are tied to our memory of an experience. As memory is subjective, it clearly is not all about every detail, but the more important and connecting, meaningful details that matter. So, if you make a small mistake as a client facing / customer experience representative – so what? You can actually gain more respect and traction with your customers by using that mistake as an opportunity to course correct and showcase how you can serve above and beyond. Mistakes are the norm and life is in fact filled with chaos. We humans try to control and over-analyze the chaos when in fact that effort is largely futile. We can only shape the world around us, not control it. We have to let a LOT of things go in the spirit of progress and advancement. So how do we know what moments matter most for business and customers? In today’s world, anything that gets people’s attention is a start. Beyond that, its how we correct for mistakes as a business and how we involve our customers in the direction we are headed. If we are humble, gracious and inclusive in the way we do customer service and deliver our solutions to the world, we will gain the trust and loyalty of our customers. The moments that matter most are the ones where we show our humanity and our commitment to our customers over and over...read more
I had the most fascinating experience with customer service this week while traveling with my rental car provider. I’m signed up for their ‘preferred service’ and my vehicle was there, but on the other side of the terminal when I arrived. I went to the desk, “It’s on its way, give us 15 minutes.” Nothing. I returned to the desk, “It should be here, just wait there.” Nothing. On my third attempt after waiting an hour, I was not going to leave the counter. I wanted answers. Just give me another car I said. It was Orlando and Summer and Disney World. So, I get it, its busy. I can be patient, but I need more explanation as to why I wasn’t being treated in a Preferred Way. The lady at the desk looked like she was about 22. She said she’d help me and ran off into the garage. Five minutes later she returned, but she would not look me in the eye. She ran around the counter, behind glass, avoiding looking at me or telling me what was up. I started to wonder – what happened to my car? Finally, she resolved the issue and looked at me. “We gave away your car by mistake.” I looked at her, waiting for the resolution. “We’ll give you a better car and I’ve removed the gas fee at the end.” She handed me a card and shoved the key in my hands, desperate to get rid of me. It was a card to complain to her manager. This must happen a lot in the preferred service lane. The thing is, I was not that angry, even though my kids were waiting. I just wanted good customer service. What is that? I just want feedback – I want to be informed what is going on. I want the people working with me to be patient, smile and look me in the face. So many things get easier when customer service goes this way. When they acknowledge the issue, but work with me and keep me in the loop. That is all good customer service is really. Contrast this to calling customer service at Comcast, where no matter how I feel, they respond with “Hope you have a nice day.” They are not responding to my actual issues, no resolution, with them its me against them. Instead of them working with me. In order to train good customer service, we have to teach people new ways of interacting that are emotionally responsive, courteous and empower them with the ability to make decisions on the go. It is really simple, but it takes an investment in teaching people how to show up and interact in the...read more
Fear An energetic messenger A reminder of unknown outcomes As it lands in your body, tickling your soul, Fear says: Wake Up. Feel. Listen. There is much to learn here Stick around a little longer Breathe into me Allow me to transform into Courage, Compassion, Forgiveness and Truthread more
Action is Queen words are beautiful but distracting they inspire but also dilute and delay process is constricting movement is progress when in doubt take a step forward if you falter self correct if you succeed expand resistance is everywhere doubt and confusion abound gently move forward anyway overcoming resistance does not always require force there is a subtle place where pushing too hard is not required and timing allows for shifts find that place dance through the mucky messy middle glide into the future with...read more
“Fear transforms into courage through connected moments of vulnerability.” – Mark Nicolson The reality that we are primarily driven by our unconscious patterns and our emotional hangups does not have to be a doom and gloom story. In fact, quite the contrary, this reality is the biggest opportunity of our life to become the people, and leaders, we want to be. The Heroines and Heros of our own Epic Life Stories. It is in the every day moments of being a human with enough self-awareness to reflect on our behaviors that we are able to become sympathetic creatures. That we are able to relate to others needs and adjust our lives in subtle ways. Being a better leader is not about “leaning in” to Big Career ladder climbing opportunities. Its not about saying “Yes” to everything that is thrown your way. Being a great leader is about knowing when to “turn toward” a great opportunity to connect and inspire others you work with, in focused, strategic ways and in subtle, vulnerable human ways. Its both personal and professional, its how you show and and who you are at your very core. It is about transparency, authenticity and building trust with your team. It is about pointing people to a vision and admitting that it will be a bumpy road to getting “there”, but that you are all in it together. Being a great leader is about admitting your struggles and imperfections in the face of great risk, and still showing up anyway with your best intentions. It is a constant commitment to agility, reflection and immersion in the opportunities to shape life, not control, outcomes. As we show up and allow our feelings to be, eventually we reshape them. We have the ability to transform. It cannot be something we rush through, it is not a destination to ‘fix’ our emotional reactions. It is a process, a practice, a journey. As we stay connected to our emotions, and committed to our strength, they are the greatest teachers and they offer the most opportunity for growth and transformation both personally and...read more