Back Story, Choose to be Curious, Life Lessons

Anniversary Celebration

Today I celebrate a first anniversary and, perhaps more accurately, a birthday. October 30, 2015 was the day I gave my LEAD Talk on curiosity — and the first time I ever heard of Arlington’s community radio station.

Much of what now constitutes my typical day wasn’t even on my radar a year ago. ‘Round about this time, this day, last year, I would have finished my usual morning walk (having committed to those thousand miles, you know) and headed for the shower. Later that morning I would catch up on email, read the paper and go through a rehearsal or two to take the edge off my nerves. The day was unseasonably warm and my walk to the Central Library was sun-drenched. I arrived sweaty.

I left exhilarated. The talk was a roaring success – fun for me, well-received by the crowd, a genuinely new idea worth further consideration. My pockets bulged with business cards pressed into my hands by people eager to hear more. My calendar included a community media information meeting in the following week. I felt energized and alive in ways I couldn’t quite describe. Something was shifting…

In ULab’s live session this week we focused on crossing the “bottom of the U” and moving to prototypes. This stage of the process is all about embracing “the future that is trying to emerge.” About taking concrete steps to unfold an as-yet-unknown-but-compelling next. About trying, testing and assessing. About listening to the universe.

So, I feel pretty confident the universe has spoken.

One guest wrote to me after our interview that he though I had found my calling. A cousin described my picture in the WETA segment as radiant. Another guest, early on, said simply: “Look at you: you gotta!”

True enough: I gotta. I wake each day with conceptual threads weaving in my head. I keep long lists of conversations I still want to have. My email is a mess of leads and shows in various stages of incubation. My shelves are a tumble of related reading. My Christmas list? Probably Pro Tools apps and some decent headphones.candle

What a difference a year makes. What a difference a leap makes. What a difference.

Happy Birthday to my future me!

Life Lessons, Making a List

Our Better Selves: A Daily Celebration

So, you may have noticed I’ve been feeling very torn lately — divided between the hopeful, life-affirming journey that is Theory U and ULab, and the ghastly train wreck that is this election.

At the start of the month, overwhelmed by whatever the latest election ugliness was, and the Philippine president’s self-identification with Adolf Hitler, complete with a declaration that he wanted to kill all the drug addicts — and something else similarly awful — I did what I always do when the going gets tough. I walked out the door.

Walking won’t cure the world’s ills, but it does markedly increase my resiliency in facing them.

Walking through the woods nearby, replenished by the loveliness around me, I made myself a promise: I would capture an image a day of something that made me smile, something that spoke to our better selves.

A few minutes later, I came upon a charming Little Free Library (you know I’m a sucker for these things) decorated to be a “Mini Me” of its steward’s home.

It made me smile. 

It housed a rain-stained invitation to take lots of books because “I have too many.” It was a perfect example of the little gestures we can — and do — make toward one another that reveal our better nature. I took a picture. Two, actually.

I kept the practice up for about ten days. It did me a world of good.

Every day I consciously looked for inspiration around me. It was a powerful example of confirmation bias: I looked for evidence of the good in people…and I found it. It didn’t make the other ugliness go away, but it pushed back in a way that was, for me, meaningful.

The images aren’t gorgeous, the gestures not elaborate, but the overall effect was tremendous. Here is a sampling…  #smile #restoringfaith #randomacts

Choose to be Curious

WETA Arts Feature Story

Most people are a little baffled when I first raise the idea, but we never have a hard time getting the conversation going. Everyone has something to say about curiosity.

Choose to be Curious was fortunate to be featured in this WETA Arts segment on low-power community radio stations. Segment begins at 7:50.

Choose to be Curious

“I’ve been thinking we need a Curiosity Corps.”

I chased this conversation for nearly six months.

Kelly was on my very first, very short list for Choose to be Curious. But when you chase someone who — literally — spends a good deal of time at the poles of the earth and many points in between, well, things can take a while.

But it was worth the wait, not least because it gave her a whole body of work to absorb — and that made an impression. Way cool.

Listen to Choose to be Curious #13: Science, Research & Curiosity – with Kelly Falkner.


Why I Am Grudgingly Appreciative of Donald Trump


A Note: I have found the last few days very difficult. I wasn’t surprised by the “Access Hollywood” recording and I doubted it would matter. It left me feeling hollow, and I withdrew into the confines of my cold, the hurricane and two good books. This post is an accurate description of one place I was along the way. I’m not sure what I think now.

It isn’t every day that we have the opportunity to see without any distortion, to get an absolutely clear-eyed view of reality. At least, it wasn’t every day — until lately. Lately, we’ve been treated to an unvarnished view of our inner selves on a regular basis.

And it isn’t pretty.

And it isn’t what I think we thought we were.

And for that, I am grudgingly appreciative of Donald Trump.

He, who has held up a mirror and shown us just how ugly we can be, inside and out. He, who spouts stuff that others declare as “finally the truth.” He, who utters slurs that “men say all the time.” He, who has lanced the ugly boil of our self-satisfied private bigotries, large and small, and allowed the puss and blood to ooze out across our collective skin.

It’s a horrible — really, a terrifying, unconscionably  horrible — mess, but it may also be the only way we cure the disease. The first step is admitting there is a problem. We thought we were post-racial, post-feminist. Apparently not.

Clearly not.

And that’s where I am trying to hold onto hope. I am trying to hold onto the hope that, having contemplated the abyss, we pull back from the precipice and consider another way. That having looked deep into our own dark souls and seen the festering sores within, we still see a glimmer, a little wobbly light flickering way in the back that could — can — will — must strengthen and grow brighter.

I am trying to hold onto the hope that our better selves will reassert themselves, relieved as we now must be of the false conceit that we were ever yet sufficiently evolved.

I am trying to hold onto the hope that something good comes of all of this.

I am trying to hold onto hope.

I am trying.

Choose to be Curious, Uncategorized

You say more by the questions you ask…

Spoiler Alert: My conversation about curiosity and leadership with Scott Nycum is full of great insights and “quotable moments.”  I’ll spare you a little note taking and share some bon mots here, but don’t let that deter you from listening to the whole show (it’s only 26 minutes, after all!).  Time well spent.

Great leaders are self-aware.

You can say more about what you know by the questions you ask than the statements you make.

Curiosity has to be one of the tools an effective leader would need to have, not just nice to have. It would almost be an essential component.

I need to sit with that for a minute.

Listen to Choose to be Curious #12: Curiosity and Leadership – with Scott Nycum.

Back Story, Life Lessons

Pregame Show

 A Story in Several Parts, Part Isee-saw-3

Even before I hit the airwaves, which is not the same thing as hitting eardrums, I had a list. I had a list of conversations I wanted to have, whether or not there was an audience to hear them. I had a list of conversations about life experiences that I thought would benefit from curiosity, and racism was on that list.

My hypothesis was this: most of the -isms and -phobias of our lives (racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia…) are due in no small part to lack of curiosity, to a corrosive inclination to judge, to think we already know, to go first and fiercely to resistance and fear. To a cavernous, echoing absence of empathy and attention. To a profound failure to listen.

Systemic, implicit racial bias wasn’t necessarily where I wanted to start in building my radio show, but I knew I had to get there. I just wasn’t sure how — or with whom.

Part II

For more than a decade, volunteers have been hosting an extended community conversation here called “Challenging Racism.” It’s a big commitment of both time and energy, and I never quite felt my calendar and I were up to it. But my new normal neither affords the same kind of hiding places nor excuses not walking my talk, so this year I applied to participate.

Then it dawned on me: this is my conversation!  I sent what I hoped was an inviting note to an unknown entity in the dark of cyberspace, asking for the opportunity to explore this topic for a possible episode. (Candidly, I was also hoping the ask would tip the scales in my favor for selection this year. There’s a waiting list, which I find reassuring, in a good-for-the-future-of-the-species kind of way.)

It took about a nano-second for a reply to arrive: Of course! Yes, by all means! When? Where? How about two of us come?

And that’s how I came to be sitting at a wobbly high top with the self-described “way older white woman” who started the initiative and a “way younger” black woman who walked into a class one Back-to-School night two years ago and seems never to have looked back. They taught me things about white privilege and micro-aggression, I outlined my Unified Theory of Curiosity. We agreed there was much to discuss.

Parts III & IV

So here’s the plan: it won’t be just one episode, but two. One before the course even starts, by way of context; one after, for reflection.

The course begins in 10 days, so we’re hustling to record the first show while I’m still a programmatic virgin. Inevitably, I’m digging back through files to find whatever research or writing I might have on the topic. More importantly, I’m sitting with my own assumptions, surfacing the questions I need and want to ask. Today’s email brought this, reminding me that the universe puts things in our paths that we see when we’re ready.

And then we’ll reconvene in the spring, after the course is all over, and see what there is to see. I’m expecting…I don’t know what. Insights, undoubtedly. Humility, I hope.

Stay tuned.