Curiosity Journal, Life Lessons, Making a List, UnComfort Zone

Curiosity & the Fluid Career

surf2Yes, that’s me. On a surf board. In Hawaii. Admittedly, ten years ago. I thought it was a good image for a conversation about fluid careers and catching the curiosity wave…

I was delighted to be invited back by Dana Theus and Mary Brodie at InPower Women for another conversation about curiosity – this time in the context of the fluid career. When they invited me on the show, I think they expected to explore my own fluid career – which is a fine tale, but I offered something both personal and more universal. Let’s talk, I suggested, about “choosing to be curious about futures one might not yet have contemplated, about being intentionally open to the unknown, asking more questions about what emerges, and doing some rapid prototyping to see what might work, using that information to build and (re)shape that emerging future.” 

I hope you’ll listen to the whole show (30 minutes), but here’s some of what we covered and what has worked for me:

Following threads and finding fellow travelers. One of the biggest and happiest surprises for me has been the discovery of rich new networks and communities of people to whom I’ve become attached as I’ve chosen to be curious and entered into many entirely new realms of activity and interests.

0.8 Prototyping. Borrowing from Otto Scharmer’s Theory U, I’ve learned to try new concepts out before they are fully cooked (even before they are at “1.0” stages of readiness [hence: “0.8”]), and letting things fail, be messy, listening to and learning from others — and then trying again, with all those lessons in mind.

My simple rules: Drawing on the work of Donald Sull & Kathleen Eisenhardt, I like to think about the simple, most foundational guidelines that govern how/what I do:

  1. Choose to be curious.
  2. Change my point of view to see something new.
  3. Ask myself “how might I….?”
  4. Go toward the fear. (Fear, broadly defined, as the things to which I feel resistant)
  5. Iterate, reflect, repeat.

Curiosity Walks: I made this thing up, the “curiosity walk” — a mix of mindfulness and scavenger hunt. It’s a way to be more intentional and attentive going about a place, whether as a tourist or in our workplace. What can I see or learn by being just a little more curious about wherever I am? What’s actually going on? How do I feel about it – specificallyHow might it be different?

Aldous Huxley: Experience is not what happens to you; it’s what you do with what happens to you. — This reminds me to stay fully present with whatever is going on. What I choose to do with what happens will shape the lessons I learn, the patterns I discern, the habits I form, the possibilities I believe open before me.

Elizabeth Gilbert: Isn’t there something that interests you, even just a little?  A reminder that we needn’t be “passionate” about everything we pursue and that, sometimes, the best discoveries come from following a loose thread that interests us just a little, just enough that we choose to be curious…and see where it takes us.

Listen to InPower Women Coffee Break: Curiosity and the Fluid Career

UnComfort Zone

Out/Rage and In/Sight

waterphotoThe battle is fierce, the war far from over. Sides are sharply drawn, passions high, entrenchments deep. I speak, of course, of the state of my inner psyche. I am at war with myself – and I suspect I am not alone.

Outrage is not a natural state for me. But it’s increasingly where I find myself: on unfamiliar, alien ground that feels dangerous, even hostile. I’m unsure how to navigate, uncertain which survival skills are most applicable, which practices actually an impediment. The anger feels entirely justified, but highly toxic. As much a risky place to stay as it is to abandon. I’m not sure which way to turn or what I can trust.

I’ve tried to parse the term — outrage —  tried to defuse it, own it in a different form. I have thought about the blindness of rage, the all-consuming heat of it. I’ve thought about the out part, the externalized expression, the dependence on a heinous other for existence.

I tried to think about its inverse: what is that? If not antidote, then what? Is there a way for me to sit with outrage that doesn’t consume me completely? What would help me (re)gain clarity? Is there room for insight in outrage?

And there I was: outrage and insight – not antonyms, by any means, but a spot upon which I could teeter long enough to craft some sort of strategy for myself. I’ve been reading the thought pieces on underlying values, the ones that explore how badly we’re talking past one another right now, how uselessly we’re relying on our own values to try to persuade others to see things as we do, ignoring their values as easily as they seem to ignore ours. Mine.

So Monday I’m sitting down with someone from the “other side”. I don’t want to talk politics with him. I have no interest in argument or persuasion. I just want to be able to sit with him and know him as a person. I’m hoping, maybe, for a little insight.


Choose to be Curious, UnComfort Zone

Challenging Racism

photo-marty-and-moeWords have pretty much failed me for the last week. I moved inward for reflection and contemplation. Processing.

Today’s “Choose to be Curious” was recorded several weeks ago — before the election — and was timed to coincide with the UN International Tolerance Day (November 16). It feels like a good place to begin regaining my voice.

My profound thanks to Marty Swaim, Monique Brown and the many other people who make Challenging Racism possible.

Listen to Choose to be Curious #15: Curiosity and Challenging Racism – with Marty Swaim and Monique Brown.

Curiosity Journal, Life Lessons, UnComfort Zone

Whatever You Do, Choose to be Curious

pix-whatever-you-doHonestly, I don’t know what to do, other than to do what I know to do.

I can’t bear to rehash it. I can’t listen to the pundits. I can’t dive down the catastrophe rabbit hole. I’m done with speculation.

I’m going back to curiosity.  Or, maybe, I’m going forward to curiosity.

I don’t mean the how could this happen hand-wringing that risks just more confirmation bias. I mean going to a deeper, more sober contemplation of the gaping, ghastly unknowing between world views, our willful ignorance about one another that seems to have both won and lost this race and is our undoing.

How different might this whole process have been had we all been asking ourselves what am I not seeing? What more is there to know?



UnComfort Zone

Leading with Curiosity

lead (lēd) v. – tr. 1. To show the way to by going in advance. 2. To guide or direct in a course. — intr. 1. To be first; be ahead. 2. To go first as guide. — n. 1. a. The first or foremost position. b. One occupying such a position; a leader.

I write as a recovering know it all.

Not, I hope, as an ugly, in-your-face, superior-than-thou know it all, but as someone whose former role as a senior executive with an especially long tenure in the organization was prone to make me and everyone around me believe, well, that I knew it all.

And that’s a trap, all the way around. A particularly tricky trap from which to extricate oneself, as it happens. It’s taken me quite a while to understand those golden handcuffs.

Which might explain my deepening fascination with curiosity and the fervor of my commitment to get more people to be less knowing. There’s nothing like a convert.

S. Leonard Rubinstein wrote, “Curiosity is a willing, a proud, an eager confession of ignorance.” That is to say curiosity is not something that may come easily to people who are accustomed to being the smartest one in the room or are invested in the supremacy of their expertise.

thinkerWhat does it take for a person in power to step back, shut up and really listen? What happens when curiosity is our first move?

What does leading with curiosity actually look like?

And, more to the point, how can I lead with curiosity?

I’m trying to be willing and eager; to embrace my ignorance.

Honestly, that’s not hard this month as I tackle the steep learning curve that arcs toward my newly-approved radio show  (beginning May 4; every other Wednesday at 10 a.m. Eastern time [US] on WERA-LP 96.7 FM, streaming live on, and available after broadcast on Mixcloud). Is it a surprise that I’ve named it “Choose to be Curious”?

I’m up to my eyeballs in new FacebookTwitter and Spinitron accounts; grappling with the mechanics of audio recording. I’m chasing interviews. Struggling to clarify my own thinking enough to craft cogent scripts. Loving the challenge.

Loving being new and dumb and eager and willing.

So much to be curious about. I’m letting it lead me – and maybe that’s the secret.



Back Story, UnComfort Zone

Seeing Yourself, For Real

Every vision has that moment in which concept moves to concrete; in which you can truly see its future. Sometimes, what you see is that it isn’t going to happen. But sometimes that thing you’ve been eying, that idea around whose edges you’ve been feeling your way, that hazy, crazy thing suddenly snaps into focus and you can see it, for real.

I had one of those moments this week.

It was the final class in on-air broadcasting. We’d been familiarizing ourselves in equal parts with FCC regulations and the broadcast console, taking turns at testing sound levels, prepping auxiliary sources, making smooth transitions, getting the call letters straight. Me, and the guys — all of them old hands, many half my age. It was my turn to do a mock show — eight minutes of me, the mic and….air.  I didn’t have a script, didn’t have preselected music, didn’t really have an idea about how I would enter into all that airspace. But I had a clip, good-natured classmates and a supportive instructor, so in I went.

I tested the mics and set the levels. I prepped the auxiliary track. I cued us up. I managed friendly banter with B., and a not-too-shabby segue to my clip. And it all worked. And it was all fun.  And I thought: wow.

I pulled the headphones off to friendly applause, flushed with the realization that I can do this. That this hypothetical can become actual in a not so unthinkable way. That even if the station doesn’t pick up my show, I can make a credible podcast, anyway.

That I can see myself doing this. booth


Note of Appreciation:  I can see myself on the radio — something I could not have imagined saying not so long ago — thanks to the good folks at WERA- LP Arlington, 96.7 FM ( WERA’s  mission is to enlighten, enrich, and entertain Arlington’s diverse community by promoting and facilitating independent radio. They’re making the mission real by training up fresh voices and old pros alike to be part of their newly-launched low power FM station. It’s a brave, wild, wonderful effort and I’m thrilled to have connected with it in even this little way.  Check ’em out online, on Facebook or Twitter.


Life Lessons, UnComfort Zone

Thinking About Frequencies

phont poleThe truth is, I spend most of my time among women – a function and artifact of American motherhood, I suppose. So it was an unexpected and pleasant surprise to be in the distinct minority at a recent community information meeting.

All those ponytails? Sprouting from thinning male pates, not perky female ones. I had to laugh: I hadn’t thought about it, but of course that’s who would be there.

Still a tad giddy from the success of my LEAD Talk and wanting to hear more about the low frequency radio station soon to open in our community, I’d turned out for the information session with a vague fantasy about eventually putting together a radio program built around curiosity.

I was clearly the newbie in the room.

These guys were serious. They’d been DJs in college. They had recording equipment in their basements, maybe even their living rooms. They had opinions about FCC rulings, recent and historic.

They had their prepared program proposals at the ready.

And, yet, they were so gracious. They were delighted to have new people show up, thrilled to share what they knew, eager to encourage interest and involvement. I give them real props for this mark of true enthusiasts, that newcomers were welcomed and embraced, rather than regarded as just more competition to be crushed.

I never really thought about radio before, but now I’m checking my calendar to book basic studio training, and supplemental audio recording skills after that. It’s fun to be contemplating yet another learning curve on the winding river of this new life.

Life Lesson #28: You never know where life will take you – especially if you let it.