It’s book launch week! Tuesday, January 11, has been circled on the calendar for what seems like forever.

Last week, by way of encouragement, friend and mentor Michael Bungay Stanier forwarded me a quote from Austin Kleon’s newsletter. Kleon had, in turn, picked it up from American author Jonathan Lethem, who wrote about the strange abyss of waiting for a book to publish in The Ecstasy of Influence:

“For me, there’s a weird, unfathomable gulf—I almost wrote gulp—between the completion of a novel and its publication. Some days this duration feels interminable, as though the book has voyaged out like some spacecraft on a research mission, populated by forgotten losers like the ones in John Carpenter’s Dark Star, a craft cut loose by those who launched the thing and now grown irretrievable, bent by space and time into something distorted and not worth guiding home. Then there are other days where the book might be a pitch that’s left your hand too soon, now burning toward home plate, whether to be met by a catcher’s mitt or the sweet part of the bat you can’t possibly know. Hopeless to regret it once you feel it slipping past your fingertips. Just watch. (That’s the gulp.) The weirdness is in that interlude where the book has quit belonging to you but doesn’t belong to anyone else yet, hasn’t been inscribed in all its rightness and wrongness by the scattershot embrace and disdain of the world.”

I appreciate Lethem for having described so artfully the strange limbo that exists after a manuscript is finished—all finished, all the different stages of editing, etc.—and while the publisher does all its mysterious work before the book is officially published.

Publishing a book has been compared to having a baby, which I think it is NOT like. But it resembles expecting a baby in its commingled anticipation and terror.

Oodles of anxiety.

It’s inconvenient because I have been trying to emphasize finding more joy in my work and less anxiety. I want to lead with what has been achieved rather than fretting about what remains to be done. This isn’t my natural tendency. And, as we found when researching and writing the new book, Smart Growth, it may not come naturally to most of us. 

We found that an important phase in the S Curve is Anchor, a point where we have achieved our objective and pause briefly before setting sail again. During that pause, we need to celebrate. The positive emotions associated with celebration help solidify our new habits—the brain loves those good feelings. In the book, we share the research and some stories. Still, the fact is, we struggled to find businesses and even individuals who make celebration a part of their regular process. We’re always just “on to the next.”

Earlier this week, in the CFM app, Shawni Pothier advised that “When you finish your jobs, take a minute to look at those jobs and to reflect on what you were able to do. Whether it’s a sparkling clean bathroom or whether it’s a perfectly made bed. Sometimes, there are going to be things to improve on that you can look at and try to redo, try to do better next time. But just take a minute to reflect on those jobs.” I love that advice – pause and appreciate the work that was accomplished. 

So this week, I celebrate having a new book. If you haven’t already, buy a copy or two or three. We’ll give you a complimentary ticket to join us on January 20th for our Begin, Grow, Pivot, Learn online gathering with Apolo Ohno, Pamay Bassey, Michael Bungay Stanier, and me.

What can you celebrate today? This week? Recognizing the good in small, even daily, victories is as valuable to our growth as throwing a party for the big ones. Let’s learn to do both.

This week we’re joined on the podcast by Adam B. Levine. It’s hard to talk about personal disruption without giving due to disruptive technologies.

Adam, managing editor of CoinDesk, host of the Speaking of Bitcoin podcast, and CEO of Tokenly.com—is here to provide a primer on blockchain, cryptocurrencies, NFTs, and the philosophy behind the decentralization movement. You will want to join us!


Mingle, Mix, Be

I’ve been thinking about bookstores.

Maybe this is natural for someone who has a new book release in a few days. You find yourself worrying about who will sell it and how; who is going to buy it.

We’ve been lamenting the decline of brick-and-mortar retail for quite a while now. For the most part, we can satisfy our need to purchase goods online. But we have experienced genuine anguish as some unique community gathering places have closed their doors.

Including bookstores. 

Books can easily be acquired online, but other local bookstore “offerings” can’t be. 

I recall Joe Fox (played by Tom Hanks), owner of Fox Books in the film You’ve Got Mail.  He says of his store, “I said we were great. I said you could sit and read for hours, and no one will bother you. I said we have a hundred and fifty thousand titles. I showed them the New York City section. I said we were a ******* piazza! A place in the city where people can mingle and mix and be.”

Fox Books is a megastore that’s devouring all the little independent bookstores in its path. But it is still the piazza that Joe Fox describes – a tangible space where people can gather, where community relationships are forged and strengthened. There is nothing like a period of isolation to remind us how much we need places where we can mingle, mix, and be.

My friend, Julie Berry, an award-winning novelist, bought a bookstore in her childhood hometown last year. You can read her story here. It was not the most auspicious time to be starting a new business, but Julie has found that the death knell of the brick-and-mortar bookstore has been rung too soon. Yes, it’s a challenging time to be in retail. But people love—and need—their community bookstore. 

Even before they opened the store, Julie said, “I have been blown away by the special orders and the outreach that I’ve received from people who live an hour away, but clearly frequent the store to pick up online orders and make a point of coming here to place orders. That’s just kind of how life is out here. Being in the local community is important to them.”

My relatively small town in Virginia has two bookstores. One sells new books—and toys and puzzles and games, etc. Like many bookstores now do. The other is a (mostly) used bookstore with narrow aisles, tall shelves, the odor of dusty old books, haphazard organization, including random stacks of books on the floor. A challenge if you’re looking for something specific, but a place you can browse for hours in a spirit of adventurous discovery. I would hate for either store to go away.

What role does your local bookstore play in your life and community? I encourage you to think about giving it a boost soon.

This week’s podcast features a discussion of a new article we have being published in the Harvard Business Review magazine this month in connection with the new book. Space constraints meant that many of the great stories we discovered and loved couldn’t make it into the article. We have a chance to share them—and you have an opportunity to hear them—on this week’s episode. Please join us.

Remember to get your ticket for our online gathering – Begin, Grow, Pivot, Learn on January 20. Guests include Apolo Ohno, Pamay Bassey, Michael Bungay Stanier, and me for a 90-minute interactive experience. Leave with insights and tools to grow as you hope to in 2022. If you pre-order a book you will receive a free ticket.

As always, thank you for being here!

My best,

P.S. Reader Gary Gruber responded to last week’s newsletter on the Great Aspiration, writing, “What if we were to think of dissolutions and solutions instead of resolutions?  Change the way you think, and you change your world. I aspire for less in 2022, thus having more.” Food for thought that I wanted to share with you.

P.P.S. Gary also shared a wonderful piece from Maria Popova, intellect extraordinaire, and a favorite of mine for rare and beautiful ideas. Here you can read her perspective on resolutions.

Choose Your Own Seismic Shift

Even a child with normal feet was in love with the world after he had got a new pair of shoes. Flannery O’Connor

The annual countdown will soon begin. 

Most of us will probably feel a little relieved to put 2021 behind us. It was the year we were supposed to “get back to normal.” I don’t know what a normal year looks like for you, but this wasn’t it. 

We’ve been disrupted in monumental ways for almost two years. 

One of the best ways to deal with disruption is to disrupt ourselves. We’ve had a lot of practice at being proactive, being the subject of change. 

Now we’re ready to be its agent.

That’s why 2022 will be a year of amazing professional and personal growth. The media calls it the Great Resignation, and I suggest we should instead call it the Great Aspiration. After a long and strange semi-hibernation, we are ready for something new. 

Not the old new. Something truly new.

Because of the pandemic, we may have a better idea of what we want next in life, and, in many cases, it isn’t this—whatever this is. We want better work-life balance, better pay, greater autonomy, and broader opportunities. The job market is friendly and amenable to our aspirations.

Perhaps your aspiration is personal rather than professional. Maybe you want to learn a language or an instrument or how to bake. Or you might want to travel, make a new friend, or engage in some kind of volunteer work. 

There are as many options for a new S Curve as there are people who want one. 

Our lives have been shaken for the past 20 months; a little more shaking up is unlikely to do us harm and might do us good, especially if we can choose our own seismic shift.

But maybe you feel like logistics are holding you back. Indeed, one of the biggest of these is money. You may find inspiration in this article about three women who creatively solved the cash crunch that can come with launching a new S Curve. One leveraged equity in her home with a refinance. Another abandoned home altogether and embraced unconventional living arrangements. The third had a partner who could cover basic expenses during the “gap year” of change. Each person’s choice involved economizing and some discomfort. Your options are likely to be different than theirs. But perhaps their stories will help you imagine what might make a new aSpiration possible for you. 

If there’s only one resolution, you keep, resolve to be the hero of your story in 2022.

This brings me to the podcast episode for this week, a great conversation with Dan Roam, author of The Pop-Up Pitch

We talk about why people are wired to love storytelling and how to use a storyteller’s toolkit to inspire and persuade, even ourselves! In 10 steps, Dan explains how we can turn a presentation into a story and any story into a hero’s journey. 

What story will you tell yourself about this coming year? What do you aSpire to do, and how can you move it from “dream” to “do”? 

Happy New S Year!

My best,

P.S. If you need some extra inspiration to go after your aSpirations, come to a unique online gathering Begin, Grow, Pivot, and Learn on January 20. Join Apolo Ohno, Pamay Bassey, Michael Bungay Stanier, and me for a 90-minute, interactive experience. You’ll leave with insights and tools to grow as you hope to in 2022. And, if you pre-order a book, you will receive a free ticket!

P.P.S. If you’ve already pre-ordered the book, just let me know!


Winter is a State of Mind

“Winter is at once a season of the natural world, a respite our bodies require, and a state of mind….” Katherine May

The winter solstice has just passed in my half of the world. 

For those living in the northern hemisphere, it’s the day when we tilt as far away from the sun as we will get during the year. We know that we are moving toward longer days now; the solstice symbolically marks the darkest, coldest season of the year. 

It’s ironic because the solstice isn’t the end of winter, but it’s the beginning

Winter is an important season of rest for the natural world, a time when less energy can be expended. It’s essential to many natural cycles which rely on the cold and/or dark to complete their work. But it can challenge us if we spend months yearning for summer.

I’m recommending Katherine May’s new book: Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times, and a podcast episode of On Being, where Krista Tippett interviews May about the book.

“Wintering is a metaphor for those phases in our life when we feel frozen out or unable to take the next step, and that can come at any time, in any season, in any weather, that it has nothing to do with the physical cold.”

Covid has been a long winter. Many of us have been made to retreat into situations that feel unnatural to us—depriving us of resources that we formerly took for granted. Forcing us to be resourceful, take on tasks from home, educate our children, and cope with the inconveniences of shortages and supply line delays. For many, illness and loss have been part of the equation. 

May writes in Wintering: “Plants and animals don’t fight the winter; they don’t pretend it’s not happening and attempt to carry on living the same lives they lived in the summer…. They perform extraordinary acts of metamorphosis to get them through. Wintering is a time of withdrawing from the world, maximizing scant resources, carrying out acts of brutal efficiency, and vanishing from sight; but that’s where the transformation occurs [italics added]. Winter is not the death of the life cycle, but its crucible.

“It’s a time for reflection and recuperation, for slow replenishment, for putting your house in order.”

Covid has been a step back, to use the personal disruption lexicon. 

The time has come to think about what’s next and to look forward to laying the groundwork for the future. Covid has transformed us, and we know it. We see the change in what is called the “Great Resignation.”

What if we thought of it as the “Great Aspiration”? After all, changed people feel driven to do new things. No wonder workers are leaving their jobs in droves. Winter is a state of mind, but so is spring.

How have you “wintered” during Covid? How do you feel changed? What do you feel driven to do?

How can you leverage that transformation into a new aspiration? 

Remember, bears emerge from hibernation, lean, mean, and hungry. We can do the same. We can be hungry for new opportunities, ready to hunt for new resources, and poised to attack a new S Curve.

One suggestion for something new: listen to our podcast episode with Scott Miller. 

He decided to step back from a comfortable CMO job at the leadership training company FranklinCovey when, in the words of Liz Wiseman, he realized he was an “accidental diminisher.” This examination of himself changed the course of his career, and he’s on a mission to help other S Curve jumpers do the same.

Miller “sees a mentor in everyone.” Who could you mentor in their new adventure? Who could mentor you, in yours? Miller offers excellent advice and insights. Don’t miss it.

Happy Holidays,

P.S. The start of a new year is the perfect opportunity to get serious about your growth as an individual or the growth of your team. On January 20, join me for a unique online gathering: Begin, Grow, Pivot, and Learn. Join Apolo Ohno, Pamay Bassey, Michael Bungay Stanier, and me for a 90-minute, interactive experience. You’ll leave with insights and tools to grow as you hope to in 2022. AND, if you pre-order a book, you will receive a free ticket to our online gathering. 

P.P.S. If you’ve already pre-ordered the book, just let me know!

Keystone Species

The Sockeye Salmon

It is a humble and amazing fish. 

In the northwestern part of the United States, the Sockeye will swim over a thousand miles from where it is born to the Pacific Ocean.

After about three years living in the ocean, it makes the reverse journey, swimming up rivers and streams (jumping up S Curves) to reach Redfish Lake so it can spawn before it dies.

The Sockeye is also known as a keystone species, meaning it influences the survival or reproduction of other species. 

During the spawning journey, predators like bears gorge on the glut of salmon. Their decaying bodies release a surge of nutrients into the sterile mountain water, making life possible for their offspring as well as a number of Redfish Lake’s animals and plants. 

Without the ecosystem, the Sockeye couldn’t live. Without the Sockeye, the ecosystem would collapse.  

We all live, work, and grow in relation to ecosystems. We constantly draw resources from and contribute to our ecosystems. 

We take for granted how the physical elements of our environment affect us. Take sunlight – compared to a windowless workspace; we know a simple window allowing natural light will elevate your workplace and your mood. 

We also often miss how we relate to one another impacts the ecosystem. And, like Redfish Lake, each ecosystem has keystone species. 

While I cannot emphasize enough that we are responsible for making our own life decisions, we have to acknowledge that we achieve very little by ourselves. Just as you cannot grow without others, there are some people who cannot grow without you, which makes you their keystone species.

Sadly, we also know some people take more than they give, leaving a barren ecosystem for their fellow humans. Your ecosystems’ health depends not only on what you get but also on what you give. 

This brings us to Howard Morgan, a man who started a company at 13, which now generates $130 million a year in revenue and was our recent guest on the Disrupt Yourself podcast. Listening to Howard, who tells fantastic and insightful stories full of wisdom, I had the a-ha that he is a major contributor to the ecosystems of others. He works hard to create a culture of trust and respect wherever he goes. 

Howard Morgan. Disrupt Yourself Podcast Ep 247

Howard talked about how he wanted to spend the rest of his life. “For me,” he said, “it's about learning to be a positive influencer, not an expert. [It’s] how to help others be the best they can be without me. I can be the conduit and help that, but I'm not the answer giver… My job is simple. It's to get people to places they never thought they were capable of.” 

In his work, he helps others feel like they are capable, that they too can give back, and contribute to their ecosystems. That is something we can all do. 

Are you generously contributing to your ecosystem? 

As always, thank you for being here!

Happy Holidays,

P.S.  The start of a new year is the perfect opportunity to get serious about your growth as an individual or the growth of your team. On January 20, join me for a unique online gathering: Begin, Grow, Pivot, and Learn. Join Apolo Ohno, Pamay Bassey, Michael Bungay Stanier, and me for a 90-minute, interactive experience. You’ll leave with insights and tools to grow as you hope to in 2022. AND, If you pre-order a book, you will receive a free ticket to our online gathering.

P.P.S. If you’ve already pre-ordered the book, just let me know…, and for those of you who responded to me last week, I will respond shortly!


Is Growth Your Default

Editorial note: Now that we are just 32 days and 11 hours away from the launch of Smart Growth, and we have a lot of new newsletter subscribers, I wanted to go back to the basics. What is the S Curve of Learning™, and why will it ‘change your life.’ Hyperbole––yes, but hear me out.

We all want to grow.

If you are subscribed to this newsletter, you are motivated to make progress.

There’s a yearning. Deep-bellied.

But maybe you don’t know where to start or believe you can’t start. Perhaps you’re curious and motivated but also too overextended with existing obligations to believe you can succeed at something new. Or maybe you have started––you are already growing––but want to grow faster still.

No matter where you currently are, what I know––for sure––is that you are hard-wired to grow. 

Growth is our default setting.

Not only do we want to grow, but we are also more aware than ever that we need to grow. An Egon Zehnder study reports that 80% of CEOs agreed they needed to transform themselves and their organizations—up from 26% before the pandemic. 

But how?

As my wonderful mentor, the inimitable Marshall Goldsmith, says, “What got us here won’t get us there.” 

So, we need a plan.

And lest we walk in circles (yes, that’s a real thing), we need a map. 

That’s where the S Curve of Learning™ comes in. It is a simple visual model that maps what growth looks like and how we experience it. 

At the Disruptive Innovation Fund, we used the S Curve to determine how quickly an innovation would be adopted. I then had the insight that the S Curve could help us understand the science of how we grow.

Growth is slow and full of effort at the outset, known as the launch point. It’s not that growth isn’t happening, but it’s not yet apparent, so it feels Slow. Encouragement is needed.

That phase is followed by rapid upward progress where growth is and feels Fast: a stretch I think of as the sweet spot. Focus is required.

At the peak is mastery––when work becomes easier, but the curve flattens because there is little left to learn. Growth is Slow, and a new challenge is essential.  

Every new skill learned, every challenge faced, takes the form of a distinct learning curve. We can pinpoint where we are in the growth process and decide our next step.

Slow, fast, slow is how we grow.

I’ve seen it in my own work and life. I know it will make a difference in yours, whether you are growing yourself or want to help others grow.

When you hear someone say, “I’m at the launch point,” you’ll know they are struggling to gain traction. When someone says, “I’m in the sweet spot,” you’ll know they have momentum and are feeling competent. And when someone says, “I’m in mastery,” the message is clear: I know I’m good at this, but I need a new challenge.” When you have a vocabulary and framework to talk about growth, you can be smart about growth and grow faster.

Where are you on the S Curve?

Any a-has, about your life or career, as you read this?

As always, thanks for being here!

My best,

P.S. I’m excited to announce I’ll be joining Michael Bungay Stainer, Pamay Bassey, and Apolo Ohno for the Begin Grow Pivot Learn conference on January 20, 2022! Entry is simple; pre-order one of our books and get a free ticket! And, if you pre-order before Saturday, 12/11 at 9am ET, you’ll get not just one but two tickets. Go to begingrowpivotlearn.com for all the details!

P.P.S. If you have already pre-ordered your book and would like a ticket, hit ‘reply’ and let us know so we can make sure you can attend.

Discovering Gratitude

There is always something for which to be thankful.” Charles Dickens

I know that the Thanksgiving holiday is over in the U.S., but I’d like to stay on the topic of gratitude a little longer.

Last week, I shared a list of things I am grateful for; I did something similar the year prior.

Making a gratitude list each year is a voyage of discovery.
 Some of these are not things I stop to think about very often. I simply take them for granted. They include tools that facilitate my work and life, tools like toothbrushes, eyeglasses, and exercise equipment. Apps that fuel my curiosity and help me mark the passage of time and events with a meaningful record and other technology make it possible to have a career I love.

I have clean, running water. A home in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, USA. Abundant, nutritious food. Uncommon freedoms. Opportunities unknown to women of earlier generations, and some opportunities unknown to men, too. I am grateful for the chance to learn continuously, constantly moving up new S Curves.

And, of course, 
any list of things I’m grateful for includes people and relationships. It’s hard to be too grateful for Keith, a handyman who can fix anything in our house. But it’s easy to take him for granted. It is even easier to forget to express adequate thanks to my husband, my children, and my God, who are always present and supportive with their love.

Gratitude is always a choice.
 I’ve had years where gratitude was harder for me to choose than it is this year. 2012 was that kind of year. Some wonderful things happened that year, but some tremendously hard life events seemed to overshadow them. I then learned that no matter how rich and blessed our life is, we can still choose to be ungrateful, and some people do. Conversely, no matter how difficult and poor circumstances are, some people find things to be thankful for and ways to express their gratitude.

Maybe this is a challenging year for you to choose gratitude. It inevitably will be for some or perhaps many. I'm hopeful, however, that we all can still discover reasons to be grateful.

I'm thinking of three things I'm grateful for right now, this minute. I hope you will too.

In what ways can you express gratitude today?

What discoveries have you made for which you are grateful?

This week, 
our podcast guest is General Stanley McChrystal, most recently the author of Risk: A User’s Guide.

What lessons, you might ask, could we possibly apply from war zones and global conflicts to our own professional development? Well, many, as you’ll hear from my fascinating conversation with General McChrystal.

I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did. We are giving away five copies of his book. Hit reply and say, ‘I am grateful for….’ and you’ll be eligible.

I am grateful you are here!

My best,

P.S. Join me next week on 12/9 for my LinkedIn Live at 9am ET!  Special guest Michael Bungay Stanier and I will have a very BIG announcement that’s time-sensitive!  Follow me at https://www.linkedin.com/in/whitneyjohnson/ to get notifications, so you don’t miss it!

The S Curve of Feeling

“You'll feel better when you get better at feeling.” –– Emma McAdam

This week the Thanksgiving holiday is celebrated in the United States. It's a day when we try to focus on the goodness in our lives and express our gratitude for it. I wrote about several things I'm grateful for in the LinkedIn newsletter, so I'm going to talk about something else here.


Most everyone (probably everyone) reading this newsletter has gone to school. We learn so much in school, but one of the things we don't typically learn is how to manage our emotions. If we're lucky, our parents teach us this vital subject, but usually, our parents didn't receive this education either. This is why I have loved going to ‘school with Emma McAdam', a licensed marriage and family therapist known for her YouTube channel, Therapy in a Nutshell. Her advice is practical and tactical. It is useful for my clients, family and friends, and especially for me.

Emma is our podcast guest this week. You are going to love this episode, but let me expand here on something we don't talk about––the emotion of anger.

Anger can be a holiday season guest; it's a time when our expectations can be high and unmet. Anger follows not far behind.

Sometimes I get angry. With family, with people I work with, with people in my community. On my best days, I remind myself that anger is a mask, a secondary emotion.

It's an emotion about an emotion.

It masks primary emotions like fear, sadness, helplessness, disappointment. These are emotions we don't want to feel because they are too painful. So, we mask them in anger instead.

Anger can be good. It provides us with information, and it energizes us to take action. But lingering anger is unhealthy. We get numb; we shut down, we avoid, we try to will it away. It only gets worse.

To be clear, I am not a therapist. I'm sharing what I have learned and what I am learning.

But, If you find yourself getting angry over the holidays, ask yourself, what am I actually feeling? The anger has gotten your attention. That's a good starting point. But now the mask needs to come off.

What am I feeling? When we know what we are feeling––about someone or because of a situation––we can discover an emotion different than anger, a more tender, raw, and vulnerable one. Identifying these emotions allows for connection, asking for what we want or need, grieving, finding a way to soothe ourselves, identifying the actual problem that can be solved, and pulling others closer to us. You can read more here.

My invitation to you this week is if you find yourself feeling anger (or shame, also a secondary emotion), say thank you for the signal, and then stop to uncover your primary emotion. It is this primary emotion that will allow you not to distance, but to draw closer, to feel connected to ourselves and others.

When you take off the mask to see the face of what you are feeling, you can face it.

In gratitude for you,

P.S. If you want to do more work on this, listen to previous great podcast guests talk about handling emotions (in alphabetical order):

Peter Bregman
Susan David
Carol Kauffman
Meghan Rothenberger

Backstitch to Sew Forward

One of my early memories is listening to the tick-a tick-a tick-a of my mother's Singer sewing machine as she and my cousin Patty sat at the kitchen table making dresses for my sister and me. I was five years old and headed to kindergarten that fall. I knew I wanted to learn to sew.

I had to wait a while; sewing wasn't in the kindergarten curriculum then or now. Finally, when I was nine, I did get to learn to sew. My mom enrolled us in a Singer sewing class at Pruneyard Shopping Mall (for those who know San Jose / Campbell, California). The first thing I sewed was a sailor dress of blue cotton with a white collar and a red ribbon around the neck. I wore it on the first day of 5th grade.

Sewing was magic. As a ten-year-old, I could create something useful and pretty from the raw materials of fabric, thread, buttons, etc. A dress, a flannel nightgown; I even made an ice-skating outfit––pink jersey with white and pink polka dot sleeves. If only I had pictures.

I sewed a lot until I was about 13, when I'm pretty sure my discovery of boys disrupted my career as a seamstress. I stopped sewing, as other interests and goals also intervened. Years went by. I hadn't sewed again—until recently.

One of my friends, Etta King, teaches sewing. I asked her if she would help me make a blouse. I will share the work-in-progress on Instagram. It's a new S Curve of Learning (or a new old one). The raw materials are similar, there is some muscle memory, but much that is unfamiliar too. As is typical of adults, I find the learning curve more challenging than I recall it being when I was a child.

I'm making mistakes, which inevitably result in ripping out seams that I have just painstakingly sewed together. During our lesson on Saturday, a seam needed ripping. It was not easy to rip. Sewists backstitch—go back and forth a few times to reinforce the stitches—at the beginnings and ends of seams to make them durable. This creates a conundrum when the seam has to be undone. As we struggled with the seam-ripping, Etta quipped, “The good news is that you are a really good back-stitcher.”

That very day, Etta came across a poem by Katherine Ferrier about backstitches that reminded me a lot of ‘Step Back to Grow.'

When I asked you to keep going
I did not mean you should not rest
Or listen to the wisdom
Of the back space.
Anyone who sews will tell you:
The running stitch might cover ground,
The persistence of its in and out
And ever forward ode to enduring,
But it’s the humble, invisible backstitch,
That pause and reach into the space behind,
That keeps you from unraveling,
That keeps your work from coming apart.


Sometimes you step back to do something you've done in the past.
Sometimes you step back to reinforce.
Sometimes you step back to reset, to move forward with greater confidence, knowing your work is unlikely to come apart.

Ripping out a seam is a step back, not a setback, and we backstitch to sew forward. We can all be good at both.

This weeks' podcast is a departure. I'm introducing you to my business partner, Amy Humble, President of Disruption Advisors.

We are talking about the genesis of our new book, Smart Growth. The process, some things we learned, and some of the behind-the-scenes. I'm excited for you to listen.

As always, thanks for being here!

My best,

P.S. A few months ago, I asked you to put in a vote for the Thinkers50 ranking.

The rankings are out, and I have NO DOUBT that the time you took to vote and lend your credibility to the process made a difference. Here they are. Thank you truly.

Travel–It’ll Help You Practice Jumping to a New S Curve

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.” Mark Twain

I traveled to Europe this past week for work.

After a long Covid hiatus, I've traveled a few times domestically this fall, but this was the first time I've gone abroad in over a year and a half.

I am frequently asked, “What do you do at the top of an S Curve when you are afraid to jump?”

Practice. Disrupting yourself, jumping S Curve's is a muscle to be developed.

I've noticed with our Disrupt Yourself podcast guests that I'm over-indexed on immigrants, probably because someone who has picked up and moved to another country knows how to disrupt themselves.

Traveling is a microcosmic version of immigration and good practice for bigger disruptions. In times past, a person was not considered well-educated until they had spent time broadening their experience in a few places with different languages, cultures, cuisines, and so forth than they were familiar with at home.

The S Curve of travel is familiar to me. I loved being back on an airplane, where time seems suspended. And this was an easy trip in some respects, like language. In Denmark, everyone I spoke to spoke English.

My hotel was next door to the Church of Our Lady in Copenhagen, which holds the Christus and Twelve Apostles sculpted by Bertel Thorvaldsen. These beautiful, symbolic sculptures reminded me that all of the disruptions in our lives can chip away the waste rock to reveal the beauty within us.

There was also the unfamiliar: incomprehensible conversations all around me conducted in Danish. Narrow, European streets with bicycles everywhere. And many tall people, this is a country where I feel unexpectedly short.

Eating a Toulouse burger—a burger in a bowl—at Halifax Burger. Dinner at NOMA, which was recently voted the world's best restaurant. It has beautiful grounds and all sorts of unexpected food, like wild boar and a pickled quail egg. Another dinner at Llama, Mexican with a Danish twist. As I write in my upcoming book, Smart Growth, food is a LOVE language. I felt a lot of LOVE during this trip.

This time, I brought a work colleague, Chelsea, with me. This is not something I've done often and is a different S Curve than traveling alone. It was nice to get to know her better and a comfort to have someone on my team along for the unfamiliar ride.

Meeting new people, potential friends, and colleagues while speaking at an event provided just some of the many enriching, fascinating, delightful conversations. Traveling changes us, as Mark Twain so eloquently explains. With today's media and ease of communication, travel isn't quite as essential as it was in the 19th century, but change is the purpose of a new S Curve, and travel can meet that need.

So, that's my a-ha. If you want to practice a low-stakes way of jumping to new S Curves, then travel a bit. It doesn't have to be in a different country. A new town, or province, or state can be pretty different than your own. Travel can strengthen the disruption muscle in preparation for making bigger, more challenging, and more permanent changes.

This week, our podcast guest is Tanya Dalton, an inspiring person and productivity expert with a new book, On Purpose, that explores topics like perfectionism, fear, psychology, and bias in the context of our purpose.

She wants all of us to know that when we don't know what's possible (and who really does, anyway), then anything is possible. Please join us.

As always, thanks for being here.

My best,

P.S. At the Thinkers50 Gala, November 15-16, I will be in conversation with the wonderful Dan Pink, moderated by Thinkers50 founder Des Dearlove, on the topic of The Purpose of Regret and Disruption: Finding Our Own Purpose and Impact at 10am Eastern, Tuesday, November 16th. If you would like to join the Live Stream for free, here's a link. If you'd like to also listen on the first day, here's that link. The password is T50PARTNER.

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