A City Within a City

“A community is like a ship; everyone ought to be prepared to take the helm.” – Henrik Ibsen

Our family spent a couple of days in Stockholm this past weekend.

My husband's ancestors are from Sweden, and from age nineteen to twenty-one, he spent two years as a missionary there. He hadn't been back in the intervening years, and since we were going to be in Denmark, we decided to hop to Sweden while we were in the neighborhood.

Our 21-year-old daughter, Miranda, assumed responsibility for securing our hotel.

When you delegate, you get some surprises.

Here were her criteria:

The accommodation must have a four-star rating or better.
It needed to be close to public transportation.
It had to have a reputation for a delicious breakfast.

And despite these pretty high standards, we wanted something inexpensive.

That put us in a town known as Kista (pronounced She-sta), referred to as Science City –– a technology park outside of Stockholm proper. It’s home to companies like Ericsson.

We were there on Friday afternoon / Saturday morning, so it was relatively quiet. Until we were on our way back from Gamla Stan, old town Stockholm, which is stunning, and all that you would hope for in a European City (including the Swedes soaking up the sun in t-shirts when the temperature is only 50 degrees. I, less hardy than these Scandinavians, was wearing a sweatshirt and a coat).

All of that wonderful atmosphere was what we had anticipated and even expected. What we hadn’t expected was that when we emerged from the subway on our return to Kista, we would discover, in what appeared to be a sleepy Science City on a Saturday afternoon, a bustling town square with people mingling from all over the world, especially people from Turkey, Pakistan, Africa, India, Egypt. 

It may be because winter is so long in Sweden, and people have not gotten out much until recently. But in the Kista Galleria, where they sell clothing, have grocery stores, barbers and beauticians, the metro, and a food court, the Turkish restaurant was fifty people deep on Saturday evening. It was like a city within a city, both international and intimate. People were there chatting and conversing with one another.

We felt a sense of community, optimism, and collegiality in the town square.

It made me think of my own community; I love where I live, but it’s not the town per se that creates the community. It’s people who interact openly with each other, and with trust, despite their differences. It is something that we may feel we’ve lost during the past years of isolation and divisiveness.

So, it’s worth taking stock: Where does your community gather?

Sometimes it’s a store.
Sometimes it's a church.
Sometimes it's work.
Sometimes it's a farmer's market.

Sometimes, as I’ve mentioned before, it’s a library or bookstore.

Where is that place for you? And coming out of the pandemic, will we focus more on finding those places, creating, and contributing to them? Are we prepared, in some way, to take the helm of our city within a city, and help rebuild our community?

I hope so.

Our guest on this week's podcast is Susan Cain, NY Times bestselling author of Quiet, and now Bittersweet

She was part of the inspiration behind Miranda and me attending the Jacob Collier concert (see my newsletter from two weeks ago); we definitely felt a sense of community at the concert. I invited Susan on LinkedIn Live – she is so interesting, wise, and charming, and I wanted you to hear from her.

Enjoy!

My best,
Whitney

Every Day an Occasion

Our son graduated from college this week.

We were grateful to be there with him in person to celebrate his accomplishment.

He’s worked hard. He went to the university for five years rather than four, because he decided he didn’t want to do business but instead wanted to be a doctor.

I was impressed that he continued to put in the work even during his final semester, which was the hardest.

But I digress from what I wanted to share with you.

We have enjoyed several meals together in celebrating this milestone, beginning with brunch at Herm’s in Logan, Utah, but more recently, in Rome, Italy, at the Boma Country house, where we had dinner.

We noticed that families weren’t there just to eat. They were there for the evening: grandparents, parents, and even young children (four, five, six) at the restaurant for hours, enjoying one another’s company.

Our friends, the Sowells, who have spent a lot of time in Italy, talk about a sense of occasion, creating a moment. A few years ago, I interviewed Priya Parker on the podcast about her book, The Art of Gathering.

We observed this while in Rome, and we felt it.

As we ate dinner together (some of the most delicious pasta and risotto I’ve ever had), we had an in-depth conversation. We slowed down, discussed and observed our lives, and compared our college experiences. We had a dinner conversation. It wasn’t in-and-out.

Since the pandemic began, our family has exchanged thoughts on the sweet, sour, spiritual, and surprises in our week every Sunday. It’s a way to keep our connection even though we are geographically far apart. And daily, we work through a verse-of-the-day (Come Follow Me app, if interested) for spiritual sustenance.

There is something to celebrate about simply being together. We all have milestones in our lives; it might be a college graduation or one of many other events to commemorate. What I observed and appreciated in Rome is that for many of the families we saw, the meal together was the milestone, the occasion.

Who will you have a meal with this week? How might you elevate this moment and make it an occasion? 

This week's podcast guest is Roger Martin. He has been ranked the #1 business thinker in the world and has a new book titled A New Way to Think. (Fun fact: His wife's story is featured in Smart Growth––I'll let you guess who she is.) He is so clear in his thinking and writing that I always walk away having learned something and feeling smarter at the same time. 

His view is that culture change is reinforced and changes, one interaction at a time. Applying that to this conversation, we can change our work culture and family culture, one meal at a time––every day an occasion.

My best,
Whitney

P.S. It has been four months since Smart Growth was released. If you feel the book was useful to you, will you write a review or leave a rating? It will not only help other people who want to get smart about growth find the book, it would be generous of you and deeply appreciated by me!

No Time Like the Present

“Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift…that’s why we call it the present.” Eleanor Roosevelt

Last Saturday, my daughter, Miranda, and I drove down to Charlotte, North Carolina, to attend a Jacob Collier concert.

If you’re not familiar with Jacob, he’s an English musician who became a YouTube sensation with his covers of popular songs about a decade ago, when he was still a teenager. His debut album, In My Room, was released in 2016 when he was in his early 20’s. It was entirely arranged, recorded, and produced in a small room in his London home. He won a couple of Grammy Awards for his efforts.

Fast forward to the present. I'd thought about seeing him six months ago but hadn't acted.

But then I had two conversations.

The first was with a friend, Richie Norton, author of the upcoming Anti-Time Management: Reclaim Your Time and Revolutionize Your Results with the Power of Time Tipping. When I said something to the effect of, ‘Someday I will…[go see Jacob Collier],” Richie called me out. With a smile. He’ll be a guest on the podcast in a few months. You'll understand why he called me out when you listen to our conversation, though the title of his new book hints at this.

The second conversation was with Susan Cain, author a decade ago of the movement generating Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking. My conversation with her will also be on the podcast soon, and we will talk about her new book, Bittersweet: How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole. One of her themes is creating opportunities for bittersweet moments, like attending a concert.

That's why we surround ourselves with people who inspire us. They can help move us to actions that we find too easy to postpone to a future, but unreliable, day.

I wanted to go to the concert, and I could allocate money to go. My daughter was a willing pal.  

So, we went.

The trip would have been a success if nothing had happened but the concert.

But more than that happened.

We had a total of seven hours of drive time (three and a half hours each way).
We listened to Emma McAdam, a brilliant therapist, talk about how to be happier.
We listened to Richie's Anti-Time Management.
We talked about K dramas and did the always fun listicle: “Which characters are the most charismatic?” followed by, “Can you guess which drama this song is from?”
We ate dinner at the King's Table: pork chops, apple butter, and biscuits.

We jammed ourselves into the Fillmore Theater along with 2,000 other people. (Note to self: In the future, buy tickets where you can actually see the person onstage.)

We learned what demographic are fans of Jacob’s music. There was a wide array of people from Gen Zen to Boomers, but mostly Gen Zen and Millennials, lots and lots of musicians and geeks generally. Men and women.

We heard two especially fun songs, Time Alone with You and All I Need, live. Oh, and here's the link where I first heard him singing Stevie Wonder's Don't You Worry ‘Bout a Thing (He was 16 or 17).

I got to watch an incredibly gracious person introduce everyone in the band. He talked about them, where they were from, including the technical staff.

He turned the audience into a choir, a hallmark of his charismatic performance style—lots of people, together, happy, enjoying music.

My daughter and I would have missed all those experiences if I hadn't bought the tickets.

What have you been wanting to do? Thinking about? Procrastinating?

There’s no time like the present. Consider this your push.

Disrupt yourself, just a little.

This week’s podcast episode is with Marshall Goldsmith, one of the world’s pre-eminent leadership coaches and executive educators, inducted into the Thinkers50 Hall of Fame.

He’s just written a book titled The Earned Life, where he tackles questions like the meaning of achievement. Having been a truly generous mentor to me since inviting me to be a part of 100 Coaches five years ago, he has certainly earned my respect and deep appreciation, and his name––he marshals the gold in people.

Enjoy!

As always, thanks for being here!

My best,
Whitney

P.S. Thinkers50 is launching a Books for Busy Managers Series. The first list will be Classic Books, books that have had a lasting influence on how we think about management. Our team has nominated The Innovator’s Dilemma, Good to Great, In Search of Excellence, Creative Experience, and The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes. What books would you nominate

Precipitating the Thaw

A few months ago, someone reached out to me to blurb their upcoming book.

I was hoping to endorse the book. But ultimately, I declined because, though well-argued and persuasive, underrepresented groups were, well, underrepresented, from the book’s stories to its quotes to the citations of sources. I have felt obliged to decline to endorse books based on this lack on other occasions, too.

I understand why this happens; we are in the habit of attributing less credibility to underrepresented groups than we do to the traditionally well-represented ones. When we are trying to bolster our argument, we want to be credible. We go to the “authorities”, who are historically overwhelmingly white and male.

“Snow melts first from the edges.”

This is something I've read from Rita McGrath, one of the world's foremost thinkers on innovation, in her book Seeing Around Corners. She was building on something that famed Intel founder Andy Grove said, “When spring comes, snow melts first at the periphery because that is where it is most exposed.”

McGrath talks about this in the context of when change comes; the people in your organization who are most likely to recognize it first are the people on the edges of your organization, those who are on the front line, talking to customers.

But I think there's another way to think about this. Not limiting it to when change comes but expanding the metaphor to encompass how we can effect change proactively.

When we think about this relative to inclusion, respecting people equally, regardless of visible differences or invisible variations in background, we are thinking about melting the iceberg of exclusion. It can start with something as simple (but not easy) as thinking about the snow—is there something we can do at the edges?

It's a challenge we talked about in a recent podcast episode with Kim Scott and Trier Bryant, as well as the challenge of doing our best not to shame anyone. 

In the case of the book endorsement, my “at the edges” effort was to say, “I'm hoping the book can be made more inclusive, and then I would love to participate.”

What if you and I, whenever we call a meeting, write a memo, pull together a social gathering, or deliver a presentation, look for opportunities to ensure that those who are too often overlooked for representation are not overlooked by us.

I'm not talking about making sweeping changes today, just small ones. 

Jeff and Jami Downs, along with others, have produced a growing body of literature on starting small. Setting goals that are reasonably achievable and not paralyzing ourselves by biting off more than we can chew all at once. Or, as Carol Kauffman, Harvard faculty and one of the world’s preeminent coaches, often asks, “What would 5% better look like?” Because not being able to fix everything doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to fix something or start the fix, even if it’s just precipitating a thaw at the periphery of the problem.

What's one small thing you can do now to quit freezing out those who are currently excluded from your interactions with others?

This week's podcast guest is Patrick McGinnis, who coined the acronyms FOMO and FOBO. 

You probably know that FOMO is the “Fear of Missing Out,” a term that’s used everywhere. But less well known is FOBO, the “Fear of Better Options.” It’s a kind of decision paralysis that we all face personally and professionally, and it can be hugely detrimental when we are contemplating a new S Curve. We evaluate options endlessly, but we never actually move. Patrick and I had a lot to talk about, including how we can use FOMO to our advantage. Don’t miss it!

As always, thank you for being here!

My best,
Whitney

P.S. Last year, I interviewed Kelly and Robert Pascuzzi regarding their film The Ravine, which has now won multiple film festival awards, including the 2021 Best Picture Los Angeles Film Awards. I've already pre-ordered this amazing film! I encourage you to do the same today through Apple TV or Amazon Prime. It stars Eric Dane, Teri Polo, and Peter Facinelli. Inspired by a true-life story of tragedy, the film provides a wonderful message of hope! 

Finishing Strong

This month I am wrapping up a two-year volunteer commitment.

My goal is to finish strong, but it's not easy.

Welcome to the top of an S Curve. It's true that this is a situation to be desired. You celebrate being here and what you've accomplished; you want to anchor your new behavior(s). It's also true that once you reach the top of the curve, you will need a new challenge.

But there's another piece to this puzzle of personal growth: once you know you are ready to move on, how do you stay where you are?

It's been said that we live a large percentage of our lives in the future or the past and a relatively small percentage “in the moment.” Time management expert Laura Vanderkam writes, “We can anticipate for a year and remember for decades. The challenge is that the present…has a disproportionate effect on our actions given its fleeting nature…. Bliss is possible in the past and in the future but seldom in the present.”

Our brains naturally look ahead, anticipate, and prepare for what is next. Or we prefer to dwell on past accomplishments rather than confront the challenge of acting constructively in the present moment. But we can only act NOW, have an impact, or influence now. This is a time to stay in the present. We can wipe out years of good work in a moment if we don't. It’s not a time to get lazy or brush off responsibilities with a sense of “that’s not mine to do; I'll just run out the clock.” 

The endings of things stick in the memory. The way things finish is usually more memorable to us than most beginnings and far more memorable than almost anything that happens in the muddled middle when events can be moving very fast. Researcher Pierre Chandon says our first bite of food is the most enjoyable, but our last bite is the one that determines how we feel about the overall experience of eating it, our final impression.

It takes true commitment to the work you are doing and who you are doing it with to finish strong.

The ability to stay where you are is an S Curve of its own. It’s an opportunity to be resourceful and creative and to make something meaningful out of time that doesn’t feel valuable or even particularly valued by others.

As legendary Jedi, Master Yoda, says of a young, immature Luke Skywalker, as he attempts to stack rocks using only the Force: “All his life has he looked away. To the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was, what he was doing.”

Yes, leap. But first, go for the strong finish.  

Our podcast guests this week are John and Ana Gabriel Mann, authors of The Go-Giver Marriage.

In a marriage, the goal is to figure out what works and stay in the sweet spot in perpetuity. The ideal is not to exhaust the potential of the relationship and start looking to leap to a new relationship. The sweet spot in marriage is a moving target; individuals change and so do the seasons of our lives. There are new mini curves to climb. As Ana Mann says, a marriage should be a “safe space” to make mistakes, learn, and bring new ideas, discoveries, and ambitions to the relationship. Even when your relationship is already good, these are the things that deepen it further.

I believe there is something for everyone to learn about their relationships and personal growth from this episode, whether currently married or not. So, we are giving away 10 copies of the Mann’s book, The Go-Giver Marriage. At the end of the podcast, we tell you how to qualify!

As always, thank you for being here.

My best,
Whitney

Manna From Heaven

Twelve days ago, I was home from Amsterdam. I felt good about the trip, the work, and preening a bit, fluffing my feathers about how I hadn't been ill for 2 1/2 years. 

I must have invoked one of Murphy’s many laws because two days later, my streak of good health was broken. I got a cold. I wasn't sick in bed or even sick enough to stop working altogether. But I was ill enough that I was impaired. I didn't have the intellectual, emotional, or physical capacity that I typically do. My stamina was nil.

I had to slow down. It’s a little against my nature to do so, but I didn’t have a choice.

I couldn’t exercise, and I couldn’t get as much done as I wanted/needed to. I didn’t feel very patient with the whole episode. I never do feel patient with getting sick. In fact, I think “patient” is a weird word choice to use when it comes to being sick. A patient in a hospital? I doubt it.

The icing on the cake came Wednesday. I took some cold meds on an empty stomach and paid the price during the middle of a webinar. I passed out.

Thankfully, I wasn’t on camera, although that would have been extra fun. But I couldn't finish either.

That's never happened to me before.

I was okay within a few hours. But I could not will the week to be like a typical week, no matter how much I wanted to or how hard I tried.

There’s a way that I want to show up in the world. I like to be in charge of that. But it’s probably a good thing to get sick occasionally and be reminded that I can never have total control over it. Experiencing the limitations of illness is important to feel empathy for those who are sick, especially those who have a serious, chronic, or terminal illness. To be more empathetic with people who can’t always, or even often, control how they show up.

Getting sick helps me be more grateful. I realized how much I rely on my body to be the vehicle for me to do everything. And I’m blessed that it is very reliable for the most part.

It’s like manna from heaven. We use that expression from the Biblical Old Testament to describe something that just exists in our life, and maybe we don’t value and appreciate that thing until we don't have it.

Only in its absence does the customary presence of good health and vitality become as important as it really should be every day.

Is there a gift in your life that is, perhaps, going unnoticed, unacknowledged? 

Our podcast guests this week are Jeff and Jami Downs, who talk about the value and importance of establishing a winning streak. 


They are the delightful authors of Streaking: The Simple Practice of Conscious, Consistent Actions that Create Life-Changing Results. I, for example, am on Day 150 on my Duolingo app and more committed than ever to stick with it because of our conversation. Please listen in.

My best,
Whitney

P.S. My niece (the pole vaulter I wrote about in the newsletter a few weeks ago) started a business crafting and selling earrings. If you want something fun for a teenage or college-age daughter / niece / friend AND want to support my niece in her entrepreneurship, check out her Instagram page

An Embarrassment of Riches

“There is more treasure in books than in all the pirates’ loot on Treasure Island, and best of all, you can enjoy these riches every day of your life.” – Walt Disney

Some of my clearest memories from childhood and early adulthood are of books that I read or that were read to me. Books are, to me, one of the wonders of the world.

And I love the places where books reside: at home, online, in brick-and-mortar bookstores, and in the local library. Anywhere we can browse books is a good place.

As a junior in college, shortly after I’d gotten married, I needed a part-time job. 

Because of my love for books and reading, I applied for an open clerk’s position at the Orem Public Library. Initially, I didn’t get the job; I was the #2 candidate. But then, because of several circumstances, serendipitously, I did. I loved being surrounded by books, music, and people who were well-read and interesting. 

It was a rich environment. I was exposed to books I otherwise wouldn’t have heard of, much less read, by authors like Wendell Berry, Ivan Doig, E.F. Schumacher, and Wallace Stegner.

This week, April 3-9, is National Library Week, a time to celebrate our nation's libraries, library workers' contributions and promote library use and support. I couldn't let this week go by without acknowledgment because of my fond memories of Orem Public Library and my lifelong love of reading. 

So, in honor of libraries and reading, I thought I would share with you some books that are dear to me that perhaps I haven't shared before. 


Reading is a transformational experience.
 It can transport us to faraway places, educate us about pivotal times in history, or give us the tools to grow as individuals and professionals. 

Libraries, with the primary purpose of housing books and creating space for people to read, think, and create, are magical, a cache of unparalleled treasure, an embarrassment of riches. To celebrate libraries this week, I challenge you to pick up a new book or an old favorite. Stop by your local library and talk to a librarian about their favorite books. 

Whether you visit in person or virtually, your library can connect you to the resources you need to explore a new world. Now is a perfect time to check out your library’s website or ilovelibraries.org for more information.

What are your experiences with libraries? What do you love about them?

One groundbreaking book that I have recently read is Radical Candor. It explores the complexity of giving critical feedback, even when it's hard. The author, Kim Scott, and fellow Co-Founder and CEO of Just Work, Trier Bryant, are the guests on this week’s podcast. We tackle the issue of bias, especially how our language choices can affect people and the difference between bias, prejudice, and bullying.


Our conversation goes deep on how caring for others can go hand-in-hand with challenging them directly and how casual word choices take a heavy toll on marginalized people over time. I encourage you to join us.

What books are you reading now? What books do you love?

Happy reading!
Whitney

Warming Up

“It is literally true that you can succeed best and quickest by helping others to succeed.” – Napoleon Hill

Let me ketch (you) up.

We are in the Netherlands this week facilitating an offsite with Kraft Heinz.

Some people don't like offsites: they can be tedious, waste time, and you’re stuck with people. Do we really get anything done?

I know I have felt that way once or twice.

But this week is different.

I'm thinking about Tuesday morning. We assigned each of the executives to do a walk-and-talk. This means two colleagues walking side by side—the adult equivalent of parallel play—discussing how they can help each other be successful.

It was a misty, foggy morning for a walk.

Relationships are like that at first. It's not clear where you’re headed or what will happen.

There can be a bit of a chill in the form of social discomfort and awkwardness. Especially if you are meeting for the first time or for the first time in a long time, as was the case for the pairings we were working with this week. 

But being face-to-face tends to draw out human warmth through sharing stories. Our brains wire themselves to be a friend, not a foe.

It's easy to think that we can accomplish all we need to while working virtually. I, for one, have discovered many advantages and am a big proponent. And I am grateful that we have been able to find our way and become more efficient through the pandemic.

But what I know and can clearly see when I’m in person at an event like this week’s offsite, and as I said last week,  there's no substitute for showing up in our personal life or professional life.

Of course, my business partner, Amy Humble, and I were spectators of sorts, facilitators, not actors in the play. But here are a few delightful moments:

        – Seeing a person that I've worked with—virtually—for three years. To finally see them again in person and be able to hug them. Such a reunion.

        – The head of sales bringing in two tubs of ketchup for the restaurant to ensure they serve the right ketchup. This is a Kraft Heinz offsite, after all.

        – Listening to diverse individuals share their S Curve stories, the stories that have shaped them and made them who they are.

        – The surprising, delightful moment when Amy and I realized we were the only two native English speakers in a room with a mix of Portuguese, Spanish, German, and French. All finding a common language. All wanting to change the world and help their people change the world.

I've joked for many years that when I first started my career on Wall Street I had to throw down my pom-poms to get in the game. Being on the sidelines wasn't actually in the game.

But we all need cheerleaders, and we need supportive heroes. People who show up for us. Cheerleaders who facilitate, advise, and coach.

It wasn't a game I would have thought to play back in the Wall Street years or wanted to play, let alone try to teach other people how to play.

But now it's the only game I want to play.

And by the way, Tuesday warmed up, literally, as the morning sun burned away the fog; it grew warm with connection and collaboration too.

It was a beautiful spring day in Nijmegen.

This week, our podcast guest is Johnny C. Taylor, CEO of SHRM, Society of Human Resource Professionals, and author of the book Reset: A Leader’s Guide to Work in an Age of Upheaval.

It’s a fascinating conversation. One of my favorite things he said is that now is the time for HR professionals to show up as emotional first responders inside their organizations.

Thank you, as always, for being here!

My best,
Whitney

 

3,000 Miles and a Choice to Act

“It would be really nice if you came to the track meet in March,” my sister said to me a while back.

Her daughter, my niece, would be competing at the track meet held at Point Loma in San Diego, on the west coast of the U.S.

I live in Virginia, on the opposite east coast of the U.S. The only thing standing between the track meet and me was three thousand miles, a choice, and some effort. To do, or not to do; that was the question.

If I decided in favor of doing, I would have to make plans and act. Buy a plane ticket, etc.

Recognizing that I sometimes also say, “It would be nice,” when what I really intend is, “Would you please? It would mean so much to me,” I asked my sister, “Do you want me to?”

The answer was, “Yes, I would like you to come.”

So I went.

I am so glad that I did. Not only did I get to see my niece pole vault—watching her was a thing of beauty—I got to spend time with my sister. We haven’t been together much in the last few years for various reasons. I got to know my niece and nephew better—to be in their world and tell them stories about their mother that they’d never heard. I’m only a year older than she, and our two brothers, also close together in age, were considerably younger than we.

We have daily or almost daily proximity with some people in our families. We are side-by-side in the trenches, having each other’s backs, figuring out how to work together, love, and support each other.

There are others in the larger family circle, maybe a sibling or a parent, perhaps a cousin, that we haven't spent much time with lately, but with whom we have a shared history and shared stories. And in my sister’s case and mine, though we don't look like, nor are our personalities similar, our voices sound the same.

Fires go out if they’re not replenished with fuel. We don’t have to decide to make them go out; it will happen naturally. Relationships are like that. We don’t necessarily decide to end them or put them on hold; it just happens. While we’re busily pursuing other things, the warm fire of our relationships can grow cold. But the embers can be brought to life again.

All that stands between me and a better relationship with people I care about is a conscious choice and deliberate action. In my family’s case, it started with reaching out once a month during COVID. We are geographically distant, but it isn’t the miles that are most difficult to cross. It’s the emotional distance that’s grown up while we weren’t paying attention to the dwindling flames. It’s not that my mom, my sister, my remaining brother, and I couldn't have been talking all along; it’s that we haven't been.

We began the rekindling with a choice to connect on Zoom once a month. That new point of connection led to my sister’s request and my opportunity to visit her and her family.

Because of where we are in our lives, fully individuated and not rivals which can cause division and distance when you’re younger, our rekindled relationships feel safe, comfortable, and relaxed.

Is there anyone like that in your life? A relative or childhood friend that you haven't spent much time with recently, but with a conscious choice and deliberate effort, you could rekindle that relationship. It could become a warm source of delight again.

What relationship embers need stoking to remain healthy in your life?

This week’s podcast guest is Amy Webb, a quantitative futurist who uses data to imagine the unimaginable. She doesn't predict the future but plans for every possible outcome so companies can be better prepared.

One area she's been particularly fascinated with is synthetic biology, merging computer science and genetics. In her new book, The Genesis Machine: Our Quest to Rewrite Life in the Age of Synthetic Biology, Amy explains that healthy skepticism of new things is good, so long as it's tempered with a good-faith discussion of the data.

As always, thank you for being here!

My best,
Whitney

Use Your Voice

“Taking responsibility is an act of emotional self-defense.” – Will Smith 

A couple of days ago, I was working my way through this course from Emma McAdam on how to support/coach people with mental health challenges; she joined me on the Disrupt Yourself podcast.

One of the modules is about learning to be less judgmental.

And then I had an opportunity to practice.

First, I missed a call. I was on a call with a client, was absorbed in the conversation, and completely missed my next call.

My thought was, “Whoops. I need to apologize. But the other person will understand. Because this stuff happens.”

Second, I did a podcast interview without preparing as thoroughly as I usually do. After the interview, my audio engineer (politely) said, “That wasn't as good as usual.”

My thought was, “Hmm. I need to make sure I'm always prepared. But, oh well, I'll do better in the next interview.”

Third, one of my colleagues missed an important call with me. 

My first thought was, “Hmmm. I wonder what happened?”  Well, not really, but eventually, I got there. My first instinct actually was, “Why wasn’t he there? This was an important call, and I am embarrassed that he missed it.”

We aren't always as easy on ourselves as I was inclined to be about my oversights. Sometimes we are very hard on ourselves. But it is also true that we can be very ungenerous with and judgmental of the people around us.

Frequently, the juxtaposition is not quite as clear as these incidents made it.

American psychologist Carl Rogers said, “The more I can keep a relationship free of judgment and evaluation, the more this will permit the other person to reach the point where he recognizes that the locus of evaluation, the center of responsibility, lies within himself.”

“Being judgmental is speaking, thinking, acting in a condemnatory manner, believing that we are better than the people around us,” says McAdam.

It's on my mind. “How can I be less judgmental of myself or others? At home, at work? Or of people in faraway places like Russia?

Our podcast guest this week is Amanda Ripley, and our subject is a universally relatable topic: conflict. It’s part of life. It’s part of business and part of all interpersonal relationships.

Amanda explains why conflict is good. It leads to innovation, compromise, and inclusion. But she’s also studied what she calls “high conflict,” the title of her excellent book. This is where disagreements get so entrenched that they become an identity and a cycle of blame. People form their tribes. “Us versus them.”

This is politics. This is the online comments section. This is actual war, as we’ve sadly seen playing out in recent weeks. Ripley provides practical tips on how we can help reduce conflict. 

You’ll want to listen to the podcast as there are many things we can do personally, but she emphasizes that there are things we can say and do (on social media) in particular, that will lower the risk of violence. You can see the research here, but these are some examples of what we can say:

“Violence directed at anyone because of their political opinions is never acceptable, regardless of what those beliefs might be.”

“I condemn in the strongest possible terms all acts of violence. That has no place here.”

The research shows that voices countering and condemning violence, reduce violence.

How will we use our voices? Will we fan the flames or help fight the fire?

Self-protection is instinctual, which is why we sometimes judge and allow violence to continue because we feel threatened.

But, as Will Smith said, the best emotional self-defense is to take responsibility for helping extinguish conflict rather than spending our energy focused on the faults of others.

What are your thoughts?

My best,
Whitney

P.S. If you want to reduce high conflict, share one of the tweets above, tag me, and you'll be eligible for one of five copies of Amanda's book, High Conflict.


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