A Good Grief

All sorrows can be borne if you put them in a story or tell a story about them.  Karen Blixen

Dana King shared with me a story about Molly Jackson, a young mother who, after losing her 2 year-old daughter, has found healing through her blog A Good Grief.

Ms. Jackson writes “I remember thinking there is no way I would ever be able to move past the pain, that I would never find joy again. But I have.  Grief at losing a loved one isn't something you really overcome… but what you overcome is the deep feeling of self-pity and utter loss, the desire to ‘give in' so that you can again live with hope.”


Psychologists have indicated that we can only overcome trauma when we talk about it to someone who can bear witness to our loss.  Whether we've lost a loved one, or simply traveled a boulevard of broken dreams, each of us has or will experience some seemingly unendurable loss.

A wonderful example of bearing witness has occurred over the past few weeks with a group of friends I'm interacting with online.  Each day one of the participants (some of us know each other, some don't) poses a question to which we have the opportunity to respond.  The questions range from ‘What is your most memorable meal?” to “What would you regret twenty years from now if you didn't do it today?” to “What do you do when a loved one takes their life?” and “What do you daydream about?”  In answering these questions and telling our stories, we are making discoveries about ourselves.  As we have listened, there seems to be healing.

When you and I are in a place of loss, we don't dream — because we can't.  If we are in that place, then let us grieve, give voice to the trauma.  Our loss will gradually give way to hope, to our dreams.

For what is dreaming if not hope manifest?

I Dream of Disruption

In June, unemployment hit 9.5%, the highest rate in 25 years, and a “sobering indication that the longest recession since the 1930s has yet to release its hold”, wrote the NY Times.

Not that any of us needed this statistic to know that times are tough.

Many of us have seen our net worth dwindle, and are tightening our belts to an extent we haven't had to in years, if ever.

Yet I find myself curiously optimistic.

When the Wall Street Journal asked Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen how the recession would affect innovation, his responding that it would have an “unmitigated positive effect on innovation”  was seemingly counter-intuitive.

He continued, “When the tension is greatest and the resources are most limited, people are actually a lot more open to rethinking the fundamental way they do business.  That's when breakthrough innovations occur.”


Source:  istockphoto

A recent CNN Money article tells of a woman whose husband was out-of-work.  As she and her husband fundamentally rethought how to do business, they've made ends meet — and then some.  This same article cites a study by the Kauffman Foundation indicating that 51% of the Fortune 500 companies began during a recession or bear market or both.

Maybe Christensen's ideas aren't so counter-intuitive.

We recently heard CK Woolley‘s story.  Without the need to rethink how she does business and lives her life, would there have been a Shabby Apple?

As an analyst on Wall Street, would I have amassed a set of portable skills if the resources I'd needed had been readily available?

Would our ‘dare to dream' community have had the marvelous month of guest blogs, if I hadn't been resource-constrained?


Source:  istockphoto

Most women, particularly mothers, continually feel the tension of having too little time and too small of a budget.  Because of this tension, we are expert at rethinking how things get done.

And with the ‘recession to have yet released its hold', is the time not ripe for our expertise?

I'm dreaming of disruption.

In my own life and in yours.

And that's a good thing.

What are some other breakthrough innovations?  Under what circumstances did they occur?

Have the current economic difficulties opened doors to your dreams sooner than you had anticipated?

Living the dream. Life’s a breeze. (Not.)

During a particularly challenging week at work, I happened upon an article by Robert S. Kaplan titled Reaching your Potential which offered up the teaser, “maybe you feel frustrated with your career–convinced you should be achieving more. You may even wish you had chosen a different career altogether.”

I was definitely frustrated, and even discouraged, but did I wish I had chosen a different path?

Not really.

As I reflected on Kaplan's article, I realized that I'm right where I want to be.

In sharing this insight with one of my friends, she kindly, but pointedly asked,

“Did you really think that living your dream isn't challenging, discouraging, and difficult?”

To which I sheepishly replied, “No.”

The truth is there's a pretty large shred of me which believes that in living my dream, life will be breezy.

This isn't, and can't be, true — am I the only one who wants it to be?

Do you remember Psyche's 3rd task?

The task that requires her to fill a flask with water from a raging river alongside a craggy cliff, a task which is a metaphor for our learning to accomplish goals against inevitable distractions and tough odds.

This image is copyrighted by Mallika Sundaramurthy and Whitney Johnson, 2008.

Would it be accurate to say that Psyche didn't choose to be on the hero's journey? That she wasn't precisely where she wanted and needed to be? That she didn't want to accomplish her goal?

No, no and no.

But it was difficult.

It is for us too.

After one of your tough days, do you find yourself wondering if you really are living your dream? If you're not — then that is another conversation. If you are, do you ask why things aren't easier? Why do you think we believe this?

Did you notice how Psyche delegated the task of filling the flask to the eagle? As we are dreaming, whether our dream involves full-time mothering, full-time careering, or some amalgam of the two, what tasks can we delegate?

Or if you were to interview Rebecca Nielsen, the mother of young twin daughters, who recently wrote about Rightsizing our dream, what will she say? Easy? Hard? Both?


Systergy in St. Louis

Systergy, n. A collection of women, who by daring and dreaming together, will make synergistic contributions to their own lives and the world.

Dana King sent along an article from St. Louis At Home on The Spirit of St. Louis Women's Fund, a superb example of systergy.


As founder, Shelby Schagrin explains, women who join this organization commit to do just two things:

1) Give money — Each member promises to give $1,200 a year for five years; 90 percent goes to the charities; 10% to overhead. With over 100 women in the Fund, that's over $100k/year for five years (at least) that will be invested in the community.

2) Vote on where the money goes — Last year over 300 proposals were presented. A committee reviewed the proposals, visited applicants and put together a final ballot of candidates. Among the nine organizations funded were Gateway to Hope, an outreach for women with breast cancer who can't afford medical treatment, and La Clinica, a prenatal healthy baby program.

Ms. Schagrin concludes her interview with the words, “Together we can do more than we can do apart.”

Systergy in word and in deed.

Atta Girls Shelby Schagrin and Susan Block!

Are there any “investment” clubs like this in your community?

If not, have you thought about starting one? 

The Spirit of St. Louis Women's Fund is an example of institutionalized systergy. Any other institutions that you can think of where systergy is formalized? What about on an informal, ad hoc basis?

Dare to Dreamgirl: Dana King

I almost missed this.

Dana King is my co-blogger at Know Your Neighbor; we talk (virtually) virtually every day.

She'd been toying with the idea of blogging for months; Dana has something to say AND she wants to find her voice.


Having launched her blog in late August, Dana is now blogging several times a week, and I almost — almost — zoomed right past her accomplishment.

Until I remembered what I learned from rock climbing:  look both up, and down, forward — and back.

Dana has many, many wonderful, grand plans, which makes looking back difficult to do.

It's so easy to wonder – next, next — what's next?

But, I need to, I want to, celebrate the launch of her blog, to celebrate the fact that this delightful, engaging, tremendously competent woman (just take a look at her Habitat for Humanity project) is both finding and sharing her voice.

Congratulations Dana — like Jane , you are now an official, bona fide, dare to dreamgirl!

Any of your recent accomplishments — along the way, if you will – that we need to celebrate?

What about with our children — are we giving them Atta Girls and Atta Boys — for their accomplishments?

What about our spouses, friends?

Contact Us

Fill out this form and we will follow up to create a customized plan to help you build a smart growth organization.

Media & Press Inquiries

including requesting Whitney as a guest on your podcast

Media & Press Inquiries arrow_forward

Gain insight into growth, adaptability and agility

Download our free resources outlining the Accelerants of Growth—including books, podcasts and TEDtalks to help you move up your S Curve of Learning.