7 Steps For Creating Your Creative Process: Learning from MLK's Legacy and the Latest Research on the Art and Science of Creative Productivity

Uncategorized Jan 20, 2021

In the 14 years of his professional career, from 1954 to his assassination in 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. wrote five books, delivered 2500 speeches, all while traveling 6 million miles across the country and the globe as an iconic leader of the civil rights movement.  He left behind tens of thousands of pages of writing, notes and correspondence--the project of publishing these curated papers will run to 14 volumes.  

How did he manage to create so much in such a short lifetime?  And what can all of us looking to answer our own call to make the world a better place learn from his creative process?

In this post we explore the deliberate process behind MLK's creative genius, along with what we can learn  from recent research on the art and science of creative productivity.

MLK's Creative Process

  • Deep commitment to a hugely important goal--as he put it himself in words that ring out to this day: "I have a dream that one day this nation shall live out the true...
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Elevating Your Self Awareness AND Your Systems Awareness: The 5 Levels of Personal Development for Change Agents

Uncategorized Jan 13, 2021

What level of self awareness and are you bringing to your work as a change agent? 

Have you figured out how to get past your own blindspots, particularly around the larger systems that are perpetuating the inequalities and bias you are working to change?

If you're someone with a calling to make the world a better place, whether you're giving money away as a philanthropist, raising money as a social entrepreneur, or just getting started on your journey, chances are that whatever you're not able to see about yourself and the systems around you is getting in the way of realizing your full potential for creating more impact and more joy.  

What I want to share with you in this post is a framework for thinking about levels of personal development, and how this relates to doing the work of social change, particularly if you are trying address systemic inequalities that you yourself are not directly suffering from. 

You could think of these five levels of personal...

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Willpower: 8 Keys to Taking More Positive Action, More Consistently

Uncategorized Jan 06, 2021

 When we lift up heroes of social change, from Mahatma Ghandi, to Nelson Mandela to Diane Nash we often think in terms of the extraordinary impact they have had over the course of their lives. 

But in reality, these icons live their lives from moment to moment, just like every one of us. 

Ultimately, a life of extraordinary impact is very often rooted in stacking up any number of every day moments in which you take positive action.   

As someone with a calling to bring as much impact and as much joy as you can into the world, how do you build up your ability to take more positive action, more consistently, from one moment to the next?

That's the question this post explores, looking at findings from the last 50 years of research on willpower and self regulation.   

Just What is Willpower Anyway?

A helpful place to start is with the model that taking action depends on lining up our knowledge (what to do), our skills (how to do it), and our mindset...

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What would make this coming year an EXTRAORDINARY one for you?

Uncategorized Dec 30, 2020

What would make 2021 an EXTRAORDINARY year for you?  Could it be that you're not exactly sure? 

If you've got a calling to make the world a better place, chances are you've got some compelling visions and dreams for the year to come.  But have you actually asked yourself a powerful enough set of  questions about your impact and your joy in the coming year, and given yourself the gift of reflecting on the answers? 

Here's what I've found for myself, and for the funders and social entrepreneurs I coach: for all of us with a calling to make the world a better place, spending as little as 60 minutes just once a year going over the questions I'm going to share with you in this post is a game changer.  

No question, there's plenty of work you need to do on a daily basis to serve at your highest level and reach your greatest levels of joy and personal fulfillment--but getting clarity on the fundamental questions in this self-assessment is the foundation...

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What if you took the fear out of your philanthropy? Making Sense with Your Giving

Uncategorized Dec 15, 2020

If you are in the business of giving money away--or raising money to drive your mission--chances are you already know there's a whole lot  wrong with how most philanthropy is traditionally practiced.  

If you want to show up differently in philanthropy and work creatively with others to make truly lasting, systemic change on the issues that matter most I hope this post will speak to you.

It's no secret that the last few years have seen an increasingly public critique of philanthropy, from Rob Reich (Just Giving), to Edgar Villanueva (Decolonizing Wealth) and Anand Giridharadas (Winners Take All).    All of these books are well worth reading closely, whatever seat you occupy in and around the world of philanthropy.  

At the heart of these critiques is an indictment of the whole structure of philanthropy and the power dynamics that pervade it.  As Edgar Villanueva puts it: "The field of philanthropy is a living anachronism. It is (we are) like a...

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Get Better! The Seven Pillars of Personal Development for Change Agents

Uncategorized Dec 09, 2020

Want to give back better?

The timeless wisdom is that truly lasting change out in the world starts from within yourself.

Mahatma Ghandi has inspiring sayings for all of us who feel a calling to make the world a better place: 

"If you want to change the world, start with yourself

"Be the change you want to see in the world" 


But how do we put this wisdom into practice in our daily lives? In the last post we explored the six obstructing angels--the habitual states of mind that can so easily get in the way of our impact and our joy as change agents.  This post is all about how you can break free from these patterns.  Change takes work, but breaking free from even our longest running patterns doesn't have to be as hard as we might fear. 

Powerfully convergent wisdom & research

Over the past five years of my own journey I've delved deeply into the arenas of human flourishing and personal growth, as well as systems thinking and social change,...

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Overcoming the Six Obstructing Angels: Part 1

Uncategorized Dec 02, 2020

Who took your impact?  Who took your joy?  Do you want them back?

If you've got a strong calling to make the world a better place, chances are you've also had some times in your life when you really felt stuck--when you felt like you weren't showing up as your best self and making anything like the progress you aspire to.  And chances are, whenever you've felt like you were coming up short in your calling, you've also come up short feeling joyful and fulfilled across lots of other areas in your life.  That's the flip side of having that calling--it doesn't let you rest when you're not leaning into it! 

In my own journey, and with many of the social entrepreneurs and philanthropists that I've coached and advised I've seen a common pattern of how we can get stuck like this.   

In this post we're going to walk through these six "obstructing angels."  Kind of a funny phrase.   But think of these as guardian angels gone wrong--obstructing...

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Collaborative Problem Solving--it's not just for kids!

Uncategorized Nov 24, 2020

What do you do when you have a disagreement with a five year old?  What about with an adult who acts like a five year old, or makes you feel like one yourself? Are you sick of circling around the same conflicts, over and over, never reaching a lasting solution?

Collaborative problem solving is a great tool for resolving conflicts and creating solutions that last because they meet everone's underlying needs.   Sound like a pipe dream?  It's not--but it does require you to practice and master some specific skills and techniques.

This video walks you through the collaborative problem solving tool developed by child psychologist Ross Greene, as well as Marshall Rosenberg's   "I-message" framework which is a great way to initiate the collaborative problem solving process in adult relationships.

The 6 Steps of Collaborative Problem Solving

  1. Identify and agree on a problem that you and the other person are trying to solve
  2. Invite the other person to identify...
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Partnership Brokering: what to do when #coalitionsfail

Uncategorized Nov 18, 2020

If you have a calling to make the world a better place, chances are you've spent too much time working in coalitions that do a better job of torturing their members than getting any real work done in the world. 

Thankfully, there is a better way: it's called Partnership Brokering.  It's been used for over twenty-five years to advance sustainable economic development projects all over the world, and it's a great way to do collaboration differently.

One of the biggest reasons coalitions fail is that they focus only on the collective interest that brings everyone together.  A key insight from the partnership brokering field is that to collaborate effectively in the face of complexity you have to pay even more attention to naming and taming the key INDIVIDUAL interests that each party brings with them.   When those individual interests are left unspoken, they lead to all kinds of dysfunction, suspicion and lost opportunities. 

The core principles for a...

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The Restorative Power of Deep Listening

Uncategorized Nov 10, 2020

Did you know that 67% of American men would rather administer a mild electric shock to themselves than to sit quietly with their own thoughts for more than 6 minutes? 

 That’s pretty crazy, but it’s true.  This was the finding from a series of experiments done at UVA and published in Science Magazine July 2014.  And by the way, it's not just the guys.  25% of women also took the shocking way out of listening to themselves.  

What's going on here--why are so many of us so uncomfortable with listening deeply to ourselves, let alone others?  And what might happen if you stepped up your game, listening more deeply to yourself, to those you are closest too, and perhaps even to those with whom you have profound differences?

This post explores the transformative power of deep listening.  The kind of listening that: 

  • Is rooted in genuine curiosity
  • Seeks understanding
  • Steps outside your own psychology
  • Opens you up to being moved
  • ...
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