I’ve been thinking about the difference between trying to let go of past identities I’ve held dear, vs somehow integrating them.
An example of a past identity: throughout my high school and college years I obsessed about becoming a climbing bum, and then spent another several years attempting to live out that dream in Yosemite and Joshua Tree amongst the climbers I used to read about in magazines. It never really felt right, and to be fair, I did a lot more hanging out with climbers than I did actual climbing. I hesitate to mention to people that I ever “was” a climber — even though it was very much my thing, for thirteen years! — because I’ve learned that people who are into climbing get very excited to attach all sorts of ideas onto me that didn’t even fit back then.
Still, I cannot deny the Climber in me. Whenever my body touches stone, or uses its fingers and limbs to pull the rest of my body upward, I am overcome with a strong sense of knowing: THIS is what this body was born to do.
Have you ever participated in an intimate class or group meeting that broke down in some way? What happened? How did your level of engagement shift as a result?
Maybe one participant spoke more than anyone else and you mentally “checked out” because you knew you’d never get a chance to contribute. Or maybe someone you really wanted to hear from kept getting interrupted, which made you angry, and you spent the rest of the session noticing how many times she got interrupted rather than hearing what anyone was actually saying. Did a group of people keep showing up late after breaks, making everyone wait? Did you become so hungry, or so uncomfortable from sitting still for so long, that you lost your ability to focus?
Group agreements can do a lot to prevent scenarios like these. By fostering a sense of psychological safety within groups, they can make it much easier for everyone to participate more fully, or even show up in the first place.
Here are a few of topics around which group agreements can encourage open and intimate sharing among groups, especially in diverse groups comprised of people with a range of identities, or whose cultural, racial, gender, and/or class experiences (to name only a few!) may differ greatly:
Schedule / showing up on time / timekeeping / what if you can’t make it
Listening / talking at the same time as others
Encouraging responses vs asking participants to receive each others’ contributions without responding or “fixing”
Assuming goodwill / distinguishing between impact and intent
Making space for all voices / permission to pass
Speaking for yourself / speaking on behalf of others / making generalizations
Addressing / identifying each other (eg nametags, sharing gender pronouns)
Side conversations / off-topic conversations
Use of technology / taking notes / photography
Personal attacks / value judgments
Availability of water and food
Body care: official “bio breaks” / people taking breaks when necessary
Accessibility / where to meet
If you’re the “holder” or facilitator of the group, it’s great to give participants the opportunity to co-create agreements prior to accepting them… though this is more practical for multi-day events when this process won’t take up too much of the allotted time! For shorter meetings with a new group, try setting aside even just a couple minutes to read out a prepared set of agreements, and asking people to acknowledge them with a quick show of hands.
As a participant, if you know there are certain group agreements that would help you feel safe or show up more fully, you might ask your facilitator before the event if they would be willing to address those topics as part of the intro to the session. If they are not willing to do so… well, then you have more information to help you decide whether or not that’s a meeting you want to attend!
I’d love to see examples of group agreements that you’ve found particularly helpful; please send any and all my way!
In most of the spaces I inhabited in Northern California, I had the privilege of being surrounded by very well-trained advocates for racial, class, gender, and a number of other forms of diversity and inclusion. The workshops, classes, community, and work events I frequented were excellently facilitated by people adept at leading the group through the setting of shared agreements. Once we had collectively affirmed those agreements, the facilitators and participants could lovingly but firmly call out — or rather, call in — any behavior that breached those agreements.
Even in situations where there were no explicit agreements in place, such as social gatherings, there was always someone more hip than I was to such matters who was willing to say something when anyone’s bias showed. In the rare moments when I did find I wanted to raise my own voice, usually online, I had people who could help me adjust my language before posting anything, and back me up once my words were out there.
These scenarios felt very safe and very comfortable. I benefited from the work of others; I could fully show up because I knew that what I shared would usually be received and held respectfully by the facilitator or the group itself, or that at the very least, someone else would intervene if anyone failed to check their privilege or veered into prejudiced territory, consciously or otherwise. And I trusted that my own missteps would be skillfully reflected back to me, giving me the opportunity to raise my own levels of awareness.
The content is top notch, it’s beautifully laid out and illustrated, the writing is clear, the whole thing flows well, and it’s easy to navigate. While it doesn’t really take a stand on the ethics or of any of the options and I’d have loved to see some case studies, it’s far more complete than I was expecting, and I’m really impressed!
And I had absolutely nothing to do with its creation, which feels incredibly strange. I was legitimately obsessed with this topic — my expertise in that rapidly-evolving field paid my bills, I got a massive grant to write a book about it — for more than a decade. I can’t pinpoint exactly when that particular obsession ended, but it’s been a HUGE relief to let go of the need to stay on top of the latest crowdfunding legislation or alternative lending innovations or who’s launching what new community investing fund… thankfully, we’ve got people like Jenny Kassan and Amy Cortese all over those 🙂
As of this week, I officially work Tuesdays through Fridays. Standard eight-hour days, but only four of them. Every weekend is now a three-day weekend, and I am thrilled!
This wasn’t a decision that I took lightly, and the process revealed a few surprises. It took several months from the time I started thinking about it to actually make a formal request, and a couple more months for it to be made official. Here’s some of what I learned over the course of those months (about myself, about my relationship, and about The System), and what it took to make it happen. I’m writing this all out in hopes that it might serve as inspiration for anyone else who is thinking of reducing their working hours, and also provide some perspective that’s a little deeper than what can be conveyed in a headline.
The company I work for was not the barrier. Xero has verrrrrry flexible policies when it comes to working hours. They even have a series of internal publications showcasing people’s flexible work arrangements. People have reduced their hours for reasons as varied as wanting to avoid rush-hour traffic, to wanting to spend more time with their kids (temporarily or permanently), to training for and representing their country at international sporting events. (We’re hiring, wanna move to New Zealand?! Or Singapore or Melbourne or Denver or…? Let me know if there’s a role you’re interested in and I can send you the internal referral link!)
Benefits weren’t a factor. Everyone who lives in New Zealand, either permanently or on a visa that’s longer than 24 months, is covered by the national health care system, and all other benefits (vacation, sick time) would be prorated according to my new schedule.
I worried a bit about letting my team down, but the truth of the matter is that my working fewer hours would bring our workflows into much better alignment, as the person who does a lot of the post-production on the videos we make together is also on a four-day schedule! Without exception, everyone on my team cheered me on as soon as I told them what I was hoping to do.
Tonight I’m thinking about the crystal shop in Paolo Coelho’s book The Alchemist. It’s been over twenty years since I read the copy I “borrowed” from my cousin Matthew (!!!) so I’m a bit fuzzy on the details, but here’s what I remember: the protagonist is on his journey (the Hero’s Journey, the monomyth), and at some point he ends up asking a crystal merchant for a job.
It turns out he’s pretty good at selling crystals. Not only that, but he ends up coming up with all sorts of excellent business ideas, and things are going great.
…except that our hero didn’t set out from home to do a great job selling crystals. If anything, hanging out with the crystal merchant has made him a bit complacent, and the reader wonders if he’s completely lost sight of his goal.
At one point the protagonist is trying to figure out why his boss, who keeps talking about his big dream of going to Mecca, isn’t doing anything that would help him actually get there:
“Well, why don’t you go to Mecca now?” asked the boy. “Because it’s the thought of Mecca that keeps me alive. That’s what helps me face these days that are all the same, these mute crystals on the shelves, and lunch and dinner at that same horrible café. I’m afraid that if my dream is realized, I’ll have no reason to go on living.”
Of course you want to just shake the guy: “What are you waiting for?! You’re not getting any younger, Mecca isn’t going to come to you!”
It’s hard to deny that there’s a lot of shit going down in the world right now. As the daughter of two immigrants (into the US) and an immigrant (into NZ) myself, what’s happening at the US border hits me in a particular way, and there are so many other examples we might point to around the world.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what it takes to stay open to and present with this sort of unpleasantness, for a couple reasons. First, I believe it is important to actually SEE and GRIEVE these atrocities, rather than pretending they don’t exist or that they don’t hurt. And more importantly, I believe we must be present to what is going on if we might hope to effectively address any issues that are not in alignment with our own values.
And so I have been super inspired by a few things that my friends have shared this week. They remind me that there are so many ways to contribute to upending the status quo, and so many ways to take care of ourselves as we do that work. Continue reading “Self care and art as acts of resistance”
For years I told myself I wasn’t cut out for a 9-5 job. When I ditched that story, I found a job that ultimately inspired me to move across an ocean. As of last week, this has officially been my longest stretch of employment ever (not counting the years I worked for myself) and I’m not planning on leaving any time soon!
I’ve been thinking a ton lately about how to put myself “out there” more. Start a vlog, for real this time (the one I was going to launch at work has been put on the back burner… again)? Write another (gasp) book?
And also wondering if it’s possible to promote whatever I’m putting out there in a way that doesn’t seem arrogant, or like I think I have the answers, or risks my flying too close to the sun and melting my wings hubris lightning bolts vultures etc etc… AND also keeps me accountable to a higher purpose, rather than sucking me into the corrupt, or even just “fashionable,” version of power that so often seems to take over when people start gaining momentum.
(I really, really want to dig into life coaching as an example of this, particularly in light of this Quartz Obsession piece, but I’m trying to focus on the positive here!)
As I seek role models who have built platforms for their quirky selves and/or ideas in ways that don’t make me cringe, I have grown more and more a fan of Hank Green. Latest case in point: the description for this video (you’ll have to click through to the video’s YouTube page in order to read it).
Wow, EVEN HANK grapples with how to handle (and I’m assuming, not become similar to):
…people who figure out how to capture [a certain type of] energy [that you should read his description to learn more about] for their own gain and do not consider the responsibility that their power brings, or think that they are righteous when they are in fact leaning into culturally destructive ideas.
I am infinitely grateful for the three years I spent on the staff of RSF Social Finance, a financial services organization that seeks to revolutionize how people relate to money. Leaving that job was one of the most difficult decision I ever made! But I was literally bursting with the book I was ready to write, so leave I did, shedding many tears in the months leading up to and following my departure.
While at RSF, I had the honor of leading the development of their Food System Transformation Fund (although it had a different name then, the Food & Agriculture PRI Fund I think?), a new loan fund supporting high-impact food businesses, funded by foundation investments. You can read more about the impulse behind that fund in Don Shaffer’s reflections on the eve of his departure after 10 years as the President and CEO of this truly unique and inspiring organization.