Category Archives: 2 Dream Chasing

Who Needs a Think Pond?

Why would people form or participate in a Think Pond?

Here are a few reasons. Do any of them resonate with you?

To develop new skills or stay current

  • I am good at X and I love doing it. However, most jobs where I would do X would also require me to do Y and Z. I don’t have those skills right now and don’t know how to develop them.
  • I am taking a few years off to care for my small children, but I need to stay connected and keep my skills current.
  • I don’t like to rush into things. I like to take my time. But I don’t want to find myself without options in 10 years.

To gain a broader perspective

  • My current job is specialized. I need opportunities to branch out.
  • Stepping outside of my usual work environment would help me find better solutions for the work I do.
  • I can’t even imagine what the future holds. How do I know I’m on the right track?

To prepare for career change

  • I need to build a resume or portfolio that will help me attain my dream job.
  • At mid-career, I have realized that I am no longer challenged by my job. The career path I charted in my 20s no longer makes sense and I don’t know which way to pivot.
  • I want to plan a new venture I can launch after I retire.
  • I am retired and want to find new interests or help others.

To experiment with new options

  • I think I have a solution to Problem X, but I have no way to test it.
  • My ideas about how to do X are different from the way most companies would do it. How do I prove I’m on to something?
  • I’ve always wanted to try a different role, but it’s impossible in my current company and I don’t want to change companies
  • I like my job but I’ll always wonder what would have happened had I continued with X

To overcome obstacles to a goal

  • I have a great idea but starting my own business (or nonprofit) right now is not feasible. I can’t afford to hire someone to do XY and Z. I am not plugged in to the people in that arena. There are some questions I’m not sure I can answer.
  • I like to do X and I’m good at it, but a traditional job just wouldn’t work for me right now.
  • I’d like to start a little side business where I can do X, but getting it going would be too time-consuming.

Are You Alive at Work?

Have you ever been so engaged in a project that the hours you spent working on it seemed like minutes and you almost hated to finish it?

A key mechanism in reaching that state is your brain’s”seeking system,” says Daniel M. Cable, a social psychologist and professor of organizational behavior at London Business School, “When our seeking system is activated,” he says,”we feel more motivated, purposeful, and zestful. We feel more alive.”

In his book Alive at Work: The Neuroscience of Helping Your People Love What They Do, Cable says that employees’ seeking systems play an important role in fostering creativity and innovation. However, many organizations are “deactivating” the seeking systems of their employees by limiting their roles, stressing efficiency, and enforcing precise metrics.

Three triggers that activate the seeking system–self-expression, experimentation, and purpose–are disregarded or discouraged in many organizations. People who can respond to these triggers at work actually produce more dopamine–the same neurotransmitter that is increased by physical exercise. Absence of those triggers leads to fear and apathy. The effect of a work environment that discourages employees from offering ideas or taking time to try new approaches is similar to that of an opiate.

Think ponds are a way to preserve your seeking system–whether you work somewhere that encourages self-expression, experimentation, and purpose or the opposite. Your think pond celebrates ideas and provides a space for experimentation. Finding meaning and purpose in the work is intrinsic to the process.

If you already love your work, maybe a think pond will help you improve and advance the ideas and solutions your employer seeks and go after opportunities that make you feel even more alive.

If not, maybe your think pond will give you a diversion that compensates for your stultifying workplace. Maybe it will help you change it. Maybe it will bring you the clarity and courage you need to leave it for the situation that gives you life.

What Does It Mean to Thrive at Work?

To thrive at work is to provide for my family while doing work that aligns with my vision of life and of a better world. The work is meaningful to me and I am fully exercising the abilities I value. Thriving means I have an appropriate balance between stability and flexibility so that I am always able to foresee and adapt to changes in my field. It means I am able to contribute to the work of others and call upon a network of collaborators when an exciting opportunity opens. It means having the freedom to try new things and explore new ideas.

Dream Chasing: Essential Questions

  • In what ways do you consider yourself creative or innovative?
  • In what areas do you wish you were more creative or innovative?
  • What stimulates your imagination?
  • What are some areas within your industry or profession where innovation most needs to happen?
  • Based on recognized problems and developments you have seen in recent years, what is the likely next wave of your industry or profession? What change is currently emerging?
  • If you could change careers without losing any income, would you do it? If so, what would you do differently?

Think Ponds Make Meaning

By Deborah Vrabel

Think Ponds can be invaluable for those who want to explore career alternatives, but even those who are uninterested in making a major change can get value from exploring the enterprises and designing or participating in a project. I call these “Meaning Projects.” See what you think of these four models for creative response to different stages of life and different crossroads.

These are the themes each model will explore:

  • Finding and Holding on to What’s Precious
  • Reinventing Your Future
  • Building a Legacy
  • Feasting on Your Life

Networking for the “Others”

By Deborah Vrabel

I want to create a new kind of networking event–one designed specifically for introverts, idealists, and iconoclasts.

With the typical “networking” event, jobseekers walk around and talk to people about what they do and are interested in doing–displaying how stylish, likeable, articulate, and charismatic they can be–hoping someone will give them a lead or at least keep their card.

Think Pond networking events will be opportunities to create, ask good questions, and share ideas. Your mind, your imagination, your passion will speak for you.

Time to Reflect: The Origin of Think Pond

By Deborah Vrabel

Pinpointing when and how the Think Pond concept originated is difficult. There was a moment when the name came to me and a conversation that inspired that moment, but Think Pond ripples across decades of language, ideas, relationship, observation, experience, and yearning.

Still I think it best to begin with Now–because Now is the epicenter of everything. Now contains the reasons anyone would care about this venture.

Today’s Think Pond links to recent conversations I’ve had with people who have gifts they are eager to share and aspirations that lie outside these things we have invented called “jobs” and “career paths.” Some of them have great jobs, good pay, and work they love and want to keep doing. But they had to shed a cherished piece of their dreams to have it. They had to re-channel much of their learning, their skill, their imagination, and their time in one direction.

I’ve talked with people who are underemployed, underutilized, or under-credentialed. Some are over 50, struggling to make sense of the technological tectonics that dwarf even the Industrial Revolution. They’re yearning to share or maybe reframe knowledge they gained over the years but they lack the platform, the tools, the apps. Others are just starting out and are facing tough choices in a tough economy. They’re finding they need to learn constantly and widely, to find a creative outlet, to think like entrepreneurs. Some of them are struggling to be great parents without compromising the work they love. Some are stalled, their unique, amazing gifts kept in check because of obstacles that could be easily removed with some mentoring, tech support, feedback, or sometimes just a bit of encouragement.

All those stories–told by people representing a range of ages, professions, education and income levels, and talents–leave me with these questions:

  • What richness, what knowledge, what solutions are we losing?
  • What if people could craft their jobs based on what they have to give and want to give the world?

Creativity Springs

By Deborah Vrabel

For awhile I thought about naming my business Creativity Springs. I imagined the different reactions of everyone I’ve encountered professionally. Some people would relate to it and automatically assume that I’m a very creative person. Others, especially those with project management responsibilities, would politely try to move the conversation onto a less metaphorical plane where the “real work” gets done. Those who haven’t seen that I can easily switch to an analytical, goal-oriented mindset when needed might be less inclined to hire me or hesitant to work with me.

But I liked the way Creativity Springs can be read as either a sentence or a proper noun for a place. I liked the image of adding some pure, cool water for my readers as they evaluate a grant proposal or a position statement I’ve written. When my work needs to be distinctive and compelling, I like the idea of this mysterious undercurrent we can all bring to light if we make a habit of looking for its shimmer and take the time to let it bubble up to the surface.

My clients don’t pay for the time I spend in Creativity Springs. To me, the opportunity to go there is its own reward and the paid work is all about making something clients can use. Still some of the projects I’ve supported through my writing have benefited greatly from my trips to Creativity Springs.

  • The creative titles or metaphors I find there have helped committees renew their focus and energy for the work during a long or contentious deliberation process.
  • The element of story I weave subtly into the work helps the intended users of a report or technical guidance document to understand more clearly or to see themselves in the implementation.
  • The words and images I find there lead to better illustrations and cover design and can reduce the costs and iterations of the design process.
  • The research or intense observation that fueled the analytical writing yields insights about how to increase visibility, broaden readership, or determine next steps.

Whatever you do in work and life, I encourage you to make a trip to Creativity Springs a part of your journey. Like Narnia, Wonderland, and other mythical places, it’s not far from you–but it will change you.