Tag Archives: collaborate

What Unites Us?

Pick out ten people from the phone directory, randomly. Chances are, they will differ widely in their methods for earning a living, their career aspirations, and their educational credentials. They will each have their own interests outside of work, their own ways of making the world better, and their own unique mix of strengths and struggles. What unites all of their diverse enterprises–all the different ways they spend their time, earn their money, and pursue their own conceptions of excellence and success–are the same four inter-related, lifelong human endeavors stems from and continually draws from four elemental capabilities:

We dream. We learn. We create. We launch.

Those capabilities are at the root of everything we do in the world and we continually develop them and draw from them. They underpin all our efforts to plan careers, pursue jobs, improve skills, build reputations, cultivate clients, and build networks. They are with us throughout our studies and in every job we hold, as well as in all the periods of transition and change in between. They are the cornerstones of what we do to add value in our workplace and in all the communities to which we belong.  They create the framework for facing challenges, confronting change or upheaval, and dealing with what disturbs or inspires us. They contribute to our everyday, mundane activities, such as cooking or shopping, our pursuit of and escape from routine, and all our efforts to care for family, friends, community, and world. They help us cope, persevere, grow, and find joy. Regardless of occupation or location or education or wealth, every person possesses these four capabilities in some form and develops them to some degree.

Those four endeavors are powerful tools we can use to confront the changes and uncertainties of this time and to live a more rewarding, meaningful life. Most of us, however, are not using the tools at our disposal to our full advantage, nor are we sharpening them in preparation for future challenges.

How can we pursue these endeavors with greater passion, intention, and discipline?

We All Need a Sounding Board

Have you ever had an original idea or theory that you know is good–but you keep it to yourself? Maybe you sense that the people around you don’t want to hear about it or think they wouldn’t understand. Maybe you’re worried someone might take credit for it or even steal it and use it for their own profit, so you keep it to yourself. Maybe a little part of you is afraid that people will try to talk you out of it or point out a major flaw.

I get it. Carrying around a good idea can be comforting and hopeful. It can feel exhilarating to know that you have this great solution in your back pocket that you can pull out when the right opportunity comes along.

But consider what could happen if you wait for that perfect moment: It comes. You have a potential spotlight. You are at a meeting or conference or networking event with influential people who can fund or support your idea. The perfect opening comes up and all eyes are on you.

You begin talking. If you’re like me, it is unlikely that you will take full advantage of the opportunity. Maybe the language you use will fail to capture the magic of your idea. Maybe you will get into too much detail about aspects that are not important. You finish knowing that your audience probably doesn’t understand the key point you wanted to convey, maybe even has the wrong idea of what you are presenting. If they ask questions, you may not be prepared to answer clearly. Your time is up. You know that if you start trying to correct their errors they will lose interest.

With your think pond, you can present your idea early and see how different people react. You can role play and practice so that when your time to shine arrives, you will confidently state your idea in language that hits the right notes. You have already answered many of the potential questions that will arise and maybe even defended your idea powerfully.

Moreover, you know there are people–somewhere out there–who believe.

Time to Reflect: Mentoring

Mentoring relationships can change lives. But does mentoring always have to follow the same pattern? What we need to learn and how we can best learn it changes throughout our lives, and often we find ourselves challenged in very different ways at the same time.

Although there is much to be said for the lifelong bonds that can form when a seasoned professional takes a young person under his or her wing, the younger generations also can mentor their elders. I believe everyone has something to offer and something to learn. Moreover, some people might benefit more from a series of mentors. At one age, we might need a mentor to build our confidence and help with how we present ourselves while later it might be a good thinker who can help us consider all the angles as we make big decisions. At various times, we may need one mentor to help us master a discipline or profession, another who has connections that will help us identify and get selected for opportunities, and another who helps us see the big picture. Some of us may need mentors to help us with relatively small and peripheral but still important area of our careers.

Imagine an engineer, She works in casual clothes every day but may need someone with good fashion sense to help her look good for a professional presentation and someone else to give her tips for presenting. She may also need a mentor who helps her step out of her comfort zone in an area like writing for publication. She may need a mentor who helps her make her way when she is the only young person or the only female on a project team and another who helps her when the time comes to become a team leader—or to make the transition into upper management. She may need a mentor when she has her first child—someone who is an expert at balancing work and mothering or someone who is the kind of mother she wants to be.

No single individual could provide all those mentoring relationships.

What is a Think Pond?

Think Ponds are fluid associations of diverse individuals who bring their imaginations, knowledge, and skill sets, along with their dreams and passion projects, into a community of their own design. Creative energies converge, expanding possibility. Obstacles are flattened as complementary skills combine and available resources broaden. Timelines contract. Promising ideas stay out of the trash. Connections proliferate.

For individuals, a Think Pond is a next generation platform for shaping and strengthening four essential lifelong enterprises: 1) Dream chasing, 2) Life-embedded learning, 3)Solution-crafting, and 4) Venture launching. Making the most of these enterprises will both improve your competitive edge and increase your level of fulfillment with the work you do in the world.

For the greater good, an evolving ecosystem of Think Ponds is a wellspring of creativity and collaboration that can increase the sustainability of innovative, socially valuable programs, incubate new businesses, and activate unrealized human potential.

The Four Enterprises

Do you think of a career as a sequence of jobs with progressively higher pay and greater responsibility? What if you reimagined your career as a set of four lifelong enterprises that you continuously create and expand and refine. Merriam-Webster defines an enterprise as “a project or undertaking that is especially difficult, complicated, or risky.” In other words, I am talking about endeavors that continue whether you are employed, unemployed, or under-employed. Whatever your circumstances, you keep these four enterprises alive because they supply something you need.

I think everyone need to pursue these four lifelong enterprises, regardless of the individual’s passions, aptitudes, credentials, employment experiences, assets, and constraints:

Dream Chasing. Using your imagination fully. Paying attention to the sensory experiences, images, and cultural expressions that swirl around you and mindfully pursuing those that awaken your mind, heighten the intensity of your emotions, and enrich your soul. Exploring possibilities, envisioning your desired future, and inventing the kinds of endeavors that will both fulfill you and make a positive difference. . . .

Life-Embedded Learning. Taking advantage of the numerous learning opportunities afforded by books, media entities, technologies, community resources, and people in your sphere. Continually investigating what you know and what you think you know. Consciously developing and applying new skills, adapting existing knowledge and skills in new areas, and finding greater depth of meaning and significance in the people, environments, and experiences you encounter.

Solution Crafting.  Looking at your life from different perspectives and seeking ways to synergize your assets and talents. Bringing an artistic sensibility, design thinking, and surprise into whatever you produce. Continually generating divergent ideas about how to look at and respond to circumstances, problems, challenges, opportunities, and desires–both individually and collaboratively. . . . .

Venture launching. Thinking about and testing ways to carry your ideas and solutions forward into the marketplace for your profit, into the public sphere for the good of others and the enrichment of the culture, or just into a wider conversation for their continued development and enrichment.

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?

Brain Management

By Deborah Vrabel

Meeting deadlines and achieving goals demands effective use of time and resources. When we look at our workload, we reach for the calendar, the timeline, budgets, and other tools for ensuring that we have what we need and do the right things at the right time. We don’t assume that the resources we need are unlimited and available whenever we decide to use them. We don’t treat our pool of resources as something we can stretch at will to double its original size, and we don’t squander our most valuable resources to accomplish the things that matter least.

Many of us need to follow those common sense guidelines when we allocate our most precious resource–our capacity to think.

I’m not talking here about doing brain workouts like the games sold by Luminosity or practicing mindfulness. Neither am I referring to dietary supplements, exercise, rest, and other health practices that are good for the brain.

Instead, I want to try adapting the tools we all use to manage our time, resources, and productivity to the needs of people whose work spans an array of complex issues and requires versatile use of mental processes and people who are finding their way–whether that means exploring or reassessing career directions, working on a dream and a job simultaneously, or rebuilding and recovering after loss and upheaval.

Think Pond members: Let’s see where this takes us! How might considering flow, mental energy requirements, aesthetics, and social needs help us make better use of thinking time?