Tag Archives: creative leadership

Coming Full Circle

  Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose Medical degree burningI recently returned from a week-long stay in Keystone, Colorado. I was there with a small group of physicians gathered to restore their voice to the practice of medicine. How I got there was through a series of events I can only call synchronicity. What I felt was a profound feeling of "coming home". I showed up as all of me, in full color. My role was to listen deeply and expansively, and I chose to record what I heard in visual form. It was as if everything I practiced was serving me in my service to this gathering. Each morning I woke early and rode my rented bike along the many trails around Keystone. I listened to the Snake River winding its way through the trees. I inhaled with awe each time I arrived at the vista of Lake Dillon. I clawed my way up a steep hill only to be rewarded with the jackpot of a stunning view of Breckenridge and beyond. I had learned from these past few years of practicing self-care that these morning steps were my fuel for being present and thinking creatively. I knew what to do - even in an environment away from my familiar surroundings at home - because I had practiced them into new habits. I had my biking clothes, I was comfortable riding, and all I had to do was explore new roads and read new maps. I also had my daily sketching and art journaling practice in place, something I started only within the last two years. I have experimented with many different formats and media, and I am comfortable drawing outside. On this trip, I brought a small Moleskine Japanese album with accordion pages. It fit in my small travel purse or pocket, and I carried a pouch with pen, markers, and water brushes. On my morning rides, I often sketched a scene quickly in ink, filling in color later in the day or in the evening. I noticed what I noticed. I took note of the stories I wanted to tell. And by the time I got home, there were three or four panels that needed coloring, which I completed within a few days. New experiences, new people, new places -- all of these fuel my creativity and keep me inspired. I am grateful for the daily practices I cultivate at home, so I am well-prepared to stay open when I'm on the road. For a frame-by-frame caption story of my Keystone travel journal, see my post here. For an in-depth reflection on the contents of the physician meeting and its impact on me personally, stay tuned!

A Journey in Sketches

I recently returned from a week-long stay in Keystone, Colorado. I documented my journey in daily sketches created in a Moleskine Japanese album (small size). My tools were Pigma Micron ink pens, Faber Castell Pitt Artist pen, Kuretake Clean Color Real Brush markers, Derwent watercolour pencils, Sakura Koi field sketch watercolor set, and Kuretake waterbrushes. First, the SFO airport. There was an exhibit on Art Deco and I loved the patterns, colors, and shapes in it. Since I had a couple of hours to wait for my delayed flight, I started sketching and painting.DSC06899DSC06900I went back to photograph the original pieces that had inspired my memory. IMG_0857 IMG_0858 Then I looked over my shoulder to see that a large watercolor mural had been placed high up, near the ceiling. I copied the quote on the painting and general feeling of it. DSC06901 Then I noticed the number of billboards in this terminal devoted to issues of network security and cyber attacks. I captured this by placing three of the ones I remembered together.DSC06902 On my flight I read two magazines I never usually read. One had Amy Poehler on the cover as one of the "100 Most Creative People In Business". The other had a headline and article I will never forget (much as I would like to), entitled, "Why Die?". It describes the efforts of PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel's multi-billion-dollar venture fund's investments in biotech. He is focused on "eradicating death" from human experience, envisioning a future in which this "disturbing inconvenience" is made obsolete.DSC06903 I road Colorado Mountain Express shuttle from the Denver airport to Keystone. I captured a few quick sketches of what that ride is like. Flat flat flat, then you're in the Front Range, with walls on either side and endless ranges unfolding in front of you. I-70 from Denver Airport to the Front Range I-70 on the way to Keystone from Denver I-70 Eisenhower Tunnel from Denver to Silverthorne Colorado Continue reading

What Doctors Can Learn From Artists and Entrepreneurs

IMG_0073_2 Since leaving medicine, I’ve been an entrepreneur and an independent artist. They are similar pursuits, and both have taught me about the experience of living in creative rather than reactive mode. How do you know if you’re living in reactive mode? If you define and measure yourself based on external circumstances, and you believe you really are limited by what’s happening outside yourself, you are in reactive mode. Most of our institutions, including the education system, government, mass media, and the medical training system, are based on the reactive mode. These systems teach you to believe that your success is measured by your ability to manipulate external circumstances, so your attention and efforts should be focused on external metrics. You compare your performance to others on a so-called objective scale, and you rely on statistics to know how you are doing. There is nothing “wrong” with reactive mode. It is the way most of the systems in our society operate. Creative mode requires a 180-degree shift in this perspective. Continue reading

The Gifts of Burnout: An Evolutionary Wake-Up Call for Doctors

IMG_4244 It has been fourteen years since I graduated from University of Michigan Medical School. I have journeyed far from the field of medicine, and yet my heart keeps hearing the call to return to my physician communities and share what I have learned. I simply cannot ignore my sense that the pain within our health care system - now felt at every level, including patients, physicians, and payors - is a resounding call to wake us up to our next stage of evolution. It takes only a cursory scanning of the headlines of medical blogs like this one to get a sense for the unrest, the frustration, and the abundance of innovative practices emerging as a result of the rising sense of powerlessness among doctors. I left medicine immediately after receiving my MD, moving into uncharted waters after the Dean of Career Development at Michigan told me, "You're on your own. We can't help you with that." This was when, as a fourth year student, I announced I would be pursuing a career in venture capital. I volunteered at a private equity investment firm - yes, I worked for no pay - and six weeks later, I was hired as an Associate. Within two years I was the youngest partner-level Investment Manager in the firm. No one told me this was possible. I simply would not accept anyone else's opinion of what I could or could not do. Especially after what I witnessed in my world of medical training. One of my most vivid memories was on my Vascular Surgery rotation, where I was absolutely loving the concept of what we were doing - as intellectual masturbation material. But in practice, what I saw was my future laid out in the following scenarios. The second year resident, sick as a dog, showed up to work anyway, and, too weak to stand, lay down on a gurney in the OR while a case was going on. The third year vascular surgery fellow, a gentile Southern man, was in the middle of a lower extremity bypass graft and stepped out of the room. He lifted his mask, vomited into the scrub sink, and then reentered the OR to continue the procedure. This happened two more times within the same procedure before he completed. Many of you reading this may be nodding and saying, "Yup. That's just the way it is. Suck it up or leave it." And my question is, "If you have trained yourself not to feel, what else might you be missing in your experience of other people?". Continue reading

Success 3.0 – Wake Up, Grow Up, Show Up

Success 3.0 It's been a BIG few weeks for me. I've been away from my desk, discovering more of my tribe, in places I never thought to look. Experiencing the feeling of coming home to myself, my story, and my place in the evolution of all that is. I trusted the feeling of just knowing (without knowing why or how), and I was rewarded beyond my wildest imagination. Three weeks ago I attended a four-day event like no other in Boulder, Colorado. Called Success 3.0 Summit, this was a gathering of entrepreneurs, CEOs, authors, spiritual leaders, artists, musicians, doctors, coaches, healers, and other thought leaders for the purpose of rewriting the myth of success in our culture. Success 1.0 was survival. Physical survival at the most basic level. Success 2.0 was the accumulation of wealth, status, achievements, and symbols of power at any cost, even at the expense of health, relationships, and well-being. Success 3.0, as we are co-creating it to be, is the awakening to the fact that we can no longer operate as if our individual actions have no effect on the collective. We must wake up to the reality that we are all interconnected, and that we have both the capacity to destroy ourselves as a species and the infinite possibility of expanding our consciousness to include the whole cosmos in our own evolution. Summarized in six words, Success 3.0 is a call to "Wake Up, Grow Up, Show Up." Wake up to our true identities not as separate beings, but as expressions of the oneness of all that is. Grow up to take responsibility for our actions as part of a larger whole, beyond our egoic concerns, beyond even our immediate family or tribe or community, but to include the entire cosmos as an extension of our sphere of influence. Show up as a leader by expressing our own unique gifts, standing fully in the truth of our unique life experiences and stories. For me, the conference was profoundly integrating of the many chapters of my life experience that had previously appeared separate or unrelated. I now see that every single world I have lived in - from the suburban middle class neighborhood of my hometown in Libertyville, Illinois, to the halls of the Ivy League, to the training of medical school, to the partnership track in a venture capital firm, to solo entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley, to the experience of burnout, to transitioning from classical music to improvisation, to performing acoustic rock violin, to training as a life coach, to traveling to Southeast Asia to study bodywork, to becoming an artist - informs my perspective wherever I show up. My ability to listen deeply across multiple disciplines, and my unrelenting vision of possibilities, is my unique gift to any situation I am in. I am a weaver and collage maker, drawing threads from seemingly disparate elements and incorporating them into a new tapestry with every interaction I have. I am a living expression of the evolutionary impulse, coming through me, existing in me, and experienced by me. And so are you! Within your unique set of life experiences and stories is the unique expression of life as you - and only you - can express it. When you choose to wake up, grow up, show up, you enter into the process of co-creating, with the evolutionary impulse of all that is, your unique definition of Success 3.0. I'm excited to continue showing up in new ways, to start conversations about what really matters, and to continue bringing my unique art into the world. Is it time for you to upgrade and update your definition of Success? Join me in the conversation.

Leaning in…to what?

woman leaning illustration There's going to be some talk about leaning in. I’d like to speak about “leaning in” from the perspective of a woman who learned the men’s rules and did pretty well for awhile. I picked up all the cues about how I was supposed to behave, what I was supposed to do to play the game, how I could win. I earned a seat at the boardroom table, surrounded by men. I am grateful for the doors that were opened for me, when I behaved a lot like a successful man. I rode the bus for a few rounds before I got off and started the process of sitting in front of the blank page, making up my own game, creating my own rules, and teaching myself a whole new way of "leaning in". When we talk about “leaning in”, we have to talk about what that really means for individuals. To me, “leaning in” is about going toward the places that scare you. The real question is, “What scares you?” Most of us are living in remote places that are carefully designed to be far out of reach from what really scares us. We have concocted our plans based on meticulous avoidance of everything that really scares us. We believe that this construction project actually spares us the feeling of being scared, but it follows us. It never leaves us. It camps out in dark corners inside us. We dart, we duck, we hide, we layer on coats of paint and makeup and accessories and postures that we think – hope – will cover it up. But it plagues us. We seek relief, but we also secretly believe we’ll never find it. We think this is as good as it gets, so we keep pointing in the same direction. So what are we leaning into? Continue reading

You are not alone…the power of women gathering at TEDxSandHillRdWomen

Last Saturday I attended a program called TEDxSandHillRdWomen in Menlo Park, California. You may already be familiar with the TED talks series. This was one of 130 events of its kind around the world on the same day, gathering women together to hear "ideas worth sharing." I had an intuition about attending, and synchronicity brought me the opportunity to take the place of a friend's friend who could not attend at the last minute. All kinds of insecurities ran through my mind in the hours and days approaching the event. I was not a speaker, "only" an attendee. Yet all of the connotations in my mind about "Sand Hill Road" - the home of venture capitalists and attorneys for all of Silicon Valley, the allure of which had once drawn me into the role of venture capitalist, and eventually drew me to live in this zip code when I first chose to move to California - now haunted me. I wondered what I would wear. I no longer even own any high heeled shoes or suits, and I didn't feel like dressing up to "be like" what my mind believed a "Sand Hill Rd woman" should look like. I watched my mind mull over this question, knowing from my higher awareness that it didn't matter at all what I wore, but also curiously observing as my thoughts popped up anyway. A few days before, a friend heard me describe this and said, "The question you should be asking is, what do YOU want out of this?" I immediately replied, "I want to be comfortable as myself. I want to show up as myself." She smiled and her eyes sparkled as she nodded. "And I'm looking at you right now. I see you, right in front of me now. Are you comfortable?" We were sitting cross-legged on the hardwood floor of my home, getting ready to sing and make music together. I had met with this woman every two weeks for the last two years. I was totally comfortable. And now, nearly a week after attending the amazing TEDx event, I can say that I felt totally comfortable there as well. I was surprised in the most delightful of ways at everything - the diversity of women there, the inspiring speakers offering so many different perspectives, the serendipitous interactions I experienced throughout every moment of the day - and most of all, I was delighted to experience myself as me, fully inhabiting my body and my mind and my spirit exactly where I am today. Continue reading

Are you fighting with reality or appreciating it?

I  recently noticed that I've been fighting against a lot lately. Fighting against complaining, fighting against frustration, fighting against fear. How's that been workin' for me? Not so great. Today I went on a hike and happened upon a field of daffodils...in February! Now isn't that amazing? I stopped to appreciate the surprise of unexpected beauty. And I realized that by sending out the energy of "fighting against", I am actually becoming the very thing I wish to avoid or resist. Continue reading

Taking Things Apart: Videos of Leaving the Cradle

It's been just over a year now since I stepped with clarity into the next phase of my life by leaving a business I came to California to create, back in 2004. I've told the story so many times that it may seem like "old news" to some of you, but for me, that one decision was a *huge* step. It cleared the way for so much magic that has emerged - through effort and spontaneous creativity, guided by intention and enabled by practice - over the past year. Last week I went through the embodied steps of letting go - moving all the physical items out of the Cradle of Manifestation after acknowledging that a 1,800-square-foot facility no longer matched the life I am creating. In the process, I've come face-to-face with so many of my deeply held beliefs and default patterns. I believed that being a "responsible" person - a piece of my identity I held tightly as a symbol of my worthiness to occupy space on this planet - meant putting other people's needs ahead of my own, no matter what the cost. In my work, this was expressed as taking full responsibility for all outcomes associated with the people I was involved with - which translated into poor delegation, inability to trust other people's skills and ways of doing things, and the result of preferring to do everything on my own, so it would be perfect. Ultimately, I experienced exhaustion and burnout as the destination on this path. After I crossed the hurdle of actually setting a boundary, saying "no more" to my own business (which, at the time, was the only path I felt drawn to), and risking the disappointment of other people (which, at the time, was my greatest and most paralyzing fear), the same belief expressed itself as a firm resolve in my mind to continue paying rent on my office space simply because I had signed a lease, and that was that. An agreement was an agreement, with no room for discussion. I was a person who kept my word. But living by those old rules under the new circumstance of starting a business from scratch in a new industry translated to prioritizing my landlords' needs over my own, which I did for an entire year. I dutifully and silently wrote each check and made sure it arrived before the first of every month. For an entire year. I was silently proving to myself my own worth as a "responsible" person (daughter, girl), but in fact I was not honoring myself or my fledgling business fully. Continue reading

Wake-Up Call From Jay-Z And A Chinese Mother: You Have The Choice To Be Victim Or Master Of Your Life

I happened to be awake and watching television last night when the hip-hop artist and entrepreneur Jay-Z appeared on the new Oprah Winfrey Network show, "Master Class." He was speaking about everything he had learned so far in his life. His childhood roots of living in urban housing projects, and having a father who abandoned the family when Jay-Z was 11 years old, were completely foreign to me, as a child of married, Chinese immigrant, PhD-educated parents in the upper middle-class suburbs of the Midwest. He told the story of a typical day, being on the playground with friends, and having to run and take cover whenever gang members would drive by, shooting automatic weapons at random. After fifteen minutes or so, he and his friends would re-emerge and start playing again. As I held my breath and imagined a story of how "horrible" it must have been to grow up under such dangerous and uncertain conditions, I heard Jay-Z say this: "It was truly a remarkable upbringing." Continue reading