I Think I Can



Let’s start Monday with a pop quiz. 😉

Pick one:

  1. I can’t do that.
  2. I don’t know how to do that yet.

Carol Dweck, a Stanford University psychologist has spent years studying how our mindset affects our performance and personal satisfaction.

She describes two mindsets: fixed and growth. In a fixed mindset, people believe their ability is a fixed trait, meaning it is what it is, they can’t learn new things (option 1). In a growth mindset, people believe they can develop a skill, meaning they can improve over time (option 2). This is a deep topic, worthy of a book (which Dr. Dweck has considerately written), //ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ac&ref=tf_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=yar0dc-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=0345472322&asins=0345472322&linkId=bf4422fb0e8b3725f406af01e494abeb&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true&price_color=333333&title_color=0066c0&bg_color=ffffff” target=”_blank”>Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

For today, here’s something to nibble on as you go through your week: We live in an evolving world and we can choose to learn with it or stay in place. We can keep up with the stream of new data, new skills, new technology, new everything or we can be the rock that stays still in the middle of the river. Can you tell which one appeals to me? 🙂


Learning requires

  • Curiosity
  • Exposure to things that are different from you and how you think
  • Listening
  • Being uncomfortable when you can’t understand or do something…. at first
  • Practice, practice, practice until you get better
  • Taking a chance that you’ll fail, sometimes publicly
  • Faith in your ability to learn


Why does mindset matter?

Our mindset frames how we see the world and whether we’re willing to invest, to have faith in our ability to change, to do things differently.

Can you imagine telling a child that they’ll never get smarter? That they’ll never advance to the next grade?

Would we tell a new employee that they’ll never learn a new skill and so we won’t send them to training?

Of course not. We would have faith in them that they will learn and grow. So why would we tell ourselves these negative things? I’m not saying that we should all go back to school or tackle every new concept. I’m saying that, if you want to, you can learn anything you want. The real challenge is knowing what you want to learn, not whether you can do it.

By the way, if you’re interested in more from Carol Dweck, check out www.curious.com, where she has a weekly post on mindsets.

Take a Chance

The next time you doubt yourself, I want you to think about someone else. There’s no question that your days are hard and you could use a break. Can’t we all? But when you’re having your worst day, I hope thinking about someone else inspires you to keep going.


Take a short journey with me: Imagine being Grace Murray Hopper, born in 1906, the oldest of three children. Can you imagine a young girl living in the 1900s in New York City? Would you expect her to marry, stay home and raise the children? Or maybe she would work, most likely as a teacher or a nurse.  What are the odds that she would be not just a mathematician, but one of the leading computer scientists of the 20th century, a United States Navy Rear Admiral and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom? How many times do you think she heard the word the word ‘no’? How many times do you think she wondered if it could be done? How many times do you think she took a chance?

grace-murray-hopper-programmerMy dad brought me a couple of books when he visited last month, one of which was Computers: Their History, Present Applications, and Future by Shirley Thomas. Dad pointed out Grace Hopper’s role in computer programming, including her time at UNIVAC (now Unisys), where dad also worked. Among Ms Hopper’s accomplishments:

  • Attended Vassar despite being turned down the first time she applied.
  • Served in the WAVES (a branch of the US Naval Reserve), despite not meeting their physical requirements.
  • Developed the first compiler, despite no one believing it could be done, leading eventually to her work developing COBOL, the most ubiquitous business language to date.
  • Worked for the Department of Defense until she was 79, despite the mandatory retirement age of 60. (Congress had to approve her active duty status.)

Is it any wonder that she became known as Amazing Grace?

My favorite Amazing Grace quote is:

“The most important thing I’ve accomplished, other than building the compiler, is training young people. They come to me, you know, and say, ‘Do you think we can do this?’ I say, “Try it.” And I back ’em up. They need that. I keep track of them as they get older and I stir ’em up at intervals so they don’t forget to take chances.”

The next time you feel overwhelmed, I hope you remember Rear Admiral Grace Hopper and all she accomplished. I hope you remember to take a chance.


Process Before Progress


I’ve got a challenging morning so will keep it short with a great quote from a young author, Jason Reynolds. He was featured on NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday if you want to hear the whole interview.

Be not afraid of discomfort. If you can’t put yourself in a situation where you are uncomfortable then you will never grow. You will never change. You’ll never learn. And I think for me, the discomfort of drowning is what taught me to swim.

And furthermore, I think that for all the young people out there, the one thing that I learned that I still hold on to every day of my life as I work as an artist is that it’s always going to be process before progress. It takes work. It takes humility. It takes confidence. It takes agency and urgency. And it takes a little bit of luck sometimes, too.

go on as you never have

Doesn’t this fit with our culture of transformation?

If you watched last night’s Olympics, you saw Britain’s Adam Peaty set a world record and win the gold in the men’s 100m breaststroke. As a kid, Peaty was afraid of water; do you think he’s glad to have pushed past his discomfort?

May you find new ways to grow this week!


Private Revolution

TGIF everyone!

We’re almost to the summer and I think we can all use a kick back, lazy afternoon tune to tease us into the weekend. Here’s one of my favorite songs from the 80s – World Party’s Private Revolution. Despite what you see in the video, the band is one man, Karl Wallinger. He combines a catchy melody with some thoughtful lyrics.

We are the revolution, baby.

We’re come to take you home.

If you say you want a revolution, baby,

There is nothing like your own.

We are the revolution, baby,

We’re come to set you free.

After your evolution, baby,

There is nothing you can’t be.

caterpillar wings

Hmmm. That sounds an awful lot like personal transformation. It puts both the opportunity before us and the responsibility on us to make it happen. I hope Wallinger inspires you to find your next adventure!



Whoot, it’s Hump Day! Sometimes, ya gotta go to your happy place… where is yours? This is one of my favorite questions of people, especially when we’re stressed. There’s nothing like indulging in a little daydream, one where there is no pressure and you can just be. Happy daydreaming lifts your mood and can help you think more positively; you return to reality with a fresh outlook – sometimes a little mental wandering can be very productive.

Speaking of dreaming, this Volkswagen GTI ad caught my attention – anyone with dogs knows that they fully live out their dreams. I love that Man and his Best Friend join up in their own happy place. 😀

dog dream

In case you need a heartwarming story to lift your spirits, check out where AT&T’s Korey Hicks saved a customer’s life and then kept him company at the hospital. He makes me proud to be a part of the AT&T family, not just because he took action when a customer was needing help physically but also because he then went out of way to help spiritually. A little kinship goes a very long way.

Happy Daydreaming – take a moment to recharge today!


How do you play?


We’re re-watching the Sopranos right now, old school style on DVD. In one of the episodes from the second season, Livia Soprano (Tony’s mum) asks, “Why does everything have to have a purpose?” The overachiever in me wants to claim that everything DOES have a purpose but, really, I totally agree with Livia, that we are not always purposeful nor should we be. If you’re Type A, you probably disagree. I would have been in your camp a decade ago but these days I realize that some of the best times and best ideas come from playing. It doesn’t matter what you play, only that you enjoy yourself.

Sometimes the value of play is in taking a moment to rest your mind, taking a breather from the stress we all carry. When I play, I lose myself in what I’m doing. I often laugh and I’m never cranky. Isn’t that a gift? Even better, when I play, I’m encouraging others to do so, too. This means we connect with each other, even if we’re strangers. Southwest airlines gets this, why else would they encourage their employees’ to show their senses of humor? (Go to http://tinyurl.com/oo3sdu6 for an example of their funny approach to life.) Southwest is recognized for its leadership practices, which rely heavily on relationships between its employees, between its business units, between leadership and front line and between their employees and customers. This has put them on top in a very competitive industry. For more on Southwest management practices, see Jody Gittel’s book, The Southwest Airlines Way (reference info below).

Play can be powerful when you’re trying to innovate. It is inherently creative as you are using your imagination to make something, to see beyond what is and into what could be. Jay Silver recently gave a TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design, “ideas worth spreading”) talk on his method for inventing. He said, “Sometimes what we know gets in the way of what could be. We think we already know how it works so we don’t see how else it could be.” Watch his video at http://www.ted.com/talks/jay_silver_hack_a_banana_make_a_keyboard.html; it will make you laugh and look at pencils, pizza and bananas differently.  Doesn’t it make you want to play?

Further evidence of how what we know gets in the way of what could be is in the art world. My first drawing teacher had us turn pictures upside down so that we wouldn’t interpret the lines into something familiar. When we try to draw something we recognize, our brain gets in the way. By making it even a little bit unfamiliar, we disrupt the assumptions our brain makes and we see things more clearly. I don’t have my textbook from this class and I’ve long since forgotten her name but I’ve included a reference below about this.

I play at home – I love to write, photograph, paint and knit (that’s being a ‘textile artist’ for you who think knitting is an old lady skill and I’ve been doing it since I could read). I also play at work. This includes writing but my favorite work activity is playing with data. I know, I know, you imagine someone hunched over a computer who hasn’t seen daylight for weeks and you can’t imagine it as play. However, in playing with data, we find patterns or anomalies that provoke us to think about our business and what’s happening. This leads to investigation and oftentimes, to a change in our strategy or tactics. I think this is why we have beaten our sales targets for four years running. I tell my team, “this is what we do well, we study the data and it tells us what to do next.”

Play keeps us fresh. By seeing things with an open mind, I learn something new every day and I spend every day joyfully. I sometimes create but I always enjoy. How do you play?

The water plays at the Bellagio, Las Vegas. I imagine a water engineer somewhere is smiling at all the oohs and ahhs when the fountain runs. (April 2013)

The water plays at the Bellagio, Las Vegas. I imagine a water engineer somewhere is smiling at all the oohs and ahhs when the fountain runs. (April 2013)


Chase, D. (Producer) (2000). Do not resuscitate [Television series episode]. In Chase, D. (Executive Producer), The Sopranos. HBO.

Free, D. (21, Augus 2006). Have you tried turning it upside down?. Retrieved from http://seedsofgrowth.com/have-you-tried-turning-it-upside-down

Gittell, J. (2002). The southwest airlines way. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Silver, J. (Artist). (2013, April ). Jay Silver: Hack a banana, make a keyboard [Web Video]. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/jay_silver_hack_a_banana_make_a_keyboard.html