Is Your Life Innovative?

Are you facing a time of transition in your life and need tools to get going?

At Press the Go Button, we use a methodology called Innovation Engineering to coach organizations. We help them make their products and services more meaningfully unique.

This year, I leveraged the same methodology to make my own life more meaningfully unique. Here’s how it worked.

Last year, I left National Wildlife Federation after 14 ½ years of service. That was where I first learned how to implement Innovation Engineering for four years.

I knew it was time for transition, so I worked with a life coach, Susan Barrett-Merrill. She asked me to write my greatest fears in this moment. Then she helped me write the opposite of those fears. She asked me to read the opposite version out loud every day. Here’s what I wrote on March 11, 2014:

  • I absolutely love what I am going to do in the next stage of my life and it’s completely clear to me.
  • My focus allows me to perceive how to be with others in a natural way that keeps me whole.
  • All the work I do has a clear direction, which gives my life meaning and purpose.
  • My curiosity is a powerful tool in showing me my direction – it’s like a compass.

For the first six months when I would read this out loud each day, the judging part of my brain would say, “Stop lying. This is not how you feel. This is completely false.” But then the creative part of my brain would say, “Well, I can see how that is starting to happen. I can see how this tiny aspect of your approach might get you there.”

This became my Life Blue Card. A Blue Card is the tool we use to help the leader of an organization to set the vision. It needs to be inspiring and clear.

Within that Blue Card, the leader sets some areas of exploration. Within a larger organization, the team would then explore those areas seeking potential ways to fulfill the Blue Card. For my life, I choose the areas of exploration of family, Innovation Engineering, Trashmagination (where I design things made from trash) and Japanese Taiko drumming.

Next the leader defines constraints. These are items that are not really negotiable at this moment, although constraints can change.

Family Exploration Area

I used to view my family as a constraint. This was truer when my children were very young. Now my daughter is 11 and my son is 9, so they are getting more independent. In my Life Blue Card, it says “My focus allows me to perceive how to be with others in a natural way that keeps me whole.” What does that mean? It means I have learned to always bring the ideas to my family because almost every time, there has been a way to make it work. I used to veto activities because I didn’t want to push them too hard.

One way I have learned to be with them and still pursue my dreams is to make our together time more awesome. We took classes together – check out this blog about our family co-learning experiment. We take mini-trips together on weekends when I don’t have Taiko practices.

Innovation Engineering Exploration Area

In the Innovation Engineering exploration area, my first Yellow Card was that I could find an employer who would benefit from hiring me so we could make their company great using Innovation Engineering. After many uninspiring job interviews, I could not find the leadership I wanted. I realized that leader needed to be me, at least until my journey finds me that partner, so that’s what I did, and I made a new Yellow Card called Press the Go Button.

Japanese Taiko Drumming Exploration Area

For my area of exploration of Taiko drumming, that project almost did not continue past February. After being an apprentice for only four months, I faced a big Death Threat. I was afraid I would not ever be good enough. My coach, Lisa, brought me back to reality when she said, “Being afraid of your ability to perform in the future does not seem right. Why don’t you just keep trying until you can’t do it?” How often has fear of the future killed a project? So I shifted my Problem on that Yellow Card from being a competent drummer to embracing fear. I cannot control my performance as a drummer (even with hours of practice), but I can Promise that I will fully embrace fear. Exactly one year after seeing my performance group up on stage and dreaming about being there with them, I performed with them on that very same stage. A good Yellow Card can move you like that.

What are your greatest fears at this moment? If you write them in their opposite, how do those words sound? How does your brain try to solve it? If you need help with this, please call because I know it is hard. Embrace that it could feel terrible for a long time. But it could become your Life Blue Card and if you write Yellow Cards for it, you may find in a year that you are no longer looking up at the stage, wondering how to become something – but you are instead hitting that drum with every muscle in your body. And believe me, it feels really good.