Lessons learned from the newest member of the family, Gus!

Just yesterday morning, while out for our morning walk, I realized that so many of my work-life realities are mirrored in my daily experiences with Gus.

Surround yourself with the people that support you.

To do our best work we need to feel grounded, with folks who understand us, and who will also challenge us in ways that make us grow.

Eat right and make time for play.

It’s basic, yet how often do we overlook our physical, mental, and emotional well-being? How can we make the habit/the time to eat in ways which nourish us (take a break at lunch, eat food that is good for us), get enough sleep and exercise, engage in experiences and interactions that stimulate us to learn and grow, and be kind to ourselves?

Take care of your toys, and they will take care of you!

Our tools and resources enable us to create in the world. Making sure that we give them the attention they need is critical to our work.


Be curious, explore the territory. Some things need a quick sniff and others need a thorough investigation!

The world is full of so many opportunities, yet we can’t do them all… What’s your method for deciding your priorities? How often do you check-in to see if you’re feeling in harmony with/living your values?

Set up limits and boundaries, then protect them.

Limits are what we create for ourselves—we’ll go this far and no further. Boundaries keep others out. Standing firm and yet not rigid is both an art and a science.

Make your feelings and needs known to others.

Get clear about what you’re feeling. Even if we don’t acknowledge our feelings, they’re there, right inside our bodies. Lack of awareness and attention to what we are feeling and/or lack of skill in discerning what we really need can lead to misunderstandings and disturbances (or worse) in our personal and work relationships.

When you’re not feeling great, step away for a short while or find the tasks that you can do easily.

We all have days when we’re not feeling good. We can work to discern the level of care we need to shower on ourselves… Sometimes it’s stepping back from work, other times, it’s finding simpler tasks or less demanding work.


Plan for challenges and yet be present to the reality (which may turn out just fine).

We experienced this last week with Gus—it was his first trip to the vet with us (his third family), and let’s just say that he’s still working on his social skills with strangers. We planned for the worst—talking with the veterinary practice in advance, putting a harness on him, and deciding our approach to the front desk, and the waiting room with so many people and animals of all kinds! We took a deep breath and walked through the front door—and he was perfectly well-behaved the whole time!

We planned, we prepared, we went in with “beginner’s mind,” and had a great experience.

How often do we go in expecting, and then precipitating the worst?

Celebrate your successes. Learn from your mistakes.

When is the last time you paused, much less savored work (a conversation, meeting or project) well done?

I can tell you that once a project is done, I check it off my list and move on to what’s next. I do better when I’m training folks, as I make the time to review and reflect on the feedback forms completed at the end of the session. I LOVE that time… I need to do more of that, how about you?

Work to change habits that don’t serve you.

Wow, I feel like Sisyphus here, continuously pushing that boulder up the hill… I have some pretty stubborn habits—that have served me rather well over time. Yet, it’s time to let go! I am making progress by reading books, ingraining new habits, getting help from my circle of supportive colleagues and friends.

Our habits are EVERYWHERE!  This is a long-term project that’s tough AND rewarding.

Reward yourself for doing the right thing.

While this piece of wise advice from Gus* is related to others, I believe that it stands alone too. How do you reward yourself? Rewards can come in so many different packages! My rewards include a walk in the afternoon, exploring a new course or connection with someone or a group that interests me, and planning for breakfast with a colleague. Some of my rewards are planned in advance (when I know the week looks challenging) and others are spontaneous.

Can you name half a dozen ways you reward yourself?

* He loves his “high value” treats when he does an especially challenging task.

Find a place that makes you feel safe and hang out there when you need to.

Take good care of yourself. Sometimes we need to literally step away from interactions or experiences, other times, we just need to be quiet and come back to ourselves. In other instances, we need to reach out for refuge in our relationships with people who understand and care about us.

How do you talk about your work?

When was the last time you faced that moment, when you knew that you would need to bridge the gap between the work you do and people’s lack of familiarity with your field?

Just the other week I was a professional association meeting (the name remains secret to protect the identity), which began with the typical unstructured networking time that I so loathe. I know some folks who attend the meetings and I feel compelled to say hello and chat for a bit. I don’t know lots of folks and want to meet them, as that is in large part, my purpose in joining the organization and attending their events. I generally do more of the former type of socializing and less of the latter—unless I go in totally focused on my objective, “Meet four new people—listen, learn about them, and discover how to be helpful.” 

So the stage is set, I am meeting new folks through connections (yay!), and I get asked the oh-so-tired question, “Who is your target market?” My (rather devilish) reply is, “Everyone who communicates!” I then feel compelled to acknowledge that I realize my partner in conversation is seeking a more focused answer, and so I ease the tension by talking about the several types of folks who most frequently attend bikablo trainings. Though I really believe that my first answer is more on target (sorry, I couldn’t help it!). I WANT to reach everyone. I believe this is a skill that can help everyone to communicate better. And to date, I just haven’t reached out beyond a few particular professions, though more are on my radar!

What do you do? How do you describe and share information about our work—and the great variety of ways it is now being used? How do you help people see what they haven’t really understood before?

My reality is, that folks generally do not know about visualization work or of the bikablo Akademie. I explain that I teach people to capture ideas, thoughts, conversations, processes, relationships and more, in icons, containers, graphic elements and words. Usually, folks are both puzzled and interested! I then pave the way for further understanding by describing graphic recorders at conferences, (“Remember a recent conference, with a keynote speaker, and perhaps someone at a wall capturing the presentation in pictures and words?”). Or, I describe the role of graphic facilitators in meetings. Soon there is a spark of recognition, often followed by the question, “Are you an artist?” They are surprised that I am not and then sadly state, “I can only draw stick figures, I could NEVER do that!” I assure them that most folks don’t feel skilled at drawing as we haven’t had the opportunity to really develop that form of language throughout our schooling. Often I share photos, to help folks make the connection to how they could use visual practitioner skills in their work.

My most recent endeavor, in my effort to simply and easily describe my work is a one page visual—it certainly makes easy work of explaining bikablo! What do you think? 

I’m working on another iteration that is solely hand-drawn… and thinking that I may create a third with a combination of drawings and photos. I’ll post those later today—so check back! Please weigh in—let me know what you thinking!

Would you cadet such a visual? How would it facilitate people’s understanding of your work? Would you share what you have created—I hope so!

What your vision for 2020? How’s it taking shape?

I have just a few goals this year— and I am working at being just fine with that (it’s a process). I have taken to heart the work of Greg McKeown, the author of Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. It’s time to focus ONLY on what I do best, and that’s difficult for me.  I LOVE so many things and do more than one or two of them rather well—like most people!

How do you come to this conversation? Are you enjoying an abundance of many passions, ideas, and goals or are you more laser-like in your focus? How are you moving forward, meeting your milestones on the way to your goals?

One of my goals this year is to share with the world my revitalized, expanded, deep passion, and curiosity about the many ways we can take good care of ourselves so that we thrive. I believe that when we are well taken care of we can offer our best selves to others.

One of the ways I am seeking to share information, practices, and resources, is through speaking at conferences, so I am up to my eyebrows in writing proposals. I LOVE planning for working with people: imagining what they will learn and achieve in the session, thinking through their questions, developing  the curated list of the resources that I can share with them—it’s so much fun!

My strengths* of:

  • curiosity and interest in the world—What are they facing? What do I need to understand about their worlds? What will help folks the most?
  • creativity, ingenuity, and originality—What unique questions do I have for folks to help them do their own learning? How will I design a session to capture their hearts and minds?
  • zest, enthusiasm, and energy—How will I share my passion in a way that invites conversation and a diversity of views, without overwhelming folks?
  • hope, optimism, and future-mindedness—In what concrete ways will share my positive thinking about the future—the possibilities that exist for those who will embrace, or at least try, new ideas and practices?
  • bravery and valor—How will I step outside my comfort zone/what I have done before and experience the disequilibrium that accompanies growth—just like the participants?

are all engaged in this process.

* as discovered through The Brief Strengths Test, www.authentichappiness.com

2014 EuViz Conference, Berlin, Germany

How are you using your strengths in your work (and play)?

Have you taken The Brief Strengths Test or something similar? If not, I’d suggest it (The Brief Strengths Test is free.)

I feel most at home when I am using my strengths—they support me and I enter a state of flow. I must admit though, I have found that I can fall into getting caught up in them and then experiencing TROUBLE!

In creating the design for the workshop proposal on self-care I started to think broadly and deeply about the collateral material I could create for the session. It was so much FUN to imagine creating a card deck to support their learning, a zine to make notes about their journey, the development of a Mad Libs-like manifesto for participants to work with… Oh my gosh! I had to put on the brakes!

You can see it, right? My creativity and enthusiasm have taken me just a wee bit too far afield of the task to be accomplished. The 75-minute session cannot support all the goodies I have started to develop in my mind’s eye… At this point, when I see myself in the throes of overindulging in the areas I love to play, I chuckle, note the ideas that I may use “next time” and reel myself in.

Have you experienced the “dark side” or your strengths? How do you handle it?

If you’re curious about exploring your strengths, how you can use them in your work and play, and any of the myriad ways you can take better care of yourself, let me know! I’d love to have that conversation with you!