Squeezing every juicy bit out of my professional development

I am super-excited to be preparing to go to San Miguel de Allende for Fast & Loose Sketching with Christina Merkley and Rhoda Draws (yes, that is really her last name—these days).

The Backstory…

I have been thinking about this trip for almost a year now. When I first started seeing Christina post about a drawing course she was taking in Mexico during, wait for it, Day of the Dead, I was intrigued. I was diligent in tracking down Rhoda, asking about her schedule for this year, and then had to sit on my hands and wait until decisions about programming were made… which led to my taking an online course with both Christina and Rhoda in the spring. The online course was great yet I knew in my bones (haha!) that I wanted to go to Mexico.

The Planning

In what ways do you do to prepare yourself for a deep dive into a learning experience?

I start by…

  • reviewing the objectives of the program—what will I learn and be able to do as a result of being in the program
  • reflecting on what from my background and previous learning will form the conscious foundation for this experience
  • wondering about my personal objectives. In this instance, having taken the online course, how will this in-person intensive stand on the shoulders of that experience? What have I learned about my strengths in this style of sketching—which is so very different than my personal style—and what are areas of growth and development for me?

I’ve been sitting with all the content we learned, my notes from the online classes, and my drawings — both those created with markers and paper and my digital work — and musing about the two or three areas I want to focus my energies.

The Preparation

What steps do you take, how far ahead to you begin?

I find that while I have been thinking of this event for months, I am only now (less than a week away) assembling all the goodies.  Gathering resources for the experience is my next step. There are materials to be read, notebooks and markers to be chosen, and some additional notes. I want to bring along some of the lettering work I’ve done, as that might add a special touch to this experience.

The Post-Learning Experience/Integration Plan

How do you plan for the consistent application of your new skills and their integration into your existing work and routines?

  • I find that sometimes, I become so engaged in the learning process that I don’t make the time to step back and reflect. What have I learned and how it is showing up (concepts and practices), how am I using it now, in what other ways might I use it now and in the future?
  • In reflecting on Greg McKeown’s book, Essentialism, and Charles Duhigg’s, The Power of Habit, I am struck by the importance of creating a routine that includes using my new skills, and a trigger for ensuring the routine happens. To be honest, I haven’t figured out that answer yet. My pattern is to connect with a colleague/friend and make dedicated time each month to practice our new skills. (I’ve learned my lesson from Duhigg’s book.)

What’s your approach? How do you ensure that your investment of time, energy and resources is used best?

In essence, I believe professional development/lifelong learning requires thoughtful planning, timely preparation, conscious implementation, and intentional integration.

Starting a community…Who knew I’d walk down this path?

I am passionate about being in connection with folks. And, I’ve realized of late (through doing a deep dive into Nonviolent Communication Training) that I have a need to contribute. The question of how to share my love of visualization/visual thinking/drawing with more folks for whom this work is intriguing, a bit foreign, perhaps even scary, has been rolling about in my mind.

Honestly, I have done more than my share of coordinating groups and meetings over the years. I have no desire to be the glue that holds a group of folks together. I’m searching for people who share an interest in visualization AND who want to co-create the experiences. This isn’t another opportunity for me to be a trainer, facilitator, or coach. I want to have a place online where we can connect, choose dates, and activities for meetings. Such a site online can lead to spaces and experiences offline that enable us to learn, enjoy each other’s company, and time “plorking”/playing and working.

Creating such a forum/space feels like both “me” and “not me.” Striking a balance between my usual role as the person at the front, center or side of the room (as trainer, facilitator or graphic recorder) and wanting to co-create the experiences with whoever shows up online at the MeetUp New York City Visual Thinking Friends, and then in person on the meeting date is a challenge. Folks showing up in both places have interests and expertise in different areas. As we discovered together this week, they come wanting to learn in various ways— from “teach me how to draw this” to “I want to have a time and space to practice” and everything in between.

Our Graphic Jam

This has become an experiment in holding the space and watching the experience unfold—something I think will happen both similarly and differently every time. I wonder what aspects of the MeetUp will be constant (conventions such as greetings/check-in, planning for the future, closing, and sharing impressions), and which will be responsive to the people in that moment (types of activities, decision-making processes used, etc.)… I just don’t know yet.

How about you? Where are you in your groups, circles, or meetings? What is stimulating, fascinating, surprising, satisfying, and perhaps challenging, frustrating, discouraging, or overwhelming? What do you long for in your experiences? What tools and resources do you have or need to make the changes you—and perhaps others—desire?

If you are yearning for new ideas and practices, I have a few resources to offer. Over the past five years, I have been fascinated and supported by the work, experiential encounters, and materials of

  • Christina Baldwin and Ann Linnea, both their book, A Leader in Every Chair, and the Circle Way Practicum
  • Points-of-You card decks, stories, materials, and activities
  • Art of Hosting—the variety of powerful conversational processes that enable the harnessing of our collective wisdom.

If you’re interested in having a conversation about how I have used these methods, let’s talk!

And, if you are in, or visiting NYC, be sure to visit our MeetUp, New York City Visual Thinking Friends, to learn about our next event!