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#147 – Birthday Treats (For You)
The value of teachers and a bit of existential curiosity
This is Adventures in Storytelling (on time and full of good things for you 😊) your weekly note with resources, insights, and actionable tools for better communication through storytelling. Enjoy.
It’s my birthday tomorrow 🙌🏾. August Virgo at your service.
Naturally, when I’m facing down another turn around the sun, I get reflective. I start to think about what has been and what’s possible. Most days, I struggle with being present. I struggle with worry about the future and lamenting the past. But for some reason on my birthday, it feels like I get into the right place with both past and future and sit easily in the present as I consider them.
I could consider a lifetime, but just through the lens of the past five years so much has changed for me. My story has evolved in ways I might not have imagined. I left the ad world to move into tech, I lived through a pandemic with the rest of the world, I started this newsletter, quit my job, started a business almost by accident and have watched it flourish, I wrote a kids book (out next year 😆), started a community organization to re-imagine work, moved part-time to Mexico, and in a few weeks I’ll be bringing home a new member of my family (a canine member, not human). I also accepted emojis as part of my lexicon 😅.
And that’s just the Coles Notes version, because if you’ve been reading this newsletter long enough you know I believe that the real story comes to life in the details. In the smell of apple tarts at my favourite panderia in Mexico, the punishing heat of a beach town going through a heatwave, the joy and laughter of a Re-Work workshop when someone shares something beautiful and stirring, the right book at the right time, or the right teacher at the right time.
And there’s the heart of it. The thing I expect to be pondering a lot over this week as I ease into a new year of life. The lessons I have learned in the past and how I will carry them with me into the future. The teachers who helped me see the world in new ways or unlocked understanding I didn’t know I needed. Because that’s what’s gotten me through some of the harder times and even the good times. The teachers I have met along the way. I think partly this is on my mind because I’m considering the ways I can be a better teacher (even as I remain a student) to people in this community as I write to you each week, to the folks in the Re-Work community seeking better ways to work, my clients, and the other people I care about in my life. How can I show up each day embodying the energy and generosity of the best teachers I’ve learned from in all I do? How can I not just find joy in learning, but also share that feeling with others in ways that matter.
Because isn’t that sort of what we’re here to do? Connect with and learn from each other?
So, in the spirit of sharing (and birthday existential exploration), I want to share with you the teachers who have made a mark for me over the past few years and who I think you may find helpful on your own paths as you bring to life your own stories in the details
Marie Forleo. Marie is a longtime teacher of mine. I’m a mentor in Marie’s B-School and Time Genius programs. It’s some of the most fulfilling work I do (and is fresh on my mind because we just wrapped up a special summer school round of her business building program). The team reached out for me to come on board in 2020 right when I had begun to contemplate leaving Shopify but was worried about what it would mean not to have a big notable corporation in my bio anymore (turns out, everything in all the good ways). And when I burnt out in 2021 it was the first round of her Time Genius program that put a practical, actionable topper on everything I learned on my burnout journey so that I could really properly craft and shape my work life moving forward. (I’m going to be a mentor in her upcoming round and will definitely share when it opens up).
The Re-Work Community. Yes, I built this one with my amazing Co-Founder, but this is a unique group of people putting in the real (and often challenging) work of re-imagining what work can be. These are people uestioning the status quo and the outdated modes of engaging with work and productivity and choosing the messy uncertainty of an unknown path. It is beautiful and enlightening and every time we gather for workshops and connect online, I learn something new about what life can look like on the other side of burnout, stress, and hyper productivity (it’s better 🙂). From them I’ve learned what it feels like to be supported and not alone when doing something that feels countercultural.
My mom. Sorry, no link for this one. She’s the best. Yes, she gave me life, so how could I not include her? But also, she has also navigated life with kindness and open heartedness despite the many challenges she has had to face in a world that is not always kind to Black women. I’ll never forget when after suffering a brain aneurysm and brain surgery, my mother lay in her recovery bed in the hospital trying to befriend (and eventually charming) a nursing aid who had come into the room to empty the bins and be on his way. It was a small moment and she got him to pause, chat, and open up about where he was from before. To smile a little in his day. I struggle with showing up in the world with that kind of openness so it’s sort of perfect that I get an ongoing lesson from her on it. The universe knew what it was doing when it gave me to her. She is why the story of my life (if I were to ever write it) will have vulnerability and love in it.
R. Eric Thomas. He writes a newsletter that makes me laugh every week. It is light, and unserious, and honestly medicine in a world that often feels too serious and gloomy. His first book of essays helped me laugh at a time in the pandemic when things felt grim. His latest book, Congratulations the Best is Over! Essays, is sitting on my dresser waiting for the perfect moment for me to dive into the heart and humour of his storytelling. Have you ever saved a book because you didn’t want to start it because then you’d finish it and it’d be over? That’s this book for me. From him I have learned to find the light in every person and story (even when it’s hard to see).
Robin Wall Kimmerer. Her book, Braiding Sweetgrass, changed my entire relationship with nature as I sat reading it in my condo in downtown Toronto. Because it fundamentally shifted my perspective from one of despair (because climate crisis) to one of possibility (because nature is a living force of change). I have cherished and savoured this book over the past few years, going back to it at different times. Now when I go into nature (for hikes only, camping is not my jam), it comes with me in spirit as I express my appreciation even as I feel the generative force of mother nature welcome me.
Each of these has taught me, in their own way, how to be in the world. How to find and embrace joy. How to show up with kindness and care. I don’t always succeed at the effort, but I have teachers that have shown me the path and all I need to do is walk. There are so many more (my friends, my business partner, the rest of my family, my partner, my clients) but as one of five it’s always been a special number for me so I’ll leave it there. I’m grateful for every single teacher I have encountered on the journey and story of my life and encourage you to explore the ones I’ve shared above.
And, more importantly, I encourage you to stop and consider who are the people who have taught you and in the process shaped your story and how you show up in the world? They matter. Thank them if you can.
A Story Well Told – Presents!
In spirit of thanking my teachers, one more treat. I like to give gifts for my birthday. Either donations or something to thank the people in my life for shaping my experience. As a reader of this newsletter, you are one of those people. My gift to you for my birthday is a free one-year paid subscription to the newsletter. That gives you access to the FULL archive from over three years of storytelling knowledge sharing (which is full of gems). To be added to the list of free paid subscribers, just reply to this note with a “yes please” or whatever you feel like saying. If you’re reading it in the app, just comment below with the same. (Also if at ANY point in the year you need access to an old post and can’t pay for a subscription just send me a note and I will send you the access no questions asked, this newsletter is about sharing).
If YOU feel like giving ME a present, the best one is to just share the newsletter with folks in your network who you think can benefit from weekly notes about how to become a better communicator through storytelling. The best gift I’ve received over the past few years has been the interest and heart each of you have shown in just opening these notes, reading them, and sharing. Thank you.
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