Posts in Storytelling
writing your own

I actually really love writing. I buy special journals and carry them around in my bag. I come home after work and take out my journal and my pen (yes, I have a special pen) to write, each night… sometimes I eek out a paragraph and sometimes pages just seem to flow from the fountain pen.

My ideas come in the shower (of course), on the commute over the Golden Gate Bridge (it’s hard not to be inspired), while listening to podcasts or news reports (never - at least not yet - while listening to novels being read) or just while writing about what is happening during the week. My notebook is some crazy mix of observational journal with a little flowery or straight up writing mixed in. I started just by deciding, I want to write more - so I’ll carry this journal around and write as often as possible. Now, I feel almost naked without it.

I often find it difficult to just slow down enough to steady my thoughts so they flow coherently. That’s my struggle - not that the ideas don’t arrive, but that I find it tough to take the time to flesh them out on paper (or on the screen). Some days (mornings or nights) I find myself searching for a distraction - TV, music, a book… all inspiration worthy tools, but I often use them as a crutch to forego writing because soaking up someone else’s work is easier than creating your own.

I am pretty sure we call this procrastination. An aliment I never thought I suffered from - but then again, I’ve never tried to be so open about what I, myself, am thinking or feeling.

Writing someone else’s thoughts is easy. Sometimes writing your own is a little be tough.

remote vs real


For all the remote, high functioning technology in the world - nothing takes the place of in-person, one to one conversation. Skype, Google Hangouts, FaceTime and every device in between are great, but not the same as some coffee and a notebook (or an iPad) and a few free hours to brainstorm, chat, discuss and listen... really listen.

I think that's why remote interaction is tough for me (and for a lot of people). Because we often don't listen well when we are remote. We are distracted by email, social networks, the next phone call and the perverbial pot on the stove... we don't pay very close attention to the person begging for our connection.

There are many priorities vying for our attention (and they may all be vitally important), but without that in-person connection to prod us into ignoring what we think is overwhelmingly important in that moment - the fragile connection is often lost. So much of the amazing work I've accomplished, be it in government or art or somewhere in between, has been over some sticky notes, a whiteboard, coffee or a glass of beer. I can't think of anything groundbreaking that I've thought of over a conference call. Sad, but hey, at least you know - I'm my best with some sticky notes and a sharpie!

Yes, we can close all the screens, mute the phone and turn down the stove, but the chemistry that is created one on one isn't quite replicable via webcam. Somehow I doubt it ever will be.

building mouse traps

I love building better mouse traps. I find a challenge (sometimes it finds me), I pick it up and play with it. I study it, immerse myself, until I have a real comprehension of why it is the way it is and then... well then, I find a way (any way) to make it better. To improve it. I'll scale walls of bureaucracy, test and adjust, convince people I'm worthy of their time and work until my fingers bleed (paper cuts can be brutal). It amazes me that I will not hesitate to push something forward if I think it will solve the problem.

What I've learned in my ferocity to build better mouse traps is this - the solution isn't always celebrated.

Motion, movement, progress, whatever you call it, it's all necessary to build cool sh*t. Though, to be honest, I don't believe every movement is cause for recognition... nor should it be. We progress because we move forward, even if it is just one step at a time. Who gives a rat's ass about a celebration at the finish line?

Yes, recognition matters. I'll be the first to say, I love being told I did a great job. And yes, it's sometimes the only thing that motivates me. But usually when that's the case I don't actually accomplish much. I find very little joy in doing something just for the sake of recognition. For me, recognition is much sweeter when it's not expected.

If we approach building a better mouse trap with the intention to be recognized I think we lose out. We lose out on acquiring the deep understanding of the challenge and of the potential solutions. We lose out on the pure motivation of understanding what makes something really incredible in and of itself. We often end up giving away our power to scale walls for some flashy streamers and a pat on the back.

I don't know about you, but I'd much rather scale the wall - even if it makes my fingers bleed. I can always put up my own streamers if I need to.

StorytellingAlicia Johnson