Inspirations

A curated selection of my favorite insights, resources, places and ideas du jour. I hope you find them useful. 

 
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People whose actions or ideas inspire me 

  • Jerry Michalski: Jerry's Brain is the world's largest published personal mind map. His views on trust, consumerism, and the Relationship Economy have profoundly affected my view of the world, people, and what's possible. (He's also my husband, and we collaborate from time to time. How's that for life partnership?) 
  • Marti SpiegelmanMarti is a biochemist-turned-graphic designer-turned-shaman who helps individuals and organizations tap into their full consciousness. She blends art, science, culture and spirituality in a way unlike anyone else I've ever known, prompting us all to re-examine, re-conceive and possibly even re-define who we are.
  • My dad: He taught me how to love diversity, nature and travel. He also showed me that one's career is not about oneself. Rather, it is about being of service to others. And last but not least, he taught me that relationships and experiences will always matter more than money.
  • Elizabeth Warren: My bankruptcy professor at Harvard Law School and an inspiration for my early work in microfinance. Financial inclusion is equally important whether in the United States, Bangladesh, Bolivia or anywhere else -- and fearlessly holding those with power accountable has never been more important than today.


Resources that improved my life or profoundly changed my perspective

  • Global Citizenship
    • HUMAN: a profound, beautiful documentary that seeks to answer the question, what is it that makes us human? Consider it a primer on global citizenship values.
    • Jobbatical: matches professionals with short-term roles in underserved markets around the world. Rethinks work, travel and talent mobility.
    • Global Citizen Year: enables youth to immerse themselves in an emerging market culture, economy and society before picking a major or taking on college debt.
    • Welcoming America: creates a new kind of community where everyone knows they belong.
    • WE (formerly Free the Children): provides kids with tools, resources and curriculum to engage on issues they care about and understand their role in the broader world.
  • Personal Growth
    • InnSaei: a feature-length documentary on the power of intuition by my dear friend Hrund Gunnsteinsdottir. The title means "to see within" or "to see the deeper meaning of" in Icelandic. 
    • Motherless Daughters: this book was my rock in the aftermath of my parents' tragic deaths, and it has been on my bookshelf (and re-read several times) since. A must for every woman who has lost her mother, at any age, and for anyone who wants to support her during that difficult time of loss.
    • Designing Your Life: a delightful book on building a well-lived, joyful life and how to prototype your next steps in a way that brings out your best.
    • Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseveranceinsights for individuals, parents, teachers, CEOs and leaders of all walks of life who reach their full potential and help others (especially children) do the same.
  • Favorite newsfeeds and newsletters
    • Brainpickings by Maria Popova: "an inventory of the meaningful life"
    • Apolitical: scanning the globe for truly smart, often surprising policy innovations
    • Recomendo by Kevin Kelly: "a list of lists of cool stuff" from one of the greatest minds alive today
    • Weekend Briefing by Kyle Westaway: a digest of insights on profit and purpose, social enterprise, impact and innovation, with the bonus of an occasional awesome playlist 


Places that inspire me

I visit about 20 different countries per year. My favorite places are invariably where people are rethinking what a "good life" means, building community and resilience, and doing stuff that may not make global headlines but is fundamentally... well, it's what the world needs. Here are a few favorites: 

  • Tallinn, EstoniaEstonia is a global leader in rethinking government and nurturing entrepreneurship. Their e-residency program seeks to create a more connected, borderless world. I have been a proud e-resident since 2015.
  • Portland, OregonNestled in the Pacific NW, Portland seeks to become the B Corp capital of the world. The city is a world leader in tiny streets, tiny homes, food trucks, microbreweries and sustainable urban growth.
  • Seoul, South KoreaSeoul is the world's first Sharing City. Mayor Park Won-Soon sees the sharing economy as a way to build community, use city resources more efficiently, and create a more connected, sustainable metropolis.


Insights I wish I'd known 20 years ago

  • Living a good life does not (have to) cost a lot of money: you can see a lot of the world without a lot of money, if you know how to be resourceful. 

  • Every difficulty is an opportunity for good, growth and gratitude: tough times are hands-down when growth and transformation happen. Lean into them. And consider how the tough times also teach compassion for others.

  • See your career path as a flower, not a ladder: every few years, grow a new petal (new skill, new role, etc.). Recalibrate. Over time, you cultivate an entire garden, you can add value to almost any situation, and you're comfortable with almost anyone. Growth is multi-dimensional, not linear. (For business folks, think portfolio diversification.)

  • Slow down to see the world: my time as a Butterfield & Robinson guide was the best job I could ever hope to have (who wouldn't want to be paid to ride a bicycle through vineyards?!), though it was not a career path. It taught me that life should be lived at human pace. It is a journey to be cherished, not a race to be won.

  • Think orthogonally: when it comes to problem solving -- whether coming up with new solutions, or understanding why things went wrong -- one of the most helpful tools is to go beyond your typical point of view. Take insights from other sectors and situations. Cross-pollinate. Invite in expertise from unlikely places, then see what happens. Chances are, you'll be pleasantly surprised.

  • Life is all about relationships, community and impact: it's not about money, things or a fancy title. The happiest and most resilient people aren't the richest financially. They are those who have cultivated meaningful relationships, in a community of purpose, and with a sense of meaning beyond themselves.

  • Stay curious: cultivate your beginner's mind. See (almost) everything as new, fresh and worth exploring. This is the secret to insights, to never being bored, and to staying young.

 

"Live in moments. Love in days. Work in months. Think in years. Plan in decades. Dream in generations. Hope in eternity."

 

Today, what inspires me?

  • New reads:
  • New adventures:
    • Moldova: reputedly "the saddest place on earth" and I'm eager to understand why
    • Saudi Arabia: my Middle Eastern adventures are relatively few, and it's time to change that
  • New stretches — of mind, body and spirit:
    • YoYoYogi: the most whole-hearted, family-run yoga studio I could imagine
    • Kintsugi: the Japanese concept that treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise. Related to wabi-sabi, embracing the flawed or imperfect.
    • Ten shades of green: go into nature, or even for a walk around the neighborhood. Stop. Take a mental snapshot. Can you find ten different shades of green? Appreciate each and every one, and pay attention to life's little (and free) pleasures.