New Frontiers on My Learning Journey
While facilitating a recent Open Master’s Beginnings group, I was inspired to step back and take stock of where my own Open Master’s journey is taking me since 2012.
The goal of my original Open Master’s plan was to help me become a more skilled and confident facilitator of learning communities for young social entrepreneurs. In many ways that journey has been richer than I could ever have hoped, and has taken me places I never imagined, including:
- Getting to design and help build up the bi-annual Sullivan Ignite Retreat into an outstanding program I am proud to be part of, twice a year getting to learn from and support young social entrepreneurs from rural schools throughout Appalachia.
- Becoming the second founder of HackCville, a creative project incubator and gloriously messy DIY learning hub for students and community members in Charlottesville, Virginia.
- Getting to coach textile innovators (did you know there was such a thing?) at Launch, a joint venture accelerator organized by NASA, the State Department, and Nike.
- Getting to design and help organize the first gathering of Tibetan Social Entrepreneurs in Tibet and Washington, DC with Machik, a Tibetan-run NGO.
- Becoming a regular facilitator for a global Social Entrepreneurship course for the World Bank several times a year. [See more in my full Portfolio of Work here.]
Now, in my thirties, I feel like my life, my work, and my learning dreams are asking something different of me. I have noticed that I am turning my focus increasingly to things that look more like sustaining, stewarding, mentoring, and growing projects, like:
- Steadily growing and improving some of the programs and tools that I have created with many amazing collaborators over the last four years of the Open Master’s, including Alt*Div, Beginnings, and the Wayfinder Game.
- Taking more time to harvest and share stories and learning from the many incredible self-directed learners I have met along my Open Master’s journey.
- Bringing back Citizen Circles, with a new focus on rebuilding connection and capacity for social change at the grassroots, and finding new ways to use my knowledge of community building and facilitation to help revive the soul of our democracy, society, and culture.
- Learning how to create sustainable business models and healthy teams for the long-term around these things, without harming the integrity and vitality of what we’ve created.
My New Quest: Trying on Some Different CostumesIncreasingly, over the last two year, I have found myself not asking so much what my gifts are (that’s a good sign), but, more often, where exactly might I use the gifts I have been given to best serve the needs of the world? After two years of holding this question, I have finally been able to start to see and name some paths I see opening up on the horizon before me, like paths emerge in the woods at night as you slowly your eyes adjust to the dark.
The best way I can describe each of these paths is not so much things I want to learn or do but, rather, roles I can increasingly see or imagine myself playing in the world in the long-term, as my life unfolds into its 30’s, 40’s and 50’s.
Or, said another way, as my friend Ryan Johnstone and I have discussed at length this year, “what costumes have I been trying on lately?” and “what am I learning about how I feel in each of them, as I do?”
Here are the three costumes that have been feeling the best to me lately, both in the short-term, and as I dream about my future:
- The Grassroots Educator — working to rebuild connection and belonging in our communities, by helping normal folks discover the shared inquiries and abundant learning opportunities that are all around them, all the time… then using that new knowledge and connection to take action to improve the world around them.
- The Documentary Filmmaking — working to make visible the inspiring stories of people and communities at the margins, and spread awareness of solutions that desire wider attention.
- The Public Designer + Design Facilitator — working within communities to help individuals understand and educate themselves about the complex systems that shape our lives (such as the financial and judicial systems), and then use our collective imagination and creativity to remake those systems in ways that work better for humans and the planet.
So, as I update my learning portfolio, I am giving each of these “costumes” their own learning plan, so that I can more intentionally work on growing into each of them as the next few years unfold. By putting these in writing, I am also hoping to ask for your support, too, which you can offer simply by checking in with me on how each of these costumes have been feeling on me lately.
We never know exactly where our lives are heading–maybe I’ll take off with a balkan brass band one of these days, or help field the first all black America’s Cup racing team, or help repurpose a monastery in Philly (or Portugal), or choose to invest much more time in the next decade in caring for a sick child or parent, all of which, oddly, seem like actual possibilities in my life.
But I know that I want to invest more time in intentionally exploring these parts of myself which, in some ways, have always been there, but are getting my focus in the year or two ahead.
The Things that Really Matter
In addition the above, I am keeping and will continue updating what I still feel (strongly), after four years, remains the most important part of my learning portfolio, which is the Art of Being.
I’ve updated this part of my learning plan for my 31-year-old self. I’ve also added to it a more-explicit focus on how I’m nurturing my moral, ethical, and spiritual foundations and my sacred connection to self, others, and the planet, as part of the new Alt*Div community this year.
The newest feature of my learning plan is fiercely protecting time in my normal weekly schedule for these things. With the exception of weeks that I am traveling, I am dedicating every Saturday and Sunday explicitly to the things in this part of my plan (the Art of Being and my Alt*Div explorations), and every Friday to learning, in general.
Of course, there will be things that I do other nights of the week (such as an evening film class or the meeting of a reading group), but I’m making this solid commitment to making sure the things on this site already have pre-blocked-off time in my schedule, every week.
Mission: What’s Guiding Me?
My mission is to stoke an insatiable curiosity at the grassroots for understanding the many complex, often-invisible systems that shape our lives– which people designed, and people can change–as well as a courageous, collective creativity to change them, until they respect and recognize: our basic human nature and dignity; our undeniable and fundamental connection with one another; the wisdom and beauty of whole peoples who have been pushed to the margins; and our beautiful, sacred planet, of which we are a living part, and every thing on it.
Why Create a New Learning Plan?
Why not just keep learning and flowing through life and accepting the gifts it brings along the way?
I like the accountability of having some of these things written, and for others to know how to support the longer term dreams and hopes I see for myself. And, just as I advocate in the Open Master’s community, it really has been useful for me to go through the sometimes tedious process again of naming these parts of myself that I can see now have been emerging for quite some time, and deserve my focused attention for a while.
Maybe life has different plans for me. Maybe my life will take many unexpected turns from here. I’m ok with that. I have no attachment to what i’ve written, but I am thankful for the opportunity to share what is most alive within me and to ask for your support, dear reader, on this journey.