Think Like a Queen

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Archived from the week of 8/6/18 @ The Guilde:

Think like a queen.

A queen is not afraid to fail.

Failure is another stepping stone to greatness.

-- Oprah Winfrey

One thing is clear. If women are to become equal leaders, creators, legislators, inventors, and tastemakers of our world, we are going to have to get a lot more comfortable with failure.

The research builds a challenging case against us. Countless studies underscore the fact that women hold ourselves to impossibly high standards, opt out when we fall short of perfection, interpret failure as reflecting our innate capacity (or lack thereof), take failure personally, derive less confidence from positive feedback than men, and suffer a greater toll when negative feedback lands in our laps. What gives?

Our aversion to failure makes sense when measured against the equally plentiful data indicating that women who publicly put themselves on the line are consistently scrutinized more, held to higher standards, judged more harshly, valued less and given fewer opportunities. 

The narrative unfolds early. One study shows that boys and girls are encouraged and criticized differently in school. While teachers tend to provide boys effort-based feedback when they fail and ability-based feedback when they succeed, girls are more likely to receive feedback that their failures were based on ability while their successes were due to good behavior.

So far, all of this is depressing and decidedly un-queen like, but let’s bring in Oprah’s “think like a queen” perspective on the value of failure. Why in fact is it so important to increase our tolerance for failure?

The most standard response has to do with creating success. Failure is in the zeitgeist, and by now we all know that the road to success is paved with failure. The prescription to fail fast has become a beloved go-to in start-up culture. As serial entrepreneur, thought leader and self-proclaimed master of failure, Seth Godin, puts it, “I think it’s fair to say that I have failed more than most people. And I’m super proud of that. Part of the rules of this game is, the person who fails the most wins.”

So, yes, if we want to succeed, we need to broaden our capacity to suffer and rebound from failure. But, in our opinion, there’s an even bigger payoff to righting one’s relationship to failure. It’s aliveness.

The very queenly JK Rowling points to this in her 2008 Harvard Commencement speech. She advises, “You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.”

This resonates. Whether we like it or not -- or whether we listen or not -- the need to feel our aliveness is an essential human drive. It’s not enough to know we are alive. We want to relish it, prove it, reflect on it, celebrate it. And how do we accomplish that? That’s where failure can really work for us.

Failure is one of the most effective catalysts of aliveness because failure is a forced opportunity to expand beyond our known limits to where our raw, unmitigated life force and potential exist. When we fail and then in failure's midst, survive, we discover hidden reserves of strength, resourcefulness and creativity. We get to encounter ourselves, what we are made of, and against our own expectations, even thrive. This is life affirming. In transcending our limits, we gain sacred access to our aliveness.

True sovereignty is the right to this aliveness – the right to risk and fail and get back up and through this cycle discover one’s mettle, character and potency. Queens afford themselves this opportunity. Because queens see themselves as worthy of failure, resurrection and transcendence. Don't we all deserve to think like queens?

On our journey as partners, we have felt less than queen-like too many times to count, brought to our knees by dashed hopes, defied expectations and dissolved dreams. On the way down, these losses felt like small deaths, almost impossible to bear and from which we might never recover. We were certain we were failures and that failure would be the end of the story.

But then we’d wake up the next day and our hearts would still be beating! The thing we feared the most had happened and we didn’t die. These moments were defining forks in the road. In the face of loss, could we find the fortitude to re-invest in aliveness and rise from the ashes or would we give in to the slow decay that comes with giving up? Happy to report, we are still choosing the former.

The core of our partnership and of The Guilde is a dream that women’s leadership take a giant stride forward in our lifetimes; that the world gets to equally reflect the values, perspectives, ideals and vision of women. If and when this becomes true, yes, women will have succeeded on a vast scale. But maybe the more important measure of our success will be our worthiness to risk failure and, in the process, bring our unique contributions to the world.

To your aliveness!

Kristan & Dana

Be Lucky

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Archived from the week of 7/30/18 @ The Guilde:

Op-por-tu-ni-ty, noun
A set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something

 
Do you remember that feeling you had in your early 20’s when life stretched out before you in a wide open (albeit totally confusing) plain of possibilities? It seemed like there was nothing but time to make everything happen.
 
And then real life begins.
 
We start to make choices. We say yes to certain, specific things, places and people. We check off our particular set of imagined boxes, and narrow our worlds a bit year by year. We take on epic servings of responsibility and eventually get to the point where out of sheer necessity and exhaustion, we start to say no to more and more. Life might work pretty well for us at this point. We’ve got things under control, just where we want them.
 
But one bummer result? We become people who forget that new opportunities hover around us all the time. Tiny ones and big ones, personal ones and professional ones, ones connected to those we are closest to and ones connected to the very strangers standing in front of and behind us in the Starbucks line. We forget that opportunity is something we create for ourselves. We forget to be lucky.
 
Often when we think about luck, we attribute it to people, maybe even ourselves, as being in the right place at the right time. But study after study shows that lucky people are acutely aware of their circumstances and surroundings –- they are on the lookout for luck –- and therefore see an opportunity when it presents itself. 
 
Psychologist Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania says that if he were looking for a lucky person, “the number one ingredient that I’d select for would be optimism.” Luck is a psychological game in a sense –- a perspective you choose. Lucky people pick up on details, pay attention to their gut intuition, expect good luck, and have a positive attitude about bad luck when it strikes.
 
Opportunity and luck are two sides of the same coin. Opportunity-making also requires a mindset of openness and imagination, and it rarely presents itself in a straight line. It also requires a willingness to connect with people — people are the greatest givers of opportunities.
 
Of course, it’s an incredible privilege to be able to look at opportunity in this way. An embarrassment of riches, really. When we think of the women all over the world who truly have no opportunity and even less ability to control their own life circumstances, we see how lucky we are to be able to create opportunity for ourselves and for each other.
 
We stand as women at a time and place in history where we need to be the lucky ones. We need to remain excited about our ability to create new possibilities for ourselves and each other, and to imagine the opportunities that aren’t necessarily presenting themselves to us fully formed and identifiable. This is where our future lies.
 
In our history as partners, the first so-called opportunity we went out and “took” was in 2013. When we applied for a TEDxWomen license that Fall, we had no idea if we were up to the task. We weren’t event planners, speaker coaches, community organizers, public speakers or activists; we really had nothing in fact to alert us to this “opportunity” but our own imaginations. All we knew is that we wanted it (kind of, mostly). At the same time, we were truly terrified of it. There was some heat that drew us to it nevertheless –- the pull of something risky, bigger than ourselves, at the edge of our own possibility. It made us feel hopeful. We said yes when the license came.
 
The truth is, the event could have been a big, humiliating flop. We half suspected it would be. And it turns out that would have been okay, too. In hindsight, it’s possible to see that we would have eventually dusted ourselves off and rebounded. People are resilient like that. But the opposite happened -- we were rewarded when we jumped off that cliff. We learned that more often than not, when we jump, the net really does appear.
 
Breaking past that initial barrier was incredibly freeing. But the truth is we are still those two scared women standing out on the edge of the diving board egging each other on to jump. That’s the springboard and the push we can provide each other as women. To discover our true capabilities, we have to say yes to creating the opportunities that are lurking around every corner, real or imagined -- the opportunities to speak up more, stand for something, risk more to advance our careers, take a leadership role, maybe even run for office.
 
As powerhouse Writer/Producer/Director Shonda Rhimes says, “Saying yes . . .You start to feel invincible. You start to feel powerful. You start to feel a lot more in control of your life.”
 
“Yes to everything scary.
Yes to everything that takes me out of my comfort zone.
Yes to everything that feels like it may be crazy.
Yes to everything that feels out of character.
Yes to everything that feels goofy.
Yes to everything.
Everything.
Say yes.
Yes.”

XO, Dana & Kristan

The Show

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Archived from the week of 7/23/18 @ The Guilde:

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.
-- Annie Dillard

Last night at The Guilde we took on the subject of women’s productivity with Erin Falconer, Author of How to Get Sh*t Done. Yes, even a topic as seemingly unsexy as productivity can be viewed through a fascinating, feminist lens. And you know if there’s a will, we will find the way . . . .

 
If you think about it, conversations about productivity in our culture generally have to do with output, doing more, and specifically doing more, more, more in less time. Women are good at this game. In fact, it seems to us that women have cornered the market on it. We get a lot of shit done on our average day. We cluck to eachother about just how busy we are . . . seemingly all the time. 
 
Last night, we turned this kind of productivity on its head: we talked about women learning how to stop doing everything so we can start achieving what we really want, a.k.a. anything. Not just career-wise, but in a holistic sense – in terms of our cherished relationships and life goals.
 
Erin’s bold goal with her book is to reposition the way we as women think about ourselves at work and at home; to understand the rules of productivity as we have inherited them, and then do away with them altogether to fashion lives that are truly our own. 
 
The rules as many of us are currently living them?
 
On the average day, women spend a ton of energy and effort proving our worth by pushing forward other people’s agendas. We spend one to three more hours each day working than men when you take into account unpaid work on the homefront. And, we are often at the mercy of a host of invisible habits — saying yes when we really mean no, “should-ing” ourselves, and apologizing, constantly apologizing. Worrying about who might be judging us; judging ourselves; perfecting the imperfectible. Women are busier than ever but not necessarily getting anywhere — or at least anywhere we want to be.
 
The confusing thing, of course, is that relationships are our lifeblood, usually at the very center of our universe, and it feels oh so right to show up for everyone, at every hour. But the minute we give up being the subject of our own lives and rather act as the object in another’s, is the minute we inch away from our personal goals and agendas and into the unconscious realm of busyness. 
 
The busyness trap is a seductive and hypnotic hamster wheel of doing that allows us to completely forget our most meaningful goals and our own creative spirits. Erin writes, “It’s one of the cruelest traps that our culture has laid out for women in forcing them to do so much more than men; we become the Jills-of-all-trades, masters of none."
 
Our brains take a hit, too. “The reality is that the very structure of our days — in which we rush from task to task cramming in as much as we can — not only reduces our ability to be creative, it also takes away our ability to know our own minds.” Erin goes on to explain that when we are always in the doing / taskmaster side of our brain, the creative part of our brain — the part that make us truly and originally ourselves — goes quiet.
 
Erin argues that the stakes are high, and we agree. We’ve said it many a time, and we’re going to say it again now: we as women are sitting on a goldmine of resources, intelligence, and value to offer the world, and the barriers to entry have never been lower. If we have too many plates spinning in the air, however, we might just blow our chance to take full advantage of it. We might never become the "masters" we are meant to be.
 
Of course, that begs the question — who are we meant to be? This is tricky business, getting women to focus on who we are meant to be. Knowing what we want might just be the question we are avoiding beneath all our busyness. But once we do know what we want, the exciting thing is that we have a radical power – the power to reorder our time and energy so that it truly serves us. It’s actually pretty simple.
 
If you're game, Erin’s book will guide you through an illuminating process. The cheat sheet for the rest of you? Be honest about who you are and what you want to achieve in this lifetime. Assess where your opportunity lies at this moment in time. Then choose your goals, not too many (ideally 3), and  from that place, create a definition of productivity that will satisfy and serve you. Do everything in your power to spend your time, energy and focus on those 3 goals. 

In terms of your daily habits: outsource where possible, without guilt or apology. Delegate. Give up on perfectionism. Focus on one thing at a time. Take care of yourself. Rest. Play. Love. Eliminate the word "should" from your vocabulary, replacing it with "choose" or "value" or "want." Say no often and easily. And if it makes it easier, say it the way the French do, “non!”
 
Stevie Nicks has this wired. Her friends repeatedly beg her to visit them before a gig when she lands in their town, but she knows it will zap her energy and screw with her performance. The mantra she tells herself again and again to focus on the goal she cares most about? “Don’t endanger my show.” 
 
We love that. It’s your show. Don’t let anyone endanger it. Even, especially, you.

XO, Dana & Kristan

Sing, Woman, Sing

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Archived from the week of 7/9/18 @ The Guilde:

“I loved what I did. 
I could have been Secretary of State forever.”
--Madaleine Albright

 
We know this is going to shock you but . . . research shows that men are far more likely to brag than women are.
 
No, really!
 
Joking aside, we women tend to be incredibly modest about our achievements, strengths and contributions, if ever acknowledging them at all. In fact, it can be a stretch for the average woman to acknowledge her victories inside her own head, much less out loud to the world.
 
And who can blame us? Social scientists agree that this phenomenon is deeply ingrained in our gender identities. Not only are most girls taught that modesty and humility are virtues, but we also digest –- whether consciously or unconsciously –- that judgment will surely rain down on our heads if we dare to toot our own horns.
 
As women, bragging feels bad and means we are bad to boot.

Social Scientist Jessi Smith, who researches the psychology of bragging in women, confirms that the "backlash effect" is real. "The backlash effect shows that when a woman puts her best foot forward . . . she is not liked, by women and men alike. They think she’s smart, but they don’t want to be her friend and they do want to allocate resources to her. So in some ways, women are smart to have figured out that when they violate the modesty norm, it doesn’t feel good and people aren’t going to respond favorably to them."

But the net effect of our modesty is a problem.

In our quest to not feel full of ourselves, we forget what we are full of. Indeed, even women at the top of their game regularly report that they feel like imposters. As for the rest of us, we walk around on a daily basis forgetting how good we are, how experienced, how much we care about what we do, and how much value we offer. And that impacts the opportunities we are offered, the resources we receive, and the leadership roles we play.
 
The fact is that research also supports that the more you talk positively about yourself, the more it actually elevates your career. This makes sense to us. If you feel good about what you’re doing, then we can feel good about it, too. And if you are proud of your accomplishments, you make it easier for others to promote and support you.
 
Given this juncture in history, it’s vital that we as women learn how to highlight and celebrate our own accomplishments in our own way. That we begin to communicate a self-narrative of leadership so we can truly be role models for one another.  It’s time for women to develop the art of authentically and assuredly singing our own praises.

We use this phrase deliberately. Unlike the term bragging, which implies excessive exaggeration, boasting, and grandstanding, “singing your own praises” conveys something melodious, genuine, even quite possibly beautiful. Simply telling the truth about who you are and what you’ve achieved. Showing pride in your work; pride in who you are; belief in your actions and words. Recognizing and communicating your great and unique value to the world.
 
Let’s all try it together, shall we? Here’s how we can start:
 
Gather the Evidence.
Every skill, every strength, every achievement, everything you are proud of, and every value you know you carry when you walk into a room. Get them all down. On paper.
 
Relish.
Relish in your amazingness. This sounds cheesy and self-indulgent as hell, but we mean it. Rejoice in who you are. For at least a minute or two.
 
Sister-Up.
Support other women. But really. This means two things: (1) Shift your internal response to women who speak up about their accomplishments and abilities to a genuinely admiring one, even if their execution is imperfect; and (2) Practice singing the praises of the women around you. You probably already do this, but do it more often, and do it with heart.
 
Learn to Sing Your Own Praises.
Yes, this is the difficult, uncomfortable part we all want to avoid. It will take time and practice to do it with ease. So start by sharing your victories where you know it’s safe to do so –- with your dearest (supportive!) friends and family members, and in communities and contexts like The Guilde, where unconditional support is a given.
 
Most of all, do it in a way that allows you to be yourself. Use a story-telling approach, sharing about yourself in an honest, authentic, enthusiastic way. Like Madaleine Albright, express your love for what you do. Give specific details. Speak with sincerity from your head and your heart.
 
It’s genuinely uncomfortable at first. We know.
 
For our own part, it has been much easier to promote other womens’ skills, gifts and achievements than it has been our own -– to give other women the stage, so to speak. But we are going to take some of our own medicine today, and share what we are genuinely proud of right now when it comes to our work:
 
We, Dana and Kristan, are proud that we’ve been willing to commit and recommit ourselves to The Guilde throughout a long journey that includes many small victories, missteps, failures, and necessary pivots; that we’ve developed a healthy partnership that fully honors one another’s strengths, contributions and desires; and that we’ve created something in the world that comes straight from our hearts.
 
There. Now it’s your turn.

XO, Dana & Kristan

Ha Ha Ha

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Archived from the week of July 2 @ The Guilde:

Laugh as much as possible, always laugh.
It's the sweetest thing one can do for oneself & one's fellow human beings.

-- Maya Angelou


As we hurtled toward Independence Day earlier this week, we found ourselves reflecting upon the fact that we seem to be having a harder time finding humor and laughter in our days, and in the lives of those around us. These are serious times we are living through, people. It’s a serious time to be a woman, a serious time to be a human being, and a serious time to be an American.
 
But if we are to believe that old trope that laughter is the best medicine, our emotional immune systems must truly be running on empty.
 
We did ourselves some research, and it turns out that it’s true: Humor is the great elixir of life, the magical potion that makes everything better.

It's also worth noting that laughter is the sound of our joy. That’s big. And obvious. But it still bears mentioning. We need to hear the sound of our own joy!
 
There are a lot of rabbit holes we could have gone down with this topic, and here's what we rejected covering: (1) the notion that men are funnier than women (not true in our humble opinion); (2) the idea that men don't like funny women (hoping this isn't true but don't really care); (3) the difference between humor that cuts people down and humor that reflects and inspires our humanity (we prefer the latter); and (4) the Carol Burnett quote that "Comedy is tragedy plus time" (we agree with this in theory, but need the comedy now). 

Here’s what we do want to share:
 
Laughter is medicine, and we need a dose of it every day.
 
In the short term, a good laugh induces powerful physical and emotional changes in your body. It releases dopamine (the feel good chemical), increases blood flow to your heart, stimulates key organs, activates and relieves your stress response, and soothes tension. The long term effects are great, too. Laughter improves your immune system, relieves pain, increases personal satisfaction and connection with others, and heightens your mood. In fact, evolution gave us laughter to help us process conflict in our environment. So we might as well use it, right?
 
You can deliberately grow humor in your life and the lives of those around you.
 
As human beings, we have the capacity to understand humor in our very first year of life. We develop it naturally, and in relationship to others. And then as we get older, what with adult responsibilities and all, most of us get increasingly serious over time. We might laugh with friends on a Saturday night, but who has time to do it every day? We do, that's who. And if we choose to make humor a priority, we can expect it to bloom. This is exactly what the Pope does; he prays for a sense of humor every day. No joke.
 
The prescription is this: learn what amuses you, and then immerse yourself in it. Watch standup, listen to funny podcasts, read humorous books, screen funny films, sign up for an improv class, and hang out with people who make you laugh. Heighten your own comic vision by looking for the absurd incongruities around you every day. When you laugh and use humor generously, you help build a social environment that is more conducive to future funny moments. Humor is wonderfully contagious like that.
 
Humor is perspective shifting.
 
“At the height of laughter, the universe is flung into a kaleidoscope of new possibilities,” wrote Philosopher Jean Houston. Comedy challenges our ways of seeing and being in the world, helping us circumvent ingrained thoughts and perspectives that might be limiting us and our relationships with the world and one another. The right kind of humor can open your mind, expand your heart, and bust your gut all at the same time. Even in the darkest of situations, when you have the wherewithal to come up for air to look for the funny silver lining, you truly tap into one of the best ways to cope with it. You enter the possibility of changing something about it.
 
Finally, life gets better when you develop a sense of humor about yourself.
 
The ability to laugh at oneself — embracing your flaws, laughing at them and letting them go — amounts to deep self-acceptance, which is key to a happy life. And one of the best parts of getting older.
 
May you find some laughs this weekend and throughout the Summer . . .

XO, Dana & Kristan

Role Play

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Archived from the week of 6/25/18 @ The Guilde:

"[I]t's in writing memoirs that we are obliged to say what the total constellation of all our roles means to us. And that's the real dilemma of the modern consciousness. We have this sense of an inner core of being which is us, which looks out and comments on life and experience - and which is part of, but not subsumed by all the roles that we play.

I think modern moral philosophers think that you really can't judge a life without looking at the total sum of all the roles that are intertwined within it and trying to interpret what they all add up to. And I think that's the aspect of the modern consciousness that really resonates when we read a memoir. We want to see somebody else telling us what it's all added up to because we want to be able to do that for ourselves.
-- Jill Ker Conway


Mother. Daughter. Partner/Spouse. Sister. Friend. Leader. Business owner. Employee. Volunteer. Caretaker. Creative. Citizen. Activist. Community organizer. Cook. Errand Runner. Empathic Listener. Social planner. Trip planner. And on and on.
 
Imagine a world without women in it. Imagine women without our roles.

Feminist Author and former Smith College President Jill Ker Conway passed away last week, and in revisiting her work, we got to thinking about the roles we play as women, and as she says -- what they all add up to.

While each of our lives host a unique constellation, it’s fair to say that most women inhabit a dizzying number of roles. In psychological terms, this is termed “multiple role engagement.”
 
There are times in life when multiple role engagement amounts to strain and overload, and other times when it adds up to life satisfaction and enhancement. Times when we seem to flow with the reality of “doing it all” and times when it all becomes too much. Times when due to necessity or temptation, we merge our identity with a singular role even when we are so much more.
 
It’s of value once in awhile to slow down and take stock: how are the roles we play serving us, and how are they holding us back? Are we using any of our roles to hide from the fullest expression of our lives? And where is there an opportunity to redefine and recreate the roles we are playing to better lead ourselves toward life enhancement and away from overload?
 
These are the questions we're curious about this week.

To all the beautiful roles you play, and the you that shines above them all,
Dana & Kristan

Strength in Sisterhood

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Archived from the week of 6/18 @ The Guilde:

"Because there’s one thing stronger than magic –- sisterhood."
-– Robin Benway
 

What do we mean when we talk about sisterhood? The women we embrace as sisters are often closer to us than family. These are the women who support our dreams, defend us, take care of us deeply, show up in our worst moments — but also encourage and push us to be strong, to grow, to become our best selves.
 
As we collected stories about sisterhood this week at The Guilde, a salient theme was the experience of being both elevated and challenged by our chosen sisters. It’s as if there’s an alchemy to sisterhood that both pulls and pushes. The pull part is related to the healthy desire we experience to win the approval and admiration of someone we deeply respect. The push part comes from the friction and dynamic tension often present in sisterhood -- the individuation dance of two deeply bonded but distinct selves. 
 
As depth psychologist Christine Downing proffers, “There is space within sisterhood for likeness and difference, for the subtle differences that challenge and delight; there is space for disappointment-and surprise.” Here’s Toni Morrison pointing to this same dynamic, “A sister can be seen as someone who is both ourselves and very much not ourselves a special kind of double.”
 
In this push/pull dynamic, there is room for sameness, difference, agreement, dissonance, mystery and all manner of diversity. The environment of sisterhood is spacious and forgiving. In sisterhood, multiple dynamics, perspectives, and truths can be at play simultaneously without threatening the whole; in fact, they’re invited. You are invited. From our perspective, this is the most generous and generative kind of system.
 
From a Systems Theory perspective (the study of the interdependent webs that bind human beings), sisterhood is an ideal learning organization. The revolutionary Systems Scientist, Peter Senge describes a learning organization as:
 
 "…organizations where people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning to see the whole together."
 
Senge contrasts learning organizations with the traditional thinking of 20th century organizational development that privileged the figure of the heroic leader single-handedly inspiring change and progress. He posits:
 
"We all have probably spent too much time thinking about ‘smart individuals.’ That’s not the kind of smartness we need. The smartness we need is collective. We need cities that work differently. We need industrial sectors that work differently. We need value change and supply change that are managed from the beginning until the end to purely produce social, ecological and economic well-being. That is the concept of intelligence we need, and it will never be achieved by a handful of smart individuals. It’s not about ‘the smartest guys in the room.’ It’s about what we can do collectively. So the intelligence that matters is collective intelligence, and that’s the concept of ‘smart’ that I think will really tell the tale."
 
Nowhere is sisterhood stronger than in the bonobo family, primates with whom we share 98.7% of our DNA. In the bonobo world, female alliance is everything. The bonobo leverage their female ties, especially cross-generational ties, to forage food, secure the right mate and fend off male aggressors. Remarkably, the partners in a bonobo posse cooperate with each other despite lacking familial ties or even close friendship. In addition, the nature of their sisterly bonds shifts according to circumstance, with flexibility and responsivity. This is in sharp contrast to the society of the chimpanzee, a sister species to the bonobos who share equal footing as our nearest primate kin and have as much to teach us about human evolution. The society of the chimpanzee is marked by male-dominance, feeble female ties, and a more violent and aggressive style of conflict resolution. Biological anthropologist, Frances White, observes, “We’re equally related to chimps and bonobos, and we have their entire range of behavioral variation available to us. We can be as aggressive as the chimpanzee, or as female-allied as the bonobo.”
 
Biological anthropologist and Darwinian feminist Dr. Amy Parish studies Bonobos to learn more about feminism. She asserts, "[t]he goal of feminism is to behave with unrelated females as though they are your sisters. It's all about the sisterhood. We can talk about how human feminism has succeeded, and the long road in front of us, but I'd say the glass is 60 percent full for humans and 99.9 percent full for bonobos."
 
If we look to the #metoo movement, we see an almost bonobo-like sisterhood in action. An integral part of sisterhood seems to be the felt experience of interconnectedness and mutual benefit or loss. As women and sisters we seem to know this organically, in our bones.  We understand viscerally, as opposed to through our minds, that the loss of one is the loss of all.
 
Nature also teaches us about sisterhood. In the field of biomimicry, we look to the natural world to solve human problems. As it turns out, mother nature’s 3.8 billion years of evolution and design have yielded the most efficient, zero-waste methods for sustainable proliferation and growth. Biomimicry signals a turn away from zero-sum thinking towards the intelligence of nature, networks and ecosystems for human thriving. In fact, nature goes beyond just fixing things when problem solving; nature makes things better than they once were.
 
Sisterhood is one of nature’s great design success stories played out in human relationship. With its holistic values, flexible rules and inclusive parameters, sisterhood is a force to own, to feel proud of and to leverage at this unique time in human history.
 
If you’ve ever experienced the bonds of sisterhood in action – on a team, for a cause, in a family, with a friend group –- you know the co-creative, generative force that emerges when women align in mission, spirit and heart. It’s the lived experience of the whole being greater than the sum of our parts. It’s powerful.
 
There is innate intelligence in sisterhood that is essential and instructive for our collective wellbeing. The values of this effortless, organic experience we know as sisterhood contain vital information about fostering sustainable innovation, growth, and progress in an increasingly decentralized, shrinking world. Sisterhood is a natural order of human relationship and interdependence that makes us all stronger and more effective –- a leadership paradigm whose time has come. And best of all, it’s a magic we possess.
 

To Our Sisterhood!
Kristan & Dana

You Play The Girl

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Archived from the week of 6/4/18 @ The Guilde:

"And I love, hear me,
I love love love
being a girl.”
-- Eve Ensler


In her book, You Play the GirlCarina Chocano explores the cognitive dissonance between media representations of women and the reality of our lives, and how the cultural narratives we take in from the time we are girls inform and shape our beliefs about ourselves.
 
“The Girl” Carina is referring to is “whatever the hero needs her to be in order to become himself […] The Girl doesn’t act, though — she behaves. She has no cause, but a plight. She doesn’t want anything, she is wanted. She isn’t a winner, she’s won. She doesn’t self-actualize but aids the hero in self-actualization.”
 
Ouch. Of course, none of us walks around thinking consciously of ourselves as thatgirl. But there is undeniably a cost to us as individuals and as a society when the billboards, fairytales and pop culture fantasies played out around us repeat the message that girls are neither the protagonists of our own lives nor the heroines in our own stories.
 
According to a recent study, girls lose faith in their own intellectual brilliance – in kidspeak, “being really, really smart” -- by the age of six. The conclusion? Young children are exposed right out of the womb to the cultural bias that genius is more likely a male trait than a female one.
 
Another lens to this phenomenon is the so-called “confidence gap,” the reality that a girl’s confidence plummets at puberty, making her more likely to accept her limitations. Many a girl at this age quits competing in sports, thereby depriving herself of one of the best ways to regain it. By the time she’s a woman, she’s likely to vastly underestimate her abilities.
 
And even if there are plenty of confident women in the world, we can’t think of a single woman who is overconfident. Consider this though: “overconfidence,” what most women would consider arrogance or downright fraud, actually comes across to others as self-belief, the belief that one is good and capable. And consider this, too: perfectionism is the single biggest confidence killer.
 
We don’t remember everything about our girlhoods being rainbows and sunshine, but we do remember a belief that we were good, capable and strong. We do remember that we weren’t perfectionists. And we definitely remember being the heroines of our lives. In fact, we remember being unashamedly opinionated, loud, and smart, and climbing up on the living room coffee table every day to belt out Annie show tunes for all to hear (Dana); and forming a one-girl rock band and informing strangers everywhere of a future presidential bid (Kristan).
 
What do you remember?
 
Bring the girl you remember to this moment in time, and know that it’s time for us to flip the script. It’s time to redefine and reclaim The Girl. To remember the girl as the most free part of ourselves.
 
Eve Ensler implores us to do just this in her powerful TED Talk, Embrace Your Inner Girl. She posits that, “the whole world has essentially been brought up not to be a girl. To be a boy really means not to be a girl. To be a man is not to be a girl. To be a woman is not to be a girl. To be strong is not to be a girl. To be a leader means not to be a girl. I actually think that being a girl is so powerful that we’ve had to train everyone not to be that.”
 
And then she reminds us that the essential quality of our inner girlness –- our empathy, our emotion, our intuition, our relational way of being, our fierceness, our courage -– is quite literally the very thing the future of our humanity rests on. Just that. 
 
As Madeline L’Engle said, “We are every age that we have ever been.” This means that The Girl is still alive and well inside each one of us. And it is totally within our power to take on our girl. To value our girl. To find her heart. And fire her up.

What might be possible if we do?
 
To The Girl!
Dana & Kristan

Oh, Ambition

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Archived from the week of 5/21/18 @ The Guilde:

Most women are ambivalent about ambition.

 
After all, it tends to be a compliment for men and a critique of women in our culture. An ambitious woman is readily associated with being aggressive, bitchy, power-hungry, overbearing, unlikeable, egotistical, masculine, ruthless, abrasive, difficult, “out for herself,” dominant, selfish, arrogant, competitive, pushy, grasping, and the list goes on . . . .
 
While we may honor the gravitas of a woman who has arrived as a leader or success story, we do not as a society at large honor and appreciate women for openly pursuing and striving for their goals –- the process part that is inherent to ambition and mastery.
 
Ambition is the paradox at the heart of feminism.
 
If feminism is about the freedom to choose your own path, to write your own script, and to succeed on your own terms, we as feminists should truly prize a woman with the fire in her gut that is ambition. We should want to be that woman.
 
And in fact, the definition of ambition is not pejorative. It is simply a strong desire to do or achieve something, typically requiring determination and hard work. Nothing ugly about that, right?
 
But as writer Jill Filipovic points out, ambition in a woman is suspect because it breaks a certain expectation of femininity that still courses through our highly socialized veins. In 2018, there is still a way in which femininity is tied to serving and caring for others, nurturing others’ ambitions, and being the last one to eat at the table.
 
There are also practical obstacles to our ambition. If you consider the focus, drive and commitment that ambition requires, a woman’s ambition is often hampered by the decisions and roles she plays out in her lifetime, as well as society’s lack of infrastructure to support those roles. Indeed, it’s common for women to feel like they suffer from a lack of ambition due to the competing demands on their lives.
 
Does it matter? We think it does, for two reasons. (1) Women suffer over their own ambition. In a recent study, 59% of women expressed regret for not having been more ambitious. (2) The world needs women to be ambitious. As good ‘ole Greek philosopher Heraclitus said in the 6th century B.C., “Big results require big ambitions.” And the world is calling on us to deliver some very big results.
 
So, what’s a woman to do?
 
We think it’s time for us to rethink, reframe and reclaim ambition for ourselves as women.
 
What if we saw ambition as our birthright? As something beautiful, simple, pure and even feminine: our own desire to create something and commit ourselves fully to the creation of it. Not selfish, not self-serving, but self-valuing.
 
What if we saw ambition as a form of our caretaking, service, and humanity? What if we connected our ambition to wanting to do more and better for our families, our communities and our world? To have the impact only we can have.
 
What if we embraced ambition as a state of being, choosing to believe fully in our own purpose, abilities, and vision, no matter our timeline?

What if we gave ourselves the time and permission to identify the sources of our ambition as well as the ways our personal values and timelines intersect with it?  

What if we gave ourselves permission and time to identify what truly inspires ambition in us, independent of the world's norms, metrics, and timelines, and then threw ourselves into the pursuit of it, on the terms that work for us? 
 
What if we remembered that ambition can be patient? That we can mindfully and strategically engage and re-engage ambition throughout our lifetimes, laying it down for a time and returning when ready.  
 
What if we demanded and became an unstoppable force for creating a better infrastructure, heralding in a design of work and culture that truly accommodates the reality of women’s roles and women’s ambition?
 
And finally, at the risk of sounding like a broken record here, what if we as women came to honor another woman’s ambition as something to be prized, celebrated, and imprinted upon –- a proof of the greatness that resides in us all?
 
To your ambition,
Dana & Kristan 

Creative License

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Archived from the week of 5/14/18 @ The Guilde:

“Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart.
The rest of it will take care of itself.”

-- Elizabeth Gilbert
 

It was wonderful to swim in the currents of creativity, our theme last week at The Guilde. Our aim was to blast open a wider perspective on what constitutes creativity and entitle each of us to claim more of it in our lives.
 
The research confirms our belief that creativity is a vital, essential, innate part of us all. Neuroscience teaches that creativity is a function of the cerebral cortex; everyone is born creative and can practice and grow their capacity at any time. The challenge, therefore, is not in having creativity, but in engaging and releasing it throughout our lives. In fact, only 1 in 4 people believe they are living up to their creative capacity, and studies show that the average American unlearns creativity throughout their adulthood. The field of psychology posits that on a personal level, creativity is the key to joy, aliveness, fulfillment, freedom and wholeness while on a societal level, it is the key to innovation, contribution, and the architecture of our world. In fact, creativity is often called out as the single most important human skill of the future.
 
Some of our favorite thought leadership on the topic comes from Tom and David Kelly at IDEO, who teach that people with creative confidence have a far greater impact on the world. But they frame creativity in an expansive way: “Creativity is using your imagination to create anything new in the world — ideas, solutions, approaches, experiences.” And John Cleese’s view: “Creativity is not a talent, it’s a way of operating.”
 
Through this lens, creativity is not siloed for artists and self-identified creatives. Rather, creativity is a way of life, an approach, a faculty that can be equally applied to our relationships, the home front, the way we move through our lives, and the space we give to bringing new ideas, visions, and businesses to life.
 
What does all this have to do with us as women in particular? Most women are familiar with putting off their own creative work until everyone else’s has been taken care of. But creativity is a muscle and perspective that requires a real and significant investment of time and energy. Creativity needs quiet (time each day), engagement (focus and commitment), dreaming (imagination and free thinking), relaxation, release (letting go), and play (new ideas, deep conversations). In other words, creativity doesn’t just happen; rather, creativity is a value that requires resource allocation.
 
What is clear to us is that in order for that to happen, one must feel (1) entitled to devoting time, space and energy to her own creative process; (2) willing to take unrestricted risks with no guarantee of any particular outcome; and (3) willing to recover a child’s curiosity, playfulness, and lack of concern with being judged. Why does it matter for women? Because everything meaningful and important that is architected in our world – products, social initiatives, public policy, art that moves us, you name it – is the function of someone’s creative process and vision.
 
What we know from our own experience and from working with women to draw forth their creative visions is that historically, women are just beginning to grow our entitlement muscle, our self-permission and our facility for the risk-taking required in creating. What we also know is that beyond the cost to our society at large of women not leading with their creativity, there is an enormous personal toll to us when our creativity goes dormant. We compromise our self-esteem when we give up on something our spirit wants to express; we silence our contributions when we dismiss our own creative ideas; we waste our life force; and we quite possibly engage in something negative or destructive instead (e.g. criticism, judgment, or control over others).
 
So here’s what we’ll leave you with: It is essential that women make space for our creativity. Beyond our own well-being, the world is crying out for our creative contributions. On a micro, day-to-day basis, that means allowing ourselves periods of wide open space to live in our own, beautiful, wandering brains – the default network mode -  where our creativity can emerge.  Doing so is not a fruitless pursuit; it’s where our synapses fire and our greatest ideas, solutions and innovations are sparked.

Cheers to taking your full creative license, 
xo, Dana & Kristan