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  • Watercolor Orchids for Grandma

    I watercolored these orchids for my Grandmother's memorial. After I painted them by hand, I scanned them into Photoshop and made a few minor adjustments before dropping them into the program and thank you card. 

  • Challenge: 10 Things Extraordinary People Say Every Day

    One of my favorite articles of all time from Inc.com is "10 Things Extraordinary People Say Every Day".

    Small things that you can say that can change someone's day. Another way to be an influential leader. I've kept this article close to me because it has a lot of good truths in it. 

    Here's what I'm thinking.
    A way to open up to collaboration and partnership. "Though taking the time to explain your decisions opens those decisions up to discussion or criticism, it also opens up your decisions to improvement."

    I was wrong.
    I learned this one first hand at Foursquare. Directors and managers would mess up and be quick to say they were wrong and that was incredibly humble—and respectful. 

    That was awesome.
    "Praise is a gift that costs the giver nothing but is priceless to the recipient. Start praising. The people around you will love you for it--and you'll like yourself a little better, too."

    You're welcome.
    This one I've learned the hardway and am still learning. And I guess that means I also didn't really read this part of the article carefully enough. "
    Don't let thanks, congratulations, or praise be all about you. Make it about the other person, too."

    Can you help me?
    "I promise you'll get help. And in the process you'll show vulnerability, respect, and a willingness to listen--which, by the way, are all qualities of a great leader."

    I'm sorry.
    Another thing that my Directors and Managers at Foursquare were quick to do. When they messed up, if they missed a typo or forced another round of revisions, it always started with an I'm sorry. Good leaders are quick to apologize and own their mistakes.

    "We all make mistakes, so we all have things we need to apologize for: words, actions, omissions, failing to step up, step in, show support...But never follow an apology with a disclaimer like 'But I was really mad, because...' or 'But I did think you were...' or any statement that in any way places even the smallest amount of blame back on the other person."

    Can you show me?
    "When you ask to be taught or shown, several things happen: You implicitly show you respect the person giving the advice; you show you trust his or her experience, skill, and insight; and you get to better assess the value of the advice."

    Let me give you a hand.
    "Be specific. Find something you can help with. Say "I've got a few minutes. Can I help you finish that?" Offer in a way that feels collaborative, not patronizing or gratuitous. Model the behavior you want your employees to display."

    I love you.
    No, not at work, but everywhere you mean it--and every time you feel it.

    Nothing.
    "Sometimes the best thing to say is nothing. If you're upset, frustrated, or angry, stay quiet. You may think venting will make you feel better, but it never does.

    That's especially true where your employees are concerned. Results come and go, but feelings are forever. Criticize an employee in a group setting and it will seem like he eventually got over it, but inside, he never will.

    You'll never recover from the damage you inflict on an employee's self-esteem."

    I challenge you to read these and practice them everyday. 

  • Challenge: 1 Second Everyday

     I read about this 1 Second Everyday app on Scott Clauson's Dad Explorer blog. I felt challenged to try to record just one second every day in February—which, to be honest, I definitely failed a few times and substituted other days. But it's a good challenge to make the most of your day every day, a great way to reflect on what is in your life to be grateful of, and for the artists, I'm constantly thinking of how to make something artistic, creative and clever. 

    Here's my video for February: 

     This app has been a good challenge and I'm going to keep it going this year. I want something to remember every day, and also something that, especially in this time, helps me be grateful for the privileges I have, the people in my life, and the adventures available to me everyday.

    I challenge you to try it now too!

  • WCW: Shauna Niequist

    I just finished reading Shauna Niequist’s Bittersweet this past week. Even though this isn't design or leadership related, this book was so good I wanted to put it up on my blog. In the book, Niequist is reflecting on some of the toughest years of her life and she writes about it with such honesty, grit, and transparency that it’s incredibly easy to relate to her. She reflects on the bittersweetness of change, transition, and lost. 


    “This is what I’ve come to believe about change: it’s good, in the way that childbirth is good, and heartbreak is good, and failure is good. By that I mean that it’s incredibly painful, exponentially more so if you fight it, and also that it has the potential to open you up, to open life up, to deliver you right into the palm of God’s hand, which is where you wanted to be all long, except that you were too busy pushing and pulling your life into exactly what you thought it should be. ‘I’ve learned the hard way that change is one of God’s greatest gifts, and most useful tools. Change can push us, pull us, rebuke and remake us. It can show us who we’ve become, in the worst ways, and also in the best ways. I’ve learned that it’s not something to run away from, as though we could, and that in many cases, change is a function of God’s graciousness, not life’s cruelty.’"

    Niequist has a few activities and a few insights I found extremely profound and helpful to keep perspective during times of challenge and change: 

    1. The Things I Do and The Things I Don’t Do Lists

    Niequist recommends making two lists: The Things I Do and The Things I Don't Do. This is to help us from overextending, people pleasing, overcommitting—falling into the trap of trying to "doing everything better." Making these lists helps us decide what we want AND what we need to give up for that. 

    “It’s brutal, making the list of Things I Don’t Do, especially for someone like me, who refuses most of the time to acknowledge that there is, in fact, a limit to her personal ability to get things done. But I’ve discovered that the list sets me free. I have it written in black and white, sitting on my desk, and when I’m tempted to go rogue and bake muffins because all other moms do, I come back to both lists, and I remind myself about the important things: that time is finite, as is energy. And that one day I’ll stand before God and account for what I did with my life.”

    2. Journal to Reflect On Life

    Niequist talks about how we don't want to get stuck in life. We don't want to wake up one day and find out that we've wasted away our lives because we're afraid, comfortable, or lazy. 

    “Don’t be like that. Don’t get stuck. Move, travel, take a class, take a risk. Walk away, try something new. There is a season for wilderness and a season for settledness, and this is neither. This season is about becoming. Don’t lose yourself at happy hour, but don’t lose yourself on the corporate ladder either.” 

    Her advice is to journal every once in a while and ask yourself these questions: 

    • Am I proud of the life I’m living? 
    • What have I tried this month? 
    • What have I learned about God this year? 
    • What parts of my childhood faith am I leaving behind, and what parts am I choosing to keep with me for this leg of the journey? 
    • Do the people I’m spending time with give me life or make me feel small? 
    • Is there any brokenness in my life that’s keeping me from moving forward? 

    3. Look for Connection and Community Wherever It Already Is

    “Take a risk and cultivate the tiniest possibility of connection, even in the unlikeliest of places. Sometimes it does work to set out together for intimacy, honesty, truth telling. But more often, in my experience, you find those things by going through the back door—serving together, cooking together, reading together… But I’m finding that it’s there waiting for you in all sorts of unexpected places, that when you do what you love with people who love the same thing, something is born into your midst and begins to connect you…if they make you better, more honest, more loving, if the presence of Christ is apparent because of the way that you love each other, because of the good things you bring out in each other, then what else is it?” 

    4. Determine Your Home Team and Commit To Them 

    “There are two reasons you need to know who your home team is. First, you need to know who they are because they need you. These are the people you visit in the hospital no matter what…These are the people who cry when you cry. These are your people, your middle-of-the-night, no-matter-what people. The second reason you need to know who your home team is, is because then you know who your home team is not. Everyone else is everyone else... And it doesn’t last forever, that team. It shifts sometimes, when you move, or as life changes every few years. That’s not wrong. But at any given season, you’ve got to know, essentially, who you’re responsible for when it all falls apart.” 

    5. Apologies Are Sexy In Marriage 

    “You know what’s really, really sexy eight years into marriage? Apologies. Nothing has connected and reconnected us more than honesty, than taking responsibility, than seeing the damage we’ve wrought and working hard to make it right. Around our house, apologies are sexy.

    The best gifts we can give each other this year apologies and acceptance, gifts we should have been giving one another all along, but forgot for a season, in the midst of hurt feelings and tangled conversations. So here we are: saying we’ve sorry, letting go, accepting, listening closely for the first time in a long time.” 

  • WCW: Sheryl Sandberg

    I recently finished listening to the audiobook, Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. I might be a little late to the party considering the book came out in 2013. Thanks to my Art Director friend, Lauren Nadrowski, I got hooked on Sandberg’s hard truths, that quite frankly broke the lies in my own head, and her honest determination and attitude. Since then, Sheryl Sandberg has easily become one of my top women crushes. 

    Lean In is based off of Sandberg original TedTalk “Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders”. 

    In her book, Sandberg elaborates about the ways women are held back in society, in culture, in the corporate workplace, and even in everyday life. She discusses her theories and gives statistics to back up why there are not many women leaders, the cultural stereotypes that hold us (and herself) captive, and her own struggles as one of the few women at the top of their fields. She encourages women to “lean in” when culture calls us to hold back, to be bold even or, especially, when we are afraid—to “sit at the table” instead of hanging back and letting men become CEOs, CTOs, CFOs while we sit back on the outside of the table. 

    Many of the things Sandberg talked about were things I realized I was doing because either I was a.) taught to behave that way in business or b.) been conditioned to act that way in business. 

    “We hold ourselves back in ways both big and small, by lacking self-confidence, by not raising our hands, and by pulling back when we should be leaning in.” 

    I learned from an early age to keep my mouth shut, to stand back, hold back, and do the disciplined, obedient, quiet route. I’m not quite sure why or how this happened, but I believe it happened throughout my childhood, through learned experiences, parenting, and friendship failures. One particular instance that comes to mind is when I was around 10 or 11. I was asked to play in a tournament for one of our opponents. Growing up I matured faster than most girls my age so I was awkward physically and I was homeschooled so I was awkward socially as well. I never quite fit in and never quite felt like I had skills or abilities that matched my teammates. So I had a pretty bad perception of myself as a kid to begin with. I’m a little foggy on the details now but I guess I was walking around, as an awkward 10 or 11-year-old you, bragging to my teammates that this had happened. It felt like quite the accomplishment for a kid that didn’t think they were very good. 

    Yet that night my coach called me and told me not to brag because my teammates probably didn’t/wouldn’t/won’t appreciate it. I think I asked her what I could do to get more playing time or how could I get more playing time and she something to the degree that some players on the team just won’t get as much playing time as others because “that’s the way things are.” Or maybe it was something like its not about playing time, it’s about how hard you work/how good you are. 

    This wrecked me as a kid as these lies became unknowingly engrained in me. My coach was conditioned to believe these lies (probably taught to her in a similar way by her own haunted ghosts) and without realizing she passed the lies to me. We do this to almost everyone we have impact relationships with. This is how cultural stereotypes have conditioned young women and girls all over the world—we pass these lies on and on and on until the lies become truths and the truths become stereotypes. And then everyone believes the stereotypes (the perpetrator, the victim, and the witnesses). 

    On the flip side, if I had been a boy who was bragging about his accomplishment, his teammates and his coach might have ignored him for his pure ridiculousness or told him to stop being arrogant or cocky. Maybe if he has asked about how to get more playing time, the coach would have been more helpful in raising him to be better. 

    In her book, Sandberg continue to talk about the difference between men and women and the gender biases that exists, both in societal/cultural stereotypes, perceptions, and behaviors: 

    • Girls are called “bossy”, but boys are called “leaders”. Women are called “aggressive” while men are called “assertive”. 
    • No one asks a man “how he does it all?” 
    • She explains the Howard/Heidi study: When a women is successful, she is considered selfish and not “the type of person you would want to hire or work for” but when a man is successful, he is well liked. 
    • Women are held back by internal obstacles: fear, self-doubt, or lack of confidence.
    • Women are prone to not negotiate a salary, while it’s assumed men will negotiate 
    • Women who negotiate a salary are viewed negatively. Yet women will still be offered a smaller salary than a man. 
    • Women will stop reaching for their careers because they are “planning to have a family”. 
    • Men still run the world: “Of 197 heads of state, only 22 are women.” 

    “I still face situations that I fear are beyond my capabilities. I still have days when I feel like a fraud. And I still sometimes find myself spoken over and discounted while men sitting next to me are not. But now I know how to take a depth breath and keep my hand up. I have learned to sit at the table.” 

    I’m not good at reviewing books. I take what I can from them and apply it to my life. I found myself more than once in this cultural stereotype: I’ve never negotiated salary even though my husband tells me too. I don’t speak up in large group. I submit to authority. I try to please everyone instead. I’m not bold in my thoughts and opinions. I let stronger personalities throw my ideas around. I hang back a lot of the times from taking charge. 

    I’m not saying go be a bulldog and bulldoze people over. I’m not saying to be opinionated and demanding with your thoughts and ideas. I’m just saying what we learned was “right” might be not “best” and what we learned to be “true” might not be the “truth”. I’m not going to be bold in every instance I have—but now I know that being quiet is not always the proven approach. I can speak my mind and that people will not always like me; but at least I've spoken my mind. I’ve learned to sit at the table when I need to and to lean in when I have to. 

    And it's important that we equip those around us—those we're friends with, those we mentor, those who are our own kids—so we can stop these stereotypes and bridge the gender gap. 

    If you are looking for book reviews, here are two good ones from Forbes, New York Times and Washington Post. Here are motivational quotes from Sheryl Sandberg on the Huffington Post, Business Insider, and Muse. You can also follow Sheryl on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter

  • Learning Curve: Boundaries and Saying No

    I found out today that I was charged an extra $33 for accidentally driving down a toll road at 5 am during my last trip to Boulder, Colorado. I had been commuting to Colorado from LA for almost three months for a project at a digital start up. 

    It was my last and worse trip because I didn't want to be there, but my boss had just been promoted and my new boss wanted me to fly out on the last week of my contract. I ended up getting into a miscommunication with a co-worker. I was exhausted from traveling and not having my own space—sleeping in a friends spare room—and missing my life. I was also hitting the crux of my half marathon training in 43 degree fall weather at a job that required more than 5-days a week dedication. I was exhausted and should have said no. And to top all of that off, I got lost on my final trip to the airport and now it's cost me an extra $33. Shoulda. Coulda. Woulda. Right? 

    So yes, I should have said no because I didn't want to do it. In my final review, my former boss emphasize my inability to voice my opinions, especially when I didn't want to do something, more regulary as an area of weakness. Maybe it's because I want everyone to be happy or maybe it's because I lack the confidence in my experience. Or maybe I was just trained that you don't say "No" to your boss. 

    Here are two good articles, from Forbes and Fast Company, respectively on how and when to say "No" to authority. 

    In this particular situation, what I should have done instead of just saying, "Yes" and begrudgingly booking another plane ticket, is think of another alternative, according to Forbes

    New Boss: Nicole, since you've on contract for another week, why don't you fly out again so we can brainstorm brand concepts for all our clients? 
    Smarter Nicole: Boss, can I throw out another idea? 
    New Boss: Sure! What do you have in mind? 
    Smarter Nicole: I think it will be easier for me to wrap things up in LA, but I can be sure to set aside a huge chunk of time to video chat with My Designer to brainstorm brand concepts for clients. My Designer is has really grown in conceptualizing and I think he and I can still nail it all out over Skype. 

    Forbes then recommends, if your boss still says "No", at least you know you tried and you also know how important this project is if they want to stick to their original strategy. 

    Fast Company also mentions a few things I could have done better from the get-go: 

    1. Acknowledge that you ultimately have the same goals
    We both have the same goal: to brainstorm brand concepts for our clients. We just have different wants to accomplish this and that's OK. Joseph Grenny says: "Your mutual higher purpose is to serve, and your job is to accomplish goals. It's not who is right, it's what is right." 

    2. Explain the Consequences of the Request
    I could have talked about how I could have accomplished more to wrap things up if I was home and what else I would have accomplished had I been home, not exhausted. 

    3. Share Your Facts
    Facts: I think My Designer has progressed enough to be able to lead me in this conversation via Skype. It's a good way to begin to pass things on to him. I would love to be able to leave him in a place where he can lead a brainstorming brand concept session. 

    4. Set Boundaries From the Start
    The big one I should have done from the start. I was too easy to say, "Yes, yes, yes." Yes, I want to travel. Yes, I would love to travel. Yes, I don't mind sleeping on the floor. Yes, I don't mind flying in on Sundays. Yes, yes, yes. 

    Everytime I said no or countered with something, I felt a liked a little less because I was an employee with boundaries. I didn't give them the opportunity to appreciate my boundaries because I was too busy worrying about whether or not they liked my boundaries. Granted there's probably alot more to that psychosis, but I did nothing to help fellow (and future) designers by not vocalizing my boundaries. 

    Diane Amundson says: "If you don't want to be on call during weekends or holidays, make this clear in the beginning where there is more leeway and where it's black and white."

    The other big thing is to remember to not actually say, "No". No one just likes to hear the word, "No". I learned this early on from Brad Abare. You must say, "Yes, but." You just need to figure out how to do so. These articles from Forbes and Fast Company will help. 

  • Thank You Run Disney!

    This past weekend I completed my first Rebel Challenge RunDisney race! It was so much fun and I want to take a break from the design work to post about RunDisney races and how incredible they are. 

    In the last year, I've done two Star Wars Half Marathons, the Wine and Dine Half Half Marathon (not a typo), the Star Wars 10K, and I've volunteered at the Avengers Half Marathon. 

    I've done a handful of triathlons and competitive running races in addition to those, but nothing has compared to RunDisney Races because of how much they encourage everyone to run. Their races really believe everyone can participate and everyone can complete a half marathon. It's hard to run these races for time because they are just so much fun and you want to be part of it. I love seeing the resilency of human spirit and human body come to life, especially as people push their bodies to the max, no matter who they are.

    Not only do they celebrate the first runner to finish, but they also celebrate the last runner to finish!

    These races are so much fun, give so much joy, and make running a half marathon something anyone can do. Thank you RunDisney! 

    Some crowd shots from my corrals.

    It's always awesome to see the 501st Legion

    Medal selfies! Can't wait until next year!

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