The Magician

“So you plandreamstime_l_21841358t your own garden and decorate your own soul, instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.”
– from “After Awhile” by Veronica A. Shoffstall

I have always viewed this poem as “words to live by.”

And I’d shared them at an Executive Women’s Career Panel at my software company.

What a gift to share stories with the younger women, in how to embrace Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s famous advice that “Well-behaved women rarely make history!”

I shared how I made my own opportunities, creating what I wanted like an alchemist.

And one of my greatest skills has always been … “chasing prominent people through parking lots!”

Years ago, I literally chased a U.S. Ambassador through the parking lot at the U.S. National Institute of Standards (NIST) … to respond to his request for industry experts to educate the U.S. Dept of State on cloud computing. He and staff were to begin negotiations with the European Union and Asia around cloud and data privacy policy. Since the cloud was just emerging in IT, they were working in uncharted territory.

As a Cloud Computing Evangelist who ran the U.S. Cloud Commission for State & Local Government, I was a leading industry expert. And I wanted to have a global impact.

So I followed him outside after his speech, run-walking with as much dignity as I could muster in high heels in slush!

But I began to suspect my mistake as I zeroed in – it wasn’t him!

Oh that security guard who directed me to the wrong man! He looked at me like a stalker! So I pretended to have forgotten where I parked, he smiled in commiseration and I returned inside to launch Plan B.

Having come so close, I could not give up. So I got a referral from the U.S. Undersecretary of Commerce who ran NIST and had access to the Ambassador right then and there.

Hours later, I was confirmed to meet with the Ambassador while in Washington. I educated him and staff over time on the cloud and its business impact. I shared Cloud Commission materials and my analyst paper on how cloud computing benefits job creation. He later told me my work was useful background in EU data privacy negotiations.

Today, I access State Dept. foreign service officers whenever I travel overseas. They gave me a terrific economic briefing when visiting Kazakhstan to discuss cloud strategy for a proposal for the Prime Minister. And I had an invite to meet with another U.S. Ambassador while there.

Just recently I returned from speaking and mentoring startups at the Brown Forum, a prestigious economic development forum hosted by the U.S. Ambassador in Croatia. And I consulted with the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv on a project for Ukraine.

So trudging through the slush in NIST’s parking lot has paid dividends in ways I never expected. Like magic!

And it’s all because Iplanted my own garden and decorated my own soul, instead of waiting for someone to bring me flowers.”

I’m currently reading The Hero Within by Carol S. Pearson. She writes about the archetype of The Magician. The Magician is the personality archetype we call on to seek meaningful transformation in our lives and our work.

Carl Jung defined archetypes as universal attributes in the collective unconscious that we access intuitively to pursue our dreams.

The Magician is the alchemist … a master at combining heart, mind, creativity and talent to catalyze change, drive impact, foster collaboration or create new ways of doing things.

I realized The Magician is just who I need to craft the new future I seek.

I took “the Fool’s Leap” from my Corporate job last year, in pursuit of international adventure. While it’s not without risk, I know deep in my core that I have all of the tools I need to craft a colorful next chapter that is uniquely mine.

And little did I realize that “chasing prominent people through parking lots” has been a key ingredient to the magic – my own inner magic – all along.

This entry was posted on June 10, 2015. 1 Comment

Finding Our One Wild and Precious Life

The CaminoIt doesn’t interest me what you do for a living.
I want to know what you ache for
and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing

For years I have had a vision of stepping from one stone to another, across a peaceful body of water. On the far side sits a proud snowy mountain. Glistening in the sun. Inviting me to summit.

Deep inside I know where I’m headed.

If only I knew how to “get there.”

I have spent nearly a lifetime in high tech and it no longer fits. Or does it, but in a newly creative way?

Surely my purpose must be more …

And I began to Walk into my vision … stepping from one stone to another, to contemplate where to take my “one wild and precious life.”

Summers ago in France, I walked a small part of The Camino, the Pilgrim’s Path, through medieval villages and beautiful countryside.

It was an early stepping stone – to open my heart and ready me for more.

Then I went to Spain to Walk the main Camino de Santiago, the Way of St. James.

My destination was the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, to see the remains of the apostle like so many before.

Pilgrims have been walking the Camino for centuries, to contemplate their lives, atone, start over.

It’s a deeply spiritual journey shared over a thousand years by saints and popes, religious leaders, seekers like you and me.

And St. James was an early Evangelist for Christianity… a missionary who inspired others through storytelling and kindness.

As a Cloud Computing Evangelist, I love the parallels of storytelling and kindness to inspire and invoke action. And I sensed that by Walking the Way, St. James could help me learn more about who I am and why I’m really here.

I walked from Sarria to Santiago, sometimes alone, sometimes with our group … through villages and farmland.

It was life-affirming and peaceful, a cornucopia of Nature.

In so many moments I stood silent, simply awed by the serenity of Life.

And I discovered a lovely metaphor in the scallop shell symbolizing us Pilgrims – how elegantly its grooves join to form a single point of origin.

That was the whole purpose of my Walk, to elegantly join my spiritual life and my high tech career in a way that empowers me and serves others.

And what I learned on the Walk made my vision real.

It truly is one step at a time, one foot in front of the other and enjoying the view along the Way.

Don’t try to rush things: for the cup to run over, it must first be filled.”

So for now, that’s what I will do, just put one foot in front of the other. Live in the moment, enjoy the mysterious and Walk into my future. In a Way that is uniquely mine.

I learned that if you do what you love, even in small ways, a secret magic takes over.

Opportunities present, dreams become real and all of a sudden, you’re living your “one wild and precious life.”

As Spanish poet Antonio Machado discovered on his journey,

Wayfarer, there is no path.
The path is made by walking


Video of my Walk.

The Wisdom of Age: We Are All ‘Original Medicine’

old_new_hands_plantCarl Jung taught that we spend the first half of our lives developing who we are not, and the second half of our lives becoming who we authentically are. In the wisdom years from 50 onward, we shift from defining ourselves by our experiences to defining ourselves by our values. And our journey is about bringing it all together.

I had shared Jung’s wisdom with some 50 something high tech friends who confided that they feel old and irrelevant these days, because so much emphasis is on the millennials – what motivates their work, how they buy, why they should be given every opportunity to advance.

At a recent LeanIn book event, I was stunned by the dialogue between Eric Schmidt of Google and Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook about how those younger than 40 should be given the most opportunities, because they are ‘where the future lies.’

As I listened to these ‘thought leaders’ in high tech, I wondered why so little value was placed on the wisdom of age, which indigenous cultures celebrate and even honor with rites of passage from youth to elderhood.

What seems to be missing in our tech-driven world is recognizing that ‘we are all original medicine,’ each gifted with special talents to bring to the world. It is our unique purpose to develop our gifts and share them with others. And our purpose is no less than that.

As I learned from cultural anthropologist Angeles Arrien in her study of The Second Half of Life, it is not until later that many of us ‘make our unique imprint’ on the world to realize our personal legacy. Angeles teaches how American culture is the most ‘ageist’ in that we segment the ability to contribute based on an expectation of age. For example, youth is sought for creativity but not problem-solving, while elders are sought for problem-solving but not creativity. It is only now that we are building inter-generational bridges to integrate the best of both to enhance our culture.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the entrepreneurial community, where young startup CEOs are mentored by senior executives as old as their grandparents.

In my own work mentoring startup CEOs, I am perplexed by how we honor the business acumen of our ‘executive elders,’ yet in our daily work, we often dismiss that same age group.

As we strive for more invention in the tech world, do we limit our creativity by excluding our ‘elders?’ Creativity comes from integrating disparate ideas and concepts. What better fountain of ideas could we blend than those from young and old!

Wisdom and Creativity
In indigenous cultures, the age of youth is viewed from 1-35, in which we define our selves by what we do. Youth is a time of birth and initiation. Mid-life is 35-50, in which we grow through relationship as in marriage and committed love. Our growth is in integrating our lives with others. In our 50s, we embark on a decade of personal integration to prepare for our wisdom years. And in the wisdom decades of the 60s and beyond, our lives come into focus and we redefine ourselves by who we are and how we fulfill our purpose.

Integrating our internal and external selves expands our ‘tolerance of ambiguity’ and way of thinking. And it is ambiguity and a new way of thinking that drive invention in the fast-paced technology industry.

In Louie Schwartzberg’s film on the Hidden miracles of the natural world, he calls curiosity and wonder the intersection between technology, art and science. Curiosity and wonder expand our perspective, while touching our hearts. This is our vessel of creativity, which becomes more spacious as we integrate our selves on our individual journey.

And the experience of age brings integrity, maturity and character to the process.

Perhaps the most stunning example of achievement in the second half of life is from Mother Teresa. She suffered a crisis of faith through her wisdom years. Yet she forged ahead in ambiguity to become a noted humanitarian and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 for alleviating suffering all over the world.

It was her passion and empathy, commitment and managerial skills that created a global network of missionaries to uplift the impoverished everywhere.

Hers was the achievement of a lifetime, and only achievable through the integration of experience and meaning in the first and second halves of her life.

This is what’s possible when we blend the ardor of youth with the wisdom of age.

So for those in the tech world who value only the millennials, whose ‘original medicine’ are we leaving behind?

And what will we lose in our single mindedness?

The Way Of The Turtle

Chinese_Constellations_by_KirbywithaMasamuneThe turtle is unique because it lives on both land and in the water. It lives a long life and is known for persistence. While “slow and steady” on land, the turtle is fast and agile in the water. It catches the flow of the water to glide anywhere with little effort.

And the turtle carries its home on its back, for protection and retreat when the world gets too harsh.

In indigenous cultures, the turtle symbolizes patience, determination and a “slow and steady” path through life – to explore new terrain and ideas – gather new wisdom – become more adaptable in a deliberate way.

The turtle remains steadfast amidst obstacles and challenges. It moves at Nature’s pace, when living things thrive best and are in harmony with their surroundings.

When we are in harmony with our surroundings, we too have our best longevity, creativity and pleasure in life.

So I ponder the wisdom of the turtle and how it applies to our tech lives — always busy, online, on the road.

When do we find time to create? To innovate? To thrive, amidst our constant deluge of social media messaging, new products, hungry competitors, life on the edge?

The turtle is a gentle reminder that when our pace surpasses Nature’s pace, it’s time to slow down – take a break – find our inner wisdom from a safe place so we can “catch the flow” and glide to our destination, wherever that might be.

In ancient China, the turtle was revered deeply for its wisdom. As a land and water creature, the turtle connected the underworld and the land. And as one of the four symbols of Chinese constellations, the turtle signified longevity and connection to the heavens as well.

So the turtle, like the dragon, was a unique bridge for humanity to connect with the underworld, the land and the heavens.

And it was an important source of wisdom during the Zhou Dynasty.

The Zhou Dynasty (1046 – 256 BCE) was a time of great intellectual and artistic awakening in China, when the most important Chinese philosophies like Daoism, Confucianism and Legalism were born. These schools of thought flourished and remain prominent in Chinese culture today. Two are embedded in Traditional Chinese Medicine, as I had noted in Bridging the Ancient Wisdom of Qigong.

Turtle shells were used during the Zhou Dynasty as divination tools — to help royalty and leaders make the right decisions about topics like agriculture, warfare, civic matters and health.

Bu shu卜書or turtle shell divination was pervasive from Central Asia to western China. The practice involved painting a crack on a turtle shell and inserting an intense heat source until the shell cracked. If the inked crack lined up with the crack system produced from the scorching, it was said that the turtle “ate the ink” and a prophesy could be interpreted.

But there was no pattern to how the cracks were interpreted. Each Diviner saw something different. It was believed the Diviners or prognosticators had an oral contract with the turtle about what the cracks might mean for a given topic. Each prophesy was open to interpretation and used as a prayer or intention. Insights were saved by inscribing or brush-writing them on the oracle bones with ink or cinnabar. Then turtle shell bones were buried in pits.

The turtle has a rich significance in ancient wisdom, with many parallels for our lives today.

As one who loves to travel, I want to “carry my home on my back” and feel at home regardless of where I am.

Years ago I started to collect decorative turtles in my travels around the world. But I didn’t know why.

Now I know!

My turtles are a colorful reminder to slow down, “be at home,” cultivate peace of mind anywhere … so that I … we .. can live in harmony with our environment and thrive.


Bridging the Ancient Wisdom of Qigong

Chang'e_purpleBridging the Ancient Wisdom of Qigong

No sooner had I attended Soren Gordhamer’s Wisdom 2.0 Conference in San Francisco than I headed east to immerse myself in yet another practice of mindfulness and ancient wisdom — so I could “live connected to others not only through technology” but through our hearts and minds as well.

I traveled to Mt. E’mei, one of the four sacred Buddhist mountains in Sichuan, China, to attend the International Health Qigong Federation conference for the heads of qigong federations around the world.

It was a special gathering of people from China to Portugal to Canada to Finland and Estonia – with dedicated practitioners sharing with China’s masters how qigong can help improve our wellness and lead to greater fulfillment in our lives, loves and society in general.

What a lovely follow-on to Wisdom 2.0 for a career-driven tech warrior like myself – in an effort to “thrive” in a life full of “well-being, wisdom and wonder,” as Arianna Huffington so elegantly describes in her latest work.

The Art of Qigong
Qigong is a traditional Chinese form of exercise for health and fitness. It is deeply embedded in Chinese culture and is a pillar of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM.) In ancient Chinese wisdom, qi is the vital energy force and building block of life. It shapes and connects heaven, earth and all things. As a Chinese system for health and well-being, qigong integrates physical postures, breathing techniques and focused intention. Its goal is to help one heal the body, calm the mind and reconnect with spirit, to create a balanced lifestyle for greater harmony, stability and fulfillment.

And like the mindfulness meditation promoted in Wisdom 2.0, qigong leads to a more mindful state of being and way of life.

While many in the U.S. are familiar with tai ji (tai chi), qigong is the foundation from which other such practices have emerged. Tai ji is a softer internal style of qigong, while wushu (kung fu) is a more vigorous style in the family of martial arts.

What I found so compelling about qigong was how gracefully it is integrated in the three schools of thought in China: Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism. At the gathering on Mt. E’mei, renowned scholar on Chinese philosophies, culture and TCM Professor Lou Yulie from Peking University, taught us how

  • Confucianism governs the importance of integrity in our relationship to the world,
  • Taoism governs our relationship to our body, health and the environment, and
  • Buddhism governs our relationship between heart and mind.

Each Chinese philosophy incorporates the concept of “qi” and how we must cultivate a high integrity qi as a way to live (Confucianism); maintain and rekindle our original source of qi or essence of self (Taoism); and prevent negative qi from interfering with our pursuit of wisdom (Buddhism.)

One way we can do that is by practicing qigong to enhance how our qi flows. For it is only when the states of yin and yang are in harmony that qi can produce life. Yin is the feminine nature of things, while yang is the masculine nature of things. If harmony is lost between them, within ourselves or society in general, problems will arise or life itself will be lost. This concept of balance according to a “golden mean” is pervasive in early teachings of Confucius, Aristotle and others.

It’s a holistic picture this ancient wisdom paints – for how we are all striving to live today, centuries later.

Some traditions really are timeless!

Practice of Qigong for Health and Well-being
The practice of qigong is an art to express oneself and cultivate harmony in pursuit of “the way” of Nature, as defined in Taoism. As a health practice, qigong’s movements are designed to stimulate blood flow, strengthen limbs, muscles and everything in our physical form; and combine physical exercise with spiritual cultivation.

In class, we studied just two groups of movements:

  • Daoyin Yang Sheng Gong Shi’er Fa – to stretch and strengthen the body in a fluid and continuous way,
  • Wu Xin Xie – to imitate animals in their natural habitats to cultivate flexibility and grace.

All of the qigong movement systems are meant to help preserve health, sharpen cognition, improve physical and emotional balance, and lead to greater adaptability for changes in life.

Many countries around the world, like Portugal and Spain, Cuba and Mexico, Sri Lanka and India, Hong Kong and Singapore, Slovenia, the Netherlands and UK, are promoting qigong as both a health practice and a sport. It has been found to help the elderly improve flexibility and cognition, and alleviate mild depression.

And it helps everyone develop a more mindful way of just being.

Perhaps the greatest way to appreciate the power of qigong is not to read about it, but to see it.

Watching Professor Wang Xiaojun from Beijing Sports University practice qigong was extraordinary! His grace and fluidity of movement were beautiful and very special.

He and our other teachers, Professors Hu Xiao Fe (Beijing), Lei Bin, Wang Zhen (Shanghai) and Shi Ai Qiao, were very knowledgeable and impressive.

Many thanks to new friends in China and around the world for sharing this ancient wisdom and contemporary practice to help all of us live well and thrive.