Awesomeness in the World


Driving home earlier this month, I caught an NPR piece on the Swedish Number and it’s quickly become one of my favorite things EVER. The idea was simple – let the people of Sweden represent the amazingness that is Sweden by connecting them directly with potential tourists. What a brilliant idea to promote tourism within the county. When I got home, I found that in addition to NPR, The New York Times, CNN, the Washington Post and countless others had already been talking about this for a couple months. How had I missed this fantastic story???

What I love so much about this idea is the basis that human connection is the best way to do almost anything. In a world where we live in front of screen after screen, chat for help and order things to be delivered by drones, going back to the basics of the telephone seems quaint. Why not a flashy social media campaign? A catching slogan? A contest? Because in the middle of all this noise, we’ve forgotten how powerful it can be to simply talk with each other. There were apparently no scripts or talking points given – just instructions on how to log into the system and be available for calls and see where the conversation takes you.

It got me thinking – how else could we connect and who else could we dial? Dial a new parent to check in and see how they’re coping and provide some adult conversation? Dial a senior who may not have many visitors? Dial someone who loves cooking when your mid-recipe and need a quick substitution for an ingredient? Dial a local for a great restaurant recommendation while traveling? Where else could we go back to human interaction for a fun twist?

On the Job

Sharing Our Experiences

There’s nothing like a little travel to provide a fantastic change in perspective – different cultures, unique landscapes and new daily adventures. And it’s fantastic to experience and even more fun to share – as long as you’re not holding people hostage with a thousand slides of the same Yellowstone buffalo taken at every angle. My husband and I enjoyed sharing our vacation over social media along the way and have hundreds more photos that we’ll have for ourselves to remember our trip to New Zealand and Australia. As we settled back into our daily routines, my husband was asked by someone he works with if he’d share some of his photos at their next all-staff meeting. It seemed like an innocent enough request, but it got us both thinking.

Of course we’re happy to share our trip, and admintidly, New Zealand and Australia are far enough away destinations that they’re not as common as some other adventures. However, my husband and I certainly aren’t the first people to travel and we won’t be the last, but no one else at his organization has ever shared their vacation pics at a staff meeting. We’re sensitive to the fact that we’re lucky we can travel – not everyone has the time or funds for a trip like we just took (and we definitely stretched on both fronts). We also don’t think that travel is the only thing worth sharing. We all do lots of things outside of work that are interesting and don’t want it to seem that some are any one thing is more important that any other.

There isn’t anything wrong with sharing a few vacation pics with your team, but I wonder what else we’re missing. I think it’s great my husband was asked to share his unique experience, and I hope it’s the beginning of much more sharing, of travel and beyond. I love the idea of sharing vacation photos, but also kids’ accomplishments, volunteer experiences, unique skills and hobbies and celebrating personal milestones. We’re the sum of many, many parts, and bringing all those parts to work helps us be better employees and colleagues. How are we as leaders encouraging our teams to share what’s important to them outside of work?


Speaking of sharing, here’s a little Sydney love
Inside My Head

Teachable Travel

So our Good for the Soul Creative Community has been a little quiet recently and some of that was due to launching the pilot training I described. However, in addition to that, I’ve been getting ready for a long vacation in New Zealand (when it takes almost 30 hours to travel there, you want to make sure you’re there for a while!). I write this post in Franz Josef  while we wait for the skies to clear up a bit so we can go explore the nearby Fox Glacier.

In the spirit of Libby’s lists and what she learned from her vacation last year, I thought I’d create my own list of what I’ve experienced so far and how it relates to life outside of travel.

  1. Share your excitement with others – it’s contagious. Just before we were leaving (actually on the the way to the airport), I needed to stop by my doctor’s office for a quick cortisone injection to calm down an angry hip. In the course of trying to move things along so we could officially start vacation, I mentioned our trip and everyone wanted to talk about it. The nurse wanted to know where we were going, the physician’s assistant gave us some great recommendations from her visit to New Zealand last summer and the doctor wanted to know how much Lord of the Rings stuff we were doing (spoiler alert: none). It was really fun to share my excitement with them and watch their perk up in the middle of their work days.
  2. Plan to your own level of comfort. My husband and I approach vacation planning very differently. He’s satisfied once the itinerary is set to not worry about it again until he’s packing for the trip (which is typically the day of or the night before, but no earlier). I tend to be on the other side of the spectrum. While I don’t necessarily start physically packing until closer to departure, I begin packing several weeks out to make sure I’ll have what I need and can make the best of the trip, especially on a long trip that this where the temperatures will vary by more than 40 degrees as we travel around. I want to make sure I’m ready. We’ve traveled together enough now that we know this about each other and have learned not to force what makes us comfortable onto the other (well, most of the time, anyway…)
  3. It can be nice to unplug. For the longest leg of our trip (a 14+ hour flight from Houston to Auckland), we had no internet. I’ve always been a little hesitant to connect at 30,000 feet if for no other reason than it’s one of the last places where it was okay to be out of touch. Having said that, I’ve become accustomed to being connected. And while crammed into an airplane seat for that amount of time wasn’t the most fun part, it was nice to take a break from the rest of the world for a bit. I read, watched a couple movies, managed to get some sleep and started to focus on getting ready to be on vacation. It was a nice little buffer time.
  4. Recognize when you’re done (and it’s okay to be done!). When we arrived in Queenstown, we did out best to keep going so we could get over the jet lag and get on local time. We were doing pretty well until we went to grab an early dinner. By the time the food came out, my husband and I were snipping at each, apologizing for said snipping and really just trying to keep out heads off the table. We were exhausted and DONE. We scrapped our plans to explore Queenstown that night and just headed back to the hotel to crash. We realized everything would still be there in the morning. There’s nothing wrong with changing plans so you can fully enjoy them (and still be speaking to your travel partner after the first day). 😉

I’ll have more to share about our adventures, but in the meantime, I’ll leave you with our view of Queenstown during our first day of exploring. Enjoy!


Queenstown, NZ
Hello, Queenstown!


Libby On the Job

There’s No Place Like Home!

Earlier this week, I arrived home after almost one month away from home.* I’ve lived overseas before and I’m not afraid of a road trip or extended vacation, but this time, coming home was even sweeter than it usually is. I’ve been thinking all day about what the difference is and I’ve come up with this:

  1. Routine. As an adult with a family, routine is the thing that makes it all work (relatively) smoothly – without routine, things are a lot more difficult! I loved the variety of family cultures we experienced on our trip, but I missed mine. At work, routine is the thing that can help keep the train from going off the track – if you have a routine, getting thrown that last minute project won’t generate as much angst.
  2. Familiar responses. While I know all the folks we stayed with, there were still times I was unsure of the best way to approach a subject or answer a question about politics or other delicate topics. It’s nice to be at home where I can speak my mind and not worry about whether or not my husband is going to have an adverse reaction to some statement I make. At work, it’s nice to know who your go-to co-workers are, that you have to give the marketing team chocolate if you want something done faster, that the facilities folks love your jokes or that a burger and beer can move your IT project to the top of the list!
  3. Showering is better at home. Actually, there were some places that had much nicer showers, and some that did not. It wasn’t the actual shower, but it was nice to be able to take it whenever I want without worrying about interfering with someone else’s routine or using up the hot water or not having access to all my lotions and potions. At work, it’s nice to have your own space where you know where everything is and you know how everything works – even with a wonky computer or printer, you know how to make it work like the Fonz, and that makes you a hero.
  4. My stuff. Oh, I brought plenty with me (too much, my husband would say) and I didn’t really miss anything I left home, but when I got back, I was just happy to see my stuff. My son spent several hours getting reacquainted with his stuff, checking out books, baseball equipment, rocks and Pokemon cards. He is delighted to just see his stuff again. At work, your “stuff” are all your projects – papers you have written, documents you’ve created, clients you’ve helped – it’s nice to reminisce a little bit and get reacquainted with your past accomplishments. They’ve helped you get where you are; they may also inspire a fresh perspective or creative idea.
  5. Sleeping is important. I had some VERY comfortable sleeping arrangements on this trip, but I was awoken more than I am at home. My son was often in another room with other kids and in the middle of the night, he’d get freaked out or have a little asthma attack or just miss me, so he’d come to visit. Vacationing and working at the same time is hard to do, but doing it with interrupted sleep was extra tough. There were many nights when I was going to come back to hang out with the adults after bedtime but I usually ended up falling asleep. At work, it is important to get rest – don’t be a martyr! If you’re tired from being the first one in and the last one out, you’re probably not doing your best work. Be kind to yourself – take a break, get some good sleep, live your life. It’ll all be there tomorrow after you’ve gotten some quality shut-eye.

*Thanks to all my family and friends (who are like family) who hosted me and Joey – we loved seeing you and spending time together…it was a terrific experience for both of us. You’re welcome here any time!

– Libby Bingham

Inside My Head Karen

The Water Bottle

Karen WaterI went to Cebu, Philippines in my early thirties. I was invited to visit a midwifery program where my friend, Carolina, worked. It was stationed in the most impoverished part of the city. Families (mother, father, children) lived in homes the size of a large dining room table or a guestroom bathroom; made of cardboard and built on pallets.

The water was filthy and the streets had streams trickling through gutters for disposing various polutions. Children were barely clothed and rarely bathed.

The medical shelter had a breakfast and lunch program for children who were severely malnourished.

One day, I placed my water bottle on a shelf while helping with the meal program. Louis, a tiny 5 year old who was deaf and mute, would push and slap as a way of communicating. He began to push and slap me, making loud groans and squeals.

“Louis. Louis. What is it?”

He pointed to my water bottle. He wanted me to give it to him. The children were given beverages, food, snacks and water.

“Oh Louis. No, no. That’s my water bottle. There is your drink.”

He reacted strongly, continuing to make loud shrieks, pointing, jumping and flailing his arms. I tried to calm him down. He was determined to have my water bottle.

I paused. I looked at him. I looked around me.

All these malnourished children. Impoverished. They had nothing. They lived in cardboard homes. They didn’t bathe. They had physical ailments, low immune systems and are fighting for their lives.



I grabbed my water bottle. I bent down so our eyes could talk to each other. He can’t hear me. He can’t speak.

“Louis – you can have my water bottle. Yes, please, you can have my water bottle. I’m so sorry, Louis. Forgive me, I was thoughtless. Here you go. It’s yours. I’m very happy to give it to you.”

Louis took my water bottle and ran around the room, showing all the kids. He was so proud that he was the only child with a water bottle.

This memory is a regret of mine. Although it ended on a positive note, I don’t like how small-minded I was. I don’t like me in this story. I don’t like that I said, “no, that’s my water bottle” – to a child who has nothing and I have all the lifestyle comforts at my disposal. I hate that I said “no.” Can’t take it back. Wish I could.

May I always choose generosity over my own personal comforts.

– Karen Thrall

On the Job

On the Road: Is It Worth It?

When technology rules and there are seemingly endless ways to keep in touch (or distract ourselves!), is meeting face to face less important? As I write this, my bags are packed, and I’m en route to Atlanta, where nearly 20,000 professionals from the architectural, engineering and construction industries will come together for the next three to four days. There will be hundreds of education sessions, evening events and opportunities to informally connect while we take over the city of Coke, CNN and inspiring leadership lessons from Martin Luther King, Jr. and President Jimmy Carter.

But do we really need to be physically together in the same space? We’ve got email, conference calls, video chat, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, to keep us connected in our homes and offices. We’ve also got commitments like jobs, families, friends, and budgets that make travel more challenging and increase the appeal of those electronic connections even more. And while all of that is true, and it is easier to keep in touch than ever, I absolutely think there’s still value in being face to face, and in the case of a large convention like this, being part of something bigger than yourself.

We so easily get bogged down in the day to day and promise to catch up with friends and colleagues later. But later keeps getting pushed further and further away as the urgent drowns out the important. Sure, the education and keynote sessions at a conference like this are great (I sure hope so, since Karen and I are leading one!), but the real magic happens between the attendees. Sure, that can be during a session, but it’s also in the hallway, during lunch, over a cocktail or two or even bumping into someone from the same conference out and about enjoying the host city. There’s something incredibly powerful in getting out from behind your desk and daily routine, and taking a moment to connect with someone else who does what you do and giving yourself permission to focus on your own growth for a minute or two.

When is the last time you unplugged and met a friend, family member or colleague for some face time and did yourself a favor in the meantime?

Book Reports

Home and Away

I recently did a lot of traveling in a short time and realized I read a lot when I’m on the road. And I also realized I spend very little time reading when I’m at home. I’ve always liked reading, and it made me sad that I read less when I’m at home, so I’ve set out to change that. I’m committing to myself and you to always be reading at least two books at a time – one school book and one non-school book at a time (but not per week – let’s not go crazy. And a special shout if you now want to go watch Clueless.).

I want to share what I’m reading with you, not because I think I have amazing insights, but for two reasons. One, it will keep me honest and on top of things. It’s not going to be impressive when I’ve been reading the same book for 37 weeks. Two, I’m about as true an extrovert as you can get and I’m simply incapable of processing anything internally. So thanks for letting me process with you – my husband will appreciate a break from my stream of consciousness. [Note: Lest I cast him as a cartoon version of our relationship, with me constantly babbling and him sighing and rolling his eyes at me, he’s a VERY patient conversational partner and usually only rolls his eyes at me if I have it coming. I’m just saying.]