Loss, family, love
Personal reflections and practices around living a more authentic life.
This is a talk I did at BLND 2017 - a Design and Business conference hosted by the University of Waterloo.
The actual title is "Musings of a Hungry Creative". It's about the rarely shared struggles of being a creative entrepreneur, and what I learned while trying to navigate them. This is the most honest talk I've given and it was emotionally exhausting preparing it, but I'm happy that it resonated with so many people.
Thank you to Markus for inviting me to speak!
Check out the next BLND Conference happening on March 23. There’s an incredible line-up of speakers.
Writing this in Newark Airport as I await my connecting flight to Tokyo. I'll be in Japan for 2.5 weeks - first half solo, last half with Kelvin and his parents.
This will be my first trip to the "Land of the Rising Sun", and I'm feeling many conflicting emotions. I have been a fan of Japanese culture ever since I got hooked onto Sailormoon as a kid. Anime and manga were a hugely influential part of my childhood and teenage years. In junior high, we learned about Japanese culture, feudal history, and literature. In university, I studied the approaches of Japanese design firms, and tried to infuse my own work with the intentionality, simplicity, and elegance I admire them for. I've also become friends with a few wonderful Japanese people on my travels and in Canada.
At the same time, I am very aware of the horrific acts against humanity that Japanese people carried out in the not-so-distant past, particularly against the Chinese. I was devastated as I read accounts of the Rape of Nanking, and even more so when I visited the Nanking Memorial Massacre Hall several years ago. When I visited Taiwan, the guide mentioned how the Japanese wiped out an entire mountain minority community. Most people of my grandparent's generation still refer to the Japanese as "日本鬼子“ - Japanese Devils. Before she passed away, a close friend of my Grandma's told me that her greatest fear was the sound of airplanes, because they reminded her of the time the Japanese invaded her village.
There is much that Japanese people should be proud of - from Ghibli films, to cuisine, to their people's kind hospitality. I'm personally still struggling to understand how a country that's created such beauty in art and society, also created the worst in humanity.
I have a deep admiration for Japanese people and culture, but also an intense fear. To my knowledge, Japan's dark history isn't being taught to future generations in the country. They have also never given a formal apology to China for their crimes during the war. It's important for the world to move forward, but I also know that forgotten history is often repeated.
I don't know what to expect when I finally visit Japan. Maybe new insights, maybe just more unanswerable questions. I'll embrace whatever comes.
(Group photo by Paul Sheetz)
In early June, a group of creatives and changemakers answered a vague invitation to gather in a Minnesota forest. The next few days were full of thought-provoking conversations, honest personal stories, and deep self-reflection. There was laughter, some tears, but most of all a sense of joyful camaraderie amongst kindred spirits. Together, we explored what it means to be "in service", and committed to helping each other find our way (or as Dila proposed, perhaps "there is no way").
Striving to improve a world that favours the status quo can be a lonely and challenging path. I'm grateful to have found this supportive community of thought leaders and innovators. Coming away from Overlap, I feel more self-compassion and acceptance that change happens at different timescales. I'm inspired, re-energized, and focused on the journey ahead.
Here are moments and conversations captured in sketchnotes:
[Betakit] Two Next 36 alumni are tackling the myth of one "magic pill" that kickstarts business innovation
(Originally published on The Next 36 Blog)
As a spirited young entrepreneur, you are ready to take on the big challenges of the world. As you embark on this new adventure, you find yourself asking, "how exactly do I uncover user needs?" In my role as a design strategist and startup founder, journey mapping has been an indispensable tool to get into the heads of users and uncover new opportunities.
What is journey mapping?
Whether you’re an entrepreneur at a startup or an intrapreneur in a large company, journey mapping can help you define your users' problem areas.
This method involves visualizing your user’s current experience from beginning to end, across all channels (online and offline). By following the entire narrative, you will come to understand the context in which your user makes their decisions - their goals, anxieties, pain points, and influences. These valuable insights are difficult to capture through one point of interaction. Uncovering them can help reveal unique opportunities for new products, services, or processes.
How do I create a journey map?
The above journey map is a simplified example of a college student’s roadtrip. It consists of several basic elements:
- Stages of the user’s journey – Where does her narrative begin and end?
- User feelings – Is she confused, frustrated, happy, or excited?
- User actions – What is she doing – physically and mentally?
- User thoughts – What is her goal? What questions are going through her mind?
- User touch points (channels and influencers) – W ho or what is she interacting with?
Some ways to populate your journey map:
- User interviews
- First-hand customer experience
In this example, we can see several pain points, including the frustration of coordinating a trip amongst a large group of friends. From this insight, an opportunity we could consider is “how might we create a better way to coordinate logistics amongst a large travel group?”. Knowing the shortcomings our user's existing tools, we can ideate a product/service that achieves this in a more simple, convenient, and inexpensive way.
Depending on the time you invest in research, the level of detail of your journey map will vary. The more information you gather about your user, the more opportunities you may uncover.
I’ve used journey mapping in combination with many other design methods to tackle challenges in industries ranging from sustainable agriculture, education, to finance. I hope you will find it a valuable method to add to your toolbox as you continue on your startup path.
An Irish song.